Monday, April 30, 2012

Planting Tomato Time!

This year I did some research before I put my tomatoes in the ground.  The tomatoes that I started indoors completely flopped.  They got some kind of blight while they were still in the laundry room grow op and all died within a matter of weeks.  It was sad… but very much not the first time.  So I went and spent the money on plants and figured I may as well ‘do it right’.  I bought 4 Organic Heirloom Brandywine, and 2 Heirloom Romas, and 2 Organic Sungold plants.  Each of the plants were between 18” to 24” tall.  I put 4 in each 6 ft long bed.  I started by digging a trench like this:

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On either side of the tomatoes I planted the companions of onions, spinach, and carrots.  I was careful as I dug the trench not to destroy and of their root systems.  Today (a day after the tomatoes were planted) all of those plants look undisturbed.

The trench was about 18 inches deep.  Into the trench I added quite a few amendments to the bottom of the hole: Organic bone meal, Organic Blood Meal, Organic Veggie Fertilizer and some egg shells from my chickens.  I loosely used this site mixed with this site as my planting guides.  I was guessing the most important things were the nutrients that needed to be added and the way they were planted (with as much of a strong root base as possible). 

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As I back filled the holes I used a stick support to keep up the top 7” of the plant straight and kept this portion out of the soil.  I cut all the leaves from the rest of the stem starting just below the first flowering suckers (another guide here) and then planted the entire rest of the stalk.

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In the end, this is what they looked like:

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I left a significant bowl shaped divet around each plant so the first waterings would be deep.  The idea is that the pool will water deep enough around the plant to help create the new roots from the stalk.

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I plan on using this process from Growing Wisdom.com and this process from Fine Gardening as a guide for pruning.  I am not sure how I am going to do cages yet, but the trellis method from Growing Wisdom seems easy enough.  I have also been thinking about hog fencing cages.  Any tried and true ideas there?

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For now this is my tomato, onion, spinach, carrot bed and I am excited to see what it will do this season!

I will keep you all updated on my process!  Smile

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Garden Walkthrough - April 16th, 2012 5:42pm

Up to the left is the orchard.  Alex removed the two bushes that were blocking the orchard from view and put down free chipped wood mulch, so now, in the corner, you can see a tiny little Gravenstien apple tree in it’s pretty bed of mulch.  It’s now 5 years old so it may actually produce a few apples this year! 

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This tree below is another apple.  It’s a golden delicious!

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It was SO overgrown when we got it that it has taken me the last two years of pruning to get it so it isn’t tangling in itself or touching the ground, but for the first time this year it looks healthy and beautiful. We put some mulch under this one too.

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See the composter a friend is letting me borrow?  Yep.  I love it.  Smile  And along the fence behind it is newly planted raspberry canes.  May they be fruitful and multiply! 

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Here is my dahlia bed!  Right along the back of the house where it’s nice and warm.

Now, here’s a question for you…  Now that the grass is in the pathways, would you put wood mulch over it and make it all clean looking or would that be too ‘woody’ as I am planning on putting the bark IN the beds for mulch as well?  I remember liking the garden pathways clean and clear two years ago, but I also like the garden looking lush and green with the grass.  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Companion Planting and free plants!

In my garden this year have been a number of experiments.  The first one being to see how much new food I could get from organic groceries.  Potatoes were the first experiment.  All winter long I dropped the eyes of my organic potatoes into this bed:

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You can see them coming up in the middle area of the bed.  Tons of them!  And I didn’t buy a single potato start… I just used my red and fingerling potato eyes from the bags of organic potatoes I bought.

Around my potatoes I decided to do some companion plantings of beans and broccoli.  The beans are nitrogen fixers, making the potato greens strong and green, which will in turn, make more potatoes underground (or that’s the thought any way).  The broccoli around the outside will shade the young plants and the potatoes and beans will deter cabbage worms from setting in the brassica crop.

In this bed is my peas, violas, lemon verbena, kale, cilantro, and garlic.

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I planted peas as I usually do.  I know I should rotate, but I replaced the soil with composted chicken bedding last fall and so I doubt feeding or pests will be an issue with the peas being in the same spot as last year.  Just in case though, I added a row of spring garlic in front of the row of peas and two plants of lemon verbena to confuse any buggies that may remember where they were.  In the main portion of the bed is kale and cilantro.  I am using both as a cut and come again crop and that will work well until the cilantro bolts mid July or so.  Then I will succession plant lettuces here.

Similar story in this bed:

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Peas put in their usual spot, lined with spring garlic.  In this bed though, I added my head lettuces, and I allowed the parsley to winter over.  It will bolt soon (both varieties are trying already but I am pinching them off) and seed.  I may have to get a new set, but for now it’s still giving me tasty parsley for meals and I love the big bunches of green!

I have two beds of this (this one and the one you can see in the upper left):

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From the outside in rows, this bed has been seeded with carrots, spinach, onions, basil, and then I am saving the center area for tomatoes.  I sowed the spinach on top of the carrot seeds because early the spinach will not mind the crowding and later, as the spinach dies off, it will leave fresh aerated soil that the carrots will grow fat in.  The onions deter tomato pests and carrot pests, making it a perfect addition to this bed, and the basil is said to make tomatoes taste better… although with garden tomatoes that would be difficult.  They are already the best tasting food ever.

In this bed is cauliflower, cabbage, another row of onions, dill and beets.

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The side closest to the camera is the side with the brassicas.  Tucked in around those hardy plants is dill seed which I haven’t seen pop up yet, but it shouldn’t have an issue now that the ground is 45*.  The dill will deter the cabbage beetle and the cabbage will shade the dill and help it from bolting.  Win/win.  The onions are friends with everyone, confusing pests and not minding crowds and on the other side of the onion row is 5 rows of beets.  Only golden and Chioggia this year.  The red ones just are not my thing.

The one not pictured is the corn and squash bed.  Nothing is coming up yet in it, so a bed of dirt is kinda boring.  I will add in pole beans when it’s warm enough in that bed and the one below. 

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This bed is Cyan’s rainbow garden.  Red cabbage, yellow onions, yellow wax beans, purple bush beans, and nasturtiums.  In the center is a bean trellis that will be the center piece of the garden with it’s yellow beans and bright orange nasturtium flowers! 

Two other beds have perennials in them.  Strawberries and herbs are two, and then the last bed is self seeded wild flowers!

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I have found cosmos, CA poppies, red poppies, sunflowers (red and “moon”) and marigolds, foxglove, snap dragons, sweet peas and several others I won’t be able to identify until I see more.  I am really hoping that the bachelor buttons self seeded because those are a favorite of mine, but even if they didn’t, I am pretty excited about this free bed of goodness.

My very last bed (the one along the back of the house)  is filled with free dahlias that a neighbor was so generous to give me and last night I walked out there and saw them starting to come up!  Dahlias are by far and away my favorite flower (it’s pretty obvious as there are several pictures of them up in my house).   I haven’t had them since we moved from the Red House 3 1/2 years ago and I am SO excited to have them in my garden!

What’s coming up in your Spring garden?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Out with the old…

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I have taken an unintentional blog break.  From both blogs.  It is for many reasons, one of which being that my baby is now 13 months old and his favorite pastimes include dumping, throwing, mixing, or pulling down everything in sight… so that has me on my toes.  But another reason has been a pretty major readjusting of priorities. 

For the last 6 years I have spent a lot of my time mourning a ‘normal’ family day due to my husbands abnormal schedule.  I fought every step of the process for him to be on swing shift (noon to midnight) and lost, year after year after year.  There were things I did to adjust to it, such as doing school in the afternoon, which never worked and so I would find myself, over and over, being the ‘on duty’ parent from the second I woke up and started school to about 10pm when my 10 and 15year olds would finally go to sleep.  My evenings when I was alone were often haggard and kinda miserable.  Not that they were always awful… just always really tiring because I was the sole parent responsible for:

  • dinner and clean up
  • helping with leftover schoolwork,
  • get everyone changed into pj’s,
  • tv to be watched that night
  • bathtime
  • small group/youth group at church
  • evening chores
  • cleaning of the house from the day
  • setting up of schoolwork for the next morning
  • public school friend playdates
  • Alex’s drivers ed classes
  • and much much more.

About a month ago, something snapped inside me.  I spanked my 5 year old son for something that was so dumb that I didn’t even recognize myself.  (We don’t normally spank… it was a reflex that I am thinking was probably 90% mental exhaustion.)  I decided, as I held my shocked and crying child, that if something was going to snap it just could NOT be me.

I made a few new rules that night.  Rules for myself and rules for the kids.  Here’s what I came up with:

#1:  Dinner will always be done at 6pm.  Hungry kids are unreasonable kids and if we eat later than that, the whole evening just doesn’t go well.  For nights like Alex’s class night (from 3:30 - 6pm) that means a crock pot meal because I have to be on the other side of town at 6pm so dinner has to be ready the second we get home.

#2: All chores will be done by 7pm.  This means that 1 hour is for eating dinner, getting the house cleaned up, putting on PJ’s and teeth brushing, etc.  This is also the time I set aside for filling the kids school boxes for the next day if I can.

#3: The baby will get a bath every night.  Something sorely lacking in his routine was a routine.  lol!  He always nursed, I always rocked him, but there was no real routine to it.  He would often get put to bed in whatever clothes he had on (always a clean diaper though) and be expected to fall asleep… no matter if we had just finished dinner, or if we had eaten at 5pm.  Now he takes a bath, gets on clean onsie and pj’s, waves goodnight to everyone (who is busy with quiet time (#4)) and then he nurses, we rock, and he gets put down. 

#4: Between the hours of 7 and 8 is quiet time.  If everyone got their chores done by 7pm they have the option to use our portable tv (only brought out before now for very long car trips) in one of their bedrooms to watch an episode of something quiet.  (Little House on the Prairie is the current favorite we own quite a few of.)

#5: No tv on school days except in that 7pm - 8pm hour (unless educational and presented by mom) .  This makes that hour something to strive for and protect.  It’s great incentive to get their stuff done on time.

#6: No one comes out of their rooms except for bathroom use after 8pm.  The big kids don’t have to sleep, but they can not be outside their bedrooms.

I sound so OCD on paper…  but really, before this new schedule and me sticking to it (and making them stick to it) we were having serious issues with getting enough sleep (me included), eating before 7pm (esp on nights when we had groups or classes), inconsistency in chores being completed (is it time to do chores or am I so beat I just want everyone to go to bed so they can go away?), and most of all it gave me NO time to do anything by myself.  I had no space because the kids would come out for hours after bed time was over.  I would have to stay up until all hours just to get a little space.  It was just too much! 

I have gotten very protective over the time I am getting and I am happier for it.  For the whole first week I posted on Facebook over and over about how wonderful it was that I would be alone by 8:45pm each night, or that I had the time to do small simple things… like read a book or take a bath.  Twice I wrote “Sanity is oh so sweet” and I meant it!  These were truly revolutionary concepts for me.  I think it’s been years since I have been this ‘selfish’ (by which I mean self-preserving) and it feels amazing.  I don’t think I will ever go back. 

What types of things do you do to keep your sanity?