Wednesday, May 29, 2013

racing the storm

So the weather channel online was predicting a storm for this afternoon and we decided to try to run the tiller back through the cornfield ahead of the rain.  Dad shows up after breakfast and it is thundering but no rain.  He begins tilling and the weather is getting darker and darker and the thunder continues.  Pretty soon we are hurrying to get done before the rain comes.  Here is a picture finishing the last pass.
And heading for the shed.
And then a few minutes later there was this.

And this.
I am sure that we had an inch of rain and a couple rounds of tiny hail.  We tucked the truck in the shed and waited out the storm.  Glad to have the tilling done.  Now as soon as it dries out a little the sweet corn goes in!

Monday, May 27, 2013

cornfield update

I spent some time today in the cornfield.  It was really too muddy to do much planting but I was able to spread the grass clippings that I had collected between a few rows and lay out some stakes to mark planned rows.  I did plant about half of the sweet potato slips.  They were looking pretty wilted, as the directions said they might.  I decided to chance putting them in the too wet soil and have the rest standing in water hoping to revive them and plant them when the ground dries out a bit.  Hopefully both groups will do well.

Two of the three rows of potatoes that were planted on May 7 are up nicely.  The third is coming but a little slower.  These were gift potatoes from my sister and were of a couple different varieties that were mixed up and they were planted without sorting for variety.  It is possible that there is a difference between varieties.  The potatoes in the potager are also up in both towers and some of those came up earlier than the others as well.  I have more to plant.

Our apple trees our blossoming.  Both are full of blooms.  This is the first year that we have had blossoms and I am hoping that means we will get some fruit.  Last year we lost our blossoms to a later frost and had no fruit.  I have got my fingers crossed that come fall we will be having some of our own apples. Here are some pictures of the trees in bloom.  the full size apple continues to lean.  It was staked for the first year but last summer I took the stake away.  Looks like I need to put it back.

The dwarf apple

the full size apple
Here is the new pear tree.
And last years pear tree.
And the plum trees.

The plums have had some very tiny white flowers, so maybe they will produce fruit this year as well. In the background you can see my scruffy lawn.  It needs to be cut again at a shorter setting.  I had to raise the deck up because it was just to long to cut but it did leave me with some grass clippings to collect and

Saturday, May 25, 2013

playing catch-up

The cloudy rainy weather has saved me from watering but the grass and the weeds are growing like--well, like weeds. I have most of the lawn mowed but I had to raise up the deck so the cut is rough and it needs to be mowed again at it's usual height.  I have picked up some of the grass clippings but the there is more to collect.  The pull behind lawn sweeper is working well. 

I haven't gotten anything more planted but am hoping that Monday will be a productive planting day.

Nikole hauled her tomatoes and other plants to the big city.  I have not heard if the nasty weather kept them from getting a few in the ground or not.  I just know that she had the jeep fully loaded.  Even poor Honey had only a small amount of front seat to sit on. 

The sweet potato slips have arrived and hopefully will go in the garden the next day or two.  It was too windy today to mess with plastic sheeting so hoping for a calm day to get them in the ground.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

rain rain go away

Well, it has been raining since the Kansas trip.  When it is not raining it is cloudy so it doesn't really dry out.  More rain predicted for most of the next week or so.  I was hoping to hit the planting this week but it is not looking so good.  I think my plan B will be to start some of the stuff I was planning to direct seed in the ground in cells and hope that it is germinated by the time the ground is dry enough to plant.  I will be back with an update.

Monday, May 20, 2013

gone three days and look what happens

Last night i returned after three wonderful days in Kansas.  Well, to be honest it was two days in the car, one fun evening, one lovely day and one fun breakfast in Kansas.  The reason for the Kansas trip was to attend the graduation of my youngest, Caitlin, who received her Master's Degree in Interior Architecture and Product Design from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  I couldn't be prouder and that event deserves its own post and I will do that soon.

A lot happened while I was gone.

We had a shot of rain on Friday night or Saturday, more rain during the day on Sunday and still more rain during the night on Sunday night.  I hear predictions of more rain Monday afternoon or evening and maybe more still the next couple of days. 

The lawn grew.  It desperately needs to be mowed but of course it cannot be mowed while it is this wet.  One good thing is that by the time I am able to mow it i should have enough grass clippings to pick up and spread between the rows in my new growing space.  Not only is it long but there are wide swaths of yellow dandelions.

The orchard--the apple trees and plum trees are blooming.  We have flowers opening on both apple trees and both plum trees.  Both of the pears, last year's and the replacement planted a few weeks ago, are getting leaves and I am hoping that flowers won't be far behind.  The flowering cherry, an ornamental tree is also blooming.  I am hoping that will bring the mason bees to the yard and they will find the house I set out for them.

The asparagus went from being a bunch of spears to being fern-like over the weekend.  I knows that there is probably a word for that but it eludes me now.

The rhubarb is getting bigger and still needs desperately to be weeded.

More of the raspberry canes are leafing out.

The blueberries do not look any worse.  The one variety still has no leaves but the other two varieties are looking okay.   I am glad for the rain because I think the rain water might be better than the well water.  Last year I pH tested my well water and it was alkaline so it is not helping to acidify my soil.  I think that I will make an attempt to capture rainwater over the next few days and use that for watering.

The peas are up.  The transplanted kale are surviving.  The potatoes are just starting to come in a couple spots.  Maybe some varieties are earlier than others.  Nothing coming yet from the strawberries, a couple of the grapevines are just starting to get leaves the others are not yet.  Nothing much from the garlic. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

the berries and asparagus get a little attention

The past couple days I have been working on weeding, fertilizing and mulching the raspberry canes, blueberry bushes and the asparagus.  The raspberry canes were transplants that were moved from the edge of the grove to a new spot where hopefully they can be managed to grow bigger berries.  Our are black raspberry canes that start out red and turn black when ripe.  Quite a few of the transplanted canes are getting leaves on them so I am hoping that most of them made it thru the winter.

The asparagus is some that we started from seed last winter and planted outside when the ground warmed up.  We dug a trench and planted the plants in the bottom of it and gradually  added soil to the trench as the plants got taller.  This spring there are one or more spears popping up by nearly every plant.  There were a couple of plants that didn't make it through the summer so we had a couple gaps in the spacing.  I was hoping that they might come back this spring so we will watch for them and if they don't come perhaps replace them with new plants.  I did start more seeds this winter again in case there was a failure over winter.  Now the decision will be whether to share the new plants or start another row.

The blueberries have been a struggle.  We planted them in 2011.  Six plants, two each of three varieties.  We did not plan ahead for them and prepare a spot with acidic soil and so I have been trying to amend the soil around them.  Last year they did not grow and looked sickly, kind of yellow.  We did several things hoping to have both quick and long term changes in the pH.  I was kind of afraid that they might not come up this year.  This year I purchased a pH meter and so far my readings suggest that my blueberry soil is still too alkaline.  All of the plants seem to have come up.  Two of the varieties are doing better than the third.  They are yellow in color but getting little leaves on them so I am going to do a little more research and see if I can find out if that is normal.

I did not get the rhubarb weeded but that is on my list for next week.  This weekend I will be gone watching my youngest receive her Master's Degree in Interior Architecture and Product Design at Kansas State.

As an update the greenhouse is way too warm so once I get back the plants in there are going in the ground.  There is the possibility of rain so I am hoping that if it is cloudy it will stay cooler in there. I am currently trying to get an inventory of the transplants that I have so that I can work on my garden plan while riding in the car.

All of the orchard trees are getting bigger buds and little leaves.  One of the plums has tiny white flowers coming.  The other plum has two different types of wood so I am not sure if that is the way that it is supposed to grow or if there are suckers coming from below the graft.  More research needed...

Monday, May 13, 2013

the orchard gets fertilized

Today the UPS driver brought a mother's day gift from my son, Nathan.  It was a vibrating hand seeder and a bag of fruit tree fertilizer.  The hand seeder is supposed to dispense even the smallest seeds one at a time.  Many of the seeds that I plant are very tiny so I am anxious to give it a try.  I already have used some of the fertilizer.  As soon as it came I was outside, I weeded around the trees, sprinkled a cup of the fertilizer around each of the trees and spread a few shovelfuls of compost over the fertilizer and gave each tree a good drink.  It is fun to see the buds starting to come on the trees.
the full size apple

the dwarf apple
The east plum

the west plum
last year's pear
The new pear-Waterville
This week I will weed and fertilize the blueberry plants, the raspberry canes, the asparagus bed and the rhubarb as well as the strawberries in the tower.  No signs of spring in the blueberry or strawberry plants but there are leaves coming on the raspberries and a few asparagus spears have started to poke thru the ground.  The rhubarb is also starting to make an appearance.
The ornamental flowering cherry tree starting to get leaves.  Yep, spring is coming.

Friday, May 10, 2013

mowed a little lawn

Today was my first opportunity to do some mowing and all of a sudden the lawn is looking rough so it was time.  I started with the lawn around the house for a couple or reasons.  That part had the fewest branches that needed to picked up before mowing and I wanted the grass short so that I can see any snakes that show up near the garden.  I mowed around the house, the ditch and around the new cornfield.  What usually happens when I mow is that I drive by all these projects that need to be completed and today was no exception.  There are lots of things to do.  There are getting to be little signs of things coming to life.  There are a few tulips in the flower bed and the fern peony is starting to come.  There are a lot of poppies started and a few left over milkweeds to remove. 

I did a quick tour of the orchard and the apple trees are starting to look like they are getting buds but I am not sure if they are leaf buds or flower buds. The plum and pear trees are not a far along yet, but I am hoping that what i am seeing are tiny buds just getting started.  There is no sign of asparagus yet or or blueberries, strawberries or raspberries coming to life.  There may be a hint of rhubarb starting to pop through.  All of the above need to be weeded.  Hopefully there will be good weather on the weekend.  It was clouding up in the west but only  a sprinkle so far. 

I have been spending a little time trying to lay out the front half of the cornfield.  I want to make the best use of the space and match the plan to the seedling inventory that is also a work in progress.  Excited to get started out there As I was making laps around the space with the lawn mower I was picturing it all growing.  Most of the planned crops for that area are warm weather crops so another two or three weeks to wait.  I think our last frost date is May 23 but I will need to verify that. Looking ahead to this week there is one night with an overnight low of 32 so it is pretty early yet.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

a greenhouse evening

It was still cloudy and wet out today so there was not much to be done outside.  All of a sudden parts of the lawn are looking shaggy and there soil is too wet for any gardening activities.  It was a good time to put in a little time with the seedlings.  I have a bunch of seeds that were planted late in April, maybe two weeks ago that will be transplanted into the corn field when it is warmer out.  They are only a couple weeks old but already the roots are growing out the bottom of the seed cells so it is time to get them in a bigger pot.  When I seeded the cells for the melons and squashes I seeded some as singles and some with two or three seeds in a pot.  The singles will be planted in rows and the multiples will be planted in hills.  The multiples were the most crowded and so they were transplanted from a 2 inch cell to a red solo cup.  Here are the rows of transplanted cups.  the smaller white cups in the middle are the brandywine and big beef tomatoes.  The acorn squashes are in the front and the Pumpkins are in the back and the squashes--zucchini, yellow and butternut are in the two rows behind the tomatoes.
Here are more tomatoes, Amish paste on the right and Matt's wild cherry on the left.
Here are a few more seedlings the left box is the inpatiens, they are not growing.   The large round and square containers are the asparagus, the small white cups are Swiss chard and the front box is mostly cucumbers.
Here are the marigolds
And another the greens from the sampler:
Some are starting to try to go to seed but I have been picking the seed heads.  They are tasty.  Much of the kale has been moved outside.  I am hoping that is not a mistake,  It seems a little windy.  The kale in the bigger planters are sitting outside.  One of the gutter planters has been transplanted into the garden.  They never got very big in the confined space in the gutters,  I am curious as to whether or not they will get bigger with lots of room for their roots to spread out.

I started an inventory of the seedlings that are doing well and hopefully will be ready for transplanting in two to three weeks into the gardens.  I think we may have some extras to share.

Last year we got an earlier start on tomatoes.  We started them in two batches the earliest ones intended for pots and the later planting intended to go into the ground.  By the time we had gotten to our last frost date the tomatoes were starting to flower.  We are not gong to be nearly that ready this year. I have started planting some of the tomatoes into big pots.  These will make the trip to the twin cities for Nikole's garden and yard.  Two brandywines:

And a big beef:
There will be more to come over the next few days.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

a new gadget

I had a chance to do a little shopping at the garden shops and I was looking for a pH meter and was able to find one at Home Depot. 

I haven't had a chance to try it yet but I am hoping that it will help with the blueberries who love acid soil and are just not doing well where I have them planted.  It also measures soil fertility. 

It has been a busy couple of days.  Yesterday dad loaded up the tiller and we went to work on Lisa's spot at the community garden.  Here are a couple of pictures.  My battery died so I don't have an 'after' picture but the ground looked beautiful.
just getting started

Lisa and Dad

discussion in progress

Today I started transplanting seedlings into bigger pots and will do more tomorrow and hopefully will have pictures.  Also yesterday I had a chance to plant some potatoes in the new cornfield.  The potatoes were Lisa's from last year.  So far there are  three 20 foot rows with more potatoes to plant.  Today we had a nice rain, so I am glad that at least some of them are in the ground. 

Tomorrow some of the tomatoes will be going in big pots to eventually make the big trip to the cities.  They will stay in the greenhouse for a while longer.  We are behind schedule.  Last year at this time they were quite a bit bigger and by last frost date they were near flowering.

Monday, May 6, 2013

cornfield update

Sunday we had a break in the wet weather so it was a good time to get in a little garden therapy.  I measured the cornfield and put out some stakes to start to lay out a plan.  The growing area is 40 feet deep (north and south direction) and 125 feet long (east and west direction). 

So far I am thinking about dividing the field in half the long way and then dividing the north portion in half crosswise creating two cornfields where I could then rotate each year between the two for corn.  That would give me an area that was 20 feet by 62.5 for corn each year.  If the corn was spaced 12 inches apart in rows 30 inches apart and if my math was correct that should allow for 500 corn plants.  Perhaps the corn could rotate with beans or peas for their nitrogen fixing properties.

I am looking at putting a semipermanent walkway running east and west between the corn plots and the front plot.  It would not be a hard surface but perhaps mulched to keep down the weeds and to reduce soil compaction in the growing spaces.

The front (south) portion could then be used to grow the melons and squashes and pumpkins as well as rows of other crops.   I am planning to try the raised row type of gardening for at least part of the front part perhaps putting in a few rows to see how it works.  In raised rows straw or compost is put on an 18 inch wide band on the soil or in a shallow trench.  This is then covered with soil to create an elevated area where the plants or seeds will go.  The straw helps conserve moisture, the elevated ground dries out and warms up quicker in the spring and the soil amendments only need to be added to the actual growing area, not the space between the rows.  The space between the rows is mulched and becomes a walkway.  The raised rows do not need to be tilled, the soil does not become compacted because it is not walked on.  I am excited to give it a try.   I have a pile of old straw that came off of the well piled here and ready to use.

I have potatoes from Lisa that are ready to plant.  I am expecting sweet potato slips that will go out here and have started lots of seeds in the greenhouse of tender plants that it is still a little cool to plant yet. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

putting on my mittens to plant a few peas

A few days ago I was reading some gardening tips online that talked about presprouting pea seeds to get a jump on the season so I decided to give it a try.  I took my pea seeds and placed them in a damp paper towel on a plate and put the paper towel in a zippered plastic bag.  Today, this is what my peas look like:

They are plumped up and some of them have sprouted.  We are expecting rain later today and tomorrow so I think that it is time to get them in the ground.

It is cold out.  The weather channel online says that it is 40 but feels like 34.  It is cloudy and a little windy.  Not a nice day to be working outside for any length of time.  I am going to try wide row planting and will scatter the presprouted peas seeds into a small raised bed box.  I am hoping that as the peas grow the plants will support each other.

Dad and Lisa and I have been discussing a couple watering concerns.  I have one at my house and Lisa has one of her own.  The area that is the new 'cornfield' is a long way from a water source.  I have been planning to run a really long hose through the grove and use that to water the cornfield.  I was hoping that most of the time mother nature would do the watering and the hose would be mostly for dry spells.  Last year we had a drought so there is no guarantee about rain.

Lisa's issue is with her spot at the community garden.  In the past they have been able to run a really long hose to the garden from the nearby apartment building.  This year it sounds like that might not be an option and there are no other nearby sources of water.  We discussed harvesting rainwater off of the shed nearby but there are no gutters on the building.

So I went to Craig's List looking for the 275 gallon white totes. A while back i missed out on an opportunity to buy one or several and was hoping that there were more to be had.  I did not find any of those but I did find for sale a water tank on a trailer. 

The seller had used it to water trees.  Dad contacted the seller to check it out and see if he could negotiate a price and I found out last night that it is ours!  We pick it up on Wednesday afternoon.  I think that it will possibly solve both my water issues and Lisa's.  Yay!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

first in the field, corn ground is ready to go

Our new growing spot is affectionately referred to as 'the cornfield'.  It will be where we grow sweet corn and melons and squashes and pumpkins and other crops that need lots of room.  Last fall, Brad,  my brother-in-law and neighbor came over with his tractor and an implement for tillage called a ripper.  He used this implement to disturb the turf that was there.  The spot sat over winter and this spring as soon as it was dry enough Dad ran the tiller over it to break up the clumps and smooth the soil. 

When Dad and Mom met their friends for lunch today Dad said that he reported that "we were the first farmers in the field and the corn ground was ready to go".  The ground looks beautiful.  

Here is dad way down at the west end of 'the cornfield'.  In this picture the ground has been worked once and parts are getting a second pass.  The field is rectangular in shape and Dad spent some time squaring up the edges and making a neat perimeter so that I will be able to mow right up to it.
 This shot is of the one corner that was still a little too wet to work.  A couple days ago there was a big snow drift here.
 Here is Cody supervising. 
 And a few action shots of Dad on the tiller...

Thanks Dad!