Monday, May 1, 2023

MAY DAY, MAY DAY! The Farm Report 05-01-2023


The Farm Report

MAY DAY! So, do I mean 'It's May!' or am I using the International Distress Call? Maybe both.

The Redbud Trees are in full bloom, the fruit trees are blooming, and it is just a beautiful time of year to be in Iowa. Mostly.

It can also be a panic time of year. My hydroponic lettuce project has been outstanding this year. In spite of really COLD nights and hot days, the lettuce pans have produced and produced. Unfortunately, they drink like drunken sailors when they are in full GROW mode. I forgot to keep this pan watered, and it was all wilted down by the time I found it. It did recover, but lesson learned.

O.J. didn't seem nearly as worried over the wilted lettuce pans as I was. He is not a worrier.

Fingers crossed! This is my Danube cherry tree in full bloom. It is a cross between Bing and Ballaton, and makes a fantastic cherry. I freeze 'em whole (pitted) and with just a tiny bit of sugar, they make a desert dish for me. 

More proof of the lettuce success. The Walmart sweater pans last pretty well because I paint them. I do that to keep the sunlight out of the water so the roots don't grow algae. The lids don't get painted, and they only last a season (or less) before Old Sol destroys them. A new lid made from a piece of foam board seems to me to work even better - and lasts for years. Ice Queen on the left, Tom Thumb (my new fav!) on the right.

Hydroponic roots are amazing. If you look, you can see two different root types. The 'net' is water roots; the 'fuzzies' up top are the air roots. It takes both to make a go. A spoonful of hydroponic fertilizer and a tub of plain old Aqua Sinkus (water), and you're good to go.

The heat spikes a few weeks ago 'singed' the lettuce tips, but this Tom Thumb makes the sweetest tasting little butterball head you've ever tasted. 

Outdoors, the turkey hunt is on full swing. This year, it seems the wild turkeys are thick as fleas. I'm not a turkey hunter exactly - but I have a lot of fun with the crew who does hunt them. I joke that I have all the fun they do - but I don't have to get up at Four O'Clock in the morning to do it!

My Master Gardener lecture programs interfered with my spare time, so I haven't written to you for awhile. I promise to do better and keep 'em shorter. But, for the record, the spuds are in and the waiting clock is running.

I got out my 1928 Planet Jr. double wheel hoe to cover them again. I don't know why, but I get a peculiar kick out of using that old antique rig every year.

Carrots and beets are in, too. This is how I plant them. First, I get the seeds. I like both Danvers Half Long and Royal Chantenay. I mix them together in a jar of fine sand. They grow together fine, and I don't have the need to keep them straight. I put as many seeds into the jar of sand as I think I need for the row alloted. Then, with the jar filled with sand and the seeds mixed in well, I screw on my homemade salt shaker lid and head for the garden.

I also use plain old field 'horse' oats as a nurse crop with my carrots. Orscheln's, feed oats - NOT steamed. No reason for anything fancy here. I just need something like oats that will sprout ASAP and make a protective 'nurse' cover for the tiny teenie little carrots while they get their legs underneath themselves.

Oats are really easy to kill later on. They do not like to be mowed or bent over, so I usually just weed whip 'em into submission when the carrots are big enough. I learned a long time ago that carrots don't care if they get mowed off. They'll come right back fightin' mad and do fine.

After the carrots, oats and sand are all scattered in the row where I want them (I like a row about a foot wide for this) then I use another antique to scratch them into the soil. This old Kentucky High Wheeler is probably about the same age as my Planet Jr, but I can't prove it. World War 1 veterans would have been very familiar with both models. 

Inside, I've been making capillary wicking pans for my seed starting. I've been learning about this from the Brits on Youtube. So I guess you have to pronounce it 'ca PILL ary' pans. In Iowa, we just say Capillary. Works the same either way; tomAto or tomaato?

I'm using a piece of 'egg crate' fluorescent light fixture plastic for the tray bed, with a piece of cheap polyester fleece as the wicking mat material. You can actually pay cash money for the real stuff if you want, but not if you're from Iowa. We prefer to think of it as being 'thrifty' - not cheap.

A plastic tray full of water, a supported egg crate bed with fabric over it and hanging down into the water is all it takes. The ends of the fleece go into the water and become the wick. The whole thing is nothing more than a wet blanket when you're done.

Neat 'n pretty. Ready for some seeds.

I use this little baby soil blocker to start a lot of my seeds. Especially the tiny ones.

This is what a WHOLE PACKET of oregano seeds looks like. They're finer than dust.

I put the baby soil block pad on a piece of fabric so I can move it around then set it onto the wet blanket under grow lights - and wait.

And wait - until this happens! It works.

The little lettuce roots grow out into the air and then stop. The whole little half inch cube of soil becomes a root ball. I transplant that into a bigger pot or block.

After awhile, the greenhouse gets crowded and space is at a premium. I love it. I even start my onions in plug trays. It is so much easier to plop an onion plug into the ground than a spindly little sprout.

BZZZZZ. I'm the bee again. The hydroponic strawberry patch is off and running. I have half-sized strawberries already set. Since there are no bees inside the greenhouse somebody (me) has to take a fuzzy brush and pollinate the blossoms. My morning ritual - at least one of 'em.

I made a new propagator for the greenhouse. It is made from leftover greenhouse plastic and concrete wire. The one I made a year ago from an upside down Walmart tub didn't last the season. The plastic disintigrated into powder after only a few months of sunshine exposure. This plastic is guaranteed to last 5 years outdoors. I have a smaller greenhouse that is going on 11 years now with the same plastic on it.

Six by six concrete reinforcing wire and a roll of tape, and I can do miracles!

I've decided that this year I'm going to grow more flowers and less food. I'm an old guy and I can only eat so much before I get sick of it. You never get tired of pretty flowers though. So...Dahlias it is! My new fascination.

Plus, I have learned (thank you Monty Don and BBC Gardeners World) that it is easy to take cuttings from dahlias started in the greenhouse to multiply for the season. This fits in with the Iowa rule about making things out of nothing, and it is fun. 

A little light surgery, some rooting powder and a dibber is all it takes. In only about 3 or 4 days the new cuttings will heal up and start to get right with the world again. Some say these rooted cuttings actually have better flowers than the saved tubers. 

Another try at a raspberry patch. I never give up.

This time, three Killarney reds and three Anne golden raspberries. Gee I hope they'll get the spirit and grow.

"Tim, he's going to try to git me isn't he?"

Well Annie, judging from his Sword Foot, I'd say you're right. He is thinking about how he can get you - with the least possible effort on his part. I'd stay back if I were you.

Carola and my German Family have been having fun helping me learn about a new (to me) food that is popular in their home country. Currywurst! I even bought a bottle of special Currywurst Sauce through Amazon. It is a new taste for me. I'm learning to like it. I think four or five more plates like this and I might have a new favorite food.

So that's about it for now. O.J. isn't too enthused with Spring yet. He'd bury his head even deeper into the covers on my bed if he could. 'Tomorrow is another day,' he said. Yes, but it will be a busy one O.J. - for me. Cheers from Oakdale Farm. All is well.


  1. Tim, all that you are doing takes my strength away! Keep having fun,I like seeing the fruits of your endeavor. David S.

    1. I like to keep busy - but there is NO pressure. It's all fun.

  2. Glad to see you are up to all your usual projects; I get worried when favorite blogs to quiet for a long time!

    1. I'm alive and well! Just really busy this year. I will try to post more often - and shorter when I do. Thanks for reading and cheering me on. Love YOUR blog pics.

  3. That last 'Anonymous' was Michelle at Boulderneigh

  4. I'm full of ideas - short on time and energy. But, you've gotta try!


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