Thursday, June 30, 2022

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Grange News
Hillstown Grange Gardening Blog: Planning and Panning

By Dan Gallagher

  NOVEMBER 29, 2020 --

Tis almost the season for planning and panning. Planning is that part that takes into account some of the factors, aspects and effects that Mother Nature threw at you during the year and if you were gardening anywhere near here, hottest summer on record coupled with a drought and jot this info down somewhere in your 2020 Gardening Diary for future reference because you won't be looking back at 2020 fondly anytime soon. We talked about keeping a diary earlier in the year and you all but promised you would, thinking it was a great idea. And no you can't see mine, I never get to the part of actually writing it down but think I will soon and that is almost like writing it down. Plus this is my story and this is the telling part. If this story had picture that would be the showing part.

One of the other parts of planning is going over what you did, how you did it, where and when you did it this year, to see if there are changes to be made, in the way of improvments. Everything is usually changing subtly so as not to frighten everyone that everything is in almost constant flux. Does the sunlight still fall where it is suppose to and for as long as it did initially on your garden plot? Or has the tree canopy encroached on the garden plot? Does anything need to be replaced, repaired or moved? Yes, moved, in this case more convenient for the gardener. First rule of gardeners is; they don't get any younger and the older ones seem to garden more. So never under estimate the ease of convenience. Can I make watering more convenient and less time consuming? Should I move my composting bins, piles or spots? Not saying you have to, be stubborn but at least think about it. This is the time to dream and I heard sometimes dreams come true.

A third part of planning involves seed catologs, many think this is the best part of planning but before you start thinking about what new, interesting and exotics plants you could grow next year, first let's recall what did well and what didn't do so well this year in the garden. This is when the diary comes in handy. Any plants come down with a disease you identified because now you might be able to get a variety of that plant that is resistant. Please note that resistant and immune are two different things. You are basically buying a plant that is resistant, not super plant. Also this is the time of the year to point out to friends and family some of the things you have seen that would look great in your gardening toolbox. Just saying, it never hurts to put it out there to the universe. First rule of the universe; the universe doesn't read minds but will listen in on prayers.  If you have friends who are gardeners and what gardener doesn't, you may want to get together and buy seeds and split a packet among yourselves. Learning to save and store seeds, a skill I believe every Grow Your Own gardener should try and master. Saves money, becomes gifts for friends and lets you grow that variety you know you love and somehow it loves the way and where you garden. 

Don't be afraid to draw out with pencil and paper a garden plan, what goes where and when in 2021. You have learned to utilize succession planting to increase production. Even tucking in plants here and there in the landscape, some chili plants like Tabasco are quite ornamental while still bearing a harvest, along with many of the herbs. If you map out what goes where, you can then begin to make a list of seeds you need, never forgetting best to grow the things you eat, in the quantity you and your family eat them in. Calculate days to harvest, written on the back of packet can help to calculate when to start some seeds indoors for transplant later or when to direct seed sow. A hint for the Ag Fair; may want to start a few tomato plants a month later than normal to get a later start but a perfect harvest time. Cucumbers and summer squash; take time to harvest, add a week or two and then add a week to germination time, subtract that time in days from the fair date, the second Saturday in Sept. and you have a day to start the process to hopefully a prize winning entry. No need to thank me, let me show you an item I saw in this seed catalog over here.

Since we are talking seeds, I am a bit old fashion even though I spend a lot of time on the internet and although I do buy things from Amazon when I buy seeds, I buy most times in person and with cash. So I feel very lucky and blessed that we have three sizable Seed Merchants in our local area. The first is New England Seed located in East Hartford on Park Ave. because of their recent move across the river. I must say they have a good selection of cover crop seeds which impressed me, soon many seed companies will be carrying cover crop seeds. They also have been kind enough and generous to give us seed packets to pass out at the Agricultural Fair the last two years. Tell Maureen, Dan sent you and if she doesn't throw you out, she will sell you seeds at the going rate. Maureen is good like that and a very nice lady. Next up, Chas. Hart Seed located diagonally across the street from the Comstock Ferre building which houses the Rare/Baker Creek Seed line both are on Main Street in Old Wethersfield. At Chas. Hart Seed, you walk down the driveway and go in door near the large overhead doors or just drive down the drive way and park in the back. Then just walk in the door, I just told you about and there are signs pointing out which door. I just remembered I sometimes park in front of The Comstock Ferre building and walk over and then go back and check out the Baker Creek Seeds.

Last year we had a Plant Sale in May and Kim from Foster Hill Farm in Stafford Springs and our Michelle sold plants. We will be doing it again this year but on a slightly larger scale but still with The Hillstown Grange spirit and feel. Kim starts over 100 different varieties of tomatoes and it was great meeting her. She was going to do a Tomato Workshop but it got cancelled. So the Plant Sale will be a great place to get transplants, herbs and hanging baskets of flowers. More to come on the 2021 Plant Sale in a later blog.

Now to explain the panning part. This is the time when if you have time, you start to surf the web "panning for horticultural gold" those nuggets of data and info that increase your knowledge and give a clearer understanding of the big picture, we call gardening. Sadly those nuggets are getting fewer and farther between because of the amount of people blogging or putting things out there that just aren't true or questionable and with no scientific research as to the how, why, when or where. When I do a search now I type in pdf at the end, it usually takes me to an accredited institution, a land grant university, (the closer the university is located to you, the better the information for you in your USDA zone) or to a site that is a few steps up from the muck and mire which can get tedious. I sat in on a Penn State webinar and one of their Master Gardeners uses edu but that keeps you in the Land Grant University loop along with other universities where research is being conducted. I like to see references that I can verify as to the the validity, it helps to separate the facts from sometimes very good gardening stories and the miracles that occur.

If you go to Pinterest, please just go for the visuals and the new ideas they bring to mind otherwise you will be wading through waist deep waste that poses as info for the most part. Okay, think of it as a garden porn website, like Playboy, the photography is phenomenal but few if anyone actually reads the stories. Sites that are selling anything should be approached with caution, along with the ones that have links to items that were in their blogs but I will say many of the seed companies' sites are becoming information packed. High Mowing Seeds and Johnny's Seeds come to mind immediately. There are others, Burpees is getting there but they actually were printing gardening books back in the day when people got their information from the printed word. I like the Old Farmers' Almanac, Rodale Press/Organic Gardening, Mother Earth News and Fine Gardening sites but with everything try and verify anything with a different source.

Not to brag but if I keep posting this blog, sometimes I might have to put in things that simply can't be true in the gardening world just to see if you read this far with no pictures and it would be a rather ironic way to keep me honest.

Okay, gardening angels as the sign says: Stay Calm, Garden On !

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