Garden and Afield In Helmetta-Monroe-Jamesburg
2016, May 15, Sunday, to May 21, Saturday
by Joseph Sapia
Nearly a Full Corn-Planting Moon during the week
— NIGHT SKY: On Saturday, the moon turned full, the Full Corn-Planting Moon. Look for a bright red Mars for weeks. (The photograph is of the almost-full moon over Monroe and Jamesburg.)
— VEGETABLE GARDENING: I got the vegetable garden in on Saturday, May 21, working in and out of rain. I am a bit concerned I went by the calendar, using May 20 as my guide to when the soil normally would be warm enough to plant, rather than by this year’s still-cool weather. That is, the soil may still be too cool for the warm-season vegetable plants. Perhaps I should have waited to June 1. No matter if I went with my heart over my head, the crop is in: Mammoth Gray-Stripe Sunflower, Cuppa Joe Sweet Corn, Rutgers Tomato, Hale’s Best Jumbo Cantaloupe, Born-to-be-Mild Hybrid Hot Pepper, Kaleidoscope Mix Carrot, Northern X-tra-Sweet Hybrid Sweet Corn, Igloo Lettuce, Carnival Mix Sweet Pepper, and Tasty Green Cucumber.
— OLD SEEDS: The Mammoth Gray-Stripe Sunflower, Cuppa Joe Sweet Corn, and Tasty Green Cucumber are 2015 seeds, which still should produce a crop.
— HOW I SEED: For what it is worth, I do not single-seed. Instead, I place a few to a bunch of seeds per hole.
— POLLINATION IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN: I am trying something new in the garden, adding flowers to attract pollinators. So, I threw around seeds of Burpee’s Bee and Butterfly Garden and Monmouth Conservation Foundation’s Project Pollinator/Kids for Conservation.
— GARDENING ZONES: As the area transitions from the cooler Zone 6 to the warmer Zone 7, because of global warming, we will have a longer growing season. The gardening downside, more erratic weather. For example, many days of rain, followed by long periods of droughty weather. And, of course, the environmental downside is the global warming.
— RACCOONS AT THE BIRD-FEEDER: I enjoy watching the nightly visit of a raccoon or raccoons at the bird-feeder, sometime joined by a skunk below the feeder. I guess the raccoons and skunk like the sunflower hearts/kernels I use – and they have to eat, too, while entertaining me. But I got tired of the raccoon/s knocking down the feeder night after night. So, for now, I am bringing the feeder inside the garage at night and putting it back out in the morning.
— BIRDS: House finches were flying around the yard, fluttering to trees, bird-feeder, and clothesline, having trouble landing. They must have been fledglings, trying to figure it all out.
— WHIP-POOR-WILL CALLING: About 10:45 to 11 p.m. Wednesday night, May 18, a whip-poor-will called loudly, if only sporadically. This was once a common bird here in the local Pine Barrens – calling ad nauseam through the overnight. But this one was the first I have heard in an estimated 6 years. I got reports of whip-poor-will calls from around my Helmetta Road neighborhood, so I hoping for a return of the whip-poor-will.
— MOUNTAIN LAURELS AND SNAPPING TURTLES: Mountain laurel should begin blooming about now. So, remember this bit of Pine Barrens lore: “The snapping turtle lays its eggs, when the mountain laurel blooms.” Watch for snappers crossing roads – probably a female headed to high ground from a swamp to lay eggs or a female returning to a swamp after laying her eggs on high ground. If helping the turtle along, move it in the direction it is traveling. I MOVE A SNAPPER ONLY WITH A SHOVEL, because here is more Piney lore to think about, “Only the setting sun or lightning makes the snapping turtle let go.” If bitten, try running a wire down its nostril to make it let go. (Moving a snapper by lifting it by its tail could hurt it – and, also, it could bite the mover and not let go….)
(Garden observations are from my yard in the Helmetta Road area. Pine Barrens observations are from the Helmetta-Monroe area Pines.)
Joe Sapia, 59, is a vegetable gardener, who gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his vegetable gardening. And he draws inspiration on the local Pine Barrens from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in the local Pines, and his grandmother.