First report on the garden -- 5-20-14

(This week’s photo is of a sprout of Burpee’s On Deck Hybrid Corn planted by Michael Maginnis at his home near Greencastle, Pa. To enlarge the photo, please click on it.)

Shortly after the release of the movie “Noah,” we had a deluge of our own. It was about four inches of rain to be exact, and while there were no catastrophic events I’m aware of associated with the storm, it did make quite a mess in some low-lying areas. Our faux grow box came through with flying colors, though there’s some indication that we may have tried to shoehorn too many transplants into its small space. We’ll see about that.

In other developments:

-- The mother robin who built her nest in a hammock of vines growing under the eaves of our old garage apparently did the right thing. As the vines leafed out, the nest stayed securely in place and it now has a small family of baby robins.

They sit with their heads peeking out of the side of the nest, beaks set skyward in a silent and motionless salute -- at least until mom comes back with something to eat. Other, more exposed nests in our yard didn’t fare as well, with unhatched eggs tumbling to the ground below.

-- My son’s raised-bed gardens at his home near Greencastle, Pa., have been planted now, following a Penn State soil test and the application of materials suggested by the experts.

-- Mike had two questions for me. The first was:

“Given our current temps, when would be a good time to put down mulch in both beds?”

Given that we’re talking about raised beds, which dry out much faster than conventional gardens, do it now, making sure not to smother your transplants. The idea of using mulch is to help the soil provide moisture on a steady basis, as opposed to the boom-and-bust of heavy watering, followed by hot, drying sunlight.

The second question was:

“What can I do about those hundreds of tiny little leafy weeds you can see all over the place in the beds?”

Since the seeds and/or transplants are already in, tilling again is not an option. Instead, use a hand cultivator, or a small hoe, to turn the soil gently. Then apply the mulch. The idea is to disrupt the weed’s life cycle in an attempt to kill it, as opposed to letting it grow under the mulch and possibly breaking through. The bad news is that some undoubtedly will emerge. But “some” weeds are better than a garden full of them.

In the illustrated raised bed, plantings include: summer squash, snow peas, cucumber, onion, chives, basil, thyme, cilantro, eggplant, oregano, poblano peppers, sweet peppers and Jalapeno peppers.

In the other, he has planted the following tomato varieties: two Steakhouse Hybrid, whose fruits weigh two to three pounds apiece; two Cherokee Purple, two India Rose, reputed to be rich in antioxidants; one Sunchocola Hybrid and two Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye, which are supposed to be better than Cherokee Purple.

A separate container on the porch is already spouting what Burpee is touting as the first sweet corn suitable for container growing.

We’ll keep you posted week by week on how well things grow.

-- After all the rain, the temptation -- especially if you have only one day to mow, is to scalp the lawn to get ahead of growth. Don’t do it, anymore than you would shave your son’s head to save yourself the cost of his next haircut. Cutting the majority of a grass plant’s leaves is traumatic and leaves the soil exposed to the sun, which can bake it hard. Cut twice if you have to, a few days apart, and when the real hot weather comes along, your lawn just might survive.

-- Riding around town, I still see lots of shrubs, mostly arborvitae, with bagworm sacks attached to them. Cut them off now and burn them. Feeding bagworms can strip a tree in a few weeks and the leaves don’t grow back.

If you’re not sure what this pest looks like, go to our archives and see the blog for 8-19-13.

-- My son has taken shots of a few wildflowers that we haven’t been able to identify. Should we post the photos and give a modest prize to those who can ID them? Also, I’ve seen some interesting gardens around town. Would you like to read interviews with these gardeners? Let me know, please.

(Did you enjoy this column? If you have suggestions or constructive criticism, please e-mail You may use a “pen name“ or pseudonym to reply.)




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