What’s Happening in the Garden–July 11, 2016

Oh my goodness… It’s been a month.. and I have a million posts written in my head but not one made it’s way to my blog.  I’m sorry!

People ask questions at work that would be great posts all the time. I need to  write about the experience of serving people in a garden center and share some of that. I love the questions! Some are very common and happen all day (is it the annual or the perennial that comes back every year?) and some are surprises. Let’s just say I’m learning a lot about plants and gardening so I’m probably much happier than the average garden center employee.

I wish I had about five more hours in the day. I think I’d feel perfectly balanced and on top of everything if I did.

Or not.

Then, there’s the garden…

That keeps us busy.

This isn’t exactly the epic gardening year that I always think it’s going to be, but we’re doing okay. It’s been quite dry so the watering is non-stop. I think I lost my garlic crop to neglect and I feel badly about that, but it happens.

IMG_1709On the bright side, the potatoes are doing well. These are kennebec and we have three pots of them. I like growing them in pots because the disease and critter issues decrease a lot when they’re protected by the wall of the container.

IMG_1710The sungold tomatoes did better than I expected. My tomatoes went through a rough patch when I was just too busy with work and end of the school  year commitments to take care of them, but many have rebounded nicely. This variety does great in a pot.

IMG_1717I think that’s a little spider web, but some of you may know better. Is it going  to be okay?

IMG_1718The blueberry bushes are clinging to life. This is so sad because they were great last year. I’m still blaming that extreme cold(-10)  few days for this. I’d welcome any ideas for organically fertilizing and shoring them up.

IMG_1721The lovage has lept. I love leaping lovage. It tastes like celery and it looks so cool.

IMG_1722Most of our kaleidoscope mix and chocolate beauty pepper plants are still with us. The bunnies got a few of them.

IMG_1724These rattlesnake beans came from seeds that Michael’s uncle gave us when we were in Arizona in January. I’m waiting for them to climb their poles but they’re just sitting there teasing me!

IMG_1725-001This is Russian kale and it’s sweet! I’m using it as a vegetable, and as a filler in containers. Stay tuned for a better look at that on Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the fifteenth.

IMG_1726Here’s a few more tomato plants that I had given up hope on.

I believe my exact words to Michael were “we’re going to have to go buy some tomato  plants.”

He wasn’t too happy about that since they’d been living on our pool table for quite a while.

You just never know if things are going to come back…

IMG_1727The opalka tomatoes are too, along with the strawberry plants that I thought we had lost a few years  ago.

IMG_1728It’s late, but there’s basil growing and there’ll be plenty of time to enjoy it. This variety is Osmin from Pinetree Seeds. I need to do rock removal everywhere. They look huge next to the seedlings, don’t they?

IMG_1729And this is lemon basil. and little rocks.

If it all survives the critters it should be a foot high for my next What’s Happening update.

IMG_1731The lettuce is awesome, I need to plant some more asap!

IMG_1735And then there’s the onions… remember my onions last year?

IMG_9473Here they are! They were fabulous!

I’m not so sure about this year’s crop. They’re competing for space with a chipmunk and it’s been quite a battle. Those furrows that you see in the middle of the photo of this year’s onions are the chipmunk’s mark.

I know chippys are cute, and they have stripes on their back, and they sing in a movie…

But, I’d like for them to stay away from the garden. That’s all..

IMG_1736So this may be my favorite photo of this post, if not the whole season. Michael is using rhubarb leaves as mulch! I have a zillion questions about whether or not this is a good idea, but I think it’s really creative. Will it work, I don’t know? Are those leaves okay for the soil?  I’m not sure… but they look great!

IMG_1738I caved and planted store bought zucchini  plants, so far so good.

IMG_1739Same with the cucumber. This isn’t a great photo but I got these bamboo hoops from freecycle a few years ago and I love them. I hope the plants grow up over them again.

IMG_1741-001Mother Swiss chard and baby swiss chard are happy together.

IMG_1765So are our new baby chicks. This is one of the easter eggers.

IMG_1755We also have another Easter egger, two white leghorns, two Buckeyes and a Black Giant.

IMG_1743The black Giant is going to weigh ten pounds and she already rules the roost.

I’m loving our new little flock this year. These chicks seem special, maybe because with the exception of the EEs, they’re all new breeds to us.

If you’re still reading I need to say thank you so so much, this is a long post!

If I posted more often, they could be quite short, and easy to read.

Hmmm…

How’s your garden growing? Leave me a comment so I can check in with you 😉 I love to hear about how you’re doing!

Enjoy everything!

Love, Michele

“Mother, There Are Entirely Too Many Tomatoes in This Kitchen!”

…said my sixteen year old daughter one day last week as she was trying to get ready for school.

It was hard to argue when the counter looked like this…
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and then when she went to get some cereal she had to move this…

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I knew she had a point.

So I got busy, and started processing tomatoes.

The tomatoes in these green and orange bins came from my friend Betsey.

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Guess which opalka tomato Betsey and Ed grew?  Yes, the one on the left. Their compost must be incredible!  Ed gave me the plant that produced the puny tomato on the right that I grew, so it’s the same variety and batch of seedlings.

Anyway, I got busy and did some canning.

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Which was fun, but I’m still struggling a little.

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I did manage to can eight quarts of tomatoes, and I have plans to work on some apple butter this week.

It’s all about babysteps..
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Freezing tomatoes is definitely the easy way out so my freezer is quite full.

I just wash and dry them, put them in freezer bags and suck the extra air out with a straw before I seal the bag shut.

The skins come right off after they defrost for a few minutes. I also like to put them in the food processor, with skins, seeds and all, and puree them to  make tomato or pizza sauce. I cut them into pieces while still frozen for stir fry dishes, salsa and things like that.

Yes, that is Michael’s Dove bar to the left, clearly not mine 😉
IMG_9693On Saturday the frost forecast was looming so I picked as many green tomatoes as I could and decided to try storing some in newspaper to ripen.
IMG_9690I washed and dried them…
IMG_9699Wrapped each one in quarter sheets of newspaper.

IMG_9701And tucked them in a box, with the pinker tomatoes on top.

We’ll see how it goes.

Today’s project involves what to do with this guy…

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He weighs 2 or 3 pounds and looks just like a little pumpkin.

What do you think?

I’m going to have to force myself to cut him up later for dinner…

Or maybe I can carve a face, just like a real pumpkin.

This is Salem after all!

What did you do with your tomatoes this year?

Michele

What’s Happening in the Garden, and With Me –September 14, 2014

 

 

I’ll start with the garden.

That’s a good lead in to the “and with me” part. To be honest I don’t know what’s happening with me. Maybe some of you can help with that. The garden is okay in a kind of mediocre way. I’m accepting of my limitations and abilities but I have to admit that I expected more from the garden this year. Maybe it was the relatively dry weather, or my organizational skills, or all of the fun vacations.

When your a gardener you have to spend time in the garden!
DSC04737 That said we still have kale. Is it me or is this photo a bit out of focus? Sometimes I can’t tell.DSC04740 The tomatoes were actually pretty good. A little wilt but not too much and it came very late in the season. I think I want to grow more romas again next year, or maybe a variety called opalka that my friend Betsey shared with me yesterday. Their larger than roma and make a sweet, meaty sauce… I brought some home from a visit with Betsey yesterday and popped just one of them into a little pot of fresh sauce that I made for dinner from some of my tomatoes that needed to be eaten. I think there was a very big difference!DSC04742 I planted quite a bit of cauliflower but it looks like the bunnies, or maybe even deer enjoyed the flowers for us.DSC04744The marketmore cucs are done and I have to say that this variety was a success. We enjoyed lots of pickles and salads and cucumbery things… DSC04738Here’s some later planted swiss chard that just isn’t taking off…DSC04743A few candycane zinnias came up near the chicken coop door. Their cute and happy but not too prolific. DSC04745 I have one, yes one, watermelon still growing. I’m fertilizing it weekly as my neighbor suggested and hoping it makes it through the next few weeks. It’s about the size of a large honeydew melon right now.DSC04747 We had a few cantaloupes almost grow into edible fruit. This one is imploded and slightly rotted. It will be food for another project that I have going so it’s not a total loss.DSC04748 One pumpkin, yes one. This is the year of one, two or three of anything that I worked on over time.DSC04749 Of course the horseradish is happy. I don’t like horseradish but several of our friends and family members do so it will be fun to harvest it in a few weeks.DSC04750 The new little herb garden got off to a decent start. Next year we’ll hit the ground running in this area of the garden.DSC04751 I’ve got pots of potatoes growing. They haven’t flowered and have lots of foliage so I’m kind of unsure about where we’re going here. Generally they flower and then die back and you can dig out the potatoes. So I’m waiting to see what happens. I dug around a little bit the other day and I really think there are some good sized tubers in there.DSC04753 Parsley and basils need to be frozen in ice cube trays for the winter. DSC04754 The onions kind of worked out! Remember when I was inspired by Betsey and Ed and planted them back in the spring? No need to buy onions around here this winter!DSC04755Oh, and then there’s this little project. Guess what’s in the box? Here’s a hint:  It thrives on the cantaloupe.

Okay… about me.

I’m tired and busy and tired and worn out. I want to do right by my family so I took a major blogging break. I don’t think I’ve ever gone so long in between posts. It really has me wondering about what motivates me and what’s that best use of my time. Should I keep blogging? I like to blog because I love connecting with  people all over the world. I like to think that I might encourage or entertain someone somewhere. I definitely feel accountable about what I say here so it keeps me on a good path in the gardening sense and beyond.

Have any of you fellow bloggers gone through this? It’s kind of writer’s block, but almost more like a writer’s resistance. I know what I want to say. I have a long list of posts to write but I wonder about the value of it. Does it matter? Should I just garden for myself and call it a day? No one who I know personally has said a word about my absence. Maybe I shouldn’t expect that, but maybe I should use my energy for other things.

That was a pretty stream of conscious paragraph or two. Thank you, I feel better,

Pioneer Woman used to say “tap, tap… is anyone out there?” She doesn’t need to do that anymore but I guess I could…

Tap, tap… hello?

Leave me a comment or send me an e-mail. I’d entertain any constructive feedback you have to share.

Enjoy everything!

Love, Michele

Loving My Seedlings, a Lot!

I really am! This appears to be my breakthrough year in the seed starting world. I think I got it and I love it! The time that I spent this winter reading and researching really seems to be paying off. I have quite a few plants ready for the garden now and there are more coming. Next year, look out, those seed companies won’t know what hit them! Did I mention that I finally got it and that it’s fun?

Okay, enough… here’s what I have at the moment:

IMG_5728This is my seed starting set-up. It’s simple; two shop lights with one fluorescent and one plant bulb in each. Next year I’m hoping to add a third light in the middle so that the entire table is covered.  I used the plant bulbs here at home, but at Bass River (work) I used one cool white and one warm white bulb. The seeds did very well there but I do see a faster growth rate and a sturdier plant with the plant bulb. The idea is to create light that mimics the light outdoors and the plant bulb is much brighter which is ideal for seedlings that would thrive in full sun.

IMG_5727These cantaloupe and watermelon seeds emerged from their bags (you can read about my handy dandy bag system here) the other day. They’ve been living in soil for two days and their well on their way.

IMG_5725This is cumin and purple alyssum. I have a love/hate relationship with these jiffy pots. They dry out quickly and I need to keep a very close eye on them. Actually, keeping a close eye is very helpful to new seedlings, peat pot or not.

IMG_5721The cilantro on the left is organic slow bolt, and the pots on the right are coriandrum sativum… there’s kind of a big difference in success rate so far.

IMG_5720We’ll have three varieties of basil this year; Genovese in the back, Red Rubin in the middle and Siam Queen in the foreground.

IMG_5714I started a little bit of summer squash in a jar a few days ago, planted it in the soil last night and I think they’ll be ready for the garden by the end of this coming week. I have some new ideas to help deal with the squash bugs this year so I caved and planted zucchini, even though I swore I’d take the year off after last year’s difficulties.

IMG_5702Up in my office the marigolds are showing their second set of leaves. I’m probably moving them outside later today to maximize the light and good air circulation.

IMG_5695These pumpkins and cucumbers from a few weeks ago need to be planted out asap. The weather looks pretty good so they should be in by Monday.

IMG_5691 If I could go back several weeks, I would have transplanted these tomatoes into larger containers. I think/hope the yellow at the bottom is because they need more root space. Looks like it’s time for these to hit the garden too.

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As you can see I have a lot more to do. The carrots need to be direct seeded, the beans will follow the peas that are growing, and the squash will probably be quick started then planted outside in the next week or two. I think I missed the window for growing peppers. What should we do? Start them indoors now anyway, direct sow or buy some plants?

IMG_5733My little girl started these seeds all by herself.

This is the best motivation in the world to share the garden with my kids, and with all of you. 🙂

Hope you plant something today!

Love, Michele

 

 

A Few Thoughts About Growing Tomatoes From Seed

I’ve really gotten in to starting seeds this year. I have three varieties of tomatoes growing (Rutgers, Matina and Supersweet 100) and I think it’s safe to say that their doing quite well.  I spent a lot of time reading about seeds over the winter so I’ve approached the project from a different knowledge base this year.

I’ve made a few simple adjustments:

–I started the seeds on damp towels in sealed plastic bags and planted them in seed starting mix as soon as they germinated. This is one of my new favorite approaches with seeds of all kinds. When I visited my friend Betsey (the onion lady) in January she showed me that her husband often starts “harder to germinate” seeds in plastic bags. I’ve also experimented with forcing germination at work lately with great success. Betsey recommended a blog called Tomato Dirt  and as I read over their many tips for growing tomatoes from seed, I’ll be darned, this method was mentioned again. I tried it and the extra humidity got things going and before I knew it I had beautiful seedlings that had been transplanted into potting soil.

–I’ve kept the lights very close to the plants, about two inches above the tops of the seedlings. This keeps them from getting leggy and encourages them to grow stronger and sideways, rather than upward and spindly.

–I’ve brushed them gently with my hand once a day which also encourages a stronger, stockier plant.

–The lights are on a timer, twelve hours on, twelve hours off.

–I used one florescent bulb and one plant bulb in a regular shop light.

–I water from below encouraging strong root formation.

–I used seed starter containing vermiculite to encourage root formation.

–I talk to them, love them and spend time with them as I work on other projects.

I’d be growing well too if I were these tomatoes!

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Here they are today. I’m thinking about moving them away from the lights and up to my sunny office, maybe even into larger pots.

Are you growing tomatoes this year? How’s it going? Share your tips in the comments!

and of course, enjoy everything!

Michele

What’s Happening in the Garden–October 10

It really feels like fall out in the garden. I can’t say that I love it, I’m a summer person, but it is beautiful here and the Holidays are right around the corner, then the snow, and then spring will be here.. sorry.. I’m getting off track :).

Okay, out to the garden! Here’s our white pine tree undergoing it’s annual fall browning. It may look a bit sad but this is just part of  it’s  fall process. You can read more about the conifer life cycle here in this article by Margaret at A Way to Garden, one of my very favorite gardening blogs. The conifers will be just fine, they really will!

We still have a few hints of summer,  like mesclun.

and some sage.  I need to dry some for the winter.

The tomatoes are hanging on. This tomato plant volunteered from last year and grew all over the asparagus bed.

The peppers like this cool weather.

There’s lots of green tomatoes. My neighbor and I were talking about what to do with them last night.

This morning on the phone my mom said that they can be wrapped in newspaper to slowly ripen. I may try that… will keep you posted!

The cabbage are just about ready.  

There’s still some basil hanging on

and zinnias and gladiolas.

I’m wondering if the gladiolas can winter over in the ground, or should I pull them and put them away for the winter?

(I should probably pull them out)

Our trees are still quite green. we should be seeing some good fall color soon, I hope!

There’s so much clean up to do. We’ll get there, one bed at a time.

Happy fall!  Enjoy everything!

Michele