Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm home!

What a great trip. Virginia is a beautiful state. Though I started out in Southern Pennsylvania at Longwood Gardens; then to Colonial Williamsburg; then to Monticello (in the above pic) both in VA. I took tons of pictures: I'll try to post the link for my photobucket site soon where I put  the pics from my trips and my garden.

I have to say Longwood Gardens just blew me away. First it's huge and second the gardens were just fantastic and the conservatory the biggest I've ever been in and is just mind boggling. In some ways too much so: for example I walked into the Orchid Room and just stopped dead in my tracks from sensory overload. I just couldn't take them all in. :)

I bought a bunch of seeds saved by the Jefferson …..... All of which at one point or another were grown by TJ himself and are being saved by the foundation.

The gardens survived my absence for the week as did the greenhouse. I have a ton of work to do so no more trips for awhile. One thing that's hard to get used to is not only the difference in weather in the South... I had 80 – 90 degree (F) weather but the weather up here took a turn to cold: we have frost warnings tonight. So the extreme difference is more then it would have been. So far the Northern Spring is one extreme to the other. I'm so not acclimated yet. :)

Whilst I recovered my energy yesterday I sat down and made charts for my four main outdoor garden beds so that I can keep track of the rotation. The last few years I've relied on memory and have gotten some of it muddled. Since I only now have the four beds to rotate I have to be more careful and precise hence the chart making.

I made charts on graph paper of the four beds indicating which year of a four year rotation they were in and am now filling them in as I plant. So next year I'll pull them out and make sure I don't put the same plant families into the same beds again and repeat the charts for four years total and repeat over again.

For those of you new to gardening one rotates the crops to cut down on the chance of disease and pests from using the same soil for the same crop families from one year to the next or more. Even if your crops have been healthy it's good to do so but after a year like last year with the Tomato Blight infestation we all had it's crucial. There are some diseases that you have to wait three  years or more before some crops can be replanted in the same soil if contaminated so it's a good thing to use prevention with rotation to avoid it if one can.

Speaking (again  :)  ) of the Dreaded Tomato Blight Fiasco last year; while I was in Pennsylvania on the way home this past week and stopped at a rest stop:I noticed a huge greenhouse down the road. Well... you don't have to guess that I couldn't resist so I stopped in. And yes: I bought a couple hanging plants for the house. …. but they had signs all over the vegetable areas that said they didn't care if we bought our tomato plants from them as long as we bought them locally to avoid the Blight from last year: so they had the same problem as far away as the south border of PA if not further. As I stated in another page of this blog this Blight was passed on by air even to healthy plants in neighboring gardens by air: by plants that were brought into the area by large suppliers of plants grown by a single unknown (to me) nursery and shipped to various retail stores across the Northeast. Thus wiping out not just private tomato crops but commercial farmers as well.

There is, of course, a big push to buy one's food as close to home as one can but that should also include one's garden plants.... but more importantly make sure whomever you buy from is a known grower and thus accountable. Or at the least isolate new plants and keep an eye on them. (which is what I am doing with the plants from VA and PA I just brought home. It will be awhile before I plant them to make sure they are healthy).

Another thing is to make sure plants you get are in “soil-less” potting soil mix and not garden soil.

Which brings to mind the advice of being careful when your friends give you plants too. I'm sorry to say that you can get plant diseases from their soil or infected plants. I almost lost all of my irises one year when someone gave me a bunch of irises I couldn't resist. Turned out they were infected with an iris worm that is very hard to get rid of and the advice from the experts is to destroy your irises and start over.  I isolated mine until they got over it but so far it looks like I lost my late Mother's irises she gave me years ago from her garden. So be wary. :)

Next on the list of jobs this week is to get the rest of the beds done to get ready for our big planting week, starting the weekend of Memorial Day. It's the 29th -  31st this year so I have a couple weeks to get it done still. I also have to get the tomato and bean supports made... assuming I decide which way to build them. I'll let you know if and when that happens. :)

I'm hoping to pick up some tomato plants this week to put in the greenhouse. It's still too early to plant them outside (waiting for the above mentioned weekend) but it was 80 in there today even though it was in the 40s when I checked things earlier today.

One neat thing that happened to me just before I left for my vacation:
Years ago I used to grow Egyptian Walking Onions. (http://z.about.com/d/gardening/1/0/5/8/OnionEgyptianWalking.jpg)
They are a neat member of the Onion family that grows “sets” or bulbs at the top of their flower stalks. They will fall over from the weight and root themselves a foot or so away from the parent plant and repeat it for each plant that grows; thus it “walks” around the garden. They are a very nice “scallion” type onion you can harvest in the spring when they are young or you can even use the older ones too. To avoid their taking over the garden you have to make sure you remove the “flowers” before they fall over and root.
Mine disappeared a few years ago when the gardens got out of hand due to health reasons and I forgot about them. I was walking around the yard and in an area I let grow wild I saw what looked like wild onions but were larger then the ones we usually have around here and I went over to check them out and saw that there were a large number of the walking onions. I left most of them to continue being “wild” but took about 6 of them and planted them in the garden. Each “scallion” will mulitply and next Spring I'll have a bunch of young scallions I can harvest. Then I'll replant one back in the hole and that one will multiply and the next Spring I'll harvest, etc. As long as I take those flower/bulbs off the top (which can be used to plant more if one wants) they won't take over the garden.

It reminded me of giving up on the garlic plants only to find a baby one to start the crop over with. By the way: turns out that there are a lot of them growing in the grass beside the old garlic bed. I just have to dig them up and put them with the first.

Just another thing to add to the list. :)

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