Thursday, July 31, 2008

July 31, 2008

Well, today I feel almost human, and I only had my standard two cups of coffee. I may have "caught up" finally. hehe. Not likely.

So the weather turned sour today.  Hehe I had to walk to the bus and to my car in the rain so if that was to happen, then I'll be darned if my garden didn't get watered in the process.  We had a pretty long dry spell there but now I'm worried about my cantaloupe.  They're a warm weather crop and aside from the great weather that sprouted them in a hurry, they haven't had much heat and sun to turn them into vining cantaloupe anytime soon.  Drat.

I know being a PNW gardener means we garden in the rain and have webbed feet, but in my work clothes and unless necessary, I'm a fair weather gardener.  It didn't stop me from picking a fist-full of green beans from my tiny bush bean plants.  Most of the beans were as big as the plants that grew them.  I wanted to pick them today in case they're like peas where you have a better shot at getting more production from a plant if you keep it harvested. 

Besides tonight we had chicken and rice, which begs for a hearty vegetable.  Tonight I clipped the ends off the beans and heated them with some homegrown cauiliflower from the crisper.  It still tasted almost as good as freshly harvested.  Not bad at all.  Random thought, I sure hope the crown stalk composts well. It's in my kitchen compost container with the soft potatoes from the store that helped us with the decision to have rice, hehe. 

Today taking a break at work I checked out my favorite forums.  On GW's veggie forum, I found Shot had started a third potato bin thread.  Shot and Pat tried "my" BAYG bins (see the page on the left) and alas, the bins failed for them.  Mine, as you have seen, are still going strong, though if they're growing potatoes in there, they've got to be huge!  At least I hope so, hehe.  Anyway, I feel bad if I convinced folks to try the bin and it didn't work for them.  Aside from burrying healthy stems on accident, the only problems I've had so far is raccoons deciding park on my plants.  As you've seen they seem to be hold up strong.  Now if only they die out sometime soon. /shrug

Speaking of my potato bin page, since I created it, today I found that I had exactly 2,000 hits to the page!  Wow!  Amazing. hehe And not even promoting it anymore.  But I am updating it with progress pictures, though nothing much has changed except the coons, which I didn't think would help anyone, so I didn't add it, hehe.

Well, unless you want pics of rain, there's nothing more to add tonight. Enjoy your garden!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July 30, 2008

Short post tonight. Today my son and I planted a square of lettuce, two salad bowl and one each of the other two.  I also planted a square of radishes since we're out of them.  Hehe I've got a plan to plant more squares around it but the mature lettuce has taken over the squares I want to plant in.  They're not rooted in there, just over grown.  Guess I better do more than just give them a hair cut to clear space.  /shrug

Other than that, I watered and shook some tomato cages. We tried a bush bean and it tasted bitter.  My guess is that's over mature. 

Still tired so going to bed.  Night all!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 29, 2008

OMG I'm tired. Let's get through this post fast and furious... I woke up at 4:30 and rushed to work. I missed the first bus and got to work at 5:30.  I didn't leave until 5:15.  Not quite 12 hours.  My eyelids are tingling, hehe.

Let me start by saying I love the comments. I proves people are actually reading what I babble about.  Sure the stats tell me I get around 200 hits a day, but how "real" is that? 

After work I went for a much needed hair cut and then out to dinner with the family.  When I got home I put the kids down and went out to the garden.  I hadn't been out there in two days so sure enough the tomatoes were not quite bone dry, but not full like I like it.  Give those babies as much water as they want!  I ended up watering just about everything a bit, and then it started to rain so I let nature take over.   Mostly I wanted to get the SWCs watered because one of the two at least is a closed system so rain doesn't help.

Speaking of my SWCs, I was surprised to find all three of my cantaloupe plants have gotten their first true leaf.  Not bad considering it's been cloudy and in the mid 60s for a few days.

While I was out there I decided to try to help along the cucumber growth by hand polinating.  I was speaking at work today to one of my garden buddies and she mentioned that she hand polinates her zuchinis so I decided it couldn't hurt with cukes.  So I searched and searched and found one male flower in all 6 of my plants in bed #3 and tickled the female flowers with it.  Not sure if I did it right. Only time will tell.

While I was snapping the pictures of my cantaloupe, I watered the potato bins and my apple tree.  Here are some dark shots of my two potato bins. Both have bounced back decently from the attack of the raccoons.


Boy I wish they'd hurry up and die already, hehe.

I'll end with a question... How can you tell if a bush bean is ready to harvest?  Here is one of the bigger ones. It's still pencil thickness but it's long.  Here's a good shot of it.

Night! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, July 28, 2008

July 28, 2008

Wow, I hope not to have too many more of these type days.  13 hours at work plus almost two hours of commuting is 15 hours.  I swore I could get done a huge project today if I worked straight through, but I spent too much time working out HOW I was going to do the project that time ran out on me.  I need to go in very early to finish it by noon, despite an hour plus meeting at 9:30... yeah right.

Anyway, since I got home after dark, no pics today. Go figure.  Fortunately not much should have changed since I took pics last night.  What I can talk about is the research I got done today.  I read on the bus. For quite a while I've been reading Steve Solomon's How to Grow Veggies West of the Cascades.  Today I've been reading all about seeds.  I find it very interesting that home gardeners get shafted by seed companies.  Seems the minimum legal germination rate for home seeds is 75% in the perfect conditions of a laboratory up to 6 months prior to packaging.  For farmers, they are required to field test them and even inform the farmer the % germination in the field.  So farmers pay extra for 90% germination seeds but we pay the who knows what for whatever % they want to give us.  Did I mention that at 75%, under ideal conditions you can expect 50% to germinate.  Farmers planting 90% seeds have a 75% germination rate under poor conditions...  Now this guy was a big wig at Territorial Seed, where I got most of my seeds.  I wonder what % my Jade Bush Beans were.  I got far less than 50% germination, knowing that it was less than ideal conditions with the cold spring and early summer.

But here's a question maybe Tim can answer.  He recommended the book to me.  So far, Mr. Solomon's repeatedly stated that when you're planting seeds that you've got one shot and one shot only to get a seed to sprout.  I find that incredibly wrong, especially in our area.  I find it completely forgiving on timing.  If it weren't I couldn't succession plant like I have.  Of course I haven't finished the book, but I must be missing something.  I mean, my brother planted his tomatoes last year in early March and got monster plants.  This year he planted in June and is doing fine.  I call that forgiving. /shrug

Well, time to hit the sack so I don't sleep in (like I've been doing of late). Bad Rich.  hehe.

Enjoy your garden!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

July 27, 2008

Man, I felt lethargic today.  The weather's been humid and cloudy.  Ugly weather when it's showering all day long and the kids just want to stay in side and play.  I did take a moment to go out and let the kids play so I could get some stuff done in the garden.  I planted two squares of carrots in the front of bed #1.  I ripped out the dead basil and planted a fourth square of spinach, plus replanting the blank spots in bed #2. 

I planted three squares of cauliflower in bed #3.  In each case I threw a few handfulls of my first compost and mixed it into the top few inches as Mel suggests.  It's not the best compost but it should do fine considering my Mel's mix is only a year old.

The problem I'm having with the whole spacing and shading part of my fall/winter planting plan is that my existing summer crops are interferring with my plantings.  By the time my beans and cucumbers are done and ready to pull out, I expect my cauliflower to be too tall to effectively plant anything north of it.  Not sure what I'll do but I guess worse case scenario is that I let those squares go fallow for a "season". 

I also found what looks to be evidence of raccoons sitting in my yukon bin this time.  Grrr. I put down a bunch of deterrent, especially around my bins.  This time however, it looks like the stems are resilient enough to bounce back without tying up.  We'll see.  Hopefully the potatoes are almost full grown.  I swear I never saw any flowers from the Yukon Golds, but I guess what Tim says is possible, that I missed the flowering.  I'm assuming that potatos are growing fine in there.

I didn't get around to yanking out the three foot tall lettuce because I'd like to compost it but didn't feel like setting up the chipper to cut up the big stalks.  Look how tall they've grown!

I still think the lower leaves are edible. I didn't try any yet but I won't eat them if they're "woody" like I've heard they can get.  In contrast, here is the new monster patch of lettuce.

I'm not sure this patch will tide me over until December when my September planting should be ready. I may want to plant one square of lettuce mix (two salad blowls, an Italiansheir and a Red Sails) to tide me over until then.  Maybe tomorrow after work I'll plant it where my cauliflower was.

We've been wittling away at our carrot stock, which is part of the reason I planted so many. They taste so good and the kids love them as much as we do, so these mokums are a hit in my family.  Not huge but a good six inches long.  I'm sure the spacing has something to do with the size, and maybe the lack of light. Here's what the current stock looks like.  The bare spots you see are some of the succession plantings for fall and winter that I already did last month.

You can also see in the lower right corner the marigold square starting to blossom.  Thanks Judy!  As you can see we've got quite a few carrots left, but we only eat them for a treat right now.  I'm sure we could go through an entire bed of carrots if we had the space.  Maybe if I don't do corn next year I'll devote much more to them.

The tomatoes are doing quite well. The Early Girls are fattening up quite a bit (no pun intended), in fact I bet some are just about full sized if the smallish size I expect is what will be the end result. That and I found another set of three Momomato's growing farther up the plant.  I keep shaking the cages to hopefully polinate the flowers. I've got a ton of them.  Would be great if I had tomatoes for every flower!  I'd be able to make sauce or even freeze some.

Lost in all those beans and tomatoes are a few cucumber leaves right above the marigolds.  I hope they don't get smothered out because they'e got nice flowers under all that mess.  Who knows.  They're a random pickling variety is all I know about them. Oh, and as you can see, I still haven't removed the peas, mostly because there are still two stalks producing late and boy was the one I had sweet.  Also, as I commented below, I'm not certain I'll save the peas this year. I've got tons still in the package and I'm not sure if I'd be saving snap, snow or shelling peas. I don't necessarily want to save anything but snap.  They were our favorite so that's all I'll grow from now on (starting in a September).

And so far my bush beans are kicking my pole beans tail.  Who'd have thunk it.  Those little tiny things at the base of the tomato plant on the right are my bush beans. They're not even a foot tall and producing beans left and right.  My pole beans on the other hand...

Are all leaf and no bean.  I don't know what's worse. Pole beans that won't produce or bush beans that won't sprout but will produce like crazy if they do sprout.  Here's to hoping the pole beans start producing.  Either way, I think when I pull them I'll throw them directly into the corn bed to "fix" the nitrogen as they decompose in anticipation for that bed becoming my primary bed next spring.

Speaking of the corn bed (gotta love segways, hehe)...

It's nearly as high as an elephant's eye sometime in July, if not by the 4th...  Look how it's almost to the top of the window now!  Here's another angle.

As you can see the last succession planting is really benefiting from the fertilizing I did a week ago.  Unfortunately they're still leaning out over the gravel...

Sorry about the tire. I have no idea where it came from. Likely my father-in-law came by to "store" more crap.  I sure wish they could build a garage for him to put all his stuff.  Not that my garden is particularly beautiful, but I'd prefer only my junk in it, hehe.

Now for some close-ups of my corn.  As you can tell I'm pretty proud of it.  Is it just my imagination, or is there a cob forming in this picture?

And here is my first clear 2-cob stalk.  It's more towards the interior, which is a good sign as I have been warned that this intensive gardening method will only form cobs on the very outer edges. 

Oh, and Judy, if you read this, be forewarned that I'll likely need to call you again to discuss what to do from here on out with the corn, and more importantly, when to do what... Don't worry, it won't be as long a call as we had convincing me to go the SWC route.  hehe.

Finally, as the sun was going down, I went out in the front yard after dinner and weeded a bit.  It has been sad to drive by and see brown grass and weeds that my neighbors have long since removed from the new parking strips and that's the only green in the area for me.  Odd that the native grass in my yard is still green, but the newly seeded grass from the sidewalk project is brown for everyone.  Nobody's watered since we're all so used to not having to with our high water table.  /sigh.  So I got a full 5-gallon bucket of weeds. They came up fairly easily as it rained a bit over the last two days, but I almost never got the entire root, so I'll see them again.  Again /sigh.  But I feel better and i won't see weeds sticking up as I drive by and nobody else will either.  I've still got tons of weeding to do, but I hit the high points.  No more weed and feed for me as I'm composting.  Apparently it's bad.  I'm sure I can get rid of the bag I've got in the garage. My neighbor does it three times a year.

So this was a slightly relaxing weekend. I took naps both days and didn't get out much but I got some stuff done and we got some much needed rain.  Enjoy your garden!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

July 26, 2008

Well, looks like my problem wasn't just my router.  I'm not even sure if it WAS my router.  It's sitting right next to me daring me to plug it back in.  $50 lighter in the wallet and I've got a fancy wireless one (that's all they sell, so what if I don't have anything wireless) and an hour on the phone with two nice folks from India (they always like to ask how the weather is here, and what time it is, hehe), only to find out my modem is toast.  Hehe a half hour call with a nice young lady five miles away from me confirmed it.  So this morning after sleeping in (I didn't get to bed until really really late last night) I went and got a new modem.  Another call to get it activated and poof, I had internet again.  I don't have the heart to plug back in my old router to see if it works.  It shouldn't logically because it went out before the modem did, but you never know.

Anyway, I was watching the kids today as my wife was at a baby shower (non couples this time) and my kids didn't want to go outside (cloudy and muggy).  So no gardening happened today.  All I got done was watering. Though I did eat a snap pea that for some reason is surviving where the rest of his bretheren is brown and completely dead.  I still need to remove the brown pods, shuck them and let them dry in a cool spot.  My first foray into seed saving.  We'll see how it works. 

Speaking of seed saving, I've got to get out into the garden and rip out my first lettuce plantings.  They're 3 feet tall and going to seed.  I don't want to save my lettuce seeds, but I do want to see if I can salvage some of the lettuce off the trees, hehe.  Tomorrow is a salad for lunch if it kills us. 

I also need to plant some seeds and figure out where to plant them.  Got to work this out. I really want to take the plunge into winter gardening in addition to winter sowing, hehe.  Unfortunately I've got a ton of green onions that need to be harvested and used and my cucumbers are just taking off, so I can't plant cauliflower back to front in that bed.  So no clue what to do with the back of that bed.  For that matter, my pole beans haven't even started to produce yet and so they're staying for a while.  And I've got carrots in the back.  I think more carrots are going up front with the radishes since they're root crops and low.  Lettuce will be next followed by taller plants.  Planning is so critical in raised bed gardening.  I've got to take more into consideration next year.  I say next year but if Steve Solomon is right, there is no next year since I'll be planting greens and cool weather crops year round. hehe

Tomorrow is also picture day. My cell was out of power from using it to go on the internet while both our computers were down, so no pics were taken today.  You'll just have to take my word today that my potato plants have rebounded from being bent over en mass by racoons.  It's odd that i've got flowers galore on the russet bin and nada in the way of flowers in the Yukon Gold bin.  Here's to hoping that that's common, hehe I'm sure it is. 

Hope you've been enjoying your garden!  Tis the season to harvest harvest harvest, and plan for fall plantings.  Have fun!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

July 24, 2008

Short post tonight, as I'm having computer issues.  Seems Judy's problems are wearing off on me.  Maybe it was something in the seeds... naw, can't be that, they're growing so well. The marigolds are nearly blossoming and the cantaloupes sprouted in a few days.  Very cool, Thanks Judy!

Naw, my computer problems are centered in my router.  Seems they never last more than two years. I guess it makes sense, they're always on and transmitting.  Funny though, the modem hasn't gone out ever (knock on wood) and it's always on too.  Netgear seems to breed too much obsolesence into their products.  And they're oh so recyclable.  So this time when I rushed out to the computer store right at closing and grabbed whatever they had on the shelf (a wireless version of what broke, great), I bought the two year warranty. The don't last two years.  In fact, the one I bought doesn't seem to work well already.  The internet is snail like when I'm hooked up to it.  Grrr, I hate being computer ignorant these days.  But who has time to keep up when Moore's Law is going warp speed ahead.  Maybe I need to go into that secret place and drop my connection and reconnect.  Rebooting the computer, modem and router isn't working.  So to post this I'm hooked up directly to the modem and my wife's watching TV.  Grrr.

Anyway, today I got excited to garden when I got home and I worked on my compost.  I had been throwing a ton of bolted and trimmed plants on top and I hadn't fluffed and layered it in a while.

So I fluffed it and broke up the clumps and moved it to the side, then threw the stalks in, and a bag of coffee grounds, wetted it down and added more compost on top.  It took me three times repeating that to get to this...

I know, it doesn't look that different, but it is, hehe it's moist throughout and has layers of goodness decomposing.  Unfortunately I totally forgot to gather the inside compost materials which has a great amount of tissues and paper products that could have helped. I'm hoping that the stalks are browns to offset the green grounds. Who knows. I'll check the temp tomorrow and if it's not hot I'll dig a hole and dump my house compost.  Easy.

Then while giving the kids just a bit more play time out back, I checked out the blueberry bushes, and low and behold, the big cluster is already ripening!

The middle left is almost a true blueberry now!  And you can't see it but they're HUGE!  I've got to keep an eye on them to make sure the birds don't beat me to it (or coons, but I think they're sufficiently deterred).  But even more cool than the blueberries turning is the growth I've gotten this year.  Look at the new growth!

I can only hope the root system is spreading out tons.  I also hope the deep watering I've done has resulted in semi-deep roots because I want to use the sides and center this fall to plant garlic.  We'll see.

Oh yeah, for dinner we decided to be healthy for a change and we had chicken and rice.  With it I cooked up (only slightly) some broccoli and cauliflower for me and carrots for my wife and kids... ALL FROM MY GARDEN! YAY!!!!!

I must say, the broccoli wasn't what I'm used to. It was ok, but didn't have that broccoli taste.  It was a bit too muted.  It didn't appeal to me. I'll eat the rest of that head and the one I've got developing, but the two incredibily leggy ones that haven't started a head and likely couldn't support one are going to be pulled.  I'd rather plant more cauliflower.  The cauliflower on the other hand was INCREDIBLE!  I just couldn't get enough of it.  Only I was eating it, but I had placed two tiny floretts on my kids plates for them to try.  They wouldn't of course, but I really wanted them to, I just know they'll love it.  Anyway, during the process of trying to get them to eat it, my wife had a piece.  WHOOOT I got one convert out of it. She actually asked if we could plant more next year.  She was ever so excited when i told her I could plant some now for fall and winter harvest.  Hehe. 

Speaking of fall and winter harvesting, I'm really getting excited about it now that my garden is emptying out. So after talking at length with my brother I opened up my garden plan and wiped it to start over for fall.  First I put back in what's staying for the mean-time... that is, my warm weather crops.  Then I added more carrots and a row of succession greens.  Radishes went in the front as they're the lowest besides carrots of any of my veggies (root crops, go figure). I'm thinking that I'll cover three beds (all but the corn bed, which I'll compost my bean stalks in to fix the nitrogen).  The small bed is half full of onions and cucumbers so I'll plant the entire bed of cauliflower in succession.  Not the perfect system as the front is empty and the back is full for now, so the cauliflower will shade the seedlings until they grow big enough to hold their own. At least I hope they do.  I can also put cauliflower in the back row of bed 1 where the pole beans are. I am planning on using my first 2x2 trellis with my hoop cover and grow fall snap peas. 

As you can see, I'm really getting the fall planting bug.  I'm excited to grow salads year round, even though I'm not eating them often enough.  Gotta find some great tasting greens.  Hope to find some mustard greens that I like to add variety.  Also varrying my salads could help. /shrug

Anyway, I had already published this when I remembered I'd taken a few more pics that were still on my camera.  When I was watering my corn I found a stalk that had split out at the bottom and is looking strong from both stalks.  Is that a mutant or how you get more than one ear per stalk?

Oh, and I'm excited to say that I also got a silk from the slow corn!  Not bad.

And finally, how I missed it, I have no idea, but my scant few bush bean plants are producing!!!

Beans! They're pencil thin but they'll grow I'm sure!  Now I just hope that the seeds I planted come up and produce. 

Enjoy your garden!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July 23, 2008

Summer is a busy time, both at work and home.  So much to do and so little time, especially for posting to my blog.  But that doesnt' mean that gardening isn't getting done or in my mind often.  Hehe I can tell it's a busy time for readers as well as my readership's dropped off tremendously over the last few months.  At first I thought I was getting boring.  You know, like the high school dating scene where after a few months you knew everything there was to know about them and had nothing more to talk about so you broke up, hehe yeah like that, without the coffee at Denny's at midnight (or Starbucks now-a-days, hehe).  But then I realized folks are just busy.  I "get" busy. 

Anyway, for my post tonight.  First off, I'm not big on harvesting anything but salad makings it seems.  I have let my mother harvest most of my other veggies.  Like today, she cleaned out my garden.  My cauliflower that had started to bolt all got removed.  Seems it doesn't matter if the heads are bigger than baseballs or not, when it's time for them to bolt it's time.  Gotta remember that for next year's succession planting.  That said, I will definitely plant more during the fall, which should go into the ground soon.  In fact I'm late per the Territorial Seed planting guide.  Oops.  So I'll give it a shot anyway.  This weekend I plant cauliflower for fall and winter harvest. 

It'll be easy to do since my first and second beds are getting pretty empty without broccoli and cauliflower taking up space.  Especially after I remove the bolting lettuce in bed #1.  Sorry no pics today, I was busy with the kids and forgot.  However, I'm really getting excited about planting my fall and winter gardens.

Speaking of kids, Logan harvested a bunch of carrots because he wanted to eat them.  I think between the two of us we ate four carrots tonight, hehe.  Boy were they tasty!

Well, on the way home from work I stopped by True Value and picked up some predator urine.  It's great, that little store has 3 different brands of the stuff, so I can cycle through them time and time again and hopefully keep the raccoons away.  So this time I got some from Shake Away.  Hope it works because I didn't use much. Instead of laying down a perimeter, I spot treated where I thought it was likely they'd try to get in.  Kinda like what an animal marking its territory would do, hehe.  I laid it heavy around my potato bins and the new SWC. 

Finally my wife got me a ton of coffee grounds today.  She hit the mother load.  She knows now to ask whenever she gets coffee.  Today they said, sure, how much do you want.  She said as much as they had and I got 4 full bags.  I've got 8 now to use this weekend.  Gees, it's only Wednesday and I'm already working up my to-do list, hehe.  Fun!

Enjoy your garden!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July 22, 2008

Well, I let my fingers do the walking and found what appears to be a competing brand of predator urine to deter my raccoons.  Unfortunatley they were closed when I called but answered the phone anyway.  I love shopping locally.  It's at my local True Value hardware store just down the street where I found that great cedar bench.  I may just stop by on the way home from work and pick both up.  We'll see.

Anyway, I read on the bus this morning about winter gardening in the Pacific NW.  Apparently on coast of the Puget Sound, we can garden year round here under hoop covers (Steve Solomon calls them plastic cloches).  He suggests a great schedule to have salad greens year round.  If I plant lettuce, spinach, and maybe mustard greens in September, I'll harvest in December and January.  Succession plantings in October will harvest in February and March.  The trick then is when the first (September) plants are done in late January, you plant again for harvest in April and May, right as my first spring greens are coming up.  Considering I still have greens right now in the heat of the summer (some are just starting to bolt), that means we can have salad greens all year round here!  Very cool!

On the way home I decided that I should fertilize the final two rows of corn to complete the succession planting.  While I did it I was surprised to find the start of corn (since yesterday) on several of my first plantings.  Look at the best of them...

Now it seems I've got to look up what to do with them?  I haven't seen many bees around lately so I guess it means I need to hand polinate them.  I wonder if Judy's around since she did that with hers and they turned out.  Grrr. I wish I had more experience, hehe.  It's exciting though. I had to get my whole family out there to show them our corn starting to grow!

Also, I just had to snap a pic of my flowering cukes. I've got tons of flowers on all my plants, but this pic shows the greatest concentration right at the base of my trellis.  Pretty cool!

I sure hope we get a ton of cukes. As I've said my wife wants to pickle them and if we don't get many I'll eat them all plain or in salads, hehe.  Do I have to polinate these or what?  Can I shake the trellis like I do the tomato cages?  /shrug

Finally, I have been looking online at Territorial Seed to find some mustard greens to grow this fall, winter and next spring and summer.  I want something to give my salads some kick, the Italiansheir lettuce isn't doing it.  But I don't want too hot or too mustardy taste which would clash with the rest of my salad.  I've got an IM into my garden muse Jen who graciously posted here today.  She let me try some of her mustard greens and I liked them.  Maybe she can help me pick a variety from Territorial.  I hate so many choices when I'm so picky, hehe.  Worst case I can call the order line. They're extremely helpful there, but they don't know me like Jen does.  Well that's it for tonight. Time to hit the sack.

Enjoy your garden!

Monday, July 21, 2008

July 21, 2008

Short post tonight.  Well I've got confirmation of coons returning.  I found prints in my cantaloupe... and to top it all off, I was so bloody interested in taking a good pic of my sprouts that I totally missed the prints in the bin!

Notice in the middle the three indents... and me? I go for a walk this evening instead of searching out the Haveaheart stuff.  Grrr.  Old habits die hard.  But aren't the little sprouts cute?  After I take care of the coons, I've got to enclose this SWC. 

I noticed the prints first while watering after dusk but right before dark.  I also noticed while watering that my corn is leaning toward the rising sun (it gets the most sun in the morning).  Unfortunately it's too late to put the trellis netting in there to provide support.  I vasillated to long.  It's going to be interesting.

On a better note, I got a text message from my brother who was proud of his harvesting his garlic today.  He got 85 viable heads that he is now drying/curing in the garage for the next few weeks.  I hope to use some of it and plant some of it along side my blueberry bushes this fall.

Finally, more randomness.  On our walk I found what may very well be our next garden purchase.  All along I've been wanting a bench for my garden.  It is about the only thing I can put in the dead corner where nothing grows (but voluteer lilac bushes).  Unfortunately I've never been particularly impressed by what I've found or couldn't afford it.  While we were stopping by our local QFC, we walked by our very local True Value franchise and saw a cedar bench.

It would match the wood choice of the fence posts behind it, and the shingles on the house.  Simple and only $85 locally.  I may have to go back with the van.  It's only a quarter mile so how's that for local shipping?  Ok, it wasn't produced locally, but you can't have everything.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

July 20, 2008

Gotta love camping.  The kids love it. I can't wait until my kids get older and we can do it a bit more like I remember it before he campers and trailers and site hookups hehe.  The meals included a bunch of lettuce and other produce from the garden.  We had broccoli and cauliflower (alas over cooked) for dinner one night and even used some lettuce on sandwiches.  Another great find was stopping by Biringer Farms on the way and picked about a half-flat of raspberries and a handful of strawberries.  So we had fresh berries on angel food cake, berries in pancakes for breakfast, and healthy snacks for the kids.  And they had a blast picking them.  Great idea (wasn't mine)! hehe

So getting back this afternoon, even my wife was interested to see how 4 days of sun had treated my garden.  Here's what we were presented with...

The corn is doing wonderfully. I think.  It's growing tastles and getting dense green foliage.  I hope that's good. No signs of ears yet, but we're topping out over the fence line, which is a good thing!

The radishes camping had gone a bit woody, but then I brought some that had flowered (we'd lost track of them hidden under monster broccoli and never harvested them. My fault.  The onions are getting really big, but are still tasty.  As for the cukes, they are shooting out tendrils like the peas to grab the trellis.  I had to help it a bit in places, but where I'd helped it before, they seem to be playing along.  What's more is that I've got some nice little flowers on some of them already.  Pretty cool!

Moving along as we entered the garden is my succession lettuce and cauliflower bed.  I've got to harvest another broccoli tomorrow and need to eat more of the lettuce, hehe.  It's looking really good!

On the other end of the spectrum, the peas need to be ripped out.  Even some of the peas I didn't get around to harvest bit the dust.  Gotta be more vigillant at harvesting everything.  Next year, only snap peas I think.  The season was so short that we didn't get around to making stir fry on the "garden's" schedule, and I couldn't tell which were snap and shelling well enough.  Oh, and by next year, I mean I hope to have a fall crop too.  Not sure when I need to plant them but probably when the pole beans are done (they haven't even flowered). 

If you look at the picture above, you can side a true yin and yang scenario.  While the peas are dead, the tomatoes are growing like mad.  They're taking over the trellis like they were designed to do.   I counted over a dozen tomatoes growing on the Early Girl and tons more flowers where that came from.  Unfortunately the Momomato (I think I've been spelling it wrong, like everything else, I can't spell my way out of a paper bag) only has three small tomatoes crowding their way at the bottom of the plant but tons of flowers.  So I shaked the cages to hopefully polinate them a bit.  I love the smell of tomato plants.  When you prune them, shake them or just stick your noes into the plant to water it.  I hope the shaking helps because after I shake them I smell the tomato pant smell big time.  Let's hope I get more tomatoes for the rest of the year!

Now for the last bed.  It was the first bed I planted and the one I babied through the April snow storms.  The lettuce is either bolting or finally giving up the ghost, the beans are a bright spot even without the beans.  I'm not sure the cukes are going to find any space in the trellis because of the beans and the tomatoes, but we'll work on that. I'm not sure about the cauliflower.  The one two I've harvested were good, but I was looking forward to more raw cauliflower from some of my small heads that should have been growing bigger by the day.  Unfortunately, they look like this...

It's like it's bolting when it's only the size of a small ball, definitely not good eats...  Gonna need to talk to my mom about this.  Maybe I've lost the season for it and can't succession plant my cauliflower.  Not sure.  That'd be a bummer if it was, since I can't eat that much cauliflower all at once. I guess I could try freezing it next year.  I don't think pickling it is for me.  This is not a good sign.  Live and learn.

Out through the back yard I was shocked to see the potato bins.  My flowering bin looked like this.  At first I thought YAY the plants were dying and I could harvest potatoes soon.  But the more I looked at it, I thought that something had flattened it.  GRRRRR It looks like the coons are back.  And I haven't found a good alternative to Haveaheart.  I think I'll get more of it and see if it works.  The odd thing about it is that there is a trellis on top of the fence there so I'm curious how the coon got on top of the bin. 

I spoke to my aunt who was watering and they were fine yesterday, so it must have happened last night.  Grrr.  The only good news is that the plants don't look dead.  The bad news is that they wouldn't snap back standing up.  So I did my best to tie the plants up with twine attached to the fence.  Here's the best I could do without individually roping each stalk.

Trying to tie it up, I found that the jute twine isn't that strong, so if the coon comes back, it'll snap.  But I'm not going to give up!  Tomorrow I'll see about buying more and sprinkle it around the perimeter again.  Grrr.

So not everything was grand about my return to my garden, but although I forgot to take a picture, I was surpised to find three cantaloupe sprouts.  A little taller and I'll cover them with plastic to enclose the SWC.  I'm off to the races on the gamble...

Hope you had a great weekend and got a chance to enjoy your garden!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

July 16-19, 2008

Busy week. Trying to squeeze 5 days of work and a two weekends of play into 3 days has been insane.  Work's been insane, play's been fun, but sleep's been non-existent.  Our friends teaching in Germany and Asia over the last decade have been in town for a week and we've tried to spend as much time with them as possible.  I met him two weeks before college started. We went hiking together for a get-to-know-you activity and it rained constantly. We ended up singing folk songs in the tent at night.  We were fast friends.  I met her living next door to her in college when I was in the Spanish House and she in the French.  They're an amazing couple.  They do storytelling of tales from around the world.  They are phenomonal and the kids love seeing them do their stuff. 

Anyway, last night was a late night listening to them then having a late dinner and playing at a park (they've got a 3 year old and the kids had a blast).  Tonight was a BBQ and a night of X-Box Rock Band (music folks, go figure).  It was a blast, but it put us behind the 8 ball for packing for camping. 

So a quick post to let you know that tomorrow I water thoroughly and harvest broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, radishes and onions to take with us camping.  I'm so happy that my garden is being put to good use to feed my extended family this weekend, meeting all our produce needs!  My brother can't even compare to that, and he's the master.  I get to share my newly acquired green thumb with the whole family.  What could be better?  Oh yeah, corn, but alas, nothing showing yet.  Maybe tomorrow when watering I'll see something.

So, I hope Judy makes it back to, as I said I'd hold down the fort last weekend but this weekend's my turn to head out of town.  I encourage everyone reading this to go there and register and help make that site the most comprehensive gardening site for raised beds.

I now have to pack up the kids and camping gear, and hopefully get to bed in time to harvest in the morning.  Tomorrow we're also going berry picking on the way.  It's a great time to spend with some of Logan's classmates and Jinny's co-chair on the board.  What a great family!  And bringing fresh berries to camping will be a special treat for everyone, especially the kids, who LOVE berries!

Monday, July 14, 2008

July 14, 2008

Well, busy evening.  I got home at a relatively reasonable hour. I would have been home on time but my computer crashed when I had 2 minutes worth of work to do before leaving.  So I kept a Vice President and Senior Vice President waiting while I tried everything to make it work and finally hard booted and did it all over again.  A half hour later I walked out the door.  Grrr. And it's a new computer. hehe

This evening was beautiful and the one free evening before I go camping, so I decided to mow the lawn.  In this heat the lawn hasn't grown much (we don't water the lawn).  In fact, I hadn't thought about how busy my week would be and the weekend out of town, or I would have mowed this last weekend. I purposesly decided not to mow because it didn't need it.  As it is, I only filled up half a yard waste container.  It didn't add much to the compost.  Ah well.

When I finished, Toasty and her husband stopped by to see the garden (and pick up some great yellow irises).  We toured the garden and yard, sharing my plans and possibilities.  It was coincidental that my peas got even worse today.  The leaves had been browning on the bottom over the last week or so, so I watered it more, thinking it needed it.   Today they were falling over and just dying.  Thankfully Toasty was here to tell me that they are supposed to do that, and that she yanked hers a few weeks ago.  Now I have to figure out what to do with several pounds of peas.  Hehe 

Darn it, I had so hoped that I could hold out for Wednesday so I could make a veggie tray like you get at the store, with broccoli, cauliflower and snap peas.  Maybe even some carrots.  Wouldn't that be cool!  The ones from the store are so tasteless, and fresh veggies would taste so good!  In fact the cauliflower I harvested yesterday was mostly eaten raw by my family.

So this weekend will be play time, not garden time.  My aunt isn't going so she'll water and take care of the kitties.  That also means no to-do list this weekend.  Think of mowing as my to-do list and it was checked off.

Enjoy your garden!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

July 13, 2008

Well, it's late, yet again, so I'll try to keep this short.  We've got a movie to watch and get back to the store before they charge us, hehe.

Today I got Toasty's SWC torn apart, cleaned and put back together.  This time I used zip ties rather than duct tape. 


Afterwards I filled it with Mel's Mix and planted three Minnesota Midget cantaloupe seeds that Judy so graciously sent me.  Thanks to Toasty and Judy I can experiment with late season planting.  I personally think I won't have the season left to let a 60-75 day plant mature.  But who knows, September could be good to us this year.  I still need to build the trellis for them, but I'm not concerned, they'll take a while before I can trellis them.  Of course I'm counting. Today was day one of 75...

Then, I caved on my compost... The original bin was barely 100 degrees after all the work I put into it yesterday to layer and water and blend and fluff.  Nada.  I just had too much saw dust.  I got that from Joe and the book I'm reading... Growing Veggies West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon.  According to Solomon, my compost is now nothing better than mulch for under trees and in flower beds.  So that's what I used it for.  We weeded the rose garden and mulched in the front.  I must say it looks much better now.

Doesn't it look better?  Every year we tear out tons of irises and every year they grow back together. This year I'm giving some of my son's favorite flowers, yellow irises to Toasty.  I have too many so she can enjoy the wonderful golden yellow bearded gentlemen.   I'm not worried, next year I bet they will grow together again now that I mulched with some of the best compost money couldn't buy.  Speaking of compost, "Where has all the compost gone?"

I know it's tough to tell from the picture, but that's the lowest plank of the pallet. I used up 90% of my first compost bin mulching all over my yard.  But just think how much money I saved on beauty bark!?!

Then, my mother told me we had a mutant cauliflower plant.  Unfortunately I let it go too long.  Who knew when it would stop getting bigger?  Instead it startd growing out and maybe going to seed.  So we harvested our first cauiflower.

Aren't they cute?  Logan decided he'd carry it inside the house so he got his wheel barrow and his brother decided he needed to help.

Oh, and Carrie was right, the corn did grow more... It's nearly 4 feet tall (including the 16 inch beds, hehe). So given the growth marching leftward in the bed, I fertilized another row of corn with my mixture of blood meal and veggie fertilizer.  Not only did I water it in, but I watered tonight after it got dark.

Enjoy your garden!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

July 12, 2008

Ok, so I'm late posting this and it says it's the 13th.  Honestly, I just was out all afternoon and night and decided I really did have something to say today.  So here it is so I can hit the sack.

All I got done in the garden today was to hopefully fix my compost bins.  I had 2 big bags and one little bag of coffee grounds.  I started with the old bin and fluffed it. Not hard since I fluffed it last weekend.  It was warm, but not hot.  So after I fluffed it, I hollowed out the center by moving the center to the outter walls of the bin. 

Then I took one big bag of grounds and started sprinkling it on top of a thin layer of compost.  I wetted it all down and spread a few inches of compost over it.  Then I repeated the process with a thin layer of grounds, water and more compost until it looked like this.

It's very similar to lasagna soil building where you layer stuff on top of each other and it composts down into great soil.  That's what I'm trying to create here, beautiful humus with roughly a CN ratio of 12:1, which is essentially fertilizer per Steve Solomon. 

The whole process took about an hour for both bins. I'm hoping the old bin and new bin will both heat up above 140 and continue composting.  I really hope that the old bin will break down some of those wood chips.  I shouldn't have put them inside all at once.  Joe said I should have stored them in buckets and added them in layers a cup or two at a time.  I'm still seeing pockets of sawdust.  So I tried to move that and some more complete compost over to the new bed to help jumpstart the new bin.  I can't wait to test the temps tomorrow.

While I was out there I just had to take a picture of my plum tree. It really looks great after pruning it massively last year and adding the compost to the base.

And here is a representative cluster of plums growing!

It's tough to see but I counted five plums in this photo.  Not bad considering two years ago we got squat for harvest.  Funny that the only tree I didn't compost is the pear tree and thus far I see not one pear growing.  Drat since we love canned pears on cottage cheese.  I will definitely use some of that compost from my bins around the base of the pear tree (my bins come within 6 inches of the trunk so it's not far to carry it).

Finally, here is a great pic of my Butte potato bin now.  Look at the massive amounts of foliage!

The Yukon Gold bin isn't nearly as full, but not bad.

I just hope there are litterally hundreds of pounds of potatoes growing inside that space!

Tomorrow I hope to get my SWC fixed.  Gonna be fun.  Oh yeah, I'll end with this. We had another day over 86, so we are up to 4 or so. I'm trying to get us raised from an AHS zone 2 to a 3, hehe.

Enjoy your garden!