Sunday, May 31, 2009

My vegetable garden

Today I finished planting the vegetable garden. Over the past month Karl and Caroline have helped me make my soil mix on a tarp and then dump it into the raised bed. I found I couldn't do it alone so always had to wait for someone to be available to help. Thanks to both of them for their help.

I can't harvest the lettuce fast enough. It's growing faster than we can eat it. I have some almost every day for lunch, and I use it to amend the store bought lettuce mix, but it's still way too much. It will become bitter soon with the hot, sunny weather.

The broccoli and cauliflower are looking good and strong. Can't wait for the yummy part to start growing. The inside leaves of the cabbage plants are starting to form the heads.

I planted some old green bean seeds about 2 weeks ago, but only one has germinated, so I may have to buy some new seeds and try again. The little celery plants are looking ok.

My zucchini, patty pans, and spaghetti squash plants have nice flowers on them. The cucumber plants are growing well but haven't yet reached for their pole-and-string trellis yet. I planted a couple of watermelon plants, too.

I have 5 Roma tomato plants and 1 Husky Red tomato. It's a dwarf plant and I'm curious about how big it will grow. It already has a golf-ball sized tomato.

I went a little pepper crazy this year. I have 2 cayenne pepper plants. Karl likes to dry these peppers and grind them up for cayenne powder, which he uses to spice up my not-so-spicy foods. There is 1 jalapeno plant, with a 1" long jalapeno growing on it already! I also planted 5 bell pepper plants-2 green, 1 each of red, yellow, orange. Most of the peppers have flowered and are starting to grow peppers.

The self-pollinating dwarf Braeburn apple tree was full of blossoms last week. I have no idea if it will produce fruit this year, but it was exciting to see all those blossoms. The yellow delicious finally came out of dormancy (I was beginning to worry about it) and is leafing out.

The red raspberries are starting to get a slight pinkish tinge to them and are still quite small. I enlarged the raspberry patch, but most of the transplants didn't survive, so I will have to do that again. Not a problem; there are plenty of suckers growing. We have a nice little strawberry crop that we are reluctantly sharing with a chipmunk.

The cherry trees are looking good; one had some blossoms. Karl planted the locust trees today while I was at work. Last summer we had a 120-or-so year old oak tree die, and the city came and cut it down. (Thank goodness it was on the city's right-of-way!) We plan to put a tulip poplar in its place. There's a volunteer in the front flower bed that we'll move over there.

I feel now like I have the yard the way I want it. I can't think of anything more that we need or want. Well, we did talk about planting a patch of whatever critters like to eat, with the hopes of keeping them away from the flowerbeds. One day last week I was in the bedroom and heard rustling and a chewing noise. I looked out the bedroom window and there was Walter the woodchuck happily chomping on some knee-high sunflower plants. I'd love to have some milkweed for the monarchs. And then there's the matter of moving the peony bushes...ok, so maybe I'm not done!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vegetables and Fruits

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. Each spring I get overly enthusiastic about gardening and buy too much stuff for the time I have. Last year we dug out nearly 20 yew shrubs that were 30 years old (no small task but clever Karl created a great stump removal method!) and I went crazy buying perennials and small shrubs to replace the yews. Amended the heavy clay soil, and planted, planted, planted, then ended up shoving the rest of the plants in the ground until "next year" when I could properly plant them. (Seems to me I did this a couple of years ago, too, and still have salvia, ox-eye daisy and something else growing in the far end of the strawberry bed...not their permanent home, to be sure!) I get so frustrated with myself about doing this every year. I need to pace myself and take care of what I've got before buying/trading more plants. Maybe I should make a deal with myself, like, "I can not buy any more plants until I have moved the peony plants that are scattered about the yard." That would stop the spending for the rest of this growing season!

I've spent as much time as I can outside getting the garden ready. So far I've planted broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, and lettuce. The garlic I planted last fall is coming up. The red raspberry patch is going crazy again this year, although I don't anticipate as good a crop this year as last. Last year the weather cooperated and killed all the Japanese beetle larvae so there were very few eating at my raspberry plants. The wild black raspberries are looking healthy, too, but need to be moved. We dug these out of our wooded area and moved them over by the strawberry patch (temporarily!) a couple of years ago, and they are still there and the plants in the wooded area are as big as ever, too. The strawberry plants are looking fantastic and I will have to cover them with bird netting in the next couple of weeks, as the berries are starting to form. And I have to plant the asparagus plants I bought, but don't have a plan of where to put them (maybe by the strawberries with everything else!)

All the rain we've had lately has really helped these plants grow! You can water with the city water, but the plants really thrive with the rain. One of my 'someday' goals is to have a rain barrel.

For Mother's Day & my birthday Karl bought me a nice compost bin. Since we moved here we've been carrying our kitchen scraps to the brush pile but it doesn't get hot enough to make good compost. Last year I dug deep and got some nice looking compost, spread it on my vegetable garden and ended up with a nice assortment of weeds. Oops. Here's my new composter:

I still need to make my soil mix and get the rest of the expanded-this-year garden planted. I make my own soil--1/3 peat, 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite. Makes a wonderful, light soil that the plants do great in. I do raised bed gardening so no tilling necessary. Karl made me a rabbit-proof fence to go around the garden bed. Worked great against the rabbits, but Walter the Whistlepig did a fine job of eating through the fence last fall. And of course, I've already purchased the tomato plants, cucumbers, squash, peppers to put in the garden---the garden that's not ready.

I spent much of Thursday planting apple trees. I bought bare-root trees via mail from a recommended nursery. I bought 3 trees-- Arkansas Black, Yellow Delicious, and Braeburn. They're 3 - 4 feet tall and seem excited to be back in the ground, as they're starting to leaf out already. They'll be small (8 - 10 ft) trees. I also bought a couple of self-pollinating cherry trees--one sweet cherry and one pie cherry tree. Haven't planted them yet but maybe this weekend.

Also, I have started receiving bi-weekly deliveries from I received my second delivery on Wednesday. This week I received potatoes, carrots, a large onion, a large bunch of broccoli, 13 apples, a couple of grapefruit, a lemon, half-dozen oranges, wax beans, asparagus, snap peas and spring mix lettuce. Here's why I like this service:

1. It's nice quality, mostly organic produce. In the past I haven't always bought organic, but would like to eat more organic food.

2. The food will be locally grown later in the season. Right now most of the food is from far way, some even from Mexico (not too crazy about that) but I really want to support local farmers in-season. I like the idea that my apples (not the ones in this week's box, but those that will come later) traveled only 10 miles to get to me rather than 2000 miles. (With any luck, in a couple of years my apples will travel only 20 feet!) In this order I got a pound of locally grown asparagus! YAY!

3. It will encourage me to try new recipes as I get veggies I wouldn't normally buy. I have no objections to wax beans, but honestly have never bought them. So now I have a pound or so of them and have already researched recipes.

4. It's flexible. A few days before my delivery I get an email telling me what will be in my box. I then can customize the order, removing items my family doesn't like and substituting what they do.

5. They also offer local meats, baked goods, jams, jellies, dairy items, and pretty much anything you'd like. One of my goals is to eat less meat and make the meat I do eat come from local sources.

6. In this week's box I got some tulips (for Mother's Day, perhaps?)

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers!