Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blog Hiatus

Not that I'd been posting regularly before (by the way, Garden 2011 and Garden 2012 were both great successes despite lack of tender caretaking), but here you go:

Official Blog Hiatus while I enjoy and fully immerse myself in our new addition to the family. Gah! Love.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19th: Update

The peas are planted - this year they will be running along the side fence, where the watermelon seeds were planted last year (major FAIL, I think they rotted away before they had the chance to sprout). I changed locations because I noticed that the shed they were planted next to this past summer is starting to flake paint. Who knows if the paint has lead in it, so we aren't going to take the chance. We'll plant sunflowers there instead and leave the seeds for the birds.

I planted the peas on Sunday (April 17, for the record). Half of the seeds were "saved" from the summer's harvest (1 sugar snap variety and one snow pea variety). The other half were from a seed packet. So.. we'll see if my methods of seed saving for peas was a success. That is, gather the overlooked, overripe pods, dry them, harvest the seeds. Store in a little glass bowl in the seed cabinet.

The green onions continue to revive themselves, so we already have a nice crop of green onions/scallions. I checked on the blueberry bushes and they seem to have survived unscathed. The strawberry plants survived the weekend snow. Whew, whew, and whew. Our chives have already sprouted back up from the dead as well. Those are the best kinds of garden plants!

The tomato and pepper seedlings are happy, as are the spinach and arugula. I plan to transplant the spinach & arugula as soon as possible so they have enough space - they are growing quicker than expected. Herbs are sprouting up too, but I did a bad job of labeling them so currently, I don't know what's what.

My approach to gardening continues to be very off-the-cuff, fly by the seat of my pants (this is totally how I cook too, although I try to write down a "recipe" when the food is Yum! like the restaurant). So far it's working just fine - a backyard full of sunlight and healthy soil are working in my favor - but I know I need to eventually make note of what I'm doing and what's working best or what's majorly failing. And not rely on my memory. Hmm.. I wonder if I could hire an assistant or a secretary of sorts to stay on top of it for me. Daydreams.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Starting Indoors

If I remember correctly, I got a bit of a late start on planting seeds to start indoors last year. St. Patrick's Day is my goal, and this year I again missed it. But only by a week! I planted tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, spinach, arugula, and a number of herbs. Maybe something else too. Outside, the onions from last year are in the ground (they overwintered in order to get a head start this year). I'll plant more directly into the beds soon - and if the ones that overwintered end up growing nice and big and are a success story, I'll leave most of the "new" onions there overwinter and have that be my onion strategy. The ones I dug up at the end of fall (planted from seed in the spring) were all smaller than golf balls.. most were the size of marbles.

I still have plenty of vegetable seeds that need to be planted. Some I'll plant directly into the beds once it's a bit closer to June - such as carrots (mine did really well last year doing this) and green onions (which overwintered successfully all on their own, despite being feasted on by rabbits). Also cucumbers (did great!), summer squash (again, great!) and pumpkins (not great, but not bad either).

I'll admit: I am behind. I feel like I'm further behind than I probably am in reality. Okay, except for the peas & beans - I haven't started those seeds yet, so the spring crop might be doomed. Thankfully, they can handle the warmer days if they have some shade, and will produce an okay fall crop. Last year my peas & beans were spindley sprouts anyways, which caused them to be non-prolific (especially the peas). Great for snacking though! Ack, I forgot the beets too! Those will be new this year. (Maybe - if I ever get them started)

Here are some sprouts! I think this is spinach/arugula...
Happy planting! I'm going to try to catch up this weekend on the seeds that have tragically been left behind thus far. The school I teach at is insane this time of the year (okay, *all* times of the school year). This whole teaching gig sure does make it difficult to keep up with the better parts of life! I don't have any free time to enjoy the outdoors and get things done around the house/garden, save for the rare (& delightful) hour or two on weekend days.

OH!  The strawberry plants overwintered fabulously and currently look quite nice. But the snow (sNOw?! blech.) was just starting to come down too, so I don't know if they'll still look nice in the morning. I covered them with some nearby straw, but I don't know if that's enough to keep the leaves safe. We'll see! It's all a great big scientific experiment, if scientific experiments had a tendency towards awful, neglected record-keeping. I promise (myself) I'll be better about this next year! And this year too, especially in the bustle of the harvest/canning/freezing season.

One more thing, I need to read up on grapes, raspberries, and blueberries. What temps they can handle, how to prune (yes, I know, prune in the fall. too late for that now!), etc.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh! And we got married in Iowa, by the way!

January 8, 2011. It. was. perfect.

Welcome back!

That would be aptly titled if I'd written this a few days ago, when the snow had all but melted away, and I could welcome joy, sunshine, and growing things back to the world. But, as Minnesotans know, the first thaw is always a teaser and sooner than later, the ground will once again be covered. And so it is. So.. welcome back, snow?

I have to admit, I was pretty bummed to see it snow just as everything was finally warming up. I meant to start the seeds for this year's garden the day after St. Patrick's Day, but snow depression got the better of me and I haven't gotten around to it yet. Soon though! I know that I really need to make it happen soon, or my plants won't be fabulous and prolific like they were last summer. Speaking of last summer, I never did post fall update pictures. That's because I was way too busy cooking and freezing and eating. Between harvesting the fruits of my labor, getting my classroom ready for a new school year, and celebrating at the MN State Fair, I didn't have any spare moments to blog.

So to update verbally:

Carrots: awesome. They were big and crunchy and delicious for everything from raw carrot sticks to chicken noodle soup.

Onions: Very small. Yummy, but golf-ball size or smaller. I started them in the ground (so.. June?) from seed, and that was a mistake. This year I'm starting them from bulb, so they've got a major head start. We'll see what happens.

Tomatoes: Wow. I couldn't have asked for a better tomato harvest. Every kind (red cherry, yellow pear, red grape, beefstake, heirloom, etc) grew well and produced well. The plants in the raised beds grew faster and produced more than the plants on the ground, but the ground plants still produced.

Green onions/scallions: Wow. Easy, tasty, good harvest. I grew way more than I could use, I should look it up and see if I can freeze them. I think a neighborhood cat or something similar tried to use a corner of this bed as a litter box though, that was odd. But like I said, grew way more than I could use, so I just left those plants alone & gave them to the chickens later.

Bell peppers: These also took longer to mature than I'd expected. I think I transplanted them, so that means they got a head start inside. I should've kept a journal though, because it's possible that I started them from seed outside (which means they wouldn't have been in the ground until June). Also they had a lesser amount of sunlight than the tomatoes, so possible that this also increased the time. I was able to enjoy plenty of these sweet peppers, but there were so many fruits that froze on the vine because they hadn't ripened by frost time. I should also research these to see if they can be harvested early and ripened indoors or frozen.

Hot peppers: I bought this as a plant from a nursery. It matured quickly and provided more peppers than I could use. I could have dried some of them, I guess, to use in the chili I make in the winter, but I didn't. Was overloaded with everything else I guess, and hot peppers aren't my favorite (or very useful in my cooking).

Broccoli: Excellent. I bought 2 plants from a plant sale when I was volunteering with the rain barrel people. It put out small florets at first which I thought was strange, but after I harvested a few times, it put out bigger and bigger heads of broccoli. I couldn't believe how much it produced. Very useful for my summertime mac & cheese (mac & cheese plus green onions, broccoli heads chopped into tiny pieces, and diced tomatoes).

Cauliflower: Okay. I bought it same way as the broccoli. 2 plants, both produced decent heads. I harvested kind of late I think, so it wasn't as tasty as if I'd harvested a little sooner. It didn't seem to regenerate, so seemed like a waste for the amount of work (watering) put in. At least compared to the broccoli, which just kept coming!

Cabbage: (green cabbage) Great! I'm not a huge fan of cabbage, but I picked up 2 plants, same way as broccoli. After harvesting the first heads, I kept watering and new heads grew! So, good plant. Watch out for slugs though, they LOVE cabbage plants.

Cilantro: Grew this from seed and from a plant hastily purchased late in the season from Walmart (around the time that tomatoes were mass-producing). Seed grew well (and quicker than expected) and plant was good as well. I planted this after harvesting the cauliflower and realizing it would not regenerate, so I pulled the plant and put in the cilantro. Yum for pico de gallo!

Cucumbers: Tried 2 varieties (one smooth, one spikey), they both grew fast & were prolific the entire summer long. Laura like the cucumbers especially, I preferred them as table pickles (great recipe). The hens liked it when we'd slice one in half and give it to them to peck clean. They wouldn't eat the rind but they loved the insides. Plant leaves got a white powder mildew thing on them from the summer squash but this didn't seem to kill the plants or harm the cukes.

Yellow summer squash: Also very prolific. Laura loved these for sauteing for lunch at work. I loved them in my spaghetti sauces. They quickly got a strange white powder mildew disease or something like that, and it seemed to slowly kill off leaves/stems, but not the entire plant. And it didn't seem to usually affect the fruit, although occasionally a small fruit would succumb. It was strange, I wasn't sure how to fight it back. Spread to the cucumbers and similar plants (pumpkins too).

Peas & beans: I started these indoors and didn't see them sprout right away so they lacked decent light for the first few days, grew very "leggy". I think that made them not as hardy or prolific, although we did still enjoy peas and beans quite often. I also think they needed a sunnier location.

Cantaloupe/muskmelon: The plants I put by garage did better than the plants I planted along the bed with the grapes/raspberries. Mostly because the damn squirrels messed up all of those beautiful fruits - they'd take a bite out of them and then the fruit would be attacked by insects and rot. So, so difficult to prevent. This year we're thinking of making small wire boxes to put over the fruits as they ripen. The 2 fruits we were able to enjoy were absolutely delicious, so yummy sweet. The spoiled fruits we gave to the hens. They loved it. (But we cried.)

Eggplant: I got a dying eggplant seedling from Robyn. I put it in the ground and it did fine, it produced one eggplant. I didn't know how to tell when it was ripe, so it was harvested too late. Oh well, live & learn. We aren't big eggplant fans over here anyways, but we would've gladly baked it with some parmesan and enjoyed.

Watermelon: complete fail. I planted the seeds directly in the ground. From what I could tell, they never sprouted. Just a bunch of weeds.

Strawberries: Fun, tasty, didn't produce many but they were a definite treat.

Pumpkins: the small pie variety: We got a handful of full-term pumpkins and two or three mini-pumpkins (think golf-ball size). I used a few for pumpkin bread, that turned out okay. Next time I should try to make a pie though, I've never tried that with non-canned pumpkin.

Spinach: Put it in too late. We were able to enjoy some spinach, but I planted the seeds sometime in June (last- after the rest of the garden was planted, I think) and I was bad about watering the bed regularly. Plus we had a weird issue with the raingutters dumping water & tree gunk on the middle of the bed and that messed the soil & small plants up a bit too. Overall I think the front planter was a bad location for the spinach. This year I'll put maybe the broccoli there instead, or maybe the cabbage? I'm not sure. Something that's hard to kill.

Asparagus: Good. I got a few nibbles off of it, but I only planted one small plant so.. yeah. We'll see if it survived the winter or was nibbled to death by bunnies.

Apple tree: Going strong as far as I can tell. Bunnies tried to eat the bark late in the summer so I put a small fence around it, it seemed to heal. We'll see if it puts out flowers this summer, if so I think it'll be fine. It'll be a long time before it grows apples though, at least another 5-10 years.

Basil: grew into a couple of small bushes. Awesome, and very useful in cooking. Right by kitchen door.

Chives: plant was from Mom & Dad's house, it had overwintered on the deck. Hopefully that means it'll spring back once the weather warms up for good. Right now it just looks deadish. It grew well over the summer & fall and was also quite useful.

Sunflowers: Wow, these suckers grew fast & furious. Beautiful flowers, and lots of seeds were dried & harvested! We'll see if the seeds grow this summer! After harvest this year, I'll try to roast some or shell some.. maybe.

Raspberries: planted as bushes (well, roots I guess). They grew well, were tasty, and are probably plotting their takeover of the whole garden as we speak. Not many berries but enough for several treats.

Grapes: I didn't do a lot with my grape plant. I was too overwhelmed with everything else and this one got neglected. It put out two great looking bunches of grapes, but I never got to eat them because I think they rotted on the vine or were stolen by wildlife.

Blueberries: Same as raspberries, although towards the end of summer they seemed to be feeling sad. Probably wrong pH for soil, so they might not be so great this summer. I got to enjoy ripe berries several times, and they were delicious. So I hope I can keep the bushes alive and maybe even happy!

Zucchini: Same as the yellow squash, although I only had one plant so Laura didn't get to enjoy the zukes nearly as much as the yellow summer squash.

There's my post-harvest, post-winter journal. I need to do a better job of record-keeping this year. But since my entire garden was brand new this past year (& I taught summer school & I had a brand new classroom to get ready in the fall), you can understand why I was a bit overwhelmed. No baby steps here!

By the way, this year we're hoping to volunteer with the rain barrel distribution again and snag some free barrels that have the removable lid. They look more like trash cans, but we didn't end up liking the function of the barrels we chose last year. Hard to clean (no fully removable top) and the spout wasn't screw-on, so it sometimes popped off during use (frustrating because then the water sprayed out all over until you could replace the hose). Also the over-flow hose had a tendency to slide off during heavy rains, which was definitely no good and if left unchecked would have caused water damage to our foundation. So while they looked awesome, they didn't perform as well as expected. Better luck this year! :)
Also, loving the hens. This year Laura's going to build a permanent outdoor coop behind our garage and a small winter coop inside our garage. Next spring we'll get 2 large-breed hens (we have mini-breeds currently), they'll lay the whole summer and winter and the following spring we'll add 2 more hens (so 4 total). At the end of fall, we'll butcher & soup the first 2 hens since their egg production will be basically over (after 2 summers of laying). We'll overwinter the 2 hens remaining. Each spring we'll get 2 new hens and each fall we'll butcher the 2 older hens. So we'll have 4 hens in the spring/summer/fall and just 2 during the winter. Winter is the time when you have to buy them massive amounts of chicken feed, they don't need hardly any in the other seasons because they eat bugs, worms, grass, and garden scraps all day long. So.. win win? By the way, we've gotten way more eggs this winter than we could eat. I just don't have as much of a taste for eggs in the winter like I do in the summer. In the summer, I love me a yummy hard-boiled egg. In the winter, I just want soup and fattening sweets like cookies. The eggs do come in handy for baking those cookies though.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Garden: An Update in Photographs (part I)

Part I: Driveway & Front Yard

These were all taken right around July 4th. Welcome to our garden...

As you pull into the driveway, you'll see our quickly growing sunflowers running the length of the driveway. Here they are at the very start of July:

And here again about a week later:

Currently, they are about an inch away from the bottom of the hanging pots! It's absolutely lovely.

Right by the kitchen steps are a few more flowers:

Moving towards the front yard, our little herb garden complete with guard kitties:

Two different kinds of basil, both ready to eat, cook with, and dry for storage. You can see some of the chives too - there's a big clump of chives here that came originally from my parents' home in WI.

Moving to the front corner of the house, our strawberries!

Recently they have begun putting out runners (all over the place!) so it'll be interesting to see what the strawberry bed looks like next year. Also, we'll need a fence or cage or something, at least to put on during the night when visitors come to nibble. So far we've had moderate success - half of our berries make it into our mouths, fully intact. The other half suffer bite wounds from either squirrels or bunnies.

More views of the strawberries:

Now to the front of the house! This area has also changed a little since these photos were taken - the pumpkin plants are exploding out and over the bed and there are baby pumpkins in our "patch".

This is the bed where our spinach is also growing. It's not a problem that the pumpkins are taking over, because last week the spinach started to bolt. I still pick leaves off every so often, but they aren't as tasty as they used to be. Here's a view of 1/3 of our spinach around the 4th, a week before the plants began bolting:

Turning out to face the street, you can see our asparagus (okay, you can't *see* it very well because it blends in, but it's about a foot and a half in diameter and a few feet tall. Looks healthy!

And our apple tree. We'll put a second apple tree in either later this Summer or early next Spring.

Thus concludes Part I. Stay tuned for the Backyard Tour! That is where the real garden insanity resides. (No, not the bunnies...)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What I've Been Up To

or, rather,

Where I've Been.

For this:

(in Bethel, not in Anchorage)

That included this:

(can I keep him?)

Followed by the enjoyment of this:

(I only harvested a rock, so I didn't break any of the rules)

at the Botanical Garden, where they have the following:

Zombie tulips (really.. have you seen a more undead flower?)

Me, photographing the zombie tulips (and normal tulips, seen in the background)

Gender normative flowers (can't we escape this dichotomy anywhere?!)

And what visit to Anchorage would be complete without the Saturday Market? (two words: salmon quesadillas)

So, that's what's been up with the lack of posting my postings.