Soil Temperatures Matter To Plants
Long ago I bought tomato plants and installed them in two places, the sunny garden and the vegetable garden. The tomato plants, like their cousins the potatoes, simply sat there and did nothing for weeks. No growth and the tomatoes were close to freezing. The cold, cloudy, rainy weather is not what the nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, egg plants) want.
One reader says the garden centers love those customers who buy their tomato plants early. They come back again to replace the dead frozen ones.
We had one truly warm day of sunshine, and the first tomato plant bloomed. That is always a good sign. Wild strawberries have been blooming but not producing strawberries so far.
The potatoes in the straw garden burst into growth once the sun came out last week. Before the sunshine, I looked at them squatting in the straw, turning green (potato tan?) and not growing. Grass grew well on the bales. I have at least one pumpkin vine sprouting on the side of the bales. Some other seeds sown on top were growing, but not the potatoes.
If we watch carefully, the timing of plants can be determined. The roses were doing well long before the crepe myrtle began to leaf out. The roses from last year are all budding, but the crepe myrtle is far behind them.
Edible pod peas are flowering. They love cold weather. Sunflowers were tentative in the cold rainy weather, and are not hitting a growth spurt. Like corn, sunflowers love heat, sun, water, and rich soil.
|The pole bean tepee is fun to grow.|
Time To Plant Sweet Corn - Three Sisters Garden
I wait until the soil is reflecting back some genuine warmth before planting sweet corn.
I kept singing "One Day More" from Le Miz as I stepped out into the morning weather, day after day, waiting for sweet corn weather, daily wearing a coat for Sassy's morning walk.
Every website has different directions for planting corn. I will plant the seeds about 12 inches apart. The key to corn is bunching them tight for wind pollination. I also want to get the maximum production from the Three Sisters Garden, because friends increase when the silk turns brown.
Later I will plant Blue Lake pole beans and pumpkins. The pole beans help fix nitrogen in the soil, and the pumpkins provide shade along the soil, which reduces weeds (though I have mulch) and inhibits predators human and squirreline.
Am I able to plant corn in the same place next year? I will leave the garden remains there, the greenery creating compost on top and the roots decomposing in the soil. That would be the best place to spread the finished compost from the leaves decomposing in the chicken wire cage. Putting comost on top of the Three Sisters Garden will increase soil activity over the winter.
There is no need for rototilling compost or mulch into the soil. Those who want a rich, smooth, brown surface should stick to cake mixes. Nothing is worse for microbe activity than modern garden practices:
- Inorganic fertilizers. Walk through that aisle if you think manure smells bad.
Weeds Are Mulch and Fertilizer Rolled into One
Lots of spring weeds are bursting through the soil - green, leafy, and loaded with moisture. I follow Ruth Stout in using weeds as mulch. I may pull some and leave them on top, or I trim them and let the plant material serve as mulch.
Greens are more like candy for the soil - instant energy.
They are easily broken down and offer nitrogen to plants. Some escapes but nitrogen compounds form in layers of green plant material. A thick layer will warm up. Dug up sod will shrink and turn into perfect soil when turn upside-down. The same effect can be achieved by covered lawn grass with newspapers or cardboard and mulched on top to keep the lower layer in place. Green equals nitrogen.
Tree products are long-term investments in soil quality.
Wood mulch, cardboard, and newspapers are fungus foods, loved by fungi and adored by earthworms. Wood products absorb nitrogen to some extent, but they release it later as they decompose. This adsorption is good in Jackson Mulch, because the newspaper layer puts an instant kibosh on the weeds and grass. If you want to turn a patch of crabgrass (or lawn) into great soil, cover it with newspapers and weigh the papers down with shredded wood mulch.
I asked for six bags of cyprus mulch at Lowe's and the Hispanic clerk sold me sixteen. I ended up loading them, too. Cyprus smells and looks great.
Cellulose is far more complex than plant greens, so it needs the powerful decomposing mechanism of fungi. Queen Elizabeth's private gardens promote as much fungus growth as possible and toxins are banned. Plant and animal life flourishes.
Roses for Mother's Day
The KnockOut roses will be blooming this Sunday, but the hybrid teas from last year may also bloom for Mother's Day.
The new roses should be blooming by the end of May. Yes, I will be photographing them for the blog and future gardening book.