Posts tagged ‘compost’
My goodness, now I know I am a rubbish blogger! I haven’t posted for two months again, but since it is raining and I have gotten to the end of the pressing household jobs, I thought I would do an update.
Well, this month has been unbelievable in terms of weather – so warm – it nearly made up for the wet August we had.. I’m not so sure my tomatoes would agree, but my cabbage, lettuce and cauliflower might! I have them under row cover and plastic that I am closing up on cold nights (last night was 50F though, so no need for putting them to bed last night!) and opening during warm days. Quite a lot of work, but they are all looking really good – I hope they mature before the number of hours of light starts affecting them.
I have been composting like a mad thing over the last month or so, I collected a lot of leaves from neighbors and friends – with my new toy – an electric leaf vacuum/mulcher (Worx). It works very well but I think I have gotten tennis elbow from hauling it about – plenty of time to get over that though with the winter approaching fast. I made three new compost piles with grass and straw and most recently now chicken manure & bedding – yes that’s right we have four new residents – four lovely red hens (Red Stars) – donated to me by a friend with a CSA!
We built (an experience that is a story in itself) a cute chicken house (that matches our house) and are happily collecting eggs – so far so good. The girls are entertaining and seem happy, although I feel bad that the run I built is a little small – it was supposed to be moveable so they could have new pasture every day, but we need to work out how to make the house moveable too (very heavy), that is a Spring job I think.
I was recently very satisfied by my ability to feed our visiting friends two weeks in a row with food almost exclusively from the winifredslittleacre – big egg-centered breakfast, then later a roast dinner consisting of meat (locally grown) and a medley of roast vegetables – including sweet potatoes, swede (rutabaga), turnip, potatoes, parsnip, butternut and delicata squash. Followed by peach crumble (using peaches from our tree frozen in syrup). Delicious!
In the garden itself, amazingly I managed to get nearly every empty bed sown with cover crop – winter rye, hairy vetch or clover (which I was using as a living mulch under the tomatoes). That should add some nice organic matter to the soil for next season and protect the soil over winter. I planted 123 garlic cloves back in October – which seems premature now that November has been so warm – they are putting up green shoots, which hopefully won’t be too much of a problem for next year’s growth. I mulched them with pine needles (following a last weed – I’m trying to be more diligent about that – especially now I have my new scuffle hoe!)
I have already started planning for next year – those seed catalogues have begun to arrive already – sooo tempting all the different varieties, etc. I am planning a couple of different edible landscapes this year so I have to take a slightly different outlook on the plants – I will look at their aesthetic value as well as their functionality. I also want to save some more seeds this year, so I will have to be more diligent about choosing open pollinated varieties. I haven’t decided if I am going to try and sell more produce next year – I have to do some survey work and talk to a couple of people yet. I did start to add up the value of all the vegetables and fruit that I grew this year – so far the total was over $1000! Which is great – I have to go back to my plans and see how the actual production compared to the quantities I was aiming for – more on that later!
I finally dug my potatoes this weekend – I was concerned about them rotting with all this rain, but they were fine and I was surprised to uncover several really large ones – both Red Pontiac and Russets. I haven’t weighed them all in yet, but I think the yield was pretty good – I have them curing in the garage since they were so wet and muddy. I am planning to store them in an improvised root cellar – more on that later! The beds I pulled the potatoes from will be used for the garlic planting in a couple of weeks or so – I need to add some more compost to improve the drainage and add some nutrients. Once planted, I will mulch the bed with pine needles from a friend and leave it to go over the winter.
With the exception of the snake gourd (which I was growing for my son’s birthday party – which was this weekend but they weren’t ready – maybe they’ll make good Christmas presents!), the squash plants are all but dead – the powdery mildew took them all out really quickly and effectively! Luckily, most of the fruit had set and was pretty mature, so the pumpkins are turning orange and the butternut squash seem to be ready – I didn’t harvest them since they still seem to be firmly attached to the stems – maybe they are still getting some sustenance from the stems, who knows? I do have them all resting on wood so they won’t rot on the ground.
The raspberries are doing very well – now that the rains/cold weather has killed most of the wasps, the fruit is much safer to harvest! I am told they are very tasty – unfortunately I am not a fan of raspberries so I harvest them (with love) for my family (and some special friends)! I am hoping to get enough for jam (my youngest son likes to have it on his morning piece of toast), the homemade strawberry jam was sooo good I hope the raspberry jam is too.
The garden & I are awaiting the first frost with bated breath – just before it arrives I have to rush out and pick all the remaining tomatoes and peppers, and dig up all the sweet potatoes – it will be interesting to see how they big are since the groundhog enjoyed their leaves at various times this season. I can tell you with confidence that row cover & dog hair doesn’t help too much at keeping him out! (Big holes to prove it!)
My leaf hunting will begin in earnest pretty soon – I have a new electric leaf vacuum/mulcher that I can’t wait to put into action. I am going solicit all neighbors and friends to get their leaves and mulch them up for compost. I was hoping to get one of my sons to do it, but so far not a lot of interest has been shown in the hard work department!
I was away for a couple of weeks and even with the help of a super house/garden sitter – the weeds had taken a hold over some of the beds! It took me all last week (and a lot of sweat) to get it under control, but now I’m back on schedule – I have started to implement the fall/winter vegetable plan.
I sowed some brassicae in the cold frame (and covered it with burlap for shade). I need to dig up some potatoes to make room for the transplants in three weeks or so. After doing the Weed Management part of the County Extension’s course in Organic Vegetable Production, I know that I should prepare the beds two weeks in advance, then slice off any pesky weeds that sprout just before I transplant or sow more seeds.
I emptied a small bed of strawberries since they didn’t produce very well and were infected with a fungal disease – I am going to use it for carrots. My best carrot crop ever was from the cold frame this year, sown in February and picked in June – the rest of my attempts this season have proved fruitless (or carrotless), however I am determined to work out the best way to grow them in the main garden, and I want to try them after the frost – they are supposed to be really sweet then. Here is my plan – I will build up the sides of this small square bed and fill it with composted leaves and bought compost. Then sow the carrots and leave them under a board or burlap for a couple of weeks – then flame weed the bed just before the carrot seedlings come up… we’ll see!
On the harvesting front – we have enjoyed an abundance of blueberries – so juicy and nice, raspberries (don’t know if they are good, since I don’t eat them) and green beans have been particularly good – I read in the Victory Garden cookbook that after steaming, you should dry them out in a dry saucepan before adding butter or whatever else – it works! They are delicious!
I’m a bit worried about the tomatoes – they look OK but they do have signs of some disease at the bottom – unfortunately due to a bad reaction to a wasp sting, I wasn’t able to attend the Disease Management part of the Organic Vegetable Production course, so I’m not sure what it is – I’m hoping it is not Early or Late Blight. What I did learn from reading the literature though was that once a plant shows signs of disease, it is generally too late to do anything about it by spraying, so I have been removing infected leaves (in dry weather) and putting them under plastic to kill them (spores cannot live on dead plant tissue). My Early Girl tomatoes are not living up to their “before July 4th” expectation – still green.. I guess you have to have a greenhouse to get them that early. The trellising technique seems to keeping the growth of the tomatoes under control, the real test is when the plants are full of fruit and it rains like crazy – then we’ll see if they are still standing (unlike the cages that normally fall down).
I’m very happy with all my companion planting – the borage, marigolds, catnip, alyssum and many others are all attracting the good bugs – I haven’t seen that many “bad bugs” so far. An interesting development, whilst I was away, the radishes I planted around the squash and the cucumber went to flower and the honey bees love them! I have left them in place, they even have seed pods on them, so I might save the seed (have to check they are not hybrids first).
After a short break to pull together the final pieces of organization for the Lehigh Valley Green Home & Building Expo and to work the event itself, I was back in the garden this afternoon – and what a beautiful day – 50F and sunny! (Snow is on the way tonight though).
I did manage to plant my peas last Monday (3/15) – I needed to get them in, in order to hopefully have them ready before my trip to the UK in June. I put in a total of 100 seeds of four different varieties – I soaked them all first for about half an hour and then rolled them in innoculant to help them fix nitrogen from the air.
I started today by harvesting compost from a tumbler composter and my “Darlek”-like container. I got a wheel barrow full and spread it under my fruit trees and around the asparagus – and guess what – there are some tiny spears starting to come up! Hurrah! The compost adds some nutrients but also helps fights any diseases lurking around the base of the trees.
On the seed starting front, I did sow some Early Girl tomatoes last week too – they have germinated already, so we are on the way to having tomatoes by July 4th! (That’s the plan anyhow). The cosmos and marigold seedlings are doing well, but the beets are not looking very happy and the parsley has not shown any signs of life. I fed them using a weak solution of fish emulsion. In the cold frame, things are going a bit better – pretty much everything I sowed is coming up – I thinned the seedlings out (by snipping off the weaker seedlings with scissors so as not to disturb the roots), but may have to transplant some of the lettuce into the garden to give everything enough room.