Tag Archives: vegetables

Back in the Blogging Saddle

It’s been nearly two years since I last posted. TWO YEARS! I haven’t forgotten about my little blog. It’s been quietly nagging me in the back of my mind. For two years I’ve been thinking about and meaning to get back to it, but life has been so busy. In those two years I increased the amount of hours I am at work and our two kids are now school age and involved in more activities (soccer, swimming, gymnastics, piano). I value our quiet time and we all enjoy just hanging out at home and playing in the back yard. We aren’t usually involved in that many things at one time. However, in an effort to try different things and see what the kids really enjoy (in addition to wanting the kids to learn how to swim), it feels like we’ve been overdoing it. My son informed me last night that he’s ready to take a break from swimming. Right on. He’s been doing great and has really progressed since he started winter lessons in January, but a break is definitely due.

One of the highlights of the last year is that we now have backyard chickens! I plan to write a whole post on that, but in short: husband built a coop and a run, and in March 2015 we got six Golden Comet chicks (red sexlinks). The kids loved watching them grow from chicks and have continued to love and care for them. They even gave them names. The chickens deserve a blog post of their own, so we’ll cover all that next time around.

In the meantime, it’s April and the weather has been gorgeous (except for the last few days of heavy rain). We’ve gotten our garden started, and since my garden is the topic I blog about most (aside from my kids, maybe), I wanted to share a few pics of what we’ve got going. I’m also home today with a sick kindergartener, so while she’s resting and watching The Land Before Time (a favorite movie series around here), I decided to finally bring back the blog. 🙂

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Our new chicken coop and run along the side of the garden. Also, last year Mr. L. added a fence around the garden to keep the chickens, dogs and deer out. It’s been working great!

 

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This is late afternoon and as you can see, the garden gets a good bit of shade then. I usually try to start planting in the far end and save the sunniest parts of the garden for tomatoes.

 

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The first transplants include cabbage, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. I will need to keep an eye on them so I can see when the cabbage worms start to show up, then take action.

 

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Our “walking onions” popping through! My dad gave me a bunch of these a few years ago and I save the bulbs to replant each year. They develop a flower at the top with a bunch of new bulbs that get heavy and plop over, starting a new plant, which is how they “walk”.

 

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These two were really into helping garden this month, so we harnessed that enthusiasm! They helped plant onions, potatoes, and green beans. Miss D. also helped transplant the Brassicas one afternoon when her brother was at soccer practice. We still have lots to do!

At the recommendation of my Uncle Joe, I’m currently reading Growing Great Tomatoes in preparation of planting our own tomatoes in the next week or so. I’m also checking out Straw Bale Gardens and am thinking of giving that technique a try at some point. There’s always so much to learn!

To be continued…

 

 

Spring Garden, 2014

We got a late start on this year’s garden, due to the harsh winter that ran into spring. However, this spring has been mostly nice and cool, and our garden is looking pretty good so far! My goal this year was to space things appropriately (everything was super cramped and overgrown by October in years past) and to stay ahead of the weeds, which overcame the garden in previous years. I’d get to point where I just gave up, and the weeds won.

This year, I laid much more leaf mulch, thanks to the nifty leaf compost bin that my husband made out of wooden pallets last year. It was packed full of leaves that we collected in the fall.

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I’ve also been trying to get out there regularly to pull weeds and cultivate. It’s working so far, although I fell behind in a few rows… mainly the peas and the radishes/carrots. The weeds don’t seem to be bothering the peas, but I know I have to clean up the row with the carrots or they won’t grow. Does anyone know the best way to weed around carrots?

We started harvesting a couple of weeks ago. First out of the garden were lettuce, radishes, and spring onions.  I love growing radishes and spring onions because they are so easy.

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This year we had better luck with lettuce, too, partly because we started with plants. I think the last few years I sowed lettuce seeds too late, and I waited and waited for them to get big enough to pick, and then they bolted. It’s working out much better this year, from plants. We have big, full heads of lettuce. I’m sure the cooler spring is helping too.

Our most recent harvest from the garden has been peas. During our first year gardening, we had a great row of sugar snap peas that seemed to produce early, and just kept giving us peas. This year I sowed three rows of peas, one of Frosty Pea, one Sugar Bush, and one Sugar Snap. Not sure why I dedicated three rows to peas, but I did. They grew strong and big, but it seemed like the blossoms were never going to develop. I even considering pulling out the plants so that I could put something else there, because I was starting to think they wouldn’t produce for us. Then, after a recent weekend of heavy rain I walked out there and they were full of beautiful little pink and white blossoms! It’s been my favorite part of this year’s garden so far, particularly the pink pea blossoms. I went out there last night and snapped some photos before the blossoms were all gone.

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Are you keeping a garden this year? How is it doing?

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Gettin’ Dirty

What a gorgeous weekend! The late, heavy snows that we got in March delayed the start of our gardening, so I tried to get caught up this weekend. It was the perfect weather for it; just like those perfect couple of weeks of true spring weather that we get between winter and the hot summer weather that always seems to come too early. I remember a couple of years ago we had what felt like two full months of true spring weather. Hoping for another spring like that this year, now that spring has finally arrived.

We spent most of the weekend in our back yard, transplanting and sowing in the vegetable garden, as well as making a butterfly garden next to the kids’ play house. I’ll follow-up with a post on those, but in the meantime, here’s what we got started in the vegetable garden this weekend:

  • Egyptian (“walking”) onions (actually planted a few weeks ago; my Dad gave me these spring onions a couple of years ago)
  • sweet onions
  • potatoes (Kennebec and red)
  • lettuces (Buttercrunch, Bibb, and mesclun)
  • swiss chard
  • cabbage (early flat Dutch and red)
  • peas (frosty pea, sugar snap and dwarf sugar bush)
  • Tepary beans (heirloom from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company)
  • carrots (short n’ sweet, and rainbow)
  • radishes (easter egg mix)
  • arugula
  • parsley
  • dill

After all of that, I have over half of the garden planted already, which I always find a little depressing. I can never keep up with our garden, once the weeds move in. Then I wish it were smaller. But when I’m planting and sowing, I always wish it were bigger.

We all got very dirty and by Sunday evening, I was tired and sore. But it was a divine weekend. I took this photo of my daughter playing in the less-than-half of the garden that we haven’t planted yet. She had gone inside to fetch her favorite blanket and brought it out to the garden. This photo pretty much sums up how I felt about the weekend. 🙂

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Hoping you also had beautiful weather this past weekend and got outside to enjoy it!

 

Turnip or Not Turnip? That is the question.

Look at these two beauties that I pulled from different parts of the garden on Saturday. The one on top was in my turnip patch… so that’s definitely a turnip. The bottom one showed up in my radish and carrot patch, but it looks more like a turnip than a radish. The leaves on the two are practically identical, but the radish-turnip was starting to flower. I pulled them both but I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with them. I am thinking of just roasting them with some carrots and potatoes. I’m hoping they both are actually turnips; I don’t think roasted radish would taste very good.

In other garden-related news, I started to lose faith in the tomato and pepper plants that I started from seed. Some are doing okay, but many of them are not looking great and I started to worry that this year’s tomato harvest would be as disappointing as last year’s. This past weekend I decided I would go to the garden store and buy some new pepper and tomato plants to at least supplement the plants I grew myself, in case mine were a bust. I also got a couple of large pottery planters. I didn’t pull out all of my tomato and pepper plants, but I pulled out the weakest-looking half of them and replaced them with the much-more-robust-looking nursery plants. I also put a few plants in the planters. I’d say a full 1/4 of my garden is dedicated to tomatoes and peppers, so I’m hoping for a good harvest. Last year was my first try at canning, so I hope to do a lot more of that this year, especially using tomatoes.

Book: Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook

Last year I really wanted to start a garden, but I was very inexperienced and even a little intimidated. Despite my beginner status, I dove right in and got through the season with a lot of trial-and-error and a lot of inefficiency. I wanted to do better this year, yet there seemed to be so many things to learn and I didn’t know where to start.

This past winter I was browsing the book section at a local Plow & Hearth and found the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by father and daughter team, Ron and Jennifer Kujawski. It’s exactly the type of gardening book I had been looking for: one that would break a year’s worth of gardening down into small, manageable tasks, telling me what to do and when to do it.

I’m pretty much a beginner gardener and I think this book is great for beginners. The Kujawskis break down the Handbook into weeks before or after the last frost date. So, all you do is find your last frost date and then fill in the dates at the top of the first page in each section of the book. For example, one section says “9 weeks before average date of last frost”. Since my average date of last frost is around April 16, I grab a calendar and count backward 9 weeks from April 16 and put that date (February 13) at the top of the page in the handbook. In that short section, the Kujawskis tell me which seeds to start around February 13 (eggplant, peppers, and some herbs), how to design a crop rotation plan (with a table showing a typical crop rotation plan), and how to be prepared for a dry season (by making a DIY rain barrel out of a garbage can, as well as few other recommendations for prepping the garden). They even provide a list of drought-tolerant vegetables.

If you want a garden but don’t know where to start, or you have some some experience but you want a little guidance on how to improve your gardening practices, consider the Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook! Aside from being a great gardening guide for what-to-do-when, the Handbook has a lot of excellent bits of garden-related information, tips, and tutorials. It’s been my go-to reference so far this year. The authors even encourage you to scribble notes in the margin, take the book with you to the garden, and get dirty (you and the book)! As they put it, “If after the first growing season, this book has no soil smudges or pencil marks, you probably didn’t have enough fun.”

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By the way, if you don’t k now your average date of last frost, there are several online sources for finding it. You could do what I did and try the frost date listing at Victory Seeds, or go straight to the National Climatic Data Center for the most comprehensive (and also most confusing) data. (Keep in mind that your last frost date isn’t an absolute; it’s just an average, so you could still experience a frost after your last frost date.)

Potatoes Breaking Ground

I’ve been patiently waiting for signs of growth from the potatoes I planted on March 30th. I had bought the potatoes at least two weeks (probably longer) before planting them and some of them had grown some pretty lanky sprouts on them while sitting in the basement. I wasn’t sure what that would mean for them after they were planted. With a little bit of concern, I’ve been watching the patch where I planted six short rows–three Kennebec and three red-skinned potatoes–waiting for signs of green poking up through the earth. I finally started seeing it a couple of days ago. Here’s the leader of the pack.

It’s just so satisfying to bury a dry, seemingly lifeless seed (or in this case, a chunk of potato) in the soil and see it emerge in a splash of green just days later. I think it’s especially exciting with the potatoes. It’s like a dark green rosette pushing its way up through the crust; not even so much a “splash” of green, but more like a “punch”.

We’re going to have a lot of fun digging these guys up in a few months! Happy gardening!

Make Your Own Seed Packet Organizer Using a Tissue Box

Since last year was my first year with a big garden, I start accumulating seed packets and was looking for a way to keep them somewhat tidy and organized. (Kind of a stretch for me, being neither a tidy nor an organized person.) I searched online for some special seed containers or something that might be available at a garden store, but came up with nothing. I did, however, find a page that recommended using an old tissue box to hold seed packets. I tried it and thought it worked out just fine.

Over the past year and into this growing season, my seed collection expanded threefold and I needed more seed holders. Since we have two small kids in the house, we go through our fair share of tissues and don’t have to wait long to have an empty tissue box to put to use. So, I made two more today. Here’s what you do.

Start with an empty tissue box and cut a rectangle out of the top.

From the corners of the inner rectangle that you cut out, cut diagonally to the top corners of the box, essentially creating four flaps on the top. Then fold those down and staple them to the inside of the box.

Ta-da! You have yourself a seed box. I suppose if you were feeling crafty, you could even decorate your box.

As a result of this little bit of effort, my seed collection went from this:

To this:

I had to figure out a way to divide them up into the three boxes, so I put cool weather (frost tolerant) plant seeds in one box, warm weather (frost intolerant) plant seeds in another, and  legume, flower, and herb seeds in the last box. Then I grouped them in each box by plant type (tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, squash, etc). (I realize now that I have way too many squash and pumpkins seeds!) I also thought of using some index cards as dividers between plant types, but haven’t done that yet.

Surely the best way to make my seed packets more manageable is to stop buying so many! That isn’t nearly as fun, though. Nonetheless, I’m sure this isn’t the last of my seed organizing efforts. I’ll adjust or try something else later. I did find a site online that recommends using a pocket-style behind-the-door shoe organizer to organize seeds, while others simply use binders with sleeves to hold the packets. I’m curious to hear what you do. If you have a system that works for you, or any ideas or suggestions, please do share!