Last weekend, the wife took the kids out of town and I had a chance to get some things done. I turned the west bed, added manure and blood meal. I didn't lime that one. I guess it slipped my mind. I repotted everything from inside into pots outside. I lucked into a bunch of empty pots and I ended up using them all.
Now I have a little nursery outside, plus some pots that I planted seeds in before the last frost. I don't know if they'll come up. It's just now warm enough for them to germinate, so I'll give them a week or so and if I don't see plants, I'll replant seeds.
Fruit Trees I bought some fruit trees. I found a website for a nursery up on Albany, GA. Too far to drive. There is a good one in Medart, FL, much closer. Just Fruits and Exotics. Fantastic place. Wonderful, friendly and helpful people. They've got lots of varieties of everything. They gave me an information sheet for each of my purchases with information on soil and sun preferences for planting, seasonality, tips on pruning and increasing fruit--loads of great stuff. I got a fuyu persimmon tree, a pomegranate tree, and two blueberry bushes. I put the trees in the front yard and the berries in the back. They are all just tiny sticks right now, but they should be fruiting by next summer.
Mulch I shredded some of my brush pile. The chipper/shredder did not like the green stuff from my neighbor's bush clippings. I guess I have to let the brush sit for a while. Not a lot of yield for a long time of work. I think I need to pace it so I'm chipping maybe two hours each weekend. I got enough mulch to put a circle around each of my new trees and bushes. If I'm going to cover my beds in mulch, I'll have to step it up. I'll keep an eye out for some hay bales at construction sites. They use them as part of the runoff control, but once they're done, the hay just sits in a pile of debris for removal. I have snagged a few in the past and they work out pretty well.
Soil Test I was able to recruit my oldest daughter to help with the soil test. She operated the eyedropper and she got to shake the little containers. The only good news about the soil test is that, if it's accurate, I shouldn't have any weeds. That's because, according to the test, my soil has absolutely no nutrients at all. NPK 0-0-0 (blurry pic). Seriously. pH ~6.
I did the soil test twice. It calls for mixing one part soil and five parts water, then letting it settle for 30 minutes to 24 hours depending on the soil. My mix had been sitting for about two days the first time. The second time I let it sit for maybe eight hours. I could try again without letting it settle. I have nothing to lose. I think I let too much sediment settle out. The other possibility is that my soil test is old and inert. It's been in the garage for a few years. I heard on the radio that I can take my soil to the county extension office for testing. That's the Florida Dept. of Agriculture county office. I don't know when I would do that.
Vine Borers I did some more reading on vine borers that gave me some ideas for a strategy. In late June or early July, the vine borer pupae in the ground hatch and the adults come out and lay eggs on my vines. A week later, the eggs hatch and the nasty larvae kill my plants. The early detection system is a yellow bowl of water (with a little soap in it to kill mosquito eggs, etc.). The article says the vine borer adults will go for anything yellow and will drown in a yellow bowl. When I find the adult vine borer in the bowl, I go on high alert, check all my plants for eggs, spray them with soap or neem, and put up the floating barriers. Keep them in place for two weeks.
The other thing is to have a second round of plants. Around the beginning of June, I can start some seeds indoors. Any plants that fall victim to the vine borers can be replaced. If this works, I may actually get to harvest some zucchini this year. Now that I know more, I will be more diligent about going after these buggers. I can focus my efforts now that I have a narrower timeline. Also, I have not been good about destroying damaged plants. I had tried to isolate the problems and hope for the best. I need to ruthlessly rip out infected plants and destroy all surviving larvae. I don't want their pupae in my soil.
So, sprouts are potted. Fruit trees are acquired and planted. Both beds are turned and ready. War plans are drawn up for the vine borers. The cold is gone. Soon I can transplant to the beds.
My oldest daughter is over 2 1/2 years old. I have recruited her to help with the garden this year. The magic words to get her involved are "get your hands dirty." She will ask me, "Daddy, can I get my hands dirty?" which means she wants to mix soil. I've got some old pots and a half a flat. We mixed some compost and manure and vermiculite and we have some sprouts growing: squash, tomatoes, peppers, cukes. Not a lot of them. She liked mixing the soil and watering the seeds but found the planting rather anti-climactic. Telling her they will have fruit in 80 or 100 days wasn't really meaningful.
I did turn the east bed and cover it with manure, blood meal, and lime. I've got a 55 gallon drum of compost tea brewing. I should get a chance to turn and enrich the west bed here in a week or two. I'll also be able to use my chipper/shredder to make some mulch.
Temps are in the 30s this week and though I'm anxious to get onions and carrots in the ground (I may sneak in some beets and radishes) I think they wouldn't do well. I don't have a lot of indoor space for getting things started early, so I'm going to plant seeds, let them sprout, then mulch.
Heavy on my mind is the vine borers. Two years ago they shut down my zooks and crooknecks and butternuts and even put a heavy dent in my cukes. When I search online for insect netting, I end up on British websites. Are they only sold in the U.K.? This year I will capture a vine borer adult. I want to get some pictures of the little beastie. I've seen one before. They lay eggs on the vine, then the larva bores into the vine and travels along inside, munching toward the heart of the plant. Everything on the vine away from the root dies. There is no sign of the larva except the pinhole entry wound, often surrounded by some yellow frass, and the dead vine itself. Once the bugger is in there, if you can find him, you can stick him with a pin--just poke it through the vine and kill him. Unfortunately, it would take daily inspection of every vine to stay on top of the problem and save my plants. I just won't have that kind of time. I will have maybe a 20 minute window each morning to water, weed, and inspect my plants.
So my strategy is to keep the adult vine borers from getting to the plants by covering them with fine mesh nets. I realize this will keep my pollenators out, as well. I will have to pollenate my plants by hand. I'll get a few cheap paint brushes and make the pollenating part of the routine.
The other option I'm considering is neem oil. I have used spray on soap in the past, but it is a tiresome and repetitive chore and never seems to be effective enough. Neem oil is expensive. $10 for an 8 ounce bottle. I'm not sure how far that will go. I'll have to do more research on it.
I'll try to get some pictures up soon. Also, soil testing. Maybe my daughter will help me with the soil testing this weekend.