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


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.


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


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


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


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)

Rain, Rain, Rain

I suppose for a gardener rain should be good. And it is. It's nice to see so much green out the window, and driving past fields of green everywhere is a treat. But, the past few days it has been frustrating. We had intended to get beds ready to plant seedlings and start seeds, but it is just too wet. Little plants want to be planted, but with rainy days and cold nights hovering near freezing (just above), they've been going outside during the day, inside at night. At least they will be well "hardened off" before they go into the soil.

Tim has used the time to build the trellis for the peas, and yesterday we bought supplies for the steps he will make to descend to the lower level. Yesterday (in the rain) he built the top landing to get started.

I was able to give away several of the extra tomato and pepper plants I won't be planting, to my neighbor. Hopefully they'll do well for her!

Todoay there's only a 20% chance of rain, and we plan to prepare Tier #1 and get the pea seeds planted. I also bought some rutabega seeds, which according to my research, grow well near peas, and I can start them now, too. I've started the cucumber seeds indoors, to be planted in that same section with the peas and rutabegas.

I read portions of an ebook about starting seedlings in the soil blocker, and the author suggests that many things traditionally only sown outside can be sown in the blockers, because their roots won't be disturbed when planting. (See: "Transplants in Soil Blocks") Maybe I'll try getting a few things started that way. He also talks about quite a few things that can be "multiplanted" in the soil blocks, several seeds together. Maybe I'll try a few that way, (corn, broccoli, onions) just to see how they work for comparison with the ones I've already started one in each block. That way next year I'll have a better idea of what will be the best course of action. I have plenty of seeds, I may as well try a few different methods!