Friday, April 21, 2017

Current affairs

Well, sort of current. I took these pictures almost a week ago, and just haven't gotten around to posting. So, this is what was happening here last weekend.

Potatoes

I'm doing things a little differently with my potatoes this year. Ever since I built my potato box a couple years ago, I have undoubtedly been planting too many potatoes in it. The smallest amount of seed potatoes I can ever find is 10, and I have a little problem with throwing any of them away, so I usually put them all in the 3 x 3 foot bed.

2015
This year, however, I vowed to change my ways, and I only put four in the box. Probably still technically too many, but I'm okay with it.

2017
In the spirit of further experimentation, I bought a grow bag and planted two more potatoes in it.


It's entirely possible that I put a couple more in the flower bed on the wall, but I can't remember for sure. Guess we'll find out if they sprout.

Herb garden

Last year I planted several sage and thyme plants in the herb garden and they grew like crazy. Both of these plants have the potential to be perennials in my zone, and the herb garden is one of the warmest places in the yard, so I was optimistic enough not to plant any sage or thyme seeds inside this year. Looks like my bet is paying off.

thyme
sage
So far, I see four sage plants and at least three thyme plants coming back. That's more than enough since I hardly use either one of them in cooking. They're so beautiful and they make the herb garden smell so good that they're worth growing even if I don't ever eat them.

Also in the herb garden are about 100 dill seedlings. The great thing about dill is that you only have to plant it once.


I will eventually have to pull some of them out, but for now I'd rather see dill seedlings than weeds.

Finally in the herb garden, the New Jersey tea bushes I planted last year survived the winter. I was a little concerned because they didn't leaf out as early as everything else, but they're one their way now.



They are tiny little things, not even as big as a dandelion, as you can see, so I'm interested to see how big they get this year. At full size, they should be two to three feet tall.

In other news, it looks like the strange weather we had did a number on my purple tulips. They're stunted and the flowers are growing sideways.


The pink and yellow tulips seem completely unaffected. Several of the orange ones didn't even come back this year. That could be something other than weather, however (yes, squirrels, I'm looking at you).

Last but not least, the rhubarb I planted last spring (I think) is doing great. I think I'll be harvesting some rhubarb next spring.


That's the update for now, but I'll have more soon. Lots of seeds have been planted in the raised beds and things are sprouting.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A new raised bed

Since I won't be planting anything on the infernal, failing wall this year, I needed to make some more garden space. That meant building another raised bed.

I decided to do a couple things different with this one. First, I decided to try using brackets, instead of simply screwing the lumber together.


Second, since the bed is going to hold several tomato plants, I decided to make it 6 foot by 8 foot, instead of my usual 4 by 8.

The brackets were made for 2 by 12 lumber, or so the box said.


2 by 12 by 8 is a big piece of lumber.


I wrestled the pieces around for awhile before I got them together.



It probably would've been easier if I hadn't been too lazy to drill pilot holes for the screws. Oh well, I'm stubborn, and I got it done.

Interestingly, the brackets turned out to be about an inch longer than the lumber.


I bought 2 by 12 lumber, and the box said the brackets measured about 11 3/4 inches. I know a 2 by 12 isn't really 12 inches wide, but there shouldn't have been an inch difference between the two. The box for the brackets had no explanation other than "can be stacked to create taller beds". That end is clearly meant to be on the bottom, so D and I figured it would just stick in the ground and help hold the bed in place.

Now I have to fill this darn thing. That's a lot of compost, etc. to move, and this bed is almost as far from the driveway as possible. Where's an extra yard of compost when you need one?


Monday, April 10, 2017

Eating from the garden already

Since I don't have a greenhouse or use any other methods of starting the season early, I don't usually get to eat from the garden until May. This year, however, I took advantage of my thriving chive plant and made this delicious chive pesto.


My pesto doesn't look nearly as bright as Kevin's, but it certainly was delicious. It was milder than I expected, and I'm not sure if the chives themselves are mild this time of year or if it's just the combination of ingredients.

The first night we ate it on pasta, and the second night I mixed it with sour cream and had it on a baked potato. Yum.


Luckily, even after harvesting two cups worth, my chive plant is going strong, and I'll definitely be making chive pesto again.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

I really am going to have a garden this year

I'm a bit behind schedule, but I think I'm finally headed the right direction with this year's garden. Between traveling for work, weird weather, and not having a solid plan, I've missed some seeding dates already, but seeds are now in pots and on the heat mats.

In the dead of winter, I had myself convinced that I was going to try winter sowing everything this year. I did put out cabbage and broccoli in early February and added some marigolds, calendula and zinnias a couple weeks later.


After freak hot days and not enough moisture killed some of the broccoli and cabbage sprouts, I started to re-think the plan. Not having cabbage in the garden is one thing; not having tomatoes would be a whole other kind of tragedy.

Once I'd decided I was going to start seeds indoors again, I then had two work trips intervene. I don't mind leaving D to do some watering, but the timing was such that seedlings would've just been sprouting and having various heat and light needs, and I didn't want to put that on him.

Yesterday, I finally got around to seeding. This year, my seed starting area is in the basement, instead of the spare bedroom. We finished the remodel and added some cabinets to the laundry room last summer, so I have a decent work area now.


I don't plant very many of each variety, so I label the individual pots, rather than having an entire tray of one thing. These are all of the tomatoes and peppers.


I mix potting soil and water in small batches as I go.


One of the pluses to having several dogs over the years is the awesome stainless steel dog dishes.


We've got several extras around the house, and they're perfect for things like this.

All set up and ready to grow. Tomatoes and peppers on the left. Eggplant, rosemary and zinnias on the right.


Last night it looked like one of the heat mats might not be working. Not surprising, given that they're several years old and spent the winter in the shed. I'll probably just rotate the pots, unless things don't start growing.

I shouldn't forget to mention that I (with D's help) did get another project done a few weeks ago. I needed to fence the other two raised beds, so I don't have to contemplate employing a bunny sniper. The hardware cloth is very hard to work with, so I bought it early and laid it out for a couple weeks to straighten a bit.


The gravel pit and the miscellaneous pieces of old wood lying around came in handy.

Before
After
It feels so good to be making progress. It's almost time for peas and onions!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A small project

It seems that every place is having strange weather, and we are no exception. We've had enough warm days to make you think spring has arrived, but so far they've all been followed by cold. At any rate, I've been itching to get outside and work, but it's still a little early. On one warm Saturday recently, however, I noticed something I could do that wouldn't take long but would be a big improvement.

The perennial bed along the driveway is edged with bricks.


For some reason I've never been able to understand, people like to lay bricks flat on the ground around flower beds. Our old house had the same thing when we moved in. I'm guessing that part of the rationale is that you can run the mower right up to the bed because the wheels can roll over the bricks. Never works that well, in my opinion.

Even if it did, it wouldn't make sense here because there's no grass.


Instead of enabling mowing, these bricks just enable mulch and soil to wash out of the flower bed.

So, my first project for the year was turning the bricks. Now I might not have to worry about mulch getting in the drains in the driveway.


Not perfect, but better.



And I inadvertently added some space to my flower bed.


Now I have room for a few more plants.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My name is K, and I have a problem

Well, probably more than one, but who's counting? I'm not even talking about my inability to blog on a regular basis. My problem is a complete lack of self control around gardening catalogs and websites, and now I'm realizing how busy I'm going to be this spring.

Shortly after ordering the plants for my shady slope, I decided there was no reason not to work on the sunny slope this year, too, so I got back on Prairie Nursery's website and ordered 13 more plants!


To the right of the bird feeders in the above photo is the slope I'll be working on. I planned an area roughly 8 foot by 6 foot. Unfortunately, I haven't done anything yet to start killing off the grass, which is now greening up, so I've really got my work cut out for me. The best news is, all 31 plants are currently scheduled to ship at the same time! I've already requested a couple days off work at the time they should be here to give myself a four day weekend. I just hope they don't change their shipping schedule.

You might be thinking that none of this sounds too bad, but there's more. I have been wanting to plant more fruit for awhile. At the old house, I planted strawberries and rhubarb, but we left before I could harvest either of them. I've thought about raspberries and blueberries, but each has their issues. Blueberries will be tricky to grow here (especially for a lazy gardener like me), and raspberries can be quite messy.

The other thing standing in my way was the place I wanted to put them. In the top middle of the above picture, you can see the northwest corner of our lot. Nothing is growing there except weeds, and I thought some bushes would look good there. Sounds great, except that is the only easy access for machinery that will likely be needed when we fix the failing retaining wall. So, anything I planted would eventually get run over.

Even though I wasn't planning on planting any fruit bushes this year, I couldn't help but look through the Stark Bro's catalog when it showed up in my mailbox. Good thing I did because I was struck with inspiration in more ways than one. Why not try honeyberries and why not put the bushes next to the garden beds?!


By "next to" I mean in the grass north of the beds, which is toward the top of the above photo. Long story, not really short, Stark Bro's had a deal on honeyberries, four bushes for $25, and they could be here any time in the next week or so.

So, that's 31 perennials and 4 fruit bushes to be planted this spring, in addition to the regular vegetables and annuals. Oh yeah, and my good friend Carla, who's almost done more to feed my gardening habit than I have, sent me a Prairie Nursery gift certificate for my birthday a few weeks ago, so I get to order more plants!


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Early

After a couple weeks with temperatures consistently higher than normal (60's and 70's), lots of plants are starting to grow. This is about two weeks ahead of last year.

Daffodils
Tulips
Tulips
And more tulips
Chives
All of these photos were taken yesterday when it was about 72 degrees. Now, it's 36 and we have a winter weather advisory for tomorrow morning.