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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winter Diary, 2-28-2012

This weekend was a ruse of spring delight in weather. I confess that I was very delighted being able to work outside in a sunny 50 degree day. The bare wind landscape is brown and disorderly looking but some promise of spring displays in the trees and ground around. This has a wonderful boost of pleasure.  I worked in the herb garden to clear last years growth now brown and dry but new growth of Rue (ruta graveolens) is starting to grow. It is great to have some herbs that take care of themselves but the tend to crowd out the less vigorous. So today I went out to take some of the ones that are taking over other places such as the strawberry patch. This Butterfly Garden is around 12 by 18 feet.

 I got the plan from Adelma Simmons book "Herb Gardening in Five Seasons". She begins with a Winter Diary with a day very much like the one I am experiencing. The brainchild of  Caprilands Gardens now called Caprilands Institue. She left her entire estate to the nonprofit educational institute.  There is confusion if this site is available for visits.  The website is down but I have found they have a facebook site with an update done yesterday and they have reported to the IRS. So it appears they are still in open and have times posted. If seems you can view the garden but they do not have the high teas and lunches as they did years ago.  I do hope they organize some programs and events to prevent the place falling into total disarray. 

I found it very interesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. They put my area into another zone 6A from 5B. Climate oscillation is a on going occurrence and if you look into history you will find interesting evidence of change. Maybe the polar bears with be hit hard because of this climate change just as the wild horses and three-quarters of the large mammals in North America did at the end of the Pleistocene. Should we do restoration ecology and bring back the cheetahs, camels,  elephants and other mega fauna to North America? Heck, maybe an ecological history park , say in Manhattan, Kansas area, would bring in huge eco-tourism benefits.



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gardening 2/23/2012

This year I making good progress on my planting inside. I just need to get my cold house done so I can put plants I started in there to finish before planting outside. I still have my cold frame. I have had that for a long time and it has held up rather well with the wind and hail here in Kansas. All of the cabbage has germinated and is looking good. The chad has also germinated today. I am hoping the set up I have now will keep them from getting too spindly. That is a problem I have had before when starting them inside. I have different lights this year and so far they are going good. I am not sure I will grow start lettuce inside like I used to but will direct seed them under a row cover. I had problems with my row covers blowing over from the strong wind and had gotten some rebar to side poke into the soil and put the poles over. The plans I had just told you to stick the PVC poles in the ground but I could not get them to stay. I will put pictures up later after I progress with them.


I am going to try to do some weeding in my herb garden and get that looking nice. I want to transplant some asparagus that I plant on the edge thing is would look nice because of it lacy look and it is a plant to keep for years in one place but it has actually been a hindrance in working the garden. I will plant strawberries this year in the space which is a small strip.

The cabbage that I planted a couple days later germinated the other day and are going well. The Swiss chard germinated yesterday and seem to be growing well.

The American Black currant is a little more iffy. The germination of this plant is around 4 weeks but since I use the under-heat method I am hoping to be sooner. You normally do not want to grow currant by seed because they will not be the same as the parent you got the seed from . The seeds I are from wild currants so they have not been cultivated. These will be planted in the wood look and shaded by cedars. American Black Currants do not grow naturally in Kansas so I am not sure they will grow.  Three states surrounding Kansas -Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska have American Black Currants. It might be because there are not pine or cedar trees that normally grow in Kansas although introduced Cedars since to be doing extremely well. This is mostly because in many areas fire do not sweep through the areas like they did in  the 1800 and earlier.

I should be getting the trees I ordered in the middle of March. I have ordered 25 Black Walnuts, 25 Eastern Red cedar-Bessey and 25 Rocky Mountain Juniper. The walnuts and juniper are new additions but I think they will do well.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Almost Spring

We had promising weather of spring for a few days but in reality spring is a few more weeks ahead. The very limited spring that Kansas gets. I noticed the tulips and day lilies have started to grow and are now a few inches out. I did go out and give them a little fertilizer since they have started growing.

Today the weather is very windy but still a rather mild temperature of 46 degrees F. The date to begin planting winter/early spring was the 15th of February but I did get a late start and started planting February 17, 2012.. Today I am planning to plant a couple more trays.  I still make soil blocks since I have found them the easiest and cheapest way to produce seedlings. It is almost like just growing in a tray but you do not have to transplant by trying to carefully dig out the seedlings since the are going in little cubes. It seems like a chore and you have less of a survival rate. It is amazing how well the cubes stay in contact without falling apart if you are careful with the watering. The technique is slowly picking up in the United States but has been used for years in Europe.


The following were the seeds planted 2/17/20:

Garden Wild Kale

This is a new variety that I am trying this year that I  purchased from Bountiful Gardens. This is a variety you can select strains that are adaptable to your own farm environment.  I am not sure if I will collect seeds yet but will wait for them to grow and see if I like them.

January King

This is a cabbage that has been around before 1885. It will be the first time I have grown the variety myself and will see how it does in this area. 

Cabbage, Savory, Samantha 

This is a another savory cabbage. It is a compact growing type. My seeds were from Johnny's Select Seeds. I did not see them for sale in this years catalog but it is still poplar in Europe. Maybe Americans do not like the pointed heads on this type.

Chard, Swiss "Rainbow"

I really like this Swiss chard. It is both colorful and flavorful. I use it in stir-fries and in soups. I grow this every year now.


Today My plant is to plant:

American Blackcurrant

This seed was purchased from Bountiful Gardens to grow as  permaculture at the edge of my wood lot. I have had them in the fridge for over 60 so I will try planing them.

Wonderberry, Garden Huckleberry, Sunberry

I have tried growing these before and still have seeds I purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. I will again grow these seeds. The wonderberry is a cross made by Luther Burbank. The fruit is only good for deserts so I am not sure if it will be a plant I will keep growing. I have wild plums, grapes and other. The seeds might be worthwhile to keep in long storage just in case.

Today I will plant some more cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables.

Chinese Cabbage "Michihil"-Ferry Morse
Broccoli "De Cicco" - Ferry Morse
Gonzales Mini Cabbage- Pinetree
  At first I thought this would be great because it produces a small head. I do not      think I will grow again after these seeds are gone.

Cauliflower "Summer Harvest Hybrid" - Burpee
This is the first year to try this cauliflower. Cauliflower does not like to grow for me in Kansas. The weather goes from winter to summer very quickly with little or no real spring type weather.

Brussels Sprouts "Catskill" - Ferry Morse
I have started to have some luck with brussell spouts. This type has so far been the best. Brussels Sprouts are still a little tricky. I will try again starting them in August to over winter. I seem to have luck growing them that way.


Update 2/20/2012:

The cabbage planted 2/15/2012 has started to germinate.



I find it interesting that the USDA zones this area as the Smokey hills while the KU website shows the area as the Flint Hill and most of Dickerson County is.  It gets rather flat between here and the Smokey Hills near Salina, KS. We used to be  zone 5 but a few years ago they changed the area to zone 5b.

 USDA Gardening and Plant Hardiness Zone Map for Kansas


USDA Hardiness Zone:
Zone 5b: -15F to -10F
PlantMaps Hardiness Zone:
Zone 5b: -15F to -10F
Days Where Temp Exceeds 86°F:
61 - 90 days
Ecoregion:
27a - Smoky Hills
Freeze Data:
Average First Frost October 11 - 20
Average Last Frost: April 11 - 20
Current Drought Data:
Drought Conditions: Normal
Palmer Drought Index: 0.30
Local Climate Data
MonMin FMax FPrecip In.
Jan1739.81
Feb22461.03
Mar32572.59
Apr42682.94
May53774.73
Jun63874.64
Jul68924.4
Aug66913.43
Sep56822.98
Oct44712.69
Nov32541.99
Dec21431.17
Ann436733.4


Flint Hills Map
drawing of outline of this region on Kansas map

http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Extension/flinthills/flinthills.html