Monday, December 21, 2015

We are headed for Winter

Finally, the weather has settled into normal temperatures.  Even with an extra month of warm weather I'm still behind in getting the garden put to bed. I will be working in the garden as long as the temperatures allow and the ground isn't covered with snow.

I've mulched the 10 foot space between the road and fence at Terra Nova Gardens.  The weeds are buzzed down as close to the ground as possible; then old carpet is put down on the ground under side up; then two inches of hard wood mulch is put on top of that.  It should rectify the weed problem permanently.   It takes a little more time up front but now that it's done it will be weed free for many years.  Maybe  long after I'm gone.

The three year deer fence project is finally completed.  Yea!  The last part doesn't look too pretty but I'm hoping it will be functional.  I still have a few holes to repair to make it a first line defense for the raccoons.  I don't expect this fence to keep them out but it might slow them down.

During the four years of gardening at Terra Nova Gardens, I have harvested a total of just a handful of barely mature ears.  The raccoons have invaded and destroyed the entire corn patch in just one night.  This is the beginning of what I call the sweet corn fortress. After the weeds, which got terribly out of control this year, were cleared off the soil, a layer of old carpet was laid in place.  The next task was acquiring rocks removed from the neighbor's wall.  He widened his driveway and used retaining wall blocks to rebuild the wall.  These rocks are being used to line the raised beds.  They are put in place with a four by twenty eight foot growing area.  Including the width of the rocks the beds are five feet wide.  When the rocks are all in place the carpet is cut out of the growing area and saved to cover the bed when not in use.  On the right you can see a completed bed with a grass/leaf mixture to compost down over the Winter.  Three of these beds will be inside the fortress.  When the beds are finished a four foot chicken wire fence will surround the fortress without any gate.  Access to the area will be by removable concrete block steps to climb over the fence.  On the outside of the fence, four wires will be electrified by a battery powered electric fence charger.  The wires will be four, eight, twelve, and twenty four inches from the ground.

Outside of the electrified and chicken wire fence, two of these live traps will be baited with marshmallows, a raccoon's favorite food.  Once they are caught, I think I'll tag them and release them to give them a second chance because really I have invaded their territory.   I'll let you know how it all works out next year.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

More Summer Gardening

Oh, my, I have been very remiss at keeping up with blogging over the summer.  There's been plenty of activity to write about but good intentions just don't get it done, does it.  Having Bradley, my grandson, living in my household has definitely reshaped my time schedule.  Now that school has started, it leaves a little more time for gardening but then other responsibilities have crept in to take the place of daily grandson responsibilities.  My mother in law will be 89 in October.  She is still pretty independent but needs help with grocery shopping each week.  Since she gave up driving a couple years ago, every week she makes out a list of groceries for me to buy for her.  Doctor's visits and getting medicine for her requires some time as well.  

My neighbors down the street are in their 80s and have health issues.  The wife had a stroke some years ago and doesn't really have the reaction time to drive safely any more.  The husband had eye surgery last December and hasn't really recovered well enough to drive either.  I agreed to drive them around last December with the notion that it would only be for a couple months while Dee, the husband, recovered from eye surgery.  That has turned into an open ended long term responsibility.  Now Dee has decided to have a knee replacement.  I really do enjoy their company and am doing exactly what I am gifted to do.  All that combine has put me at the limit for adding any thing else to the schedule for a time.  I haven't been in that position since retirement before.  It's a new experience but one that I am comfortable with.   Some people would wonder how I cope with it but I truly enjoy being able to help others through the tough times in their lives.  One thing that I've learned about life is that it's fluid.  It never stays forever with one schedule.  Kids grow up, health changes, life is in a constant state of change.  So I look at it as an ever changing adventure.  I never know what that next phone call will bring into my life.  Life can be very negative if I let it be but I choose to enjoy life and dwell on the positive things and deal with the bad things.  It's been a good philosophy so far.  

Well enough about that, let's see what's been happening in the garden.  I have written about the deer being prolific this year and eating all the strawberries.  I let the strawberry bed go to weeds in thinking that the plants that survived wouldn't be found by the deer again and so far it has worked.  It worked so well that I have trouble finding the surviving plants as well.  The rain here has been way above normal.  In August alone, the rainfall is five inches above the average of 3.5 inches.  Temperatures have fluctuated from average to 15 degrees below normal.  
Bind weed has taken over certain parts of the garden.  This happened in just four weeds of lack of attention. Bind weed is the most obnoxious weed ever.  Some would say the bind weed is the cousin of Kudzu.  I would agree that Kudzu is indeed much worse than bind weed and in my area bind weed freezes and dies until the next spring.  The thing about bind weed is that it can take over an entire area with just a few roots.  In the picture above there is carpet under this weed.  The roots are just a handful along the fence.  All this foliage over the carpet and up the fence was from less than 10 roots.  

A little sweat makes a big difference.  Bind weed on carpet is an easy clean up.  Just pull out the roots and roll the entire wad of foliage up into a big bundle and through it away.  It will quickly compost down into a small amount of compost.  Not so with some of the weeds not shown in this picture.

Tw0 years ago I started building the fence around the 60x60 foot garden area.  I found a free source of fence panels that I hauled to the garden.  I had enough to completely surround the garden but alas a van came down the road and smashed into the fence.  It completely destroyed three panels.  I replaced the panels and continued to build the fence.  Now this year I am down to the last three panels to completely enclose the garden area but the free source of fence panels has dried up.  I'm left with building the last three panels from scratch.  It doesn't look quite as pretty as the normal fence panels but is still just as functional.  It will keep the deer from getting into the garden.  The deer could easily jump the six foot fence but I've been told that if a deer can't see what's on the other side of the fence, they won't jump it.  Makes sense to me that a deer would want to know what they are jumping into.  Hopefully before the snow flies, I'll have these panels complete.  

However, this week my cousin starts a new job with training in a near by city.  My task which I have chosen will be to walk Bailey girl, a long haired chihuahua with a peanut bladder.  So this week twice a day old Nebraska Dave will be walking the three pound socialite of the neighborhood Bailey girl.  She's very brave barking at the big dogs while standing between my legs. 😖
I hope everyone is having a great end of summer. 
Just remember, "Gardening requires a lot of water.  Most of it in the form of perspiration." - Lou Erickson

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer Gardening

9:58 AM 7/19/2015
Wow, two months since my last blog entry.  This year has been extreme in many ways.  Rain continued through all of June and into July.  Then suddenly it turned to 100+ heat indexes.  The rain brought wonderful garden growth but along with it out of control weed growth.  I've been fighting the weeds continually and loosing ground at Terra Nova Gardens.  Now that the heat has arrived maybe I can get a grip on the land once again.
 Yeah, well as you can see some parts of Terra Nova Gardens has gotten out of control.  It's even worse now but the battle rages on with tall weed control.  I found that a hand weed wacker works wonders on these types of weeds.  It was one of the many tools given to me by a disgruntled gardener.  Many new gardeners glamorize gardening and under estimate the amount of time and work it takes to have one.  They plant way too much and by the middle of July .... well, it looks like this.  The struggle is way too much for them and they give up.  Eventually, they give the garden tools away.  I have a shed full of tools and many other donations as well.  
The old carpet from apartment tear outs is free and really helps with weed control .  Here you see what's under the carpet after just two months of laying on the ground.  Total weed suppression.  But Almost immediately on removal the little buggers with big potential begin to sprout and grow.  The green stuff just above the the bare soil is the solution to the weed growth at this point.  Well, it's my solution.  Yes, that's lawn grass.  I intentionally have not put commercial fertilizer or weed killer on my lawn to be able to use it for this.  The yard bag that the grass was in is ripped down the side and laid out flat. Then the grass mulch is spread out over the yard waste bag.  This fall a grass/leaf mix will be spread over the top of this. 
This is the beginning of the raised bed borders.  Until now there were no borders only raised hump beds.  I'm in process of making 1/4 of the enclosed garden raised beds with borders.  On the right is the strawberry bed that was raided by deer.  Thirteen out of 30 plants have survived the nibbling.  Nothing else seems to be bothered even though I see fresh deer tracks in the garden every time I go there.  I can see where they have tried to nibble on the cucumbers but just haven't taken a liking to the fuzzy leaves.  
 Yup, first ripe tomato goes to Early girl.  July 5th and probably could have been harvested on the 4th of July had I looked.  Second runner up was Celebrity with Mortgage lifter third and last was Rutgers.  These are my early basement bucket experimental tomatoes.  I don't think they are going to produce a large amount of tomatoes but it's keeping me and the neighbor next door supplied in tomatoes.  The main load of tomatoes will come from Terra Nova Gardens.   I thought I was going to have a blight problem as the leaves in both location had leaves showing the signs of blight.  I just kept breaking off the yellow drying up leaves and it seems like I have circumvented it.  After a couple rounds of being brutal about taking off leaves that looked infected, I haven't seen any thing for at least a couple weeks.  I kept them watered good so maybe that helped too.

If you would like to see more Terra Nova Gardening and what's happening in Old Gardener Dave's life you can go to my GRIT magazine blog and read more.

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer
Omaha Nebraska
GRIT Magazine Blogger

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Let the Gardening Begin

Well, here we are at the end of May and gardening should be going full force.  Rain and cold weather has delayed planting for another week.  I learned last year not to be so anxious to plant.  I do have some things planted like onions, potatoes, lettuce, radishes, and dill weed.  I planted some beans a couple days ago but I suspect they will need replanting if it don't warm up soon.  It's been an extremely bipolar Spring.  March was dry and warm; April was rain with 80 degree days; May has been rain and cool.  I'm cautious about planting too much too fast. 
Here is the third layer ready for planting. The first layer are the large plants and the smaller plants just breaking the soil would be the second layer.  The sprouted plants are setting on the corner of the bed waiting to be planted.

Here we have the third layer planted on May 6th and ready to start the journey toward harvest.  After this planting the rains began and the potatoes grew.
And so four inches of rain later and a few warm days .... boom.... potato ganza (party).  So we will see if it really is a good way to grow potatoes.  It's looking good so far.
The cool weather gave me concern and the portable buckets were kept in where it was warm for the low night time temperatures.  The process of moving plants will soon end .... I hope.  Cabbages were planted today.

Cold and misty rain day brings the projects inside.  The installation of a bathroom mirror and taking some unwanted scrap to the scrap yard.  There's always a project to work on whether it be inside or outside.  Early morning tomorrow will net some serious garden weeding.  Isn't it just so awesome to be back in the garden digging in the dirt?

If you haven't had enough you can see more at:

Behold, my friends, the Spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love.  Sitting Bull

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Potatoes are stealing the show

The Spring weather has been glorious here.  It continues into May with well behaved thunder storms.  I do like Spring storms.  The smell and feel of a good rain storm makes me feel that every thing is as it should be.  All the water tanks for my back yard garden are filled to capacity.  That's about two months of garden watering.  Last year the Urban Ranch garden beds were watered all summer without intervention.  The new gravity feed watering system works wonderfully well. 

Potatoes seem to be headed for a great harvest this
year.  If you remember last year I tried to layer the potatoes in one bed to have a bigger production but my potato seed rotted from lack of care.  Yeah, it was my fault.  This year I've gone to great lengths to insure the seed potatoes wouldn't rot.   The first planting of potatoes was done on Good Friday the traditional day for Nebraska potato planting.  In this picture you can see the second layer is ready to be covered with soil. 

The second layer has been planted was planted a couple weeks ago and on inspection this morning the plants are very near the third layer planting.  All the potato plants are up and growing strong. 

As you recall I talked about the British term used for sprouting potatoes called chittin'.  Here's the update on that experiment with sprouting potatoes before planting.
Yeah, I think it worked a little too well.  You can see little nodes along the sprouts.  These long sprouts were snipped off down to just a couple nodes on each sprout and planted hoping they would continue to grow.  They did indeed grow.  So, yeah, apparently I'm really good at chittin' and didn't even know that I was.

The garden is just two weeks away from being planted with tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, and pumpkins.  Oh, yeah, and let us not forget the sweet corn.  I'm still hoping for a harvest one of these years.  The raccoons are waiting in anticipation for that first bite of sweet corn.  As with last year, my plan is to continue working on the six foot fence around the garden area and get it completed before the sweet corn is ready.  I have eight more panels to get up.  If I have the time, I'm going to build a fence inside the garden from chicken wire covered pallets to surround just the sweet corn patch.  If the double fencing don't keep the critters from snacking on my corn then an electric fence will be put around the corn patch fence.  It's much more difficult to keep wild life out with a fence than to keep livestock in with a fence.  At least with livestock, a fence can be built to fit the critter but with wild life a fence has to be built to eliminate all sizes and types of critters.  The wild ones can fly, dig, climb, and jump.  It's a challenge for sure but then that's the reason I garden.  For the challenge.

For me in the Spring, at the end of the day, it's been a good day if I smell like dirt.

How's your garden growing?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring has arrived 

Sorry for being gone so long.  I always send out holiday cards to all the grand kids, aunts and uncles, and a few select friends.  In all there are 17 cards with personal notes and a blog like letter pertaining to the holiday that gets sent out.  This year it seemed like the Valentine's, St. Patrick's, and Easter holidays were packed back to back with not much recovery time in between.  Well, and maybe it's just a wee bit of procrastination that put the stress on the holiday cards. 

This is my latest project to tinker with.  Across the street from Terra Nova Gardens is a neighbor that gave me this beauty.  It's a chipper vac with a five horse Tecumseh engine.  Of course it wouldn't start which presented a challenge that I couldn't refuse.  For an engine to run it takes air, spark, and fuel.  After unclogging the chipper chamber and fixing the starting cord recoil, I found that of the three things needed for an engine to run fuel was an issue.  Any time an engine sets for a long period of time the gas will gum up the carburetor.  So an online search found a carburetor kit for $11 or an entirely new carburetor for $17.  It was a no brainer decision to get the new carburetor.  Here you see me installing the new carburetor.  A new air filter was installed as well.  I found that this little jewel was about 25 years old even though it doesn't look it.  It probably hasn't been used much by the looks of it.  However the chipping process was less than impressive.  Two key things for use on the chipper/vac are the plastic snout for the front ($150) and the bag to catch to chips on the back ($100).  Too much money to invest in an old chipper for me so I'm not sure what I'll use it for.  Online searching came up with a value of $300 just for the engine in a used condition so if nothing else that would be worth the effort of getting it running.  With a little coaxing after the new carburetor was installed the engine roared to life.

I've been watching a lot of British gardening shows on YouTube this last Winter.  My language has changed just a bit after that much British influence.  One of the things they talked about was "chitting" potatoes.

Now, chittin' potatoes as the British would say (they have this habit of forgetting to pronounce the last letter of a word) is when you put your potatoes in empty egg containers and let the eyes of potato sprout.  So, yeah, I been chittin' potatoes for about a month now and am plannin' on getting them planted soon.   Today, Good Friday, is supposed to be the traditional day for planting potatoes in Nebraska.  Maybe even today the first layer of potatoes will be planted.  Some may remember last year when I didn't take very good care of my seed potatoes and most rotted in the bucket.  Since now I know how to chit potatoes properly, they should grow a lot better.
I've been out in Terra Nova Gardens quite a bit in March.  I was totally embarrassed by the condition of the garden this Spring.  Weeds had really taken over last year after I threw up my hands and gave up.  The last straw was when the very last part of May a big storm blew through with 100+ MPH winds, seven inches of rain that caused flooding, and baseball sized hail.  It totally destroyed every thing in the garden for the third time.  I just didn't have anything left to plant and the nurseries only had the dregs of plants left.  This Spring has required much clean up.  I am hopeful for a good gardening year for this year. 

I'm just about ready to plant the basement buckets with tomatoes and green peppers but that's for another post that will a little sooner than the last one.  Until then plan on planting some thing this year.  It will make you feel better. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Gardening has started 

The weather outside is brrrr cold here in Nebraska.  The temperature this morning was -5 degrees with about 18 inches of snow on the ground from two snows.  I totally got to play with Stormie my snow blower.  I helped the neighbor remove snow from their driveway and sidewalk.  Fun for me but would have been lots of work for them.  The first snow was a heavy heart attack snow.  Some times snow blowers won't throw heavy wet snow very well but Stormie strutted her stuff and handled it with the greatest of ease.

This purchase marks the beginning of the gardening season.  Ha, it was classic when I had to have the fork lift operator at Home Depot bring down a pallet of frozen Organic Choice garden soil from the storage above floor level.  Four bags of frozen soil packed on a trolley cart destined for a new experimental growing system left the Home Depot employees shaking head at the crazy old coot buy frozen bag of dirt.  Left in the back of Ranger Rick, my truck, it thawed out in the garage.  The garden soil, compost and cow manure, peat moss, and some other amendments were tumbled in the composter on one of the 50 degree days.  Two batches was enough to fill eight five gallon buckets in preparation of the early portable growing system.
This the setup in the basement for eight plants that will be started inside under the grow lights.  Each bucket will contain either a tomato plant or a green pepper plant.  The seeds for these plants will be started in the seed starting station on a heat mat the first of March.  The plants should be ready to be transplanted to larger containers once they have the first set of leaves the first part of April.  They will be ready for the buckets by the first part of May and will remain in these buckets for the rest of the growing season.  The buckets will be set out in the garden after hardening off at the end of May.  They set on a similar rain gutter system in the garden.  If inclement weather or frost threatens like last year, the buckets can be brought back in the house for protection.  It's a totally portable system that can be moved at a moments notice.  It's all totally experimental and may end up being a total bust but it looks good in my brain but any one who's read this blog for any length of time knows that what seems like a great idea in my brain some times just doesn't come out into reality the way I thought it would.
This day is the official start of the gardening season.  I know it doesn't look like much but this is the starting of the onion seeds.  The seeds were scattered over the top of 50 fiber pots and potting mix was sprinkled on top.  It was already watered and the original potting mix was moist and warm from being on the heat mat. After the seeds were scattered and the potting mix sprinkled on top a light misting from a spray bottle dampened the top layer.  Water was poured into the bottom of the tray to wick up the fiber pots from the bottom and a lid was placed on top to keep the moisture in.  The tray was set back on the heat mat to wait for the seeds to come to life.

Seeds are an amazing thing.  Scientists can dissect a seed down to the molecular level and identify every element in the seed.  However they can not identify what gives the seed life. I've heard that seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs over 1000 years old have been planted and actually sprouted.  That life force has been passed on each year from season to season through the plants producing seeds.  Yeah, I know, I sit and ponder these things while working in the garden or starting seeds under the grow lights.  Pretty amazing, don't you think.
So the daughter says, "Hey Dad the washer is leaking water all over the floor really bad."  Since the washer is pushing 20 years old, we have just been waiting for the day when it has a total failure and I thought this might be the day.  The last time we thought it was over, the drain pipe was rusted out and leaking water under the washer in an attempt to shift the blame.  The drain pipe was repaired so what else could it be but the washer this time.  Anyone see what could be the problem in the above picture that might cause a major leak?  Ah, yeah, the drain hose had jumped out of the drain.  I suspect the washer is getting really tired of getting blamed for flooding the laundry room floor.
Well, that's all for now from the Urban Ranch.  I hope to have another report on the experimental ideas in a week or two.  Have a great time either planning a garden or laughing at my crazy plans.
Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer
Omaha Nebraska
GRIT Magazine Blogger