Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gorgeous day in NC!

It was a gorgeous Easter Sunday today! We went to mom's house and my kids and my great nephew colored and hunted eggs. We had our family celebration of Oz's birthday. He turns three on the April 30th.

We had a great meal that included a strawberry spinach salad. I have an abundant amount of spinach in my garden right now.

Tonight I brought Oz outside to let him play with his new gardening tools, gloves, and one of his new Tonka trucks. This gave me a great opportunity to fertilize, water, weed, and do some maintenance!

I wanted to share a recent tool purchase. It is a small folding hand saw that looks like a pocket knife on steroids.

I am calling it my Qis. I am a huge Star Trek fan and this tool reminds me a lot of a Klingon weapon bearing that name.

I bought it for $5 from Dollar General and I use it for everything: sawing down small trees, picking at particularly nasty poke roots, squishing bugs, pulling grape vines through the trellis, and getting underneath a nasty clump of grass! I've definitely gotten my $5 worth out of it! I am sure General Kang would have many better purposes for a Qis, but since I am just a puny human, I will not be using my Qis in battles to the death so I can get into Sto'vo'kor. Tonight and yesterday I used it to get rid of the ever persistent trees that plague my garden, hopefully once and for all. Which is kind of a battle to the death, I suppose! Here is a before and after I used my Qis and my battle gauntlets (gardening gloves) to defeat the herbaceous hordes:

I then used my goggles of ultimate sight (glasses) to defeat a certain little guy who has been eating my cabbage and broccoli plants.

I hunted and hunted and finally found the culprit... Can you find him? It is a little like Where's Waldo, he looks a lot like a cabbage leaf. He is compost now. Quite a bit flatter than he started as well!

I also watered my garden really well as things were looking a tad dry. When I water, I can see the green popping against the brown and black of the growing medium so much better. I discovered quite a few things... Beans, Parsley, Cucumbers, Squash, and Zucchini are all peeking through now!

As you can see, I am also having some crab grass issues! I also discovered blooms on my mammoth melting peas!

To close today, I will give you a little idea of what is happening right now as I type. I am seated upon my favorite camp chair, and I hear no fewer than seven distinct bird calls. I also hear some bats chattering, crickets chirping, children playing, and a tree frog croaking. A beautiful brown bird has come to visit my grape arbor and to scavenge a bit from my garden. I've seen some large juicy worms in there, but she seems to prefer nibbling my lettuce. I don't mind sharing a bit. Maybe she has babies to feed as well.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trying to increase my mood

I skipped out on an opportunity to go to Taekwondo class today. I have kind of been feeling a little hermit like. Honestly, I am just seriously tired. Activities for our school year are winding down a bit and my activities in my garden are really gearing up. My grapes have come out and are growing like crazy. The established red grape has all kinds of babies on it and the small one is really starting to grow.

My black berries are covered in blooms! I'm so excited!

I've got broccoli and spinach I will harvest tomorrow along with some green onions and baby lettuce.

My broccoli is beautiful this year, but I have some problem poke weeds I need to destroy!

I also discovered today that my parsley and asparagus are up and my sunflowers are developing nicely!

The only thing I am really disappointed in and I have not snapped pictures of are my strawberries. I weeded the bed, but they are really are puny and pathetic this year. I may go buy some more mature plants to put in there. I have three strawberries, one is pink and I am hoping to beat the birds to it. I am heading out tomorrow morning in search of strawberries to pick at a farm to take and share with my mom.

I am craving fresh produce desperately! Can't wait to partake tomorrow!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

So excited!

The kids and I spent the day cleaning the yard, mowing, weeding, and preparing for planting this weekend. I began clearing the fence wall, mowed the whole 1.3 acres, edged my garden, trimmed small trees away from the larger ones, cut down a dying peach tree, wove my grape vine into the trellis a bit, planted a few more sun flowers, added to my compost piles, put some coffee grounds into the garden, dug holes for thirty tomato plants and significantly added color to my farmer's tan!

Ooh! And I discovered this:

Evie found some newly hatched spiders while I was mowing. We didn't want to mow over them, so we took a couple of jars and relocated them to the garden. They took up residence in the jar and were still there at dusk. Pretty little things! Tiny and orange. There had to be a hundred or more!

My back yard is looking really nice. I'd love to add some lasagna beds to the front yard and side of my house. I can only expand my back yard garden beds so much before I have to start chopping down trees. Unless it is a yucky old black walnut, I'm not doing that!

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Monday, April 11, 2011

First Harvest!

The best day of the year occurred in my garden on Sunday! My first harvest! I needed to thin out my lettuce a bit. I planted the rows pretty thickly and every variety needed pruning. My spinach is also big enough to be eaten. The benefit to me is a yummy baby spring green salad. I mixed the baby lettuce and the spinach with chopped kiwi, strawberries, mushrooms, and broccoli from the store and made a really delicious salad.

This begins two months of having fresh spinach and lettuce in my house!

My other row of potatoes is finally peeking through the ground and I found some more volunteer potatoes in a few spots in my garden. I'm going to move one of them because it is in a really inconvenient spot where I would like to plant other things.

I uncovered my tomatoes as Gardeninggurugoforth suggested, but the past two weeks have been busy and getting out there to care for them has not been easy and only two of the young plants made it - a Brandywine and a Grandpa Charlie. Disappointing, but next year, I will use his radiant heat method with bottles of water. I did notice that the Grandpa Charlie Tomato has sprouted some roots along its stem near the bottom and seems really healthy.

Spring fever is always so hard! I want so badly to have that first tomato sandwich, but I can honestly say that I'm not sure putting the tomatoes out early does a whole lot of good! My plants inside have done really well. I've been slowly hardening them off outdoors and moving them back indoors in cooler weather. I have a lot really great plants now from it! I may find out, though, when green houses start their tomatoes, because all the store bought tomatoes are a bit larger than mine. This occurred last year as well. I bought a few larger tomato plants from a local greenhouse last year, but in the end, my plants got just as huge, and the tomatoes just as delicious as the greenhouse tomato plants. I'm not sure what the difference is in the way I raise my plants. However, I did lose a few more of my tomato babies, than my greenhouse babies last year. I think because of the size of the plants. How do I get my plants to be bigger and stronger? Are my plants smaller and weaker because my house is warmer than a greenhouse would be? Do they start them earlier? Do they repot to make for stronger root systems? Hmm... I really need to find someone willing to teach me their secrets. Maybe a weekend volunteer job at a greenhouse is in order next winter? It might help my seasonal depression to spend my Saturday mornings tending to plants in a great big greenhouse. Maybe I should go stand by someone's greenhouse and hold up a sign that says, "will work for spring plants" on it! Maybe I should ask my family for a combined Mother's day, Christmas, Birthday gift of my own good sized green house in my back yard.

Next weekend, (April 15-17) I will put out all the rest of my tomato plants get some pepper plants from the local farmer's market and many of my seeds both in my flower garden and in my vegetable garden:
Straight Eight Cucumbers
Black Diamond Watermelon
Blue Flax
Early Prolific Straight Neck Squash
Black Beauty Zucchini
Grey Zucchini
Cocozelle Summer Squash
Burelle's Jumbo Melon
Dixie Queen Watermelon
Moon and Stars Watermelon
Golden Wax Bush Beans
Blue Lake Bush Beans
Golden Bantam Corn

April 15 is supposed to be the date that there will be no more frost this season in North Carolina and is when lots of folks plant their garden. A few years ago, we had a late freeze that killed the blooms (little tassels filled with pollen) on my pecan trees and black walnut trees. But the likelihood of a late frost is not so much that I worry too much.

I will also be purchasing a nice sized roll of fencing this week some time to make new tomato cages. Last year, I used store bought tomato cages and it didn't work out so well. This year, I am planting all of my tomatoes in a row so I can have room in my beds to plant bush beans as a border crop to my tomatoes. I've thought about letting a few of my tomatoes run in the garden and take root and see how they do. I've never done that before, but I have had a few branches break, take root, and produce fruit late in the season.

Evie's little flower garden is doing quite well. Her wild flowers and sunflowers have sprouted, and I will let her pick out her own seed pack of cucumbers this week and we will install an existing trellis.

I have so much to do, but for some reason, I do not get overwhelmed emotionally by my outdoor projects like I do with my indoor projects. I don't feel anxiety when I think about the tall grass like I do when I look at a pile of laundry. Even though it takes just about as much time to do that pile of laundry as it does to mow the grass and it is just as futile - the laundry will keep coming and the grass will keep growing! But for today, I fight the war on ignorance (teach my kids) and prepare for tomorrow's Science Olympiad Class. If I have time, the kids and I will head out after lunch and finish cleaning the yard so I can hopefully mow one day this week before planting this weekend.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gardening with kids and so much more!

There are some days where you just take a step back and really see what is happening. The kids and I accomplished so much in the yard today. We started the day outdoors right after lunch. I set the kids to clearing the yard of fallen branches while I assembled my daughter's new raised garden bed in the exact spot she wanted to put it. She picked the spot very carefully - making sure that it was sunny all year round and could be seen from her window. This project took a little longer than expected, but we got it assembled, weed barrier down, filled it with soil and some compost and planted the flowers she picked out. She planted Day Lilies, Alyssum, Wildflowers, and sunflowers (behind the bed), some mounding perennials, and left enough space to put in a small hill of cucumbers with a trellis. She was very pleased with the results:

After two hours of hard work on the garden bed, the kids needed a break and here are the results:

After I hosed off the kids, I spent time building an extension on my Lasagna Garden. I have three lasagna beds and I have lots of ideas on how to expand. Last year I quadrupled the length of my biggest garden bed and added a grape arbor to another. The one with the grape arbor will also be expanded this year, but I'm still working out the thoughts on how to do it in my head. It is my oldest and I have some tree issues in it - meaning I have three trees that are quick growing and just won't die. The bed I expanded today - nearly doubling it's length - is the middle of the three beds. My plans are to leave this bed at its current length for this season and work on solving the problems in the oldest bed and working on its expansion.

Then, while the kids picked up around the play set (read: played on the play set and pretended to be picking up) I brought out my nine tomato plants to perform my mom's early planting experiment. The other day she suggested we try using a quart jar to cover the seedlings so they do not freeze at night. This way they can be planted two weeks earlier than I normally would. This feeds my clinical diagnosis of - Gardener's Impatience Disorder with 4/15 Date Yearning. GIDDY for short.

I took one plant from each strain of tomato I am growing, buried them deep, covered them with jars, and covered the jar about halfway up with the surrounding bedding. Looks good! Let's see if they live or die!!

Look! I grew 1 Quart Mason Jars!

I am really looking forward to my first tomato sandwich this year! For now, here are a few other pictures from my day today!

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