Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Independence Days Challenge

I seem to have missed a few updates.  As such, I'm not sure what week to call this, so we're just going to call it the challenge update.  There has been a lot happening, so bear with me.

Plant something:  Potatoes, strawberries, cabbage (above picture), onions, broccoli, spinach, more peas, rhubarb started inside.  Potted up tomatoes.

Harvest something: eggs and chives

Preserve Something:  not that I can remember

Waste not:  Gave away all the extra potatoes that I had ordered.  Fed all leftovers to either dog or chickens.

Want not:  Instead of buying a rototiller, rented one.  Was able to till up main garden (with J's help) and a new area that will have flowers and probably more herbs.

Eat the food.  Made up a new recipe for green pork enchiladas using up last year's tomatillo salsa and some purchased green chile enchilada sauce. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A stroll through the yard in April

Newly planted strawberries.
Flowers in the front flower garden.
Shades of sage.
Lilacs almost ready to open.
A jungle of wild blackberry vines.
Garlic by the shed.

This has been my contribution to the Sunday Stroll.  Please check out who else is strolling over at The Quiet County House. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Potatoes and more learning from my mistakes

In my post about strawberries I mistakenly referred to the Sparkle variety as everbearing types.  They are June bearers.  Somewhere along the lines I managed to click on the wrong variety.  I had meant to order Seascape, which is an everbearer.  One of the million and one mistakes I've made this year. 

I'm finding that after lots of research, I've rushed through the online ordering.  Lots to learn for me this year.  If you learn from your mistakes, I'll be one smart cookie next year.  Gardening is still relatively new to me.  After 6 years, I'm still quite the newbie at it.  With the rapid expansion of my gardens and increase in varieties, comes lots of new challenges.  Maybe in another 10 years I'll feel like I really know what I'm doing.  For now, you can just learn along with me, or offer advice on what you have experience in.  The last thing I want to do in this blog is make everything look rosy, when the reality is that mistakes are made throughout the process. 

Now onto my latest mistake.  After doing lots of research into potatoes last fall, I went ahead and ordered more than 3 times the number of potatoes that I needed.  My original plan was to plant 2 of my 4x12 beds to potatoes.  Somehow my addled brain ordered 50 lbs of potatoes.  My much more experienced sister in law was shocked at the potatoes I had received and quickly corrected my stupidity. I'm beginning to think I was quite brain dead this past January.  Stupid mistakes did abound. 

Not to worry, I have plenty of friends that garden.  Some went to my very smart sister in law, some to a neighbor and the rest will be delivered to my good friend L this afternoon.  She has the space and the know how to take care of my excess. 

In  the end I planted 3 4x12 beds with 15 lbs of potatoes.  One of the beds is split between Yukon Golds and All Blue.  Another is planted to Kennebec and the last to Rio Grande russets. 

It took quite a while to turn, weed and trench the potatoes.  I'm very happy with how healthy my soil is.  These beds had the addition of the chicken manure from a few months ago.  We eat a lot of potatoes throughout the year so these will be heartily enjoyed.  Since my goal is to produce a very large part of our fruit and veggie needs, these will certainly help.  If I'm lucky enough to get a 10:1 harvest, I'd end up with 150 lbs of poatoes.  That would go a long way towards my goal and if I'm able to save seed for next year, all the better. 

I'm making copious notes, so that I will hopefully not repeat my mistakes.  There will be plenty more mistakes yet to come, so I'll be sure to take lots of notes on those as well.  We are having what appears to be an early spring, so I'm holding myself back from planting many of my early May crops.  I don't want to lose anything else as a result of my haste and inattention to detail. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Many thanks!

I truly have wonderful friends out there in the blog world.  Kayla was kind enough to send me this wonderful new header for my blog.   Thanks so much Kayla, it's beautiful!

Also for anyone who does Facebook.  Feel free to friend me!

Strawberry fields forever

These are Sparkle Strawberries from Fedco in Maine.  They arrived about 10 days ago, but this was the first day I could get out to plant them.  Thankfully, they stayed nicely in the fridge, waiting for me.  There are 50 plants and I thought I would have extras.  I had guesstimated the size of the bed and was off a bit.  I now have a 3x4 foot area with nothing in it.  They will send out runners and fill in the space, but I have another idea as well.

My neighbor, N, just came back from a trip to her mother's in Maine.  Her mom worked as a seasonal employee at one of the better known seed companies for the past 2 years.  As a result, N came home with lots of neat seeds.  I just started some rhubarb plants for us both.  It will be interesting to see how they do.  I haven't had the best luck with rhubarb.  It's odd, because most people can't kill it and I can't get it to survive transplanting.  Maybe from seed I'll have better luck.  I think it would be absolutely wonderful to have a strawberry and rhubarb bed.  They go so well together in dessert, why not in the garden. 

The kids are anxiously awaiting all the strawberries.  Hopefully, I'll get some this year.  They are meant to be harvested all year, and are said to fruit the first year.  That would be wonderful. 

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to get the potatoes in the ground and possibly some flower seeds.  There is so much going on here it is amazing and quite exciting. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Potted up tomatoes

Today was the day.  I have been putting off repotting my tomatoes.  Normally, I would have done it about a week ago.  I got a little depressed about the failure of the great majority of the cole crops and then just got lazy. 

I am now the proud mama to 50 tomato seedlings.  There are 17 Legend, 31 Amish Paste and 2 Mystery tomatoes.  The mystery tomatoes are from a volunteer that came up last summer.  It was a nice big blocky slicer, so I decided to see what would happen from saved seed this year.

Many of the seedlings are looking a little ragged right now from their hard day, but should perk up in a few days.  They still have another 4-6 weeks until plant out time. 

After my last post about seedling failure, I began wondering if my whole problem could be a result of being cheap.  You see I bought prepackaged seed starting cells from a very cheap store around these parts.  Yes, for you New Englanders, it was the Job Lot.  Bad Heather!  Anyway, I may try again next year with some higher quality soil.  I'm not sure what I was thinking.  I know that good soil produces good plants. 

Hopefully all the tomatoes will make it.  There are simultaneously too many and too few seedlings.  There are too many for just me and too few to share as much as I wanted to.  I would start a few more, but don't have enough seeds.  Next year I'll save more. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

What really needs to be sown inside?

I've been thinking about this a lot this year.  After the unmitigated disaster that was my lettuce and cole crops, I'm rethinking how best to proceed in future years. 

What I'm realizing, is that there aren't terribly many crops that need to be seeded under lights in my zone 6 climate.  Sure, the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants must be.  How about the lettuces and cole crops.  I had initially started them inside in an attempt to get an earlier crop.

I do realize that in the case of the lettuce, I had started it far too early.  The lettuce isn't a huge issue though, it's the cole crops.  We eat a lot of them and I've had terrible luck thus far.  They come up beautifully and then proceed to die one by one.  When I realized that not very much had survived, I direct seeded more crops a few weeks ago.

So far they seem to be coming along nicely.  Currently they are getting rained on, so they'll be even happier, even with the cold weather we're having right now. 

The lettuce and chard are doing quite well also.
Enter the hoop house.  I fully plan to maintain the hoops with cold tolerant crops all winter.  In early spring there will be plenty of space vacated by veggies that we've eaten, to start whatever I like.  Since I've had lousy luck inside and seem to do better out, it would make sense to just wait and start things where they'll stay. 

If this works for me, it will mean less work babysitting seedlings inside.  Less space taken up in my tiny house and less electricity used by my grow lights.  Sounds like a win win situation to me.  What do you think? 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fun with mud

It's been fun to see the kids play in the mud.  Since the flooding we had a few weeks ago, there has been plenty of it.  You may remember this picture.
The kids are pictured playing in the right side of where this pond had formed.  At first I didn't want them anywhere near it.  Several pairs of shoes were destroyed and countless outfits washed.  Then I was inspired by Lise, whose blog In the Purple House started showing how she encourages the children she babysits and her own daughter to explore in the same way.  I had a bit of a lightbulb moment, when I realized that all this time I've been encouraging my kids to explore nature and at the same time don't want them to get dirty.  Really silly. 
My daughter informed me that they were playing with the mud and creating things that were good for the earth.  She couldn't be any more correct.  By allowing the kids to explore their world and create a true love of nature, I'm growing children that will grow up to protect our earth.  They will be empowered to stand up for the environment.  I couldn't be more proud of them. 
In other news, my blueberry bushes are starting to come back.  This one is hard to see, but it is leafing out.  Not all of them are doing so, but they look healthy all the same.  Since they are still sitting in quite a bit of mud, I'm having a hard time getting too close, but I have hope that they at least aren't all dead. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Back with updates

It's been a crazy few weeks.  The flooding has ended for most, with damp, moldy remains for many.  When the rain was finished, we proceeded to have 2 weeks of sunny, abnormally warm weather.  It's been absolutely wonderful.  With all the beautiful weather, it's difficult to hold back from planting out everything. 

Last night was a return to reality with below freezing temps and more to come tonight.  Thankfully I don't have anything out that should be affected.   Above you can see my garlic.  It's been coming up perfectly this year.  So far it looks like the best year yet for garlic.  It's something I use in most meals, so I'm happy to have as much as possible.

This is one of the cabbage seedlings.  It is only one of 3 that survived.  The bok choy and broccoli didn't make it either.  This seems to be what happens to me every year.  I'm not sure exactly what I do to kill them.  A few weeks ago I direct seeded more brassicas and they seem to be coming up nicely.  That may be what I do each year instead.  I think my biggest issue is that I'm planting them too early and trying to hold them inside too long.  I keep learning.

This is the lettuce that was seeded far too early.  (seeing a pattern here?)  I thought it was dead and just left it where it was.  Lo and behold, it's coming back.  Again, I'm learning.

Those hard to see wisps of plant material are my onions.  They were planted out last week with the brassicas and are doing quite nicely.  I'm very happy with how these behaved this year.  It's actually my first truly successful year for starting onions from seed.  Usually they are killed off by fungus.  I planted far too many, but they'll all get used.  

The main garden is all turned over now.  I rented a rototiller for the very first time.  I have to admit that I was absolutely terrified of the thing.  It turns out that it was a reasonable fear.  Hubby was off meeting a wedding client, but J was home as my backup.  At first the plan was to have J help me get it out of the truck and I would do the tilling.  Hah!  Then the tiller started dragging me across the garden.  Thankfully, J took over and in not too much time, had it all tilled up for me.  He looked like I had almost killed him, so when his wife came home, I thought she might kill me.  She just thought it was funny.  Have I mentioned how great my neighbors are?  

Lastly, the fruit trees are flowering and leafing out.  This is the 3rd year for this peach tree.  It's still not very big, but seems healthy enough.  We'll have to wait and see if it produces any fruit or not.  Since we're getting another freeze tonight, and it's still only mid April, we won't get anything.  The warm weather has everything blooming and sprouting earlier than usual.  Hopefully, there won't be too much damage to the trees and plants that came back to life early.  

There is so much going on here now, I'll be busy until next November.  I love it!