Wednesday, April 30, 2014

little weather update

So far this week we have had cold, rain and after day of cold, rain and wind.  So we have quite a few two inch diameter and smaller branches down, nothing dangerous or damaging just smallish branches on the ground under the trees.  The grass is green and starting to grow. 

Nothing new has been planted outside.  The things that are planted are not yet growing, no peas are sprouted, no potatoes are growing.  Before the weather started I planted  six of the January tomatoes in one of the boxes that will be the hoop house.  We had the hoops up but no plastic yet and I planned to get the plants in and the plastic on but the wind made it almost impossible to do anything outside and certainly working with a big sheet of plastic was never going to happen.  So today I did a little work on the hoops which were no longer in place and took a little look at the beat up tomatoes.  Tomorrow I hope to get the plastic on, I have cut up short pieces of hose that I am hoping that will be enough to hold the plastic in place on the left and right hoops.

I have been doing some potting up in the greenhouse.  The onions and leeks are looking good and i am thinking about starting to plant some outside.  The same with the earliest lettuces and greens.  We have lots of  asparagus plants but I think that they need to go out once it is more reliably warm.  Lots of small tomato plants are sitting there in their red solo cups and the propagation mat has trays of newly seeded stuff waiting to sprout. 

The blueberries have been moved.  They are still dormant.  Today the cranberries arrived.  They look great.  The part of the sandbox that they are going to be planted in has the sand/peat mixture.  The directions that came with the plants suggests adding bonemeal, bloodmeal, rock phosphate and epsom salts to the planting mix so I am hoping to be able to find all or some of them by the time the rain quits and the planter box is not quite so saturated.   

A package arrived from one of the catalogs that Mom ordered from and this package contains the watermelon and cucumber and Indian corn and two types of popcorn seeds.  The watermelon seeds are black diamond, a watermelon that Caitlin and I purchased at a cute farm shoppe that she discovered on a detour last summer.  We bought a watermelon and it was pretty good so when the Burgess catalog had the seed packets I decided to give them a try.  I will get a few of them planted in the greenhouse tomorrow so that by the end of the month we will have transplants ready to go into the garden.  We also ordered some new fruit bushes and nut trees and I am assuming that they will come at the right time to plant them. 

I have been lamenting the fact that I did not get my straw bales uncovered and set into place before all this rain hit.  Some of the reading that I have been doing about straw bale gardening describes conditioning (watering) the bales every day for a couple of weeks before planting in them.  Each year we insulate our underground well room with eight straw bales and usually they are wet by spring and they just go onto the compost pile.  This year we covered them a little bit better and so I plan to move them and plant them.  I am hoping to get them arranged east of the orchard so that they can grow vegetables but also kill the grass where come fall I am hoping to plant at least one row of grapes that will be trained on wires vineyard style.  I am excited to try it.  I have never grown in a straw bale garden before but if it goes well I am planning for next year to consider making cute wood frames for bales and to make them a more regular part of the garden.  I am hoping that they will eventually work well on the concrete that we have in front of the greenhouse.  Last week I had friends stop to see how things were going in the greenhouse and we talked straw bale gardens.  They are on vacation for a couple of weeks and will be away from home but they have a timer ans soaker hose conditioning their bales while they are gone.  He is expecting their bales to last for two years.  If that is correct we could have a16 bale garden, replacing eight bales each year. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

a little progress on the to do list

I have been trying to get a little gardening done every day.  Some days the weather has not cooperated and then there was the Easter holiday and my kids were at the farm.  But I am pleased with the progress that has been made.

The greenhouse got some attention.  Nikole took down all the gutter planters with their spent plant material and the gutters were emptied into the raised beds where the soil mix will be mixed with compost and reused.  The broccoli plants are moved outside.  The baby plants are looking good for the most part.  I hope to get quite a few of the big tomatoes in the ground soon.

The hoop house got some hoops.  One of the beds is ready to plant and the other needs some straw and compost and then it will be ready as well.  In the picture below the bed that is ready to plant is the one with the big white dog sleeping in it.  She has a knack for finding the most recently worked dirt for her naps.

The next picture was taken a little closer up.  Once the tomatoes are planted it will be ready for some plastic for the next month or so.  The plan is to remove the plastic for the summer and put it back on in the fall with some new crops.  There will be a decking walkway between the beds which will hold potted tomatoes this spring and summer

 Today I spent some time working on the sandbox which will hold the new cranberry plants that have been ordered and blueberry plants that I will transplant from their current location which is not working well for them.

On the left side of the picture is where the cranberry plants will go.  I have been reading about them and they need to be planted in a mixture that is one-half sand and one-half peat moss.  I had rescued enough sand to half fill the 3x8 foot section.  I added a large package of peat moss and wet it well while mixing the two ingredients together.  I will check again tomorrow to see if it is staying moist.

The right side of the picture is where the blueberries will go.  In my reading it was suggested to use a mixture that is one-third peat moss, one-third potting soil for acid loving plants and one-third bark chips.  These mixed ingredients were wet thoroughly and I will be checking the pH and moving the blueberry plants, hopefully while they are still dormant.

I have been digging trenches in the cornfield, making new raised rows.  I have planted six rows of potatoes and the two rows of peas.  I have cleared off another couple of wheelbarrow loads of old garden material.  I have not noticed that the cover crop seeded too late in the fall has started to sprout yet

I did set up the round and square potato towers in the area where the long box will be rebuilt in the potager.  If it doesn't rain tomorrow those will have to be watered.   Looking ahead there is a 70% chance of rain for tomorrow and 50% for the day after.  April showers...

Monday, April 14, 2014

baby pictures--of plants

I have been starting seeds in cell trays and now some of the seeds are up and I have been transplanting them into bigger cups.  Here are a few pictures of baby plants:

basil second planting

leeks these need to have a haircut and into cups


basil first planting


Lettuces and greens
tomatoes - I have three tubs of cups of tomatoes and more to do.

early spring 'to do' list

I have a to do list for getting ready to garden and I have managed to make a little progress on it the past few days.  Now the weather guys are predicting that starting tonight there will be several upcoming nights that it `will drop into the 20s overnight.  Today was cold, cloudy and windy so it wasn't much fun to work outside but I did ,manage to get a few things done. 

the cornfield

Last year I gardened up until the start of winter, in fact, I was digging the last of the potatoes in snow flurries.  I had been planting oats for a cover crop and setting up the west end where the squashes and pumpkins were into raised rows and the cornstalks were still in the garden.  Some of those things are on my list to finish this spring.

Early spring to do list for the cornfield

set three more marker poles
finish the rest of the raised rows at the west end, rows 36 thru 45
set up the raised rows for the raspberry and asparagus plants
set up the nine raised rows going north of the marker poles
set up the pea trellises
set up the cucumber trellis
set up trellises for squash and gourds

plant early crops:
broccoli plants from the greenhouse

This week I set up the pea trellises, a taller one for the sugar snap peas and a shorter one for the snow peas and got the peas planted.

I planted one row of potatoes and began laying out where the rest of the potatoes will go.  The potatoes that I planted were small ones that I planted whole.  There are more potatoes that are cut into sections that will be planted in a couple days once the cuts are allowed to dry out.   

This year the potatoes will go in the north half of the cornfield.  Last year the north half held two varieties of sweetcorn, one at each end, with melons in between.  This year I am planting the corn in the center with other crops including the potatoes where the corn was last year.   Getting ready to plant potatoes includes clearing away the dead plant material from last year.   I have started digging up the cornstalks and cutting off the root ball and adding that to the compost pile.  I have been tossing the stalks over the fence for the herd.  I am not sure if they are eating them because they are bored with the hay that they ate all winter but they come trotting over when I have some for them. 

So far I have hauled away three or four wheelbarrow's full of dead weeds and old vines.  I have started digging trenches.  The trenches will get a layer of straw, a layer of compost and then be filled back in with dirt.  The rows that will get asparagus will not be filled in completely as they will be filled in over the course of the summer a little at a time as the asparagus grows.

The potager

I have started to clear the old plant material and the weeds between the boxes.  I have two long boxes to rebuild.  The one that went together last fall is empty and needs to be filled.  the other boxes are filled with dirt and compost.  I think that this year I will add a layer of straw to retain moisture and then fill it with compost and soil from the greenhouse planters.  This is similar to the process used to create the raised rows.  All of the boxes will get a new layer of compost before seeding and some may get a seeding of oats for a spring green manure crop if it can get planted early enough. 

The berry box

I have decided to move the blueberry plants to the kids' old sandbox.  Last year I divided it in two parts and built a small, about two foot square, deck in the center.  It is impossible to work in the center of the box without climbing in it.  So the deck will hold a decorative piece, probably the sundial, and the larger portion will get the six blueberry plants that are struggling where they are currently planted no matter what I do to acidify the surrounding soil.  I am hoping that the sandbox will act as a container and allow better control of the growing conditions.  I did a little research online and found a video where they were making a planter mix for blueberries in containers and they used a mix that was 1/3 bark nuggets, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 azalea potting soil.  Yesterday we were finally able to find all of the ingredients in the stores and haul them all home.  Today I emptied the packages in the space and mixed it all up.  I think that I am going to need more of each ingredient as the box is not quite full.  I had purchased two large bags of each ingredient and I think that one more bag of each should fill it up.  I would like to get the blueberries moved while they are still dormant. 

The smaller section of the berry box I have been saving for cranberry bushes.  The research that I have done suggests that they do well in a mixture that is half sand and half peat.  Much of the sand was stolen from the sandbox to level the pavers under the grape arbor but what is left I have been putting on that side.

The hoop house

This year's new construction piece is a small hoop house.  It is designed to have two rectangular growing beds with a wood walkway between them.  So far I have built the boxes and started the walkway.  My dad has cut the rods that will go on the north and south sides to hold the 'hoops' and they are ready to be pounded into the ground.  I have placed cardboard under the boxes and one of the boxes has been filed with a layer of straw, compost and old planter soil.  I hope to have the other planter filled tomorrow and then the plastic can be cut to length and slid over the rods.  The final step will be to cover it with plastic and then the tomatoes can be move in there, some to be planted in the dirt and some already in containers that will sit on the walkway.  It will give us an opportunity to see if we can get a jump on the tomato season.  Our tomatoes that we started in January will be the ones that go in there this year.  They are trying to flower so I would like to get them in there.


Switching over from winter greens to summer transplants.  Besides the January tomatoes there are new seedlings started.  The first group of new tomato seedlings have been potted up into bigger containers.  The second group has sprouted and will soon go into bigger cups and another group is due to be seeded soon.  A group of lettuce seedlings have been potted up with another tray needing to be done.  

We ordered a few new perennial fruit bushes and nut trees and once they arrive it will be deciding where to put them and getting them planted. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

starting the pea trellis

It isn't much but it feels so good to get a start in the garden.  Last week I tried to start this row of T posts and the post would only pound in about two inches.  I left the post standing there and today when i went back I was able to pound it in the rest of the way which is about a foot.  So I figured out the spacing and pounded in the rest of the row. 

The soil there is still pretty muddy so I am going to give it another day or two to see if gets better and then I will work up the area between the posts and install the beautiful green wire that Nikole and Brad were not going to use and donated to the farm.  I think that it will make great trellising. 

I also dug up a few of the sweet corn stalks that were still there from last year.  It was still a little muddy there as well but they dug easily so I figure that if I do some every day it won't be long until that side of the garden is ready to plant as well.  The oats that I planted as a cover crop has winter killed where it had germinated and grown last fall.  The rows that were seeded too late in the fall have not started to sprout yet so it is still too early to know if that is going to work as a spring green manure crop.  Row number 7 which I selected for the pea trellis this year is one of the rows that grew oats last year.  It should just need a little addition of compost turned in and it should be ready to plant. 

greenhouse update

A lot of the winter greens have been going to seed so I am trying to finish them up and clearing them out so that  there is room for the garden seedlings that are starting to take up room.  I think that I am going to start trying to move what is left outside during the day and also the broccoli which has not developed heads yet..  I might try planting a few in the garden and see how they do. 

I have been up potting some seedlings, yesterday and today it was flower seedlings, the marigolds and zinnias that are for Nikole's and Brad's garden.  I might sneak a couple marigolds for my garden.  There's a bunch, I doubt that she will notice a couple didn't make the trip to the big city.