Filed under: Gardening
Had some good clear weather this week, though today was a bit windy and chilly. Since I had Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, I got a lot more done.
Potatoes Going Strong:
My potatoes continue to be the best growers in the garden. I can see why the Irish planted them so heavily. Here they are at the start of the week.
I’m going to have to hill them up with soil soon.
Salad Crop in the Ground:
The lettuce, spinach and broccolli are now planted in the raised bed against the house. I planted a bit more lettuce than the other two (15 vs. 9) but then I like salads and a staple of them is lettuce. And spinach but since I have my moringa plants to add to the spinach, I went lite there.
Or will have moringa when I re-seed after the squirrels cleaned me almost out. Just they wait, first good frost to kill worms come the Fall and I may be frying squirrel meat in the skillet.
(cue evil laugh)
Against the wall are from left, okra, 5 plants, yardlong beans, 3 plants, cucumbers, 6 plants. I had originally planned to put the yardlongs on the fence in the second raised bed, but on further consideration, they are climbers and need room.
After talking with a friend, I think I’m going with a PVC trestle set up he’s used in the past. Instead of going straight up with it, I’m going to angle it out. Imagine a trestle with its base against the wall and the top part directly over the outside of the bed.
This does two things. First it lets the plant leaves on both side of the trestle get sun, if you get the angle right. Second, fruit from the plants hangs down through the trestle, making picking easier. We’ll see once I build it. For now, I can let them grow but by mid-week they will need stakes to climb on.
What I planted today only took about 2/3rds of the space. I have been leaning towards planting some asparagus this year but I am having real trouble finding seeds. Seed Savers doesn’t carry any, nor have I seen any at the various hardware stores.
I did find a seed packet at Lowes I thought was asparagus but after I got it home discovered it was my yardlong beans, which seem to also have the name asparagus beans. I found a picture of them…WOW!
A few of those will make a meal.
The nursery I get my compost from has asparagus starts, so I guess I will pick some up next time I’m there.
My new seeds came in from Seed Savers. I ordered more Stevia on Tuesday and saw that they had the Paris Market carrots back in stock. Ordered those and threw in a package of Dill, since I plan on pickling many of my cucumbers this Fall. The carrots will go into the front raised bed, with the second crop of tomatoes in about a month.
I also saw that my ramps have for the most part died off. There are a half dozen or so that have done well, and I think I’ll replant them at the end of the raised bed.
They are perennials, which means they should come back next year if they multiply. I just don’t know. From what I can find on the Web, people don’t cultivate them.
Call this a experiment in process.
First Tomato and Carrot Bed:
I cleaned out the backside flower bed today. A lot of weeds. Guess when I’m 80 something, I won’t be able to get down on my knees and weed either.
I didn’t finish it because Joyce and her daughter Joy are going to take the Peone, the big flowering bush in the picture, next weekend. I’ll turn the soil and add the compost after its out. No problem because tomatoes don’t like cold temps and Joyce is predicting one more cold spell before the end of the month.
What do I know, at 80, I bet I’ll be able to predict the weather too…lol.
It doesn’t matter either way, the tomatoes are not ready to plant.
I wait too long to transplant my sprouts. I realize that now. Take my tomatoes.
They are way too long and skinny. I’ll give them a few weeks and if they don’t bulk out then I’ll pitch them. I’m about to start my “friends and family” crop of seeds and I now know to get them into bigger pots as soon as they pop out of the ground.
Also learned – Some plants are very quick off the line. The beans especially take no time to sprout. Though some take almost forever. The peppers and the spinach took several weeks to break the ground. Now if that’s because there wasn’t enough heat on them, I’m not sure. They are planted in my garden but I have a second crop seeded with a stronger light on them, so we’ll see if that makes a difference.
And finally – Don’t fall in love with every plant.
When I hilled up my potatoes at the end of the day, there were a few plants just breaking the soil. Hilling up meant they would now have another 3-4 inches of soil to climb through to reach the Sun.
Given the other plants that were already so tall, I doubt these late bloomers will make it. I almost deferred the hilling up to let these plants grow. Problem is, that will screw the early sprouter. If they get too big, they will “set” and I won’t see any potatoes from them. Better to sacrifice the slow ones that risk the harvest.
Here’s a pic of the bin hilled up.
I’m going to have to add the next board soon to the bin.
By the way, you can’t see it in the picture, but Joyce started a sweet potato and we planted it in the bin in the right front corner. Don’t know if it will do the same as the potatoes and grow more after hilling but what the heck, we have room to experiment, don’t we?
ADDED: I worked a few hours at my sister’s place, getting her flowers in while I used her washer and drier to do my laundry. She wanted to go by the nursery so I picked up my asparagus shoots, seven of them, which are now in the ground. Joyce said not to plant the ramps or they would get a cucumber taste, so I picked up some Bok Choy Tatsoi, which is another leafy plant like lettuce, used in salads and stir fry.
I also picked up some Nasturtium seeds to plant on the borders of my two tomato and carrot raised beds. They are a good companion plant for tomatoes. Did you know the blossoms are eatable? They can be stuffed with cream cheese and served on crackers. Won’t that be a sight for my next dinner party?
It’s Friday and since I don’t have to work today, you would find me at this morning hour with a hot cup of coffee, reading the latest news on the Web. Well, that is, I don’t have to go into my day job but I do plan on getting that flower bed cleared so I can get my raised bed in there, and prepped for the tomatoes and carrots.
First thing I come across of interest is Alina Tugend’s short piece “Penny-Pinching Is Fine, But It Won’t Save the Profligate”. (I actually had to look up the word “profligate”…lol. It means wasteful.) She’s right. Cutting back on the little things while continuing in our bigger and more wasteful ways gives a person a false sense that they are doing something.
Responsible Survivalism looks to the long term. In the years to come as resources grow scarce, jobs dry up and the way our civilization does things now, become undoable, we all will have to learn to do without and do with less.
We have a choice though.
We can learn to do those things which will help us survive, we can make the changes in our habits and lifestyles now, when there is still a backstop of plentiful resources or we can make them then when the smallest mistake will mean disaster for us, our families and our community.
You don’t practice fire drills when the room smells of smoke.
While we will begin to focus more on personal finance over the next few months, here is one tip from Tugend’s article you can start now. Cut back on the number of meals you buy from restaurants.
I don’t eat out that much but I am guilty of impulse buying at the grocery store when I know I already have food at home. A few pieces of fried chicken from the deli or a salad, when there is a can of soup in the cupboard that wouldn’t take more than a few minutes to heat up and would cost a lot less in the long run.
Even better, a soup not from the can but one I cooked myself.
That brings me to the second article that caught my eye this morning. The Associated Press is reporting of yet another E. Coli outbreak in our food, this time in lettuce.
“Freshway Foods of Sidney, Ohio, said it was recalling romaine lettuce sold under the Freshway and Imperial Sysco brands because of a possible link to the E. coli outbreak.
The recalled lettuce has a “best if used by” date of May 12 or earlier. The recall also affects “grab and go” salads sold at Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets and Marsh grocery stores. Freshway Foods said the lettuce was sold to wholesalers, food service outlets, in-store salad bars and delis
The lettuce was sold in Alabama, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.”
Is it just me, or don’t we see these reports with more and more regularity? Big agri-business again, profits over people.
One of those long term changes we mention over and over again, grow your food if you can. Not all, but as much as you can. Learn to grow now when a mistake like I did with my first spouts of lettuce and broccoli, just means a minor inconvenience, not hard times and starvation.
Its not too late either. Even with the warm Spring we’ve had, normal planting seasons are just starting. Do it this weekend, go by a local hardware store, or nursery, or as a last resort Home Depot or Lowes and pick up a few vegetable plants. Add in a bag of compost. When you get home, find a spot that gets sunlight and take that first small step towards a new life.
By the way, here’s my newest batch of both plants. They are going into the ground this weekend.
ADDED 05/08: NPR has an additional story HERE.
Not much to add but it did say the affected lettuce is not sold to customers, its just the kind they use in restaurants and salad bars at grocery stores. I highlight the link not for the story but for the comments. Very informative stuff there, if you have the time.
Filed under: Gardening
Well the blasted squirrels have gotten a taste for moringa it seems. They got three more last night or this morning before I got out to the garden. The heavy dusting of red pepper I put down in the planters didn’t seem to have any deterrence. I have one survivor that hasn’t been cropped or killed.
I made a chicken wire cage to protect that one. The wire is wrapped around a 3″ tall section of 8″ diameter Sonotube, the cardboard tube used for concrete pours. My company cuts them down to length from 10′ tubes, and I grabbed a handful of remnants.
It’s buried about 6″ deep. Hopefully that will keep this one safe. I have more seeds and will have to re-plant the other containers.
Filed under: Gardening
I had both good stuff and bad stuff happen this past week in this year’s garden, though eternal optimist I am, the good out weighed the bad.
Stevia, Lettuce and Broccoli – FAIL:
I lost the entire first crop of Stevia. It was my fault too, I had put the six peat pots under a new lamp to get some heat and higher light to them. I didn’t realize the heat would dry the pots as fast as it did. Lost all but one plant and its not doing well. Probably going to lose it too.
Since I seeded each peat pot heavily with 10-12 seeds each, with the intention of planting them in individual hanging baskets, I only had 10 seeds left in the original packet. I’ve started those individually in my seed starter kits. I hope they come up because of all the plants I’m growing this year, this one had my real interest. Sugar will be at a premium as things get tight in coming days and I definitely have a sweet tooth. A plant that a few leaves from can sweeten your morning chicory coffee will be worth its weight in gold.
Or some other important bargaining item…
I also made the decision to uproot my lettuce and broccoli sprouts and start fresh. Both plants were early sprouters and suffered from too little light, which made them very long and spindly. I could have tried burying them deep but last week I was still another week until I had their bed ready, so I decided to cut my loss there and reseed them as well.
The good news for my new seeds is I picked up a 4 foot two bulb florescent lamp and a couple of grow bulbs. I now have the seed starters about 2 inches from them and they seem to be doing better this time.
While I was at the hardware store getting the lamp, I also picked up a couple of packets of carrots. Since Seed Saver was out of the “Paris Market” carrot seeds, I ended up just going with some “Short n’ Sweet” carrots from Burpee for this year. I won’t be able to harvest seeds to carry over to next year, since they are hybrids though.
It will remind me to order early next year.
Corn and Sunflowers in the Ground:
I decided to trim back my sunflowers to just the six that were doing the best. That is I kept the shortest ones since there too the early sprouters got lanky from insufficient light. The corn did an amazing job of sprouting. With the one the squirrel ate it left me with 15, which I divided in half for the mounds. Three sunflowers and seven and eight corn respectively.
Here are the two mounds in their bed. The lilies at each end are coming out tomorrow for re-planting at my neighbor Joyce’s new house.
Here’s a close up
You can see I made a small berm of a few inches around the plants. This is to help when I water and protect them if I get a bed flooding like I did in the cucumber bed. I dug out to about 12 inches deep then put in 6 inches of compost, then topped that with the Mel’s Mix I make (50% compost, 25% vermiculite, 25% peat moss). It holds water well and is nice and lopse to promote root growth.
The sunflowers were a bit limp the first day or two, but now they are doing well. The squirrel hasn’t bothered them that I could tell, but to be safe I sprinkled a heavy dusting of red pepper around the top of the berm which is supposed to keep the bugger away.
Moringa – Nipped in the Stem
The squirrel (or something else) killed two of the moringa plants. I found them bitten through at the base. I wouldn’t have been as pissed but what ever got them, didn’t even eat them.
I’m going to put chicken wire cages around them tomorrow, and probably re-seed one seed in each of those two pots. The other plant in them is still a bit small and I’m worried their extended time in the newspaper starters may have root bound them. That’s a condition where the roots of a plant get tightly wound up in the container. I did loosen them some when I planted them but maybe not enough.
On the up side, the other four are doing very well and growing.
Next Batch of Seeds – Melons and Beans, and More Beans:
I started my beans, the melon and the pumpkin last week in peat pots. Their seeds were larger than what could be started in the seed starter kits so I picked up some peat pots at the store, with the lamp.
Man, do they sprout!
The three tall ones in the right corner are “Yardlong Beans” which I purchased through Echo Books. They are the people I got my moringa seeds from and active in promoting agriculture in the Third World.
From their site:
“When the weather is too hot and humid for green beans to grow, these beans thrive. Pods are cooked like green beans when they are about 8-10 inches long. (We have never really seen a pod that was a yard long, but they easily reach about 20 inches!) They are actually a cowpea (the same species as black-eyed peas) that has been developed especially for its pods. If the pods become too mature to eat, the seeds can be dried on the vine and cooked like black-eyed peas. Vines definitely require a trellis.”
St.Louis can have some very hot and humid weather, so the fact these plants like that is a plus. I have some plans for some shading if it looks like we’re in for a hot, hot Summer. The conditions seems ripe for it too. El Nino is back in the Pacific and the last time it was this strong was in 1998 which was the hottest Summer on record. Given that the place I work has no air conditioning, that almost guarantees a hot Summer here.
Here’s a close up of them. That’s less than one week’s worth of growth too!
Potatoes – The Best For Last!
After a slow start, my potatoes are doing just great.
Its hard to tell in the picture but there are another dozen or more small sprouts coming up too.
Now if you don’t want to go to the whole trouble of a bin like I have, check out Kate’s latest post at Living The Frugal Life. She does her potatoes in 5 gallon buckets. She also has some interesting thoughts on bin versus bucket growing that you should read if you plan on doing potatoes this year.
By the way, here’s that first plant that sprouted I talked about last week. A big difference a bit of time makes.
Maybe Bruce Banner has been slipping into my garden and spraying green radioactive growth juice on them…LOL.
The weather forecast is for sun tomorrow, so I hope to get a lot done:
– Lilies out of the bed
– Beans planted along the fence
– Melons and pumpkin planted
– Bed on the wall composted and prepped for planting
– Okra planted
– Cages made for the moringa plants, seeding in two planters
And if I get all of that, then I have to start on getting the plants out of Joyce’s flower bed on the fence out and put into planters for their move. That’s where the tomatoes and carrots are going. I have a few weeks before those are ready to plant so I’m not pressed for time on them. I also have to get the second Three Sisters bed built. Luckily this is a week I only work Wednesday and Thurday so I hope to report a lot of progress next week.
More to come…
Filed under: Gardening
I was a bit worried about my potatoes. I had planted them and for a few weeks now, nothing. You can imagine my happiness when I went out today and discovered this
Looking carefully around I discovered a few more, just poking their first leaves to the sky. Guess there was an upside to the big down pour over the weekend.
Filed under: Gardening
I had a chance to start the third raised bed today. I had to, the seeds I planted last week came up with a vengeance and I don’t expect I can keep them inside as long as I had planned.
On another website I had a question on how I built the beds, so while I worked, I kept the camera ready and took a few photos. Here’s how I do it…
First, clear away the grass from the area you’re going to use. I prefer using a flat blade shovel. It lets me slice under the grass, taking off just the top inch or so of soil. Use the blade to cut the ground into blade size chunks then push the blade under the edge and gentle wiggle it back and forth while pushing with your foot.
(This was taken a bit later in the process, since you can see the first two blocks are already laid. I just forgot to get a good shot of this, so I took it when I remembered I needed it.)
Second, once you have the beginning area cleared of grass, dig down to the depth you want your blocks planted. I go down about 2 inches. Scrape away the soil until its nearly level. Then take your shovel and lightly break up about 1/4 of an inch of soil where you will be laying the side blocks.
Then, using one of the blocks, tamp the soil down. Try to keep the area level.
Third, place the first block. You can use a carpenter’s level if you want but I just eyeball it to see that its straight. Then add the second block. If there is a gap at the bottom where they join, the far end of the ground is high. Remove the block and use it to tamp down the ground more.
If there is a gap at the top, then the ground is low. Remove the block, add a small amount of loose dirt, tamp it down and replace the block.
Fourth, remove the grass from an area about 24″ long and as wide as your ends. Dig down and repeat the step for place a block on the back side of the bed, in my case the one against the fence.
Once you have the block in place, begin to break up the ground inside of the bed as deep as you can. in my case it’s the depth of the shovel blade, or about 6-8 inches. What you are doing is making the soil loose and easy for the plants’ roots to get through and establish themselves.
Leave an area in front where the next block will go.
Its up to you whether you want to add compose at this point. I didn’t partly to save money but then I’m also going to be adding a few inches of compost rich medium in the bed as well as planting each vegetable in a hole full of compost to help it get started and grow.
Fifth, continue to remove the grass, this time back about another 18 inches. Once you have, repeat the steps and place the next rear block in the ground, then the first front block.
I toss the loosened earth into the space between the blocks. Go ahead and pile it to the top, you’ll have a chance to level it out once you finish.
Finally, just keep doing those steps until you reach the length of bed you want.
I had to stop at that point for a lunch meeting with a friend. I will post a few more pictures once i get this bed completed.
By the way, here’s a picture of the seeds. I’ve never planted cucumbers before but WOW those seeds sprout quickly and grow like they are on steroids.
These are almost 2 inches high after only 4 days, the first 2 with no light on them. For some reason the peppers, spinach and okra haven’t come up yet. The tomatoes are all sprouting, as are the lettuce and broccoli.
I might have over planted. Where my commercially bought seeds had a good portion not germinate, the ones from Seed Savers are great. Almost every one so far has sprouted. I’m going to have to build some apartment pots for some of my friends, say tomatoes, peppers and such and give them as late Spring gifts. I’d hate to just kill the seedlings that have come up and are extra.
I’m also going to have to watch the squirrels and rabbits I think. I left the seed starter kits out while I went to lunch and when I came back there was a squirrel in the yard. I found out the furry pest had eaten one corn seedling, and nibbled on the leaves of two sunflower seedlings. The sunflowers are ok enough to leave but the corn is toast. I’ll have to consider fencing around the beds now. Having the wild life eat a few leaves when I have full size plants is ok with me, giving something back to Nature, but having them eat my entire garden while its small beginning plants is not.
The next two days, Wednesday and Thursday, I work. If it doesn’t rain on Friday, which the weather forecast predicts, then I’ll post more pictures when I finish up.
Filed under: Gardening
We had a very good week in getting this year’s garden ready.
Just as background for the readership, I work a non-normal work schedule in that, one week I work Monday and Tuesday, then Friday and Saturday. Then the next week, I just work Wednesday and Thursday. It’s basically two days on, two days off, and no work on Sundays, though when we get busy if your work Saturday, then you usually work Sunday too. This seems short but we work 12 hour shifts, so we get 36 hour paychecks. Hard when I first started with them and was getting only $8 an hour, livable now that the company has bumped me a few dollars higher.
While this week was one where I just worked Monday and Tuesday, we didn’t work Sunday, so I had a three day weekend with temperatures just nudging 80, and sunny, and then two days later, still mild and sunny, where I could get started putting in the raised beds in the side of the house for the garden.
I decided on using raised beds early, primarily because we use outside lawn care and without some sort of border, any young plants might easily be mistake for weeds and wacked down with the weed eater. Happens at my sisters all the time. She has ornamental plants along her driveway that the neighbor’s lawn guy mows over every time he comes by.
At first I planned on using wood to build them but as I did some research I found that most people don’t recommend using pressure treated wood in vegetable gardens due to the possibility of chemical leeching out and into the plants. Untreated wood can warp due to moisture and Missouri gets alot of that in the form of rain during the Spring, which means I would be replacing a portion of my beds next year.
Luckily on a trip to Home Depot last month to replace the wall of my sister’s shower, I ran across a landscaping stone called a “medium weight block“. It’s concrete and the same dimensions as a regular cinder block, but only half as thick at 4”. Priced a little less than a dollar a piece, the math works out to less than $20 for a 2×10′ bed. Very reasonable price wise. Wood would have run twice that.
Here is the first bed in the ground.
Along with being inert and no problems with chemicals, these blocks offer a couple of additional advantages.
First they are heavy and don’t require staking or mortaring together. You can place them in the ground a couple of inches deep, as I did and then just fill the bed. They have enough mass not to move outward.
Secondly, as Bierbrauer over on the Zombie Squad Forum suggested, you can use the holes in the blocks for planting too.
This is helpful in several ways.
Many of the vegetables I’m planting need bees or other wild pollinators. Planting flowers in the border attracts them to the garden. and it looks good too.
Also, having a plantable border allows you to use companion plants for natural pest control. This is a technique used for centuries where certain plants attract the insects which can damage your vegetables. Planting them in close proximity means the companion plant suffers, not your crop.
A nice thing is, they are much more attractive than bare ground gardening. A plus considering I’m a renter. Perhaps like a few our the readership. True I have a very good relationship with my landlord. He is a long time friend of the family. Still a landlord will be mindful of anything you do that might affect the rentablity of his property.
BTW that’s my potato bin in the background.
One of the things I’m trying this year is the vertical potato planting method that Sinfonian used on his garden HERE.
Most people plant potatoes in their garden and then wait for the roots at season’s end. Vertical bin growing, like Sinfonian used takes a different approach. When each plant grows to 4-6 inches, you bury all but the top inch in dirt. This kills the leaves and causes the shaft to instead form roots, which then produce tubers.
Keep at it until the season ends and the plant dies. Then lay down a tarp, unscrew the boards on the front and carefully pull your potatoes from the dirt. Store and eat later.
As you can see in the construction of the bin. The boards are screwed to the vertical posts. Each time the plants grow taller than the next board, you bury them. With luck you will get to the top of the vertical posts before the season ends.
I’ve gone with a rather modest 2×4′ bin since it is the first year I’m trying this. If its successful I may add one or two more bins with different species. Potatoes are subject to a blight which can carry over to the next year’s crop, if you are re-seeding from the previous harvest.
Here’s the second bed in:
It’s three feet longer than the first, and is where I plan to plant my leafy stuff. Lettuce, broccoli and spinach with okra and cucumbers growing up a trestle on the wall. All totaled I plan for five beds. One more along the fence line, toward us in camera, then two on the cross fence at the gate.
The planters you see in the bed is because we are forecasted for a thunder storm tomorrow and my Moringa seedlings are still sensitive to alot of wind. I put them there for some protection. I’ll move them back out when the storm passes. They grew a bit lanky and tall at the start because I didn’t providing enough light when they germinated.
I lost three of the seedlings this week when one of the two lights dropped down and laid on them for a few hours. Didn’t see it until I got home. I’m going to reseed those.
The four late sprouting seedlings, now with two lights on them, are more bushy and lower to the ground. Those are the four to the left. The first three to sprout, those on the right, I put into a single pot together and will harvest them early to try Moringa horseradish sauce. Of the original 11, now nine, I’ve given four away to a friend and to Joyce, my neighbor. Her seedlings are in the two round pots you see in the earlier photo.
First Seeds Started:
I got the first batch of seeds started in the starter sets this week. I wanted to get the corn and the sunflowers started especially, since they need to be 4-6″ before I start the beans. Remember, the “Three Sisters” method uses a three step seeding, where first the corn goes in, then two weeks later the beans, then two more, the squash.
The corn is in the peat pots in the middle, 18 total which will give me 4-5 per mound. That was all the pots I had available. I may interspace the seedlings with fresh seeds once I plant them. that would give me two teers of corn at different heights and maturing dates.
I also started the Steva in the other six peat pots to the right. Since they will be going into hanging baskets I put 6-7 seeds in each pot, spaced around. The seeds are incredibly tiny. That will make it interesting in the Fall when I go to harvest seeds. Seed Savers does put the instruction for how to harvest, on the back of each seed packet.
In addition, I started the three tomato varieties, the peppers, and the greens going into the wall bed, which is the lettuce, the spinach, the broccoli, the orka and the cucumbers. I seeded ten cells for each because I expect for a few not to sprout. 2-3 out of 10 is about what I’ve gotten in the past from commercial packets I bought at Home Depot. Hopefully these will have a better rate.
By the way, check out the size of the sunflower seeds!
More next week…