El Nino and Wrong Season Blooms

Out of Season Blooms and Winter Storm Jonas

Several of our landscape Spring Bloomers were popping out mostly on the upper SW sides of the trees, not to mention, bulbs, Hydrangeas, Forsythia, and the list goes on, depending on your exposure.
So what can we expect in the coming season, especially with this past weeks big snow? It’s kinda simple really. Those “pre-bloomers”, were just showing off. We’ve had a lot of rain, which leached the nutrients down past most root beds. So, putting the plant in a “distress” situation, it needed to partially leaf, for Photosynthesis, then bloom… They will recover, because they need to leaf, bloom, produce, in the coming, “Right” season.

Keep in mind, snow is loaded with Nitrogen, as well as a thermal, slow irrigating, part of gardening. Worst part about it really, is going to be an abundance of Dandelions. See, they have a deep taproot, that brings Nitrogen from the deeps, back to the top of your soil beds. It’s their job, even if the seeds were dormant, for up to 7 years!!! Clover on the other hand, may be actually less, because that “plant” corrects the lack of Nitrogen in the soil. Well, I think we got plenty from Jonas. Weeds can tell you a lot about soil conditions. For a great PDF chart, this may help make sense, before you spray!!
Spring Blooming live goods will be OK, maybe even more prolific than normal, depending on the coming “La Nina”, which usually follows a powerful “El Nino” like we are experiencing now. Warm Wet Baby with a coming Cool Dry Baby, may impact some of the “self pollinizing” plants and trees, but still, may also have you picking way more than you think. It’s a Ma Nature Timing thing. Remember last year, “Polar Vortex” we had some trees actually rupturing at the base in mid March, due to the fact, they were coming into season, pulling up moisture, budding, and then some minus 0 wind chills, made the lower trunks freeze, and explode. Same with Japonica Camellias and a few early blooming Rhodo’s and big buds rupturing. So be happy, your “early-out-of-season-bloomers”, did so, proving they are also anxious to perform this year.

Just make sure you are still keeping up your Winter chores, as well as documenting it in your Garden Journals, at least with digital pics with a time date stamp accurately showing the “mis-fire”. If some new shoots got burned with the Winter temps, prune as you would normally during the “right” season, to make them come on again. Remember, “They have to”… They just do.

Advertisements

February Is Cold, But How Warm?

February Solar Temps Compared To Ambient?

Here in Richmond, Va., we have finally gotten a Winter Blast that reminds us it’s still, Winter. But, we have also achieved about an hour and 20 minutes of daylight. Check your gained time here at the USNO website, just fill in the blanks. What’s that mean to a gardener? Well, it’s like this. The angle of the Sun is rocketing from low in the South, back to East, basically. The soil temps from this angle is warming up. By the time Forsythia blooms in March, we will have 2 hours gained. But the ambient temp now is around 11, and the real feel is about 0 to -4. Was worse the other day, and tonight, worse yet. But the Sun is helping in this February blast.

Last week I had pipes freeze. No way to get anything to the well house and tank to apply heat. so, I took a digital thermometer and placed in the shade a few minutes, and as it got down to 50 degrees or so, I then put it in the direct Sun. It jumped up to 75 degrees. Now, I have done this next thing before, and it works. I took 3 large mirrors, and pointed them all at the inlet pipe and accumulator tank under the house. Had to readjust every 45 minutes or so, but from around 11:30 to 2:30, the water came back. The well house is on the North side of this old house. I could feel the heat every time I stepped in front of the mirrors, and it was warm inside that pump house. Pic below is of my endeavors. The pipe is behind tank.

Frozen

The next thing I had to try after the snow, was to see if on the same North side, if I could use the same method melting an ice dam. Here’s the pics of that chore. Before and after, about 3 hours time. Just an experiment, wasn’t going to do them all!!

DSCN1356DSCN1359DSCN1362

What’s this have to do with Gardening? Everything. For Hoop Houses, Green Houses, Cold Frames, Solarizing your beds, if you can’t get heat to them in an untimely cold blast, find a mirror and use the Sun to your advantage. Place a few jugs of water inside, and point the mirrors at the jugs. They will get to 75 degrees this time of year. There, that’s it. A little work, but save the crops and your work if you get caught in the ice.

 

Vendor Confusion is Wreaking Havoc

…and killing your success…

For the 13 1/2 years that I worked at the “Orange Box” as their Garden Specialist, I had to endure several vendor seminars to hear their blathering, about their products. Information that I watched everyone else in the room, suck down like it was gospel, and they never had grown a thing. I could tell, just by their questions, and the answers made me ill. Was it truly an attempt to educate, or was it just a ploy for more dollars to the vendor, limiting your success, because you were told, wrong? Ever notice, that as a huge ad comes out with any “Buy this, get this free and apply this now”, or whatever, that over there, on that shelf, is a product that will be in the next ad, claiming “If you have this, then apply this now”, with a picture of some un-Godly thing growing in a lawn or garden. They know you are being told wrong, but there is another chemical, to correct it. Don’t believe me? Look in the overheads, see what chemical is on like 4 pallets, that’s the next ad. Then do your homework on that product. You will see the “If you did this, then you need to do that”.

After about the 3rd year, I couldn’t take anymore from gardening my whole life, so I started asking questions I knew that vendor didn’t know the answers to, or wouldn’t truthfully answer. My absurd affliction of watching and knowing the climatology of my zone, and observing my customers failures because the same info being shoved at us, and why last year the same info was there, but people were failing was my dilemma. Their info was the same that was on the commercials, again. Yep, all the speaker could do was back up a few sentences, and start again. I was finally asked not to attend anymore lectures. And my attitude towards them and my clients, changed.

I didn’t set out to  kill their products, well, not at first, but I led my clients through scenarios of their past years of anything gardening, no matter what the project was. Especially when they say they “do this every year”. As we looked into their media generated practices, the switches were clicking on. In just one particular season, I was being inundated by clients wanting to see, “that guy”. See, I wasn’t dogging weekly sales plans, they were growing, because of repeat customers, and their friends. I told the truth, and their landscapes were improving. Funny how many times I was told not to tell their neighbor what I was telling them at first. But then, the neighbor was brought in to see me, because of the invasions of those “Un-Godly Things” they were growing. Don’t get me going about grass seed, just read the label on the back, it’s done by an independent lab, and they tell the truth about that particular batch. Add the percentage of seed blends and see if it’s near 100%. There is one in particular, that gets close to 50%, but “It’s NEW and IMPROVED!!” Please.. Just read the label. There’s more.

As the years went by, more info was out about “Organic” gardening and these vendors were clamoring over each other to produce all organic lines of money. Yeah, they went to the limits, even with the Federal Government, that there was a certain percentage of what they had to admit to that was “organic”. By Federal Law, a vendor only has to have their organic products labeled at 85%. The other 15%, they didn’t have to tell you what was in the product. Read any label listed as organic, see for yourself. If there’s no label of ingredients, then either pass on that product, or thank the MSDS.com people that they, would. Scary. Watch what you buy, and join MSDS.com, you will change your practices immediately. Reference to the movie, “Erin Brockovich” when she was at that one home, discussing where the chemicals were coming from that was killing families, the water, and the Mom frantically jumped up and got her kids out of the pool…. Imagine your backyard, the same way, the vendor doesn’t care, but there is another commercial.

A few years ago, I was asked to help a client figure out why most of her veggie garden failed for the past couple of years. She was a farm girl, and knew how to garden her soil first. When I arrived, we walked the landscape first, and it was beautiful. It was a horse farm, and she was completely organic. Last years manure was here, this years was there. But I noticed a weird situation. In the established beds, no weeds. But in the lawn areas, plenty. She used no chemicals at all. As we got to the veggie garden, I could see the nice composted manure, some sporadic rows of veggies, but mostly, bare everywhere else. After a few minutes of asking about and her answering me, her practices, her hay farmer showed up to drop her bales. We continued the tour, but something in me wasn’t right. I took several pics, and her time was up, and I ensured her I’d get back to her. A few weeks later, I was listening to a podcast about gardening with out “The Government” in your back yard. Something the gal said, got me riled up about a suspicion I had earlier. I did some digging, and the next day, called on my client. When I got there, two of her friends, horse farmers as well, were there, and had the same issues in their failed gardens. So as a group, I asked where they got their hay. They all, and a few more friends, got it from the same hay farm. Imagine that the three, all at once, explaining that they don’t know why I was asking about the hay distributor? After finally having the floor, all I asked was “Does he use 2-4d on his fields”? My client immediately called, and he said yes, so there are no broad leaf weeds…. Horses and cows, that eat the hay treated with 2-4d, eliminate the chemical, it’s in the hay. The chemical can be dormant for four years, unless there is a broad leaf anything, to consume it. Silence in a field is strange. Then the phones came out, and friends were called, because this garden problem had been discussed at length at their horse club meetings, and everyone was using the same practices and had the same hay producer.

Now, I wasn’t wanting to end someones livelihood, but the story, is true, and ties in with the first part of this article. How many failures does it take, especially with seasoned gardeners, before they quit too? My info to these people wasn’t just from articles I read. As a Garden Coach, some proof needed to be found. There was actually a middle visit at this farm, and it was to get some of the composted manure for me to make some manure tea for myself, and was offered all I want. But it wasn’t for my gardens. It was experimental, because of my suspicions about the manure. I used it on some of my own seedlings, some from just watering, and some by spraying on. All died or looked like they wanted to. The chemicals from the hay, was in the poop.

In the discussions I’ve had and lectures given over the years, not just in regular gardening practices, but also water gardens, people don’t understand what’s in the chemical they are “sold”. For example the aquatic chemical used to “clear up algae blooms” at about $23.00 per pint, is simply Hydrogen Peroxide. Just a cap full per so many square feet of pond. All it does is sterilize the existing algae so it can’t reproduce, it dies, and is fuel for the next bloom, again and again, until they are sold a mechanical filter or a magic light fixture. I gotta tell ya, I’ve never seen such a thing in a real pond. But the vendor has a method of making a simple project cost you out of enjoyment, it’s now a chore. Simple practices in the maintenance of any water garden, makes it just that, a garden. But you aren’t supposed to know about moving the pump seasonally, and more.

My Apartment gardening clients are all of a sudden, a new breed. There has been a little info out there about containerizing veggies, but none from vendors. I have had several in the past few years, start with a few, and now no room out there. I did have enough that had an interest, that WWBT’s “More Bang for Your Buck” series aired me on just that. And you people went crazy in your gardening on balconies. But, unless you know someone with compost, you have to buy bagged. Just read the label about potting mixes, garden soils, and keep it cheap. Anything that boasts about “water retention”, “longer feeding”, or any other “thing” and has great pics on the bag, let it go. In containers, you have the luxury of no weeds, and maybe less bugs, but…. You have to control your watering and feeding times more than an in-ground garden. Drainage and fungus is where your extra education needs to be above others. So you don’t want that “new and improved” anything. There’s more, but you are a 3rd floor gardener, and it’s worth the effort.

With the onslaught of GMO vs Non-GMO, there is a question of that vendor side as well. If you aren’t saving seeds already, it may be too late soon. With the formation of Seminis Seed Company, a Monsanto entity, it appears that all seeds in the companies they are buying up, will be GMO, and will not reproduce from seeds of that plant. You will have to buy all your seeds from now on. End of the world folks. Some will reproduce, but will not be the same plant. I have already seen some of this, and the packets planted, were not all the same, already. The “vendor” states they are healthier, more resistant to a nuclear blast, etc… But, you have to buy again next year. And yes, the Government is involved with this too. Pretty soon, my seed stash I save year after year, will be illegal, and they will raid that one kitchen drawer we all have, with just “stuff” in it. Imagine it, “Seed Cops”.

Any type of gardening is supposed to be therapy in my book. I already work, I don’t want a pleasure to be work. As a kid, there weren’t many chemicals or bagged goods like today, and we ate good. Certain weeds meant something about the soil, weather, nutrients, etc. Rotating crops, gardening your soil, companion planting, inter-planting to attract good bugs, were all you needed. I’ve never seen Ma Nature shop in a box store. I can go out to the middle of nowhere, and see beautiful things growing, and not the first empty bag of anything. So why can’t you grow without a vendor? Make it pleasurable, therapeutic, and profitable to garden again. Who’s your Garden Coach? Class begins as I step out of my vehicle with my clients, I have a compass, and a watch, and it’s the first thing I note, then it’s on. My interview with you simply includes, my exploring your “chemical closet”, your previous practices, ask about your non-existent garden journal, and then, what do you want, as we tour your property. Then you’re mindset will change, and you are gardening again. Simply keeping a journal, will keep you from listening to those commercials, when the vendor says, “Do this now”.

In my public lectures, weather they are small groups or upwards to 200-300 people, after about five minutes in, they find out I am not a vendor. Questions come early on of what the commercials are that week or what the box store has in their ads, and why am I saying different?…. As I answer them, also with scenarios of what I know what is going on in a garden, certain veggies, weather, whatever, that if they are following the ads, then they start admitting, they have that problem too. Then I ask, why? Now, I got them.

Go Grow Something.

 

Rage Against the Ad, Part 3

Box Stores End Gardening.. What?

As a gardener, I remember always having things to do in the Winter as far as gardening. Somewhere in the past, the media, ended gardening ideas for Winter. It’s like that movie where Christmas was almost cancelled, there was a war on. With the huge amount of people gardening these days, and I’m talking specifically, the “Grow Your Own Food” folks, there seems to be an end, to gardening. There is, a war on.

Do you believe it’s over, when it comes to that last Tomato, last Squash, last weeding? Let me tell you, there’s more. Way more. If, and I say, if, you are one of the few that kept a journal, either written or photo, of your efforts, then you have the ability and responsibility to “Garden in the Winter”. It’s not over when those ads tell you. Think about the other side, of department stores. When do the flip flops, bathing suits, shorts, patio furniture, etc., go “on sale”. Summer isn’t over, in July, the ads say it is, because Fall sweaters are on the rack by mid August.

See? But we don’t realize they do it to gardeners too. Just because the name brand product ads shift from constant  “down your throat” wrong advice blitz from April to the end of July/early August, and then non-existent, most of you shut down. Me? I have fresh picked veggies for Thanksgiving. I’m nowhere near done. My shorter days thinking, goes towards finishing the beds, proper dressing and cover crop, looking over my pics and notes, for next February, when it actually starts new. I’m separating and labeling my saved seeds, labeling, converting my rotation of crops on paper, gathering things to up-cycle for seed starting, re-organizing my seed racks, taking down my cold frames, cleaning hard used tools. Ever wonder why the seed catalogs come so early? Well they aren’t early, they, are on time, the box stores are late, trying to clear out Christmas, and then have some stupid bathroom fixture sale, they can’t even order product like lime, amendments, garden tools, of things of the like. They are “out of season” and turned off in the system. By the time the seasonal items are actually in an ad, gardeners are well under way, and new gardeners, are lost.

I can’t tell you how many times over the past decades, when I ask if, anything, the  person tells me it’s too early yet. When I break out my phone  and show them what I’m doing, let’s say, mid February, and show them my seedlings up and under light in a cheap seed rack, then I have a new client. Then, they are pounding the stores about why nothing is in the store for gardening. Love the answers they get.

Most of my “Seasonal Only” clients are now year round gardeners. They are getting their Winter Gardening supplies in July, saving them for November, to create their own gardening indoor projects. I get pounded in late January early February with requests, pondering, “can I’s”, whatever, from almost as many thru the “season” gardeners. About 30% of those, repeatedly send me pics of “the thing” they are building, and do I think it will work. Then, Late February, mid March, silence. But I hear them, working, thinking, whining, trying….

Yep, the media has all but killed Winter Gardeners. There is a huge up flow of people tired of their food being tainted, by the very same chemical companies, that are in charge of the ads. Late ads, and wrongly timed advice. See, they don’t want you to grow, especially food. That’s why there’s ads, so the ordinary weekender can just keep trying instead of succeeding. How many times I heard, “Well I do this every year, because the ad says so.” And we’re talking simply about over seeding a fescue lawn. Same with the veggie garden people. See the pictures on the name brand water soluble fertilizers? “All Purpose” with it’s flowering annuals and a Tomato and Pepper? Ever read the NPK on that box? Those folks I am guaranteed to get an email from about the very tall leafy Tomato plant with no blooms, in late July. “But the box”, they’ll say. I know that company generates more dollars in that 12 facing display than they would by actually promoting their “Tomato” food. Watch the commercials next spring. Oh yeah, they have another product to counter the Blossom End Rot if you are lucky enough to get any to blossom. Same as the mid Summer fescue fertilizer pushers. That’s when the Fungus Controls come in by the pallets. They know, they told you wrong, and you will need this, better luck next year, just gimme your money. Fescue lawn mostly Bermuda? They make a product to control it, or are you following the ad for feeding wrong?

This Winter, do yourself a favor, especially if you are confused. Find a Personal Garden Coach, we are here to stop you from watching the ads, be successful, save you money, as you make money growing your own food, and helping the environment. Winter is where I  am invited as a guest speaker, lecturer, given for Christmas, to help generate that kick start in gardeners. We have plenty to do on our own properties and scheduling garden chores, but as we educate others, our life gets easier. Our job is to grow. Not only you, but ourselves. We know how to make gardening mistakes, most of us have done things just to see, or to prove to others. Now I’m all about this article, it needs to be understood, that “ads are the bads” when it comes to gardening. Sales are great, don’t get me wrong, but the education you would get, can stop you from buying by the ad.

Invest in your educating yourself and your family. Change the channel when a commercial is on, keep a garden journal, make your own trends.

March and a “Gardenistic” Approach to “Gardenology”

How Many Times Does It Take?

So it’s March. In about 4 days, we will see two more hours of daylight, we will turn our clocks back, we will see Forsythia soon bloom, and we have made our plans for the upcoming garden season. We’ve cleaned our tools, started seeds indoors, shoveled enough snow exhausting ourselves into oblivion. Ran out of projects for “snow day kids”…. Or have we?

For me, as a garden coach, it has been great. Most of my clients have been, like me, chained inside because of this weather Ma Nature has tossed at us this long Winter. Our homes are so clean inside for lack of anything to do outside because of the newly named, “Polar Vortexes”. I have enough exes, don’t need another with a fancy name. OK, back to my clients. Most have gotten the message about “home grown” food. Most have gotten very creative about finding a place to start seeds indoors. Some found a closet and rigged lighting, some just a table, some, found racks for free at stores like I suggested. Now the good part about the weather. Parents have gotten their kids interested in growing indoors as “snow day” projects. I have received a lot of cool feedback on my previous posts about how they made something fun, productive, and a good learning experience for their kids. Funny how the young gardeners don’t realize the “Gardenology” class they are attending while out on a snow day. I think some can’t wait till the next one to add to their crops!!

While at a clients home recently, who I knew they had a “Grow Room”, they showed me some interesting ways their kids were getting involved. They all had their own flat of seeds started, personal garden journal, plot picked out in the garden bed, and yes, they have to “grow” bigger this year, and what each was going to produce for upcoming menus for the season. It was kinda funny, that the youngest was “allowed” to be the Cold Crop Queen!! She’s 6. And her flat was up and going. I had a chance to chat with them about transplanting, feeding, irrigation, soil amendments,  last years bugs, etc. They were into it so far, they’re stuck, as gardeners… Or is it, “hooked”? Either way they are in for the long haul of a life of great memories and peaceful therapeutic progress. Nice way to grow, and the parents didn’t realize they were cultivating 5, yes 5, new gardens within their kids. “Gardenology” is something to practice. I understand, from my clients, that their kids, can’t remember the last time they played a video game. When they call the kids for dinner, they come running out from the grow room where there are crayon pics of charts on the wall, on the wall now, not on paper, dates, plans and all “organic” treatments. We talked about companion plantings, succession planting, crop rotation, NPK, and phenology. I think my “new” clients are putting their WII and games on EBay to purchase new garden tools. I talked to the really chatty 11 year old a lot about my big time garden writer friends on Facebook, and thought she’d be the next big garden speaker.

Yeah, it’s March. What did you do with your “snow day kids”? I bet this crew, won’t buy any veggies at all this coming season. I will go back to this home-turned-greenhouse, and include them in my upcoming garden lectures. I kind of have to. Ya see, I started it with the parents, 2 years ago, and they had never put a seed to soil in their lives. This year, they are going total edible landscaping. If they can’t eat it, they ain’t plantin’ it.

It’s Been a Rough Summer

So far I’ve lost some veggie plants, a few small shrubs, and a few pounds from the heat this Summer. I would like to see some relief, but don’t think it’s coming. We’ve done OK as far as bagging and freezing some veggies, but not enough. Started a second round of Squash, Beans, Cantelopes. Peppers? They love this weather. We have Trinidad Scorpions and Ghost Peppers this year. They are doing great along with the rest. Fall is coming…

So with August here next week we have a few chores to do before Fall actually gets here. First, I need to finish pruning and picking up after all the storms that lit out through here. Then I can think about what to kill off weed’wise in the beds and the lawn. Lawns took a beating this year. Next month I will post a proper Richmond, Va. lawn schedule for you all. Easy and simple, it will be here and on www.Kevinsgarden.com, check it out if you haven’t been there yet.

We will have our Cold Crops ready to go as well.

Ma Nature’s Mayhem

OK, let’s see what we’re facing here for just a bit. Everyone is checking my “Winter Weather” post, thinking I am going to update it. Nope. I think I’ll let it fly like it is. Here’s why:

Since I have been playing around with data, trends, and phenology, I have found similarities of events due to the Southern Oscillation changes, especially in the last decade. But there is something that bothers me about weather guessers on the tube. The phrase, “warmer than normal” is a hoax. Average, maybe, normal, I don’t buy into that. My recollections about Summer/Winter weather events over my 52 years is about as accurate as can be. But there is one simple thing that people are not taking into account on the “Mayhem” we are being subject to. Here it is:

Krakatoa, the Earth shifted 3 degrees off its axis. Weather didn’t catch up with the rotation for about 25 years. Look it up, I did just because the notion hit me to do so. Then, the December earthquake in Indonesia a few years ago, same thing, 3 more degrees. Now here in Va., we are being annoyed by the quaking here in Louisa since, I think, June. Big 5.3 or so, followed by about 60, averaging in the 2.4 range. Arkansas, has had 9 in the last 2 days, averaging in the 2.5 range. South Carolina, yesterday alone had 2 at 2.6 within minutes of each other. Ohio and Pa. are on the “constant tremor” list as well. Here is MY theory. Simply put, the Earth is shifting its innards to catch up with its new rotation, kinda like the washing machine when all the jeans get to one side on the spin cycle. See? Simple wasn’t it? If you GPS the North Pole, you could get there easily and accurately. Use a compass? Not so easy, see, Magnetic North isn’t there anymore. Columbus would never find his way back here. The Earths Iron Core is also on the move. Look it up, I did. Don’t know why, I just did.

So. Now for the reason of this post. Ma Nature is desperately trying to compensate for the shift, putting weather/seasons back where they belong. Kinda like tossing a tennis ball up in the air in a moving vehicle. All’s well until it turns. Come on, you all remember HS Physics class right? The cold domes last year were coming out of Western Canada, pushing across all the way to the Carolinas. Same the year before. This year, coming down from Montana/North Dakota areas. Texas already has had a blizzard this year. Won’t be long until the daylight hours start getting longer in January, and we get that cccccold miserable time of year. But my feeling is it will last thru March. The Tropics are still pushing off of Cape Verde Islands, bringing constant 7 day moisture to us up from the Gulf, only a matter of time until they weaken, and meet here in Va…. and we all know what late Winter storms coming from the South means for us, yep, ICE! As of this post, we are at 56 degrees and it will get to 67 today. First day of winter, and yet its still Fall. Winter is coming when it’s supposed to. And it will be a long one. See? Average for the last 30 year cyclic weather trends… Average. The use of the term “normal” puts a scare in folks and they run around crying “global warming” over and over again, while professing to be “eco-friendly”, but yet still over fertilizing at the wrong time because they don’t watch the weather, they just read the chart on the bag or listen to the commercial. So I think I will inject a new phrase to the “Normal” watchers, and that is “Global Mayhem”… It’s easy to account for your actions from now on, right? Watch the weather, not the calender.