Archive | May 2012

Victories in the garden

Happy Memorial day everybody.  This holiday is one more day that we should take some time out and thank our armed services.  So I would like to thank all the armed forces serving for us at home and over seas and hope that our political leaders will have the heart and sense to bring them home sooner rather than later.

My favorite thing about Memorial day though is the war movie marathons.  What can I say?  I’m still a guy.  They remind me not only of all the hardships the service men and women endured during those times, but also of all the sacrifices that were made on the home front.  My generation has not had to suffer these sacrifices for our wars over seas (which if we did the wars would probably be over by now because there would be no way Gen Xers and millennials would stand for gas or meat rationing).  But I digress; this rationing lead to renewed efforts to be more self-sufficient at home and in our communities.  Which lead right to Victory gardens.  These gardens were grown on just about any land that could be found around someone’s home.  In the cities or farther out in the country people grew their own food and even raised small livestock to supplement their rationed vegetables and meats.  The Obamas put in a victory garden at the white house to help combat obesity, but I grow vegetables to help my bottom line.  If I can pluck some food from my garden instead of paying full price at the grocery store, then I can save that bit of money for something else.  Every dollar that I don’t spend on my food bill can be spent paying off my student loans, my mortgage, or the few other debts I’m trying to get out from under.  In the end I guess we all have our own reasons for growing our own food.  We grew victory gardens to beat the Nazis, the Obamas grow one to raise awareness, and I grow one for victory over the banks.

Well that’s it for my rant.  In the actual garden I harvested a whole bunch of snap peas; almost 2 pounds after trimming and cleaning.  That will probably be the last harvest though as the plants are yellowing and starting to die off.

Harvest from Oregon Sugar Snap Peas

Harvest from Amish Snap Peas

The broccoli is growing and the flower heads are starting to get bigger.  They’ll be harvestable soon.

The head is just under fist size.

The tomatoes are and getting bigger and a few are flowering.  There is even one of the romas with a baby tomato on it.

Tomato Flowers

Baby Roma, it should be the first of the season if it makes it to harvest

It’s been paining me so much, but I’ve been good and pulling every flower I see.  They need to focus their energy on growing roots and leaves.  June-bearing varieties should have all flowers removed the first year, but these everbearing can have flowers and produce fruit after June or July.  So I hope to get a few strawberries this year.

Strawberry flower, just before I plucked it

Strawberry plant getting bigger

The raspberry plant is starting to ripen the fruit.  So I hope to get a good handful of edible fruit.

Ripening Raspberry

The red currant bush is also producing.  I never had a currant until the other day when I plucked one berry off and ate it right from the bush.  They’re pretty tart, but not bad.  Hopefully I can get enough to make a little bit of jelly next year.

Ripe Red Currants

Disappointingly, the spinach is bolting already.  I barely got any leaves off.  I think the weather was a bit poor for spinach and the rabbits decided it was their favorite this year.  A couple of plants had literally every leaf eaten off the other day.

The only spinach harvest of the year. Picture taken a week ago or so

Spinach plants now, Bolting with flower heads

The trash can potatoes have been flowering for a week or so.  Once the flowers start to die down I should be able to harvest the “new” potatoes.  These are the small potatoes near the surface of the soil.  Apparently they stay small and don’t keep well so its better to harvest and eat them young.

Potato Flowers

All three cans look like this. The plants are all over the top of the can

I also got a few new plants for the front flower bed as well, but it’ll be a little while until those look nice.  The front bed is almost full of soil and nearly ready for mulch, which is a big step.

Daylily bloom var. Stell d’oro

Butterflyweed, bought and planted today

The lavender plant in full bloom. I’ve been harvesting sprigs and bunching them up for drying. They smell so nice.

So I say lets remember our fallen heroes and hope that we can keep the heroes we have right now around as long as possible.  Thanks for coming by.  Everyone is always welcome in my garden.

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Somewhere, Something incredible is waiting to be known -Carl Sagan

Once in a while I get this crazy feeling that its so amazing that we can put a little seed in the ground, work the soil, and then get food.  Food that nourishes us and keeps us alive.  Each time I think about it, for at least an instant, I feel like its some sort of magical experience.  Then I remember that really this is the only way our life could work on this planet.  Humans evolved on this planet and therefore must have the ability to extract energy and nutrients from the environment around them.  This may sound cold and analytical, that’s because it is on the surface.  When I look deeper though I see elegance that comes straight from the human mind and I feel privileged to be here and a part of the world.  The seeds that I plant are not the same type of seeds that were planted by my ancestors 1000 or even 100 years ago.  There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes.  Each one taking years of breeding, cross-breeding, and in-breeding.  Hundreds of man-hours of work.  So when I look at a seed today, I don’t see a seed or even the plant it will be.  I see the human mind.  I see our ancestors and the gifts that they leave us.

OK, so I was feeling a little philosophical today.  Its because my garden task this week was waiting.  I’ve got everything in the ground for this year.  The vegetables are either growing or flowering and some of the flowers are starting to bud.  So it’ll be a bit of a photo dump day.  First the veggies…

Potato plant starting to overflow its trash can home

The beginnings of this years tomato forest

The peas are starting to pull down their own trellis. I’ll have to find something stronger for next year

A pea flower. Is it wired I find these really cute

A blossom from the dwarf grey sugar peas. These ones have a crimson and white flower

Another of the dwarf gray sugar peas. This time in profile with the sun behind, like a superstar

It may be kinda hard to see, but the bean vine is almost three feet tall now. Each rung is 6 inches tall.

The strawberry plants are getting established pretty quick. I planted these just a week ago and none had leaves.

Looks like something has been nibbling at the spinach. I guessing the bunny rabbits.

Chive blossom, I’ve heard these are edible and good on salads. I also just thinks its quite nice looking.

Now for the flowers…

The Lavender looks almost ready to open. You can see little bits of color at the tips.

Daylily about ready to bloom

The Asiatic lily flowers are growing in. These have some big flowers so it’ll still be a while before they bloom

Thanks for taking a virtual stroll through my garden.

New Strawberry Patch

Last year my wife tried to grow some strawberries in one of those upside-down hanging things that we got from the hardware store on a whim.  We got some plants, filled it with soil and waited.  What did we get out of it?  Nothing, nada, zip, zilch.  I used good potting soil, but after about a week the soil compacted to the point where water barely penetrated so the plants died off after that.  Not to mention this spring when I pulled it out to see if I could try again with it, the whole thing ripped in half.  Oh well it probably better that way.  Why? Cause it made me actually plan out and build a strawberry bed.  From what Ive read strawberries are pretty much like any other fruit or vegetable.  They want full sun, fertile well draining soil.  Also they shouldn’t be planted in a spot where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplants have been in for the last four years as strawberries are susceptible to verticillium wilt.  I chose a small area next to my backyard fence.  I also wanted to have raised beds, as that area is susceptible to a little water build up sometimes.  The raised beds also help keep the strawberries contained, as the runners can get out of hand if not regularly pruned.

The fence is about 40 feet long and I wanted the bed to be two feet wide.  I’ll only have access to the bed from one side (because the fence makes up one side of the raised bed framework) so it need to be thinner than most.  Also, once I realized how much soil it would take to fill a 40ft raised bed, I modified that idea.  I made the raised bed only 20 feet and I plan on extending it next year.  Last week I picked up 25 bare root Ozark beauty strawberry plants from the Backyard Abundance plant sale.  They are ever-bearing, meaning they  bear fruit all through the summer.  When I extend the bed I’ll probably put in some June bearing, which have one large harvest.  That way I’ll have some all through the summer while still having a larger harvest to make jams and for freezing.  So off to Menards I went and got a whole bunch of soil and lumber.  I used 4-10ft 1X6s, 4 2ft 1x6s (cut from an 8ft board), black plastic sheeting, wooden garden stakes, landscape stakes and a staple gun.  I built the frame by nailing the the 10ft boards to some garden stakes that I then pounded into the ground.  Then I dug a trench for the side boards and nailed them in place.  I probably should also add some brackets at the junctions to make sure everything stays together.  Then I laid down a layer of cardboard over top of the grass and added a layer of homemade compost.  All that was left to do was to fill it the rest of the way with bagged topsoil and compost and then plant the strawberries.  There is also the raspberry bush I bought a couple of months ago.  I’ll have to be careful not to let it get out of control, because if would eventually take over the whole bed if I let it.  I plan on pinching the first few rounds of flowers off so that the plants get established.  After that though I should be able to get a handful of strawberries this year.

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