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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

May 2014

  May bypassed spring and jumped straight into summer again.  Long, warm days has the garden really blooming.

  The peas, radishes, and turnip greens are the stars of the month.  Adding some sage and chives to daily meals is a real flavor bonus.

  The traditional greens of lettuces, chard, and kale are just about ready for harvest.  I started the second progression plants in the shadow of those that are almost ready.

  The seed tape experiment is finally starting to show up.  Nice little riot of color.  It seems to require an additional 2-3 weeks to germinate, so next year's planting may have to be done in late February instead.

  I've moved the almond tree into the front yard, and it has take well to the new location.

  Blueberries are getting their first blossoms this year.

  Added 4 fruit trees along the front sidewalk.  Hopefully they'll grow to their maximum 12' size and frame the sidewalk in nicely.

  Last year I had transplanted some truly pathetic looking roses that were straining on the north side of the house.  They've really grown in nicely on the east side but are in need of some training.

  Looks a little better anchored into the masonry.  With luck, next year they'll continue to grow and I can start making little curves and shapes with them.

Early Spring (April 2014)

  Long overdue update.  I tried to start some seeds in cheapo potting soil and they just didn't do well.  I'm going to stop buying bagged soil and try to source it locally instead.  Not thrilled with the price or the petroleum byproducts in the bagged stuff.  This was supposed to be some turnips, onions, chives, and celeriac.

  The pepper seedlings have taken well.  Though I had to modify the peat pod seedling kits.  They work wonderfully to get a seedling going.  But the soil seems to leach all of the moisture out of the peat, and then it becomes hydrophobic.  So even while the surrounding soil is nice and moist, the plant roots are stuck in a dried out ball of peat.  Next year I'll try moving the seedlings into small pots instead of directly into the garden.

The Jerusalem Artichoke patch is quite a bit bigger than last year.  I'll leave this little corner wild and overgrown with the bramble cutoffs tossed in the middle.  Three rabbits have taken up residence in there from time to time.  They've left most of the garden alone and prefer to chomp on the clover.

  The new additions this year included 4 grapes.  The concord seedless are coming out quite nicely.

  I also planted Kiwis this year.  Both of the female plants are doing well, but the male dropped all of its leaves and looks to be quite dead.  I'll wait a few months to see what happens.

  The two muscadine grapes also look dead for all intents and purposes.  I hate waiting.

   The greens bed has a few bits of Kale, Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, and various lettuces popping up

  There's also the garlic I planted last fall that seems to be doing well

  I opted not to grow corn this year, and converted the bed to grow melons, cucumbers, and bush beans.

   And then finally we have the tomato patch.  Sadly, all of these lovely baby plants that were grown since January got completely taken out by a late frost.  The backup seedlings just never took off, and even the backup, backup direct planted seeds didn't do anything.  I had to resort to buying plants, ugh.  oh well, next year.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Strawberry blooms

Just a pleasant picture update of the strawberry patch.  Can't wait for those blooms to turn into tasty berries!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring 2014

Spring has finally hit and the grounds are starting to come back to life.  The buttercups are one of my favorite Spring indicators, and they look so fresh in a vase on the window.  This year I'll be deviding these bulbs out into more appealing areas than just three clumps by the driveway.

I'm trying a method of cold germinating seeds this year.  Add some perlite and a few tablespoons of water to a plastic bag and add a couple seeds.  A few weeks later you'll have some great sprouts,  ready for the garden.  Still waiting to see if these produce any faster or better than just dropping the seed into the ground.

The asparagus patch is yielding well.  This is the second year, but there is already enough for a small serving for breakfast.  I'd never had raw asparagus before now; delicious!  Sweet and crunchy, much like a snow pea.  Some garlic I had tossed onto the compost pile produced a mass of garlic shoots, so they got transplanted to the front of the asparagus patch.

This bed that produced such poor peppers last year will be the site for my tomatoes.  The area gets shaded pretty well during the hot part of the day.  I'm hoping the tomatoes will benefit from the break.  Some perennials made their way back; chives in the front, horehound in the middle, and then parsley and more chives at the end, off the frame.

This was the emergency pepper patch last year, but this year will see some trellised beans, carrots, and turnip greens followed by beets.  The chives on the left established really well last year, and the sage plants survived the colder than usual winter.

And then we have the mother strawberry patch.  I planted 100 plants last spring, pulled out about 50 plants to put along the new fence row, and there are still 150 or so plants in the original bed.  I guess I'll just let the mother patch continue to make runners and move those around the yard as needed for berry production.  Lifetime supply of strawberry plants, and a great little ground cover for my blackberries to boot!
I'm not sure what the blue flowers are, but they make a pretty carpet for this area.  It'll be a shame to mow them in a few weeks, but it's starting to look overgrown.  Not "natural" for a suburban setting.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lasagna Garden

So I'm growing Lasagna!!  No not really.  This is just a name given to starting a new flower or garden bed with a layer of cardboard, to kill the grass and suppress weeds.  Then layering mulch, dirt, and compost on top of it.  As the materials decompose, the turn into rich top soil.  The decomposition also brings in creepy crawlies to "till" up the soil underneath your cardboard.  Very little energy input + reclaiming potential mulch from the landfill = cheap and easy way to establish a new bed.

So for this area along our fence, I pilled up about 2' of leaves from this last fall on top of the cardboard.  Then added a 2" layer of the heavy, red clay we call soil down here.  This is not technically, a well constructed lasagna garden, but I'm interested to see how it goes.

This is an east facing fence.  I'm hoping to grow amaranth and sunflowers along the back, strawberries in the front, and then assorted herbs and artichokes in the middle.

Seed Tapes

I wasn't gifted with hands made for fine, detail work.  They're great for digging, demolition, and the fun stuff.  When it comes time to sow small seeds (lettuce, carrots, etc) however, not so good.  Inevitably I have to rely on the method of scattering seeds all over the place and then trying to thin them out into some semblance of order.
I've been interested in seed tapes, since it saves a lot of seeds, a lot of time, and it looks better.  But they also cost a lot more than I'm willing to pay.
Pinterest has been full of ideas on how to make your own seed tapes; and sensing the opportunity to save some money, I dove right in.  And surprisingly, they turned out really well!  Time will tell how they work in practice.

The "glue" is made by adding water to 1/4 cup of white flour and mixing well.  How much water?  Well, that depends.  I added a tablespoon at a time.  This started as a stiff doughy consistency, then doughy, then runny-doughy, then a little soupy, and finally to something that resembled thick latex paint.  You want it just runny enough that it will drip off the end of your brush.

For my "tape" I used extra newspapers, though just about anything will work (paper towels, drywall tape, etc).  It just has to be biodegradable and contain no toxic chemicals.

I created 2 sizes.
  The standard 1/2" wide tape shown in the picture, with evenly spaced seeds dropped into globs of glue.  These will be for creating your typical rows of lettuces.
  Then there was the 1 foot wide tape.  These I got a little more creative with, making patterns with different colored greens to be used as a mescalin mix.  This is where homemade tapes can really be fun.  There is no limit to what you can create, or how large your "tape" can be.  Just "glue" the tapes end to end, or in a triangle, or a circle, or whatever!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Gentlemen, start your seedlings!

January is finally here!  Spring planting sneaks up on you fast.  The last fear of frost is pretty much gone around here April 1st.  Working 8-12 weeks back from that date puts us at, gulp, last week!  I'm already behind schedule!!  According to my journal, this is when i need to be starting seedlings for Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Okra, Artichoke, Leeks, and Celeriac.
Last year I was trying out the milk jug greenhouses, which seemed to work, but direct seeded plants in April quickly overtook the seedlings.
I had planned on replacing my greenhouse (again) last fall but you only get done what you get done :-)
Plan b is as follows:
  I purchased several of the Jiffy 72 cell greenhouses from Walmart at $8 each (even better priced than Amazon).  These have always worked well for me as a seedling starter.  That's if you can't get the seedlings transplanted when they grow too large for the space that you end up with weak, spindly seedlings.
  I cleared off a middle shelf  (like this) in my garage and rigged up two 48" fluorescent shop lights above the middle shelf.
  These lights get plugged into a timer left over from the Christmas lights so they click on at 6am and off again at 10pm.
  Finally, under the seedling trays goes a warming mat.  Something like this would be ideal.  In my setup I reused a Brew Belt that's designed to keep a glass carboy at 70F.  Just anything to help keep the temperature up.
  3/20/2014 update - I had to fabricate a 1/4" raised platform for the brew belt as it was getting hot enough to melt my plastic trays and dried out the peat pods directly above it.  Sometimes it pays to buy equipment designed for your project :)

Here we have the starts of
- Black Hungarian Jalepeno
- Black Beauty Eggplant
- Celeriac Root
- Pasilla Bajio Pepper
- Purple Beauty Pepper
- Red Marconi Pepper
- Edirne Purple Eggplant
- Black Brandywine Tomato
- Purple Tomatillo
- Chile Ancho Pepper
- Orange Sunset Pepper
- Jing Orange Okra
- Tomato Gypsy
- Amish Paste Tomato
- Dad's Sunset Tomato
- Purple of Romagna Artichoke
- Bleu De Solaise Leeks