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 enjoyingWilted 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.
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?
To help keep weeds down in the paths of my garden, I have used overlapping layers of newspaper topped with a thick layer of pine needles. I lay the newspaper down then spray it with the hose to keep it from flying away. Then I put a thick layer of pine needles on top of that. Usually about 5 inches or so thick. The needles all intertwine so they form a big mat and I haven’t had any issues with them blowing away. Also, after you are out in the garden a few times walking on them, they flatten down to the ground quit nicely. We had 50 pine trees on our old property, so finding them was very easy!
So much garden envy!!! Your garden is beautiful! I was wondering if you had a lot of crossing, with your different types of squashes? I’ve read that it only affects the seeds, but that has not been my experience. I would love to grow more than one kind of squash at a time, but when I did, I ended up with some very funny-looking zucchini-spaghetti squash crosses.
Hi Kendra! Just wanted to thank you for all the helpful garden tips. I’ve got all this produce coming in and don’t know when to harvest or what to do with it (lettuce, anyone??). After reading through some of your posts I feel a little less overwhelmed. Thank you SO much!
Great tip about tape getting squash bug eggs off! – we’re dealing with that right now! 🙁 I knock the squash bugs into a glass filled with water with a small trowel – I’ve found that’s the easiest way to get them off without touching them! 🙂
I just wanted to tell you that your garden is awesome! I struggle to grow veggies where I live because the climate is so dry and summer is extremely hot. It is great to look how well other gardens grow 🙂
What a wonderful post!! I love the way you have laid-out your garden. It is always a “work-in-progress”!! hahaha, We also raise our own chickens for eggs. This was our first year for cornish-X (meat) & we have a turkey..hahaha.. We expanded our garden this year, and have found it will again be expanded this fall!! There is never enough room for all the tasties out there! It is wonderful you involve your little ones to the awesome world of gardening…The husband & I are enjoying our time with the granddaughter(17 months), watching her explore through all the plants and helping pick the veggies, it is such a great feeling to know we are sharing our own passed-down knowledge with her now. I have enjoyed your story so much I am looking forward to visiting again! Thank you-Danielle
MMM What a garden you got.You have such a variety of plants.The raised beds ,what kind of wood is that?,a 4×4? We are looking at setting up raised beds for next year and trying to figure out what kind of setup we want. We have about as much space as you have,just wondering.
We’re using railroad ties. There’s a lot of controversy around using them or not due to the creosote in them. Personally, I’m very pleased with ours. If the ties are old, and aren’t oozing black stuff, then it’s possible that the chemicals have leached out.
Hi! I noticed that you have separate garden beds for your vines. If you’re interested, you might want to try this… I surround my garden with a perimeter fence and then plant along the entire fence all my vine plants – peas, beans, cukes, etc. The heavy melons we actually tacked fencing up and over our shed – works wonderfully! I planted on both sides and the vines (have been said to) grow up and over. I moved from Illinois to Indiana in 2012 and this is my second attempt at gardening with the different type of soil… so my garden is not flourishing like it did in Illinois (a soil I grew up with and knew a lot about.) Everything is growing but we’ve had lots of trial and error. I love the various blogs and like yours, they inspire me and give me great ideas. The one thing I hadn’t seen lots of was planting along the fenceline for vine plants. Next year should be the charm (3rd time planting) and we’re going back to raised garden beds and landscaping fabric and cut grass ground cover to kill the weeds. I tried to do the old-time traditional method of gardening – no borders, just tilling the land and growing… Yeah – we are just outside of Indianapolis and every weed grows with much success (many of which I’ve found to medicinal – lucky for them!) So it’s us against the weeds and grass when it came to no border gardening. Forget that! It’s time to take the stress and frustration out of gardening! My first plantings of the year did not go well at all… so the dear hubby and I started covering new garden beds for a second planting and viola! we’ve got sprouts! We’ve got plants! And we’ve got weeds…BUT very few compared to the past. Let me give you an idea of all that is flying through our air in the way of seeds from the weeds and grass… I started my second planting tomato plants and took them down to the garden last week to plant. I had 4 containers of about 12 starters in each. I planted two of them and then had to come inside due to the skeeters. I brought the remaining 2 containers back up to the house… TWO DAYS LATER I had tons of sprouts… I planted a specific number of tomato seeds in each container…I used store bought dirt and had them under grow lights… Unless someone in my family is playing a joke on me – no other seeds were planted with my tomatoes. And now the 2 containers are brimming with seedlings from things I did not plant… Tell me weeds and wild growth isn’t an issue for me! Ugh! I think landscaping fabric and grass cuttings are my new best friend!
Anyway, thanks for your site! I LOVE IT!!!
Kim in Pittsboro, IN (west of Indy)
Hi Kim! Yes, I’d love to use our fencing for trellis eventually. I’ve grown cucumbers on it in the past, and I have a Maypop and growing along one side of the garden fence, and grapes along another side. I’ve actually trained our squash plants up the fence this year as well. But there’s still a lot of room I can use. Sorry to hear about all of your troubles with weeds! I know just what you mean. It’s cool when you discover that they’re edible or medicinal though. Kinda makes it worth keeping them around 🙂
I just came across your website and admire your garden. For so many years my family and I just ate from the store here in St. Louis. I’m by myself now and am trying to do some gardening these past three years.
I just planted some sweet corn and bush and lima beans, without a fence. It seems some critters have come on site and bitten off my stalks on all three veggies, but oddly at a diagonal. Additionally, they don’t seem to eat the chomped plant. I thought it was birds at first, but they don’t come around, preferring to be in the trees and signaling that I’m about.
We are overrun by cottontails, some who are quite large. My neighbor found one inside her three-foot fenced garden, and it jumped quite gracefully over the top of the chicken wire, with a foot to spare! Later, I found one rumbling in my fenced garden area, and it did the same high-jump act! I think they are teaching the little ones to pole vault over the fence with branches or something. I have gotten some extra three foot fencing for the new area with the corn and beans and rebar to keep the cost down. I’m wondering if that will solve my sheared beans and corn problem or ?? The rabbit in my neighbor’s garden is no longer with us; he said it tasted like chicken! I’ve read online that there are several methods for blocking “Bugs” but I’m thinking the only sure way is this new fence. Have you had similar problems or ?? Thanks, George
Wow! Sounds like you guys have some crazy rabbits! We get little meadow rabbits, but none have caused significant damage to our garden. They’d be more likely to dig under a fence than go over it, but we’re so wooded here there’s plenty for the rabbits to eat without any effort involved, which I think really helps to keep them from becoming a problem. Raccoons were our problem until we fenced in the garden. I’m sure they could get over it, but they don’t seem to want to bother (so far anyways). Maybe if you tie some brightly colored ribbon or cloth to the top of your fencing, or rig dangling CDs around your garden to blow in the wind it will help scare the critters away. Many old-time farmers around here do this to keep the deer away. Good luck!
I’ve been harvesting squash and zucchini non stop for a week now. I even had squash, tomato, rice, egg, and cheese scramble for breakfast this morning with a little sausage. SO GOOD! I love this time of year. However,I found my first squash bug this morning. I checked the leaves with some duct tape in hand ready to go. No eggs… yet. I crushed the little stinker. The battle has begun!
Your garden looks great. I really, REALLY need to go weed mine and run the weedeater around it. My peas have grown taller than the trellis too. I’m trying a variety of peas called Desiree Dwarf Blauwschokkers. The flowers and the pods are dark purple!
I love your garden and I’m jealous of how big and beautiful it is! I have one that is a bit smaller and I also recently blogged about it (you can check mine out at [email protected]). I have chickens too and the coop bedding compost really makes a difference. This is my first year for carrots and only second time I have planted potatoes. Your children are beautiful and it is wonderful that they are learning about gardening and growing their own food.
Love your garden pics. I am totally jealous of your growing season. I am up in Alaska and our season is just getting started. Just wanted to say I think you meant you planted snow peas, not sugar snap peas. Snow peas are the ones that are flat, Sugar snap peas have the thick edible pod. All are wonderful I planted 3 different shelling peas and a sugar snap variety, just to see what does best up here. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, it always is nice to hear what others have done and what works or doesn’t work out for them.
I love your raised beds! It all seems so organized. 🙂 I would love to plant more perennial veggies. Right now all that comes back are the potatoes I miss, some borage and dill. I hope to have grapes vines soon and my fruit trees should start producing in a few years. I did a little experiment this year with okra seed. I planted one row of soaked seed and one row of dry. It didn’t make a bit of difference! I was always told to soak them with a little splash of bleach to help them germinate faster. I just believed it! I won’t worry about soaking next year.