Archive | June 2012

Gardening Generously

I don’t know how many of you have experienced this, but every summer I always start to look forward to the random influx of food stuffs coming into our workplaces and gathering spaces.  Hobby gardeners like myself have a tendency to plant all these wonderful plants, harvest a bunch of food, then look around a say “What am I going to do with all this?”  So in it come to offices, gyms, and it gets left on front porches with little notes.  Gardeners are generous.  We take from the earth what we can us and pass the rest on to others whether we know them or not.

Last week I participated in a little get together hosted by the local co-op and a few other local gardening groups.  It was named “Kale for the Community” and it was out in a community garden about 10 minutes drive from my house called Earth Source Gardens (ESG).  A group called Backyard Abundance (BA) had a ton of extra kale and other brassicas and they didn’t want them to go to waste.  So ESG donated two plots, each about 10×25 or so and BA donated the plants.  The call went out and about 20 or so people showed up and we all got to work.  In about an hour and half we planted and mulched about 200 kale transplants.  (Article in local newspaper.)  I’m actually in the picture in the article if you want to see what I look like (left side, only guy in the picture).  I was loading a wheel barrow with mulch for the paths at the time. Once the kale is harvested, all of it will be donated to the local food bank.  If they can get two or three pounds per plant they could donate roughly 500 lbs of food.  That’s amazing if you ask me.

There were even a bunch of extra plants at the end of it all.  So everyone got to take home some plants.

I got cabbage, cauliflower, and plenty of kale

I planted about half of these and the other half I took to work to give away.

This has gotten me more interested in doing what I can for others with the gardening space I have.  I’m thinking about doing a Plant a Row for the Hungry model.  I’ll have to think it over and see what happens.

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Is it too early to plan for next year??

It’s June, the sixth month of the year.  2012 is nearly half over.  The growing season is really only getting into stride though.  Here in southeast Iowa, the growing season is pretty much from the end of April to the beginning of October ( at least for home gardeners).  This year was a bit different with the early warm-up, but the growing season is barely a month old and I’m already pining for 2013.  One of my goals is to keep expanding my garden space until I reach my limit for time and resources.

In 2011, my total food garden space was 64ft².  I have greatly expanded that for 2012.  With the addition of the fruit beds (blueberry and strawberry beds), my food growing area has exploded to over 260ft².  Of this, just under 200ft² is dedicated to vegetables.  I don’t think I’ve reached my personal limit though.  I plan on investing a bit more into seed starting equipment his fall and winter.  The only problem is that I’ve started to reach the limit of my backyard.  I could move into the side yard, but I like having some open green space.  So where am I to go?  Well lucky for me, the local community park has garden plots for lease.  The park is literally a three minute walk from my front door.  The city rents out tilled, 11ft by 23ft plots to residents every year for only $11.  Not to mention a free water spigot (no hoses though) right nearby.  The website says they only lease one plot per person, but I wonder if I could get one in my name and another in my wife’s name? Hmmmm…

The plot is technically 253ft², but some of the space would have to be used for paths to make my way through the plantings, so I could probably eek out 200ft² actual gardening space. This would double my current vegetable gardening space.  If I could get two plots, it would triple my space. I’m only going to hope for one plot at this time though.  I’ve walked down there a few times and there seems to e quite a few plots that aren’t being used and are just lying fallow and full of weeds.  So one would think they would have no problem renting out two plots to me, especially if I put one in my wife’s name right? 🙂

Here are the plans that I’ve drawn up for next years plantings.  I never stick to them completely, but they help me plan out how many plants to get started from seed.

My actual garden is pretty much in summer mode.  The peas were done for the year, so they got pulled and thrown in the compost.  The broccoli was harvested on time for a change and I have about a pound and half still in the fridge.  I’ll have to find something to do with it or freeze it so it doesn’t go bad.  The beans are starting to really shoot up.  The trellis is about 1/3 covered.  One plant that was an early start and survived the random frost has already started to produce beans.

I also harvested a raspberry.  Yep, one raspberry.  Between the plant still being young and the birds, it’ll probably be all I get this year.  It was delicious though.

It looks like it could be a bumper crop year for the cucumbers.  Between the two plants I already have 3 or 4 fruits about 4 inches long.  I’ll be harvesting them soon.

White Wonder Cucumbers

There are plenty of baby tomatoes. At this rate I could have a ripe on or two by the beginning of July.

Brandywine Tomato

Speckeld Roman Tomatoes

The sweet corn is looking promising.  The three largest stalks all have ears growing on them.

Well, thanks for coming by and having a look at my garden.  I hope yours is going well.  May we all have a bountiful harvest.

We all need a little support sometimes…

So there has been a number of different things going on in the garden this week.  First was  that I pulled most of the lettuce.  It was old and starting to get a bit on the bitter side.

Lettuce plants, or lack thereof

I left a few plants of each variety so they can go to seed.  Lettuce is one of the easiest plants to save seed from.  Simply let the plant do its natural process.  Once you stop picking leaves off the plant will start to grow pretty quick.  Eventually it will shoot up a main stalk.  This will flower and then seed.  The seeds are small and will have little tufts of white fiber on them.  The seeds are naturally wind blown (like dandelion flowers) so its good to pull the plants just as the seed pods are opening.  The only consideration before letting lettuce go to seed is that you will have volunteer lettuce plants next year.  No matter how hard you try some of the seeds will get away, survive the winter, and start growing.  So I’ll be picking lettuce volunteers next year again, but at least I shouldn’t have to buy lettuce seed.  That is unless I want to try a new variety.

The tomatoes got the majority of my attention.  I weeded, pruned and finally got the support structures up.  Most people choose one, or maybe two forms of support for their tomatoes.  I have a little trouble deciding on what to do with mine, so as you can see; I’m trying a wide variety of support methods.

Tomato Cages Type #1

Tomato Cages Type #2

Red Tomato stakes

Green Curly Tomato Stakes

Tomato Trellis

Last year I use just tomato cages and the smaller stakes (I think they were for electrical fencing or something).  They worked alright last year, but by the end of August my largest plants had fallen over.  There wasn’t much production by that time anyway so it wasn’t a big deal.  I’ve doubled the numbers of plants this year so I’ve had to branch out in my options.  I’ve got two types of cages, the small stakes and larger curly stakes and this year I’m even trying a trellis design.  The stems of the tomato plant are woven back and forth through the  horizontal strings as it grows.  That way the plant is held as it gets heavier.  If the plants start to get heavier, I may have to double up the strings, but that’s another day.  Perhaps one method will become my favorite by next year.  Maybe…

Not much to be harvested yet, but the broccoli is still close.  I’m terrible about it though.  I always want to wait and let it get just a little bigger, but then virtually overnight the flowers open and it no good anymore.  So I should probably just suck it up and harvest them.

I’m quite excited about my winter squash plants.  I’m seeing little female flowers.  Last year I only ever got male flowers and never saw a female flower.  So hopefully I’ll get my first home-grown winter squash this fall.

Winter Squash Female blossom

The cucumbers are starting to look promising.  I’m not the biggest cucumber fan, but my wife likes them so I grow them for her.

Baby Cucumber ‘White Wonder’

The corn has also started to show tassels.  I hope I get signs of ear soon.  I’ don’t want that whole area to be unproductive.

Sweet corn, the tallest is a little about 3.5 feet tall.

Also picked up two basil and one parsley plants today as well.  Potted them up in some larger containers on the deck.  Hopefully I’ll be in pesto soon.

Herbs on the deck

Haven’t made mention of the front flower beds recently.  The miraculously hardy Asiatic lilies are flowering, quite beautifully I might add.

Asiatic Lily Blooms

Over the past few weeks I’ve also add a number of different flowers and plants to the western bed.  These include three Bee balms (Monarda), two Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), two butterfly weed plants (Asclepias tuberosa), a Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), six Ajuga plants a number of random dahlias, some begonias, and three ornamental grasses to add a bit of a back drop once they bet bigger.  The dahlias and begonias were only bulbs so there isn’t much to see from them yet.

Bee Balm

Black Eyed Susan

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly weed (close-up)

Ajuga (soon to be ground cover)

Ornamental grasses

Most of these were on sale and a few were on the clearance rack.  Like the black-eyed susan plants were only $0.99 each.  The six-pack of Agujas were only $1.25.  All of these were at the local Lowe’s.  I’ll probably drop in there every once in a while to check the clearance racks now.  The plants are all fairly ugly now, but by next summer they should be right as rain.

So I guess today’s lesson is to look in the clearance section; its sort of like rescuing a plant that the store has written off.

Has anyone else found some good plants in the clearance sections?  I’d like to hear your stories.

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