Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence Day update

I haven't been updating my garden blog like I did last summer. I admit, Facebook is preoccupying my online time. I realized it has been nearly a month since I updated my blog so I thought it was time.

My husband is out of town and he took my camera with him so I don't have any current pictures yet. I'll get some next week. The garden is really exploding right now and you need to see the progress.

In the meantime, I'll share some other pictures I took during the month of June of various parts of the garden.

Our one broccoli plant that survived the spring has been getting bigger and bigger by the day, it seemed. I finally cut the flower off today (that's the part we usually buy in the store, for those of you who have never grown broccoli before). The one bunch I got is bigger than some I've bought at the grocery store. Anyway, here is a picture of the plant before there was much of a flower (photo taken June 16):

And isn't this a beautiful head of cabbage? (Photo also taken June 16):

Here is my 7-year-old son crouching next to the broccoli plant. You can also see some of the tomatoes, bell peppers, corn, peas, and sage. Photo taken June 21:

We've had a new visitor to our garden for most of the month of June. He is a toad that my son has named "Froggy". Photo taken June 20:

Here you can see our cabbage plant surrounded by tomatoes. I had to stake the tomatoes up as they were starting to sprawl everywhere. I'm expecting an amazing tomato harvest this year. Photo taken June 20:

And finally, here is an overall shot of the garden on June 21. It was two weeks ago and I have to tell you this photo is already outdated. The garden has grown a lot in the last two weeks. Stay tuned next week for an updated photo of the garden.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 81 F
Low temp: 65 F
Sunny today, chance of rain tonight.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Finally all planted!

After many delays, I have finally got my sweet potatoes in the ground. Whew! I can't wait for September and the harvest!

Meanwhile, here's a picture of my peas today:As you can see, they are full of pea pods that are filling up with peas. It won't be long now before my first harvest!

My corn is also up. I have 4 rows of 5 plants and they are about 4 inches tall now. Here's a photo I took today before I mulched them:

I was so excited when I went outside this morning to find several of my bean plants are poking their heads out of the ground! My cucumber plants have also grown. And look, one of my Roma tomato plants has the first blossom of the season on it!

We've had quite a bit of rain lately and a cold spell that killed my basil seedlings. Today is much warmer and nicer and hopefully the cold is behind us. I plan to replace the basil plants and then I should be set. All I have to worry about now are pests and disease!

Today's local weather:
High temp: 75 F
Low temp: 55 F
Sunny and fair

Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Garden is almost all planted

I have spent the better part of the last 3 days working in my garden and I almost have it all planted. I almost said I was almost done, but garden work is never really done. Anyway, it is going to have quite a different look this year. I am adding two things I didn't have much of last year: color and height. I have planted many flowers. You can see the yellow Tickseed in the near right corner along with the red geranium and purple violet I got for Mother's Day. My chives and sage are still blooming. And I have planted Cosmos, Nasturtiums, Marigolds, Indian Blankets, Bee Balm and flowering herbs like dill and anise hyssop. Those beneficial insects will be swarming! I also have the pea trellises (you can see the peas are now half-way up the trellises I built). There are several small peas popping out on the plants and they should be ready to pick in the next week or two. I also had my 7yo son help me build the 7 teepees for the pole beans in front.

Besides the flowers and herbs I already mentioned, here's a list of what I've planted this year:

* Tomatoes - Cherokee Purple (3)
* Tomatoes - Brandywines (2)
* Tomatoes - Roma (4)
* Tomatoes - Black Cherry (1)
* Tomatoes - Golden Nugget (1)
* Tomatoes - Green Zebra (1)
* Tomatoes - mystery (1) - I forgot by the time I got it home what it is
* Pepper - bell "Big Bertha" (4)
* Pepper - Sweet Banana peppers (4)
* Pepper - Habeneros (4)
* Pepper - Jalepenos (4)
* Eggplant - Black Beauty (3)
* Peas - approx. 80 plants
* Beans - green bush "Blue Lake" (1 row so far)
* Beans - black bush "Black Turtle" (2 rows)
* Beans - green pole "Kentucky Wonder" (63 plants)
* Corn - sweet yellow "Country Gentleman" (4 rows in a block)
* Cucumber - (forgot the variety) (2)
* Beets - Tall Top Early Wonder (2 rows)
* Radishes - Crimson Giant (1 row inside pea trellis)
* Lettuce - mixture (1 row inside pea trellis)
* Broccoli - (1)
* Cauliflower - (4)
* Cabbage - (2)
* Garlic - (4)

I have to admit, I've bought Beauregard Sweet Potatoes, but they have been on the bottom of my priority list and I'm too exhausted to put them in tonight. But I will do it tomorrow definitely!

Here are some more photos I took today:
Sage in bloom.

Pea trellis with plants growing half-way up to the top. Also the sage is a lot bigger in this photo than the last one I took.

My one surviving broccoli plant. I don't know if it will produce much to eat, but isn't it pretty?

One of my eggplants. This photo shows two things I've done to organically help along my garden. First, I used bathroom dixie cups with their bottoms cut out to make cutworm collars for my eggplants. This should prevent cutworms from severing the stem at the surface of the ground while the plant is young and vulnerable. Also, I am mulching all of my established plants with grass clippings from lawnmowing. It does an amazing job of keeping the soil moist as the sun is already beating down on us. Unmulched soil is caked and cracked like concrete. But when I scraped away the grass clippings just next to the cracked soil, it was cool and moist and loamy. Perfect!

Today's local weather:
High temp: 78 F
Low temp: 58 F
Sunny and warm

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My garden is ready!

Here's a picture of my garden this morning. I spent hours yesterday working in it getting the last of the mulch out (9 more bags did it, for those of you keeping track). I also dug in the last of the composted cow manure. Well, most of it. You can see in the front left bed that I got the manure spread out but it didn't get dug in. By the time I got to that point yesterday around 6pm, my back and legs were calling foul. I could barely move so I thought I should stop. I had also intended to plant my sweet corn and bush beans, but I didn't get to that yet. Hopefully I'll do that either tonight or tomorrow night.

The large yellow flower is actually my collard greens leftover from last fall. They are about 5 feet tall now and covered with pretty yellow flowers. Just behind them are a couple of chive plants that are full of little round purple blossoms.

Also, in this picture you can see how my peas are growing right up the mesh on the trellises just the way they're supposed to. In front of this trellis is one of my sage plants. The sage is covered with purple buds about to burst open.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 66 F
Low temp: 44 F
Sunny with a little breeze

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kids, this is why you need to study math in school

So after a week of daily rains, it finally stopped raining today! Yay! I headed to the store to buy mulch for the walkways in my garden. All this rain is making the weeds go crazy in the garden and I have to get it in shape before the end of the month and big planting time.

I tried to carefully calculate how much mulch I'd need to buy to cover only the walkways. Using my written garden plan, I figured that I have 192 square feet of walkways in my garden. I did a google search to find a formula to help me figure out how much mulch I'd need to cover an area that big with 3 inches of mulch. The formula was something like (192 X 3) / 324 = no. of cubic yards of mulch. Based on that info, I figured I needed 1.77777 or about 1 3/4 cubic yards of mulch. OK. Simple enough, right? My problem came when I got to the store. Because I'm planning to transport it in my minivan and I want to use it today, I don't want to buy it in bulk and have it delivered. I just want to buy the bags of mulch and do it myself. Well. The bags contain 2 cubic FEET of mulch. On the spot in the crowded store I had to convert cubic yards to cubic feet. Now, I am pretty good at math, but it is a use-it-or-lose-it kind of thing. I haven't had to figure something like this for a long time. I figured each bag = 2 cubic feet so 3 bags would equal 1 cubic yard, right? If I needed 1.75 cubic yards, 5 bags should be about what I need, right? Wrong. Here's how my 5 bags looked after I spread them on the walkways in my garden:

Obviously I miscalculated and vastly underestimated the amount of mulch I'd need. Based on the coverage of these 5 bags, I think I need 9 more bags for a total of 14 bags. I give up trying to calculate the number of cubic yards.

Anyway, what I did was put down several layers of newspaper pulled from the recycling bins and I covered that with about 3 inches of mulch. This hardwood mulch is only for the walkways since it isn't good to have it so near the vegetables. I plan to use grass clippings to mulch the vegetables just like last year. The one corner I did finish looks pretty good. The empty bed in the middle is where I plan to plant some sweet corn and sweet bell peppers.

And take a look at one of my chive plants. Isn't it beautiful?

Today's local weather:
High temp: 64 F
Low temp: 50 F
Mostly cloudy

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Battling Weeds

It has been doing what it is supposed to do in April - rain. Rain is good for my garden (and I keep reminding myself of that). EXCEPT more rain inevitably means more weeds. I haven't been able to work in my garden because it has either been raining or I've been busy doing other things. This weekend I am purposely avoiding doing anything else so I can tend to my garden.

My peas are up and growing! In this picture is one of two pea trellises I built. On each side of the trellis I planted two rows of peas. I read somewhere to plant something like 16 plants per person in your family in order to get a large enough crop. So since we have 5 people, I planted a total of 80 pea plants. There were 3 or 4 that didn't come up, but most did. Also in this photo in the lower right corner is one of my sage plants that survived from last year. I also planted zinnias right next to it but they haven't come up yet. On the far end of the trellis I planted several cosmos seeds. They have come up and are about 2 inches tall. I'm thrilled they have sprouted.

The best news is that the peas look healthy. Don't you agree?

Meanwhile, my seeds inside are looking great. My biggest problem this year will likely be not having enough room in the garden to plant all that I want. Here are approximately 9 plants each of 5 different varieties of tomatoes including yellow pear, sweet 100's, and romas. There are also a couple of jalepeno pepper seedlings in the lower right corner of the picture.

I also have Cherokee Purple and Brandywine tomatoes here. Also, there is Holy Basil, Purple Ruffle Basil, and Sweet Genovese Basil. Also in this picture are Sweet Banana Pepper seedlings. I have Lemon Balm and Dill as well, but they aren't in the photo. (Yes, I see it is time to water.)

Today's local weather:
High temp: 82 F
Low temp: 62 F
Warm and windy

Friday, April 3, 2009

Already falling behind schedule

Yesterday, the high temp was 70 F which was perfect to work in the garden. We had added 400 lbs. of composted cow manure to half of the garden a couple of weeks ago. But yesterday I decided to add another 400 lbs. to the other half of the garden. My 7yo son, bless his heart, was eager to help me with his new Spongebob gardening gloves and cultivating tools. I even got my husband to help dig the manure in when I started losing steam. I was surprised by how many weeds were already there. The worst place for weeds was right at the edge of each border where it met the walkway. I used my hoe to get the biggest ones out. As soon as I get the chance (weather and money permitting), I need to buy some hardwood mulch, bring the newspapers out of the recycling bin, and cover my walkways. I can't let the weeds get the upper hand and, in my experience, that's what June is all about. What's that old saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

So anyway, we finished amending the garden soil and made plans for the walkways. Also, yesterday I noticed my peas peeking their heads above the soil. You have to look kind of close to see them, but they are definitely there. The two pea beds are on the outer northeast corner of the garden. The corner where they come together was unplanted until a few days ago. I planted cosmos seeds there. I can't wait for them to bloom!

I grew cosmos in the front yard just in front of our master bedroom window when we first moved here. As my memory serves, they grow to be around 4 feet tall with lacy foliage and delicate flowers. I bought the seeds for the variety that has flowers in different shades of pink. That's what I grew before and I loved them so I bought the same this time. I'm growing the cosmos in the garden for two reasons. First, they are beautiful and will make good cutting flowers for a vase on my summertime table. My second reason for growing them is that I hope to attract beneficial insects and bees and hummingbirds by planting a variety of flowers throughout the garden. Unfortunately, if I remember correctly, the cosmos isn't really in a phase of spectacular bloom until around September. That's a long time to wait. But it is definitely worth it.

Meanwhile, it is colder today. It rained overnight (good news for the peas and cosmos). I want and need to get back outside and do more work, but I'm waiting for it to warm up a little more. Here is my garden "to do" list for today:

* water cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and onion seedlings in indoor peat pots
* plant new flat of tomato and pepper seeds
* plant outside seeds of beets, radishes, lettuces (and maybe more cabbage/broccoli)
* plant annual flower seeds in various parts of the garden

On my kitchen table right now, I have lots of seeds to be planted. For peppers, I only have California Wonder (sweet) peppers and an early variety of jalepenos. I would like to get one more kind of hot pepper at least. As for tomatoes, I already have seeds for roma, organic cherry tomatoes, sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, yellow pear, and grape tomatoes. I have ordered seeds for Cherokee Purples and Brandywines, but they haven't arrived yet.

Tomorrow is opening day for an area farmer's market, and we plan to be there. We are gradually adapting a locavore diet (eating locally grown/farmed food as much as possible) so we plan to hit up our farmer's markets to supplement what we grow ourselves.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 53 F
Low temp: 34 F
Partly cloudy and windy with wind gusts up to 40mph.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pea trellises and seedlings

On Sunday, March 22, I bought the supplies and built these pea trellises. Lowe's didn't have the right width of plastic mesh to go up high enough. I bought the mesh that was 2' wide to go around the bottom of the trellises. I figured I'd go back and buy a second roll to add to the top once the peas start growing. The package says the peas take 7-14 days to germinate. Today is day 9. Two seeds have popped out of the soil, but I'm wondering if they were just flooded out by rain we had a couple of nights ago. See how green the grass is? Which reminds me...I need to put down newspapers and mulch in my walkways before the weeds take over.

I also started a flat of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and onion seeds a couple of weeks ago. I had them in my laundry room (the warmest room in the house) under the florescent lights. However, I think my lights are too far overhead and my seedlings became tall and leggy as a result of light starvation. Yesterday I repotted them into larger (4") peat pots. I planted them deeper in the soil and went out today and bought a florescent light to install under my kitchen cabinets. Now the repotted seedlings can sit on my kitchen counter under the lights for about 14 hours a day until they're ready to go outside. They already look happier, see?

Unfortunately, I lost several seedlings that didn't make it. I originally started 18 each of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and onions. I only transplanted the healthiest looking seedlings for a total of 3 cabbage, 3 broccoli, 3 cauliflower, and 9 onions. Also, I have my doubts that the broccoli seedlings will pull out of their slumped over lankiness. Everything else looks good though.

My next plan is to plant some more seeds, specifically tomatoes and peppers. I already have several varieties of each that I'd bought. Today I got online and ordered more: Cherokee Purples, Brandywines, sweet corn, and pole beans. I also ordered 3 types of basil, dill, and catnip. I don't plan to have an inch of unused space in this year's garden.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Work Day in the Garden

Today was a beautiful day - the first this year that I was able to be outside in short sleeves. So, of course, we had to use the day to get the garden ready. I had planned to add the compost from our compost bin to the garden to get the soil ready. But last weekend when I went to scoop it out, I realized that the tomato vines I'd added in October had not broken down and (worse) were all matted together so that the compost is an unusable mess. We stirred it up so that the heat of this coming summer will eventually break it down. But in the meantime, I needed to purchase soil amendments again this year.

Today we purchased 400 lbs. of composted cow manure with organic hummus. I spent the afternoon mixing that into 4 of the 8 beds in my garden. I prioritized and added manure to the beds that I've planned to house my cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower seedlings that are now growing in my laundry room. I also added it to the bed where I plan to plant pea seeds next weekend. Finally, I added it to the front beds. I don't plan to plant anything there for a while yet, but this is where I planted potatoes last year and they ended up rotting because of bad drainage. I think this is the neediest soil in my garden. Hopefully all the organic matter will improve the soil. The good news is that I was happy with the texture of the soil that was there when I started. And I saw lots of earthworms in the soil. Those are always a good indicator of healthy soil. Worms don't like deficient soil.

Jeff also had work to do. He noticed this weekend that our blueberry bushes look like someone has taken garden shears and snipped off the ends of the branches. See?

Anyway, he pulled the netting out of storage and covered all the berry plants. We're thinking the neighborhood wild rabbits have been eating the tender young growth. We hope it isn't too late in the season for them to snap out of it or else we won't be having any blueberries this summer.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 64 F
Low temp: 43 F
Sunny with light wind.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

And So It Begins...

Today I finally started my first seeds for the 2009 garden season. I had planned to start cabbage last weekend. But I got so busy with the "get ready for the coming week" chores that I didn't have time.

So today, I started seeds for 2 kinds of cabbage, 2 kinds of cauliflower, broccoli, and yellow onions. They are in a flat in my laundry room where it is warm until they sprout. Then I will move them under the lights.

I still have about 3 weeks before I can plant anything outside. I have bought lots of pea seeds to plant then. I will also plant lettuce and spinach then. I may even try some radishes this year.

This time of year is so exciting!

Today's local weather:
High temp: 32 F
Low temp: 24 F
Partly cloudy and windy

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Winter Garden Hiatus

Here was my garden under a foot of snow on January 31, 2009. I'm hoping that under all of that snow, the strawberries and garlic are hibernating and saving up energy to grow once the weather warms up.

Obviously, the garden is on hiatus right now and has been for several months. But...GREAT JOY...the end is near. Paul James, the host of Gardening by the Yard, is keeping me going with episodes about garden preparations and planning in the end of winter. Yesterday, I watched a recent episode that discussed French kitchen gardens (a.k.a. a potager). I was struck by how this style is so close to my own garden. I plan to look more into this concept and maybe turn my little American kitchen garden into a French kitchen garden!

I also sat down yesterday with a cup of coffee, my calendar, and a printout of the vegetable planting guide for Indiana created by the Purdue Horticultural Cooperative Extension Service. I began jotting down on my calendar when and what I will be planting this year. It looks like I need to start some of my first seeds (cabbage) in just a couple of weeks. Last year my seed-starting efforts didn't work out very well. Since then I've done lots of reading and am ready to tackle the challenge again. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I'm looking at seed catalogs and trying to decide which varieties to try this year. I'll be posting more as garden season gears up again.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 42 F
Low temp: 33 F

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year Around the Garden

Happy New Year! This is the off season in the garden and you can see my garden lies cold and bare, filled with potential for coming seasons.

Obviously we don't have any snow right now, but the temperatures are hovering around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Our strawberries have some green still showing and it looks like this sage is still alive.

The blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry bushes are bare and will be trimmed back in the spring.

Even our compost bin has slowed down its work. It is full to the top and, as you can see, our one maple tree in the front yard supplied more leaves than we could fit into the bin. I'm saving them to add to the compost bin whenever there is room.

In the meantime, I am inside and starting to think about next summer's garden. I've decided there are some things I will definitely plant again: sweet potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes (hopefully adding a few new varieties). There are some that I don't want to plant again: pumpkin, spaghetti squash, and potatoes. I'm on the fence about zucchini. I can't decide if it was worth the effort. The bugs were a pain to deal with, but I did get a good harvest before the squash vine borer destroyed my plants. I'll probably do the salad veggies again although I've tried spinach twice and just can't get it to grow. I probably won't try it again. I also don't know if I'm up to the challenge of onions yet.

New things I want to try this year include sweet corn, pole beans, and beets. I've considered growing one Brussels sprout plant. I grew one about 13 years ago when we were young and had a community garden plot. I'm the only one in my family who likes them and they take up so much space. But they are my favorite veggie so I am undecided. I also plan to incorporate some flowers in the garden this year. I want to attract the beneficial insects and pollinators that I've learned I need for a successful garden.

Now is the time to browse catalogs and read gardening info online. I still rave about Garden Web. I'm browsing online catalogs like Seeds of Change and, of course, Burpee. And since the paper magazines don't come out often enough to suit me, I look at their websites. For example, there is Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening.

So many plants to consider...

Local weather:
High temp: 36 F (feels like 26 F)
Low temp: 26 F (feels like 19 F)
50% chance of snow showers