Thursday, August 20, 2009

Too Busy to Post

Obviously, I have neglected this blog! I've been busy in the garden and with many other adventures, including a week of horse-camping in southern Wyoming.

The garden is going great, and we are learning a lot. There are quite a few things we'll do differently next year, but all in all, we are very happy with the results of all our labor. We've been enjoying many vegetables and sharing extras with others, as well as learning to can, dry, freeze and preserve whatever we can for the winter months.

The icky fungus that was in the garden has been gone for some time. We've found cabbageworms in the broccoli and tomato hornworms on the tomato plants, earwigs in the ears of corn, and we are working on controlling them organically with neem oil spray and garlic-pepper spray. I guess I hadn't believed the bad bugs would find us, but they did--I should have been more proactive about preventing their arrival (garlic spray, for one). Next year!

The roma tomatoes are weighing down the vines and sagging from their heaviness. I should have done better at staking them, I suppose, and next year will plant them farther apart, perhaps with more beneficial companion plants interspersed. I've made a couple of batches of marinara sauce from them and am amazed at the amount of work and cooking that goes into one pot of sauce! The cherry tomatoes are prolific as well, and the brandywines are finally ripening. Unfortunately, most of the brandywines have deep cracks in the top, apparently due to inconsistent watering from a few heavy rainstorms (per one of my books).

The pepper plants are doing fairly well, and I'm waiting for the red peppers to turn red. So far they are getting bigger but still green. I made some pretty good chiles rellenos out of the ancho peppers, and am experimenting to find the best way of canning the pepperoncinis. The first batch came out mushy, so I'm looking into lacto-fermentation with salt & vinegar (not cooking) for my next experiment. That may be today. The jalapenos are going into the freezer.

The summer squash has been good. Three of the plants shriveled up, but I still have plenty of squash on the others. The trick is to cut them quick, while they're small, or I end up with monsters. I've made a couple of roasted vegetable lasagnas with them, which are delicious, and have experimented with drying them as well.

The corn is coming out now, a couple of ears at a time--just enough for dinner for two. A couple of the ears were "bonus ears" with one large ear and another small one on the side, growing inside the husk. I never saw anything like that before. Last night I had my first bad ear of corn--the kernels were small and only about half the ear had kernels at all. Win some, lose some, I guess.

The basil, oregano, thyme and sage are all doing well. The basil is especially delicious. Today I plan to prune it way back and freeze and dry the harvest. The cilantro was great for the first batch, but the second batch I planted was taken over by the prolific oregano and didn't have a chance. I'm planting more now and will hopefully have another harvest before it gets too cold.

Some of the flowers I planted got way bigger than I'd expected and are taking over. The calendula were pretty for a while, but I've pulled them all out after they got big and lanky with not many flowers.

There's plenty of winter squash growing, and I'll have to figure out when they are ready to pick. I've got cucumbers, both lemon and Japanese burpless. They are in the same bed as the peas, snow and sugar snap. The snow peas aren't doing as well, and I forget to pick them when they're small and tender--there's never enough for a meal, so I just eat 'em fresh. The sugar peas are better and I think I'll limit myself to those next year.

The lettuce did well, but there was too much at one time. I gave a lot away. Same for spinach. In mid-summer these aren't doing so great, I pulled up most of them, but I'm planting more now for later.

The celery looks real beautiful but tastes awful. I had read that it might not do well in this climate. When it looked so good I thought that the warning might be inaccurate, but perhaps this is why. I guess it's too hot here??? Anyway, I've thrown some away, some of the better stuff is in the refrigerator in case I decide to eat it, but it isn't enjoyable eating. Bitter and tough. I end up spitting out the strings. I'm trying to blanch some of the remaining celery to see if that helps, but with celery so cheap at the grocery store I'm certainly not going to grow it again.

I harvested my first batch of rutabegas, and planted some more seeds but they didn't make it. I've just planted more in some soil blocks to give them a better start for a fall crop, along with more broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, lettuce & spinach.

The onions are doing very well, and I hope I can successfully store them to last a long time! I'm also looking forward to the garlic, and apparently soon will be the time to plant another crop for next spring's harvest.

The strawberries did not do well. Perhaps next year I'll get a different variety and/or plant them differently, possibly in a different location. Perhaps they need more acidic soil. I did not test the soil before planting or do anything to add acid.

Whew! I think that's a pretty good overview of the crops.

After some repair issues with the tractor, Tim is getting our compost bins situated, so we can have good compost for our spring planting. With the horse manure, garden waste & kitchen scraps, we should be able to get a good amount of compost cooking. Next we plan to work on sheet mulching the rest of the garden space to prepare for next year. We will expand, spread things out a bit more, plant more of some things and less of others, rotate our crops, plant some fruit trees and vines, and definitely more corn!

Maybe next month I'll get around to posting again, and maybe I'll add some photos.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's July!

It's been a long time since I've posted, and we've been busy! We have experienced a great deal of rain, which has been wonderful for the garden (except for a couple of hailstorms, see below). We are discovering a few things which we will do differently next year, but overall, the garden is coming along nicely.

We installed soaker hoses on timers all throughout the garden, but have rarely used them because of all the rain. When it is not raining, they are doing great.

We have been eating our lettuces, spinach, endive, radishes, scallions, basil, thyme, cilantro & oregano, a couple of jalapenos, lots of kale, and our first broccoli (and boy, was it good--way better than from the grocery store!). The kale is amazing. If I don't pick it frequently it gets big and there's way more than enough to eat. I've been giving it away, along with our lettuces. I blanched and froze my first batch of spinach, and need to get going on that project with the kale.

Most things are doing very well. I'm looking forward to having ripe tomatoes! The first summer squashes will be ready soon. My first snow peas have come out and we may have enough for dinner.

The bush beans have not done well at all. I replanted seeds about three times, and each time only a couple of them sprouted. I'm not sure what's wrong, except that it may have been too cool and wet for them.

We have one red strawberry, about ready to pick, but for the most part the strawberries I planted (from roots) haven't done well. Of the 36 plants started, only 5 or 6 of them have grown. I'm thinking I will buy a few plants to put in so that they have a chance to be established for next year.

The peppers have suffered from the hail damage, but there are peppers growing on a few of the plants. I'm hopeful that more will grow. Perhaps next year I will plan ahead by keeping them under cover for protection from the hail and the colder nights we had earlier on.

The tomato plants are huge. Our first cherry tomato is almost red. I'm confused about the things I've read regarding pruning. For the most part I've tried to prune the suckers off the indeterminate tomatoes as indicated in several resources, but I'm not sure why. I thought that the suckers would not produce fruit, but when allowed to grow, they do. Perhaps the reason is just to get better, bigger fruit from the main stem. I find that if I don't watch very closely, those suckers grow quickly and I've found large branches that started as suckers. In some cases I've cut them off, in other cases I've let them grow. Later, I will determine which plants do better--the ones with suckers pruned or the ones with them growing. I'm sure I wouldn't want ALL the suckers to grow. The roma bush (determinite) tomatoes have not been pruned, as suggested, and are huge and bushy. For this first year, it surely is experimental, and I will learn a lot. The tomatoes we planted in the upside-down planters are growing, but I shouldn't have put two plants in each one, as suggested on the instructions. I think they are getting root bound. We also placed them to close the the edge under the porch, and the rain water from the roof seems to have damaged them. We have since moved them back for protection.

Writing in this blog is beginning to be wearisome, but I want to do it for my own reference, even if few are reading! I'm just antsy sitting here typing when I know I have plenty of other things to do! Hopefully I will post more info and pictures later.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fungus Is Gone

After battling the fungus (see June 6), I removed the hay mulching I'd had around all the beds to keep the moisture in. It may or may not have caused the fungus, but whether the fungus came from the hay or not, it was keeping it moist and dark, with all the rain. After removing the hay mulch, the sides were able to dry out and for the most part the fungus is gone. Occasionally I find a little here or there, but I think I've tackled it!

I took a photo and a sample to a couple of nurseries, and they didn't know what it was either. The best guess is that it may have come from the wood chips we used in the pathways. One of the people at the nursery thought it looked typical of a tree fungus. We got them from some felled trees in town, so I suppose it's possible. (Next time we get free wood chips do we need to bleach them???)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rain, Hail, Cool Weather

We had more hail yesterday.  I ran out and covered the pepper plants with chairs and stools from the porch, and they don't look any worse for the wear.  They still have holes in their leaves from the last hailstorm.  This time there's a few holes in the spinach leaves and broccoli, but everything else looks like it survived. 

The other day we ate kale for dinner!  I put some curly endive in our salad, too. I've also been using oregano and basil, and I plan to have a spinach salad soon. Oh, boy...we're beginning to reap the harvest.  Can't wait to have more.  There's a few little tomatoes, but I haven't seen many--so far they are small and green and hard to find.  I think it's been too cool for them to do real well.

It's been cool and wet a lot.  Tim is getting the soaker hoses set up, but we haven't really needed them.  There's been enough rain and the ground is so saturated already, we can't really test them out before our trip to see how long to run them.  I guess we'll just have to give it a best guess and hope for the best.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What is this Fungus?


What is this??? This icky fungus is growing around the edges of some of the beds. The bottom, on the soil, is mushy, and the top of it is kind of leathery. It's starting on the edges of the beds that were done first, so I'm wondering if in time it will show up around the others. So far it's just on the edges, underneath the hay mulch that is there to keep the moisture in. It's been very wet--Perhaps if we remove the mulch and expose it to the sun the fungus won't grow? I've looked around a bit on the web for photos of various fungi but haven't yet seen anything similar. I've started removing it, but I'm sure more will grow. I hope it isn't damaging.

I've also found some beetly bugs around, and don't know for sure what they are. After searching a bit I think it's a "bumble flower beetle" and not too very harmful, but if I find them or their larvae around I'll pick them off and get rid of them.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tim is working on getting soaker hoses set up on timers all around the yard, to take care of the watering. This will be especially helpful when we are out of town, or even gone for a long day.

I made some more soil blocks to start more bean seeds. I need to get them going, and it's going to be cold and rainy the next couple of days. I'm thinking that if they can just get a good head start in comfy indoor conditions, I can put them outside before our upcoming trip. My guess is that the ones I planted outside were just too cold and wet at first.

I also started some more Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, after soaking the seeds for about 3 days. The first ones I'd planted (in blocks, indoors) never emerged. The package recommends soaking the seeds 48 hours--I started them but forgot about them, so it's actually been 3-4 days. The package also suggests to be sure they don't get dry during germination, so I'll have to watch that. Hopefully they'll do better.

I also planted another brussel sprout, because one of them doesn't look like it's growing like the others; a nasturtium and watermelon to replace ones that didn't make it through the hailstorm.

Things are looking good, for the most part. I especially like to watch the kale & broccoli grow. A friend asked me the other day how I'm going to keep the broccoli bugs out. I was hoping they wouldn't come! But with the companion planting, adding onions and thyme to the bed, it's supposed to confuse the bugs. We'll see....perhaps I should have put more thyme over there, but I'll see how it goes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's nice to be able to take a break from all the garden work and do some other things, like work with the horses.  See the BREGO & LAURIE blog.  Everything is planted, it's been raining, so I don't even have to water.  I've done some weeding, but other than that there isn't much to do.

Today I planted a few more pea seeds in the spots where seeds didn't emerge.  I'm still waiting on the bush beans to make an appearance, and may go ahead and plant more seeds there in a couple of days--none of the ones I planted 10 days ago have emerged, and they should emerge in 10 days.  Hmmm.  What's up with that?  The package does indicate that they don't like cold, damp conditions, so maybe that's the problem.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things are looking pretty good after the hailstorm, except for those rips & holes in the pepper leaves. I think the pepper plants will survive. We lost one corn stalk (it was about 6" tall) so I've planted a new seed next to it to replace it. Other than that, so far so good.

Today I planted some carrot seeds by the asparagas patch. It's the only place that still has space available. I also weeded that entire bed--yes, the weeds are coming up all over.

I'd forgotten how much stress bending over and weeding is to my back. I grabbed a short stool to sit on, and that helped. It'll sure be nice weeding the higher terraced areas!

It's very cute, Brego usually comes and finds me at whatever corner I'm working in and will stand on his side of the fence to observe. I'm sure he's just hoping there will be food involved, like a handful of grass, but now that Tim has weed-whacked all the tall stuff around the edges, Brego is out of luck. He still stands and watches me, and gets a pet now and then.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hail!

Oh, no!  It hailed today.  It started out as quite a downpour of water, and I was a bit concerned that it might hail....later on my fears came true.  The hail was pea-sized.  The only real damage I've seen so far is some of the leaves on the peppers were pretty badly beaten.  The basil was a bit sad looking and a few marks on some tomato leaves.  All in all, I guess things turned out ok.  At least we didn't have ripe fruit being bombarded.

I picked some basil tonight, walked in and put it right onto our pizza!  Whoopie...our first produce eaten.

Work in the Garden

This morning I doused all the plants with "manure tea", with thanks to my helper on the other side of the fence.  I pruned the suckers off the tomatoes and planted some more marigold seeds.  







 
The broccoli is noticeably bigger, and so are the kale plants.  The brussels sprout seeds have sprouted.  The leeks & celery look good.  I think there are buds on the watermelon plants.








On inspection, we've seen a couple of asparagas shoots begin to appear, which is a relief, because we were beginning to wonder if they'd ever sprout.  There is also some life on some of the strawberry plants, which were both planted as roots. 






I got a shot of curly endive, too--reminds me of a chia pet or a green 'fro.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rooftop Shots

Here are some shots Tim took of the garden from the rooftop. The first from above the garage looking down, and another from the barn roof looking at the entire yard--the only thing not seen is the "three sisters" over on the northwest corner behind the porch.

The green stuff all across the middle is weeds.  We'll be working on that area later, to prepare it for planting & crop rotation next spring.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Here's How it Looks

Photos taken yesterday & today, in the rain.  In a few weeks I should do a similar set for comparison!

Tier 1
Peas (snow and sugar), cucumbers (lemon and japanese burpless), radishes, rutabegas (6 of them), calendula






Tier 2
Peppers, onions, garlic (coming)







Tier 3 
Trellis (left): Tomatoes (Indeterminites: Brandywine & Sugar Sweetie), Basil & Cilantro
Herb Triangle: Chives, oregano, thyme, chamomile, parsley, lavender, sage
Tier 3 (right): Tomatoes (Determinite Roma, Ace), celery, leeks, scallions, bee balm


Tier 4, Part 1 & 2
Left: Broccoli, Kale, Brussels Sprouts, radish, carrots, onions, garlic, lavender, thyme
Right: Lettuce, spinach, endive, mesclun varieties, onions, calendula, bush beans (edamame & tavera), marigolds



Tier 4, Part 3 & 4
Upper: Summer squash & nasturtium
Lower: Watermelon & nasturtium






Tier 4, Part 5
Strawberries, spinach, borage







Three Sisters 
Corn, beans, winter squash, bee balm







Southwest Corner
Asparagas, parsley, tomatoes, basil, bee balm, calendula, ginger


Three Sisters

Tim completed the bed for the Three Sisters (corn, pole beans, squash), and I planted it this morning before it began to rain.  We have found a few different suggestions about how to plant this combination, so we're experimenting with a few different options.

One book suggests planting 4 corn seeds in a hole, then after the corn has grown a couple of weeks, plant a few bean seeds around the corn.  He doesn't say how big of a hole, or how close together these corn seeds should be.  The soil blocker material had suggested that it is ok to plant 4 corn seeds together in one soil block (and plant them that way), so we are combining these methods by planting the soil blocks already growing, and bean seeds around.  Two (4 per block) we planted in holes about 10" in diameter with 4 bean seeds planted around the corn.  One hole we left a couple of inches to be filled in later, as the corn & beans grow.  The other hole we filled in now.  I had started two more soil blocks with 2 corn seeds each, so we put these two soil blocks together in another hole with the bean seeds around.

Another book suggests a hole about a foot in diameter, with 4 corn seeds planted about 8" apart. This hole should be filled in later.  We did two holes this way, and will plant the bean seeds after the corn is a couple of inches tall.

Another book suggest planting 6 corn seeds in a circle, 24" diameter, with each seed 12" apart, one in the middle.  The book also suggests planting corn seeds in a trench (when planting in rows), to be filled in  as the corn grows, to give it extra support, particularly in windy areas.  I combined these two methods to make a circular trench to plant the 6 corn seeds, and a hole in the middle.  It looks like a donut.  Later, we'll plant the bean seeds somewhere around the corn.

All methods mention planting winter squash around the corn, to shield the soil from the sun to keep the moisture in, and also to keep animals out of the corn & beans.  I had started 4 butternut and 4 acorn squash in blocks.  This is too many for the area, but I planted them all anyway, in case some don't make it.  I can always kill a couple later if I have to.

The fourth sister is bee plant (Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, as planted by the Anasazi indians) or bee balm.  I started plenty of bee balm and planted four of those around the corn.  I have some seeds planted in blocks for the RM Bee Plant, but they haven't sprouted yet.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Later On...

The wind didn't seem to do any damage.  I guess the plants are hardier than I'd thought.  I'm still a little concerned, as it is much cooler today and will be the next few days.  The good news is that it shouldn't be below 50 even overnight, so if that's the magic number for tomatoes and peppers we should be fine.

I saw a bunny today INSIDE the fenced garden.  He ran and hopped out a spot in the wire fencing that was bent a little wider, so I bent that spot back.  We're gonna have to keep watching. Hopefully with the cats visiting the garden area during the day the bunnies will at least smell them and reconsider coming in.

Tim finished Tier 3, so I can plant the rest of the small tomato plants.  He also completed the watermelon bed, so I planted those, along with some nasturtiums.  I got to thinking that the roots only grow in one area, then the plant spreads out.  So, I had Tim prepare the soil only for the top portion of the bed, at the top of the hill, where I planted the melons.  Below that, we'll just keep it covered with a nice bed of hay for the sprawling plant and watermelons to lay on, and I'll train the plant to go that direction.

I also planted the cucumbers, near the peas so they can share the same trellis.  The rutabegas are coming up in that section also, 8 of them.  I think that should be plenty for us.  It's not like an everyday vegetable!  I'm thinking I might line the edge with some more of my garlic as well.

The garlic I planted last week near the brussels sprouts are coming up nicely.  The onions (planted from sets) in that bed are coming up strong as well.  I'm surprised at how quickly they are growing.

It's so nice to see everything growing, and flowers on the tomato plants!

The $64 Tomato

I got a book from the library I've just begun to read: "The $64 Tomato" by William Alexander. Just the premise of the book sounds funny!  After all that this guy went through to plant his garden, he estimates that each tomato he brings in cost him $64.  I fear that will be the cost of ours this year!

This morning I am a little afraid to go outside and see what the wind did to the garden last night as I heard it whipping through...I'll be brave, I'll do it, I'll take whatever comes.

We are sure seeing how much the agrarian societies must learn to take what comes and depend on God to grow their crops.  It's good being connected to the land.  And, it's amazing to think of these little seeds that somehow grow quickly into so many different plants--vegetables, fruits, flowers and all.  Very incredible!  How can anyone not believe that God created this?  

We are sure having fun with all of this, we know that it is an investment for the future, and in years to come we will enjoy all the work and investment we've done this year, which won't need to be re-done.  We know we are doing "good work" and that is very satisfying.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Celery & Leeks

One of the books I've been reading suggested planting celery & leeks in a row together, alternating every other one, in a trench to be filled in as they grow, to blanch the bottoms. I planted them this way, along the front side of one of the tomato rows--both grow well with tomatoes. I hope they like their new home!

Tommy the toad has brought a new friend to the garden, who is a little smaller. They both seem to like the pea bed--that's the only place I've seen them. It's funny how they keep coming back. I guess they are not a problem, but I don't want them disturbing pea seeds that haven't yet emerged.

Everything is looking good, and we keep admiring our hard work. We just need to finish Tier 3, the other half of the tomato bed, then a spot for watermelons down near the strawberries. After that we'll do the corn patch on the other side of the yard, and we're done with planting.

We still have a lot of the topsoil we purchased. I suppose we'll use it to amend the unused areas that we will begin to prepare for next year's rotation. I suppose this worked out well (only using about half the yard), so we can rotate our crops better. We'll have to come up with a whole new plan next year! I'm bummed that this topsoil came with weed seeds in it. They are growing all over the place, even after our careful planning to keep them out by using cardboard underneath each bed. Grrr. I knew I would have to do some weeding, but didn't expect so much.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Strawberries & Peppers

This morning Tim took some time off work to get out in the yard, and got the beds done for the strawberries.  I got them planted in the afternoon, all in nice little mounds, one for each plant. I bought roots, two varieties.  There's about 40 plants.  I don't expect strawberries this year, and some resources suggest picking off any buds I see before they turn to fruit, to allow the plants to get established the first year.  (Others say it's not a problem to get some fruit the first year.)  I guess I'll do some of each, and take notes!  Let's see..."Plant A: I picked off the flowers in 2009 and got better yield in 2010; Plant B: I got 4 strawberries in 2009 and fewer than Plant A in 2010."  Is that how it will go?

I also planted the basil plants near the tomatoes, and the peppers, in their bed, Tier 2.  It was pretty darn hot, about 90, and I was melting so took a break.  Tim came out later to prepare the bed for the peppers, and I worked on leveling it out and packing it down a bit.  Since it was hot and I was tired, Tim offered to take me out to dinner.  We cleaned up and went early, came back and planted the pepper plants.  I got finished just about the time it was getting dark.  It was sure nice planting them in the cool evening, and also nice planting them standing up, as they are on the raised tier.

Tommy the Toad came back!  Tim relocated him (her?) way over to the other side of the property yesterday, and this morning he was back to the same pea bed he was in before!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tomatoes and More

Yahoo...we finally got the tomatoes planted.  It's exciting to see everything coming together.  Tim got out early to construct the trellis for the tall indeterminite plants (Brandywine and Sugar Sweetie), and we got those all planted (18 of them) in the back row of Tier 3.  Then we put in stakes for the determinites (so far just the Romas) and got those planted.  I also have some of the Ace variety started, but they're only about 2" tall, and I'm not sure about taking them outside just yet.  I'll wait a couple of weeks, and they should provide a later harvest.  I also planted 4 of the romas down by the asparagas, just because they're supposed to grow well together.  That took all morning--Tim started around 6 am, and I got out there around 7.

It was a warm day--yesterday was cooler and probably better for planting, but this was just the way it worked out.  I kept watering them just to keep them from wilting, but hopefully they'll be ok.  After we got those done, Tim began to work on creating the beds for strawberries, while I planted the bush beans I'd started inside a couple of weeks ago, and also put new seeds in the ground for more.  I'd started 10 
edamame and 10 tavera french beans inside, because the soil blocker material I've read said that even though beans don't normally transplant well, they will in the soil blocks because the roots aren't being disturbed.  So, I gave it a try.  Eight of the edamame sprouted, but only four of the tavera sprouted.  Since I had the empty soil blocks, I went ahead and put
 them in the ground and put my seeds into those, so they'll have that nice soil to get started in.  Could be a good experiment, and I can compare the ones started in the soil block mixture with the ones started in the ground.  I also put my marigold seedlings around the beans, as they are supposed to grow well together and help repel bean beetles.

I realized, too, that of all the seeds I've already planted, I haven't paid attention to the soil I put them in.  Perhaps I should have been more careful to mix some good soil together for planting the seeds, similar to the soil blocking mixture.  Hmmm.  If a lot of these don't sprout soon, I may have to plant them again, but with better soil next time.  Lots of experiments this year!!!

After the beans, I moved on to the summer squash section.  My reading indicated that I should plant them in "hills" but didn't specifically say how big these hills should be.  I made little hills about two feet apart and planted my seedlings along with a few seeds.  I'd forgotten about hardening off these plants and they haven't as yet had any time outside, but hopefully they'll survive the shock.  If not, the seeds I added should sprout and I'll still have plenty of summer squash.  The 9 plants look kind of small now, but I know they'll grow and I'll have plenty of squash.  I also planted some seeds for nasturtiums around the squash.  They're supposed to grow well together and be pretty.

By then we were pretty hot and tired!  As soon as we can, we'll get the strawberries planted, then finish the part of Tier 3 where the younger tomato plants (Ace) will go along with celery & leeks and maybe an onion or two in between each tomato plant.

Cats

We've been letting the cats out lately during the day, especially when we are working outside. They like coming outside, and Bayou is getting more and more brave, exploring new territory.  She likes to visit me while I'm working in the garden and meows a lot as she walks. We've been calling her the "stealth cat" because she is NOT, as she runs along so loudly and meows so much.  She's even been seen in the barn a couple of times--perhaps she smells the bunny that seems to be living in there.

It's good to be letting them out.  Especially Bayou--she will enjoy chasing mice and bunnies. My little one-eyed Cubby is old and slow, and doesn't go very far from the house--she never did when I let her outside at my other house.  Hopefully they'll still come inside in the evening when I want them to.  I really don't want them getting into trouble in the night.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Big Day!

Officially, the last average frost date is something like May 10th, but apparently many people around here consider it to be more like the 15th.  At any rate, we've been plodding along doing what we can between bad weather days earlier in the month, and getting all the supplies we need. We've been planning on planting the tomatoes today, Tier 3, and as many other things as possible.

We started the day by attending the Waverly Pancake Breakfast, which was fun just to get out and see Waverly neighbors and meet new people.  We came home and started working.  It was a cool, overcast morning, so a great day for planting.

We started the layers to build the beds.  The layers go as follows (bottom to top): cardboard, horse manure, topsoil, peat, chopped hay, goat manure, and a large layer of topsoil-peat-hay mixture.  We think this should do the trick.  It adds bulk to the clayey soil.  As I'm planting I'm also adding handfuls of a mixture of soil, peat, goat manure & organic fertilizer. 


 

I counted all the plants and planned out where to put them (two rows in each section of this tier), then Tim began putting up the t-posts we planned to use for the tomato trellis.  Unfortunately, what we'd thought about doing just wasn't going to work.  It needs more support to keep the wires taut.  Back to the drawing board, and another trip to Lowe's to buy lumber.  Dang.  We decided to finish other projects during the day and go to town in the evening to get supplies.  We also need more cardboard to complete the sections down by the tree.  So, Tim finished preparing the beds in Tier 4, where we will put bush beans & marigolds, summer squash and nasturtiums.

I did get our little herb triangle planted with mostly perennial type herbs.  It's nice to see the little seedlings in the ground, and I think they like it.  I planted chives, oregano, thyme, garlic, chamomile, and seeds for cilantro and parsley.

I'm mulching all of the beds with old hay. We have some clumps of curly, tough hay that won't go through the shredder for some reason, so I'm using that alongside each bed to help keep the moisture in along the sides.  Hopefully that will help.


One little surprise of the day, was that as I was looking at my pea seedlings popping up in Tier 1, there was a hole in the soil, like something had dug it up.  I reached down to smooth it out, and IT MOVED!  There was something just under the surface, and it was no worm.  Out popped a toad!  Yes, I screamed a bit, just because I was startled when the soil moved.  I pushed him out of the hole, he hung around for a while while I took photos, then hung around all day.  He ended up making another hole to hide in.  I really don't want him messing up my garden, but I suppose he causes little harm, and will eat bugs.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ginger

My little ginger plant is doing well. I had planted a ginger root a long time ago, and feared nothing was happening, until a green shoot finally appeared! After it came up it grew rapidly and now is about a foot tall. Today I planted it near the asparagas, where it can live happily year to year.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lavender

It was rainy (or at least drizzly) Sunday, and we didn't do any work outside.  It was kind of nice to take a break.  The things I planted on Saturday seem to like it outside, and they're happy with the rain.

I went to the nursery today to take advantage of our senior discount (at 55 we get 10% off on Tuesdays).  I got some seeds for the brussels sprouts and strawberry plant roots.  I came home and planted the brussels sprout seeds near the broccoli & kale.  I also added some lavender at the edge of that bed, since they are perennial and not to be disturbed.  I also put in a thyme plant and some garlic on that end of the bed.  Thyme is supposed to repel some kind of broccoli bug.  I suppose more would be better, but I don't have that many plants started.  Perhaps later I'll add some thyme seeds here and there.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Broccoli, Kale, Lettuce, Spinach & More

Today we got most of Tier Four started and planted.  There's still a section unfinished, but that will come later.  In part of it I was able to plant my lettuce, spinach, endive and some seeds for more of the same.  In the other section there is the broccoli, kale, onions, and radish & carrot seeds.  I will also get some seeds for brussels sprouts for that area.  I may have started too many broccoli and kale all at once, as there isn't much room for more later on, but the little plants are doing well and are very cute.  I'm glad to get them into the ground.  

It's nice to see things planted, and there is actually some green out there!  Looking at the sections in Tier 4, I'm thinking of re-doing the map, or plan, regarding the way we will complete the area down toward the fence.  Seeing it on the ground and working in the beds makes me think of changing the layout.  I'm sure it will all morph as we go.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Greenhouse"

We've been taking some of the plants outside daily to "harden" them before putting them in the garden, but it is often VERY windy and they've been blown over and damaged in the wind.  Also, some nights are borderline warm enough for the tomatoes.  







We've created a temporary greenhouse 
for them to be out but protected from wind and chill until we can plant them in the garden.  This is the same place we are thinking about putting a "real" greenhouse for the winter.





Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Asparagas and Cats

Yesterday we finished preparing the asparagas bed, and got the crowns planted. I also put out the parsley that's been growing indoors, and just a few of the calendula. It's nice to see a little bit of green out there!

Tim has been working on the steps that will descend alongside our tiers, from the upper level to the lower. It's a tricky job, with different drops between levels and weird angles, but he's getting it done. After at least the landings are completed, we'll work to prepare Tier #4 to plant things like lettuce, endive, spinach, broccoli, kale, some herbs & beneficial flowers. It's the largest tier section.

We've thought about getting a kitten, to keep the mice & rabbits out of the garden, but I'm having second thoughts. It seems silly to get another cat, just because I don't want to risk losing Cubby or Bayou to a coyote. Perhaps I should just realize a cat is a cat...just an animal...and I know Bayou would love to chase mice. Maybe I'll just start letting them go outside, at least during the day. I can bring them in at night. However, I'm also thinking that most mouse activity is a night, so letting them out during the day and in at night will be of little help. Yesterday we opened the door and let them out while we were in the yard. Cubby sniffed around and ate grass. Bayou kept going in and out, taking a few steps further each time. We'll see how it goes, one step at a time.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Peas, Please!



Our first seeds have been sown outdoors! Today we finally got Tier #1 ready to plant and put in some of the pea seeds, along with a few rutabegas. According to my research, they grow well together. In a couple of weeks I will add cucmbers to this section. I started some snow peas and sugar snap peas. They'll grow up the terrace, and we will put vertical wires from the fencing to the top for them to hang onto.





The horses were watching intently, especially my social Brego, but wouldn't you know, took off when the camera came out!










I also made some more 2" soil blocks and started more seeds in the house. After reading that a few things like corn can be successfully planted in blocks, I'm trying a few of those, then will start others outside for comparison purposes. I tried multi-planting them, two in some blocks, four in others, to see how they do. This is really an experimental year, so it will be interesting to see what
works best, then I can follow through with the best methods next year. I also started a few things that I need a little of at a time, like lettuce and spinach, to continue my succession plantings.


Hopefully tomorrow we will get the asparagas bed ready to plant and also Tier #4, where I will plant lettuce, endive, spinach, broccoli, kale and parsley, which are already growing and ready to go outside. These have been going outside daily, in at night.









We've also been putting out the big tomato plants
(which are so tall I've had to stake in their pots) and Topsy Turvy tomatoes. We goofed and left the hanging ones outside last night--it didn't freeze, they're still alive, I hope it doesn't hurt them!

I'm really having trouble with Blogger, spacing these photos and text. It works better using Google Chrome over Firefox, but even Chrome is presenting problems--you'd think at least Google would get their own two products working together! (Vent)