Thursday, June 27, 2013

a couple of firsts

Today it was drier than I expected.  We have had three inches of rain within the last week and yesterday the cornfield was muddy.  Today, the top of the soil was dry and it allowed me to really try out my new garden tool.  Thank you, Nikole!!

My new tool is called a stirrup hoe and it looks like a red stirrup and it has a little bit of swivel to it and it cuts on the push and the pull in order to cover a lot of ground quickly.  It doesn't work too well on mud but I have been trying it every day waiting for the right conditions and today was  the day.  I used it in the cornfield in the Johnny corn and it worked great.  I mostly cut with in on the pull, partly because I would forget to push and partly because my weeds were mostly grass and it got under the roots  better on the pull.  I did try pushing and on small broad leaf weeds it worked great.

The other 'first' today was that I watered the cornfield with the new water system.  I needed four hoses to get to the far end of the field.  I did both some watering with the hose and some with the sprinkler.  I ended up with some hassles dragging the hose up and down the rows.  I was concerned about plant damage from the hose as I moved in and out of the rows.  There may be a solution to that if I give it some thought.  There would be less potential for damage if I used the sprinkler so that might end up being the method that I eventually settle on.

Boy have the weeds been loving this weather.  Everywhere I look there is weeding to do.  That will be my agenda for the weekend.  As I get done I will try to post pictures.  I am not too excited about showing off my weeds.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

test run

Yay!!  It works!!

water project finished and a nest update

Mom and Dad came out and we finished the water project.  All is left to do is to hook up the hoses and it is ready to go.  But since we had three inches of rain the last week it may be a little while before we need to use it.
This is the far end.  The red handle is a shut off valve and the hose hooks onto the part that sticks out.  So far it is duct taped to the post to keep it secure.  That will eventually be replaced with some type of pipe fastening system which will be more permanent. 

This is the near end.  A hose will connect the top of this pipe to the faucet on the house or the hydrant.  When I am ready to water I can turn the hose on at the house and the shut off valve will keep the water from being wasted while I walk around to the other end to water.  I can then turn the water on at the shut off and water away. 

So, today I was walking down the driveway to get the mail and I spotted a small intact blue egg lying on the driveway.  I immediately thought ti was from the nest that I had found when weeding the cobalt garden and was afraid that one of the dogs had stolen it from the nest.  We used to have chickens and sometimes the dogs would help me pick eggs.  Cody would carry hers off intact.  I think that she thought it was a tennis ball.  I would sometimes find her eggs where she left them.  Sadie on the other hand has no time for tennis balls so she would carry hers off and break it open and eat it. 

I went to check the nest and the mom was gone and there were two eggs that had hatched and two little brown fuzzy birds in the nest.  I decided to put the egg that I had found back in the nest.  I could not tell for sure how many eggs were left there and after I put the egg in there is seems that it might not be the right nest as the eggs may be a different color.  I guess we will have to see what happens.

It is hard to see for sure but here is the nest with the blue egg and the little birds and the other unhatched eggs.  When Mom and Dad were here I had mom take a look and we startled the mother bird who was sitting on the nest. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

water project stage two

Today Dad came out and glued the rest of the PVC pipe together into one long length.
When it was all glued together it was 150 feet long and we threaded it through the grove. 

We actually threaded it through the grove twice as the first time we didn't end up where we wanted to end up.  It should have been a straight shot through the grove heading southwesterly in a more or less straight line.  But my lack of a sense of direction is pretty much legendary and we came out the first time on the south side of the grove instead of the west side.  Kind of embarrassing but Dad never said a word he just backed the pipe out part way and we (I) did better the second time. 

Stage three of this project involves putting an upright at each end with a hose attachment and then digging a post hole and installing a post for the uprights to attach too.  There will be a pole at each edge of the grove.  Dad has taken the upright portions into town to work on them in his mosquito free workshop and will bring them out ready to attach to the ends of the pipe.  It is coming together well!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

a nest in the cobalt garden

So we have had storms the past two days and a total of about two inches of rain which leaves most of the outside stuff pretty muddy to work on so I have been weeding yesterday and today.  I was able to weed the potatoes in the cornfield because they had grass clippings spread in the walk spaces between the rows.  Because it was moist the weeds pulled easily. 

The other place that I was able to weed was the white fence.  I have a 60 foot fence that hides part of the overflow pipe for the septic system.  There is pampas grass at the west end and next to that are the peonies.  Next to the peonies is the cobalt garden section and the rest is perennial flowers and a few grasses.  There is a water feature that has sprung a leak and a cement bench and at the east end a butterfly bush.  I have not had a chance to work in that garden as I have chosen instead to mow and plant vegetables first when the weather cooperates.  With all the rain that we have had this spring the weeds are three foot tall or more. 

I started at the peony end and was working on pulling the weeds there and then moved closer to the cobalt bottle tree and the bird bath.  There was this persistent bird who ran along the top of the fence and moved to different locations close by where I was working.  She looked like this.

I am not a bird watcher so I don't know which bird is which but she was talking up a storm and I assumed that i was getting close to her nest.  My plan became to keep weeding, keeping a careful lookout for her nest and then if necessary leave that area with its protective weed cover.  When I got a little closer i noticed that the group of dead plant stalks that she is sitting on in the second picture was where she had her nest.  

In that stand of dead stalks about a foot off the ground she had built her nest and there were five eggs.  I hope that I have not removed too much cover for her to protect her nest.  She probably figured I would never get that flower bed weeded and she might have been right!  I took a quick picture and then moved down to the other end of the fence to give that side a little attention.  Another storm is possible tonight.  Hope she and her nest will be okay.

Friday, June 21, 2013

the beginnings of our water project

This is the beginning of our water project.  Our plan has been finalized.  We are going to run 150 feet of 3/4 inch PVC pipe through the grove.  It will be attached with hose to the faucet on the house or the hydrant near the well.  It will attach to hose on the other end which will then be used to water the garden.  The PVC will go through the grove at an angle, it will have an upright at each end that will be attached to a fence post to make it easier to attach the hoses and to keep the ends out of the reach of the mower.  I teased Dad about putting a birdhouse on the fence post but I am thinking it would be cute.  I was also thinking that it would be a place to hang a hose holder to wind the hose up out of the way for mowing.  there will be a shut off on the far end so that there is not water running on the ground while you walk around the grove to get to the hose. 

The reason that the project is at this point is that when Dad picked up the PVC there were not enough supplies at the store.  Because there were not any 20 foot pipes he bought 10 footers and then we needed twice as many of the connectors and there weren't enough of those either.  So we glued together what we had and he has now purchased the rest of the parts  while at the lake.  On Monday, we will glue the rest together and thread it through the grove. 

In the meantime Mother Nature has been taking care of the watering.  Last night there was a strong storm system that went through our area about 2:30 in the morning.  We had 0.7 inches of rain.  We had a few leave clusters from the trees to pick up but we were so fortunate to not get the brunt of the storm.  25 miles to the north of us they are without power with power lines and trees   down all over town.  Rumors are that they had 4.5 inches of rain and 85 mph winds.   A few miles further there are reports of 7 inches of rain.  This was round one.

Round two came this afternoon.  The sky got green and then black.  This is 5:30 p.m. and it is dark out.  The yard light is on.
 There were warnings for strong storms with hail and damaging winds and heavy rain but we got only another inch.  We missed the hail and strong winds. We did have water standing across the road...
In the pasture...

In the field next to the cornfield...
And in front of the compost pile where there is a low area...

This was the pumpkin patch before the storm, full of bright yellow blooms.  Now they look a little beat up.  We will have to see how they fair with the next round predicted around midnight tonight and the round after that predicting more strong storms for tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

project morning at the farm

Mom and Dad were out to the farm today and we knocked a couple things off of the to-do list.  First of all I had loosened a tie rod on the mower and i had the front tires pointing in opposite directions.  Dad put it back together so I am going to be able to mow this afternoon.

Then Dad got out the sickle mower and mowed the part of the road ditches that we cannot get with the rider.  Here is a picture of Dad mowing the ditch.  Thanks Dad!!
Sorry Dad, I didn't get a picture of you lying on the ground putting the mower back together.

While dad was mowing Mom was doing some weeding with her electric weed-eater. 

trying to get away from the camera

We have been digging up some hostas.  This corner was just too weedy.  Mom will be transplanting some of these at her house in town and some may go to the lake.  It is looking so much better.  Thanks Mom!!

We also got some measurements through the grove.  We will need 145 feet of hose or pipe to go through the grove.  Plus we would then need hose to get from the grove to the faucet or hydrant and hose to get from the edge of the grove to the far end of the cornfield.  Next step I will measure the lengths of hose that I have and Dad will price the PVC so we can make some decisions about the best way to go.  There are storms possible for tomorrow and the rest of the week so we have a little bit of time to figure it out.

look at this poor little zucchini...

And there are four more just like it.
The flowers are almost bigger than the plant.  We had a half inch of rain during the night and things are looking a little perkier in the cornfield. I don't think that watering is quite the same as a nice rain shower so it was nice to have a little help from mother nature.

Tomorrow the plan is to get some measurements to get water through the grove so that we can use a hose to water.  I don't think that we will find a portable tank.  The two options that are being considered are a hose or lengths of pvc glued together that would lay through the grove and hoses would be attached at each end to get to the faucet on the east end and to a sprinkler or wand on the west end.  Mom and Dad are coming out and we are going to check out our hose supply and see if we can come up with a solution.  Carrying water was doable but very putzy.

Just as an update I think that I am done planting corn.  We currently have with the two varieties 42  planted rows that 20 feet long and 40 seeds planted in each row.  It is last years seed so we can expect some loss in germination rate but still hoping for enough to eat, share and freeze. And maybe sell some.  It would be nice to have enough sales to pay the expenses like seeds, seed starting mix and containers and the additional utility costs for the greenhouse.

I have a couple small spaces yet that are not planted which could be succession plantings.  I have planted a row of carrots, a row of cilantro ad a row of kohlrabi mixed with radish.  They are planted along side the melon patch.  I think I have space to make three more raised rows that can then be planted.  I will have to inventory my seed stash and see what i have left.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

watering the cornfield

Well, we didn't get the rain that was predicted on Friday so on Saturday I hauled water to the cornfield to water.  The little green wagon that pulls behind the lawn mower holds 8 cat litter boxes and I think that I made six trips.  I got all of the south half and the melon patch done and half of the Johnny's sweet corn.  I am still considering laying a hose through the grove to allow for easier watering.  I may have to get some measurements to see what I have for hose and how wide the grove is.  I am not sure how easy it will be to drag that much hose to the end of the cornfield. 

The weed situation is pretty grim.  With all the moisture that we have had the lawn and the weeds are flourishing. I did weed the orchard, rhubarb, blueberries, asparagus and black raspberries.  There were two holes in the row of asparagus and the two new transplants that were grown for those spots are now planted and everything got a drink of water.  There were a few blossoms on one variety of blueberry and lots of blossoms on the raspberries. 

I am noticing that there are blossoms on the older growth of raspberries (what we planted last year). There is also lots of new growth coming which is not flowering yet.  Perhaps it will not flower until next year.  I will have to note where the fruit comes and then make note what to prune.  These plants are transplants from those that have grown wild on the edges of the grove so we do not know what variety they were. 

The grape plants got weeded and watered but I still have to weed the patio stones under the arbor.  All four of the grape vines are getting lots of little baby grapes.

I have lots of weeding left to do in the flower beds so that will be on the agenda for this week as well as planting the rest of the sweet corn.  It will be interesting to see if there is a benefit come harvest to staggering the plantings of the corn.   

Took Sunday off to go to the lake for Father's Day.  The mosquitoes were thick by the time we got back to the farm so there was no chance for evening weeding.  I did harvest a few radishes and made some kale chips to take along to the lake. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

the corn is up

Tonight was the first that the corn is up--at least a few.  I imagine that within a couple days it will be more consistently up and visible down the rows.  This is the Johnny's corn, a sweet hybrid called Luscious.  For anyone who may be keeping track these are the seeds that Michelle and Nikole planted and they beat up the ones that I planted a day earlier.
Here are a couple more garden pictures.
The pole beans
The early planted potatoes
The squashes and pumpkins
And an apple update.   This is the west apple tree, the one that we think may be a full size tree.  Here is the last blossom.
And here is what I think might be an apple starting.
And another one.
I have to be honest and admit that Grandpa Denny spotted them first yesterday, but I did not have a camera with so i didn't get a picture until today.  We have tried for a while now to get apples and I am so hoping that this is the year.  This tree bloomed a little earlier than the other so i am hoping that the other will be setting fruit soon as well. 

I took this picture a few days ago when the lilac was blooming and I am glad that I took it when I did as the flowers are starting to fade.
And the poppies are blooming.
And the iris are starting.  I was worried that these would not come back after the iris borer from last year but I am more optimistic now that they seem to be coming.
See all that grass?  That is one of my projects for tomorrow.  Everything needs to be weeded.  Just as soon as I get the rest of the sweet corn planted.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

a few notes on what we have learned so far

This was the first year that we have started a lot of seeds for the garden start to finish in the greenhouse.  We had some successes and some failures.  Some things didn't germinate at all.  Some germinated but did not grow.  I don't know all the reasons but I have a few observations.

1. Seed Starting. 

A few of the first seeds planted I filled the cells with the seed mix without wetting it first and then watered it.  I am not sure that the dry mix took up the water the same as if I had mixed it in.  After the first seeds were planted I was watching some seed starting videos and one of the video hosts was talking about seed starting mix needing to be wet when the seed goes in.  After that I wet all of the seed starting mix before using it.  I think there is room for more knowledge with the seed mats

2. Potting Up.

When reading the planting instructions for the vine crops--the melon's, pumpkins and squashes--there were directions for planting as hills and in rows.  I decided to do some of each as an experiment and compare the productivity to see which is a better use of space.  I started some seeds singly per cell to plant out as a row and some of the seeds with three seeds to a cell to plant out as a hill.  They all germinated and I was concerned about the hill groups being crowded so I transferred them to a bigger container fairly quickly after the were up.  They quickly grew tall with large leaves.  About that same time I was gone for a couple days and had lots to catch up when i returned so the singles did not get transplanted to a bigger cup.  The size difference was amazing.  The same thing happened with the tomatoes.  A few of them I potted up into large pots for Nikole to take back to the city and those in the pots grew at a faster rate than the others.  All of the tomatoes had been potted up once from a cell to a 9 oz cup but they never really changed much in the 9 oz cup.  I think that if i had moved them up to a red solo cup or a four inch pot they might have gotten a little bigger before transplanting outside.

This makes me wonder if the impatiens would have done more if I had potted them up right away after they germinated.

Similar things happened with the greens.  I planted a lot of kale and some of it went into self-watering pots or planters, some of it went into Nikole's salad bowls and Asha's garden and some of it went into gutters as transplants.  The kale in the gutters never really grew very much.  The kale in the planters got bigger and the kale in the gutters did not keep up.  I transplanted the kale out of the gutters into the potager in raised beds and it has take off.  the lettuces that were in Nikole's salad bowl were much bigger than the same varieties of lettuces in the gutters.  Next year I will experiment with different spacing in the gutters and see if that makes a difference. 

3. Record Keeping.

This is the system that I used.  I bought alphabet and number stickers.  I labeled all of the gutters.  I labeled all of the white tubs.  I labeled all of the black trays that hold the cells.  I was able to record what was planted in each of the gutters.  I was able to record what was transplanted into the white tubs and if a black tray held all of the same seeds I could record what was in that tray.  I created an Excel page for the gutters and a similar page for the tubs and for the trays.  I listed the numbers or letters down the left side with a space for information about what was growing there.

In addition I bought some plastic row markers.  I have had difficulty with the markings coming off the plastic that I have used in the past so I this time I added stickers with numbers and letters.  The row markers come with three colors to a package, yellow, blue and green.  I bought enough packages that I had 30 of each color and labeled them with the 26 letters of the alphabet and the four extras were numbered 1, 2, 3. and 4.  I then created a sheet in Excel for each color marker with all of the letters/numbers listed down the left side and a place for information about what was planted. 

The final step in my system was colored stickers.  I bought a package of multicolored small blank stickers.  I could then write a number or letter on the sticker and attach the sticker to the cups as I potted up into clear cups or solo cups.  Because the stickers were handwritten I could label all of the transplants from a cell pack the same.

What worked well

The labeling of the gutters, tubs and trays worked great.  I didn't have any stickers that come off.  The plastic markers worked nice.  They were a good choice.  The stickers on the cups worked okay as well.  It wasn't a nuisance to have to hand letter them. I think that it could be that if planning ahead I could figure out how many cups would need to be labeled and that could be done ahead of time, perhaps in the house in the evening, instead of labeling them as I filled them.

What could have worked better

My original plan was to have all of the info in the computer.  The first few entries got into the computer and new sheets printed.  I put the sheets in page protectors in a binder.  My plan was to jot down on the sheet any changes, bring the sheet to the compute at the end of a greenhouse session and put the updates into computer and print a new sheet for the binder. As things got more harried this system fell apart.  I started making notes on post its and scrap paper, my papers got shuffled around a lot and  even misplaced.  I pulled the sheets out of the page protectors but rarely got them back in promptly.   I think next season I will use the same system but instead of a binder I will use a series of clipboards and leave the sheets in the greenhouse with their handwritten updates and maybe weekly bring them up to the house to enter the data in the computer.

I think I will also try and come up with a color coding system for the stickers.  This season the cups were labeled without any thought to the color of the stickers.  I think I can do better with that if I just give it a little thought.  This year we grew several different varieties of some fruits and vegetables.  this occurred partly because of conscious choices we made (tomatoes) and partly because we were using up some old seed with new seed (cantaloupe) or saved seeds with new seed (cucumbers and melons).  I think that next season I will try to label things more consistently and with some planning.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

cornfield and greenhouse updates

Yesterday was a nice day for working outside and I was able to get a few more rows in the cornfield.  Today rain is predicted for this evening and we have had a couple spits and sputters during the day but not a measurable amount.  It has been cloudy which has helped to keep the greenhouse from overheating.  The greens are bolting and going to seed so they are about done.  I am trying to get the transplants in the garden as quickly as possible.  It will be nice to be able to shut down the fan, clean up the potting equipment and empty and store the water containers.  I think I will use the water to moisten the nearby compost piles.  Rain is predicted for tonight and if we don't get too much I hope to get the rest of the transplants in the ground tomorrow.  If we do get rain then it will hopefully be Monday or Tuesday.  Mostly there is just the Amish paste tomatoes left along with a few other miscellaneous things.  The majority has gotten in the past few days.

The cornfield is a long rectangle that runs 40 feet from north to south and 125 feet from east to west.  it is divided into a northern 20x125 foot part that will be for sweet corn.  This year we have two varieties of corn left over from last year to use up and that will fill up most of the space but beginning next year half of that space will be corn and the other half will be vine crops like pumpkins, melons and squashes.  These two crops will rotate between the east side and the west side of this space.  Our corn will be in 20 foot rows that run north and south.  This year we planted 40 seeds per row and our rows have 2 feet between them.  If this spacing works well next year we should be able to have 1000 corn plants in the space allotted for corn.  So far we have planted 18 rows of our Johnny's corn.  We also have some Dekalb corn that was shared with us by a friend and that will go on the other end.  That is yet to be planted.  There are some melons planted next to the Johnny's which will provide a buffer between the two varieties.

The south half of the garden will be gradually established for permanent raised rows.  The raised rows will be 18 inches wide and 20 feet long with 24 inch walkways between them.  So far I have built 7 raised rows and hope to get a few more done this spring and more yet done this fall as the crops come out.  I am using grass clippings to mulch the walkways.  So far with the grass growing like crazy, there have been clippings to use.  I have also been gifted some grass clippings so thanks Lisa and Grant.  I appreciate both of your donations. 

I started building the raised rows at the east end.  This is what i have in the ground so far:

Row 1:  Empty-will likely be bush beans from seeds.
Row 2: Sweet potatoes
Row 3: Big beef tomatoes- 16 plants
Row 4: Sweet potatoes
Row 5: Second planting of pototoes
Row 6: Second planting of potatoes
Row 7: First planting of potatoes
Row 8: First planting of potatoes
Row: 9 First planting of potatoes
Row 10: Cherry tomatoes- 8 plants
Row 11: Cherry tomatoes- 9 plants
Row 12: Pole type beans
Row 13: Cucumbers- lemon cucumbers on one side, three different Johnny's on the other
Row 14: Brandywine tomatoes- 9 plants
Row 15: Brandywine tomatoes -10 plants

Currently rows 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 are raised rows.  Rows 16 and 17 will be the Amish Paste tomatoes and they will be raised rows.  There is about a 25 foot wide section where rows 16 and 17 will go and I am hoping to make the rest of that into raised rows and have later plantings either from seed or more transplants.  If I start the transplants soon they might be up by the time I am ready for them.

Beginning on the west end of the south portion I have planted hills of pumpkins and winter and summer squashes and then some rows of vine crops.

So far:
12 hills of acorn squash
4 hills of yellow summer squash
10 hills of pumpkins
7 hills of butternut squash
5 hills of zucchini
4 dill plants
1 row of Halona Cantaloupe 9 plants
I row of butternut squash 9 plants
1 row of Maverick Muskmelons 10 plants
1 row of Vine Peach Cantaloupe 8 plants.
the last row contains 4 mystery plants (forgot to write down what seeds were planted) and 1 hill of a cantaloupe, variety uncertain.

The melon patch between the two corn varieties has:

4 hills of Maverick muskmelons
3 hills of yellow watermelon- Lisa's saved seeds
4 hills of Vine Peach cantaloupe
3 hills of red watermelon
1 row of red watermelon- 13 plants

What is left to do:
Build raised rows for the Amish pastes and get them in the ground.
Plant the rest of the sweet corn.
plant a few more seeds or start transplants.

Update:  Found my sticky and the mystery plants are yellow watermelons.  Yea! Thinking the cantaloupe in the same row is a Halona.  will have to check it out when the the fruit comes.

Monday, June 3, 2013

building a raised row for planting

Jim and Mary at Old World Garden Farms use a raised row method of planting in their garden.  A link to their blog is found on the right side of my site under "inspiration".  I decided to try implementing a similar method. 

Because of our late spring and uncooperative weather I plan on  gradually converting the south half of the cornfield to raised rows.  The rows of potatoes will be made into raised rows in the fall when the potatoes come out.  I have laid out the rows and begun to make the permanent walkways with grass clippings from the yard.  A few raised rows will be created as I plant the garden but it is getting late and there is a lot to be planted. 

Here is the process that I used to build my first raised row.
First I dug a trench.
Here is the soil that was removed from the trench.
Then I filled the trench with straw.  The straw will hold moisture.
Then I covered the straw with compost to feed the plants.
Then I replaced the soil on top of the compost.
Here i have added a length of fencing to use a s trellis.   
In this last picture you can see newly planted corn in the back of the picture.  The sweet potato slips are planted in the black plastic and the grass clippings marking the walkways between the rows.  To the left of the plastic there are five rows of potatoes, three were planted earlier and are up and two more rows are newly planted. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

some of the sweet corn goes in

On Friday I had a chance to plant a few rows of the Johnny's sweet corn.  I laid out the stakes for the rest of the crop and then transplanted some melon to the west of the corn.

On Saturday I had wonderful help from Nikole and Michelle and we were able to get the rest of the Johnny's planted.  We have 18 rows, each with 40 seeds per row.  This was corn seed that was purchased for last year.  We also have some other seed from last year and once I get more of the transplants in I will be adding that corn to the other end of the field.  I am hoping that it will be at least as much. 

We were also able to get the rest of the sweet potato slips in the ground.

While we were planting Nathan was modifying the discharge hose for the sump pump in the well hole.  Now all three of our sump pumps have rigid PVC pipes to lift the water.  Thanks kids for great help.