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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Drowning in Cucumbers

I'm not sure what happened, last year the cucumbers produced plenty for fresh eating but the lemon and pickling cukes were only enough for a batch of relish and 4 pints of bread and butter pickles.  This year something must have agreed with them because I have 17 quarts of whole dills and 8 pints of bread and butter slices, a gallon bag of cucumbers that I have run out of dill to pickle them in, and plenty for fresh eating and giving away to friends.  The lemon cucumber is literally crawling up the side of my house like ivy and has taken up every spare inch of space in the whiskey barrel that it can.  I'm picking at least four lemon cucumbers a day, and one to four slicers or small pickling cukes daily too.

I'm so tired of pickling!

Not sure when they'll finally stop, or why they did so well this year compared to the years before, but I can't complain about their production.

Last week we got our first tomato, and while I've waited patiently we've gotten enough tomatoes ripe at this point to fill a large bowl, but nowhere near enough for sauces or salsa.  It's hard to wait, but I am trying.  There is a monster tomato out there, and I can't wait to weigh it when it's ready, sadly the tag on it got lost but I think it may be a brandywine.

My current harvest weight is at 88 lbs.  The cucumbers aren't done yet, the curing onions haven't been weighed, the beans are still going, and the zucchini, and the tomatoes have only just started coming in.  This year may set a new record!  Not that that is hard to do since I only started keeping track last year...  Still, the only thing that isn't really doing as well as I'd like is the pumpkins.  There are three pumpkins on three different vines, and they are very small.  The Cinderella and FairyTale varieties are supposed to be bigger, but the Small Sugar is just fine the size it is.  Even the vines didn't get nearly as large as previous years, only reaching the top of the trellis rather than crawling across the shed roof.

That's my update for the day, now it's time for me to go buy some dill and get back to pickling!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cucumbers and Beans

While July didn't really seem to pay off, August is getting off to a great start.  Pounds and pounds of cucumbers are rolling in, topped off with great big piles of beans.  My pumpkins haven't grown much this year and may need more nitrogen in their bed next year, but there are already three small pumpkins out there.

The zucchini are having their worst year ever, I have only seen about 6 female flowers so far and only 3 of those have grown into full-sized fruits. 

My new bed is teeming with peppers, though none are ripe, and the old beds have piles of tomatoes in them... of course none of those are ripe either.  Not sure what happened this year, even the extra early tomatoes and cherry tomatoes haven't ripened.  Not sure if it was the weather, it's been quite warm with highs in the upper 80s to 90s nearly every day, but we haven't had a major heat wave at all.  No 100 degree days.  For now I'm content with my harvests and hoping that the tomatoes change color before the leaves on the trees do.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Failures. :(

When I started this blog I decided I would share the struggles I have with gardening as well as the accomplishments.  On that note, I have had two major failures this year, I hope that sharing them will help others avoid the same mistakes and maybe I can get some advice on how to improve as well.

First, my thyme plant which had been growing merrily for two or three years died all of a sudden.  I think it drowned, since it was planted at the corner of the shed where runoff from the roof would land.  I bought a new one and plan to plant it out in the area near the blueberry bush, but I am sad that the old one is gone.

My second big failure is my rhubarb.  I kind of saw this one coming though, I knew that planting it in a pot would be risky.  Last year it seemed to do well enough, and this year I was looking forward to seeing a harvest.  It filled in really well early in the spring, but the stalks were hollow and not very tasty, and then they started dying back until now.  Now there is only one leaf left on the poor thing.  I'm going to plant it at the end of the strawberry bed, with some fresh compost and see if the new spot will perk it up a bit.  I hope it survives, it was kind of expensive and I'd like to avoid replacing it if possible.

My artichokes also seem to be struggling with being in pots.  This is their second year and still they have not produced the flower buds that are the edible part of the artichoke.  I think I'm just better off putting all of my perennials in the ground.

We will wait and see if they improve any with replanting.

Expansion!

So, my plants had somehow magically gone far beyond the number of square feet I had for them.  I gave up struggling with how I was going to find room for them all, and just built another bed.  It is definitely getting crowded out there now!
New garden bed
The new bed is 7'x3' and just the right size to squeeze in between the big bed and the pumpkin bed, with a narrow walk space around it.  It holds all of the peppers, most of the cucumbers, and three tomatoes that were donated to me.

Today in the garden
 I hadn't realized just how out of control my plants were until I planted the new bed and realized I still had more tomatoes than there were spots for.  I got a bit carried away after last year's harvests were so poor, seems I figured I would need more of everything to improve my harvests.  I still don't know what to do with the potatoes! 


As the strawberry harvests are finally starting to slow down, the blueberries are just beginning to ripen.  My single blueberry bush isn't producing bucketloads, but it does seem to be content and has now provided a total of 7 berries.  Not bad for a first year.  I have a feeling that my harvests are going to get much smaller for a few weeks, the spring plants are just finishing up, and the summer ones aren't quite ready yet. 

I will wait with bated breath for the first tomatoes...

One More Reason to Grow.

A few years back, before I got started on my garden, I was watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and was shocked by some of the things I saw. 

This was one of them:


I could not believe that these kids couldn't even recognize fresh vegetables.  I kept thinking about how my daughter at age 3 could spot the McDonald's Golden Arches from a mile down the street, but there's no massive advertising campaign to support whole, fresh, natural foods.  She still wouldn't know an okra pod if it bit her, but that's understandable since okra doesn't grow here, nor is it a part of the Northwest diet normally.

I'm really proud to say that after a few years of having the garden in place, my 4 year old son can recognize not just the vegetables but also the plants of peas, beans, squashes, onions, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, cucmbers, tomatoes... so many things!  Admittedly he won't eat most of them, but his diet is expanding as he braves new things each year.  I even got him to eat peas the other day by explaining that they were like little balls of broccoli (his favorite veg).

My husband on the other hand still needs to work on it.  He asked me last night what the big green shrub next to the bench was, and I had to explain that it was mint, one of the easier to identify plants in the garden.  He'll get there.  But he grew up in a household that was dependent on canned veggies, TV dinners, and boxed macaroni.

I'm glad to know that with the garden and the changes in our diets and shopping habits my kids will grow up to understand how much work goes into good food, to know that food doesn't have to come in boxes and bags from the grocery store, and to respect quality food for what it is: healthy, filling, and delicious. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chaos and Bad Blogging

I'm coming to the realization that this year is turning out to be evidence of my bad blogging.  I just don't feel much inclination to write up long informative posts this year.  I apologize.  Not only am I failing at writing useful posts, but I am also writing rather sporadically.

The chaos of our past six months has sapped my initiative.  From surgery to job changes to my dad passing away, a lot of things have interfered with my blogging interest.

I will make every effort to keep up with harvest posts, especially since this year is looking to be a major improvement over last year's garden.  I will also be doing my best to keep up with the bloggers I read.  But more than likely my readers won't see a whole lot of excitement from my posts this year.  Perhaps this will change when I feel a little less overwhelmed by life.

Again, I apologize for being a bad blogger.  Thanks for sticking around anyway. ;)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

And The Tide Just Keeps Rolling In!

Strawberries!
 Well, if nothing else, my harvests have been plentiful!  The broccoli is long done, and my remaining cabbage and all of the cauliflower were pulled.  What a shame, but they just weren't doing anything, and i need the space!

Lettuce, mint, kale, Swiss chard, and strawberries.
 The lettuce are almost ready to bolt and i still have 8 heads in the garden, and 2 in the fridge.  I think it's time to start giving them away!  My lavender and mint have grown so much this year I couldn't get to the peas to pick them, so they both got a trim and are hanging to dry. 

Lettuce, lavender, garlic, and strawberries.

 Both the kale and Swiss chard were pulled, all but two squares of them, but not before I got another pound+ of greens off them.  I have no idea how I'm going to make enough room for all the tomatoes and peppers with so many things still growing!  My few heads of garlic turned out to be large and beautiful and ready to cure earlier than last year's.  Such a pretty purple/pink and white striped variety!

Oh look... more strawberries.
 The strawberries just keep piling in, my estimated grand total in berries so far is about 14 lbs. And there are still more coming in.  All of the jam is made, there are 2 gallons of frozen berries already, and they just keep coming.  It's kind of unfair to my husband, since he can no longer gorge himself on strawberry shortcake during the season.
Kale and Swiss chard.  BTW, this basket is huge.
Just for a sense of scale, my harvest basket is big enough to fit two gallon milk jugs in... that's how much vegetable goodness is in that basket.  I'm very happy with this year's garden, and considering how slim it was last year, and what a disappointment it was (yet I still got over 120 lbs.), I have a feeling this year is gonna blow me away.

First sugar snap peas were ready today, 4.5 ozs.
 Finally, the snap peas have just started coming in, which seems a bit late.  The snow peas still haven't blossomed though.  And my blueberry bush, while still pretty tiny, is positively dripping with unripe berries, and even one RIPE one!  I'm excited to see how this turns out, since the plant seems happy enough.

My very first blueberry is ripening.  I'm wishing I had planted more than one bush.
 I'm hoping to convince my brother to give me a hand building another planting bed as well, to help get the peppers and cukes in... I just have to find some space for it. ;)

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Strawberries Pay Off Quickly

Thanks mostly to the massive influx of strawberries, the first week of June has paid off with as many pounds harvested as in ALL of May.  Strawberries and broccoli have been the majority of the harvests; but the kale, Swiss chard, and lettuce are recuperated enough now for some decent harvests. 

Yesterday I planted the first of the tomato starts.  I'm a little concerned that I got overzealous again though, I have 48 tomatoes, and 48 squares in my beds... so where will I put the peppers and cucumbers??  I still havent prepared a place for the potatoes either.  But my neighbor's daughter offered to do yardwork for me to earn some money, so maybe I can get her to dig a potato bed for me. :D

Meanwhile, my snap peas started to flower yesterday, so I should be seeing some peas fairly soon.  I was really productive yesterday and got my pumpkin bed completely planted, including a new trellis for the pole beans.  Pumpkins, beans, and zucchini are all in the ground finally. 

I'm really excited about the difference in weather this year, last year was so cold for so long, I am glad I can actually get the tomatoes planted now instead of having to wait for the cold weather plants to finish up until July!

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Oregon Rainy Season Has Ended!


Yep, with Memorial Day past the rainy season has finally officially ended.  Any rainy days from now until September are just flukes.

That being the case I can begin planting hot weather crops at any time now.  my plan for the weekend is to get the pumpkin bed finished with clean up and plant the pumpkin and zucchini starts, and the beans. 

I was forced to make a large harvest this week when I discovered that the slugs and other pests had gotten so carried away during the rain that they had eaten halfway through the stems of my cabbages at ground level.  The poor plants were clinging to the soil by a sliver of root... I said to hell with it and pulled them, ending up with 4 small cabbages.  I had planned to let them get bigger but at least they were firm, and with the cabbage worm problems I've had this year I'm thinking it was probably good to pick them earlier rather than later.

Cabbages with kale, chard, and broccoli side shoots

First strawberries and more broccoli
First harvest of greens.  The slugs massacred a lot of the leaf veggies but I still got a few and hope to get more soon.

This large harvest alone more than doubled my May harvest total from 2lbs. 10 oz. to  5 lbs. 8 oz.

I really need to get a better handle on the pests though.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Harvesting Begins!

This week's harvest was primarily broccoli.


Two harvests of broccoli and the first of the strawberries were collected this week.  I probably could have also picked some lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard if not for the rainy days leaving all my greens slug nibbled.  I think I'll wait until the slugs settle down a bit and pick the greens when they are in better shape.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Broccoli and a Garden Break.

Brought in another 10.5 ounces of broccoli this morning.  The broccoli is just doing amazingly well!  We had sunshine and temperatures as high as 89 degrees last week, followed by some showers yesterday and cooler but still sunny skies today.  The result has been a garden explosion, everything is taking off. 

I have noticed cabbage worms on the brassicas already though... for now I just picked them off, but I may skip over planting brassicas next year just to confuse them.  I've been planting these beds pretty intensively for four years now and they could probably use a good long rest with a cover crop or just some annual flowers next year.  Or maybe a blend of flowers with garlic and onions, they still seem to be doing well enough and it would be good to get some produce out of the garden still.

I'm still behind on the garden work, I'm really struggling to get myself out there and do something productive.  My daughter hacked down some blackberries for me for Mother's Day though, and I did finally get the hot weather starts going a week ago.  Usually my brother comes out to visit this time of year and helps get me motivated, but he has been busy with his own garden and other obligations, so I'm on my own this time around and all I want to do is sit in the sunshine and relax. 

Luckily there isn't a whole lot left to do, just weeding and adding compost to the whiskey barrels and the pumpkin bed, but I have a little time before they need to be ready since the plants going into them have only just sprouted today.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

First Harvests 2013

The past three years my first harvests of the year have been peas, lettuce, kale or strawberries.  For some bizarre reason this year the first harvest was broccoli, and the next was spearmint and a winter carrot. 


Alex was very excited to have one of his August planted carrots finally reach eating size!


Sadly, the peas, lettuce and kale are still not ready.

The greens bed is still under cat screens.
 My little blueberry bush is just starting to have real berries on it, they are still tiny and green, but they are out there.  And last but not least, I planted the triangle by the driveway with bulbs and a few perennials, hopefully I'll get a few cut flowers out of it by the end of the year.


 Hope everyone else's gardens are kicking off to a great start!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Where Do I Start?

I actually had a moment this morning when I looked over the garden and thought "maybe I should just scrap it this year?"  There is still so much work to do, I only have one bed planted, and haven't even prepped the other beds or planted the hot weather seeds yet.  Then I thought to myself "no, I can still do it, just a couple days of work will get me caught up.  It's not too late yet."

So I started turning the second bed.

Life has been kind of crazy the past few weeks, lots of trips down south to Eugene and even Medford.  Family chaos, continuing cruddy weather, and just generally trying to keep up with the necessities has left me way behind on the garden.

My broccoli have taken off though and the tiny little heads I spotted in the largest ones were the boost I needed to get moving on the garden again.  Despite the fact that everything else in that one bed is still small, my husband forgot to water my starts while I was in Medford this week, and I still have nowhere to plant my potatoes... I will do my best to salvage things.

On that note, I sympathize with the gardeners out there who were still seeing snow fall last week.  I also could use some advise on a tiny caterpillar in webbing rolled into the leaves of my cherry tree.  I have no idea what they are, but I'm guessing they aren't good.  Though the tree itself is doing really well and seems to be in good health.  How do I get rid of the little critters before the cherries come in?  (assuming I get ANY cherries this year).

One thing I know we'll see plenty of this year is strawberries, they sent runners and moved their way further along the bed last year.  Also my daughter put a few in a planter in the front yard when I asked her to relocate a few runners from the path.  Not exactly what I'd intended as a strawberry bed, but oh well, they seem to like it.

The single blueberry bush I planted weeks ago has more than doubled in size and is covered in little white flowers.  I am surprised it is doing so well.  I think it liked the vinegar I poured into its planting hole.  I'm kind of wishing I had bought a few more, but I'd like to see how well it produces and if the berries are very good before I plant a bunch of the same variety.

I guess that's all for this update, time for me to get some lunch and then get down to the store for potting soil and some basil starts to replace the ones my husband killed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Never Had Seedlings Do This Well

This year's seed starts have done amazingly well, normally they get their first set of leaves and then seem to stop growing at all until they are planted.  This time though, all the little plants are getting huge!






Not long now until they go in the ground... I hope! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Should Have Known Better

The weather has taken a turn for the worse.  I kind of expected it though.  This morning I had to bring my seedlings into the shelter of the porch and drain their trays of a good 1 1/2 inches of water before they drowned.  The wind is blowing and the rain is pouring down.  This week is expected to be more of the same until Saturday. 

I was hoping to hold off on planting until my brother came down to visit so I could save my back some pain and get his help turning over the beds.  I think I need to get the plants in the ground while I have some sunshine though.  The beds are still completely shaded, but they won't be for long, and I have to open up some trays and pots to get the hot weather plants going soon.

So I guess my plan for the upcoming weekend is to turn, fertilize, slug bait, grid off, and plant the big beds.  We were going to get the trailer from my mother-in-law last weekend put plans got mixed up, so hopefully we'll have it this weekend and be able to do a dump run and get some bark mulch for the front yard. 

I picked up a pile of flowers and bulbs from the store last week to use for a small flower bed in front of the driveway too.  If I have the energy I'll be out there raking out lava rock, turning in compost, and getting those plants into the ground as well.

At least the blueberry seems to be happy in its spot by the heat pump.  It is putting on new leaves and I'm just hoping I loosened enough of the clay soil and mixed in enough coffee grounds and compost to keep it happy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On Target

My weekend was very productive! Not only did i get the path and strawberries cleaned up, the shrubs trimmed and fed, and some annuals planted; but I also planted the blueberry, weeded the big beds, and got started on a project to turn a triangular patch at the end of the driveway into a flower bed.  I even managed to hack back about half of the blackberries.  They were a mess, climbing over the fence from the neighbor's yard and taking root in my compost pile.

After all of that activity I checked on the weather, it looks like I can expect cool and mostly overcast days for the next week or so, but no frosts.  There's a 10% to 50% chance of rain every day this week too, perfect for keeping starts watered without drowning them.  So I moved my tray of hardy plants outside to get some (cloudy) sunshine, light rain, and cool temps.  If it gets hot and sunny again I'll move them into the shade but I doubt that will be a problem.

With the way the weather is shaping up I may even be able to get things planted earlier than last year.  It has been a rather mild March so far, especially compared to last year's pouring rain, freezing temps and snow.  just right for getting things planted, but I don't want to jump the gun too much since a hard freeze just after planting could set me back by weeks.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Finally Looking Like Spring

The weekend is looking like it might just be nice enough to get some work done.  It's supposed to be sunny and in the upper 50s all weekend, so I'm looking forward to getting outside in the sunshine to trim up the shrubs and clean out the strawberry bed.  Ugh, and mow the lawn.  If I have the time and energy I'll also get the blueberry planted and a few annuals in the front yard, and feed the cherry tree. 

The shade on my patio is now about 2 feet from reaching the garden beds, so probably about 2 more weeks before I can start planting.  They are dry enough to turn and work in some compost though, so if Mother Nature continues to bless me with dry, warm days like today I will do my best to get the beds prepped for planting. 

My starts are all doing very well, except the onions which just don't seem to be having good germination rates.  I may have to purchase a pack of onion starts again to get enough for the summer and canning season.

My fingers are crossed that we'll have a much better season for tomatoes and peppers this year.

In other news... I ordered potatoes for planting and they should be shipped sometime in the next week or two, only problem is I have no clue where I'm going to put them.  The best thing I can think of to do is clear more (newly grown) blackberries and move the finished compost into the middle of the back yard and plant potatoes in it.  That's a lot of work though and last year they didn't fare too well in the pots I put them in.  So I either have a lot of work ahead of me, or need to get bigger pots, OR somehow build some large potato growing crates.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Kicking off Spring

Well folks, I am all recovered and ready to rumble!

Got all of my cool weather starts planted February 19th.  Onions, lettuces, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, Swiss chard, basil, dill, cilantro, and leeks.  A few garlic survived the winter nicely, which is a good thing since I didn't manage to get more planted in the fall.  As soon as the sun starts hitting the beds I'll be direct sowing peas, beets, and carrots in them.

This year we're really going to need the garden at maximum production!  With the medical bills from my surgery and my husband learning he has diabetes our diet has changed to involve many more organic veggies and our costs have risen as well.  All the more reason to save on our grocery bill by growing our own food. 

Since I don't have to buy the equipment for a grow room this year, or many seeds the garden costs should be especially low.  I bought beet seeds, potato sets, and some new onion seeds so far.  I also picked up a Patriot blueberry bush to plant near the strawberries.  Other than perhaps a few flowers that should be all the plant costs for this year.  Of course, I know better!  I will likely still end up buying a bunch more plants because I just can't resist.

Last year the garden had a lot of trouble with aphids, my best guess is that the malnutrition of the starts combined with my desire for them to grow faster in a cool, cloudy Spring and Summer were major contributors in the aphid problem.  I will try this year to be more patient and cut back on my use of fish emulsion. ;)

I'm also hoping that this year I'll see some actual growth in the cherry tree, it lived through the summer and winter just fine, but didn't do much growing last year.  So my fingers are crossed that with the warming weather I'll start to see it taking off and putting on some healthy growth to let me know it's doing well.  I'll probably hit it with a foliar feeding of compost tea once it shows signs of life to give it a little boost and some protection against disease and pests.  Though I highly doubt I will actually see any fruits off it this year.

I'm getting more excited for the garden season every day, so far this year is looking like a major improvement over last year.  The weather has been warmer and drier than last February, and looks like it will be continuing on into March that way.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Convalescing.

My surgery went off without any hitches, I feel fine now but am still not allowed to do anything productive or lift anything over 10lbs. for two more weeks though.  My sister refuses to indulge my winter gardening bug though and won't go to the store and carry home a bag of potting mix for me. >.<

Since she is being so uncooperative about the whole thing I have resigned myself to doing a bit of online shopping instead to kick off my garden season.  I'm going to give beets a shot this year since I've heard such lovely things about them, I'm also going to try out a new variety of carrot, and purchase more seed potatoes because I lost mine somehow during the remodeling.  I am stocked up on the rest of the seed I need though, so probably (I say probably because I am a terrible impulse shopper when it comes to the garden) this will be the only seed I will purchase for 2013.

I'm hoping this year to improve my potato production, and get a harvest from the rhubarb and artichokes I started last year.

Along with my cancer diagnosis, my husband found out just before Christmas that he has diabetes, so our joint New Year's resolution was to make an effort to improve our health in 2013.  Part of this will be eating more fresh veggies from the garden, another part will be doing more yardwork for exercise, and lastly we plan to quit smoking.  Quitting smoking will be the hardest.  Improving our diets has gone very well so far and I'm very impressed with his ability to keep his blood sugar under control so far.

So, all in all, despite the freezing temperatures here, I am absolutely itching to get things started for this year's garden... sadly, until the doctor gives me the okay I'm stuck with just ordering seeds. :(