It has been a while since I last updated on how my garden progress was going. I just looked back at my May 2014 Garden Update, and can’t believe how much everything has grown since I last wrote! So far, this has definitely been my best garden year.
My husband was up on the roof yesterday, cleaning out the gutters, and offered to take a shot of the garden for me while he was up there. I’m so glad he did! It’s neat to see it from this point of view.
As you can see, I began to lay cardboard between the garden beds to smother the weeds, with the intention of covering it over with wood chips. But with all of the projects going on around here, Jerry hasn’t had time to drive to town to pick up a load of wood chips from a tree cutting company we get them from for free. So, it doesn’t look very pretty right now, but at least the weeds are somewhat suppressed on one side of the garden. Eventually I’d love to have all of the pathways covered with a thick layer of wood chips, with no grass to mow in between.
Here’s another shot where you can see more of the chicken coop and run, and the grapevines. One day I’ll paint that coop. Actually, I’m thinking I’d really like to move the chickens to the other side of the property, far away from the garden. They’re bad about escaping and digging up my plants. I’ve just started clipping their wings, but only the ones that fly over. I think if I move them, I might be able to let them free range and they’ll be far enough to stay out of the garden. I really do want to let them free range again. Another project for another day. If we do move them, the coop will be cleaned out and converted to a garden shed, which would help me declutter the greenhouse where all of our tools are currently being stored.
Want a closer look at the garden?
The peas have really shot up, and are now producing delicious fresh peas. I had to tie the vines back up to the trellis because our just-turned-three-year-old hasn’t quite grasped the concept of pulling the pods off with two hands, and was yanking the vines off the fencing. I’ve learned not to let him graze unsupervised. Still, it has been so great for me to watch the kids come out to the vines, grab handfuls of plump peas, and sit down at the edge of the bed to crunch on their fresh snack.
Xia has been especially excited about the growing vines, since she helped me plant them. Every day she sits at the edge of the bed, filling her belly with as many peas as she can find, and sharing them with her little brother.
I did learn an important lesson about peas that I think is worth sharing. When we planted our bed, we planted a row of peas on either side of the trellis. This has worked out very well. However… I made the mistake of not keeping very good records. I can’t remember if I planted all the same variety, or something different on either side.
I may have planted snow peas on one side, and shelling peas on the other. I can see how that might have seemed like a good idea at the time.
The problem with this is that they both look the same at some point. Before shelling peas fatten up, they’re flat, like snow peas. But you don’t harvest them until they’re plump. Snow peas, on the other hand, are harvested while they’re flat.
At this point, I can’t tell when to harvest. Some of the flat peas are delicious as they are, and some of them are tough and not good at all. This makes me think I have two varieties growing. So the dilemma is they’re all mixed up! As the vines weave in and out of the trellis, I can’t tell which side they were planted on. If I did in fact plant snow peas on one side, they’re growing over into the shelling peas side, and I can’t tell which is which.
It’s a guessing game: should I pick this now, or will it fatten up? The kids are picking both flat and plump peas. But sometimes they pick what they think is a snow pea, and it isn’t good at all. Likely it was an immature shelling pea.
Lesson learned: Plant only one type of peas on a trellis. Otherwise, they’ll be so mixed up you won’t know which is which.
Good to know. Okay, moving along…
We’ve been enjoying lettuce and spinach for several weeks. The plants are finally starting to bolt and go to seed. I’m doing what I can to eat them up before they’re finished. Besides salads, we’ve also been enjoying Wilted Lettuce, Lettuce Soup, and Sauteed Spinach with Garlic.
In the past, I’ve had a lot of trouble with my lettuce getting bitter quickly. This year has been much better. The peas have been the perfect solution, as the vines provide partial shade for the tender greens to grow in. I think this is my new favorite garden bed combination.
The radishes have all been harvested (you can read more about that HERE), though I left a few to go to seed (the tall, white flowers in the photo). I’ll save these seeds for a Fall planting.
The Three Heart Lettuce has been slow to bolt (by the way, bolting just means that the lettuce starts to shoot up really tall in the center, and then it flowers and goes to seed). When I want to harvest, I’ve been cutting the fresh leaves a couple of inches from the base instead of pulling up the whole plant. I’m going to see if these are a good “cut and come again” variety. If I’m lucky, they’ll start to grow new leaves and I can continue to harvest from the same plants. You have to be sure not to cut too close to the base though, or you’ll kill the plant.
The Red Romaine is bolting, but I’m still harvesting from the plants. I haven’t had any trouble with pests on our lettuce this year. The carrots in front of the romaine are just beginning to be ready to harvest.
I had one head of cabbage come up. They didn’t do nearly as good as last year! I’ll have to figure out what I did differently. We may get to eat this one, if I can keep the cabbage worms off.
Fennel was surprisingly easy to grow from seed, and transplanted well into the garden. I’m looking forward to trying some this week.
The garlic seems to be doing well. The Red Dragon carrots are looking amazing. Out of curiosity, I pulled one out today…
And they’re ready!! I pulled out the camera to take a photo of the first carrot harvested, and a little hand reached up to grab it before I finished taking the shot. Elias was dying to eat it! I took it inside and washed it so that he could enjoy nibbling away. Of course then all of the kids wanted to taste it, so the carrot got passed around.
I pulled up another smaller variety for Elias to enjoy by himself. He ate it every bit of it right then and there.
We had one surviving broccoli plant that I was able to harvest before the cabbage worms infested the head. I think I’ll do better with a Fall planting.
The (non-gmo) sugar beets are doing well. No pests or problems to speak of so far. A clump of catnip volunteered to grow next to the beets, which is totally cool with me.
I planted several different varieties of tomatoes, but mostly Romas. I’ve fallen into a terrible habit of not trellising or staking my plants. I need to keep them up off the ground as they grow into vines and better ventilated so I don’t have disease issues. I planted them about a foot apart, so they’re pretty thick. I’ve been sprinkling dried, crushed eggshells and dried, used coffee grounds around the base of the plants to help reduce Blossom End Rot. So far no problems with pests here either.
This morning I noticed I have some little Black Cherry tomatoes growing! Very exciting.
In this bed I have Strawberry Spinach, several varieties of peppers, purslane growing wildly, and Huckleberries.
The Strawberry spinach has grown slowly. But other than needing some water, they’re doing well.
The Huckleberries have been plagued with little orange and black bugs. Maybe blister beetles? I tried spraying the plants with a soapy water solution, but they keep coming back. Although the leaves have a lot of holes in them, the plants are still growing, so I’ll just keep an eye on them I guess.
I planted a small patch of Stowell’s Evergreen sweet corn. I’ve got yellow squash and zucchini every here and there in the rows, with green beans planted next to the corn stalks to grow up them for support. It’s the “Three Sisters” method of companion planting.
I also planted Dakota Black popcorn. Hopefully we’ll get to try some!
The Jerusalem Artichokes have really shot up. I keep waiting for a vole or some varmint to come along and eat all of the tubers. I’m hoping they do well, as they’re a great survival crop.
The cucumbers are starting to grow up their fence. I planted slicing cukes, and pickling cukes. They seem to love the chicken manure bedding I put down.
These guys are loving the high nitrogen chicken bedding as well! In here I have squash: Table Queen, Greek Sweet Red, Butternut, Honey Boat Delicata, Winter Squash; watermelons: Ali Baba, Moon & Stars; cantaloupe: Melon Old Greek, American Melon; and pumpkins: a large heirloom I picked up locally, and a pie pumpkin.
I thought they were pest free, until I took a closer look this afternoon and found this guy on one of the squash leaves:
I had no idea Mexican Bean Beetles affected squash plants! I picked him off and threw him in a barrel of water. I’ve found that my chickens won’t have anything to do with eating bean beetles.
Always flip over squash and melon leaves to look for eggs. Do it daily. After spotting that beetle, I turned over all of the leaves on that plant. Sure enough, there was another adult beetle underneath one of them, along with this cluster of eggs. I scraped them off with a stick, and threw them into the water with the other two pests. You must be diligent to scrape off or crush any eggs you see laid on the undersides of leaves. Squash bugs do the same thing.
I filled this bed with beans and onions. Along one side of the trellis I have Lazy Housewife Beans; the other side is planted with Rattlesnake Beans and Kentucky Blue. In the rows I have: Blue Bush, Royalty Purple, Eureka Bush Beans, and Chinese Red Noodle. I thought I’d do some experimenting this year to see which varieties grow well and which ones we like the best.
I love the blooms on the Royalty Purple vines. So pretty.
I started seeing a few Mexican Bean Beetles, so I sprinkled my plants liberally with wood ashes, to coat the leaves. This is always a great way to keep the beetles from devouring your plants, and it also feeds the soil. All beans love wood ashes (hard wood is best).
(I’m thinking that because I dusted the beans the beetles moved on to the squash, which isn’t typically where you find them.)
This bed hasn’t quite filled out yet, but it holds Horseradish, peppers, asparagus, and strawberries.
Here’s potato bed number one. I wish there was a way that I could stack another row of railroad ties or something to hold more dirt. If I could cover the plants with more soil, I’d get more potatoes.
Potato Bed number two. These were just a bunch of seed potatoes a friend gave me leftover from her garden.
Here are my fun, colored potatoes in buckets: All Red, German Butterball, Russet, All Blue, Red Pontiac, Purple Majesty and French Fingerlings.
That’s pretty much it for the vegetable garden. I did plant more globe artichokes, as the harsh winter we experienced seems to have killed back my established crowns. Of course, I also have lots of herbs and fruit trees and bushes going. But this is a little picture of what I’ve got coming in right now.
How is your garden doing this year? Any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.