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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Summer Fun!
Mood:  energetic

It has been 6 months since I last updated, but here's what's been going on:

In January, I stayed inside most of the month. The 1st brought the coldest temperatures I've ever felt in St. Johns. -26º. It didn't get above 0º for three days at my house, and then it was another week before it got above freezing. I had some aloe vera plants in the greenhouse, but even with the insulated North wall and slanted South face and the heater going 24 hours a day, it still got down to 20º in there and wiped out almost all the plants. Somehow, two aloe vera plants that my daughter bought from Rosa Lee made it. They lived in the house for a month or so after that. I tried to stay inside, wrapped around my seed catalogs, planning my garden and praying my grapes would make it through the cold. I had my doubts...

In February, there were some really nice days. I burned some dead stuff outside, did a little scraping of soil, and started gathering materials for some new raised beds. I also placed my order for onoins from Dixondale farms, buying Candy (white short-day), Red Candy Apple (red day-neutral), and a sampler of day-neutral onions that were red, white, and yellow. I also placed my order with Wood Prairie Farm for Red, White, and Blue potato samplers, and some Swedish Peanut fingerling potatoes. I had my husband weld together some nice potato cages and line them with snow fence, so I can grow potatoes in them, piling soil, straw, and compost in the cage as the potatoe grow. This was also the month I placed my order with Gardens Alive!, because that's when I got the free coupon for $25 of merchandise. I never know when it is going to come, but I'm always happy to see it. I also planted some lettuce and chard in the greenhouse at the end of the month. I can't wait for green food!!

In early March, I planted the potatoes and onions I ordered in February, and I started my peppers and tomatoes at the end of the month. Just for fun, I used seed for the peppers that I had bought at the dollar store. I planted 3 packets of Anaheim seed, about 100 seeds, and about 90 came up. That isn't horrible, I don't think. I also used leftover tomato seed from last year; Chocolate Cherry, Early Girl (someone gave these seeds to me), Black Krim. I decided after my poor sale last year that I would only plant what I needed and half again, in case anyone wanted plants. If they didn't, I could always find room for them in the garden. I also watered my compost bins at the end of the month, and turned them. It took me about three days to get them all done. I got out the chipper and broke down some of the dead weeds that I had gathered, and also fed through some leaves and pine needles I got late this winter. I now have enough materials to almost complete 6 new large raised beds, as well as 6 or 7 little ones. A big THANK YOU SO MUCH!! goes out to Clay for giving me his leftover timbers from building the barn. Love you, Clay!! In mid-March, I transplanted some broccoli and cabbage seedlings I cheated and bought at Lowe's. I'm sorry, but if you show me something green in March I'm going to buy them. I can't help it!! On nice days, I was outside pulling early weeds and tilling the soil in my raised beds with my Mantis.

April brought more cold weather, but nothing like -26º, thank goodness. I haven't been warm since September, and I'm getting tired of it! But the up-side of this is that I have 8 broccoli plants, 8 cabbage plants, 200 baby tomatoes, peppers, and flowers in the greenhouse, I'm eating lettuce and chard out of the greenhouse, and I have prepared the soil for all my little beds, and most of my big ones. There is still no sign of life in my grapes or my blackberries, and I fear they are all in that big heaven in the sky. Stupid weather. I did see my first asparagus spear, and the rhubarb is really starting to grow. The next day, that first asparagus spear was frozen and limp. Stupid vegetable. It is still cold!! I still planted all my bell pepper plants outside under walls-o-water, along with 2 tomatoes. I have more faith in those walls of water than I probably should, but oh well.

Finally some warm weather! Kinda. But I planted several more tomatoes outside in walls-o-water at the beginning of the month. I also started a watermelon outside under a WOW, but it never did sprout. Not sure why. Louis bought some cotton seeds and planted them out. My potatoes looked really good until late in the month, when the tops froze. I think they'll come back, and sure enough, they did, about a week later. They froze again. Came back again. I'm not sure I'll plant potatoes that early again. But the onions are doing well, and by the end of May, they are starting to bulb. I can feel it when I stick my finger in the soil. Days are getting warmer, finally.  On the 25th, I got some Sweet Potato slips from Henry Fields or Gurneys or somewhere. I planted them. We'll see how that works out...

Yay!! I'm all caught up!!

So, the first of the month was hectic because I'm coaching softball, I sit on the little league board, I have 4 4-H clubs, and I am still busy being depressed that I didn't get a job at the schools. Maybe it isn't meant to be. But the weeds are growing very well. I took off all the walls-of-water and EZ Walls on the 1st. I thought I was tempting fate, but the plants were growing out the tops anyway, and they need to be tied to supports. I use these steel cages Garry welded for me from rebar. They do weigh about 15 pounds or so, but they are very strong, 6-feet tall, and have legs that go into the soil 12" or better. I can also run guy wires down to the edge of my raised beds and secure them to nails in the wood, if the wind is too ugly.

We had a good garden meeting on the 7th, even though the lady I was gong to have talk to us about rain collection was evacuated from her home in Alpine.

In my own garden, I've now covered my potatoes three times, and several of my plants are at the top of the raised beds, and many of them are hanging out. I have some potatoes in a big white 55-gallon drum with the lid cut off. They seem to be doing well. I also have some in laundry baskets of various types and sizes, and so far they all seem to be doing well. I will remember to line the laundry baskets in the future, as the soil runs out a little when I water. But other than that, everything is looking good. My onions' shoulders are sticking out of the soil, and the biggest ones are upwards of 3-4" in diameter. I had to eat a white one the other day, because it was crowding its neighbor, but it was delicious. Sweet and juicy, with good flavor. I will ALWAYS buy my onion plants (NOT sets) from Dixondale Farms in the future!

As of today, the 23rd of June, 2011, I've harvested 8 heads of broccoli, several onions, about 5 pounds of swiss chard, 8 heads of crisp-head lettuce, a pound of rhubarb, several pounds of asparagus, like 6 strawberries (don't tell my kids, they think they aren't ripe yet), and a handful of peas. My corn is about 10" tall, and I have tomatoes on my Chocolate Cherry plants. My potatoes are blossoming, meaning there are baby new potatoes ready to pick, if I want them. I'll be darned if I can remember which plants are in which beds, though. I knew I should have written them down! My sweet potatoes are doing okay, only okay. I planted 25 slips, and i think I have 17 or so that are putting on leaves. I know I've pulled 5 out of the ground because they were dead as dead. Next year I will grow my own slips and start them way earlier and mulch the bed and cover it with plastic. I really am excited, though!

The new things I'm trying this year are:


Posted by Regina at 9:45 AM YDT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 June 2011 10:24 AM YDT
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Friday, 31 December 2010
Baby, it's cold outside!

Well, as I sit here typing at 9:19 p.m., it is 1º outside. It is only supposed to get down to 4º, but as you can see, it is already lower than that. I'm expecting a new record. The current one is -7º. We'll see...

Today I did absolutely nothing in the garden. I took warm water out to the chickens to thaw their water drinker, but since there was 2" of snow on the ground, they hadn't even been outside to eat. I took them some leftover waffles, too, which I tossed in their house because I know they didn't want to come outside. I don't really blame them.

I did water what I have growing in the greenhouse and turned up the heater a tad. It got to 37º in there last night, and I really don't want to lose Dakota's aloe vera plants to frost. She'd kill me. She carefully transplanted all 5 of the babies that her plant had. She bought it from Rosalee last summer and she's sure proud of that thing. It really is a gorgeous plant, but I'm having doubts that I should let them stay outside in the greenhouse. It would only take one power outage of ten minutes or so for that sucker to plummet to below freezing.

I'm getting things ready for the seed-starting class this week at the library, so hopefully some people show up. There are several people who've asked about the canning class. so hopefully we'll have information about that, as wel.

For now, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and have a happy new year. Good night! I will see you next year!

Posted by Regina at 7:28 PM YST
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Monday, 20 December 2010
Weekend of December 18

Well, over the weekend, mostly I planned. I've gotten several new gardening catalogs so far, so I'm planning a lot. I know next year I am not going to fight the bugs for squash family plants. This past year I did really great, waking up at 4:30 to pick bugs, water plants, and just check overall vigor and vitality. I had planted a huge butternut varity called "Argonaut" and acorn squash for winter squash, lots of summer squashes, a few cucumbers, and lots of melons. The year before I had gotten a honeydew that weighed 19 pounds and a cantaloupe that weighed 17, so I wanted a repeat show.

But long about the end of July, I had to go away for three days to a family reunion, which was painful enough in itself. Of course, it rained the entire weekend, as it was the middle of monsoon season, and although it didn't rain a ton here, it was enough that the weeds were knee-high when I came home, and in the weeds were a whole new colony of bugs-squash bugs, I assume. Sometime over the weekend or that Sunday night, the bugs infested my plants and I went out to find two zucchini and one straight-neck squash entirely dead. Just dead. They were fine the night before, then Monday morning, shriveled, white, and crispy-dead. No sign of squash bugs on any of them. Not a one. But the plants on the trellis were sadly misshapen, starting to wilt severely, and showing overall signs of distress. I lifted up one leaf, nothing. Another leaf, again nothing. But I got to the biggest, healthiest, longest plant (it reached the top of the 12-foot trellis, and hung down the other side) and it was infested. Adults, myphs, and eggs. I counted 28 adults, most of them with their butts glued together in their mating dance. They all died that day, but the damage had been done. I killed the bugs and eggs I saw, sprayed the plants with water to unearth any that had sought refuge in the soil, and killed those. I tore leaves off that looked particularly damaged, and burned them. But all this to no avail. Within a week, all the butternut plants were dead, and half the acorn squash. Another week went by and all them were gone, too. The cucumbers shriveled up and died sometime in those two weeks. I lost the last of the melons two weeks later. Two little squash plants that I had replanted before I left for the reunion were all that was left. Something like 40 cucurbit plants died in three weeks, and I vowed not to do this again.

So next year, I won't plant a cucurbit one. My hope is that after a year of nothing to eat, the bugs will find another place to overwinter and maybe I won't have that problem as bad the next year. Hopefully I'll be able to rotate my squash years and not have to deal with bugs as bad. Theoretically that should work, right??

So, back to the original story. I was looking through these full-color gorgeous seed catalogs, sighing at the squash, cukes, and melons I can't plant next year, planning out what I do want to grow. I figured the trellis will be a wonderful place for some pole beans, even though I don't really like most pole beans, as they tend to get too tough too fast for me. I go out one day and they are tiny toothpicks of beans, the next day the seeds have swollen in the pods and the pods are like leather britches. Yes, I'm only 32, but I know what leather britches are. But the big trellis will be perfect for pole beans, and the bench under the trellis is just the right place for me to sit and enjoy my purple, green, and gold edible gems hanging from the cieling.

We put in grape vines last year, in raised beds, too. So in between them, last year I planted 40 tomato plants. Now, I don't know how some people manage the feats they do, gathering buckets of tomatoes every day, even with a dozen plants or so. Last year, of the 40 tomato plants, I got about 10 gallons of tomatoes all year. Maybe. I had one golden ponderosa tomato that weighed over 2 pounds and was as big as a cantaloupe, and one Chocolate Cherry plant that seemed to produce 100 tomatoes every day, but I took every ripe tomato I had in early August and ended up with 5 pints of tomato sauce. That's it, that's all. I didn't have enough tomatoes to can, or enough to make spaghetti sauce, and only enough for 5 pints of sauce in August. A couple slicers in July, and a handful of yellow pears in June from my March-planted plants, but that's it. So...I'm going to do about 60 plants this year and hopefully I'll have enough to do something with.

I decided this year I'm going to do some old-fashioned root veggies, too this year. It's been 15 years since I ate a home-grown turnip, but I bought a few at Wal-Mart right after Thanksgiving, and that sweet, buttery flavor of roasted turnip brought back memories of Mr. Stevens and Granny sitting around talking about turnips and "Hanovers" or rutabagas. I'm planting both next summer for fall harvesting, as well as parsnips, which I've never grown, but learned to love after Virginia gave me some dried and I put them in my stew.

Beets and carrots are like underground jewels, so I know I'll grow them, probably also late into winter so I can have fresh food in the cold days.

I just dug the last of my potatoes on December 11. The ones closest to the surface of the soil had been frozen and were ruined, but underneath, there were probably 25 pounds of huge golden Yukon Gold potatoes and a large random Red Pontiac. I still don't know where he came from, but it works for me.

I did plant the last of my fall garlic and shallots a couple weeks back, so I don't have to worry about them until summer. Only I did find another bucket of seed garlic, so hopefully I'll get another good day pretty soon to put these guys out.

For now, I'm still planning. I've got some great worksheets I made on the computer that helps me keep track of where I plant what and helps me remember how to rotate my crops. It should be easier this year with no cucurbits to worry about, but the worksheets help. So I am off to write some things down, maybe turn the compost if it gets warm enough that I want to go back outside.

Happy Gardening!


Posted by Regina at 9:29 AM YST
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Sunday, 12 December 2010
Sunday's a resting day

I really do believe in a day of rest. I personally have religious reasons for selecting Sunday, but it also just makes sense because the drug store, library, post office, bank, and everywhere else is closed on Sunday. So I just really relax that day. Today was no different.

The only gardening I did today was to drag the house out to the greenhouse, hook up the wand, and water my lettuce, peas, beets, and other winter crops. Remember I only planted them three or four days ago, so they are not up, but just as in summer, the soil needs to stay moist for the seeds to germinate. It was getting pretty dry today, so I chose to water the whole bed rather than hand-water each area. Afterwards, and this is the important part, I unhooked the hoses from each other and the frost-free faucet, drained them, and left them where they would be in the sun the whole day.

Last year, I had the water freeze so hard, I don't know if you remember, back at the end of November. It was below 0º just after Thanksgiving, and it froze my 4-way BRASS manifold, the frost-free faucet (long story), and the hoses, and cracked the whole shooting match. So I totally recommend making sure everything is unhooked and drained before nightfall. Our nights are still very cold, even though the days, like today, are 65-70º.

I also watered the chickens. I've taken to just carrying out a pitcher of water every other day so it stays relatively thawed. Their waterer is 5-gallons and if 5 gallons freeze hard, it can be a week of nice weather before it thaws out all the way, so I just let it get real low and then just keep enough water in there to last the day. Just a note for anyone out there keeping fowl for the first time. If you are keeping chickens for eggs, realize that some breeds will not lay much at all during the winter, and some will lay nearly daily. Last winter, my hens were only a season old and the 7 of them laid between 5-7 eggs daily. This year, when they are a year old, they haven't laid an egg in a month. I'm still feeding them, but not reaping any rewards. My barred rocks didn't ever lay much during the winter when I was a kid, so I was shocked that these Red Sex-Link pullets laid last winter.

Also, I've recently been recieving the first of the year's seed catalogs. I am starting to sit down and plan next year's garden, including extending my season in the spring with the greenhouse, and in the fall by using frost-tolerant veggies and things that do better after a frost, like parsnips, beets, and brussels sprouts. I'm developing a system, like a cardboard slider, to tell me when to plant certain seeds for certain germination times and harvest times, and when I finish it, it will be on the garden club website for you to download if you like.

That's all for today. Thanks for reading!


Posted by Regina at 6:44 PM YST
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Saturday, 11 December 2010
Day One
Mood:  happy

Today, as they say, is the first day of the rest of your life. Or my life. Or whatever. I decided as I was working today, that I would blog about what's going on in my garden. Perhaps that will give others ideas about what to do in their gardens. And if I end up with followers, perhaps that will bring attention to our club website. So here goes.

Day one. The weather was nice today. It got up to 66º today, with very little wind. Yesterday I spent two hours raking up the lovely tumbleweeds that blew into my yard from Jack's old place and the Rabans' farm. I'm sure my backyard produced some of them, but most of them blew over the fence. I raked them up, as many as I could, and burned them. The breeze started blowing, and blew the smoke all over the neighborhood, but apparently it influenced other people because today several of my neighbors decided to burn stuff.

Yesterday, I also dug some of my raised beds, added a thick layer (maybe 6") of leaves, and then re-covered it with the soil I dug out. I watered them all very good and then covered the soil with some chopped pine needles because they help acidify the soil and don't blow away as easily as do leaves or compost. Then I laid my water lines back on top to hold everything together.

Today, since all the burning was done, I thought I would focus on compost. I finished up one of my smaller raised beds, filling with leaves and grass I got from the City. Just so you all know out there, when the City and the County cut grass, they often take it to the green waste, and what a waste that is! Just think, all the clippings from the big park, the Little League field, the grass around the library, in front of the courthouse and old high school. All that goes to the first taker, or the green waste if nobody gathers up the bags the workers put on the sidewalk.

Anyway, I'm often the first taker and I carry all I can back home. I even had Eric deliver the season's last mowing to my house, right in front of my compost bins, about a month ago. Thank you, Eric!! But I took that and layered it with some goat manure from Jack's old place, some horse manure I got from my neighbor, and leaves I was paid to haul away this fall from a guy's house. I sifted the goat manure because Jack wasn't all that careful about what got scooped up with the manure and there was wire, string, chunks of metal, blocks of wood, a glove, a shovel handle, a wheel of some variety, and various other undesirable things in there. But I layered maybe 6 inches of leaves or straw from my chicken coop, then an inch or two of one of the manures, then leaves, then grass, then straw, then manure, and kept going until it was maybe 4 foot high. Gave it all a good water, and by spring, if I turn it once or twice, it should be sufficient to mulch my plants, and by summer, it will be perfect to add as a mild fertilizer.

Winter is hard for me because there aren't that many growing things, but with my little greenhouse, I can grow greens and other cold-hardy things all winter. I replanted chard, beets, snow peas, and greens just the other day. I will let you all know when it comes up. I think it was Thursday I planted, so we can count down from there.

I've aded this blog to our Garden Club website in the hopes that our members can feel more connected to what is going on with the actual people within the club. Please feel free to comment, add your own experiences, or ask any questions that pop up in your mind as you read or peruse the website. It is my hope to have an entry every day, even if it is just to post the weather stats. Happy Gardening!


Posted by Regina at 7:30 PM YST
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