Garden Taking Shape

I was telling a guy about the celery experiment and he said I could do the same thing with onions.   Cut off the root end of any onion and root it.  I tried it with two onions we had in the fridge – cut off  an inch or so above the root and placed in a saucer of water.  Within 2 days there were sprouts on each onion.   Unfortunately, in the mean time the celery crashed a few days after moving it to the garden.  I think it’s just been too hot for celery and I will give it another try.   It’s cooled down a bit and I’ll be more diligent in keeping it watered and shaded for the first couple of weeks in the garden.

I’ve started moving my seedlings to the garden and have a row of broccoli and a row of cabbage that seem to be doing just fine.   I moved green peppers and they made it one night before grasshoppers had a feast on them.   Not sure if they’ll recover or not.   I also popped in a couple chard plants but it may be a little early.   I also noticed something when thinning the carrots.  In that same location I had planted cilantro and parsley last season and I spotted two micro plants that popped up that could be either cilantro, parsley, or a closely related weed.  It’s not unheard of to have them self seed but they are both nominally difficult plants to start from commercial seed – at least I’ve had trouble.  Usually I end up buying plants at Publix and skipping the seed trial.   Later this week I’m going to transplant some tomato plants.   I have some growing in the garden that self started and they were doing great until an attack by the giant green caterpillars.  One of those critters can totally strip a 3’ tall tomato plant in a matter of hours.   I’m hoping they’ll re-foliate and go on to produce fruit but…………

A New Crop

I read something that tweaked my interest re the garden.   A couple of weeks ago we picked up celery at Publix.   It was a standard package with the top greens trimmed off.   Nancy put it in the fridge veggie drawer and then cut it off horizontally as she used it – from the top and working down toward the heel.  This as opposed to using it a stalk at a time.   What I read was that you could cut off the heel and plant it directly in the garden.   I decided to try it but didn’t really expect anything happen – since the celery had probably been out of the grounds for weeks and mostly refrigerated.  I set it out on the porch in a shallow bowl with an inch or so of water.   Less than a week later, it was putting out green leaves from the center of the heel.   No roots showing (yet) but clearly the plant was alive and well.   I’ll give it another week on the porch and then move it to the garden.  I’m stoked about this since I’ve tried growing celery from seed several time with less than great success.   I’ve gotten celery plants but the stalks are small and stringy.   We usually pick up celery each time we go to Publix – probably one a week – so in a couple of months we could be celery independent – the same way we are now pineapple independent.  

According to the article, 4-5 of these plants in the garden should take care of a family of four year round.  

Farm to Market Job

Got up early and walked up to get the paper – looking for the weekly Publix ad.   Nancy had said she wanted to go and pick up a few things.  The ad, this time, included a $50 Shell gas card for $40.  One card for each $50 you spend.   Since we’re driving very little these days, we have an inventory of Shell cards but it’s hard to pass up a 20% discount on gas.   We also knew that  if you get a flu shot there you get a $10 Publix credit card.   So for a purchase of $100 – not a challenge for Nancy – we would get a $20 discount on today’s grocery cart via the flu shots and two $50 gas cards.   No brainer.    The trick is trying to load the grocery cart and hit the $100.   Nancy keeps track of that in her head as she’s shopping along pitching things in the cart.   She normally hits it within $10 but today was the all time record – she spent $100.04.   Remember, no pencil and paper and not knowing the exact numbers on any particular item since we’re both loading the cart.   When I have to go alone in that same gas card situation, I make a list on the laptop and then fill in the prices as I shop along – keeping a running total. Much clunkier than Nancy’s method.

In the last post I mentioned planting winter garden seeds on Sept 15.   I mentally program a week for germination so I was surprised again when a substantial number of the seeds popped out in two days.   What’s going on this year?  I’ll be transferring these little seedlings to small pots – yogurt cups with holes drilled in the bottom to allow bottom watering- in the next day or two.   The first to repot will be the tomatoes and green peppers but the kale, cabbage, and cauliflowers are right behind. 

Here’s an interesting one.  I mention often last year about my afternoons in Palm Coast – dropping off Nancy at bridge and then going to Waterfront Park for a long walk.   The end destination of the walk was  a Pub and a brewery in the European Village.   I made friends with the bartender at the pub and used to bring her vegetables from the garden for her vegetarian daughter.   She quit charging me for the beer and I had a home for excess veggies.   I haven’t been there since February and was fairly certain the place would be shut down or operating in a much reduced mode.  Imagine my surprised when we got a call this morning from “Denise”.   She’s not working until the place can operate 100% but decided to open a small, farm to market, breakfast place in the Village.  That’s an upscale operation.  She asked if I would sell her greens and other veggies for the restaurant.  I told her that I wouldn’t commit to anything because you never know with a home garden but that she was welcome to my excess – no charge.  I’m thinking maybe an occasional breakfast for us.   The new place is about 2 doors down from the pub so I imagine she’d run restaurant in the morning and then pop over to the pub in the afternoon.  So I’ll have to plant little more Kale and Chard than usual and make a more concentrated effort on getting spinach to grow.  

In full garden mode

The garden is making decent progress.   Beans started sprouting 5 days after planting the seed; 2 days later for the tomatoes – both with a high germination rate.  The squash seed went in on the 11th so I’m expecting to see action there by the end of this week.   In all these cases, I’m using new seed so my expectations are for nearly 100% germination.   I’m going to plant a few lettuce seeds in the next day or so.  It’s a little early but we’re getting so much rain that it might just work.   The seed for the lettuce is a year old so germination will be diminished, maybe.   But why not try.   The weather is forecast to be cooler and wet this coming week so why not try.  

Update.   Believe it or not, the squash seeds germinated overnight.  I planted 5 seeds each of two varieties and all 10 had popped out overnight.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that rapid a response.   Also yesterday, all of the tomato seeds have popped – about a week and consistent with past experience.   The only seeds that haven’t popped are the green peppers and I don’t expect to see them for another week. 

Moving on, planted a single row of carrots, probably 50 or so.   I’ll wait for those to germinate, estimate 10-14 days, and then plant another row.  So I’ll be planting new rows every couple of weeks – should keep us going from November right thru to next May.   I’m proud of the carrots because I had such a hard time with them when the garden started but over the years improved the soil enough that the crop is not even in question.

Also started, indoors, the real bulk of fall/winter seeds.   That includes several varieties of kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, and collards.   The seeds should germinate in a week to 10 days then be transplanted to little yogurt cups to put on growth.   If all goes well, they should be ready for planting in the main garden towards the end of October.   

No wonder I’m worn out by the end of the day!

Official start of the fall garden

I’m officially designating Sept 7 as the first day of the fall garden season.   I finished weeding enough rows and tilled them – about half the total space.   Then I planted seeds indoors – 4 different tomato varieties and green bell peppers.   Two of the tomato varieties are one’s I’ve never tried before.  I waited too long to order seeds and some that I’ve had success with were out of stock.  

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll start planting green bean seeds directly the garden.   I spread out the bean planting, doing two rows every two weeks, so they don’t all start producing at the same time.  Target for first planting is two ten foot rows with seeds planted 6” apart. 

Before the end of the week I’ll plant squash seeds directly in the garden.  My plan is to have one row with 5 squash plants, 36” apart.  Two varieties.   Sometimes we have a great squash season, sometimes not so great – depends on bug and weather conditions more than anything.  I’ve used both varieties in the past with reasonable success.  One problem with squash here in the fall is that the plants are really large with big leaves making them susceptible to wind damage.  

In a couple of weeks, maybe Oct 1, I’ll plant carrots.  The carrot strategy is the same as the beans – plant a row every couple of weeks to extend the harvest.  This year I bought nothing but pelleted carrot seed.  Carrot seed is to tiny that you have to over plant and then thin the tiny plant as they germinate.  Doesn’t sound like too big a deal but it’s hands and knees kind of work.   Pelleted seed is much more expensive but I planted some last year as well as using traditional seed and was well satisfied that the pelleted seed was worth the extra money.   

Maybe a small patch of lettuce even though it’s a bit early.   This is a hedge just in case we get a cooler than usual fall and there’s a variety called Black Seeded Simpson that handles heat fairly well.

The green peppers are a variety I’ve planted for the past 40 years with consistent results.   So now we just hope the weather is favorable – no early frost, no hurricane winds.

So we’re off and running

Finally some news

Had another strange one last night/this morning.   As usual I walked up to the mail box/newspaper box about 7AM.  We keep the trash can about half way up – next to the carport and utility sheds – maybe 100 feet or so up from the house.   I noticed that the trash can was turned on it’s side – a good sign that a bear had gotten into it.  I happened to remember that there were two full plastic trash bags in the can.  Usually when this happens, the bear gets the bag and rips it open creating a cleanup mess.  This time the can was empty but no signs of the trash bags.  I walked all around the property and never found a sign of any trash.  Checked both neighbors and still saw no trash.   Strange.

Spent two or so days straightening our a water problem.   Nancy was drawing a bath and called me when the water flow turned to a few drips.  This is not a totally unheard of event.   The well has a controller with contacts that open and close to activate the pump based on the pressure.  The contactor is contained in a small box next to the well/pump but it’s not sealed and inevitably bugs or lizards can  figure a way to get inside.  They get across the contacts – frying them – and shutting down the well pump.   The cure takes about 5 minutes and involves removing the cover, removing the dead body and lightly brushing off the contacts with an emory board.   You have to be careful since the electric service at the pump is 220V.   Sure enough, after cleaning the contacts, all seemed well – the pump turned on and the pressure built up to 50PSI and Nancy’s bath started refilling.   But 5 minutes later, back to the low pressure mode.   I called the well/pump guy and he said it didn’t sound like a problem on his end but rather a clogged filter somewhere in the system.   That was easy to figure since we have a water softener which had been serviced just the day before – for smelly water.   The service guy said the problem was that the tank had been placed in the  by-pass mode and all he did was to put it back in the regular operating mode.  I remembered that they, Culligan, had placed the unit in bypass mode a month or so back to remove some air that had gotten in the system.  So I took it out of bypass and, as if by magic, the system started working – with smelly water.   A quick call resolved that by a Culligan service call to replace the old tank.   So now we’re back in business.

As long as I was messing with the water system, I decided to drain the hot water heater tank.  That’s something recommended on a 6-month/1 year routine maintenance schedule.   Being a guy always on top of things like this – it had been several years since I had drained it.  I’m mechanically challenged so I generally avoid any interaction with these systems.   In this case it went off without a hitch.   I had picked up a tip on the internet to tie a sock around the hose to collect the grit on the bottom of the tank.  I expected to find a mess but instead it was maybe a couple ounces of sand and grit.

2020 fall garden prep

After another round of overheating, I implemented a change in approaches to keeping the garden and jungle under control.  I still start early, maybe 8:30, and then work my little heart out for a half hour or so.   At that point I have a good sweat going but don’t feel anything negative.   I go back in the house for 20 minutes or so to cool off and have a drink.  Then back to the task at hand.   So far that approach is working – getting a lot done and not killing myself. 

More specifically, I attacked the compost piles yesterday for a few hours and then again today for three.   One pile, the most mature, was about 2 cubic yards and needed to be spread in the garden in prep for the fall season crop.  I placed it all along the interior periphery – about 150 linear feet by 3’ wide.   If you do the math, it works out to a 4” thick layer of compost covering the 450 SF surface.   Doesn’t sound like that much but it’s lots of shoveling – and a lot of Tylenol.  

So I now have another almost full pile that’s mostly fresh and an empty shell for the new stuff.  Anything new that hits the ground goes into the empty bin while the full pile is turned weekly to keep it cooking and decomposing.  That pile should be ready for the garden by October.   

The next garden task is ordering new seeds for the fall.   I should start tomato plants and pepper plants in the next week or so with a plan to transfer those to the main garden the end of September to mid October.    At that same time I’ll start the first of the row crops directly in the garden – that would include carrots and green beans.  Those row crops will be planted in that 150’ strip mentioned above on a staggered basis so they don’t all pop at the same time.  Still too early to think about winter crops.  All weather permitting.   So I’m scheduling the hurricanes to be over and done with by the first of October. 

Finally some News

Last week   I might have overdone it or else I caught something that put me off my game for a few days.   Lots of muscle pain in my legs and back; shivers and chills all night long and well into the next day; a low fever that was on and off for a couple of days.   Other than that………  I was close to calling the doc or going to the ER but decided to tough it out a couple days – guessing that the real problem was overheating and dehydration.  I gradually recovered after a few days with lots of sleeping.   I’ll throttle back a little while it remains so hot.

 You might recall we tried freezing our garden greens this year to use in the summer.   They take up a lot of space in the freezer for the amount of greens but maybe worth it.   Today I made a pizza and decided to use the first of the frozen greens.   Just fine!   I was glad since we froze enough to provide pizza toppings until late fall at least – when the next crop should be popping.  

Finally some news.   A hurricane (with a weird name) on the way and a new car.    The forecast right now is that the closest the storm will get to us is Sunday afternoon where it’s predicted to be 50+ miles off Daytona/Ormond Beach.   That makes it 75 miles or so to the east of us and means tropical storm kind of winds, less than 50mph,  and a few inches of rain.   I have the dock tied down and the screen porch fairly well prepared.   Of course the track can change at any time  but being east of us is best.

The lease on the Encore was 27 months, coming due the end of November.   The Buick folks started hitting us with deals on cutting the lease short and starting a new one.   It sounded reasonable so we decided to schedule a meeting after Nancy had a doc appointment in Daytona, near the dealer.  3 hours later we were driving to my X-Ray appointment and then on to home in a 2020 Buick GS.   So it was quite a full day.  The GS is slightly larger than the Encore and less Suv like – a hatch back trunk but lower profile.   The color is steel gray, about the same color as our old Park Avenue, so we were fine with it.   I like driving it better since the lower CG means less sway and a lower wind profile.   I managed to figure out the XM radio so I can listen to Fox News and the Coffee Shop.

No More Dead Pines

We watched our first new released movie on Netflix – Greyhound with Tom Hanks.   How’s that for being current.  

So Florida just sent a record in new corona happenings.  We didn’t notice anything here in Pierson so we went to Ormond to get a little closer to the action.  Even ate out at our go-to seafood place and had an order of conch fritters.  

I think I mentioned that we had two dead pine trees on the property line to the north.   They were both struck by lightning several years ago.  They were in a location and of a size that they wouldn’t hit the house if they fell so I never worried much about them.   Good magnet for wood peckers.    Last week one of them fell over – the smaller of the two, about 60-80’ tall.   Tom convinced me that I should have the other one professionally removed.   Not that it would hit the house but that it would be a mess to clean up and inconvenient if it fell on the driveway.   So I called a tree guy who had done some work for us last year and who does all of Barbara’s work.   They had it down in about 10 minutes.   One guy threw a line with a weight attached up towards that top of the tree then used that line to pull up a heavy duty rope.   They could have attached the rope to the truck and just pull it over but did a chain saw cut about 6’ above ground level and kept pressure on the rope to steer the fall.   It was between a small oak and a fir tree and they dropped it exactly between the two so no damage at all.    They chopped it up into smaller chunks that we tossed into the jungle.   From start to finish less than an hour and they charged me $200 which I thought was reasonable.  

Went to the eye doc – routine annual checkup but I was concerned about my cataracts.   At the last checkup he said I would probably need surgery sooner rather than later but surprisingly this time he said things were really about the same as last year.   I got a prescription for glasses but he said I could drive without them.   So that takes a load off my mind. 

And the sore back reported last time is history.   I had screwed it up bad enough that I thought my heavy duty weeding days were gone but I’m back in tip top weed pulling form with no aches and pains at all.   Thanks Bigeloil.

Worn out back muscles

I took on a job cleaning up the weeds, ground cover, and fern on the front porch.  Seemed like something quite doable working a few hours in the morning for a couple of days.  After almost a week I’m about 3/4 complete and totally worn to a frazzle.   Eating Tylenol and lathering on the Bigeloil, a muscle oil for horses.     I would estimate the area at maybe 150 SF, so not all that much.   I pretty much bent my pick on it for the first couple of days and then remembered a garden knife I had bought several years ago and never used.  It was a heavy duty steel knife with a serrated edge and it cut through the roots of the ground cover better than anything I had tried.  That moved the job from impossible to doable albeit requiring some back breaking labor.   I should have it finished by the end of the week if my back holds out.  (It didn’t so I’m taking a day off to let it recover).  The reason I even tried it was that we’re in a pattern of heavy duty afternoon rain storms which loosens the ground and the roots.   Assuming I do get the job done, I think I can keep it under control with a modicum of effort and the mower.

Nothing else going on.   Boring.   Our go-to place in Deland, the Half Wall, is shut down since someone employed there turned up with the virus.   The only thing that’s keeping us from going batty is the iPad Tom got us.   We’re got years of catching up on out of network shows and even watched Hamilton the other night.  Nancy wanted to see it but I had no desire at all.   I was totally surprised by how much I liked it and we’ll probably watch it again in the not too distant future.