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2018 Garden Planner
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Winter finally began to break this year during the third week of April, at which point my Broccoli and Kale seedlings and onion plants needed transplanting into the garden. I began to leave the seedlings out longer during the day to harden off. Unfortunately, I came home one day and found that the soil in the smallest seed starting pots had dried up and the seedlings therein had wilted. Curses. These seemed to recover after watering and I hoped that they were not irreparably weakened.

I transplanted on the weekend of the twenty-first, which seemed ideally cool and overcast. As the work week progressed, and the days grew warmer and full of sun, it slowly became apparent that I had failed to harden off the broccoli and kale plants adequately. The leaves took on a purplish hue at first. Then they began to get floppy and bleach out. Within a week I accepted the possibility that the whole lot would be a failure. I had saved about a half dozen of the smaller broccoli seedlings and a dozen of the kale seedlings as backups, which I returned to the window of the garage. I set these out in a partially shady location under the hydrangea upon the deck in the hopes of hardening off properly the upcoming weekend.

I started my cucumber plants in the basement that weekend as well, which germinated and would set their first true leaves within two weeks time.

I had been keeping the onion plants watered and they started new growth. The spinach crop was still tiny. Sweet pea shoots emerged and had been growing fast, but overall the germination was poor. A large stretch of the middle row failed to come up at all, so I re-furrowed it with my warren hoe and found no seedlings and no seeds. I resewed it, but the crop is so far behind, I am not sure what to expect.

Meanwhile, the commodity farmers had been furiously tilling the dry soil of their fields. The amount of dust that went up into the atmosphere caused a sort of widespread dirt fallout in the upper-Midwest, that had accumulated most notably upon vehicles. With the coming of eighty-degree warmth and thunderstorms, the farmers wasted no time in getting the corn crop in the ground, trailing the distinctively wide seeders behind their tractors.

The storms came on the heels of a hot, dry and windy Wednesday, dumping several inches of heavy rain across the region. With the weekend came sunny and seasonable weather, actual spring weather. The garden responded to the rain and warmth with the first real rush of growth, mostly perennial growth of Canada thistle shoots, dandelions, creeping grass and prickly lettuce. I also noticed tiny little weed seedlings emerging. I spent early Saturday morning weeding the established beds and rows with my stirrup hoe and the rest with my flame weeder.

I then sowed four rows and seeded popcorn and sunflowers. I sowed a double row and seeded bush green beans. I sowed a single row and seeded the okra that I had save from last year. I sowed a half row and seeded the Asian pole beans along the fence line where the cucumbers had been last year.

To my surprise, the kale and broccoli plants that I had written off are rebounding, growing new leaves. I do not have much hope for a decent main broccoli crop but I have hopes that the kale will mature to a satisfactory size. The peas and the spinach are now growing rapidly. I even see the re-sown rows emerging. Onion plant growth is continuing. The garlic plants are growing tall and thick. Leaves have emerged on many of the raspberry canes although last year's canes on some of the plants I planted last year are missing. These have new shoots emerging from the ground. The strawberry plants are also growing nicely, especially the June bearing varieties, and have begun to flower. I wish I could say the same for the peach tree. The harsh spring seems to have killed most of its flower buds.

Earlier in the year, I purchased a pair of Dunstan Chestnut trees with the intent of planting one near the sickly boxelder tree. The saplings are one-year old and about three feet tall, arriving bare-rooted and dormant. I decided not to plant one as envisioned near the boxelder, and chose a location for them out near the shed, spacing them thirty feet away from each other. I removed the turf and dug up patches about twenty inches in diameter for the saplings and buried plastic edging around the perimeter. I set one of my tomato cages around each tree to protect them and to help keep in straw mulch to retain soil moisture.

I have purchased zucchini and yellow straight neck squash plants at a farmstand along with three different varieties of cherry tomato plants. These I planted earlier in the week. I have begun to harden off the cucumber plants outside. I received six tomato plants from my mother, each plant is lust and over a foot tall. This makes me want to build a small lean-to greenhouse for seed starting. The weather for Mother's Day is going to be unseasonably cool so I will delay planting the tomatoes until the weather gets warmer.

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