Sanctuary Gardener Update ~ 4/1/13

Finally, spring is here! The temperature was in the low to mid-70s this weekend, the pine trees are dropping pollen, new leaves are appearing on trees and bushes, and my winter garden is enjoying its last week before I harvest everything (ready or not) to prepare for the spring planting next weekend!

THE NEW:

My strawberries are starting to turn red! The picture above was taken on Saturday. The picture below was taken the next day. This will be my first crop from what I planted last spring. I can hardly wait to taste them!

Strawberry turning red

Strawberry turning red

I started a new celery plant from the end of a bunch I bought at the store.

Celery start

Celery start

The bud points on my fig tree are starting to open up.

Fig tree ~ leaves opening

Fig tree ~ leaves opening

My hydrangea are starting to get leaves, and new growth is coming up from the base of the bush. I transplanted them last May, so this is the first time I’ve had hydrangeas in the spring.

Hydrangea ~ new growth

Hydrangea ~ new growth

MOST CHANGED:

This one is a sad one. My key lime tree lost all its baby limes and there are no more blossoms coming. I think the tree is too young to fruit, and the “baby limes” were the female flowers before fertilization. I have no idea how old the tree is (it was a gift), so I’m basing my assumption on the size of the tree. But it’s growing, and I will have limes sooner or later.

Key lime tree

Key lime tree

SEEDLINGS:

I’ve started the hardening off process again with my tomato, pepper, artichoke, and tomatillo seedlings. It’s not as consistent as I’d like it to be. If I didn’t work outside the home, it’d make things easier; but I have to work around my schedule as well as the weather. I can’t yet put them out in too much wind or in rain, so it’s slow going. I’ve lost a couple plants already, and I have a few showing signs of “shock.” But that’s to be expected. The weaker ones won’t make it – which is just as well. I planted enough so I should have what I need to transplant into the garden.

Seedlings tasting the outdoors

Seedlings tasting the outdoors

After a week inside the “humidity chamber” (ziploc baggies), my grafted tomatoes were ready to start acclimating to the regular air and humidity. I spent the past week opening the baggies a little more each day until this past Saturday when I took them out of the baggies altogether. Unfortunately, of twelve grafted tomatoes, I lost four – one Roma and three Cherokee purple. Three grafts didn’t take, and one couldn’t adapt outside the baggie. I’m not sure if the grafts have healed on the survivors. Only time will tell. It was my first time doing it, so I’m not expecting much.

In the picture, the Roma are on the left, the Cherokee Purple on the right.

Tomatoes two weeks post grafting

Tomatoes two weeks post grafting

My first celery is doing well. It’s ready to plant outside.

Celery

Celery

My herb seedlings died in the surprise frost we got a week ago. I had planted seeds along with the transplants so I’d have a full pot, but nothing has come up yet. A squirrel has dug big holes in two of my pots, so I’m unsure if my seeds are even there anymore! If I don’t see anything by this week (three weeks in the soil), I will replant the seeds. And I may get a few rocks to throw at that squirrel!

OUT IN THE GARDEN:

My winter garden has been disappointing this year. The frost got to it several times, but the worst thing was that most of my plants sat in horticultural limbo for about six weeks – surviving but not growing at all. Once I fertilized (after a professional soil test), everything started growing quickly. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. I’ve harvested some crops and will get a decent harvest yet at week’s end. But a few crops haven’t grown enough to enjoy. Those six weeks really hurt. Live and learn though.

My carrots are one of those crops I’m not going to be able to munch on. As of this weekend, they’re close to pencil thickness and a yellow color. I might taste them when I pull them and see if I can use them in a soup or something – so it won’t be a total waste. At least I’ll be planting some more around my tomatoes next week.

Scarlet Nantes carrot bed

Scarlet Nantes carrot bed

St. Valery carrot bed

St. Valery carrot bed

My beets are also not going to be ready to eat. They won’t even be salvageable. I’m determined to get them to grow well in the fall!

Beet bed

Beet bed

My turnips bounced back very well. (Click here to see them three weeks ago.) The Purple Top are in the back, Golden Globe in the front. I think I’ll have a great harvest of all of them, large enough to make a few good meals.

Turnip bed

Turnip bed

My radishes will be big enough to eat. The watermelon radishes (back of the bed in the picture below) aren’t quite red all the way through inside (I tried a couple this week), but they’re okay. The daikon radishes (front of the picture) are about as thick as carrots. The second batch of watermelon radishes (in the middle) didn’t have enough time to grow. I thought they would. It’s okay because I will be planting more radishes.

Radish bed

Radish bed

I think I can safely say the Texas Granex onion sets I planted last month have finally “taken.” It was touch and go a few times with the frosts, but they’re looking good. I need to apply some nitrogen this week so they’ll grow and bulb up.

Texas Granex onions

Texas Granex onions

My Red Creole onions, which I planted from seed last October, started to bolt this week. It seems the warm spell we had in January followed by the normal cold caused the onions to bolt when spring weather hit. I had no control over that.

Red Creole onions bolting

Red Creole onions bolting

Since an onion in bloom will no longer expend energy to increase the size of the bulb, I pulled the bolted onions. They weren’t very big at all. I did have some control over that. After researching it, I discovered that nitrogen should be given to onions monthly, which I did not do. I applied it only twice. So, I will apply it monthly to my Texas Granex onions, so they’ll grow bigger than my Red Creole onions did. (They did taste good in that night’s stir fry, though.)

Red Creole onions ~ small bulbs

Red Creole onions ~ small bulbs

Speaking of nitrogen application, it seems my garlic is in need of another one. I applied it last week, but we got torrential rains of over three inches, so I’m sure most of it was washed out. I’ll apply some more this weekend. The leaves are looking pale with yellow streaks.

Garlic

Garlic

Once I fertilized, my lettuce took off. I’ve taken several harvests already. I plan to plant more around my larger plants, like the eggplant and peppers. I’m hoping the shade will help it grow – at least until it gets very hot in July. We’ll see.

Lettuce bed

Lettuce bed

The frost got to my Yukon Gold potatoes several times. They were planted in a bed, so they’ll have to come up next weekend. No Yukon Gold spuds for me this year. Next year, I’m going to figure out a way to cover the entire bed if a frost is imminent.

Yukon Gold potato ~ after the frost

Yukon Gold potato ~ after the frost

The purple potatoes (in the back row of the picture) and the fingerling potatoes (front row of the picture) have done well, in spite of the frost. They’ve grown to the top of the buckets, so I need to bury them (“hill them up”) so the soil comes to the top of the buckets.

Purple potatoes & Fingerling potatoes

Purple potatoes & Fingerling potatoes

The snow peas I planted in pots are doing well. They are starting to grow and grab onto the fence behind them.

Snow peas

Snow peas

I harvested kale and spinach this past week, so they look kind of small. Thus, no pictures. However, I should be able to get one more harvest out of them when I pull everything up next weekend.

Well, the big spring planting is less than 7 days away. Next week’s update will show the changing of the crops in my Sanctuary Garden.

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