Friday, August 5, 2011

Status report....notes 1/2 way through the season and thoughts for next year

Its roughly 1/2 way through the growing season here and I thought to take some notes.  Something I can go back to in the winter and early part of spring while I'm sitting down with graph paper laying out the garden (no I'm not kidding I really do use graph paper)

Few things to remember for next year.

I need to get the Japanese beetle traps up soon in early June.  Even if they are not bad yet the moment I see one its time to get them up.

I need more poles for my pole beans.  I spaced them too far apart this year and haven't gotten NEARLY enough beans from them.  I know part of its from the beetles I'm battling but there's still unused space and its frustrating when I weed it just to weed it.  Remember to inoculate the beans too.

Maybe we'll do some bush beans....still trying to decide if I want to give them a go or not.

Plant less zucchini and squash.  I've got 6 of each and I'm collecting way more than I can eat.  I could do 3 of each and still have more than I need.  They taste great but Holy Moses I've got a lot to eat.

Plant less potatoes.  Yes they taste good but I used them to suck up space in the garden since I got all sorts of crazy looks when I told people how many tomatoes I planted.

Plant more tomatoes.  We are going through them, no reason not plant more.  Speaking of planting tomatoes, Im going to go ahead and plant some black krims next year.  If nothing else they should make great soup or sauce.  That's what I keep hearing so Ill give them a try.

Plant more cucumbers.  We're eating them.  I could use about 2 more slicers and 2 more picking.  So 6 and 6 instead of 4 and 4.  That would be great.  Eventually I'd like to trellis them but right now its just not going to happen.

Plant another type of watermelon in addition to the Sugar Babies.  Its always a toss up where we are if we'll get a watermelon crop but a couple of bigger watermelons wouldn't hurt to try.

Maybe not do pumpkins next year.  They are an invasive pain in my arse.  Yes it will be good to have the kids all come over to pick them, to carve them they are a pain to have to keep moving/redirecting vines and are taking up space for things I could be eating or canning to eat later.  Maybe Ill grow one or 2 for my daughter and that's it.  Maybe I won't even do that, I don't know.

Grow some herbs.  Dill for sure and bay leaf I think.

Pass on growing onion, and garlic.  Don't eat enough of them to take up the space on them.

Maybe plant a yellow cherry tomato next to the regular cherry tomato plant we had this year.

Maybe plant ground cherries.

Look into plum tomatoes.

That's the list so far........

Weekly Harvest Weigh In #7

Alright I know I'm busted.  I've been meaning to get off my arse and get this done but with the new job and keeping on top of the projects around here, its just fallen on the way side.

Heck the only thing I've done with the computer lately is walk past it.  I've been too tired to mess with the blog.  So please forgive me for slacking on this.

Its been a good season so far.  I've gotten more yellow squash and zucchini than I anticipated.  I definitely over planted on both of those.  I am harvesting at least 1 squash or zucchini every few days, if not both.  Its been unreal.  I just got a recipe for zucchini relish so I'll be making up some of that to help use up all the zucchini I've got going.  I'm also going to retry to make more zucchini fruit snacks.  I'm going to keep a closer eye on the dehydrator so hopefully I have fruit snacks instead of fruit flavored jerky zucchini.

I also will try using some of the yellow squash in place of zucchini with the relish recipe since I've got so many of those too.  I really did over plant those.

My tomatoes are doing good, I picked 1.5lbs of this last week.  We're eating them on sandwiches like they are going out of style.  My wife doesn't even bother with any bacon or lunch meat just tomato sandwiches she's that pleased with this years crop.  Its been a nice balance of Romas and Early Girls, but there are a BUNCH of Romas waiting to be color up.  They are taking their time but that's ok.  When they come in its going to be in a rush.  Then its salsa and soup time.

My cucumbers are doing great too.  LOTS of picking cucumbers.  We've made 6 quarts of dill spears already.  These next ones we'll turn into bread and butter pickles.  They've slowed down a bit but they still are doing good.  They are being overtaken by the pumpkins though so we'll see.

My watermelons are doing good too.  I've got a handful of them that are the size of cantaloupes but I'm not sure on picking them yet.  The curling tendrils are still green or I don't have any tendrils.  They have very dark  dull looking skin, no shine at all so I'll have to look for the yellow spot and the fingernail test.  I'm just afraid I'm going to pick them too early. 

My pole beans are doing good.  The plants themselves are going strong finally.  Got 2 beans off them.  Then the Japanese beetles moved in and now they are going gonzo on the leaves.  So all the blossoms are not able to develop since the plant is losing nutrients to the holes the beetles have put in the leaves.  I gotta get traps up.  Its really bad.

I've already picked a few sweet peppers and WOW they are good.  Big, sweet, nice full walled sweet peppers they are great.  I've also got over a half pound of jalapeno peppers too.  3 plants have given me that many.  So far so good!

I'll have to go back and get the numbers to give a current weight but all in all we're holding our own here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

From the most humble beginnings...

Before....looking east to west across the garden.  This picture was taken in April.

And taken just a few days ago at the end of July.  This was taken from the N.E. corner

The work has begun to pay off, and I'm so grateful I have this resource available to me and my family.  Its work but when I look at the cost of food these days and all the nonsense going on about the global economy I appreciate it even more.

Especially when you get great things like

Of course I remembered to take a picture AFTER we already ate the other cucumber and ate 2 other tomatoes that would have been part of this picture.  Its been a nice slow build on production so far.  Soon though its going to be canning time with lots of Romas and peppers to make salsa and tomato sauce.

A just a little preview of what's to come

I can't wait!

Thanks for looking

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Green Zebra tomatoes

I felt like I should do a little update on these guys.  

This was the first one I found in my garden.  I get such a kick out of their coloration even when they are little.  I've never had them before but everything I've read about them has been very encouraging.  I had room for these or Mr Stripey and given what I've heard about Mr Stripey I'm glad I went with the Green Zebras.  I've never had a green tomato before so it wasn't much of a choice.

Here's the same tomato a few weeks later.

Here's an even better example of how they look.  

They have that mottling and unique color from itty bitty and they just keep getting bigger and bigger and more of them.  They have been quite prolific too.  Good balance between leaf growth and number of tomatoes.  They were the last ones to blossom when compared to my Early Girls, Romas, Better Boys, and Lemon Boys but they've more than made up for their slow start.  

I always go and check on these on my daily pumpkin watering trips to see how they are doing.  I'm dying to taste them, and I hope they taste as good as they look so I can justify planting them again next year.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ever feel like you were born at the wrong time?

I'm totally serious.  In this modern age we have of internet accessible everything, constant updates swarming you like an angry cluster of yellow jackets.  The ability to have at your fingertips literally any morsel of information and at least 3 interest groups and a message board to converse and share about the mutual interest of whatever you were looking up. 


Sometimes I just feel like I just don't belong.  Like I was born too late.  I like some of the outdated things that are just novelty that some nostalgic folks try to preserve and hold onto.  Things like horse racing, the sport of Kings.  I can watch them run all day.  No I don't gamble, I've never bet on a horse race I just love watching them run.  There was a time when races were called on the radio.  And not just the Triple Crown either.  I enjoy listening to baseball games on the radio.  I like the creaking of an old wood floor underneath my feet worn down but silk smooth from so many feet traveling over it.  I like wool, peppermint candies (especially York peppermint), midgies (I linked it for the uninformed and for those who may have forgotten) and a Hershey bar with almonds.

I like muzzleloaders, especially the old flint locks.  I really want an old Kentucky Long rifle replica with a flint lock to hunt during Michigan's muzzleloader season.  Yes it can be a long time between click and boom, sometimes it may even misfire, but there is something special about hunting with one.

The fair is coming up here and I know one day they'll have the draft horse pull.  I can watch those big horses pull all day as I love watching them work.  If I had the money, and space I'd love to have a team of Belgians or Percherons to work with.  Heck since we're talking about dreams, I think it would be great to own a horse logging business.  Where instead of tractors, and big loaders, I hook up the chains and my big draft horses would pull the logs out just like they did way back in the day.

I love the work of a good dog.  When instinct and drive are given the opportunity to really showcase what they can do, it is really something to behold.  When you could walk down the road with your dog, unleash them and start putting up pheasants.  Or walk out to the river and limit out on ducks with the dog nailing his marks and tracking the cripple that made up a double.  On a good day limit out before lunch and you know what you were going to have for Sunday dinner.

Speaking of that, how about when Sunday dinner was a special event when you went to Grandma and Grandpa's house, played with your cousins and fell asleep on the way back home.

When a wood splitter was a 9lbs maul and a need to heat the house.

When red and black plaid coats were in the Sears catalog not on some "remember when" website.

I don't feel like an old soul, and I'll be the first to admit I often times don't act like one.  Maybe we just hear about the good times as that's what told to us.  Regardless I think I'd fit in just fine.

Weekly harvest weigh in #5

Sorry I missed everybody last week.  We went camping for 6 days and it was a MUCH needed vacation. we go 

Well I finally have a harvest to speak of.  Well sort of.

3 Jalapenoes, 2 yellow squash, 3 baseball bat sized zucchini and a lone cherry tomato.  Nothing super crazy but we're coming along here.  I deliberately let the zucchini get big.  Why?  So I can make zucchini snacks!  I got a dehydrator off Craigslist for 10 bucks.  Its never been used. The woman I bought it from said her boyfriend bought it, they split up and he left it there.  She was cleaning up and wanted it out since she said she'd never use it.  So I got a TOTALLY great deal.  I'm pretty pumped as the reviews the recipe got were great so I'm excited to give it a go.  

My first 2 Early Girl tomatoes.

I've got a bunch of pickling cucumbers ready to go any day now I just need to get the supplies to make pickles.  They are going bonkers out there.

And I've got watermelons!!!  I didn't think I was going to get any but I've easily got over a dozen in various sizes.  The biggest ones I have are the size of a softball.  I'm so pumped!  I didn't think I was going to get any watermelons this year, but with the heat that we've been under, the watermelons are happy as anything out there.

I've also got one pumpkin the size of a football!  Its big, dark green and growing good.  Its close to the plant as it didn't vine out much but that's ok.  The funny part is not only is it NOT a giant pumpkin its also in the northern most part of the pumpkin row!  I can't figure it out.  It must have been pollinated early and its just quietly doing its thing.

My big pumpkin has got vines all over the place and lots of blossoms.  The biggest pumpkin its got is the size of a baseball.  Time will tell if they really develop into anything special.  I've been watching them; noting how fast they grow.  So far so good.  I've already removed 1 of the would be giants because it would have grown right into some peppers and end up crushing them.  Of course it was growing quickly but I didn't want to sacrifice the peppers for the big pumpkin.

With the big pumpkin experiment, I don't know if there will be a 2012 giant pumpkin in my patch or not.  Its quite invasive like I'd expect a pumpkin to be and the leaves are absolutely huge Id expected too.  The problem is, it sucks up water like its going out of style.  Its unreal!!!  I give it 4-6 gallons a day from the watering can depending on how hot the day is.  If I don't water it, the leaves all get droopy and it looks like its pouting.  Talk about high maintenance and honestly its not something else I need to deal with.  At first it was fun, but its becoming a daily chore, and something I'm not sure I want to keep doing.  Maybe the pay out will be worth it, but right now I'm not 100% sold on doing this again next year.  Maybe Ill just focus on growing more carving type pumpkins for the kids.  I don't know the jury is still out.

I've got a bunch of Roma tomatoes that I'm waiting to turn.  I'm going to have a number of jars of sauce.

My Green Zebras are doing well and getting bigger.  I love the pattern on them they really look wild.  I hope the flavor is as good as they appear.  They say they have a "zippy flavor" so we'll see what that means.  My Lemon boys are coming along well too.

And on another happy note my pole beans are blooming.  A few of them have reached up to the top and are trying to find new places to intertwine themselves.  I was antsy about them with this being the first year I've had them, but I think I might keep them around for next year.  I'll definitively start them a few weeks earlier and inoculate them with nitrifying bacteria to help give the plants everything they need.  I might, and I say might do some bush beans too.  Everybody I know has had issue with woodchucks, and other assorted critters eating the blossoms off, so you never get a crop so we'll see.  Im not one for canned beans.  Id rather have fresh stuff that was imported to this area than anything out of a can.  Well....maybe if I did it.

I'm off to make zucchini candy and Ill be sure to post my results.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thought Id take the camera along to water and weed

And took these shots to share

First stop was to check on my yellow squash and there it is

and another one growing right along near it.  They are doing very well.  Half of this row is yellow squash the other half is zucchini.  The zucchini are trying to catch up.  They lost all their blossoms with the last thunderstorms we had come through so even though the plants themselves look good, no zucchini yet.

Saw my red skin potatoes were starting to bloom.

WATERMELON BLOSSOMS!!!!  These little buggers appear and disappear so fast I have a hard time remembering which plant flowered.  I'm really excited about getting watermelons.  I don't care for the watermelons you buy in the store, I think they lack flavor and sweetness.  To me its like biting into a damp sponge.  No thank you.  Maybe I'm a watermelon snob I don't know but I do know what I don't like.  My wife and daughter eat the store bought melon without complaint and think they taste fine but I just don't care for them.  So I'm hoping to get a few this year and show them what a REAL watermelon tastes like.

Oh Pickles!  Well maybe I should be more specific...they are picking cucumbers that are going to be made into pickles.  If half of the blossoms I have produce cucumbers, then I'm going to be in a pickle with what to do with all them.  They are really doing well for me.

Giant pumpkin picture.    
Its got 2 blooms on it and hopefully producing pumpkins anytime now  The growth on this thing is amazing.  I swear I could check on it after breakfast and by dinner time its grown that much more.  Its really impressive.

Sweet pepper.  Bunch of these are coming in, and more to follow. 

I put this picture up of my Green Zebra tomato plant.  I thought it was wild that you can already see the "zebra" pattern.  I've never had one but when I saw the flavor description as "zippy" I figured why not.  Plus the price was right.

And one of my day lilies.  
I thought this would be a good note to end on.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekly harvest weigh in #3

Well we're 
close to having something to weigh in with this week.  Ah the joys of being a Zone 5 gardener.....

The list of just not quite there yet is growing.  I've got a handful of yellow crooked neck squash that need a few more days, same with my first crop of jalapenos.  I was told the smaller they are the hotter they are so I'm going to give them a few extra days.  We've had a few warm nights here too so I figure they might be pretty warm on the palate so I figure a few extra days won't hurt anything.

My cucumbers are blooming like nothing else.  TONS of small yellow flowers on my straight eights and my pickling cukes as they creep along the garden.  They look really good and Ill have a TON of cucumbers here soon.  My pickling ones were the first to bloom and they've already got little cukes developing.  I'm really excited about making pickles.  I love a good crisp kosher dill pickle so yes I'm very excited about the volume of pickles I've got coming in.

My watermelons are blooming and are very happy.  I planted Sugar Babies and for a while there I didn't think anything was really going to come of them.  Here in Michigan its always hit or miss on whether or not we get a  watermelon crop or not.  Well they sprang to life these last couple weeks and this week I've got blooms.  So hopefully we'll get a few watermelons.  Everything I've read about the Sugar Baby watermelons are very positive so I just hope they come through for me.  I knew planting them they might not develop but to me it was worth a try.  I have high hopes they'll come through but if not I won't be surprised.  

Now if only my cucumbers would talk to my pole beans.  Talk about disappointment.  I set up five teepees with Kentucky Pole Beans and figured Id have plenty of beans.  Well we all know what happens when we assume.....I've got a few that are climbing but nothing really to speak off and its frustrating.  The one thing I was really looking forward to was fresh green beans.  My wife and I both love them.  The best performing ones might be 3' off the ground.  And that one or two vines too.  Planted them a few days after Memorial Day weekend too.  I figured Id be already picking them.  Nope.  Right now I'm less than thrilled with them.  I planted them so Id actually get beans since the woodchucks tend to eat the blossoms off bush beans so they never produce beans, and I thought it would be nice to spread my crop out over the season and not just get a glut of beans and then be done.  Next year I'm going to do both types bush and pole to cover all my bases.

On a better note I do have a bunch of tomatoes developing.  I found one growing on my Lemon boys, and a found one so far on my Green Zebra and more on my Early Girls, and Better Boys.  The Romas are doing well also.  I haven't looked that hard either on my non-traditional tomatoes but both are blooming well and should produce.

My cherry tomato that's up by the house in a pot is just going bonkers.  Its loaded in blossoms and when they all set fruit we're going to have A LOT of cherry tomatoes.  If the Lemon Boy experiment goes well I'll plant a yellow cherry variety up here along with the Super sweet 100 that I've already got going to give us a little variety.

So other than my pole beans everything looks really good.  The pole beans are the most insulting too because the teepees are just bare rods and you can't hep but realize something should be growing there.

I don't know if I'll make the next weigh in or not, we're going camping next week so I might miss a week.  If that's the case I'll post it just might not be linked.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Quest

So I figured since I've been nurturing this bad boy carefully, I thought I'd post some pictures of it.  The pictures I took of the blossoms on the Jack-O-Lanterns didn't come out well so I didn't post them as I mentioned earlier.  So when I went out to feed/water the giant one, I figured Id take the camera to post some pictures of its progress.

This is my lone Atlantic Dill Giant Pumpkin.  I was inspired to grow giant pumpkins for my daughter.  I know she'll get a kick out of  a huge pumpkin in the garden this fall.  Since I've only got one, its easy to keep up with.  I started 2 of them this year, but one just failed to thrive so I culled it, and replaced it with a Jack-O-Lantern type of pumpkin start that was an extra.  I started with a 10 carving pumpkins and planted the best ones, and held back the remaining few just in case.  I'm glad I did so I had something to replace the failed giant pumpkin.  I wasn't sure if I was going to cull it at first since the initial leaves didn't look right, but when it wasn't keeping pace with this one, I knew it was time replace it.  I couldn't dedicate the space to something that might not do well.

I've done a lot of reading on the tips and techniques to grow a really big pumpkin.  The best tip I got was to have a little bit of luck.  I was like "Really?!"  Its kind of funny to see that, but these are also by folks who are growing pumpkins that weigh in over 1,000lbs!!!!!  That's crazy!  If I can get it over 300lbs I'd consider it a major success but if I had a 1,000lbs pumpkin you could knock me over with a feather.

Anyway after reading what the "experts" suggest for tips on getting a big one, I felt I was doing most things right already.  I started them in peat pots early, feed them with a water soluble fertilizer 3x a week, and water them daily.  Now its just a matter of time.  Its loaded with blossoms, I'm just waiting till they open.

I'm planning keeping a journal (on here of course) of each pumpkin that sets on the vine so I can monitor their growth (which all the experts do apparently) for a week.  They chart the rate of growth and the pumpkin with the fastest rate of growth is the one they keep.  All the others are removed so the plant focuses all its energy into that one pumpkin.

A little size perspective.  I was so impressed with the size of the leaf I thought Id share it.  The vine that's coming out is already gained a few inches overnight.  It grows and grows and grows.  Its headed into the watermelons, which will make things interesting.  

These are my gardening shoes.  After getting grief over them I thought Id immortalize them here.  I hate to replace them because they still function even they need duct tape to function and besides I need a pair of shoes I can get dirty and work in.  When I replace them it will be with another pair of Walmart special seven dollar sneakers that Ill only wear outside to work in.  But right now they're doing just fine.

Alright off to go feed again!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Just checking in

So I figured I go check on things in the garden.  I had to water my big pumpkin anyway so I took the camera with me in case anything caught my eye.

Well it sure did.

Early Girl Tomatoes

These are the first tomatoes I've found so far.  There are plenty more blooms along the plants too.

My Jalapenos....bring on the salsa!

First blooms I found too on my pickling cucumbers.  I'm anxious to try out the pickle recipes I found.  I look forward to crunching on some of these at deer camp this fall.


I was a little worried about these guys because they didn't like the cool ground temperatures we had a week or so ago, but they came back just fine.  You can see the other blooms in the picture too and I look forward to lots of sauce this season.

So far so good, its shaping up to be a good season so far.  Zucchini and my yellow crooked neck squash are blooming to beat the band like they always do. 

I had some pictures of my pumpkin blossoms but they didn't come out so I didn't put them up.  My big pumpkin is starting to vine and its got blossoms on it too.  I'm SUPER excited to see how big it will grow.  First year for me and the whole giant pumpkin thing but it looks really good.  My daughter is the reason I decided to grow a big pumpkin this year.  I bought the seeds with the hope of having one big enough to carve and put her inside with the lid closed.  She's 3, and old enough to really understand the difference between the normal Jack-O-Lanterns (which I also have) and a real big pumpkin.  

Its amazing when I stop and think about all the things she inspires in me.  I hear people saying how being a Dad is rewarding but until you get to experience it, there really is nothing like it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weekly harvest weigh in #2

Well here is, and I can't believe a weeks passed already.  Things here are looking good.  My father-in-law who's wisdom in the garden I trust completely was kind enough to loan me his rototiller to help keep my garden in check.  He's an old country boy who grew up on a farm.  He's kept a garden longer than anybody I know personally and he's quite successful because he's got a wealth of knowledge to pull from.  He moved his garden to a different location and kept it smaller this year so he said its easier for him to use a garden hoe to keep weeds in check then muscle the rototiller through it.

Well I've got the opposite problem.  Trying to hoe by hand a 2,000 sq ft garden is no joke.  I was doing ok, but it could be a lot better.  So I still do some weeding and hoeing by hand, but I fired up that Brigs and Stratton tiller and got to down to business.  And I'm VERY grateful for that rototiller.  Yes it bucks like a bronco at the rodeo, but that's a trade I'll make considering I just don't have the time to keep things in check otherwise with all the rain we've gotten.

So as far as the updates go things are doing really good.

Holy Moses!  What is that?!

My jalapenos are doing great.  I've got probably a half dozen peppers on the best producing one in various sizes.  I did discover something pretty wild when I found a purple pepper growing on one of jalapeno plants!!  Surprise!!!  That threw me at first and after asking about it on TEG  That plant is slower to produce but the purple pepper is just wild.  I thought I was just getting a jalapeno plant not purple ones.  I'm curious to see how the flavor compares to the green ones and to see how the rest of the peppers from that plant develop.  

I've got a handful of Early Girl tomatoes that are coming in, and even more Romas.  The plants have even more blossoms that have yet to set fruit, so I'm hoping those will get pollinated and develop too.  My Big Boys are doing very well, the consistently look the best from plant to plant with lots of blossoms, with my Romas with some of them looking not looking so hot, to some that look great, and the Early Girls fall in between those 2.

My Green Zebras look alright.  They don't look bad, but they are not as robust as Id like either.  They are blooming but its tough when I compare their growth to the other maters in the garden they look ok.  My Lemon Boys though, holy Moses!!!  They are thick, and look fantastic!!!  Good number of blossoms but the plants themselves look like if they were not caged they'd take over the garden!  I have high hopes for them considering their growth.  I've never eaten a yellow tomato, but if their flavor is anything like how they grow, they will become a staple in my garden.

Got my first blossom on my Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins, and my giant pumpkin is already producing vines and its got a bunch of buds almost ready to open.  I'm really psyched about trying to grow a BIG pumpkin.  If I can get one over 200lbs I'll be thrilled.  I can't even imagine if I grew a REALLY big one.  I just want a pumpkin that I have to carve with a chainsaw and its big enough for my 3 y.o. daughter to climb into and put the lid on.

I also saw a great recipe on making zucchini candy that I'm going to try this year.  From all the reviews I've heard about it, why not?  They are already blooming and getting ready to start producing.  I think its going to shape up to be a very tasty year.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Harvest Garden Weigh Along

And here we go!

Being a member of the gardening communty called "The Easy Garden" and having planted such a large garden I decided I had to get in on in on this.  I had planned on keeping tabs on how the garden was doing and how much I harvested but to be able to be apart of something more? 

Ill have to get an official count on my plant totals to help see how my production goes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

They say the first step

is admitting you have a problem.  Well....I have a problem.  A tomato problem.  First it started with wanting romas in addition to the slicing tomatoes.  Then I found a few Lemon Boys that I found at a good price and had the room for (mentioned in an earlier post) and then it got even worse when I found 2 very well developed Green Zebra tomatoes for 25 cents a piece!  They were in 3" pots and I just couldn't say no.  Did I need them?  Absolutely not, but a deal like that?  How could I pass that up?!

I somehow managed to avoid the black tomato craziness, but I did look pretty hard at the Cherokee purples that I found next to them for the same price.  Given that they are prone to cracking, and the description of their flavor it didn't really appeal to me like the Green Zebras did.  So now I've got yellow beefsteaks, green zebras, and lots of slicing and roma tomatoes.  I needed another tomato plant like I needed a hole in the head, but whats done is done.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

And the maintance begins

Was out in the garden the other day and the pole beans are poking through and already taking off at a breakneck pace.  I'm really impressed with how fast they grow.  Reminds me of Morning Glory how fast these things just seem to explode out of the ground.  In 48hrs they are already close to climbing.  Which was really encouraging.  I'm anxious to get them going, so the teepees don't look so bare.

I already had to hill some of the potatoes.  I bought them pretty early out of a fear I wouldn't get any.  Well they all had sprouts easily 4" long and that was in a closed bag in the laundry room!  Was a little weird to see them with already with growth.  Like they were undead potatoes trying to climb out of the bag to get us.  They were pretty pale, but they were there.  So I opened the bags, let the sun hit them to help encourage growth, and got them in the ground.  Well the leaves have started to open up on quite a few of them and I went out and rehilled them.  It was just dirt that was handy I hadn't expected to have to hill them yet.  We got a good soaking rain last night, so the ground settled and left a good amount of the stems exposed. 

I had wanted to hill them with compost but I happened to be there and it was all I had available.  Now that I know they are trying to do this, Ill have the compost ready for next time.  I figured I had a few weeks.  Apparently not, but thats ok cause I hope it will lead to more potatoes.  It was mostly the red skins which were quite aggressive.  A few of the russets had just started to sprout a few leaves too and the Adirondack blues have too.  But their sprouts were thick and much more compact.  They were in a mesh bag instead of a brown paper grocery bag so I don't know the occasional light had something to do with it or not.

I have to say though, the leaves that the purple potatoes put up?  GORGEOUS!  They remind me of Coleus with these beautiful bi-colored leaves.  The russets are actually the slowest starting of the 3 kinds which surprised me.  I thought for sure the Adirondack blues (aka the purple potatoes) would be the slow growers being they are a special bred potato.

Anyway I gotta get out and weed.  Maybe Friday Ill do that.  Its looking kind of ragged out there, and with it being so close to the driveway, I can't hide my lack of work on it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It never gets old

While I was out planting I took my Golden retriever Jager with me to keep me company.  Its pronounced (Yah-grr) which means hunter in German.  Well he was sniffing around the edge of the hay field, casting into the wind, back and forth and started to work into the hay.  I stopped because I saw he was on a scent and watched his tail through they hay as he worked the scent cone.

A scent cone is created from an object that produces the scent and it spreads out in the shape of a cone from the source.  The scent gets weaker as the cone gets wider and dogs learn to work the cone, weaving in and out finding the edges then turning back into the scent following it as it gets stronger to the source.  The concept is the same from bird dogs through detection dogs.  So long as the scent is in the air, and not on the ground this is how dogs work it.

So my curiosity was up to see what he was following so intently.  I didn't have to wait long.  I heard the cackle of a rooster pheasant and a sudden explosion as that pheasant exploded up out of the hay my boy in hot pursuit. He flew away and I recalled Jager letting the rooster land at the edge of the hedgerow and off he went to go find shelter there.  Jager came back all proud of himself and I was praising him furiously for a job well done.

We've had this rooster around the property now for a while.  About a month a go I saw him strut past the french doors all full of himself.  He's a beautiful boy, and doing well.  Sometimes Ill hear him call and I keep hoping he's talking to his lady friend with a mess of chicks in tow.  Its probably wishful thinking but I can't help  but hope.

When Jager returned to a heel and I then released him, I thought about how many times that scene has played itself out again and again all over the country, for generations of hunters.  Good dogs chasing wily birds only to have them suddenly take flight for us to take up the chase.  That brief moment when the bird had just cleared the hay and Jager was leaping up chasing him skyward was pure poetry.  Watching a dog doing something he's been bred to do over generations and being able to witness all that hard work and instinct coming to be, its just pure magic for me.  It never, ever gets old.  Doesn't matter if its coon dogs baying treed, or Border collies moving sheep, or retrievers plunging into icy cold water to pick up a downed mallard.  There is something about good dog work to me that I absolutely love.

I have no intention of chasing that rooster.  He gets a free pass.  We don't get many of them around here anymore.  Not like how our parents, and the grandparents remember.  So when I see a wild one like that refuse to chase him.  He's got enough working against him without me and my good dog pressuring him.  That won't stop me though from enjoying the time when Jager gets wind of him and wants to give him a run for his money though.

Well its planted

Finally got it all done.  The garden was turned over completely on the Sunday before Memorial day, and I started planting it on that Wednesday.  It was hot, and tough out there by myself.  My wife had things she had to get done, so I was flying solo out there.  After a marathon planting session I got most of it in the ground.  Everything was already up and waiting to go in except for the pole beans.  They are in, and I'm patiently waiting for them to show themselves.

Came back to it on Friday to dig the trenches for the potatoes and got those in.  I got all those in plus my blue potatoes which only took up maybe 10ft.  So that left me with a row in the middle of my garden that was just open.  Sooooo......I created what I call my Misfit's row.  Its filled it with my left over orange sweet peppers, and a few big boy tomatoes I had as extras.

So off to TSC I went to go get tomato cages.  And what do I find?  Lemon Boy tomatoes on sale.  Knowing I still had room left over, I picked up 2 of them.  I wasn't going to plant anything that wasn't "normal" but I just couldn't help myself especially after the yellow tomato discussion at Flower day.  These were large, well developed plants.  So into the Misfits row they went.  And I picked up another jalapeno plant and I called it good.  Maters are caged and I'm in pretty good shape.

Now if we can just get some rain.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Patience is a virtue

I try to keep reminding myself of this, but its really being tested these last few weeks.  The frustration of letting my garden slowly fill with weeds as I wait for the weather to break long enough to get the tractor in there is frustrating to say the least.

I had thought about planting 2 weeks ago but that seemed early as we usually get one more good frost after Mothers Day so I waited.  Now with all the rain we've gotten (lets not forget the mosquitos) its been just too soft to safely get any equipment out there.  So I'm stuck in a holding pattern, like many of my fellow midwestern gardeners.  We're all just waiting idle.  Reading about the folks in California and the Carolinas are not helping anything when they talk about how they've already pulled out their canners.  Then I remind myself the Carolinas have things like fire ants, and the ability to start canning in May is SOO not worth fire ants.  And California?  Do I need to say more?

The good new is my one giant pumpkin that I wasn't sure was going to pull through given the very damaged first 2 leaves it put up is showing hints of a 3rd!  I figured it was going to slowly die given its lack of any new growth, but this 3rd leaf has given me hope.  I only started 2 giant pumpkins this year anyway I didn't want to be saturated with giant pumpkins, but the thought of going into this summer with only 1 was making me a bit nervous.  Note for the future plant at least a 3rd one so I'm not so concerned about it.  I've got at least 6 or 7 carving pumpkins too so we should have a nice little patch to pull from come Halloween for  all the kids in the family.

The giant pumpkins and my Adirondack Blue potatoes are the only oddities that I planted this year.  No purple sweet peppers, or chocolate varieties.  I really wanted to do some different tomato varieties but I didnt get a trellis built due to my garden running north and south this year to give me more room for more different types of plants.  I may go east/west next season after taking stock of our production and make changes.  If thats the case then Ill put in a trellis and grow some indeterminate tomatoes.  So no black, pink, yellows, or green tomatoes either.  Its a pretty standard year for us with Early girls and Better boys with a row of Romas too.

I saw some Yellow Brandywine tomato tomatoes at Flower Day that were started by the Hometown Harvest Organics folks calling to me pretty intensely but the lack of a trellis kept me from picking them up. I got their card and will be contacting them about next season to some different tomatoes to try.  Id rather buy a bunch of different transplants and put those in to decide what we like so I'm not giving up a lot of space to tomatoes that to us are so-so in flavor or are really difficult to get good maters from.  I love to garden but its also about production for us.

In any event with the weather supposedly pretty nice this weekend I hope we can knuckle down and get things started.  They are all busting out of their pots and ready to go.  Everything but the beans, but I've got faith those will do fine once they hit the soil.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Whoop there it is

Yep that's it....

Here's my latest hope for this spring and summer.  I know it looks like a big brown spot of blah....but the potential that it holds just waiting to be unleashed has yet to be measured.  And by the end of this summer I hope it exceeds all my expectations with all the research hours and man hours I've put into it already.

That's my garden.  All 2,000 square feet of it.  Seeds are here and will be started in the next couple of days.  I openly admit I've spent too many hours planning and scheming to put everything in place just right to get the most out of it.

I wish I was kidding.  I planned it all out on paper, and have redone the numbers a few more times just to be sure I've got it right.  I rerun the numbers just to make sure I haven't over estimated or not accounted for something.  The worst of it is until till its planted I won't stop thinking about it.  Because once its planted at that point its done.  Then I can move and actually respond to it, rather than deal with issues I can think up instead of what's being really going on.  I feel like an invading general with my legions of vegetables ready to conquer and hold the territory, as I make arrangements to strategically place them. 

I've already put down 12 wheelbarrow loads of manure in it to help ammend the clay that I'm working with, which I know will make a difference to.  I don't know but I know somethings better than nothing.
So down will go my jack-o-lanterns, my sugar baby watermellons.  The early girls, the better boys, the romas and a few cherries.  The cucumbers, the yellow squash, and zucchini.  Red skins, russets, and a couple of purple potatoes (for the kids at Thanksgiving dinner) and 4 colors of sweet peppers, red, orange, yellow and green.  I do plan on a couple of hot peppers to make salsa with too.  I have the materials for my pole bean teepees, but they won't go up till I plant everything else.

So that's the plans so far.  I will stagger the peppers and tomatoes so we'll constantly be in tomatoes.  I plan on doing 1/2 of the early girls, better boys, and romas in one planting then a few weeks later start the second planting of the other 1/2.  The germination times between the two should have us blooming in tomatoes from the time the first ones come up through the summer.  But we all know about the best laid plans....

So armed with my peat pots and trays working the miracle we call sprouting I will continue to keep this updated as things progress.  BRING ON THE SUNSHINE AND FRESH EATS!!!!