Another Year, Another Attempt at Record Keeping

The whole point of this blog was so that I would have a place to keep track of the things I tried in the garden.  Maybe someday that will happen.  So far I’ve been pretty hit and miss.  Last year turned out pretty well over all.  We had tomatoes until the middle of December.  I still have tons of peppers and zucchini in the freezer.  We used the last of our carrots for Easter.  Not too bad.

On the other hand, the potato box was pretty much a failure- unless you’re into  long plants but no extra potatoes.  The peas did ok on the trellis.  They grew about chest height and had enough for me to eat every day but not enough to freeze, nor tall enough to shade the window.  The cucumber and cantaloupe planted there after the peas were done did pretty dismally as well.  I think we got 3 cucumbers and one melon that never ripened.  We got 3 pumpkins before a vine borer insect took care of the rest.

This winter was very mild.  The green onions never died out, so we had them fresh from the garden all winter.  They’ve been going to seed this spring, but I break off the flowers and am hoping to keep them going this summer as well.  The garlic I planted last fall is about ready to be harvested- a month or 6 weeks early.  Since Spring arrived early most of this year’s garden is in- either seed or transplant.  In about a month I’ll plant pumpkin, more carrots, and celery.  Here’s what we have so far:

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These are peppers (1 jalapeno, 1 red pepper, and 4 green) in front and tomatoes (Celebrity, Cherry, Steak Sandwich, and Roma left to right) in back.  The garlic is the right side of the picture with a few left over onions from last year on the left.  I’m hoping the tomatoes grow better than the peas and shade the window behind them.  We’ll see.  I got the drip system put out Monday, so now everything can be watered.  The rain this week has been very welcome, though.

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These plots will hold (left) zucchini- seeds planted but not sprouted, (center) cucumbers- Diva and Armenian, and (right) cantaloupe.  The Diva cucumber plants only produce female flowers, so they require another plant for fertilization.  The plan is to have the cucumbers and cantaloupe grow up the trellises.  Also, in the front edge of the left and right boxes are a few baby carrots.  I had just a few seeds left over that I just put out to see what they’d do.  So far, they’ve sprouted but you can’t see them.  I think there are a couple of marigolds that self-seeded from the flowers last year.

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Normally I chop the raspberries down to 12-18 inches in the fall.  I’ve heard I’ll get a bigger yield if I leave the canes about chest height.  So, last fall I left half at chest height and cut down the rest and we’ll see which half does better.  So far, the shoots on the shorter canes are growing longer faster.  We’ll see what July brings.

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I’ve never gotten lettuce to grow very well, but it’s doing great in the planter on the deck this spring.  In fact, we had salad last night for dinner and all the lettuce came from these plants.  That is definitely a first.  Chalk down at least one success for this year!  There are pole beans planted along the back edge of the planter.  Hopefully they’ll grow and shade the back door.

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I planted more lettuce and some spinach in the front garden.  The boys are SOOO excited for the spinach!  This spot is shadier, so I’m hoping both plants grow ok here during the heat of early summer.  About half the spinach and 3/4 of the lettuce have sprouted, even if you can’t see them.

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The peas are doing great.  The pumpkin will go here once they are done.  It’s a smaller plot, but I’m hoping it can grow up and down the trellis and not spread all over the rest of the garden.  Probably a pipe dream.

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A better shot of the garlic with the tomatoes behind.  There are 32 garlic plants, which should be more than enough for the whole year.  I planted them last October.  Normally they would be done growing by the end of June/beginning of July.  This year they should be ready in the next couple of weeks at most.

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The poor apple tree we screwed back together last year got smashed over by something during the winter.  It leafed out better than the other trees, of course, but I don’t expect it to live much longer.  The top of the front cherry tree was broken off a couple of weeks ago, so we trimmed all the trees way back in the hopes that they’ll leaf out farther down and fill out rather than grow taller.

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The strawberries are already producing.  I’ll probably pick the first berries tomorrow.  Greg dug out several plants over the weekend in an effort to stabilize the stepping stones, which I really appreciate on a dirt/mud slope.

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View from above.  The far left plot is full of yellow onion plants.  The second has bush green bean seeds planted.  The third has red potatoes.  The far right is the peas.

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Growth

A month ago I took several pictures of the garden.  I never got around to posting them and then I took more pictures today.  So, here’s a visual of what’s been going on.

 

Peppers May 3, then May 23 (It’s kind of overcast today.)Image

 

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Tomatoes (all have tomatoes on them now!) and Marigolds then and now- and green bean seeds have been planted and started sprouting n the bottom two sections since May 3, too.

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Potatoes in the box and in regular rows- and one rogue carrot from our compost that’s growing on the right side.

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Peas (May 5 and May 23) I’ve planted cucumbers and cantaloupe at the base of the peas, so I tied string around the base of the peas and through the netting to hold them up and out of the way.  When the peas are done growing, hopefully the cukes and cantaloupe will grow up the netting.

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And, last but not least, the raspberries.  Currently they are covered with little white flowers.  If they all mature into fruit we’ll have a record year.  Keeping my fingers crossed!

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It’s Been a Week


Even though I just posted about the planter box yesterday, it’s now been in use for almost a week.  We’ve had most nights in the 40’s but 2 nights down in the 30’s.Image

I’ve been covering the tomato plants with beach towels at night.  The netting makes it somewhat awkward to work around, but it does give something for the towels to hang on and not crush the plants.

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The day time temps have been ok (60’s-70’s) for the most part, though one day was in the 50’s.  Compared to my plants still being moved indoors, these seem a little shrunken.  It’s the only word I can think of to use.

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The leaves aren’t as big as they first were and the plants look somewhat wilty, but they feel firm and strong to the touch.

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They just look shrunken- like the cooler temperatures have made the plant contract somehow..  Some of that may be shock from being transplanted, too, I suppose.

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The plants being kept indoors at night are still thriving.  Most are at least 3 feet tall.  And, yes, those are baby cherry tomatoes just beginning to grow.  They really need to be able to be planted outside.  They’ve got to need more space than the little plastic tubs can offer.

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Garden Box for the Deck

Seeing the netting up for the peas and possibly providing shade for the window behind it made me wonder if the same could be done for our windows upstairs.  Our kitchen and dining room are directly west-facing which makes them pretty hot in the summer.  We’ve tried umbrellas, but they blow over.  We’ve contemplated an awning or some such, but never really found something we like.  A neighbor suggested window tinting, but we like the sun shining in during the winter.  With the thought of growing food up this year to save space, we thought we’d try a garden box with tomatoes in it to see if we couldn’t shade the sliding glass door in the dining room.

Shade + walking out to eat a cherry tomato whenever I want= fabulous idea.

Our neighbor had some extra particle board left over from a project he did.  It’s not ideal for making a planter box, but as it would let us try out the idea for only the cost of the trellis we thought we’d give it a go.

According to Mel Brooks of Square Foot Gardening fame, a garden box only needs to be 6 inches deep.  I’m still not sure I’m sold on the idea and since our box was only going to be 1 foot front to back I wanted to make sure there was plenty of room for the plants to grow roots.  As the box was going to be two stories up on our deck, I also wanted a little added weight to help keep it stable.  So, we opted to make this one 4 feet long, 2 feet deep, and 1 foot front to back.  The added perk of the height is that there’s very little bending over to work.  Nice!

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So, that leaves us with 2- 2′ x 4′, 2-2′ x 1′, and 1-1′ x 3’10.5″‘ pieces of particle board and 4- 2 x 4’ sections cut into 1’11.25″ lengths.  We kind of figured those lengths out as we went, so our pieces weren’t exact as we went along!

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And, as we were using particle board, we opted to screw the sides onto 2 x 4’s in each corner for added strength.

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When all the sides and bottom had been screwed together, we flipped it over, drilled drainage holes,  and painted it.  I’m hoping the paint will give the outside a little bit of protection from the elements.  See those drips?  I left them there (lazy) so it looks like we have drips of paint running up from the bottom now.  As an added bonus, the only color paint we had laying around was from the bathroom repaint we did a year ago, which means this will go nicely with the trim in my bathroom should I ever want to move it in there!

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You couldn’t see the drainage holes in the pictures before the box was painted.   We drilled them on one side so we could tip the box back slightly and have all the excess water run out the back of the box and off the edge of the deck.

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When it was dry we carried it out to the deck and filled it with dirt.  Particle board isn’t the strongest stuff on earth, so we placed 4 sections of 2 x 4 underneath it for added support.  Being raised a little should allow it to drain better as well.

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We built the trellis out of steel electrical conduit because it is strong and lightweight.  The long sides are 7 feet long and go all the way down to the bottom of the planter.  They are bolted to the outsides of the box with little c-shaped clamps we found in the electrical aisle at Home Depot.  We have 5 feet up and 4 feet across of growing trellis space above the box.

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I attached the netting to the frame with electrical zip ties and then planted two of our tomato plants.  It’s really too cold out at night for them, but they’d tipped over and were breaking at the base.  If I didn’t transplant them into a bigger pot there were going to die anyway.  The one on the left is a Cherry tomato and the right is a Steak Sandwich tomato.  Both grow vines up to 10 feet long.  Hopefully they’ll cover the trellis eventually assuming they survive the cold for a few weeks!

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I may have underestimated…

…how much an extra month of growth was on a tomato.

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This picture was taken 5 days ago.  Since then a couple of the tomato plants have grown as high as the table.  Theoretically there are still at least 3 week before I can plant these outside.  Don’t know if they’ll make it that long.  Here’s hoping that April stays warm so they can get out there and survive.

The other issue…

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Yes, those are flowers and they are on at least 4 of 9 plants.  At the rate I’m going I may have tomatoes on the plants before they actually get planted outside.

Next year, absolutely no planting tomatoes any earlier than the beginning of March.  Mid march is probably better.

 

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Side Yard Terrace

Disclaimer: About half way through this project I thought that maybe some pictures would be nice.  I was sitting on my behind in the side yard breaking apart huge clumps of clay in an attempt to get any rocks imbedded in it out of what would eventually become a garden plot while my dear husband was prying those large clumps of clay out of the yard.  I didn’t really want to stand up, climb the hill, track dirt in the house, and go find the camera all for a couple of pictures.  Now, I wish I had and so will you as I only have pictures of the end result.  I’m sorry both for not getting the camera then and for the fact that it won’t be the last time I make that decision.  I know me too well.

A couple of years ago we decided to take a non-growing part of our side-yard and see if we couldn’t make it into a little garden.  It’s a great gardening spot on the south side of our house with 10-12 hours of full sun every day in the summer.  I’d hoped to terrace it with brick like the window wells next to it, but we weren’t sure how to go about doing it.  I couldn’t find real great instruction online and after talking with a friend who has done similar projects it seemed too complicated for us.

P1040961Last summer I planted pumpkins there and just let the vines grow.

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They did great.  One of the plants died, so all the growth in the photo above is from one plant.  I think we got 5 small and medium white pumpkins.

This year I wanted to put in tomato plants.  I felt like I would need the ground more level to at least get the plants started, so we once again toyed around with the terracing idea. Last weekend we finally decided to just give it a try using some of the multitude of rocks we’ve dug out of our backyard over the years.  Not really having a clear idea how things were supposed to be done, we kind of winged it.  Kudos to my awesome husband for being willing to help with the projects.

The spot is about 3 feet deep and 16 feet long.  We decided to divide it into 3 sections of about 5 feet each and marked the approximate place for each little wall with a couple of rocks.  Then, we started with a layer of rocks at the bottom and loosened the dirt in that section, pulling some down from the top to make the space level.  We also mixed in a couple of buckets of top soil and compost.  Leveling out the dirt made the next section of rock look unstable, so we added a layer of supporting rocks under it and repeated the process.

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The hill got progressively steeper as we moved up, so each wall needed more rock than the one before.  Our planting beds ended up about 3 or 4 feet each instead of 5 but they are mostly level and we now have a general idea of what we’re doing.  At some point we can take out the rock and replace it with bricks to give us a little more space.  For now,though, this will work just fine.

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In a few weeks, this spot will hopefully be host to several tomato plants that could really use the space.  If the weather stays warm,, that may be sooner, rather than later.

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That One Time We Had to Bolt Our Tree Together

Yep.  We screwed one of our fruit trees together today.  That’s one more thing I didn’t know you could do- or would want to do for that matter.

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We planted this poor little sapling last fall.  During our first snow storm in November/December-ish, a pallet I had leaning against a nearby tree either fell or was pushed over on top of it.  I looked out the window the next morning to see the poor thing laying flat on the ground under the pallet with the base of the trunk bent 90 degrees.  I dug out my boots and sloshed through the backyard to rescue it.  The trunk was wrapped for the winter and it stood up fine by itself, so I didn’t notice the 4 inch crack at the base of the tree until I unwrapped it this week.

(It would be great to insert a picture of that at this point, but I didn’t think far enough ahead to actually take one. Ahem.)

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I wasn’t sure what, if anything, could be done.  It still stood on it’s own and is growing leaf buds, so I hoped it could be saved.  A search online revealed several suggestions that it could be saved.  I assumed a tape/splint job.  Apparently, wrapping the trunk cuts off the flow of water through the cambium (outer layer of the trunk), which eventually kills the tree, or at least the limb.  In this case, the limb would be the entire tree.  Trees do much better if you just drill a hole through the trunk and bolt the sides together.  Kind of like pinning a broken bone, I suppose.  Who knew?!

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So, we put in the bottom two screws. The top of the break still felt pretty wobbly, so we put in the top-most bolt.  (I say “we” but the fabulous husband did all the work.  I did helpful things like look for bolts and held the top of the tree while he drilled.) Supposedly, the tree will just grow around the screws as it grows.  It’s certainly more stable than it was.  We’ll see how it does over time.

P1060145For now, there are still four trees.  All seem to have survived the winter and the random act of violence.  What about the pallet?  It got it’s just reward and will spend the rest of it’s days as a potato box (see previous post).

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It’s sturdy enough now that it should never accidentally squash a young tree again.

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Happy Spring!

 

 

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