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!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Planting time!

My lone zucchini plant. I didn't grow zucchini last year and missed it so I decided to grow it again this year.

I have had this day designated as my planting day for weeks now so I didn't let a sick kid or the threat of rain deter me. So this morning I left Jeff at home to tend the sick kid and took my 13 year old down to the Bloomington Farmer's Market in search of plants for my garden. I'd made a list based on my garden plan. That place was packed with vendors and shoppers. I ended up spending $17 and I got 4 tomato plants (2 Cherokee Purples, 1 Beefy Boy, and 1 Roma), 4 hot pepper plants (2 Jalepeno, 1 Banana Pepper, and 1 Poblano), 1 zucchini plant, 4 Sweet Genovese Basil plants, and 1 rosemary plant. I was disappointed that I couldn't find any cucumber or butternut squash plants, and the only sweet bell pepper plants I could find were California Wonder and I want Big Bertha. I also didn't buy any oregano or parsley because I was out of cash. So obviously I am not done shopping for plants although I am done for today. I am thinking of making a trip to Cox's Plant Farm near Clayton, Indiana. Next to the farmer's market, it is my favorite place to buy plants.

Above is a photo of one of the tomato plants I bought alongside a basil plant. (Returning readers will remember that I plant basil among my tomatoes to attract parasitic wasps in order to control the disgusting tomato pest, the Tomato Hornworm.) I am a bit torn about the tomato situation. I only bought 4 tomato plants today and interplanted them with basil. I am trying to learn from past mistakes and last year I learned two things about tomatoes. One is that I prefer to let my tomatoes sprawl with minor support instead of staking and pruning. I find I get more tomatoes that way. The other thing I learned is that you can't crowd tomatoes. They need their room, especially if you let them sprawl. So my 4 tomato plants and basil plants take up all the room I have for them in the garden. But 4 tomato plants is not many at all. I want to make salsa and tomato sauce and I just don't think 4 plants will cut it. But I don't know where I could fit any more in. I need to think about that a while.

My garden planting isn't done. Here's what I've planted so far: lots of snow peas (now flowering), butterhead lettuces (almost ready to start harvesting), 4 rows of beets (2 inches tall), two rows of green onions and one row of carrots (all about 1 inch tall), 2 broccoli transplants, nasturtium seeds (two sets of leaves each so far), a row of sunflowers (about 4-5 inches tall), dill seeds (sprouting), kale seeds (sprouting), 4 tomato plants, 4 basil plants, 4 hot pepper plants, 1 rosemary plant, 1 zucchini plant, and yarrow seeds (the last 6 items planted today). I have already got bush bean and pole bean seeds but I'm holding off on planting those because I'm exhausted. Still need to buy 1 oregano plant, 1 parsley plant, 2 cucumber plants, 1 butternut squash plant, 3-4 bell pepper plants, and 1-2 sweet potato plants. My perennial chives, sage, coreopsis, and lavender are coming back again. Here's what my garden looked like today when I finished (just as the rain was starting, by the way.):

Today's weather:
High temp: 68 F
Low temp: 55 F

Friday, May 7, 2010

Blackberries in bloom

Our blackberries are blooming!

I will spare you the gory details, but I was injured almost two weeks ago so I have neglected my garden during that time. I'm still using a wrist brace and hobbling on bruised legs, but today I was able to head back out to my garden. I was excited to discover the beautiful white blossoms all over our blackberry bushes.

The other plants are growing nicely and have appreciated the rain we've gotten recently. My beets are over an inch tall now so I thinned them out a bit this morning. I can also see my carrot and green onions are popping out of the soil. Also, when I planted my broccoli plants a couple of weeks ago, I planted nasturtium seeds between them and today I noticed them breaking through the soil.

In addition to weeding the peas and lettuce, I planted a few more lettuce seeds to fill in the blank spots that never germinated the first time. I found a couple of dill plants that had apparently reseeded from last year's crop. I saved them and filled in more dill seeds around them. I had an extra blank spot so I planted some kale. It is a little late in the spring to be planting that cold-weather crop, but it doesn't hurt to try. This weekend is supposed to be very cool, but I'm hoping it warms up by the 15th because that is the day I have designated planting day here in our garden. Fingers crossed!

Today's weather:
High temp: 82 F
Low temp: 47 F
Sunny and warm today, storms - possibly severe - this evening.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weeding in the rain

I've never been the prissy kind of girly-girl who was afraid to get her hands dirty (hence the name of my blog). I figure if you go through life trying to keep from getting your hands dirty, you miss out on an awful lot. My hands are dirty today.

It started raining Friday evening and has continued to rain off and on since then. It held off for a little while yesterday, but rain has never been far away. It is frustrating when it rains on the weekend when you desperately need to give some attention to your garden. This morning when I woke up around 7am, we checked the weather. said storms would be here around 11am. There was my window of opportunity. So I put on some okay-to-get-dirty clothes and headed out to the garden. By 8:45am my fingers were covered in mud.

All this rain has not only helped my seedlings germinate, it has brought weeds. Actually, weeding while it is raining is kind of a good idea. Wet earth holds onto plants much less tightly than dry earth. With rubber garden shoes on, MP3 player on shuffle, and rain gently activating my natural curl ;-) I set about weeding around my peas and the perimeter of my garden along the fence. I was done by 10am. Let the storms commence.

In other garden news, yesterday we went to the Bloomington Farmer's Market and bought my broccoli seedlings for this year's garden. The picture at the top of today's blog entry is one of those plants in its new home in my garden. While I did some browsing of other plants, I think it is still a bit too early for the other plants I have planned. I will be returning to the farmer's market when I'm ready for more plants.

The peas and lettuce, which had germinated a while ago, are growing. Some of my other seeds have popped up as well. Here are some of the beet seedlings:

And here are some of the sunflowers Dylan planted:

I am so excited - my garden is coming back to life!

Today's weather:
High temp: 61 F
Low temp: 57 F
Rain, thunderstorms, and wind.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Planting sunflowers and root crops

Today has been another beautiful day and I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon in my garden. I even managed to get Dylan to help me. He's happier than he's just the sun in his eyes.

We decided to plant sunflowers all along the back (northern) edge of the garden. They are Mammoth Russian Sunflowers that grow to be 8-12 feet tall and the flowers are 10-12 inches in diameter. These will be Dylan's project. If they grow as they're supposed to, I imagine he'll be really excited once they start towering over us.

I also decided to plant the root crops I'd been meaning to plant ever since April 3. I smoothed out the bed designated for these crops and then planted one 5' row of St. Valery Heirloom carrots, two 5' rows of White Lisbon bunching onions (green onions), and four 5' rows of Tall Top Early Wonder beets. I grew one row of beets last year as a trial crop to see both how easy they were to grow and also how easy it would be to get my family to eat them. They turned out to be easy to grow and I managed to get everyone to eat them. Dylan and I even liked them. My only regret was not planting more. So this year I am planting lots more and plan to can what we don't eat out of the ground. Green onions is another crop I didn't have enough of last year so I planted two rows and then later in the season I'll plant more.

Today's weather:
High temp: 74 F
Low temp: 48 F
Sunny with slight breeze.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Here Come the Peas, Here Come the Peas

My peas have sprouted! I basically put the camera down on the ground to get this angle. I doubt they are even an inch tall so far, but they are off to a good start. We will be watching these closely for our first harvest.

Here is our preparation work in progress. We are in the middle of digging under the green manure (winter rye and hairy vetch) that we planted last fall. We have eight beds in the vegetable garden and the one we're working on now is the fourth so far. You can see in the back of this photo two of the beds that we've finished. We are having trouble juggling work schedules, other commitments (i.e. scouts), and rain showers. But our main planting dates will be May 15 and 16 so we still have a little time left.

Today's weather:
High temp: 71 F
Low temp: 47 F
Cloudy and windy, thunderstorms this afternoon and evening, some possibly severe.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday in the Garden

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday today. The sun was shining all day long and the temperature got up to 76 degrees. Tomorrow looks like it will be more of the same so I am hoping they don't call me in to work. I have a lot to do in the garden to get it ready for the season.

Jeff and I took advantage of the great weather this afternoon and worked on digging under 3 of the beds. He was the muscle of the operation and dug it all up. I went over it all and broke up the big dirt clods with my hoe. We did a digging technique called double digging where you dig up the top layer, pile it elsewhere, and then dig a second layer. This digs the soil up a little lower than single digging would. I'm planning to plant carrots, green onions, and beets soon so I want loose, deep soil.

My peas and lettuce that I planted two weeks ago have sprouted. They are just barely cracking the soil so I don't have any pictures to share yet. No sign of the mice again. We did set two traps inside my fence near the holes where I saw the mouse when I planted the peas. However, that was several days ago and all we managed to catch was a bird. Oops. If I notice something is nibbling on my peas, I'm going to be really mad.

I also had this season's first "harvest" today. I snipped some of my chives (which are back like clockwork) to include in tonight's dinner which we enjoyed on the patio. I love this time of year!

Today's weather:
High temp: 76 F
Low temp: 46 F
Sunny and breezy

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First planting of the year!

Today I planted 150 pea seeds and two rows of lettuce. The peas are organic Oregon Sugar Pod. The lettuce is an all-season butterhead mix that contains Arctic King, Bibb, Buttercrunch, Matchless, and North Pole.

The bad news is I discovered a new challenge for this year's garden: mice have taken up residence under the garden. I need to find an organic way to keep them away from my plants. Growing a garden is like raising kids...every year brings new challenges.

Today's weather:
High temp: 68 F
Low temp: 39 F
Mostly cloudy with occasional sun coming through.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pea trellises are in!

It is a sunny 60 degrees here on St. Patrick's Day so I spent this afternoon repairing and installing my pea trellises in their 2010 garden home. I used the twine I bought the other day to resecure both joints on both trellises. (Here is a link to a post that I made last summer that includes a picture of what the trellises look like.) I rotate my crops each year to minimize the spread of disease and to replenish the soil nutrient-wise. Last summer the peas were at the northeast corner of the garden. This year they will be along the western edge. I plan to plant peas and lettuce (and maybe some spinach) this weekend.

Today's weather:
High temp: 62 F
Low temp: 36 F
Sunny and breezy

Friday, March 12, 2010

Turning over the soil, taking tools out of storage, and dusting off my blog

Yesterday was officially the first day of the 2010 gardening season at my house. The weather, for the first time, was sunny and a balmy 65 degrees. I want to do some improvements and expansions this year so it occurred to me I need to sit down and come up with a plan if I want to get everything ready before planting time. I gathered my materials around me: the new farmer's almanac, my sketch plan for the 2010 garden, several gardening books, my calendar, and some blank paper. I made a list of all the plants for this year's garden and looked up on the Purdue Extension Office website the recommended planting dates for each plant in our area. It shouldn't have surprised me, but the first planting dates are right around the corner (March 20 for peas and lettuce).

So I went outside into the garden and was pleased that the soil is fairly dried out (amazing considering the amount of snow we got in February this year). I had planted cover crops last fall: winter rye and hairy vetch. They are considered green manure which nourish the soil. So, as I'd read to do, I went out into the area I intend to plant with peas and lettuce and turned the soil. Literally. I turned it upside down so that the grasses are now underground where they can rot and send nutrients into the soil. I was thrilled to see the soil is in great shape. Very nice and healthy tilth and tons of earthworms (always a sign of healthy garden soil).

Then I got into the barn and dug out my pea trellises from last year. I had used plastic mesh stapled to the wood frames and that part was still in tact. But the twine I had used to secure the joints of the trellises had started rotting and I realized I'd used the last of our twine last fall. So I headed to Lowe's to buy some more twine. In the short time I was there, the clouds rolled in and it began to sprinkle. And then rain. Ah spring... So I never did get the chance to fix the trellises and get them set up. I am planning to do that on Saturday.

Also, I am planning to add 6 feet to the south end of my garden this year (6' X 20' = 120 sq. ft.). This will mean redoing our fencing and I haven't figured out how I am going to get rid of the grass that is there now. I'm going back and forth about a couple of different options. The truth of the matter is that it probably won't be really good garden soil until the 2011 garden, but that's okay. I'll do what I can this year.

I just love this time of year. I can't wait for the green to return.

Today's weather:
High temp: 60 F
Low temp: 42 F
Cloudy with drizzly rain.