2021 Spring Garden Observations

Weather

Winter/Early Spring – See posts here about the hard freezes in the low 20s. We built the greenhouse in January so, with the little heater, the freezes did not hinder the seedlings. They did kill the three small Hamlin Oranges so much so they were pulled out. The older larger one on the west edge of the fruit tree grove was not removed until April when it clearly was dead.

Oddly, there was no rain from March 1-18. The nights were still in the 40°s and 50°s so too cold for many seeds.

April 3; The final frost and we avoided damage with many frost blankets placed at 4:30 AM.

A Very Wet Spring after the dry start to March.

  • Very heavy extended rains in April totaling over 10″ and mornings in the mid 50’s kept soil too cool for some germination.
  • The heavy rains and cool mornings continued thru May. Then there was a very dry spell until the heavy rains returned in early June and the Dog Days set in.
Month in 2021Inches at Sundown Farms
January1.49
February4.42
March6.56
April12.49
May7.51
June12.18
July9.47
August15.58 – Hurr. Ida
5.6″/hr on 8/30/21
September7.35″ – TD Nicholas

Mary’s Garden

The over-wintered spinach began perking up in March and the three lettuces all grew well with the warmer weather and more feeding with Miracle Grow. But they had bolted by April 1. They may have been planted too close together.

Carrots – In Mary’s Garden Only – Scarlet Nante

The carrots that lived were too close and allowed to grow too large. We should have more often dug down to check on the size as there were no “shoulders” exposed—which they seldom did— until they were 3″ in diameter. As advertised, they did not grow deep so we got fat, stubby, gnarly-looking carrots. Need to try them again but spaced correctly.

Cilantro/Coriander

Cilantro seeds by Lake Valley Seed bought 1/7/2021 at Hurley F&F germinated ok but died very small in the greenhouse. Nights could have been too cool in March.

Corriander LeisureSeed came up nicely in the greenhouse but struggled when transplanted to the little garden. Still have a lot of seeds so will try them in the fall.

Lettuce

  • Salad Bowl – Grew well once the temperatures got consistently into the high 40’s at night but pale color.
  • Buttercrunch -Grew well once the temperatures got consistently into the high 40’s at night and good taste.
  • Tehama – Grew slowly until the temperatures got consistently into the high 40’s at night. Has attractive ruffled leaves. By mid April they were lush plants that were beginning to bolt, were tough, and not sweet.
  • Parris Island Romaine – Came up well in the greenhouse and transplanted well at 3-4″ tall into Mary’s garden.

Oregon Giant Dwarf Snow Pea

Grew up the wire fence/trellis well in Mary’s Garden and the snow peas were very sweet compared to store-bought. Enjoyed them in salads and stir-fries. Once the daytime temperature climbed into the high 70s the vines turned yellow and there were no more blooms. We were pleased with the pods and will grow again.

Cherry Tomatoes

Growing on the 2″x4″ fence hanging on the rail fence worked ok other than when the tomatoes were between the two wire meshes. We did not like the Super Sweets this year like last year and intend to plant a plumb tomato next year to not have such a high percentage of seed and peal.


Main Garden

This was the first year to plow with the single bottom plow and able to plow deep; i.e. 8-10″. Also mowed and disked the Elbon Rye cover crop on the north half earlier than last year. The sod clumps were non-existent when that area was plowed.

Beans

  • Kentucky Wonder Bush
    • Sowed April 27 when soil at sunrise was 60°. Used HOSS plate 6 with enlarged holes that spaced them further than recommended but they are in double rows 12″ apart.
    • Did not produce any beans. No idea why the total failure.
  • Green Crop Bush Beans – Did not come up well or produce. Do not plant again.

Cantaloupe – Hales Best

  • First sowing was much too early and soil too cold. Later sowing germinated good.
  • Side dressed when began vining and they were blooming then as well.
  • The very wet June and July led to all melons rotting where they contacted the soil.
  • Plant again and hope for less rain.

Corn – G-90

  • Spread fertilizer in the row location then hilled. Include 2/3 tbsp per row of zinc sulfate per the soil test.
  • Use modified HOSS plate 4 with only two holes to sow the seeds 8.5 in. apart counting on good germination and no thinning. That did not work out.
  • Heavy extended rains well before the planned first side-dressing leached the original fertilizer away. Sidedressed both sides with 8-8-8 with a little lime.
  • Side dressed with 33-0-0 when knee high and again when silk was well out.
  • The leaves had yellow strips that looked like the ones on page 7 of this paper where the issue was low sulphur. Nothing was done as the photo in that paper was not found until after the corn was done. The paper provides possible solutions.
  • June 8 – Pulled first ears.
  • Nine 60-ft rows produced plenty of corn and would have been even more had the initial stand be correct. If the spacing of the stalks had not been so wide then 8 rows should have produced all we need and could give away.

Cucumbers

  • Poinsett 76 Cucumber
    • Sowed in March with soil temperatures in the 60°s with dips into the high 50°s and still had ok germination.
    • First fruit in the 4th week of May.
    • Early June – 10′ row is producing a lot of fruit
    • Consistent producer like years past and that we will plant again.
  • Wisconson SMR-58 Cucumber
    • Sowed in March with soil temperatures in the 60°s with dips into the high 50°s and still had ok germination.
    • The seedlings did not grow well as the sunrise temps were in the low 50’s with soil temp in the mid 50s. Added seeds between them in late April as it had warmed up some to see if they would grow better.
    • First fruit in the 4th week of May.
    • Early June. – 5 ft. row is producing a few fat yellowish cukes that have a good flavor.
    • Did not use them in pickles due to the large seeds and often cavity in the center when larger. They did have a good “Cucumber” smell and taste. But, the yellow and pale green rinds of the fat fruit were not appealing.
    • Do not plant again.

Flowers

  • Beach Sunflowers – Germination: 14 days, 70 degrees F. Full sun. Space 12-18” apart. Poor germination of seed saved from last year. Did have a few volunteers in the Big Garden and at the Crepes in the pond yard. Next year buy new seeds. They did very well as they did last year. Will plant again.
  • SunBright F1 Sunflowers – Bought at G&D did very poorly. Only a few came up.
  • Periwinkle – Vinca – Planted Cora periwinkle from seed as it is disease resistant to the common fungal disease. Good advice here (see extracts below) and here.
  • Marigolds – The first three Marigolds below, sowed with seed saved last year, germinated very poorly; i.e almost none. Next year buy new seeds.
    • Naughty Marietta – 3 rows
    • African Cracker Jack – 4 rows
    • Spanish Brocade – 4 rows
    • “Tall yellow” marigolds – 4 rows
  • Zinnias seed saved last year germinated very poorly; i.e almost none. Next year buy new seeds. The following, from this years seeds, did well.
    • Benary’s Giant Mix from Garden Trends (Harris)
    • Park’s Pick Mix – 6 rows
    • State Fair – 3 rows
  • Pentas – Lucky Star Mix. Came up good in trays in the greenhouse. Did great in the yard.
  • Dianthus Seeds – Diana Crimson F1
  • Cornflower – 1 row – Very few came up and bloomed.
  • Evening Primrose – 3 rows – No blooms and a few plants as of early August.
  • Cosmos – 1 row – Very few came up and bloomed.
  • Indian Blanket – One 6-ft row came up and produced enough blooms that Mary liked to enjoy as cuttings. Plant more next year.
  • Nicotiana – 2 rows – Spotted germination but did not survive.

Okra

  • Okra, Gold Coast from SESE – Sowed 5/18/2021 when prediction is for 60+ mornings. Seeds were soaked overnight. That afternoon, there was a 1.91″ rain. They came up with almost 100% germination. As of 8/1/2021 they had produced very few blooms/pods but did get about 4 small pods this date and there are a half dozen blooms. By the third week of August they are producing as many pods as the Clemson Spineless. By Sept. 1 they were out producing the Clemson Spineless. By 10/10/21, production was 6-8 pods every other day and they were loseing leaves becoming tall and spindly. Pull them this date and found the roots covered in RKN nodules.
  • Clemson Spineless – Sowed 5/18/2021 when prediction is for 60°+ mornings. Seeds were soaked overnight. That afternoon, there was a 1.91″ rain. They came up with almost 100% germination. By 8/1/2021 all plants were producing pods and many were three weeks prior. By Sept. 1 some of the plants had lost all leaves and not producing. A week later most have lost their leaves and are dead. 9/10/2021 – Pull them out and found RNKs on most of the roots. They were the first to quit producing of the 4 this year. If sowing two varieities next year this would be the second with Red Burgundy or Cajun Jewel.
  • Cajun Jewel from saved seeds – Did not plant. On 8/20/21 Mary said she liked last year’s okra with its short stalks and nice pods and wants to plant it next year.
  • Red Burgundy Okra from HOSS…a highly productive, heirloom variety that produces deep, red pods that remain tender at longer pod lengths. All-America Selections winner in 1988. They came up with almost 100% germination. By 8/1/2021 they have produced only one pod. But there are buds and a few blooms on dark purple stalks. By 8/20 we are getting one or two pods per day from the 20 ft row. By 10/10/2021 they are producing 10-12 pods per day and are healthy plants. They are the only okra still in place and producing of the four types planted. RNK’s??…we’ll see when they are pulled out.
  • Jambalaya Okra From HOSS – They came up with almost 100% germination. On 8/1/2021, picked the first pod and there are a few more. They have a few blooms. By 8/20/21, we have gotten couple dozen pods from small to 6″ and almost all were hard ribbed and woody. When cut open they sounded like they broke apart. Do not plant again. By 10/10/21, production was 6-8 pods every other day and they were losing leaves while only 3-4 feet tall and spindly. Pull them this date and found the roots covered in RKN nodules. Do not plant again.

Onions – Both Gardens

  • Warrior Bunching onions came up from direct planted seeds and did well until they bolted. Some planted in the greenhouse did very well. But some sowed in trays in late August came up but died during Hurricane Ida while Mary was in Houston.
  • Multiplying onions did fine but bolted soon after they became 1/2″ diameter or more.
  • White and Yellow Onion Sets – Came up great. Weeds took them over as they were hard to weed and I gave up. on 6/21/2021 Jeff and I pulled them out of the weeds, cleaned them, and had a nice bunch of onions.

Peas

  • PEPH Top Pick, bush variety, did well last year and were easy to pick. Sowed 1 in. deep.
    • Produced well with a lot of peas that came in within a 2 week period that happened to be during company and the July 4th party. So they did not get picked timely and many dried out. Those we picked were fine but in comparison to the Crowders they were not as nice from the view point of taste and volume.
  • Mississippi Silver
    • Actual Spring 2021: Sowed 4/26/2021. First harvest 7/2/2021 yielded easy-to-shell, full pods that were high and easy to pick. Of the two crowder peas this produced the best with the most consistent full lenght pods. Definitely plant these next year.
  • Mississippi Purple
    • Actual Spring 2021: Sowed 4/26/2021. The first harvest on 6/29/2021 yielded easy-to-shell, full pods that deep purple, pods above the leaves, and easy to pick. They produced ok but many pods were not full lenght and not full. With the very wet weeks as they ripened, these developed fungus on the pods more than the Silver.
  • See Mary’s Garden for Snow Peas
  • Sugar Ann Dwarf Snap Pea
    • Sowed in a double row 12″ apart with HOSS plate 5 so they were spaced further apart than recommended. They were too far apart and had puny plants but did produce some peas in pods that were firm and nice. But, not ones we would typically eat. As we have many seeds left, we will plant again next spring.

Peppers

  • Transplanted the following seedlings that did well in the new greenhouse.
    • Jaloro Jalapeno – 6 ea. Much smaller plants than advertised but they bore well through early August. Peppers are spicy but not very hot. Made great refrigerator pickled peppers. By 9/1/21 most leaves have dropped. 9/10/2021 – Pull up all but one and did not find any RNK nodules.
    • Pepper Chile G76 F1, Anaheim style – 6 ea.
      • 5/3/2021 – The six transplanted in the garden have looked yellow, several have lost all their leaves, and no one has grown since transplanting. Today Mary is replanting some in the greenhouse. The other varieties in the same row are looking much better and growing.
      • 7/4/2021 and 8/15/2021 – Only a few fruit to date.
      • The peppers were too spicy for our use in most dishes where fresh peppers would be used.
    • Charleston Belle Sweet Bell Pepper (N) – 5 ea. – Stunted plants and no fruit during July and August—the hot months. 9/10/2021- Pull up and did not find any RNK nodules.
    • Pepperoncini Greek Pepper – 5 ea. – Consistent production on healthy plants. Production waned during the heat of late July and August. Production came back in September thru October but when the temps fell 10 degrees on oct. 16 they >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    • Sunbright Golden Bell Pepper – 5 ea. – Plants seem healthy but few fruit. Do not plant again.
    • Cayenne Long Red – 5 ea. – Did not produce cayenne peppers. They are serranos.
    • Carolina Wonder Sweet Bell Pepper – 5 ea. from SESE (N); The best nematode-resistant bell for home gardeners. Spotted production. They produced very few peppers as of 9/8/2021. 9/10/2021 – Pull out all but one and did not find any RNK nodules.
    • Tiburon Poblano Peppers – 6 ea. in the row with some tomatoes.
      • June first half – Full healthy plants looking stronger than most of the others.
      • Late July there were some peppers and by early August there were a dozen or so on the 6 plants.
      • 8/6/2021 – Mary made stuffed peppers with them and they were great. The next morning I chopped one for scrambled eggs as they are mild like a bell pepper. But, when I rubbed my eye it burned so they do have a some capsican.
      • The heat of mid August is perhaps the reason they have few blooms or peppers.
      • By late August thru October they produced not a lot but consistent and enough for us.

Radishes

  • May – Cherry Belle planted too late and too hot to do well. We got a few but most were gnarly and tough.
  • September sowing also lead to spindly, winding stems as it was too hot. Soil temp got into the low 90 in the afternoons.

Squash

  • Pascola Zucchini from HOSS
    • Soil Temperature was in the 50-60° at the first sowing in March and no germination.
    • First fruit in the 3rd week of May.
    • June 2nd week – After a lot of rain, the blooming has almost stopped.
    • July 4th – Half the plants have been damaged with yellow rotting stems and very little fruit on any of them. We have gotten enough to eat and freeze.
    • July 7th pulled the plants and hauled away. No Root-Knot Nematode nodules evident.
    • Next Year – This variety did not have the upright growth of the fruit as expected and did not do well with the wet conditions. Last fall it blew over easily.
    • Try another variety next year.
  • Delta Squash (yellow semi-crook neck) at HOSS.
    • Sowed in March with soil temperatures in the 60°s with dips into the high 50°s and still had good germination.
    • First fruit in the 4th week of May.
    • As of July 4th have had enough squash to eat and freeze and they are still bearing.
    • July 7th pulled the plants and hauled away. No Root-Knot Nematode nodules evident.
    • Had consistent prodiction and no diseases.
    • Plant again next year.
  • Golden Bush Scallop Summer Squash from SESE – Downy mildew resistant.
    • Sowed in March with soil temperatures in the 60°s with dips into the high 50°s and still had good germination
    • First fruit in the 4th week of May.
    • July 4 – Plants are about gone due to disease and/or too much rain, or both.
    • Do not plant again.
  • White Scallop – Good germination and healthy plants. Had consistent fruit and no disease pressure. Did not use them much in the kitchen so maybe do not plant more.
  • Tromboncino – Many vines grew over 30 ft. long and had many very large squash. No disease pressure. But, we liked the yellow and zuchinni better and the varieties planted did not have the borer issues so this one does not offer an advantage to offset the disadvantage of the wide-ranging vines. In addition, the mature, dark yellow fruit are tremendous and difficult to store in a “cool, dry, dark place”.
    • When pulled up the roots there were many Root-Knot Nematode nodules.
    • Will not plant again as we did not use them although they were a great producer.
  • Betternut 401 Hybrid Butternut
    • As of July 4th, had fruit and no diseases. Healthy plants.
    • 8/4/2021 – Have a lot of fruit and some have worms. The leaves died then the vines died but we have many squash. Saw a few small RKN nodules on the roots The roots were 1-2 inches deep and pulled out over a foot from the stem before they broke off. Need to be careful when cultivating.
    • Great producer and tastes great; i.e Mary likes them a lot.

Spinach

  • This pre germination worked well. – Soak initially in warm water overnight. Then pre-sprout in a pint jar in the refrigerator turning daily to maintain even moisture to get even germination rates.
  • Recommended to sow 3-5 in. apart; 3/4″ deep but small seeds were not placed that far apart. Did not thin to the 3-5″ spacing and had bolting at very small size. Maybe due to the stress of being too close together?
  • Another spring of spinach failures.

Tomatoes

  • Better Boy Tomato F1
    • Transplanted to the garden in March and survived the late frost on 4/3/21 with being covered at the last minute.
    • June, 1st week – Have begun to get nice large fruit but Fusarium Wilt started small and is growing worse. Maybe 20% damage now.
    • July 12 – The disease damage is almost to the top when the plants were pulled and hauled to the burn pile. It was worse than was on the Celebrities. Should plant them again next year although did not take cuttings to root for the fall garden. Saw very few Root-Knot Nematode nodules on the roots.
  • Super Sweet 100 –  High resistance to fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt. Indeterminate. They did have few diseases.
    • Transplanted March 15 to Mary’s Garden they survived the last late frost being next to the fence. 4/27/2021 found the first cluster of fruit. All of them have a lot of blooms. Began getting a few in mid-May.
    • Transplanted to the big garden in March and survived the late frost on 4/3/21. Began getting a few in late May.
    • June, first half – While the Better Boys and Celebrities are getting Fusarium Wilt these big busy guys are not. The vines in Mary’s garden are 3′ higher than the fence and producing twice as many fruit. We have bowls full of the little guys. Next year only plant them along the fence in Mary’s garden.
    • July 12 – This very wet summer has caused most of the little tomatoes to split as they ripened. Under the vines there is a lot of red split fruit on the ground. Only some of the early fruit in the Main Garden was picked and a lot went to waste. Pull it today and saw very few Root-Knot Nematode nodules on the roots.
    • 8/1/2021 – The plants along the fence in Mary’s Garden continue to grow above the fence and bear clusters of tomatoes.
    • Note – The tomatoes were sweeter than an average tomato and that was not good when used in many dishes like scrambled eggs, salsa, or even salads as it gave the dish an unusual taste. Next year look for a grape tomato.
  • Celebrity
    • Transplanted to the garden in March and survived the late frost on 4/3/21.
    • June, 1st week – Have few ripe among the large number of green ones, but Fusarium Wilt started small and is growing worse. Maybe 20% damage now but it did not grow worse.
    • July 12 – The disease damage is halfway to the top when the plants were pulled and hauled to the burn pile. It was not as bad as the Better Boys. Saw very few Root-Knot Nematode nodules on the roots. Took cuttings to root for the fall garden. Will definitely plant next year.
  • Diseases we dealt with.
    • Septoria leaf spot – Several plants of both the larger tomatoes had this.
    • Fusarium Wilt – Both of the larger tomatoes had this to some extent. Sprayed first with Mancozeb before harvest seveal times and then Liquid Copper at least bi-weekly through final harvest in mid July. But, it still had lower 75% of the vine with dead leaves and the tomatoes were sickly at the end from insect pressure and lack of leaves to support them.
  • Next Year:
    • Again, plant as early as possible and 36 inches apart rather than 24 inches as done this year. That will allow more air circulation to hopefully reduce the disease pressures.
    • We had plenty of tomatoes and believe that a 60-ft row at 36″ spacing would still produce enough.
    • Plant the cherry tomatoes only in Mary’s garden.

Yard

Marigolds that did great; i.e. the best blooming and blooms. This is Mary’s pick.

Marigold Inca II Primrose F1 - Seed / Untreated / 250 SeedsMarigold Inca II Primrose F1, Untreated – 250 Seeds
Marigold Inca II Orange F1 - Seed / Untreated / 250 SeedsMarigold Inca II Orange F1, Untreated – 250 Seeds
From Harris Seeds

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