Friday, July 28, 2017

Garden Friday

As another Garden Friday rolls around,
it's hard to believe that July is almost over.
With the exception of last weekend,
the heat has been pretty tolerable.
I've even been able to sit outside on the porch
in the evenings and watch the nature around me.
That would never happen in Florida.
They are dealing with another brutal summer.
We don't miss it at all.

 Here's our herb/lettuce garden on the back deck.
I love using these icing buckets for these crops.
They are the perfect depth for these short-rooted plants.
I'm considering fashioning some kind of hanging system
using the handles to suspend them off of the deck.

 All of the lettuces that were sown last week are germinating
including buttercrunch, red sails and red salad bowl.
There is just enough sun to get them going,
and just enough shade to keep them happy in the heat.
We also planted parsley, thyme, and two spinach varieties.
All are doing well.

The tomatoes are doing much better than expected.
We have four types growing:
Arkansas Traveler, Beefsteak, Purple Cherokee  and San Marzano.
They need better support and I hope to put that in place this weekend.
The green tub houses two jalepeno pepper plants that are just starting to flower.

It did my heart good to see the eggplant germinating.
These are the long japanese eggplant
and they seem to like the heat just fine.

 The broccoli was absolutely ready to pop.
This Pacman variety is the most scrumptious veg!
These starts will be transplanted when they size up.
Both broccs and eggplant don't mind being relocated.

 Even the snap peas are cooperating.
I'm taking a chance starting these in full-on summer,
but I figure, what's the big deal?
If they don't come up,
just keep resowing every two weeks until they do.
As you can see, they didn't need any coaxing.
Now, to see if they will tolerate the heat.

 This pile of leaves gave me an unpleasant surprise.
I was watering the flower seeds I had planted along the bed here
and didn't realize I was standing on a nest of bees.
They promptly let me know that they did not appreciate my prescence
by awarding me two very painful stings.
Thankfully, there was aloe vera on hand to help with the stings.
I haven't yet figured out what I'm going to do about this dilemma.
I don't want to harm them,
but they are nesting on prime real estate for the garden.

This established rosemary plant seems to be improving.
I'd like to relocate it, as it is right on a pathway,
but I'm not sure how well it will do with being moved.
I am hoping to create a rosemary "fence" around part of the garden
closer to the street.
That way, neighbors can help themselves to this versatile herb.

 Rain barrels have been purchased from a Craig's List ad.
We need to add spigets and get them set up.
Another outdoor task that may just wait until cooler weather arrives.
It's so nice to know that,
unlike our house in Florida,
no one here can tell us where our rain barrels need to be.
It's the little things...

 These periwinkles were an unexpected discovery.
I didn't realize they grew here,
but they are a welcome sight.
Talk about a low-maintanence plant!
And the pollinators love 'em!

 Another project for cooler weather
will be to redesign and plant our front door area.
The plan is to do low-growing, native plants
that attract butterflies and other pollinators.

The mailbox planting will likely get a face lift as well.
This mum is a good start.
It is just starting to come into bloom.

 I don't know what this bush is,
but the butterflies and bees love it.

 And speaking of bees,
this bush near the peach tree in the front yard
is always loaded with these fuzzy-wuzzy marvels.
They are such fascinating creatures.

I imagine our backyard will be one of the last things we get to.
There is a lot of work to be done out there,
starting with a serious cutting and trimming of enormous trees.
I'm hoping to design a woodland garden,
but that's down the road a ways.
There is plenty to do for now,
and we are just thankful that we get to live in this peaceful retreat.

What projects do you having coming up for the rest of the summer?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hands On Gardening Workshop

Last week, I participated in a hands-on class,
 sponsored by the NC Cooperative Extension Office 
in nearby Newton, NC.
Would you look at this amazing display of black-eyed susan?
Upon first sight, I think my heart actually skipped a beat.

 This class was all about a hands-on experience.
Four various aspects of creating a successful garden were stressed.
After a brief introduction by Anelle Ammons, a graduate student providing the workshop,
students were encouraged to dive in to the different displays.
The first, seen here, was all about vermicomposting.
This is a subject in which I am most interested.
Although we do have a large compost pile started on the property,
I'd like to give this worm composting technique a go.
I'll be sure to keep you posted on my progress.

Another important aspect of gardening that was presented
was soil composition.

Several materials were exhibited including
coir, peat moss, perlite, pine bark, sand and vermiculite.
It was great to be able to compare them side by side
and make note of their different properties.
Although we were encouraged to use whichever media
best suited our needs, Anelle shared that peat moss
is not a sustainable resource.
Thankfully, there are a slew of available options.

The information that probably helped me the most
was the table featuring the drip irrigation system.
This is something that I've considered using,
but somehow it always left me feeling a bit intimidated.
Just being able to play with the components
made it feel a little less daunting.

 Diagrams and the actual tools at the ready
aided in a better understanding of what it takes
to make the system work.
We were encouraged to put together and take apart
a length of hose and its corresponding apparatus.
There's nothing like firsthand experience with equipment
to increase one's comfort level with something new.

 Another aspect of gardening that was exhibited
was a collection of  the best tools for keeping the garden healthy and attractive.
This table showcased a hand saw, loppers, pruners 
and a host of other cutting and sharpening implements.

Tips on correct pruning techniques were displayed
and students were given free rein with the array of tools.

 Who wouldn't want to play work with these shiny new beauties?

The hour passed quickly,
but it was packed with good, solid information
to help us make discriminating decisions 
with regard to our personal style of growing.
I'm hoping to attend more of these hands-on classes.
After all,
the learning is in the doing.

"Success is a journey,
not a destination.
The doing is often more important
than the outcome."
~Arthur Ashe

Friday, July 21, 2017

Garden Friday

We've been in our new home for about a month now.
With many indoor projects getting accomplished,
it seemed like a great time to get my hands dirty workin' on our garden.

 This planting bed was already here.
The former owners had grown some tomatoes in containers,
but weren't much into gardening beyond that.
I decided to clean up the area and ready it for my veggie bed.

 The groundcloth was pretty well spent,
so I removed it all and leveled the ground as best I could.
The soil here is heavy clay, so I will be sowing in pots.

 I used some of the feed sacks I had on hand
that were too dirty to wash for my daisy tote project.
These will line this bed and hopefully, keep weeds at bay.
For now, I am using bricks and rocks to hold the sacks down,
but once the containers are added, they shouldn't be needed.

 I gathered my supplies including the feed sacks,
a trowel, my seeds and a box cutter (to split the sacks).

 I had also prepared a list of which crops would be in containers,
and which would be in the straw bale garden
(which has now become a moot point).

 I lined a few of the icing buckets I got from Sister
with styrofoam to keep them lighter
and easier to move around.
It also saves on the cost of soil mix,
because you just don't need as much.

 Thyme, parsley and dill were sown in these smaller buckets.
I recently moved them to the back deck,
where I can keep an eye on them 
and make sure they stay moist during these hot, dry days.

Several varieties of lettuce were seeded,
including buttercrunch, red sails and red salad bowl.
Once these get growing, I'll start up a few other varieties,
to keep the harvests coming through the fall.

These icing buckets work well for crops that don't need much space,
like lettuce, spinach and herbs.
They even have a handle to make moving them around a breeze.

 So far, one of the tomato plants I brought with me
from the rental is doing okay.
One lonely fruit is holding on for dear life.
It may be too hot for the others to set fruit,
but we are hoping for the best.
Worst case scenario,
we'll just start another crop next month.

 I'm hopeful that the snap peas will give us tons of tasty morsels
all fall and even longer.
These will be sown every two weeks to ensure abundance.
I need to set up a trellis system on which they can climb.

Here are the straw bales I got this week.
The plan was to start conditioning them this weekend.
Using the straw bale gardening method,
the bales must be "conditioned" for up to 12 days
before planting.
This means that you alternate watering with fertilizing
to help the bales start the composting process,
which then feeds the plants placed there.
Unfortunately, I realized I had made a grave mistake.

I had a hard time finding local straw,
so I ended up buying this from a big box store.
Without even realizing it,
I neglected to ask them if the straw had been treated with anything.
When it occurred to me,
I called the store and they said 
they have no idea because the straw comes from many different farms.
That was all I needed to hear.
Straw bale gardening would have to wait until spring
when I can obtain clean, pesticide-free straw.
It won't go to waste, though.
There are plenty of places where we can use it
to line pathways and prevent erosion around here.

I had purchased these biodegadeable pots from someone on Craig's List.
She has more and she's just down the road,
so I plan to pick up a few dozen more as my Plan B tactic.
They were a buck apiece and she even threw in an extra since I bought more than 10.

 They are 4 gallon pots,
which will work for the majority of what I'm planting.
I sowed broccoli, brussels sprouts, and snap peas in them. 
I also started some eggplant and broccoli in six packs
for transplanting later on.
If I need deeper pots, 
I will continue to look for 5-gallon plastic buckets at Publix
or other food stores.
The deli or bakery has them and
they are free for the asking.

So, we are under way,
although we are having to alter a bit what our plans were for the garden.
A true homesteader just keeps moving forward,
no matter what gets thrown at them.
Never the less, it's quite exciting to be farming again
and I am looking forward to the experience
here in our new state.
Who knows what will come of it?

What's getting started in your garden this week?