Tag Archives: vegetable garden

Garden Planted

May 31, 2012

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We spent the hottest day of the year (thus far!) working outside on the garden. We didn’t plan it that way. I’m very late getting the seeds in, and couldn’t wait another day. Besides, it’s May. Who’da thought we’d break a 100-year record at 91 degrees with 75% humidity? Yick.

The husband tilled one bed and the boys did the other. The girls hacked at weeds on the garden paths.

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I’d read somwehere that laying a cover of mulch helps keeps weeds down. The weeds have been mighty ferocious this year already, so I tried newspapers.

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Hm. Looks awful and I am not even sure it will be effective. The papers were actually too wide to fit between the rows. So we only laid a few, then quit. We’ll see how this develops. I will eventually spread a layer of peat moss over the beds, as mulch. I have done it for a few years and it’s worked very well. I just gotta go get the stuff.

Both beds planted! I’m very pleased with it so far, despite the rather shabby appearance. It’s so GREEN and lush.

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Oh the work has only just begun. I have to mend the fences and replace the mangled chicken wire. The ground hogs, rabbits, and deer love my garden too much, and they don’t like to share. We also have a grapevine on one side of the fence and raspberries on the other side. It’s quite the work to keep these guys from entangling their octopus-arms into everything.

This year, I’m trying red peppers again. This will be my third attempt. In all the years of gardening, I have only got ONE pepper. Ever. If nothing grows this year, no more peppers. I can’t grow corn here, either, because the crows are profuse and because it’s so wet here.

I also am trying broccoli again. My previous crop was a dismal failure. Here’s hoping this does better. We planted LOTS of lettuce, yellow beans, yellow and zucchini squash, rutabagas, onions and basil. I have yet to plant potatoes.

Now we wait. 🙂

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Weedly

October 5, 2010

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I had very few garden updates this year. No wonder:

weedly2

weedly1

Egads, YES, that is my garden. We DID plant a vegetable garden this year… not that you can tell, hahah! In there somewhere are cucumbers (probably moldy from the torrential rains we’ve had) and red cabbage. The crops were poor, for the first time since I’ve had a garden. I’m not quite sure why, actually; the seeds were “OK,” but not all sprouted. And the rains were horrific this spring. We did keep the garden weeded now and then… but since August, we haven’t had the time to yank up our breeches and delve into the dirt. Such is neglect. My poor, poor gardens…

I had taken such careful attention for all my gardens in years past; to see this one in such great disrepair is a little disheartening. It’s filled with tares, burdock, and sorrel, as well as some kind of wacky wild geranium plant that has taproots to Hades. It will NOT be fun excavating this next year.

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Gardening Update

July 3, 2010

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I have been as negligent of my gardens this year as I have been about blogging about them. Thank God, plants require very little care and attention. Unfortunately, the weeds also thrive on negligence. :-p But it looks like my vegetables are holding their own. The snow peas are on the brink of harvesting (I just love them raw); we also have cucumbers, which are not doing so well (never do, really); loads of kale, lettuce, spinach which is overwhelming in its production; the red cabbage is coming (yay!), yellow squash is starting to produce fruit… I love vegetable gardening! There is nothing like fresh, clean food that you have grown yourself.

Here is my chorus of onions in the late afternoon sun:

Chorus of Onions

The zucchini has a few babies!

Zucchini Baby

The cantaloupe is doing poorly, due to a cold spell in April, a very dry May, and a totally soggy June. The apple tree is producing little– I only spotted THREE apples so far– but the grapes and berries are doing well.

Berry Harvest

Baby Grapes

The native, wild stuff seems to be doing very well in Upstate this year. Plants that I usually have to pamper, such as tomatoes, melons, and cukes, are doing very poorly. It does not fare well for our emphasis on the raw food diet, but I am grateful for the stuff that we are getting.

June is really a crucial month for us, and it was very disappointing this year. We got SEVEN inches of rain in June. Way, way too much. Everything is soggy, and the pests breed in the wet weather. So even my flower gardens are rather limpid this year.

Still, it is good to see my fruit plants producing, such as the berries and grapes. They get better every year.

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Merry Christmas, Moms

May 9, 2010

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*grooooooaaaaan*

It’s snowing. It’s snowing hard. Big, sticky, wet flakes that drench everything. *sigh* Oh well, better than ice, I guess.

Yesterday my garden looked like this…

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Today it looks like this!

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That’s Upstate New York for you. But darn it, I already packed the shovels and snow tires away, in preparation for the renovation. *chuckle* Gotta laugh!

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It won’t be here for long, so say the weathermen. But then again, the weathermen said that it would snow in the “higher” elevations. I’m about as low as you can get! LOL

Well, anyway, it’ll probably be gone in no time. I’m reminded of this verse– it seems perfect for Mother’s Day today:

“Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her, so he will have no lack of gain… She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms… She is not afraid is snow for her household, for all her household is clothed with scarlet…

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, but you have excelled them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31: 1-31

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Garden Is Planted (Well, Almost)

May 6, 2010

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Two 12×24 beds. DONE.

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I love gardening, but planting is tough– you have to bend completely over to do it. By the end of the day, my back is moaning it’s disapproval.

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In case you’re wondering, we string up the beds like that to make sure the seeds are planted in straight rows. I like a pleasant-looking garden (maintaining a nice appearance REALLY helps come late June, when you have to go out to weed it AGAIN). It’s also a great guideline for the kids. They are older now, and don’t tend to create the zig-zags of peas and squash that they used to…. but I like the rows. When the seeds germinate and sprout up high enough, we remove the string.

I’ve got almost everything planted– we still have to plug in the rutabaga (it’s a late season crop, better after a frost, so I wait until June to plant it). I’ve also got sunflowers to plant– they are going along the outside of the garden, but the son must bust that sod yet… we’re skipping potatoes this year and planting almost all lettuce-y type stuff (chard, kale, collards, etc). And I’m hoping my organic bug spray will sufficiently ward off the cabbage eaters…

I usually spread a thin layer of peat moss on top of everything when I’m done, but the prices here are $8.49 per 3 cubic yards! I would need 10. NO WAY am I spending almost $100 on peat moss, no way. That would literally eat up any savings I’d make by planting my own food. So we’re going to have to do a little extra labor this year— watering and lots of weeding.

VineBud287613

The grape vine has thus far survived the roaming deer.

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High Mowing Seeds Company is Totally Cool

April 28, 2010

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Whoa.

The folks at High Mowing Seeds in Vermont saw my post where I said that I was happy with the organic seeds, but I was not so happy with the shipping packaging. Guess what? They emailed me. I am IMPRESSED. In this day and age when many companies couldn’t care less about customer satisfaction, High Mowing Seeds actually LISTENED to what I said and then they go the second mile to make me happy.

WHOA.

This is what they said:

Hi, Rebecca:

Someone here at High Mowing came across your recent blog post and brought it to my attention. First of all, thanks for your seed order and for making the commitment to supporting an independently-owned, 100% organic seed company! Second of all, I’m really sorry that you weren’t satisfied with the shipment of your seeds.

We have two goals in selecting the packaging we use to ship you seeds. One is to make sure the seed is well protected and gets to you intact. The second is to select packaging that has a small environmental footprint. We are proud to say that the packaging we use to mail you your seeds is made from recycled content and is itself completely recyclable. However, from your description, it sounds like our shipping staff may have put a few too many seed packets in the envelope and we didn’t quite meet the first of our shipping goals. Our customers’ satisfaction is important to us, and so I’m happy to offer you free shipping on your next order. [they sent me a promo coupon]

Also, please let me know if any of the packs of seeds were damaged in shipment, and we’d be happy to send you a follow-up item.

Our shipping and handling rates are based on the dollar amount of your order, which is the best way we have of estimating the cost to process and ship an order (assuming the more seed a customer buys, the more the order will cost to processes and ship). Unfortunately, this can get skewed when a customer buys more high-value seed, which increases the dollar amount of an order without necessarily increasing the shipment weight. This is partly what happened in your case, with some of the larger packet sizes that you ordered. We’re always rethinking how we do things, so I’m happy to be reminded of this issue to see if it’s something we can improve upon.

I hope that some of this helps to improve your experience with High Mowing Organic Seeds. I think you’ll find our seeds to be of great quality. Happy planting and hope you have an abundant season!

I am honored. Really. First, that this company checks up on and CARES about their reputation. Second, that they are reaching out to me this way.

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I haven’t tried any of the seeds yet (it snowed yesterday!), but I will be planting them either this week or the next. If the seeds are anything like the customer service, I think my garden will be beautiful.

Check out highmowingseeds.com. So far, the company TOTALLY ROCKS.

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Fixing the Garden Fencing and Other Odd Jobs

April 24, 2010

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Before we go full tilt with gutting the kitchen in a few weeks, we need to prep the garden for this year’s crops. In a few short days, we’ve made good progress!

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We’ve replaced the wooden border for one of the beds. Each bed is 12 feet by 24 feet. Lumber prices are sky-high suddenly, so I decided to replace only one bed. Next year, we’ll do the other.

The beds are also tilled and ready for seeds.

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When we first started the garden, it was an agonizing task to till the beds those first few years. I’ve added peat moss and compost for four years, and it’s really made a difference. The soil is light and fluffy, just beautiful.

We also fixed the fencing, replaced posts, added more rails, and have been weeding the border of weeds and out-of-control border flowers. I also pruned my grape vine and tied it to the fencing. I hope to have a great crop this year.

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Gardening is extremely physical work, but I just love gardening. It so invigorating to hoe and rake, and hammer and plant seeds! I’m out of shape right now, because I’ve spent the last two years sitting on my butt in front of a computer for a job. So right now, I’m huffing and puffing. But I was always very physically fit as a young person, and I expect I’ll come bouncing back very quickly as I usually have in the past. Boy, this is fun! 😀

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How to Start a Compost, Part 3

April 19, 2010

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This is the final post in my How to Start a Compost series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 to get up to speed. I’ve already covered the essential compost general guidelines, some sage compost advice, and instructed you ow to build a simple Wire Bin. Now, I’m going to throw some lists at you.

    What to Do When Your Compost is Ready:

  • Your compost should be ready in 12-14 months. This can really vary a lot, depending on what you put in there, how often you turned it, how wet the weather has been, etc. But 1 year is a general estimate.
  • I always start a new compost pile in the spring, so that when I am ready to start next year’s garden, the compost is ready. You can add the compost to your garden beds either at spring tilling time, or fall tilling time. (I don’t do fall tilling, by the way).
  • Prepare your garden beds: pull out the weeds, the rocks, etc.
  • Grab your shovel and wheelbarrow and shovel out the compost from the bin. The humus should be loamy and rich-looking.
  • Dump the compost into the garden. Spread evenly. Roto-til or hand turn the garden soil. Water lightly.
  • That’s it! Plant your garden when you’re ready.
SprdgLeavs

The composted compost (called humus) is dark, rich, and loamy.

    What to Add to a Compost Pile:

  • Any household vegetable food waste, such as: carrot tops, discarded vegetable peels, wasted vegetables that the kids refused to eat, etc etc
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds, leftover tea, or coffee
  • Dryer lint
  • Hair. Yes, hair! Spread it out well so it won’t clump in the pile. You can even add your fingernail clippings… if you want…
  • Grass clippings. Make sure the grass is not loaded with pesticides or chemicals.
  • Leaves, they are full of nitrogen.
  • Earthworms. Have the kids dig them up and plop them in. Earthworms love coffee, by the way. They are wonderful critters!
    What NOT to Add to a Compost Pile:

  • Meat waste
  • Newspapers (some ink has chemicals may disrupt the happy bacteria revelry)
  • Dog and cat food (contains meat and preservatives)
  • Corn cobs (they take FOREVER to compost!!)
  • Peach pits (see corn cobs)
  • Weeds! (They will germinate in the rich soil and you will wind up planting them in your garden next year)
  • Milk products– no cheese, yogurt, milk, nothing.
  • Oils (vegetable, grease, etc)
  • Bones
  • Silverware (can you believe that we actually find forks and spoons in the compost pile?! All the kids say they have NO IDEA how silverware gets in there! :S hmm)

So there you have it! Composting can be pretty fun. Sure, you’re getting your hands dirty. But just think of how happy you are making the worms, the bacteria, the garden plants! And think of happy you will be when you sink your teeth into those luscious tomatoes that thrived in such rich soil. 🙂

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Humus is tilled in to the bed, bed is weeded and raked, and ready for seeds.

Thanks for reading! Happy composting.

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How to Start a Compost, Part 2

April 13, 2010

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Starting a new garden? Got a limpid garden? Do you have weak, impoverished soil? Boy oh boy, do I have news for you! It’s time to play in the dirt! Compost is fun, folks! In case you missed the riveting Part 1 in this series, go ahead and read it.

This post is going to be How to Make a Wire Bin, and will be filled with tips and stories of what’s worked for me these years. First, you’ve gotta getta bin.

The Wire Bin
WHAT YOU NEED
Hammer
Shovel
Heavy-duty gloves
Tin snips or cable cutters
Four metal garden stakes or 2 x 4 posts**
Chicken wire, about 15 feet length or so
Twine or heavy-duty garden twisty ties for stakes, or metal staples for posts

Your Wire Bin will probably look a lot neater.

Of course, you can go much fancier, but don’t you really want to get a compost going right now? Sure, you do. Throw together a quick bin and get the compost going. Then you can start constructing your St. Peter’s Basilica of Compost Bins later, and take your time at it. Compost takes about a year to get ready, so time is of the essence.

1. Stake out an area in your yard that receives sun for at least half the day. Hammer the four stakes in the shape of a square. If you have a large yard with a lot of leaves and grass clippings to add, each side of the square should be approximately 4 to 5 feet, with a stake at each corner.

2. Starting at one stake, take the twisty tie and secure the chicken wire to the stake. Or, if you are using wooden posts, tack the wire onto the post using the staples. Go all the way around the square.

3. Now, you can leave the front part of the square open, as I do, or you can loosely secure the wire to the front for easy access later. Just keep in mind that in a year, you need to get all the stuff OUT of the bin.

4. Dump in your waste. Experts say it’s best to try to layer the stuff: leaves, then grass clippings, then food waste. etc. I do not layer. I just dump *whatever* in. It’s been working so far. This is nature we’re talking about– it’s well able to what it needs to do without much pampering from a human.

5. You can add stuff like compost starter to the mix, if you want. But a shovelful of garden soil or cow manure will do. The purpose for this is to give the compost a little kick-start with that wonderful aerobic bacteria that will be making your waste into humus (prepared compost). I have never added anything, and have done fine. The garden soil is a good idea, and I’ll be trying that this year.

**Do not use pressure-treated wood. PTW is coated with chemicals (such as arsenic) that will leach into the soil and into your vegetables.

    Tips for a Really Good Compost Pile:

  • Add earthworms to your pile. Earthworms are marvelous for compost. They help aerate the mix and their, uh, poop, is a great addition to any compost pile!
  • During dry spells, water the compost pile. Just a little.
  • Every month or so, turn the mix over, or stir it up best you can. I actually NEVER do this, because the pile is so heavy. My compost turns out OK. But turning may help make the compost decompose quicker. Use a shovel or pitchfork to mix the waste. Watch out for innocent earthworm bystanders.
  • Add only vegetable matter to the mix, never meats, fats, or grease. This will disrupt the bacteria revelry going on. And meats and grease may attract skunks, raccoons, and rats.
june-garden

Gardens love compost!

In the next and final installment is this series, I’ll talk about what to add to your compost bin, and what NOT to add, and what to do when you finally have your compost ready for adding to the garden. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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How to Start a Compost, Part 1

April 12, 2010

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If you have a garden, a compost is important. If you are a tightwad like me, and don’t like buying expensive fertilizers, bagged compost, and peat moss every year, a compost pile is REALLY important.

Compost is just a fancy word for decomposed waste. Or, as en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compost says, “a combination of decomposed plant and animal materials and other organic materials that are being decomposed largely through aerobic decomposition into a rich black soil.” Right. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Veg Garden1

My garden at planting time, last year.

welcome

My garden thrives after amending with compost.

I have “maintained” a compost pile for a few years now. I say “maintained” in quotes because it’s been largely trial and error for me. Everybody makes it look SOOO easy– and indeed it is, kinda– but you have to do it right, or it won’t work. Me– I don’t like babysitting the compost pile; I have so much to do that turning the blasted 200-pound pile over every week never gets done. So I’ll tell you about my woes and wins, and throw a few tips in, as well. Here goes:

  • You do not need to buy ANYTHING. Nothing. Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise! You do NOT need that fancy $500 hand-cranking bin, nor the $50 compost starter mix, nor the nice $100 pitchfork. You may buy things if you want. A compost can be a hole in the ground, if you want. Most people like things a little neater (including me) but don’t think that you need to spend a fortune even for that. Keep reading…
  • The compost will not smell bad if you are doing it right. Compost is decaying organic matter, and it needs a few things to decay properly. I call it the Big Three: oxygen, moisture, and friendly compost-making bacteria. If you have too much moisture, or not enough oxygen, it will smell. Believe me, it will smell.
  • The compost bin should be in a sunny area of the yard, in a convenient area near the garden.
  • You can keep your compost going all year ’round, or only in the warm months. I do it only in the warm months, because my son dislikes hauling the compost bucket from the kitchen to the backyard in 3 feet of snow every night. Sheesh. lol.
  • You need a healthy assortment of waste: “green” waste like grass clippings; “brown” waste like leaves and topsoil; “food” waste from the house.
  • Compost ONLY vegetable matter. Do not compost bones, meat, fat, grease, etc. These will disrupt that friendly bacteria that you will soon covet– they are vegetarians, ok?
  • You will learn to love earthworms, and get to know their favorite foods.

OK! Let’s get started! First, you need a compost bin, or a place to dump your loot. I have used the “dump” method as well as a variety of bins. In the next post, I’ll show you how to build a quick and easy bin. Here’s a rundown of the various compost bin styles:

  • The Hole:
    Very ugly. Tends to get quite soggy. Not recommended, but in a compost emergency, it’ll do.
  • The Pile:
    Like The Hole, it’s ugly and messy. But effective. I have The Pile in the back– it’s full of weeds, discarded garden waste, small twigs, etc. It takes a long, long time to decompose. I’m still waiting, actually. The bigger the waste, the longer the wait. There’s a family of rabbits living in there right now. You can create a Pile if you don’t want to use a bin. The Pile works well if you include the Big Three. The main problem (besides ugliness) with The Pile is that the food waste may attract unfriendlys, like rats, raccoons, and other unsavory critters. I only throw large garden waste in The Pile, no food waste.
  • The Wooden Bin:
    I have a wooden bin. I threw it together. It once had a lid, but that decayed after a few winters, and I never replaced it. The bin can be constructed of pallets or plain old 2 x 4s. The Wooden Bin is nice because it keeps critters away (if the slats are narrow enough) and allows for enough oxygen to pass through the mix. It’s very tough to turn over, though. Ugh. Note: do not use pressure-treated lumber for your compost bin. More on that later.
  • The Plastic Bin:
    I use this mostly, right now. It’s not the greatest. I have one large plastic garbage can and two 35-gallon Rubbermaid totes. I drilled holes in the sides and top, but even then, there really isn’t enough oxygen. I sprayed water in them, and the water wouldn’t seep out, so they got waterlogged. The bins are very convenient– compost is easy to turn, and the bins have lids, but the lack of oxygen and the water retention problem makes it a bummer. You can buy one of those expensive plastic bins designed specifically for composts, if you want. I have not tried them. I assume, like Little Tykes toys, that they would fade over time and look awful. But they may work.
  • The Wire Bin:
    In my opinion, this is THE BEST choice. All I did was plug a few metal garden posts into the ground and wrap chicken wire around them. There’s plenty of oxygen, and there’s as much moisture as the surrounding area– and when there’s too much, the extra seeps out through the wire– and it’s relatively easy to turn over.
CompostLevs

The Wire Bin works best for me.

I have heard lots of opinions on when your compost should be garden-ready. There’s some “instant compost” flukes out there that I have heard about. I don’t know about them. It generally takes a year for me. I start this year’s compost for use next year. I always spread the compost before spring tilling time. I have a huge yard, with loads of leaves, grass clippings, and kids who eat a lot of veggies. So your mileage may vary. All I know is that a compost is usually ready in 12-14 months. So you’d better get going!

Compost soil, also known as humus, is rich, black, and loamy. It should smell earthy, not like sewage or mildew.

SprdgLeavs

The rich humus of compost contrasting with the brown topsoil.

So this ends the Part 1 of How to Start a Compost. In the next articles, I’ll show you how to construct a Wire Bin, give some tips, and show you what to do with your composted humus when you have it.

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