Day 197 – green beans

IMG_0316Get out the cannin’ jars, it’s almost green bean pickin’ time!

We have a 4′ x 50′ row of these babies – we planted 4 rows across (or maybe 5?) and close planted the beans to keep the weeds down during the season.  It worked and now we have a 4’x50′ solid mass of bush beans coming on.

I hope the hot weather is still supposed to break over the weekend – it’s going to be hot in the kitchen.


Day 194 – sunchokes in bloom

These babies are over 7 feet tall now – I hope that means that they are growing as well underground!  According to Local Harvest, I have to wait until after the first or second frost to dig the tubers.  Patience – virtue #1 for farming.

Day 190 – vertical gardening

2013-07-09 20.34.40One of Denny’s cool gardening ideas.  This one is a two-person job.  Take one hog panel and 8 sturdy stakes (these are rebar).  Pound 4 of the stakes in a line, each one about a foot from the next.  Put the edge of the hog panel against the stakes and push the other end towards the stakes.  Your helper should be arching the panel as you move.  When the “loose” end is where you want it to be, hold the panel in place and drive in the other 4 stakes on the outside.  And you now have a temporary trellis for peas, cucumbers, pole beans, anything that climbs.  Take it down at the end of the season, store the materials in the garage/barn, pull it out again for next year.

We have 2 of these next to each other – 8 pickling cucumbers, and 4 Winter Luxury pumpkins.  The pumpkins are an experiment – I’ve read that you can make slings for the pumpkins to rest in as they grow – tie a strip of t-shirt to the panel and rest the pumpkin in the sling.  As it grows, it will fill in the sling, but not break the stem.  I also read that if you don’t sling the pumpkin, it will only grow to a certain size so the stem won’t be stressed or break.  Smart plants!

I also tried a new (for me) planting method – hilling.  You can see that there is a lot of grass here (we mowed the plot before starting work).  I dug traditional holes for some of the plants, but hilled the rest. Basically, you put the plant on the ground and build up a dirt mound around it.  The dirt kills the grass underneath and the plant grows just fine.  Keep the area around the plant free from grass/weeds, and you just did a lot less work for the same reward.


Day 182 – that’s not supposed to be growing

182We were out weeding the garden today and I was weeding/strawing down the potato rows.  Came across this little beauty of a “weed” and after a little searching, discovered that it’s hairy vetch, one part of the spring manure mix that we put on that garden row last year (we left one fallow row and overseeded it with the mix – field peas, hairy vetch and oats).  It’s not supposed to be a perennial, so it was a definite surprise to find it!  It’s not really in the way where it’s growing, so I’m going to leave it be.

Leaving a row fallow gives the soil a break from feeding greedy plants.  Putting a manure mix on the row keeps exposed soil from eroding, the roots break up any hard-packed soil under the surface, and the plants themselves give nutrients back to the soil (both by growing and by being tilled under when it’s time to plant that row).  So it’s not really manure as in animal poo, but manure as in nutrients for the soil.  Plant it, let it grow, till it under, and badabing – you have better soil and better crops.


Day 168 – bush beans



More food growing – our plot of bush beans.  I just can’t say it enough – fresh food tastes so much better than what you find in the produce aisle (conventional or organic – it’s usually picked before it’s ripe and shipped however many miles from field to grocery).  We’ve gotten spoiled by the proliferation of fruit and veggies that we sometimes forget that at one point, you couldn’t get fresh apples if it wasn’t late summer or fall.  No strawberries in January.

I’m not sure that we’ve improved food by having it available all year long.  I remember what a big deal it was when the local FFA (Future Farmers of America) would send out information to order Florida citrus – boxes of oranges and grapefruit would arrive to be portioned out for the orders.

There’s something good and right about having to wait for something – the first strawberries or tomatoes off the vine, the first green beans snapped into a metal bowl on the porch.  It tastes better, it’s enjoyed more (especially if you grew it yourself and put your time and sweat into it).

It’s a tricky balance – convenience versus anticipation.


Day 167 – peas abloomin’

167Planting peas next to the fence made me a bit nervous at the beginning – I was 95% sure that our chickens were going to massacre the poor little pea shoots.  But I’m happy to report that this did not happen, and the peas are growing, blooming, and making peas!  We have peas in all stages, from bloom to almost ready to pick and shell.

And they are delicious (I’ve been munching on them as I do other garden work – shhh!!).

We’re planning to plant a late summer (to be harvested in the fall) crop as well.  This will be a first for me – peas are a spring crop, right?  Well, they can be planted in the late summer as well.

If you don’t think you’re a pea fan, I would really recommend trying fresh peas as they’re in season in your location..  They taste nothing like the stuff in the can – they’re sweet and slightly crunchy.  You might be surprised to find that you like peas.


Day 160 & 161 – onions and tomatoes, beans and corn

160We planted onion seeds as a cover crop in our tomato row, not expecting much, especially since the onion seeds were planted first and then disturbed by planting the tomatoes (we’ll plant tomatoes first, then a cover crop next year!).  It’s been cool enough that things just aren’t jumping up and growing, but the onion sees sprouted.  They are clumped up because we dug holes for the tomato plants, but they are there (left side of the picture, the thin little stalks).  We’ll thin them out as they grow, to give some growing room. A (so far!) successful experiment, and one that we will probably repeat next year.

Planting cover crops and companion planting food crops are good things to do – cover crops keep the ground from drying out on hot summer days, and if they are a food crop (like the onions), you’ve just multi-tasked your garden space.  Probably the most well-known companion planting is “Three Sisters” planting that the Native Americans used – a corn, a squash, and a climbing bean.  The corn grows up, the squash grows out (crowding out the weeds and keeping the soil shaded and cool),and the bean climbs the corn.  Just another reason to not believe that “primitive” = dumb.

IMG_0243Here is our experiment with 2 of the 3 sisters – beans and corn.  We planted 4 rows of corn, with 3 rows of beans (beans – corn – corn – beans – corn – corn – beans).  The corn is being pretty pokey right now, and you can see the beans are starting to spread their leaves.  If all works according to plan, the corn will grow (hopefully faster!), and we will train the beans around the cornstalks.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this works!

Trust me, not all of the experiments work – too hot, too cold, too much/not enough rain, planted too early/too late.  We plant, we experiment, we learn what works for our garden, and the joy of harvest keeps us going through all the challenges.



Day 156 – sunchokes

IMG_0228Last fall, we planted sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes), not really knowing if they would sprout or not.  Well, they did!  We’re planning on leaving them alone for a year or so, to let them get well established.

They are cousins to sunflowers, and the roots (tubers) look like ginger.  I’ve not eaten them before, but the linked article has some simple ways to prepare them.

Maybe we’ll be selling these at the farm markets next year???


Day 151 – tomatoes and onions

151The tomatoes and onions really enjoyed the rains we’ve been getting. We also have cabbage, corn, and 2 types of beans planted – waiting for them to sprout.

The bit between the tomatoes and onions is the walkway – it also likes the rain, but we keep it mowed down!