Here Comes The Sun

Too much of even a good thing is still too much, it has been said. Sun's a good thing.
Too much is not good. Doesn't it look searing? I think that's a solar flare shooting off to the right. Solar flares affect communication signals all over the Earth, and simultaneously can affect the very magnetic field in a way that intensifies the display of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.

My garden has full sun: great for many plants, but tough on human skin. I was never a big sun lover, so I'm new to serious protection. Although I use liquid SPF, gloves and a straw hat, my dermatologist also recommends a specific (and expensive) hat. There's a lot of false claims about sun protection products.

There's a distinct difference between the effects of UVA and UVB radiation, but both cause problems.


A Good Day To Garden

Today will be a good day to work in the garden. Humidity is lower, and the temperature is cooler.

The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (Ed Smith) taught me a lot about vegetable gardening. I have not incorporated quite all of the techniques, but have the major ones, with an emphasis on raised bed and organic methods.

To grow corn, which can be finicky about moisture and temperature, he recommends using a slightly recessed area within the raised bed -- like a well -- to capture as much rain water as possible. So, I'll try that.

What else is new? Leeks. Yellow and Stuttgarten onions. Mustard greens, which I'm eating for the first time and love them; so do the flea beetles. Sweet peas.

Because of the flea beetles at the community plot, I will try to grow cucumbers (bush type) in a container on my porch. I will grow oregano in a container on my porch and in-ground at my plot.

I'll put chocolate mint on my plot to avoid the ravenous aphids that appear en masse everytime I've had mint on my porch. I won't put it in the ground, but in a container, because I understand that its runners allow it to quickly spread throughout the garden.

And for something completely different (from this site):

What else? Here's quick list of what I hope to have in my garden:

Runner Beans "Painted Lady" -- pretty bi-color flowers on vine with edible beans. A plant with an interesting history.

Bunny Tails (Lagurus) -- for cutting garden

Aster "Grego" Giant Mix



A Little More

Last Thursday evening I toiled in the garden after work, with only an hour and a half of daylight. I was wearing sweat pants and my favorite comfy shirt (Centre County Law Enforcement Camp Cadet shirt I got as a volunteer "target". That's another story for another blog).

Anyway, the shirt has short sleeves, and the wind was quite strong. The temperature must have been in the 50s. Everyone else had long-sleeve jackets. I'm pushing the season. Come on summer!

I try to be prepared with supplies for gardening, but I'm not always. Since the plot is in State College, not far from where I work, and I live 17 miles away, I can't make a quick trip indoors to get something and go right back. I didn't have a jacket with me, but I didn't freeze.

Added to my supplies this year is a really nice gardening tote with some "primo" hand tools. Thank you to my sister Nina (pronounced with a long "I", different from the Spanish) and my niece Rachel. It has plenty of pockets for seed packets, cell phone, car keys, sun protection, etc.

Speaking of seeds, it finally occurred to me last year that I should buy seed packets for cold weather crops ahead of time for next growing season. So, I did. And I'm glad.

The Spinach Dilemna

Ugh. I did not get to see my parents or work in the garden last weekend as I thought I would. Ugh. 'Gotta' cold. It hit me Friday night. It's not fun rolling straight from allergies into a cold.

Yesterday, I put in peas and some more greens. The mustard is showing up, as is the lettuce I originally planted. The spinach is nowhere to be seen; someone else who rents a plot told me that spinach doesn't seem to grow well there. I like fresh spinach. Spinach salad with black olives, feta, rasberry vinaigrette and red onions. Slivered almonds would be good, too. I'm making myself hungry.

Maybe I need more sand. Or more of something else. Or less of something. Maybe a container on my porch would work better. Off to the internet.

Hmmm. tapping chin with index finger. What is this?

"Check the soils(sic) PH and if necessary add lime." Hmmm. Lime increases alkalinity (sort of the opposite of acidity).

"You can plant spinach in early spring. To stagger your crop over summer you can plant part rows every few weeks. The last planting should be about 50-60 days before the first frosts." Yikes! That would be March-April. Maybe I'll shoot for a fall crop.

Wait! This sounds better because it doesn't require me to stand out in the cold and/or snow digging. Totally excellent.
"If the soil was prepared in the fall, seeds can be broadcast over frozen ground or snow cover in late winter and they will germinate as the soil thaws."

"Spinach doesn't like acidic soils, a good PH is around 6.3-6.8. Add the appropriate amount of lime to the soil if necessary." The soil test showed that the pH is "below optimum".

Well, there are some possible answers. So, when could I start a fall crop?

"Seed spinach again in late summer for fall and early winter harvest. Chill seeds for summer or fall plantings in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 weeks before planting." That's according to Watch Your Garden Grow, a site I've used quite a bit for information on vegetable growing.


Au Revoir

It's time to go home for the weekend. I hope you enjoy it, wherever you are and whatever you do. I have no PC at home, so I only post from work.I will be visiting my parents, I hope, and working in my garden.

This is the time of year that the garden requires the most physical labor: preparing/amending the soil, weeding, seeding, transplanting, and so on. I always lose a little fat and gain some muscle. No workout I do at home all winter completely prepares me for the demands of gardening.
So ...

Goodbye ... until Monday! That is what the words in the photo mean, if my French is reliable. (It's from cinema passion. It just happens that the image works for this blog entry.)

If you want to watch a movie, I found The Painted Veil to be enjoyable. Bittersweet, too. For a gardening-related movie, here's a few:

Bed of Roses
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

And then there's always the really bad Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Although it's not really garden-related, it's amusing how bad this movie is.



In spite of all the rain we have had, the soil is hard to work with as it is dry. It reminds me of a cookie that is so hard that is must be dunked. Last month, we had so much rain the soil was muddy. It was quite cold, too, so gardening days were limited.

One of the ways people have tested soil type is by mixing some of it with water in a glass jar and letting it settle. I've never done this, but it must work for a very basic determination of soil type.

On the bright side, my lettuce seedlings are growing, right alongside seedlings that I believe are the India mustard, but may be spinach.

I will be planting more greens seeds for successive harvests. Plus peas, broccoli seedlings, etc.

Now we have compost. Until yesterday, only small amounts were delivered, and on no apparent schedule.

Soil texture analysis

A Poetic Rose

The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
O, the red rose is a falcon,
And the white rose is a dove.
But I send you a cream-white- rosebud
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.

--John Boyle O'Reilly


Useful Article

Womans Day magazine has a pretty extensive gardening feature on their web site. P Allen Smith covers a lot of basics, and provides advice on getting the garden started, both outdoors and in (houseplants).

It's at: womans day


Is That An Anti-Depressant Growing in Your Garden?

Gardening has so many known benefits: fresh vegetables and/or flowers, visual appeal, excellent exercise, fresh air, great for the bees, butterflies and birds, etc.

Even houseplants apparently filter indoor air, cutting down on inhaled irritants. Doctors recommended them for asthma patients (provided their asthma is not triggered by any flowers or other parts of the plant.)

And I just learned something else, which is interesting to me as a gardener, a sufferer of SAD, and as a one-time microbiology major. This is only one study, but it provides one possibility as to why gardening -- maybe even just with indoor houseplants -- can cheer up a person.

Other Benefits of Bacteria in The Dirt

I would like to know what the researchers consider to be an immune system imbalance. My allergies, asthma and eczema result from a hyperactive immune system and I'd say that's an imbalance. I have an older sister with SLE or lupus, which is an autoimmune disorder (the body's immune system attacks the body). A definite and debilitating imbalance.

Just for interest to those of us who like gardening, here's the soil test results for the community gardens where I rent my plot:

Summer 2006 Soil Test Results. Recommendations by Professor Pete Feretti (Penn State).

(1) Magnesium (Mgo): Below optimum. Apply epsom salts (mg504). 3lbs./100 square feet. This can be applied now. Garden center retailers sell 3 lb. for about $2. Magnesium is the hub of the photosynthesis molecule.

(2) Soil ph: Below optimum. Apply 5 lbs./100 square feet ground limestone at the end of the gardening season, if you plan to keep your garden next year. It is best to use ground limestone that contains some magnesium (i.e. Dolomitic limestone).

(3) Phosphate (P2O5); Potash (K2O); and Calcium (CaO) were "optimum".

(4) Nitrogen was not tested; general recommendations: Apply 0.5 lbs./100 square feet of UREA, or equivalent amount of another nitrogen provider.

This soil test was from samples taken in the paths of the garden area. So it provides a general analysis. Perhaps gardeners will want to test their own plots next season.

Thanks to Marion R. Deppen of the Tudek Community Garden Coordinating Committee

Lightning strikes also add nitrogen to the soil. Just a little fact. Interesting to know, but not practical.

Here's an aerial photo of the plots, taken in late winter 2006-2007:

My plot is the second row from the right. It's a little more than halfway up the row from bottom of photo; the ridges are my raised beds. The dot in the upper left corner must be my compost bin. This shows it closer: