Thursday, March 30, 2017

March's Garden (2017)

There is one word to describe the March garden.  It is a mess.

This is the view from the back of the garden looking south with the woods behind me.  It is on the bottom of a low hill which is why the ground stays wet longer after a rain.  That is good in the dry summer, but painful in the wet spring when you want the ground dry enough to plow.  It is as large as it seems in the picture and is a long walk from the house to the garden.  I do not "pop" out to the garden to pick a few herbs for dinner.  I harvest everything at once. 

This unsightly mess is a work project in process.  Originally we planted a Concord grapevine on a trellis to hide everything from the view of the house.  Last year a fire ant colony killed the grapevine deep underground around the root.  We did not know what happened until it died.  Bill tore the aging trellis down and is working on rebuilding the fire pit, which is necessary to safely burn termite infested sticks.

The mountain of junk beside the trash cans is from cleaning out the garage.  Next, we will be cleaning out the tool shed in the back.  We are waiting for Reese to return home (if he remembers where we live) with the truck so we can make a HUGE dump run.  Knowing he will be required to haul a stinky, maggot infested load might keep him from ever coming back.  He never reads my posts, just looks at the pictures, so I am safe in writing this and telling the world.  He will never know until he gets home.  Wonder what I can cook to entice him to visit?????

Update:  Reese did read this post and I was caught and apologized.  All the groveling was worth it to be able to fry him some chicken again.

Behind the fire pit is my AWESOME compost pile.  To a non-gardener, this looks like a pile of gunk; but to me, it is gold, compost in the making.  Turning it over at regular times is not something I bother doing.  It is easier to just wait until spring planting and dig up what I need.  If you wait long enough, everything breaks down...eventually.

I luv my compost pile.
These are some of the plants that survived the winter without any protection. A few kale plants remain and they came back to life as soon as it warmed.  

This is "Scarlet Kale" and has become my favorite since I like the flavor the best.   All my other kale seeds will be planted (because I can't throw seeds away) but my plans are to only save seeds from this plant.

Collard greens are coming back to life also, even though they had a hard winter.  Now they are thriving.

Egyptian (or Walking) onions are perennial and survived the winter with ease.  Each plant sends up a shoot with a small bunch of bulblets on the tip which falls over and root.  They end up "walking" all around the garden.  

We have not mowed or plowed the garden yet because it is too wet.  I like to forage around for wayward seedlings that have sprouted.  The seeds may have been dropped by accident, blown by the wind, but for whatever reason, a free salad is waiting to be picked among the weeds.

Red Romaine lettuce.

Turnip Green.
This hoop house, the one closest to the field, will be staying up for a while longer so I can experiment planting various seeds under it.  It will need careful hand weeding and planting to not harm the older plants.

The spinach which was planted late in the season and then languished all winter, are now growing so fast I can't harvest them quick enough.

This is further on down the hoop house where different plants are growing.

This is the one and only savoy cabbage that was under the hoop house.  It seems hardy and has endured the winter weather well, just a very slow grower. 

These are the two side by side hoop houses which are closest to the house.  They will be coming down and the whole area plowed under. 

They are going to seed and the bees love the blooms.  

This is one of the cabbages from this hoop house that has not bolted yet and it will be eaten for dinner.  I am getting ready to harvest the row in preparation for spring plowing.  

NO!   NO!   NO!   SCOOTER!


It seems there is enough room on the compost pile for a few more cabbages.   Sigh.

April's Garden (2017)

February's Garden (2017)

I Was Caught...Again

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Winter Garden, Evaluation (2016-2017)

I declare winter over.  Done.  Finished.  Now that I have established it is spring, I will share the successes and failures of my 2016-2017 winter garden.

The biggest success was using a BIG, STRONG, HANDSOME SON to do all the work getting the garden ready. Thank you, Reese.  However, he has moved away from home so now I will need to adjust my future garden plans.

Reese removing the hoop house covering from the plastic bag.
Another big success was the covering I placed over the hoop houses. In an earlier post December's Garden (2016), A Giant Cover Up I wrote about getting the garden ready for winter and gave the information where I purchased all the supplies.

The one-ounce weight Dewitt brand covering worked perfectly.  It was thinner than the covering I used in the winter garden of 2015-2016.  My concern was that it would be too lightweight.  The plants would freeze under the covering and then thaw when the sun rose.   One ounce seemed able to protect but was still thin enough to let the sunshine through.

It held up well under the weight of the snow which was never more than about 4 inches at one time.  However, it did freeze to the ground and would rip apart when the sides were lifted.  After we realized it would rip, we learned to open it carefully.  Moving slowly is hard to do when it is freezing, windy and snowing.  The tears are along the edges and not bad enough to keep us from reusing it for at least a few more years.

Putting the vegetable rows close together was a mistake.  At planting time, the rows looked far apart especially when everything was small sprouts.  However, the hoop houses ended up being too close together to easily harvest from both sides.  

January's Garden

February's Garden
Using fencing wire worked perfectly.  My hands did not have enough strength to cut it apart; it required a man's hands to work the cutters.  After we were almost finished, Reese realized (when he noticed the blisters) it would have been easier to have used an electric saw.  

Placing the wire about 2 1/2 feet apart and connecting them with string worked perfectly.  Together it helped support the tunnels when the storm winds blew.

Using the wire landscaping staples was an EPIC failure.  They held the cover down while the ground was dry, but, after a soaking rain, they would fly out with the first strong gust of wind.  We then had to rescue the cover from the other side of the yard.  

Epic Fail
We solved the problem by gathering up rocks, blocks, fence posts, anything with enough weight to hold the sides down.  Removing the blocks to lift the cover was not easy but I learned to just roll them off the edge. Longer staples might work better...maybe?  I need to solve this problem before next winter and welcome any ideas about what to do.

Big Epic Fail
Painting the staples was a success and a failure. They were easy to spot in the dirt because of the bright color. However, the orange paint chipped off into small pieces and disappeared into the dirt. There are not enough chips to ruin my garden, but I don't like anything toxic in my soil. Everything either breaks down or leaches chemicals into the soil eventually.

The biggest problem was the DRAMATIC attack of the armadillos shared here Something Pretty, Something Putrid and Something Pretty Putrid.  The drama continued when Mrs. Monster Returned.   Then finally, Santa Brought Me an Armadillo and ended the war.

Due to the armadillo damage followed by rabbits and squirrels later, I lost all of the following vegetables:

Swiss Chard
Sugar Beets
Snow Peas
Brussel Sprouts

I lost most of the following vegetables:

Collard Greens
Chinese vegetables

I lost some of the Australian Winter Peas.

I was left with:

A few Chinese vegetables and winter radishes but they can't survive deep into the winter.
Mustard greens and turnip greens which only Bill likes
Australian Winter Peas 
Onion Tops
Enough spinach and lettuce to make salads
And PLENTY of cabbages

We did not starve but our garden vegetable choices were severely limited.  I handled this by trying different recipes and buying vegetables from the grocery store when we needed a variety.

What one thing would I do differently if I could go back in time? 

Easy.  I would have put the covers up two months earlier and used them to protect the winter vegetables from the armadillos and rabbits.  That would have saved the 40% of the garden they destroyed.

Was it worth the money spent on supplies?  Absolutely. 
  • I spent $50 for the wire to hold the hoop houses up.  It is still in perfect shape and will last many years.  If the winter garden is bigger next year, I may need to purchase more.  
  • The cover cost $45 plus $20 for shipping.  We used very little and will be able to reuse it again and again.
  • The landscaping pins cost about $12 and that was a waste of money.  They have been trashed.
  • Most of my seeds were saved from last year but I used so many repeatedly planting, I will now need to purchase more
Did I save enough on vegetables to cover the cost of everything? 

No.  If I had been able to harvest Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots and kale, the savings would have paid for everything.  However, I consider the cost of the hoop houses an investment in a garden tool.

What will I do different this coming year?  
  • Every plant in the next winter garden will be under a hoop house.  Everything.  Period.  No exceptions.  It is too much work plowing, planting, weeding, and watering to then see everything destroyed by pests.
  • The hoop houses will be further apart so I can harvest from both sides.
  • I need to solve the problem of weighing the sides down.  The landscaping pins did not work.  Rolling the blocks away did work but I need to find an easier solution.
  • Bill will be using a different gun.  He is switching from a .22 long rifle to a .223 caliber with a 1 by 4 1/2 power scope with a laser and flashlight mounted on the rifle.  Meaning (for novices like me), he has mounted a laser and powerful flashlight on the gun barrel.  I no longer need to hold the flashlight beside him while we dance across the back deck all night long in search of destructive critters.  Gun safety is something we take seriously. The armadillos are still around our neighborhood.  We see their destruction when we take our afternoon walks.  They will return; but, this time, we will be ready.
  • I plan on using the hoop houses this spring and maybe summer to see how they work deterring bugs.
  • No cabbages will be planted in the spring garden.  I have had enough.
Overall, I consider the winter garden this past year (2016-2017) to have been a smashing success.  It was definitely worth the effort.  Even though there were huge problems with pests, the number of fresh winter greens harvested more than offset the loses.  If anyone might be considering growing a winter garden, I encourage you to read my past posts and plant something, anything.  I made ALL of the mistakes so hopefully, you won't.

I do plan on a winter garden again this fall.  It will be easier since I have the supplies and the fencing wire is already cut.  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, I welcome help about anything I can do differently this coming year.  Fall really isn't that far away.

December's Garden, A Giant Cover Up (2016)

Winter Garden, Cover Up (2015 - 2016)

Winter Garden, Sunlight Hours (2016)

Reese Moved Away from Home

Something Pretty, Something Putrid and Something Pretty Putrid (2016)

Mrs. Monster has Returned (2016)

Santa Brought Me an Armadillo (2016)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

March Madness

It appears the month of March is mad at me and everyone else around town.  What has angered her so?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March Blew in Like a Lion

Blew the door off of the tool shed.

Blew the siding off of the house.

Blew the branches off of my favorite tree in the woods behind the house.

Blew this little tree down which was not a surprise. I knew it was about to go last year when I leaned against it and it swayed.

Tried but failed to blow this tree down.


The next to fall.

No matter how hard the winds blow, these never fall.

March, it is time you go out like a lamb!

Monday, March 20, 2017