The hummingbirds are back! All around us the sights and sounds are telling us that spring has arrived.
We have been eating from our spring garden for a few weeks and we will miss the cool weather crops when they are gone.
The hanging baskets are filled with herbs and mixed lettuce.
The raised beds are great for growing most any type of vegetable. This day I harvested just enough turnip greens and roots for our meal.
There is plenty more to harvest over the next couple of weeks.
It is good to be able to go out to the patio and pick the amount of vegetables we need for each meal.
This amount of turnip greens will boil down to just the amount needed for two or three people.
This is why we go through all the hard work of preparing a garden. We know how this food was grown and how it was cleaned.
The back yard is coming together. We have been busy digging up most everything and re-working most everything we already did.
Our pvc hoops got us through the freeze times but they are not big enough for the with netting because the squirrels were eating our vegetables. Seems they especially love the cabbages. My husband designed this new type of frame. This is a take apart frame with bolts so we can bolt the type of frame needed for the weather. One frame with netting, one with plastic, and one with shade cloth.
We got tired of lugging the plastic back and forth and draping it to dry so we could fold it and put it away only to take it out again and start all over again. Over the years we have used all types of weather protection but we are both getting older and running out to cover and uncover is getting to be too much for either of us.
We made the decision that our garden was not shaped right because it was hard to put up any protection from the weather and the critters that want to eat the crops. We seem to have an increase number of squirrels in our area because we have never had this much of a problem with squirrels in our garden. In my previous posts I show how we built this raised bed thinking it would be a good shape but we tore it apart and started over after we harvested the mustard greens. Now it just feels right.
This bed that is enclosed is being dug out and we are moving this to the front yard bed to re-use this frame. I know this must be confusing but you will see if you follow along.
This is now the area where the enclosed bed was. A lot of digging, tugging, pulling and lifting and we took it all away. I was tempted to take a swig or two of the apricot brandy that we use to make a hot toddy if we take a cold.
We moved it to to the front bed and by mid summer it should look better. We put a black iron table and chairs against the house so we can sit out and drink coffee early in the morning while the girls are sniffing around.
We harvested the mustard greens before we tore apart the raised beds.
Mustard greens go good with most anything especially sweet potatoes.
Everything has been growing so very fast and we must eat them because once warm weather gets here these cold weather vegetables will bolt.
We need to eat these first before they start flowering. I will make some steamed cabbage leaves and place rice and thinly sliced meat and roll them up to make a cabbage roll.
The cabbages in the back yard raised beds are protected so these can stay longer in this area. I will put shade cloth over the top to help keep them from bolting.
Until next update.................. You can do this too!
All the beds are doing good despite that it has been cold. I have covered and uncovered the beds trying to keep them from freezing or frost and I think it has paid off.
The Chinese cabbage are doing very well except.....
Squirrels are eating the cabbage so now another trip to the store.
This is what we will be putting over the hoops to hopefully prevent the squirrels from eating our vegetables. It seems that they want the cabbage more than anything else.
The onions are growing well....
The turnips are starting to make roots....
This is how the spinach looks now. Since we have such small space the spinach will be used for spinach and egg omelets and put a little in soups.
Planting early means we must have everything ready to cover and remove cover often.
We will dip down to a freeze tonight so everything has been put to bed.
Now it is daylight and the sun is up. This is very important!!
Check on the inside temperatures often! Once the sun is fully on the plastic I open one end so the plants do not scald. A few years ago we learned the hard way that plants will burn easily when the sun heats up the inside dome. In our greenhouse the outside temperatures were very cold and the inside temperatures got very hot from the sun.
I just opened this side and in a hour I will probably open the other end so the air will flow through. I will close the ends when the sun goes back down later today. It takes a bit of work but worth an early harvest. Onions and cabbage are cold weather crops but a freeze on this type of cabbage I don't want to risk since they are so young.
The greens like lettuce and spinach, turnips etc need more protection from cold. But the main thing here is open up your plastic shelter when the sun comes up if you are just slightly below freezing because it can get hot inside when the sun hits the plastic. I don't know anything about a deep freeze because I have never planted vegetables when it gets into the teens or below.
We are planting in the front raised bed.
We are using garden pots to make a ring and then we plant inside that ring.
There are two reasons for this. One it is a good way to keep an even space and the main reason is we use the pots to cover the plants if we get a drop in temperatures or heavy frost or freeze. We know we will be dipping into the freezing temperatures for two nights so we will be ready.
The plants that have two or more stalks growing i soak them in water and tease them gently apart. If you grow a plant with two or more it will not grow as well as it can by itself. I always separate my plants.
Onions are planted between the plants.
We added the rolled plastic and clipped it to the edge of the raised bed frame. We will put the pots down then pull the plastic over the top of the pots. We could have put up hoops but we did not have the time and the pots and plastic will work with this 2 day cold spell. We have been in the 70's this week and will bounce back up to the 70's again after the 2 days dipping below freezing. I will take pictures tomorrow of it covered.
These are the black pots ready to cover the bed. Seems like a lot of trouble but we have learned that if we make the effort and plant early then we get an early crop before the heat gets so bad. Once the heat starts we have problems with the vegetables bolting and frankly I do better in cooler weather.
We finished the hoops over the third patio raised bed and have cut plastic to fit each one.
The onion sets are sprouting there in the middle.
This bed is doing good, this has spinach turnips and onions. We had a cabbage to the right side there that is gone now because something has an appetite for cabbage. Last year we had this problem growing regular head cabbage and had to give up growing it. We have extra spinach that I will use to replant anywhere that something does not take.
We have two tomato plants, cucumbers and zucchini and bell peppers in waiting. I am keeping them in a warmer area protected and will not plant them until some time in march.
I will update later.............
The pots are turned upside down and the cover is pulled over and clipped. Now waiting for temperatures to dip back down to freezing briefly. Come on spring......
The plants are starting to take root now and standing upright.
The onion sets in the center are emerging and the Chinese cabbage are looking good even though the temperatures are dipping and rising like a yo yo. We are actually expecting temperatures into the upper 70's this week only to go back to freezing next week.
There are signs of spring. These are daffodils emerging around our pecan tree.
The chives and mint is emerging from it's winter nap.
This is a Blackeyed Susan that has been growing through the winter.
We completed the front yard raised bed garden. This area is where we have been growing squash, cucumbers and beans in containers along the fence and they have done well here because it is the only part of our yard that gets sunshine longer than six hours. So we decided to put in a raised bed and if we keep it tilled good in between crops we hope that we can keep the roots out.
One more thing about this bed is this wood is not treated and we know it will rot after 4-5 years but we do not want the treated lumber to leach anything toxic into our soil.
The potato bins are on the other side of the driveway.
Everything looks so gloomy right now since it is winter but I know it will be much better soon. At least we are not snowed in like so many and if you are reading this and in a snowy area, there are things under all that snow that will be emerging beautifully soon so hang on!
We have vegetables on hold and have been going in and out from the sun to their warm place. Some of our zucchini seeds sprouted this morning and it will be a good while before they get planted because they are a warm weather crop.
Today will be warm enough to give everything a good watering and feeding. I use organic liquid food in rain water.
I am planting the ginger today. This is ginger from the grocery store that sprouted. It can be eaten unlike the ornamental ginger. I will cover it with a layer of potting soil.
This is our experimental celery. This has been sitting in this cup on our kitchen window ledge. I cut off the bottom of some store bought organic celery and saved the bottom. It looked like a plain disc and this spouted from the center and has been growing a couple of weeks. Now I will plant it and see what happens.
I will keep you posted on what it does after planting in the dirt.
So here they sit, we will see later........
I will go now and eat my scrambled omelet.
More to come.........
We are planting spinach in every other block hole around the raised beds.
I alternated spinach and onions in each block because the spinach will spread out and the onion needs less room. The center is turnips with onions on the edges. It is still cold so we will put hoops over these beds during the night to prevent freezing. The smaller bed has cabbage around the edges and bulb onion sets in the center.
We are going to grow just a few lettuce for now because of the extended cold. These are being covered at night and during temperatures lower than 35 degrees. Everything looks very limpy at this time but it needs time to adjust to the transplanting.
We put hoops over the raised beds so we can cover the plants when there is a heavy frost or freeze.
This is what they look like without the cover. This is half inch pvc and 2x2's around the bottom with holes drilled to put the pipe. You have to be careful putting these in because they will spring back. Also there is a lot of pressure at the top bend area of the pvc so do not cut into this to connect them or it will split.
It is time for us to plant potatoes.
We look for the eyes of the potatoes. The eyes are these sprouts that you see here. You can purchase seed potatoes from stores that have garden section. Grocery store potatoes have a sprout inhibitor on them and even though they do sprout you will have better results with good seed potatoes.
Slice the potatoes like this and gently place the pieces down cut side up. Try to be careful so you do not break off the sprouts.
Lay them out to dry for at least 24 hours or until the cut edges have dried a bit. Front potatoes pictured here are red potatoes and the back yellow potaotes are Gold potatoes.
This is a grocery store ginger root that is sprouting and I am going to plant this in a container.
We grow ornamental ginger in our yard but it cannot be eaten. I normally only grow plants that can be eaten or used as an herb but a dear friend shared her ornamental ginger with me and it is truly beautiful when in bloom.
This ginger shown above came from the grocery store and I will plant it in a container so we can carry it indoors during cold weather.
More updates coming soon......
We finished the raised patio beds. We put composted manure over the rocks in the bottom of the beds first then we mixed topsoil, peat moss, mushroom compost and garden soil and filled them to the top. It will settle after we plant and water.
While my husband was working with the blocks I crawled around pulling weeds from the herb and flower beds and dug up and divided daisies and coneflowers. Weeding has to be the most un-fun part of gardening. We do not like to use weed killer so the only other option is pull them by hand. After they were clean I put hay down for cover and to help keep the weeds out but they will eventually come back.
We repaired some old wood planter boxes and put them where I had kept pots to grow peppers. I am not sure at this time what will be planted here.
My husband likes for us to grow pansies and they do add some cheerful color during the cold season.
We both are very sore today after a weekend of using every muscle we have in our body. This was all done the last two days so today I have stayed in the house cleaning out the refrigerator and cleaning the floors from all the dirt that we brought into the house. I will post more after we start planting.
This was a bit overwhelming but we had to start somewhere. We took the keyhole garden apart, dug out all the dirt and carefully removed the gravel from the bottom. My husband did most of this as I pulled weeds from beds.
The young meyer lemon tree looks pretty bad from the freezing temperatures. I dug out many of the coneflowers and transplanted them to other areas.
We decided to make a change in the shape of the large keyhole patio garden (which is posted below on the Feb 7th update). We made three raised patio beds two blocks high with walking space so I can reach all the way around. The original Keyhole garden did good at first but then we had a rollypolly invasion and the rollypolly's actually ate our vegetables. They were everywhere!
Here is what happened. Our garden was called a keyhole because we had a composting area in the middle. It was not the same shape of most keyholes because we used blocks but we did have a small compost hole in the middle. We had composting worms and we fed them but the rollypolly's liked living with the worms and they multiplied by the kazillions! We will not be putting the center compost areas in these new beds.
I pressure washed the blocks and part of the patio. It was actually dark when finished and used our camera without flash where it does that gathering light thing. Crazy how it takes a picture at night and it looks like day.
We put the gravel back in the bottom of each raised bed because that has been working very well in the big keyhole.
I would like to note a few things. The reason we put a keyhole garden on our patio is because we had tried many different ways of gardening in our back yard and everything we did attracted tree roots. The roots would take over and it was so difficult to dig into the beds. The same thing happened with our composting beds. We simply have too many trees in our backyard to garden in the ground. We do grow herbs and perennials in beds but everything must be in pots or on the patio.
We noticed when we dug out the dirt from the keyhole today that the roots on the remaining few vegetables should have enough room with our two block high beds but the perennial lemon balm went all the way down three blocks high and became root bound because it was planted in one of the smaller outer block holes. I will not plant another perennial in these beds. Next year when we replace the soil we will observe how our roots did with the shorter beds.
This is Chinese Cabbage
I am chasing the sunshine once again. This worked well in 2011so I will try again.
For me chasing the sun is moving our plants outside during the day when it is above freezing and somewhat warm and setting them in the sunshine. They start off in the backyard for the morning sun and front yard for the afternoon sun. It takes a lot of work but it makes an early harvest so another crop can be planted. I have cool weather vegetables, spinach, onions, carrots and lettuce ready to plant as soon as we get the beds ready. They are sitting out back on the patio right now soaking up a bit of sunshine. We do have two grow lights because we do not have any sunny window sills and I use them when the plants are inside. I would prefer a sunny window sill.
Today I planted zucchini and cucumber seeds in peat pots and I will do the same with them (chasing the sun) when they come up but for much longer because zucchini and cucumbers are warm weather vegetables and do not do well in cold damp weather. In 2011 when I did this we made a bumper crop and filled the bottom of our freezer. I cannot leave them out in the cold so I bring them in and out. Whew! just thinking about it!
We did have a cold frame for the keyhole garden but the plastic fell apart and little pieces went everywhere so we removed it. The other problem was getting enough heat to keep things from freezing.
Another update is the old keyhole garden (above photo) is going to have a makeover. We will be removing the top third layer of blocks to shorten the keyhole. We decided that it would save having to use so much soil and we want to add on and make it bigger. My husband will help me with this project since it is a bit much for me to do alone.
We are removing the strawberry bed and will use these blocks to add on to the patio keyhole garden. I will plant the strawberries in a large container.
Just a reminder of some of the things we grew in the keyhole garden in the past. Some beautiful carrots, lettuces, spinach and cabbages.
I am trying something different for our wire hanging baskets. Last year I lined them with plastic and punched holes but the baskets did not look very pretty and they did not drain very well. This year I am putting a small water reservoir in the bottom. I am using a plant drip tray filled with rocks. Each year I try to find ways to conserve water.
I put a strip of cotton cloth over the rocks to act like a wick.
I then filled it with soil and planted. I am growing cilantro in this basket. I purchased one cilantro from the garden center and I lightly scattered cilantro seeds around the top of the soil and gently pressed down. I normally use organic garden sticks in my hanging baskets and as I water it will gradually release food.
Starting my 2014 garden blog. February 4, 2014
I have drawn out the design of a small raised bed garden in the front yard. This will be a square foot gardening plot. We have very limited sun in our yard due to large trees so we must garden in the areas that have the most sun.
This is where the raised beds will be. We have grown cucumbers and squash along this fence before so this year we will try a square foot garden.
These are a few vegetables and herbs that I plan to grow this year.