Garden 2011

I should probably be required to write:

I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger….

(you get the idea)

At least 100 times on the blackboard.

Sigh.

Funny how completely working and just accomplishing those basic activities of daily living still leave me completely incapacitated at the end of the day.

I makes me REALLY look forward to the day when it won’t be that way. Please, dear Lord, let there be that day one day soon!

Tonight – after dinner, John and I walked out to the garden to see how things are progressing. The remainder of those post is going to pretty much be photos with a few comments.

Enjoy our garden.

We sure are!

…..

The hydrangea is finally in bloom! In August, for heaven’s sake! I love that it blooms right outside the kitchen window.

Here’s a peek at the “new” garden – this is the plot we put in a few years ago and is adjacent to the “old” garden.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that my Romanesco Zucchini is finally putting out fruit! HOORAY! These plants were grown from seed saved from last year’s planting. I love it when a plan comes together!

TONS of grey zucchini blooms coming on the plant.

And with John’s brilliant new fencing job around both garden plots – it looks like we’ll actually get to eat the green beans this year – instead of the chickens and the deer! I can’t tell you how much that thrill my heart. J

John found a volunteer trio of sunflower plants in the pathway between the two garden plots, dug ’em up and planted them next to one of the cucumber trellises – it’s about to bloom – I can’t wait!

Look! Pickling cucumbers actually usable size! Hooray!

…and the first burpless cuke – just about ready for picking.

The lemon cucumber has lots and lots of blossoms – just no cukes yet. (They make the best Cucumber and Green Onion Salad. I can’t wait!)

Tomato plants…. Lots and lots of tomato plants…

Cherry tomatoes! Now all we need is enough sun to get them ripened up!

Look! It’s blushing!

Jessica – just in case you read this – there will be fresh green beans when you’re home – AND – squash. J

Can you believe this? I’ve still got lettuce in August!

The peppers are ripening up.

And the potato plants in the potato condo are at least 6 feet tall!

Yes, it’s true – there are actually still a few pea pods to be had.

And…

:sigh:

They’re back…

Did I mention that I’ve got 50 tomato plants planted in my gardens? And – oh – probably that same number of basil plants, too?

Squash and zucchini. Be still my heart.

Holding out hope for lots more sunny days – even if they’re on the cool-ish side, I’m okay with that.

Here’s to another 60 days of summer! J

Finally! Phew!

There’s something really amazing about the day that you actually start planting the garden.

I have this sense of – I dunno – relief? I feel like yelling, “FINALLY!”

And then doing a little happy dance.

I can admit it – I say a little prayer of thanks and sing a little song of thanksgiving to God for this incredible blessing of dirt to plant in.

So – Denise – you asked about John’s tomato trellis system. Here’s a sort of closer look at a panel he added to the line-up yesterday.

It’s three tall fence stakes and a panel of cattle fencing. These one he secured the fencing on with zip ties. (My husband LOVES zip ties!) That’s it. It works fabulously.

This year we’ve got 62 feet of tomato trellis. We’ve got 32 tomato plants in the ground along these 62 feet of trellis. We plant on one side of the trellis with tomatoes, and on the other side I’ll add things like chives and basil and maybe some marigolds – all of which are great companions to tomatoes.

We’re growing Cherry tomatoes, Cherokee Purple, Roman, Brandywine, Beefsteak, Legend, Siletz, and Romas. A nice blend of both determinate and indeterminate, early, moderate, and longer maturing varieties.

:sigh:

I can’t wait until that first tomato comes in from the garden!

Today we also got planted:

A variety of lettuces on the underside of the green bean trellis. The first planting of the blue lake green beans are on the “outside” of the trellis, too.

A variety of radishes. John decided to mix it up a bit – literally – and broadcast these together on the next segment of this green bean trellis. (And yes, we do staple the seed packages to the frame. We’re getting old – it helps us remember what’s where! )

Beets were next. We’re out of John’s mind-blowingly amazing pickled beets. It’s SO time for a good harvest of beets!

This shot gives you a better idea of how the lettuces, radishes, and beets were laid out:

Along the back and side of the fence are two varieties of Peas:

…and…

You can sort of see where they are here:

John’s standing next to the potato condo, and then to the right of where he’s at you can see the envelope for the Cascade Bush Snap Peas. The Oregon Surgar Pod Peas are planted along the fencing to the right.

And then about 8 feet of turnips:

It’s a pretty sweet thing to look across the yard and actually see things planted in the garden!

(Impressive fencing job, huh?)

All-in-all, a pretty productive day.

The girls sure enjoyed the snippets of sunshine, too.

So did Pepper!

Hope your Memorial Day was – and continues to be – filled with blessings.

Tomato Plant Sale Today!

Yep! It’s time!

Time to plant the tomatoes!

People ask us all the time – what’s the secret? Why are your tomatoes so gorgeous? How do you know when to plant them? What do you do to make them that bountiful?

We have a few secrets – and we don’t mind sharing.

Start with really good tomato starts.

We’ve sourced them many places over the years, but we’ve been happiest with those that are grown from seed organically and started in a greenhouse that is unheated. They’re heartier – better able to handle the wacky Oregon weather.

We’ve been so fortunate to partner with a local master gardener who was willing to utilize our recycled pots and her greenhouse space to get these starts going for us.

They’re gorgeous plants! I’m so excited to get them in the ground!

Get them in the ground at the right time.

In theory, it seems like you really ought to be able to get your tomatoes in the ground by early to mid-May, right? Um, no. Not in our corner of Oregon! Our goal is to get them in the ground over Memorial Day Weekend. Any later – and well, it’s just not a happy result. Any earlier – there’s a good chance you’ll lose most (if not all) of your starts to frost.

It’s important to make sure they are situated so that they get LOTS of direct sunlight. They will not thrive without it.

Compost, compost, compost!

We add organic material (leaves in the fall, chicken coop litter in the winter, etc.) to the garden plots all through the year. A week ago John took the tiller out and rototilled the garden plots. The soil is fabulous.

Now that the soil is prepared, we’ll get our tomato plants (all 32 of ’em – 4 of each of the varieties we’re selling) in the ground, sprinkle around each of the plants with a little bit of DE, put down a layer of newspaper or brown paper bags, and then heavily (6 to 8 inches) compost on top of the paper.

Most years we end up buying a load of compost available commercially for that final layer of compost. It’s worth every penny for the end-result yields on our garden.

Water from the roots.

We use soaker hoses – and oftentimes will bury them below the compost layer (on top of the paper layer above). This means that we don’t have to use as much water, the leaves and fruit on the plants won’t suffer as much damage or disease, and we water much less frequently.

Just in case you didn’t know – watering a nearly ripe tomato directly can make them crack – bad. If you want fruit that will stay on the vine until they are utterly ripe and undeniably mouth-wateringly delicious – water from the roots!

Fertilize.

Here’s the thing – we believe in organics – i.e., Miracle Grow is from the pit of hell! We use fish emulsion, compost, compost tea, etc. You CAN over fertilize – more is not always better. Follow the directions and you’ll be glad you did.

Trellis, stake, cage – something!

John has used cattle fencing (available at Home Depot) to fashion some pretty awesome trellises for our garden. They last years and years and years. We love ours. Just as soon as the tomato plants are ready to go in the ground, the trellis system goes up, the plants go in the ground, and then they get tied to the trellis.

Tomato plants that are trellised/staked/caged and tied will grow beautifully. They love the extra stability. They will reach for the sky given the opportunity. We’ve had tomato plants that have grown easily 8 to 10 feet tall given appropriate support.

We make sure to go out about once a week and tie new growth to the trellis. I go to Home Depot and pick up the fluorescent pink flagging tape (non-adhesive) and use it so that I can see where I’ve tied as I go.

And that’s pretty much it. It’s not terribly complicated. Yes, it does take planning and some effort.

I’m so excited to get the garden going! We’ll be out in the yard today getting the new fencing up, the tomato trellising up, and tomato plants in the ground.

Come get some tomato starts for your garden, too!

A Rare Day Off…

I had to go back to work at the end of May – after 4 months off for medical leave.

I’ve had few days off – although I have been fortunate enough to be able to work first half-time, and most recently, about 3/4ths of a typical work day.

On an average day I’m at work by 7 am, get home by 1:15 pm – and pretty much crash. Getting over this lengthy illness will take a concerted effort and quite a bit of patience! It’s been pretty frustrating not being able to accomplish the many things that I feel I ought to accomplish.

Over the course of the last week – after a substantial delay due to the very cool, very wet Spring we’ve had – our garden has begun to take some shape.

HOORAY!

Here – let me show you what we’ve got put together so far…

This is the “old” garden. I.e., the original garden plot that’s been here since we moved her 5 years ago.

In the foreground are three rows of squash… they are yellow crookneck (my very favorite in the whole entire world), and Mexican squash – sometimes also seen as grey zucchini. The Mexican squash is a new variety for us – I buy it sometimes at the store, but it’s expensive, and not reliably available. So I decided we oughta grow some!

Next, is a row of dill. I’m relying on it to be wildly successful – I have big pickling plans this year!

There’s a reserved space next (i.e., empty) – right before that trellis. It’s for the trellis that is currently being used for peas. When the peas are done, the trellis will move here, and we’ll get another planting of green beans in. And the trellis that you see here:

On the left side are the old standard – Blue Lake pole beans.

On the right – another fun new option:

In the right growing conditions, these beans can grow up to 36″ long! WOW! The rumor is that they’re fabulous, too. I hope to find out. That would mean, of course, that we NOT the deer get to eat the green beans this year!

To that end, I’ve planted lots of flowers that are supposed to be deer deterrents. Like:

My goal is to edge each plot with plantings that the deer are said to be particularly repulsed by. They include: astilbe, coreopsis, gallardia, chives, lavender, sage (quite a number of varieites), purple coneflower, candy tuft, and bee balm. Here’s hoping it works!

After the green bean trellis are five hills of another new to us planting – Romanesco Zucchini. I think this is the variety of squash that I enjoy so much when I’m in Spain – or at least something very similar to it. I heard so many raves about it – and it was SO difficult to obtain the seed. I’m really hoping for success with this one!

And lastly in the old garden – four or five rows of corn – I can’t remember how many now. We’ll see when it comes up! 🙂

In the “new” garden plot we’ve got…

A potato condo with both Red Pontiacs and White Kennebecs. Here’s to a more successful potato year than last year!

Cucumbers! The trellis on the left has pickling cucumbers. The trellis on the right has slicing cucumbers.

In the foreground you may be able to discern a hill – there are actually 3 (I forgot to get a shot of them!) – one of a variety similar to cantaloupe that we’ve enjoyed in Spain, another an heirloom cantaloupe, and then an heirloom watermelon.

We’ve got forty tomato plants in the ground. A few aren’t looking so great. Gosh – they could sure use a few solid days of genuinely summer weather! They are all – of course – heirloom varieties: Paul Robeson, Copia, TC Jones, Grammy Cantrell German Red, Moon Glow, Dr. Wyches, Grace Lahman’s Pink, Roman Candle, Weeping Charlie Roma, Amish Paste, Isis Candy Cherry, Dr. Carolyn Cherry, and Tess Land Race Currant Cherry.

Separating the two banks of tomato trellises is a row of basil plants. I have some serious pesto plans for those basil plants!

Also in the new garden is my weed-infested patch of cabbages…

As well as my weed-infested patch of peas – which have pea pods on them now!!! Woo Hoo!!!

Aren’t they beautiful?

You may recall this entire plot was completely weed infested – as recently as just a week ago! We decided to just till it all under and start over again – sadly, saying goodbye to the spinach and green onions that had limped along thus far. I need to get out there and weed this little corner – and soon! – but only as energy allows.

Also in this plot are…

Parsley…

Cilantro…

Beets…

…and marigolds.

So far.

We will fill up nearly every spare inch we can.

I still need to get lettuce planted, a new planting of spinach, and a new planting of green onions in, as well. I put those under the trellises – it works out nicely.

John also got two more beds tilled tonight.

The front bed – along the street – will have pumpkins and lots and lots of perennial seeds that I’ve saved up and need to get in the ground!

And a bed where we’ve had great success with green beans in the past, will play host to green beans once again! John will get the trellising up in the next day or two, and then it will get planted. And then immediately thereafter – fenced! One MUST protect the garden from the chickens!

And speaking of chickens…

Buffy and three of the babies… the fourth (the Dominique) is always trailing behind somewhere!

One of the little black sex link chicks. Isn’t she pretty?

And – one of the EIGHT mostly naked chickens I have on my hands right now:

I don’t know if it’s the weather being so cool and yucky that’s caused so many of them to decide to molt all at the same time – or what! But there are feathers EVERYWHERE! Poor things – they look kinda pathetic! At least it’s not as cold as when Crayon molted last year! But has sure put a damper on egg production!

So – while I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped to on this lovely day off, I’m thankful for every moment I got to spend here at home with the kids and in the garden, and out with the girls. I even threw together a new fun salad, that I’ll post about later this week. I think it’s going to be a keeper!

Oooh! And – Shelly‘s broody again! I think I’m picking up fertile eggs for her to set in the next day or two. More on that as details are available!

Signs of Spring

Look! Little wood violets – they’re here! Hooray! (They didn’t even seem to mind the snow the day after this was taken.)

And yes – those are daffodils thinking VERY seriously about blooming!

And this is the pole sugar snap peas package….

…and the Oregon sugar pod peas package….

…which can only mean: we’ve got actual seed in the ground! Woo Hoo! Garden 2009 is off and running!

We’re actually feeling a little behind. Well, in some things at least. John has been hard at work expanding the garden. We’ve had a decent representation of seeds that we had every intention of having started by now. Last night we finally completed the balance of our seed order. Phew! Now all we need to do is decide on which variety (varieties?) of potatoes we want to grow in the potato condo that we want to give a whirl this year. I hope to have a good portion of our seed started in the coming week…
I also want to set up the AeroGarden that my AMAZING and FABULOUS husband gifted me with for Christmas and Birthday this year. (I’ve been interested in them for ages.) But since I’m having ankle reconstruction surgery tomorrow and will be non-weight bearing for 4 to 6 weeks – I’m not gonna rush it. Shhh…. I secretly have a goal of that being one of the first projects that I complete once I’m home from the hospital. They’re saying I’ll probably only be hospitalized for 2 or 3 days, so maybe before the weekend is over even! Wouldn’t that be cool?
And… after much debate, much going back and forth, actual placing of orders, and subsequent canceling of orders, we’ve finally decided we ARE going to add new chicks to the flock this year. The order actually just went in tonight, and sometime in the coming weeks we’ll be getting several of the following breeds: Sussex, Minorca, Delaware, Andalusian, Americauna, and Cuckoo Maran. You can rest assured that there will be lots of pictures when the little fluff balls arrive.
John, in the meantime, has been brainstorming and designing an addition to the coop that will allow us to adequately accomodate an expanded flock. We’re also thinking seriously about fencing about half of the property – not only to keep the girls in (I’m getting tired of chasing them home from down the street!), but also to keep the deer out of the garden. We’ll see…
So – I’m excited. I’m so ready for Spring!

Phew – it’s finally cooler

After all of my whining about the cool weather I’m a little ashamed of complaining about the heat! Does it make it any better that it got up to 100+ degrees here? Does that make me less of a wuss? LOL! Today… sigh…. it was a beautiful 85 degrees here. My, it was lovely. I love 85. I even love 90. I don’t love humidity, though – I confess.

We’ve gotten so much done!

We got the chicken wire up around the rest of the garden – hooray!

We got bark mulch around the plants in the garden that the chickens had scratched the first layer away from.

We got the rest of the flower bed along the street planted and bark mulched – what a relief to have that done!

With those things done my garden is looking so much healthier, happier, and just generally beautiful. I love that.
(The green beans are growing like crazy!)

I’ve got to say that having the kids home to help has been invaluable. They’ve worked so hard – and helped in so many ways. And with virtually NO reluctance to pitch in and give a helping hand. I’m so proud of them! And of course my beloved husband who gets up at the crack of dawn, works a long day at work, then comes home to work further here at home on our various projects – well, he just blesses me like I really honestly just don’t know how to adequately express. Gosh, I like him so much. Yes, of course, I love him (I mean, I did marry him, afterall!) – but, gosh, he’s so cool! I love hanging out with him! I love talking to him! I love spending time with him out in the garden, or working on some project together, or just sitting on the lawn furniture enjoying the quiet of the afternoon. I’m so glad that God doesn’t work on the merit theorum!
I promised more pictures of Roos. Here is Alexis – one of Jessica’s friends (Alexi) named him – 🙂 He’s 9 weeks old now and nearly as big as the big girls. He’s definitely the alpha male around here. [Don’t panic – the stump he’s perching on is the one the boys used to spray paint the bottom of William’s skate board red!]

This is kind of a typical event at our place… right after I’ve given Speedy her special treat (still giving her preferential treatment) I let the babies a little turn at whatever might be left over, and then the middle chicks get a run at it all. They all particularly love the oatmeal with fruit and a dollop of yogurt on top the best. Note the babies (who’ve just eaten their fill and walked away from the treat) are looking longingly on at the middle chicks who are now getting their turn!

Tonight we are trying our junior rooster crowing control experiment. Thanks to Danni for the great suggestion. We’ve taken Pepper’s “bed” – a cage-like dog crate (it’s huge – so is she!), put it on the back porch (which is protected on 3 sides), covered it with the exception of a small corner so that there’s good ventilation, and put the four oldest (and now all crowing) boys in it. We’ve noticed over the past few days that they are all polishing their ahem – abilities – in the crowing arena. It’s time to take steps. If this doesn’t work out, sad but true – they’ll have to go. We must maintain good neighbor relations!

I’ll report back on the rooster control tomorrow.

Chickens and gardens – oh my!

I love blackberries. A lot. Two summers ago – the summer my Mom’s illness had escalated and we were essentially home because home was safe for her – we had bazillions of blackberries. I made blackberry syrup, blackberry jam, blackberry jelly, blackberry pie filling, blackberry cobblers, blackberry muffins, blackberry cake, blackberry lemonade… Mom particularly loved the fresh blackberry protein smoothies I made for her. You get the idea. I love blackberries! Last year we knew we were going to have to trim back the blackberries – they were beyond aggressive – they were taking over the entire property! We had a friend help us – and he did a bang up job – honestly – I worried we’d have no more blackberries every again! And sadly, last year there were not enough blackberries for much more than a few handfuls to snack on on an occasional morning – but that was about it. 😦
I’m starting to think the year off was a good thing. There are beautiful white blackberry blossoms all over the place. As you can imagine, I’m starting to plan… blackberry jam, blackberry jelly, blackberry syrup…. Sigh. Wish Mom were here to share – but I’m thinking she’s having much better blackberry smoothies in heaven!We are so thankful for the warmer weather. Pepper is particularly happy about getting to play in water! She’s so funny!The roses are loving the weather, too. Mom’s rose tree is finally putting forth the kind of blooms she routinely got from it.

One of the things I’d read about keeping chickens and letting them free range was that they had a tendancy to “nibble” on gardens. As with all things chicken keeping related – leave it to me to learn the hard way! Behold…

Yes, these are my ahem – formerly – beautiful pea plants. Yes, I can say with assurance that the chickens loved my peas as much as I did! Yes, we did put up a fence around the garden – that once the chicks are big enough they won’t fit through… Of course, they do now – and this…is the result. So, we’re adding chicken wire to our decorative fence around the garden. Gotta love chicken wire!

The final straw that spurred us to action was when the girls realized that the green beans were sprouting – and gobbled them down in great number. Grrr….Thankfully we had enough chicken wire on hand to get the green bean garden protected before all of them were gobbled down. It was amazing today – with the heat – to see how much they progressed!Thankfully we were able to intervene while there were still tomato plants to save! Well, you gotta admit – they know yummy stuff when they see it, those cute little chickens!