Sunday, May 21, 2017

What a difference a week makes

In the last post the weather was warm and beautiful.  This week was cold with temperatures back down in the lower 40s at night and lower 50s during the days.  The rain fell for days.  The wind blew and some places got hail.  Thankfully nothing of mine was damaged by any bad weather but still the monster tomato plants have not been planted at Terra Nova Gardens.  They are starting to show the stress of not being out in the real garden soil.
I did manage between rain storms to mow my vacant lot and get enough grass clippings to cover one bed.  The time was right to plant the next planting of sweet corn.  I hope it will be alright as I had to just poke it into the ground in the mud.  Then the next two days after that it rained.  The first planting of sweet corn is up about six inches and looks great.  Now I really have to get the pathways mulched and the fence up.

The garden gifts just keep coming.  Yesterday I helped a friend move some furniture to prepare for her moving to Ohio and she gave me about a dozen steel posts and a post driver.  Both were things I was going to buy this week.  It will certainly help with keeping the garden costs down.  Much of the materials used in my garden has been given to me.
I did manage to get the worst pathway cleaned up.  It didn't take as long as I thought.  The beauty about using carpet for weed control is that when the weeds make their way up through the carpet, it can just be turned over and weeding is done.  I pulled out all the chicken wire fencing because it was toast.  I've discovered that chicken wire rusts very quickly and in just three years it needs replaced.  I'm replacing it with a heavier steel wire that should last much longer.   So much to do and little time to do it.  
The strawberries are gorgeous this year.  They are loaded with blossoms and if I can keep the wildlife from getting to them, I should have a great harvest.  They haven't filled up the entire bed just yet but after the deer devastation two years ago leaving five plants out of thirty, their recovery is amazing.  If I can just stay ahead of the weeds and wild life, it should be a great year.
  This bed will be the green peppers.  Last year my peppers didn't produce any peppers.  They just got real wrinkly leaves and didn't get any peppers on them.  I found after research that is caused by lack of calcium.  This bed has always not produced much in the last couple years.  It has been beefed up with bags of manure compost and will have lime spread around the pepper plants when they are planted.  Garden line has calcium that is good for plants.  Hopefully, it will correct the condition that I had last year.  I should have about 12 plants in this bed which will be way more than I need.

Last year toward the end of the year a make shift vegetable stand was set out in front of my garden for the extra produce to be given away.  It all disappeared every over night when I set it out so this year the stand will be bigger and better.  Some have asked about why I don't sell it.  My answer is too much bother.  If I do that I'd have to get a permit from the city and add it to my income for taxes.  If I didn't, one neighbor to complain would put me in a fix with the city so it's not worth the risk in my humble opinion.  Besides, it has opened a door for me to get to know the entire neighborhood.  

The potatoes are doing really good this year.  The harvest should be about the end of July.  I've acquired a free refrigerator and still have an old chest freezer that I'm going to see if it still works.  This year I'll be storing up a little more garden produce for the winter months.  Unfortunately, not much will be eaten by grandson and daughter.  They are not so much into home cooked meals.

That's it for this time.  I'll be back soon.  In the mean time get outside and enjoy the Spring because hot summer is coming.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Let the Planting Begin

The sky is blue and the winds are warm, let the planting begin.  The next week or so will be planting every thing.  It's time to start the cucumber, squash, and pumpkin seeds in the seed trays.  I like to start them and plant the plants.  I have more control over what happens to the seeds under grow lights for a while.  They will be stronger and better to with stand the real world.  And there won't be any bare spots if a few seeds don't germinate.  
The tomato cages are up and ready for planting.  This year I'm experimenting with irrigation which may become automatic.  Liter plastic bottles with holes in them are buried in the beds where tomatoes are to be planted.  One inch pipe will be feeding into half inch pipe that fills the bottles.  I haven't tested it just yet but soon.  The water will come from the mini water tower through a hose.  I still have a few minor things to work out but I'm hopeful that it will work.

This is the North half of the garden area.  It will be surrounded by a wire fence and electric wire like last year.  It worked well to keep out all vegetarian wild critters.  A couple more loads of mulch and the fencing will begin.
 This is another experiment for cucumbers and squash.  It's hard to see but there's a wire fence laying on the slanted steel posts.  The plan is to let the cucumbers climb up the wire fence and the hope is that the cucumbers will hang down under the wire fence and be easy to pick.  Under the cucumbers, squash will be planted.  The terrain of my garden promotes vine growth toward the East.  All of the direct sun comes from the East and is non existent after 4pm from the West.  The squash will be allowed to cross over the path into the second planting of sweet corn so a full 10 feet of travel will be given to the squash.  The next challenge will be the dreaded vine borer that kills all vine plants in my area of the country.  I have some ideas about that as well and I really think they will work.  My understanding about vine borers is that a fly lays an egg on the base of the squash or pumpkin vine.  When worm hatches, it bores into the vine of the plant and works it's way up the stem until the plant just wilts and dies.  Some experts say to circumvent the life cycle of the nasty little worm don't plant your vine plants until after 4th of July.  Tried that; didn't work.  So my plan this year is to plant the squash plant below the surface of the ground with a metal soup can to keep the dirt away from the leaves.  The can has both ends cut out.  As the plant grows up and out of the can and the roots grow out the bottom of the can, vermiculite will keep the stem of the plant covered.  When the plant gets big enough to expose the vine up out of the can Vaseline will be rubbed on the vine.  Some articles say that aluminum foil can be wrapped around the base of the plant and I might try that too.  I just love to figure things out and like the challenge almost as much as growing the plants .... OK, more than growing the plants. 
 Four rows of green beans have been planted but no sign of life yet.  I use grass clipping for mulch to cover the beds.  These beds have been cultivated three times before the mulch was spread out over the soil.  I've learned there are three different plants to deal with in the Spring.  The first are early Dock and some other kind of weed.  Then comes the grass type plants.  Then the nasty bind weed and vines.  So if planting is held off after the three times of cultivation and the soil is covered with a healthy covering of mulch, there are not many weeds during the rest of the year.  I don't put chemicals on my yard at home or my second vacant lot that I use just for mulch.  The secret with grass clippings is to put it on in layers.  I thick layer will turn slimy and smell but if put on in one inch layers it will dry out in a couple days and be ready for another layer if needed.  I use about six to eight yard waste bags a week from my two sources.
I've had a real problem with creeping Charlie this year.  It's a low to the ground plant that just covers every thing.  It's seems that every year it's another plague of weed.  First is was some kind of vines that seem to be all connected under the surface of the soil.  Then it was horrific infestation of bind weed.  And now the plague of Creeping Charlie.  This area will be where the green peppers will go.  Nothing seems to grow well in this bed.  I dumped some bags of compost and manure from the Menard's store and raked it in.  Last year my green pepper leaves were all wrinkly and the plants didn't get any peppers on them.  From my research, it might be a calcium deficiency.  So I'll sprinkle a little lime on top of the soil around the plant and dig in a little Epsom Salts in the bottom of the hole when I plant the green pepper plants.  Both are supposed to provide calcium to plants.  If that doesn't work I'll have to have to soil tested in this bed to see what the issue is.  
   This will be my next area to get cleaned up.  I pulled the chicken wire fence off the posts to get a good clean and will replace the wire with a better fence.  Chicken wire rusts away in just a couple years and I want some thing a little more durable.  I'm replacing the fence with a heavier gauge fencing that should last for many years.  It's a five foot fence which is a little taller than the four foot chicken wire fence.  The bottom eight inches will be bent out flat on the ground and pinned to the ground with metal tent pegs.  It keeps the rodent rascals from digging under the fence.  

So lots of work still to do and June vacation is coming up quick.  Yes, the garden will be on it's own for about 10 days in June.  I'm hoping the battery life of the electric fence will be able to last that long while I'm away or I could come back to a disaster.  It's the way of a garden.  Nature will take over when left to her own fruition.  

Happy gardening and see you in about a week.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Time for some digging

The rain finally took a break so now it was time to do some digging.  As you can see this is a bed that not been dug up before.  A good crop of green foliage was beginning to sprout.  If left too long it would be as high as my head and tough as iron to cut or pull.  So with shovel in hand and wheel barrow beside me bed #12 began it's journey to become a productive garden bed.
 About an hour and a half later the task was complete with what I call my first harvest from the bed.
Yes, a nice batch of rocks with green vines wrapped around them.  It seems that there is a layer of rock about six to eight inches under the soil.  There's also some kind of vine network under the surface that seems to be all connected and covers the entire garden.  Slowly, I'm rooting them out and keeping them under control.  I even dug up a few old car parts and a 1986 license plate.  I continue to find creepy doll heads with no bodies and no eyes.  Over the course of the last five years I have probably dug up at least a dozen or so.  I'm not sure what that's all about.  Now bed #12 has been planted with the first planting of sweet corn.  I'm planting four beds this year.  Each will be two weeks apart.  One row of beans was planted in the main part of the garden with three more to be planted.  I only had enough seeds for one row.  The seed packs just don't have many in them any more.   Some of the super hybrid seed packs might only have 10 or less seeds.  I don't buy those pricey seeds and stick with the plants and seeds that have been around since the days of Noah.   
This last weekend Bradley and I participated in a father - son weekend.  So there I was with Bradley and all the other thirty some thing Dads.  This was the bonfire on Saturday night.  That baby was still smoking the next morning.  Bradley rode his first four wheeler all by himself.  There were many other first time adventurous things for him.  The group of boys were kept busy until they dropped.  It was about 3:30am the first night and about midnight the second night.  There was no sleeping in.  They were forced out of bed by 7am for devotions and breakfast before the day's activities began.  Right so the drive home was about two and a half hours.  Yeah, Bradley was asleep before we got a mile down the road.  When we got home, I was ready for a nap and he was fully rested and ready to go.  Thankfully his Mom took over and kept him busy until bed time.  So now comes Monday morning and school.  It took all of ten minutes to pry him out of bed.  Only to find him laying on his bed sleeping 10 minutes later; then on the living room couch 10 minutes later; and then asleep on the kitchen table when eating breakfast.   Finally, by school time he was almost awake.  So we will see what happens tomorrow.  Life is good if I just don't weaken.

Well, that's it for this week.  I hope everything is going well with your Spring.  This will be a week of planting every thing.