Monday, March 31, 2014

Problems in the Pea Patch

This is the first year I've had problems growing peas.

The seeds I planted (a week before Saint Patrick's day), haven't sprouted.

Suspecting that it was early, I also planted a bunch of peas in the greenhouse as starts. They did wonderfully, and I transplanted the out around 2/20 as 4" and 5" starts.

Immediately, they were eaten.

Suspecting slugs, I put out coffee grounds and slug bait, and put out a few more transplants. Nothing changed. The new transplants were eaten just as quickly.

So I sprayed the area with bug spray and put out some more. These were eaten the first night.

I've since tried two new strategies, and since I'm trying them both at the same time, it's hard to say if the success comes from one or the other.

An online friend suggested putting out diatomaceous earth to make life hard for earwigs and other bugs. I couldn't believe I hadn't considered that; I even had some! So I did that.

But I also had a few milk jugs. I cut off the bottoms, and put them around the fresh transplants.

I don't know if the diatomaceous earth helped (it didn't hurt!), but the milk jugs appear to have done a good thing.

Now to figure out when to remove the jugs. I'm guessing "before they grow out the top."


Update 4/1/14: Got some sugar peas in the seed of the month club. Planted 'em same day. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Steps Into the Hill

Since we built the chicken coop up on the little rise in the back, we've been going up and down that little hill, several times a day, feeding them, letting them in and out to forage, gathering eggs. And we often go up the hill to add things to the compost pile, to gather compost, to work in the garden up there. 

And then, the rains. When it rains hard, that hill, trampled as it has been, gets unnaturally slippery. I've landed on my hindquarters more times than I care to, coming down that slope.

"Failure to plan," or so they say, "is to plan to fail."

It's my intent to provide a means of getting up and down without staining my britches unduly.

It's time for some steps. 

The next day, I added a ramp next door: for wheelbarrows and lawn mowers. I need to finish off the top of this one, and even out the stones, but I kind of like it.

I might plant some violets in the gaps between them.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Asparagus in the Garden

There's a beautiful woman in my home who loves asparagus. I guess it's time to learn how to grow it.

I planted a couple of crowns in the garden. Forgot to take pictures until I'd gotten them planted. I dug in a whole lot of compost (maybe a third) and added a bunch of eggshells for calcium content, which they're supposed to like.
I had attempted a couple of weeks earlier, trying to start asparagus from seed. "You can't do that! You might as well start garlic from seed!" they told me. They must know better than I do.

So I forgot about them and bought the crowns and planted them. Then I checked on the seeds, and I was surprised: I have some asparagus starting from seed!

I haven't the faintest idea what to do with them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

An Experiment in Fish Fertilizer

For years, I've heard about how wonderful fish fertilizer is. I decided to try an experiment.

I bought a dollar's worth of "Feeder Fish" from the local pet store, and a little bit of fish food.

I put them in a bucket, and I intentionally did not clean out the bucket first: I wanted the algae and things in the bottom of the bucket. 
Every morning, I pull out a couple of watering cans worth of water, which the fishies have been thoughtfully fertilizing gently, and I replace it with water from the rain barrel.

It's awfully mild in any fertilizer properties, and that's probably not a problem, since I use it every day.

Besides, the fish are cute.

This summer, I plan to release them in some drainage ponds in the area: there they'll eat mosquito larvae and make us all happy!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Drawback to Rain Barrels

It rained really hard one day last week. The overflow on the rain barrel was overwhelmed.

I'm thankful for a greenhouse floor that's not watertight.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Keeping Track of the Radishes

I pretty often forget what I've planted where.

I try to put in signs or sticks, but the writing wears off, or I just don't remember to put 'em in.

Here's an attempt to rectify that: I planted radishes; here's where I planted them.

Note that we have a length of gutter on the side of the greenhouse.  Now we have some radishes in that gutter. We'll plant other things there later.

Let's see if I remember where I put 'em. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Store Bought Basil

We love fresh basil.

We bought a pot full of basil plants from Trader Joe's. The folks at Joe's tell us that people have trouble growing them.

So I separated out the plants, and planted the in 4 individual 1-gallon pots.The one nice pot is for indoors one day.

It's growing wonderfully. I've already been using some in my cooking, and I'll be ready to make dried basil shortly.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

New Old Shovels

I rebuilt a couple of shovel handles this weekend. I really like how they turned out.

The top shovel was cut down from a regular, $10 variety, garden shovel. The shovel blade is now about ⅓ smaller than a "normal" shovel, and it's Milady's favorite gardening shovel. 

Unfortunately, she used it for prying last fall, and broke the shovel handle, right at the base of the blade.

The second blade came without a handle from a relative's estate. I had another busted shovel handle. 

So I put a new belt on my 6" belt sander, and took up the foreshortened shovel handles. I tapered them down to fit the blades, riveted them on with framing nails, and then sharpened them on the grinder. Not quite sharp enough to shave with. Then I sanded the handles down (they were old and splintery).

Both shovels are about 4' long now. That is actually a pretty good length for our raised beds and our modest size flower beds. And both shovels are not not-quite-razor-sharp, though that won't last real long.

Milady loves her smaller bladed shovel in the flower beds, and I like the long blade of the square one for turning the soil in the raised beds. It digs deeper and brings up more from the depths, and I think I end up with a better garden bed; certainly it's tilled deeper than with a regular, full-size shovel.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Preparing a Bed That's Had Winter Rye

So here's one of the beds that had winter rye growing in it over winter.

The rye keeps weeds from growing, and when it's tilled in, it adds quite a bit of organic matter.

I'll just chop it down, pile coffee grounds and compost on top of it, and till it in.

Here are a couple of similar beds, with the rye chopped down, and a load of coffee grounds piled on top.

I'll add about a slightly greater amount of fresh compost, and dig it in.

Sunset Magazine did some extensive testing of coffee grounds in a garden. They concluded that "up to 25-35 percent by volume coffee grounds
can be blended with mineral soils of any type to improve structure of those soils."

My beds aren't "mineral soil," so I use less than 10% coffee grounds, but it sure helps loosen them up. And the grounds release a lot of nitrogen as they decompose: kind of a time-release mechanism.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Building a Fire Pit

We decided we need a place for a campfire in the back yard.

Currently, we have a truck wheel, on top of a street sign, lifted up by a chimney brick. I like the truck wheel and the chimney brick; I don't love the street sign.
So I bought a hot water tank overflow tray ($10) and a bag of Sacrete ($4) and I'm making my own piece of concrete to support the firepit.

We may lose the chimney brick as well. Maybe it's OK for it to be on the ground, instead of 18" in the air?

So far, it seems to work pretty well. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A New Trellis

I've decided that I like growing veggies vertically.

I found a heavy duty fence that will pretty much stand up on its own; I've just staked the ends.

I'm thinking I may use this one for indeterminate tomatoes, beans, nasturtiums and cucumbers. The beans help out both the tomatoes and the cukes, and the nasturtiums make it all prettier. 

And I intend to make a second one to use for pumpkins and such. I'm hoping to specialize in the vine variety rather than the bush variety (zucchini won't go here, for example). My favorite German pumpkins, for example, are epic vines. I'll tie the fruits onto the fence. And the pumpkins like nasturtiums, too.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It's Starting to get Serious

Lily Miller Lemon Basil
Territorial Mammoth Sweet Basil
Herb Mix from a flower show.
 Lots of tomato starts.
More tomato starts
Lots of different pepper starts
Kale, Broccoli, Swiss Chard.
For sharing, probably.
Punpkins, squashes and some cucumbers.
For keeping.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

First Day of Compost Season

Middle of March. First mow of the season.

First Bed Planted.

Peas on the west side.

Started in the greenhouse two weeks ago. Sugar snaps, of course.
On the East side, top to bottom:

Peas, planted in the ground a week ago. No sign yet.

Salad. Lettuce blend.

Carrots. I think these are Danvers.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Experiment in a Chicken Run

We rather enjoy raising chickens. They’re a great deal of fun, and they make interesting noises. Besides, the eggs are yummy, and the really help the compost!

But we don’t like keeping them “cooped up.” So we let them out rather a lot. As a result, we have little compost-y chicken offerings all over the back yard, and we need to constantly police them: they aren’t allowed on the back patio, or in the herb gardens, or in the vegetable garden. They do NOT police themselves! Nobody relaxes when the chickens are out.

So I had the idea of putting up a fence and making a chicken run.

First I sketched it out. Yeah, ugly, I know, but pretty good for a cell phone!

This short piece of fence reaches from the coop to the compost bin.
This longer piece of fence reaches from the other side of the coop to the fence.

This is the temporary (experimental) version of the first fence: from the coop to the compost bin.

If this works out, I imagine a gate here, next to the coop. I also imagine much better fencing, more in line with the coop's construction. 

And this is how the other side came out: Room for the door to open, which also works pretty for herding them back home after their play time.

First Bed is Ready

Winter Rye,
Needing to be dug into the soil
So I couldn't take it any more. The rain paused for an hour or two, so I jumped up and prepared the first bed for planting. I dug in the winter rye and added a wheelbarrow full of fresh compost. 
Compost & rye is all dug in
and raked out. Ready for seed.

Fortunately, this is the bed for sugar snap peas, the earliest thing to go into the ground. I'm hoping they appreciate the good soil.
Digging in the
Winter Rye

Note that we don't plan on harvesting the sugar snaps. We invite family and friends, guests at our barbecues and such, to come graze on the peas while we're visiting before dinner. Maybe I should add some drink holders to the trellis?

I'm trying something new for peas this year: I'm starting peas indoors first. Next rain break, I'll plant pea seeds in the clean soil. 

When the starts get big enough, I'll put them out in the next row over. Then we'll get to compare: which method did better? 

I'm not sure starts make sense: you can plant so early outside. I did it this year because I wanted to plant something, darn it, and it was still freezing outside. But I've seen pea starts in the Farmers' Market, so maybe it can turn out to be useful. 

(The usual rule of thumb: have the peas in the ground by Saint Patrick's Day.)

(Comment: I feel a little strange, watching the reports of so much of the country buried in snow, while I'm digging in the garden, getting ready to plant the first seeds!)

A Few New Things

A few updates from Saturday.

I planted what looks like 30 starts: kale, cabbage, and Swiss chard. This tray is for giving away. Just planted these today.
This kale is mine. Several kinds. Planted a week ago.

I planted peas last weekend. They've begun to sprout. This one leads the pack.
Basil is getting its head above the dirt also.
Last fall, I planted some cauliflower starts, with the intent of letting them over-winter outside.
Winter happened too quickly. So they stayed in a pot all winter.

Also planted some tomatoes. They're too early, but I couldn't help myself.

Also began to use the compost. Mixed several shovels ful in the potting soil in the greenhouse, and a few more in the herb garden on the patio. One more around the pomegranate tree.