Monday, May 30, 2011

Straw Bale Gardening 1

Day 1 of Straw Bale Gardening - Watered well

Well I'm going to give straw bale gardening a try. Above is a picture of the two bales I'm starting with. I read to set bales with the strings wrapping horizontally and the straws set vertically which supposedly allows better root penetration.

Day 1 is May 29th. I watered well in the AM and will water well again in the evening. I guess I do this for 3 days. Then add the nitrogen to it for a few days. Says blood meal will work so that's what I'll use. This speeds up the decomposition process. While this water/nitrogen thing is going on the bales heat up as they decompose. We need to wait for this initial decomposition/heating process to end before planting.

Here's a link from the blog that I'm following:
and more here: Directions say to scroll down to the bottom to see the oldest post and work your way up to "today". I love the idea of planting in the side of the bale!! Will definitely try that as well.

I'll keep you posted on how this works out. I'm thinking I'll plant a pumpkin plant and maybe a few popcorn plants. Would like to add a few flowers like zinnias and nasturtiums or a licorice basil. We'll see. I don't want to over plant.

Hope you're enjoying planting in your garden,

Lilies of the Valley and Mulching

Lilies of the Valley under the maple tree

What would the beginning of the summer be without the fragrance and beauty of Lilies of the Valley? My absolute favorite early summer flower.

Once I had my luscious smell of these flowers I was ready to hit the garden. I didn't plan to mulch the beds today but we had a fantastic rain storm last night. Complete with wake you up thunder and lightning. To me, being directly under thunder and lightning is kind of like riding a roller coaster. Deep inside scary but thrilling at the same time. As I was closing windows I realized that my day of transplanting and fence construction might be replaced with mulching. I was right.
Newly mulched spinach row
I spent the morning mulching the seedling beds with straw. And since water moves from moist to dry I hooked up the hoses to water the newly mulched beds. Wouldn't want the moist beds to suffer from the straw wicking that lovely moisture that was delivered by last night's rain away from the seedlings. I also used the hose out opportunity to move a water barrel over into the garden and fill it with compost and water. It's a rain barrel but I fill it with water from a hose when it's empty. Having that barrel available in the garden just makes watering so much easier. And here we are back to the topic of water again.

I have to admit that I use to just put the sprinkler on in the middle of the garden and once a week let it run full blast for an hour or so. Wow! I can't even imagine doing that now unless we suffered from an extensive dry spell that hand watering became just to intense to manage. Water. We really do find ourselves dealing with the realities of water in all our daily doings. Feel free to search my blog for my many posts that address the need to use water with the utmost respect.

Now back out to the garden to fill in empty spots with some pepper seedlings.
Hope you're enjoying your day!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Planting, Rhubarb, and Radish Sandwiches

You know summer is here when you bite into your first radish sandwich.

Have a four day weekend and boy do I need it! It's the perfect thing to gear up for a high octane end of another school year. And what a weekend it is! It's really warm, in the mid 80's. Perfect for that traditional Memorial Day weekend of garden work. Because of this heat I've decided to take the remay covering off of the bed of radishes and greens.
This picture was taken about a month ago. This is one of the tunnels I took down today. This remay is a bit heavier than what I've used in the past and I was told it can cause what's underneath to heat up which I don't want since I have cool season greens under it. I put it up as a flea beetle barrier. It didn't protect from flea beetles perfectly but the radishes that grew under the remay, while full of little holes from those dang flea beetles, don't look half as bad as those not grown under the remay. Since the leaves of the unprotected radishes are almost totally eaten I can only guess that flea beetles love the first "leaves" aka the cotyledon. These are not true leaves but are "seed leaves" or structures that house lots of nutrients to get the plants going. So losing them is never a good thing. In the row of radishes not covered by the remay the leaves are almost totally gone. I doubt they will make it. I just need to figure how to keep the flea beetles out next year. I think I'll try moving the radishes and kale to the extreme other end of the garden. The kale under the remay and the kale outside the remay all look the same; horrible! It appears flea beetles love kale as much if not more than they do radishes and pak choy!
The photo above shows new radishes coming up. You can see the massive flea beetle damage. These seedlings were planted 2-3 weeks after the ones below. The ones below were also covered with the remay hoop:

The radishes were so thick that I had to thin them. I got enough radishes for a few sandwiches for lunch :) I snipped a few herbs that are growing such as sage, thyme, chervil, chives, garlic chives, spearmint, and oregano to mince up and mix with some local butter. A thin layer of herb butter on some good bread along with a thick layer of sliced radishes and you have the very best first garden sandwich of the season.
Now put the two pieces of bread together and voila! Radish sandwich:

Last night I made a rhubarb strawberry crisp. I had 1 bag of frozen strawberries left from last summer and freshly picked rhubarb from the garden. It came out great. Here's the recipe:
This came from
3 cups strawberries, halved
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
½ cup honey (I also added a bit of maple syrup)
Mix together thoroughly and place in an 8”x8” ungreased pan

½ cup flour
½ cup rolled oats (I also added about 1/3 cup chopped pecans)
½ cup brown sugar (or a bit more, to taste)
¾ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
1/3 cup butter
Mix until crumbly, sprinkle over fruit mixture and bake at 350° for 40 to 50
minutes, until golden.
Opt- serve warm with vanilla ice cream
PS - This didn't even last 24 hours in my house :)

After the heat of the day I went out and planted pumpkins, summer squashes, and cucumbers. The mosquitoes which were the size of pterodactyls and with appetites to match chased me inside. That is a first! And I won't even discuss the number of ticks my very loving husband has pulled off of me this year; another first. But no...we aren't experiencing the effects of climate change. But don't get me going on that topic!!

That's it for now. Hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mulching and Asparagus

Laying down newspaper and straw for pathway mulching.

Mulching the paths of the garden is not my favorite garden chore but it's one that makes me feel really good when I'm done because it makes the garden look so nice. When The paths are finished being mulched you see a path of straw. You don't see the newspaper (for the most part). The newspaper is to kill out any weeds that are there by cutting of the source off their food supply...aka sunlight. The main purpose of mulching the rows is to keep weeds down. As the plants get larger inside the beds I will mulch them too with a combination of compost and straw. I don't ever use hay! Hay is full of perennial grass seed. Straw is full of seed as well but it's annual seed. So as the season progresses I'll see grass (oats) coming up but I'll yank them. And if I miss some it's no big deal; they will die back over the winter.

I say never yet last year I did use hay for the paths. A friend gave me about 10 bales of really old hay so I used it. It wasn't old enough! Weeds from the hay were already beginning to take hold big time. After a week of rain the rain barrels are full and the weeds are really visible.

Last year I didn't mulch the strawberry bed because the runners had taken root all over the bed. We had great strawberries but this year, the 5th year of the bed, the old strawberry bed is beyond hope. As I tried to free it today from the witch's grass I found myself pulling up as many strawberry plants as I did weeds. So that didn't go so well. Good thing I planted a new bed this year. But I can tell it's going to be too small. Only 30 plants. I will dig up runners from the old plants and replant them next weekend. Next weekend is a 4 day Memorial Day weekend!! I can't wait!

I LOVE Sweet Woodruff during the weeks of late May/Early June

Cutting Asparagus

This is the first year I've been able to cut the asparagus. It's the third season of this bed. I had another bed for a few years but it was in too much shade so I started this three years ago. To be honest I'm surprised by the purple color. We are eating these tomorrow for dinner so we'll see how they taste. One thing I noticed was that the taller asparagus that got by me were tough to cut but the ones that were just 5 or 6 inches tall were so tender. I bet these will taste great.

A few herbs that we've been enjoying are chives and chervil. YUM!! I love them both on eggs in the morning. I also made a sorrel soup that was pretty good. I'll post that recipe later.

This week we are suppose to have another week of unsettled weather. In between showers I'm hoping to get under the remay hoops and look at the radishes and kale. Each time I've peeked I've seen a ton of flea beetles. That's disappointing as the reason I put them up was to provide a barrier against flea beetles! They do such a number on my radishes and kale. I'm beginning to think the flea beetles emerge from the soil. If that's the case then why would these remay row covers be recommended to provide a barrier against flea beetles? I'll have to check into this some more.

Well, that's it for now. Happy late spring gardening!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Got Rain? Save it in a Rain Barrel

The most important design part of your rain barrel. The site linked below explains a few great reasons to build a rain barrel and gives directions for building one. Also tips on how to connect rain barrels. Excellent design.

I thought this was a a good time to post this since it's raining here and it's suppose to rain all week. We just want to collect all this water to use later on when it's gets dry. Here's a great video clip on why and how to build your own rain barrels. Give it a try.

Building a rain barrel

Also here's an older post from June 24th that goes into more details about rain barrels:
Since it's a bit wet outside it's the perfect time to spend indoors building your very own rain barrel(s).

For those of you in areas of the country that need the water, enjoy the rain. (although I know some parts of the country have had way too much)

PS - Since we're on water; look at this site from the National Gardening Association that has some great and simple things we can do to conserve water while gardening:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mid May and Loving My Cold Frame

Lilacs are in full bud.

I woke up this morning feeling quite funky. Didn't really want to do a darn thing. I forced myself to go out to the garden and it's just amazing how much better I felt! The garden is really a magical place. It works for funky moods every time. What would we do without our gardens?!

Besides lilac blooms, dandelions and plum tree are also blooming. Daffodils have been gorgeous for a few weeks, tulips are beginning to open, blood root flowers have come and gone, violets everywhere, chives are ready to open up, and lavender is coming back. I list these observations because if my timing with the cold frame goes well I want to make note for future years.

I moved the cool season plants out of the cold frame and took some seedlings from under my grow lights that are a bit more tender and put them in the cold frame. Out went the broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, parsley, pak choy, Chinese cabbage, and kale. Here's a pic of what came out:
Days have been in the 50's-low 70's with eve's in the 40's so I've been opening the frame each day and closing it each eve. I planned on having this be the first eve these plants are out all night but to be honest I'm rethinking this plan due to purplish leaves on my broccoli and predicted cool eve temps. This isn't the first time I've seen purplish leaves on my broccoli. Actually just about every year my broccoli gets purplish leaves. I just saw on one internet site that cool evening temps can cause this. But I've also read that purple leaves usually mean P and/or K deficiency. But just in case it's the cold I'm thinking I'll put them back into the cold frame the next few nights as night temps will remain in the 40's. Well that's a pain. Maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit? I haven't moved tomatoes out yet or peppers. Although I did take one pack of tomatoes out just to see how they do. But I have to say this cold frame has been a wonderful way to harden these plants off and one of the best investments we've made (second to our garden cart). Having the cold frame sure beats carrying plants outside and back inside each day in an effort to harden them off. This is also the first year I've started plants under grow lights and these plants look as good as anything you'd get at a greenhouse.

Here's what I moved into the cold frame today, nasturtium, leeks, Mexican sunflower, a few basil and tomatoes and some spearmint I bought at a greenhouse:

Now I'v got more room under the grow lights for the seeds I planted last week for FEDCO. Basically some peppers and broccoli. Here's the peppers:

My tomatoes are so big I'm actually concerned because they are beginning to look leggy. I had to take them out from under the lights because they were just too tall. I did notice that when I took them out from under the lights they quickly became leggy. I pinched the tops off today. Took about 6" off the top of each one. I'm hoping they will get a little bushier. Here's a picture after my pinching:

I spent the day digging up my perennial garden. This is the second day I've spent doing this. I've moved all the non-edible flowers that I love and can't part with into one bed and now have 2 beds that will basically be devoted to edible herbs and flowers. In one bed I transplanted chives, garlic chives, oregano, french tarragon, chervil, and thyme and seeded some cilantro. I moved all my sage plants to the border of the cold frame. And now have one bed clear and ready for annual edible herbs and flowers such as basil, dill, calendula, nasturtiums, more cilantro, and parsley. I need to decide what to do with all the lemon balm I moved out. It was taking over an entire bed. I use a lot of lemon balm and spearmint all summer for herb teas so I do need it. I may dig up my bed of black raspberries that I don't like and put the lemon balm there. Here's a picture of chives. Love chives!

The rain has come. We need it. The gardens are dry, the rain barrel is empty, and I'm sick of carting water up to the new strawberry bed I put in.

Enjoy your spring gardening season. There really is nothing quite like it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Day Brings Spring, Finally

This weekend was the first real "spring" weekend. Temps in the 50's and 60's. A glorious weekend. Began the weekend at the FEDCO Annual Tree Sale. Picked up my potatoes and onion bulbs that I ordered a few months back. This year I'm going to be field testing some peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower for FEDCO. I'm pretty excited about this. A brand new experience for me. They've all been planted and are sitting indoors as they prepare to sprout. While at FEDCO I also got a peach tree, some more horseradish root, and a bunch of strawberries. I've got a strawberry bed that has been producing delicious strawberries for 3 years now. Last year I noticed the berries getting quite a bit smaller and also weeds trying to take over the bed and this year the weeds appear to be winning. Rather than fight it all I will plant a new strawberry bed in the upper garden. I'll pick off the flowers this year as that's what you do in the first year of strawberries (it sends energy back down to the roots making the plants stronger). We'll pick from the old patch one more summer while the new patch settles in and then we'll till the old patch under next year.

Two weeks ago when I put in the greens, roots crops, and peas I put some hoops of floating row covering cloth over the greens and roots that flea beetles love, namely radishes, kale, and pac choy. One concern I have is that they will make it too hot under them. Those are cool season plants. I'm willing to give this a try as those darned flea beetles do a number on my plants every year. I have more trouble with them than any other bug...well maybe not stink bugs. Here's a photo of one hoop. You can see the weed infested strawberry bed in the background.

Last weekend I also began to clean up in the flower/herb garden near the house. I'm slowly going to replace quite a bit of the ornamental flowers with herbs for cooking and dyeing fiber. I'm hoping to sell herbs this summer. We'll see. Of course there are some flowers that just have to stay. Such as my roses, dianthus, butterfly bush..and I'm sure there are others that haven't even come up yet. I set up my cold frame near the house and have decided that this will be a permanent spot. I will just have to get another one built for the veggie garden. It's working beautifully! As my seedlings I've started indoors get bigger and need more room I take the cool season seedlings and move them into the cold frame. Working like a charm and giving me more room under the lights for the tomatoes, peppers, basil and such. Here's a picture of the cold frame with things like spinach, lettuce, kale in it.
These cool season crops have also been directly sown in the main garden. We'll see which do better. I don't know about you but for me the direct seeded stuff always seems to do best. But maybe this cold frame will change that.

Garlic is up; easily 2 inches tall. Peas, lettuce, radishes, and spinach are just pushing up through the soil.

That's all for now. No real topic to discuss just a quick update. But I do feel a "sludge compost" posting coming soon.

Happy Spring and Have Fun Planting!