The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

March 28, 2013

Plant when soil warms to proper temerature

Filed under: Planting — bob @ 10:18 am

“Plant your potatoes on Good Friday, ” the old farmers used to say. That usually was good advice even though the date of Good Friday changes from one year to the next. It arrives as early as March 20 and as late as April 23.

Potatoes can sprout and grow under relatively cool conditions, which is why the Good Friday advice worked so well. It looks like this is one of those years when that rule of thumb won’t work.

Now-a-days we use a more scientific method for judging when to plant, and I’m not talking about the farmer’s almanac. Agronomists learned a long time ago that plants, including potatoes, need a specific soil temperature in order to sprout and grow.

In the case of potatoes, the soil temperature in your garden needs to be at least 45 degrees F or higher. With any temperature lower that that, you risk having the seed potato rot in the ground. At best, it will take a long time for the plant to emerge from the soil and start growing. So, you really don’t gain anything by planting too early in cold soil.

It looks like cool temeperatures will be with us for awhile so, unless we get warm weather soon think about checking the soil temperature with a thermometer before doing any planting later this spring. This is true with all plants and seeds not just potatoes. For example pumpkins require soil temeratures above 60 degrees F while sweet potatoes need at least 65 degrees F.

If you don't have a soil thermometer, use a kitchen thermometer to check the soil temperature.

To find soil temerature information look at the growing information on the seed packages. Many seed catalogs list this information too.


March 15, 2013

Start seeds indoors at the proper time

Filed under: Seeds — bob @ 3:39 pm

Mid-March is the time when gardeners begin to sow seeds indoors.

A friend mentioned to me that she knew someone who started cantaloupe seeds already. It’s much too early for that. Those plants will end up so leggy and weak that they will not recover from transplanting out into the garden — if they live that long. It’s about a month too early for cantaloupes. I know it’s hard to do sometimes — especially for beginners —  but try to resist the urge to start seeds before their recommended sowing date.

Many seeds can be started now,  especially the cool weather vegetable crops like those in the cabbage family. Onions and their relatives such as leeks and chives are sown now too.

The time is right for indoor sowing of foxgloves, echinacea, sweet william,  petunias, snap dragons, holly hocks and several other flowers.

Parsley, thyme, oregano, sage as well as other herbs should be sown indoors now.

So, follow the suggested seeding times on the package or in the seed catalog. Amaze your friends with your healthy, home grown transplants.


Filed under: Flowers — bob @ 2:39 pm

Earlier this week, my friend Phyllis asked me what she should do with her amaryllis now that it has stopped blooming.

By following a few steps it’s fairly easy to encourage an amaryllis to re-blossom.

The first step is to cut off the old flower stalk. Then just treat the plant as if it were a house plant. Keep the soil somewhat moist and fertilize it once a month with water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.

Over Memorial Day weekend, move the pot outside in a brightly lit area away from direct sunlight — you don’t want the plant to get sunburned.  You can either leave it in its pot or transplant it into a flower bed. Fertilize it regularly throughout the growing season. During this time the bulb will grow larger and store energy for blossoming later on.

Sometime around September the leaves will begin to turn yellow — this is a signal that the plant is starting to go dormant. At that point, stop watering and let the leaves die back. Cut the leaves back to about an inch above the bulb.

Move the bulb to a dry area and let it rest for about eight to ten weeks.

Around Thanksgiving wake up your amaryllis by moving it back into a bright spot. Then start watering and fertilizing again. It will soon re-sprout leaves and eventually bloom.

A well cared for amaryllis will re-bloom year after year.


March 1, 2013

Grasshoppers hatch inside terrarium

Filed under: Insects — bob @ 3:54 pm

Spring arrived early this year, at least that’s what some grasshoppers at our house thought.

Last fall we planted some small, glass terrariums using plants growing in pots outdoors. We used a variety of tender succulent plants which meant we had to bring them inside so they wouldn’t freeze.

This week we discovered a group of baby grasshoppers  had hatched inside one of our small terrariums. It looks like there are about 30 of them.

You’ve probably heard the saying “cute as a bug”, well these little guys really are that cute! You rarely see them at this stage because they are the favorite food of a wide variety of predators. Just a small percentage ever make it to be full-sized adults.

Grasshoppers spend the winter underground in the egg stage of their life cycle. They hatch in the spring when the temperatures warm up — that is known as the nymph stage. The nymphs look like a miniature versions of adult grasshoppers except they don’t have wings. They’ll earn their wings later on in the season.

In our case, an adult grasshopper laid its eggs in the soil of a potted plant we had outdoors. The eggs spent the winter in our home inside the terrarium. There the eggs transformed into nymphs and hatched out.

They’re safe and sound behind the glass — for now. When the weather warms up, I plan to release them outside where they will have to fend for themselves.


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