Saturday, June 11, 2011

Going vertical

My plants are starting to get big enough that they need some support. This picture shows my cucumbers starting to grow up the trellis. I "train" them at the beginning of the season using plant twist ties and then their own vining tendrils take over and they'll end up covering the trellis.

I always struggle to find the best way to stake my tomato plants. I'm never quite satisfied with the methods I've chosen. This year I'm borrowing an idea I got from my friend Vicki at work. I'm using the triangular cages (opened up) like I did with my tomatoes in 2008. But I am combining them with stakes added for support. The cages in 2008 turned out to be too flimsy and fell over under the weight of the tomatoes by August. Then in 2009 and 2010 I used stakes but I didn't like how they don't allow the plant to spread out. Maybe combining the two will be the best of both worlds. So this morning I went out and got my cages and stakes out of the mini barn and set them up with my tomatoes. Here is a picture of my two Cherokee Purple plants with a basil plant in the middle The cage is tied to the stakes and then the tomatoes are tied to the cage.

And just for fun (not vertical) my zucchinis have blossoms! I know they are still a little ways off from producing zucchinis, but they are getting there! I love this time of year!

Today's weather:
High temp: 82 F
Low temp: 67 F
Humid, cloudy, chance of scattered showers

Sunday, June 5, 2011

So far, so good

This is one of my Cherokee Purple tomato plants. I planted it in the garden about three weeks ago. Obviously it is loving its new home! Lots of rain and now hot temps are making them flourish! The other tomato plants look almost as good.

In this photo you can see my sweet bell peppers in the foreground and my cucumbers in the background under the trellis. I have two Big Bertha bell pepper plants (they make great stuffed peppers!). I also have two Chocolate Beauty bells. This is a new variety for me this year. Apparently the peppers turn a chocolate color when they are ripe and they are very sweet. I have two varieties of cucumbers planted. I lost a couple of plants early on when the weather was still cool and stormy. But those that survived have gotten much stronger and are really growing. They will be growing up the trellis in no time!

I planted Fordhook Lima Bush Beans today. I still need to plant the pole beans, but I am going to wait until next weekend for that. I realize that means I'll have a late harvest this year, but it just can't be helped.

Here's a photo of my garden today. I'm pretty happy with how it is coming along, especially considering how I've neglected it more than usual this year.

And here is a photo of my backyard, looking at it from the patio. Plans are in the works to make a perennial flower bed just to the left of the patio, encircling the birdbath and the corner of the patio. We are making the vegetable garden the priority right now, but once it is in we will focus on the perennial bed more.

Today's weather:
High temp: 84 F
Low temp: 67 F
Cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Garden is *Almost* In

We have had a lot of rain this spring and, of course, the rain usually happens on the weekends when I'm off work. So getting the garden going this year has been a challenge. However, as you can see, my early plantings are loving it. In the picture above I have red cabbage, green cabbage, spinach, swiss chard, kale, and three kinds of lettuce.

Jeff has been working on getting the ground dug up for me. Last weekend I went to the Bloomington Farmer's Market and bought hot pepper plants, tomato plants, and zucchini plants. Today I planted flower seeds along the southern most edge of the garden: sunflowers, nasturtiums, and verbena. Here's a picture of my perennial coreopsis that grows in one of the front corners of the garden:

My fourteen year old mowed the lawn so I used the clippings to mulch the plants that are in the ground and established. Working out in the garden today was difficult. It was really hot and humid and miserable. So I didn't do everything that needed to be done. Other things I still have to do to consider the garden ready to go are planting bush lima beans, planting green beans, trimming around the garden fence, and mulching the walkways. I'm getting close.

Here is the garden this evening with the shadows being cast as the sun is low in the sky:

Today's weather:
High temp: 90 degrees
Low temp: 70 degrees
Very sunny and humid.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

First Plantings 2011

Last weekend I bought some organic garden soil to mix into the soil in the first area I planned to plant this year. Yesterday, I had planned to head down to the Bloomington Farmer's Market. It's my favorite place to buy seedlings in the spring and they are more likely to have organic than places locally. But Mother Nature had other ideas. It rained all morning so I skipped the farmer's market.

This morning Jeff and I headed out to Cox's Plant Farm and bought green and red cabbage seedlings as well as some head lettuce seedlings. Jeff talked me into getting a rhubarb plant and trying it. It will take up a good size portion of the garden and is a perennial that won't be ready to eat from until at least the second year. But I think we've proved we're in for the long haul when it comes to gardening, so we are ready to commit to perennial vegetables. Asparagus can't be far behind...

Anyway, there were other plants I wanted that Cox's didn't have so we headed back to town and went to the Garden Center at Lowe's. Something bugs me about buying garden plants at a Lowe's, but I've got to give them props. They had a lot more variety than Cox's did for the things that I wanted. I bought kale, swiss chard, spinach, and two more kinds of lettuce.

In the picture at the top you can see the spring bed that I've planted today. On the left side of the bed are 12 head lettuce plants, 4 Buttercrunch lettuce plants, and 4 Red Sails red leaf lettuce plants. Then next to the lettuce from top to bottom are 4 spinach plants, 4 swiss chard plants (Bright Lights), and 8 Winterbor kale plants. Finally, on the far right are 6 red cabbage and 4 green cabbage plants. They look a little wilty and it is really windy out today, but I've watered them and hope they perk up soon.

It is unseasonably warm for April. The average for this day in April is 59 degrees. Right now it is 82 degrees and the record high is 84. So there you go. For my plants' sake it needs to cool off just a tad. Plus I'm afraid I got too much sun, first time being back out in it and all.

Oh, and here's the rhubarb plant Jeff wanted. I imagine it will eventually take over the northeast corner of my garden.

One last thing. Return readers may wonder how the vole situation is going. Well, I did a lot of thinking about my options and our commitment to being as organic as possible. I guess I basically decided to do nothing. I've been checking the area quite a bit and it looks like the vole tracks are not new. I really haven't been able to see any evidence that makes me think they are still there. Of course they could be. But I am going to take a wait and see attitude. If they reappear, I will probably use mousetraps. But until then, I will just keep a close eye on things.

Today's weather:
High temp: 82
Low temp: 67
Very windy, chance of rain/thunderstorms overnight

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My winter guests

Apparently the voles that ate half of my sweet potato crop last year decided to take residence in my garden over the winter. You can see the evidence they've left behind. These tracks run through the garden and disappear into holes that run underground. They also run out of the garden and meander over to my compost bin. I can't tell if they are still there though because the tracks don't look very new. One of the neighbor's cats likes to hang out back in the compost area. If the cat took care of the voles, then I'm in luck. If not, I need to deal with them before I plant this year's garden or it will be an uphill battle all year.

I went to Cox's Plant Farm for the first time of the season yesterday. When we told them about our vole problem, they recommended I place castor bean seeds in the vole tracks. Apparently castor beans (and all parts of the castor bean plant, for that matter) are poisonous. They will kill the voles if they are eaten. I'll admit to being nervous about using anything poisonous. Maybe I'll only put them inside the garden fence so random animals and kids won't be near them.

I'm planning to plant my first spring crops in a couple of weeks and I need to start prepping the beds.

Today's weather:
High temp: 41 F
Low temp: 28 F
Sunny and cold

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I needed support

The focus of today's garden work was creating structural support for my growing plants. I built two of the supports pictured above for my pole beans. I was late getting them planted so they are probably behind other people's beans.

I also got in my minibarn and dug out cages for my bell pepper plants and my tomatoes. Here are a couple of tomato plants in their new cages:

I had already gotten all the plants in the garden (finally!) but then I've had a couple of casualties. One of the two Burpless Cucumbers that I planted died. So I replaced it with two General Lee cucumbers. Also, two of my four Big Bertha Bell Pepper plants don't seem to be doing so well so I replaced them with two California Wonder Bells. I have been gradually adding grass clippings as mulch to the garden and I'm not finished yet. All the seeds have sprouted and all the plants are growing. Here is what my garden looks like on the evening of June 6:

Today's weather:
High temp: 78 F
Low temp: 62 F
Partly cloudy and breezy (a.k.a. perfect!)

Monday, May 24, 2010

The garden is in!

It is as hot and humid as late July outside! I worked out in the garden for about an hour and a half this morning and I finally had to come in. I can't take the heat! But the good news is all of my plants are in. I still need to plant the bush bean and pole bean seeds and I plan to toss a few pumpkin seeds on the compost pile and see if anything comes up. But the transplants are in. All total I spent exactly $50 on plants this year. I don't remember exactly what I spent on seeds, but I think it was in the neighborhood of $6 or so. I still need to buy supplies to make a cucumber trellis as well as bean and tomato supports, but expenses so far have been relatively low (thankfully!).

In the top picture today you can see how my two broccoli plants have grown since I put them in. Also, the nasturtiums I planted between the broccoli are up and growing. Behind the broccoli are the two cucumber plants I bought this weekend. I went back to the variety I tried two summers ago: Burpless Hybrid. They were long and skinny and the taste was the best I've ever tasted in a cucumber. I think my trellis-building will have to wait until after graduation next weekend. Oh, and also in this picture you can see the snow peas flowering and climbing up their trellis. The chives are still in bloom although I think the flowers are on their way out.

Take a look here at my root crops. The beets are really growing. And the green onions and carrots are starting to make a respectable showing.

Here are my hot peppers tucked in behind the flowering sage. I have planted one banana pepper, one poblano, two jalepeno, and four serrano. Also toward the back is a rosemary plant that I tucked into the only available spare place in the garden.

So here is the garden today. Jeff mowed the lawn this morning so I had him pile the grass clippings in the back. Once they cool off and start decomposing, I'll spread them around my plants (tomatoes first!) as mulch. Other things I've added to the garden today that I haven't mentioned yet are Beauregard sweet potatoes (twice as many as last year), two Italian oregano plants, two curly parsley plants, two butternut squash plants, and four Big Bertha sweet bell pepper plants.

Today's weather:
High temp 86 F
Low temp 65 F
Sunny with 10% humidity (which feel like a lot more than that if you ask me!)