Let's start off with a link to our Facebook 2013 gardening picture journal. (clicking link should open a new window)
1/8/2013 Here we are only 8 days into the year of 2013 and I already have piles and piles of plant magazines stacked up. Getting very excited about this years garden. We will be expanding the garden by about 30 x 30 feet.
1/29/2013 After looking through many catalogs and disposing of a significant portion of those catalogs we have actually decided to buy much of our stock this year fromSSE Seed Savers Exchange . This place was recommended by a new friend and fellow "homesteader". We should have our list of selected items posted sometime next week.
5/9/13 Wow I guess that I've once again neglected my posting in this journal. The potatoes were planted in their towers last week. I doubled the number of towers from last year and I'm hoping for LOTS of potatos. The seedlings were started two weeks ago!! We added about 50% more space to our garden this year. The pigs were moved out of the garden today, but I may allow them back in so they can till the addition. We also added three good sized peach trees, two apple trees, some strawberries, 6 rhubarb plants and four new blueberry bushes. The berry "patch" has been fenced off this year, but we need to replant since I think the chickens have really scratched away most of the plants in the previous two years. I usually go all out with hanging baskets and potted flowers. This year I decided our homestead will be sans any flowers but our perennials. Too much time for their upkeep that is better spent on the veggies!! Our asparagus is on year three and I see lots of yummy shoots. I hope to have a decent harvest this year. One of next years (maybe this fall?) projects will be adding to the asparagus bed.....triple size sounds about right to me!! While the pigs work great for the fenced in garden area, I'm afraid it's a pain to move them to other areas of the yard, however this year my Better Half aquired a rototiller for the tractor!! I think I know the perfect project for him! I did order some non-gmo sweet corn and popcorn this year. I am very excited to see how they turn out AND to see if (by proper planting) I'm able to grow both types and still be able to save seeds. Oops, I see from my previous post that I ALSO need to update our list of other veggies that will be gracing our garden this year. I'll try to get to that soon.
6/21/13 YET AGAIN it's been a month since posting. I certainly can't say it's been because I have been working SO hard in the garden.....well I can, but it might not be the total truth. I have lots of potatoes growing this year. I expanded the number of towers and added a few grain bags as growing "pots" as well. They are growing amazingly well and I hope we will have a large abundance of yellow, white and red potatoes! The strawberries are starting to turn red and we will harvest soon. I did make the decision to expand out strawberry bed this year. We will be giving them their own bed next to the rhubarb patch. Right now they are sharing space with the herbs, but they are giving so many runners that I need a place to allow those runners to grow. I see a plethora of apples and cherries on the trees right now (all are currently little green nubs of course) - lets just hope that those darn rose chafers keep to a minimum this year. They are just beginning right now and I have been forced to cover a few of our new shade trees we purchased for the horse pasture to protect them. The garden has been fully planted, but I will be adding another raised bed so I can continue succession planting of the carrots, radishes, spinach, etc. I was a BAD gardener when it came to seedlings this year. I planted seeds but didn't keep up on watering OR lower the light as I would normally do. Boy are my tomato plants spindly....lets hope putting them into the garden will give them the boost they need. Unfortunately the Brussels sprouts were a complete bust. The broccoli isn't much better, but I feel with just the right TLC it might make it. I am going to attempt to plant the broccoli in grain bags so I can monitor where they sit within the garden (allowing for some shade as the days get hotter.) The corn is growing very well, but I doubt it will reach the "knee high by the Fourth of July" mark - just had to wait so long to even get it into the ground. Both the popcorn and the sweet corn (of NON-GMO NON-hybrid varieties) are utilizing the three sisters method again this year - Corn, pole beans and squash. Next year I decided when the Dear Husband cleans all those fish, the scraps will be frozen for the spring so I can plant them within the corn bed. We will see if that makes an even larger difference in our harvests. I'm not seeing much action from the Parsnips I planted. It's a shame since I was really looking forward to parsnips!! The herb garden is growing by leaps and bounds. I found the chocolate mint to be so hardy and fast spreading that I may move it to our walkway u....yum the scent of chocolate and mint with every
Oh, and did I mention that I will NEVER buy the little black cells for starting seeds in again? I will definitely stick with the peet pellets. I lost at least a dozen plants this year trying to get them out of the cells.
2/10/2012 Well here it is February already. The seeds are picked out and within the next few days will be snuggled into their pots, lovingly watered and tended. I will include a list of chosen plants soon! I just wanted to pop in and let the record show I AM getting things going.
4/14/12: Well here we go - our second season in Boon Michigan. I'm afraid this year may not be typical of a northern Michigian spring (with our 80 degree weather in March) but I will be recording our successes, failures and dates just the same.
I have finally gotten all the raised beds built for this year. I'm starting with just 3 large ones and one smaller one for this year. I'll see how I like them and maybe add more next year. I chose to fill them with a layer of only slightly composted horse manure and then topped off with a layer of garden soil. When I clean out the goat barn (sometime after kidding is complete in mid May) I will be heavily mulching between the beds to keep weeds out. After the season when the pigs are let back into the garden they should till the older hay and manure right into the garden.
Horse manure has been added to the garden soil and was tilled in with my new tiller that my wonderful husband bought for me. Did I mention that he not only bought the tiller but did all the work too? What a wonderful guy I have!!
The potatoes were planted into their towers around April 7th. I doubled my raised potato planters from 3 to 6 and planted Kennebec potatoes this year. These planters worked really well last year and were very cheap to make as I had the burlap on hand and a bit of extra fencing. Composted and semi-composted manure works awesome as a filler/growing medium in these planters.
I did end up adding 4 assorted blueberry bushes to the homestead. They were planted on the south side of the house and are going to be used as a foundation cover. We have about a 2 to 2-1/2 foot Styrofoam basement foundation. It was lemon yellow when we purchased the house but we painted it brown for aesthetic purposes, but paint doesn’t adhere well to Styrofoam and the chickens seem to like to EAT it. Anyhow with our small acreage anything that can do double duty is a plus.
All the indoor seeds have been planted. I got them started around April 1st. The tomatoes have had their first transplant into Styrofoam cups. After starting the seeds in the little peat pellets I transplant them into cups when they are bout 4-5 inches tall. When transplanting them I plant them deeply into the cup so that their root system becomes bigger – tomatoes will grow roots from their stem if covered in soil. Then I bury them just a bit deeper when transplanting them into the soil outdoors for an even better root system. This seemed to work excellently for me last year, for even with minimal care and watering we ended up with a decent crop of tomatoes!!
I’m trying something new with my corn this year. I’m starting my plants indoors. Perhaps if I have a nice crop I will be able to save some of my own seed this year. I am within a few hundred feet of a “charming” field of GMO corn. (**BLECH**) If I can get my corn started and pollinated before that corn is ready to pollinate perhaps I have a chance of getting decent corn for saving. You know, I’ve seen people actually BUY started corn seedlings for a ridiculous price. Come on – two seedlings for $1.50? I can buy two whole ears of corn for less than that!! I’ll let you know how this endeavor works out for me.
Sadly I have to say I don’t see much action coming from my red raspberries that were planted last year. Out of about 25 plants that were given to me from a friend, I can find only three so far. My purchased berries seem to have fared only marginally better as I see about 45-50% of them returning this year. I think the chickens are primarily to blame for this lack of success.
Speaking of the chickens and their love of new shoots and scratching….I think I got my herb and asparagus garden fenced in time to save any major damage this spring. The cheap fencing I tried to use last year, just didn’t keep the chickens out towards the end of the season and I’m sure I lost my Bloody Sorrel and a few strawberry plants. My Egyptian Walking onions, peppermint and spearmint are coming up wonderfully so far this year. We did build a chicken pen last year to contain the chickens from time to time. It just isn’t big enough for a full time pen, besides ever since I have owned chickens I’ve been a firm believer in free range. I guess I’ll just keep fencing in all the important plants. Luckily Bailey and Buddy keep the chickens away from most things near the house. I found maybe 1/2 dozen aspargus shoots coming up yesterday - YAY!
We added 5 assorted peach trees and 2 pear trees this spring. I perhaps got a bit over zealous when we had the lovely 80 March weather, but will keep my fingers crossed that they do well despite the more recent frosts we have had.
I did notice that I seem to only have one grape vine left and I'm not sure if that one is actually alive or not.
I purchased another one and will plant when the weather decides it is truly spring.
I noticed my strawberries are doing very well, but I did purchase another 10 plants to add. I will be cleaning out the herb/strawberry/asparagus garden within the next week or two. I am hoping to get a handle on the weeds before they have overtaken my poor small herbs!!
Yesterday peas, radishes, spinach, beets and carrots went into one raised bed. I hope to do succession planting to keep an ample supply of these items.
Well, I will update again soon!!
5/30/2012 Well it sure has been an odd spring here. To start off we will not be having any apples this year. I think most of the state is in quite a pickle as far as the apple crop is concerned this year. Tonight a frost and freeze advisory has been issued. So the herbs, potatoes, mulberry tree, grapes and potted flowers are covered.
The potatoes are growing wonderfully in their towers.
too be continued....I need to head to bed.
9/20/2013 (excerpt taken from our fall wrap-up blog post)
Approximate growing area
Tomatoes (all varieties combined)
100 square feet (2 raised beds 4x8 each plus a few rows)
Purple Royalty bush beans
8 foot row
6 foot row
4 square feet
8 square feet
8 square feet
16 square feet
1 plastic grocery bag full
4 square feet
4 square feet
3 plastic grocery bags full
4 foot row
8 square feet
4 square feet
Yellow summer squash
10 foot row
6 foot row
8 foot row
Undertermined – they outgrew the garden fence until the vine borers got to them
8 foot row
8 foot row
6 square feet
Not ready for harvest until 2013
I harvested a year’s supply (for us anyway) of chives, oregano, sage, mints, lemon balm, tarragon, thyme and basil.
1 dozen plants
Grapes, peaches, pairs
Not ready yet
Apples and cherries
80 Square feet
I think I will try and maintain this page as a type of journal. This way you can follow my journey and perhaps learn from both my successes and failures.
NOTE: spring of 2011 has been a very strange spring all over the country with super storms and multiple tornadoes in the south and a snow into May here.
5/10/11: Well, my first entry into this gardening section should rightly be about seeds. In 2011 I purchased a number of seeds from Baker Creek. Overall I have had tremendous success with their heirloom seeds. I still have a few to plant outdoors, such as squash and some different greens.
I will have to say that a seed starting mat will be an investment I make for next season. I've had some difficulty getting two varieties of peppers to germinate - Chocolate Habenero and Chinese 5-Color. I don't believe it is a seed issue, just a soil temperature issue. Everything else from them has come up splendid.
Another change I will be making next year is to start all seeds (herbs included) into the small peat pellets. I used reused black plastic cells from plants I purchased in the past and peat cells. I found both dried out way too much. The only herbs that sprouted were sweet basil, marjoram, sage and chives. It may have been a combination of things: temperature, old seeds and bad pots. Next year we will have fresh seed stock, a seed starting mat and peat pellets to eliminate all those possibllities.
Once plants got their first true leaves I started transplanting the little peat pellets into strofoam cups. I'll clean these out and reuse year after year - as long as they are handled carefully they should last a few seasons. I poked one hole in the bottom of each pot for drainage then put them in a cardboard box lined with a plastic grocery bag. Each box is of manageable size (to carry outside for hardening off) and cut down to be shorter than the cups. I even used a couple of pizza boxes which are my favorite.
The peppers and tomatoes should be heading for the garden in a couple of weeks.
Outdoors on April 19th, the potatoes went into "planters". I used a 2' high section of 2x4 welded wire (14GA I believe) leftover fenceing. I lined this basket with burlap and added about 6 inches of soil/compost. I will continue to add to this as the plants grow. On 4/23 I planted broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, beets and the first sowing of spinach. I decided to direct sow these plants, but I'm not sure I got them in soon enough. I probably should have dropped them in about 3 weeks earlier - but we had snow covering the ground then. There is quite a row of the broccoli and brussel sprouts emerging. I planted these on the south side of the garden in a E-W row. That small section of garden gets a littel less sun than the rest so it may stay a bit cooler there. The peas are on the north side of the garden right next to the fence, also planted in a E-W row. They will be trellised directly on the garden fence.
The herb garden is full of seeds and should be a wonderful sight outside my kitchen window if all goes well. I spent many a day thinking of the cheapest way to put in an herb garden that met the following conditions: (not necessarily in this order) 1) must be aesthetically pleasing 2) must protect from dogs romping through the yard 3) must protect from marauding chickens 4) must be functional 5) must fit into our existing space. I toyed with a raised bed for quite a while, trying to decide between wood and cement block. I had decided on cement block. Then I actually just decided to try a bit of cheap "landscape garden" fencing. It's the green wire fold up kind. While I'm not really fond of the looks of the fencing as a garden feature, it practically disappears at a distance!! I look from my kitchen window and only see garden. I did however have to add a bit of bird netting to the inside of the fencing as I found the chickens could still squeeze through the holes. I bought a roll of 14'x14' netting for $8 and cut strips off to fit the wire fence. I then just used what I had lying around to tie it on. After all is said and done we have approximately a 18'x 7' herb garden divided into 12 sections. In the center of the herb garden is a tree stump. It was about a 4' stump but Greg cut it down to about 1' for me. I was going to cover it (hence the raised bed idea) instead of paying somebody to come in to grind it down. Well, come to find out it is hollow and now has become the perfect site for Thyme. Also within the herb garden I have placed some old red bricks to serve as both section divders as well as stepping stones. Two bricks side by side make the perfect size step. Between each step is a strawberry plant. Next to the herb garden, also encompassed by the wonderful dissappearing fence, is an asparagus bed of about the same size. There are 4 rows of 10 crowns each. This garden will take a couple of years before we get to partake, but will certainly be worth all the hardwork and waiting.
7/28/11: Well, here are some updates on things mentioned above...
The peppers and tomatoes have made it in and are doing okay. They would most likely be doing better had the weeds not overtaken them (but I'll address that below). The Broccoli and brussel sprouts just didn't make it. Again - the weeds were their downfall, along with the heat. The zucchini and the summer squash ARE doing well and as most gardeners find - we have an over abundance.
9/5/11: My maintaining this "journal" has gone about as well as my maintaining the garden this year. I do intend to try and get more updates soon. I really would like to keep this up with both the successes and failures of this year. Next year will be built on the knowledge of this year.
I will say, the herbs in the garden have taken off like gang-busters. I planted the lemon balm in a large chimney block to keep it somewhat contained. I may transplant it in 2012 and let it "go wild" near the pump house. It's doing great in the block, but I think I would like a large patch next year. It will be interesting to see what herbs will come back up next year. It is almost time to dig up some of the rosemary to keep in a pot over winter. I've dried quite a few herbs to date, but will need to do a few more to utilize what is out there before the first frost. I have quite a bit of basil, so pesto it will be! I have decided the taragon that is planted in the stump will be mulched along with the lavender around it. Hopefully this will help preserve them better for great growth next year. The cosmos I planted in with the asparagus has grown up wonderfully and flowered continuously all year. I'm hoping they will self-sow, but if not I will be planting them next year again as they make a very nice fill for an otherwise somewhat sparse and "ugly" area.
Squash bugs have taken over and decimated zuchinni, summer squash, austrailian butter squash, bush buttercup and the volunteer gourds. I did however have quite a few meals of summer squash and was able to put up a few bags of zuchinni for winter baking. Along with shredding I also preserved some zuchinni by making some candy, a nice sweet treat!!
The potatoes have been harvested, all in all a pretty good haul. I suppose we could have done better had I left them in a bit longer, but I have a tendancy to be somehwat impatient. I really like the method described above for the potatoe plantings. I will definately be doing them exactly the same way next year and adding a few more "baskets" even.
Cucumbers are pretty much over. I had planned on having the cukes trained up the fence for ease of harvesting. Due to my inability to stay focused on the garden this year, the cukes were a minor disaster. They trailed below the weeds allowing most of the cucumbers to grow well beyond the "ideal" size. We're talking some cukes the size of baseball bats here. I was able to do some pickle canning, but found that the oversize behemoths turned out somewhat bitter. We did however get a few nice jars of pickles.
9/11/11: Well, the season is unofficially at an end here. A devastating frost hit me unaware and wiped out every pepper I had growing and budding. Not ONE pepper from the garden this year. The tomatoes are certainly on the downslide, with about 1/2 killed and the other 1/2 maimed severly by the frost. We will get a few more tomatoes this year, but not nearly "enough". Never enough here. I wanted salsa, spaghetti sauce, crushted tomatoes, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato soup and of course dried tomatoes. I DID get a small batch of salsa. Unfortunately I think I will now have enough tomatoes left to make only one or two of the afore mentioned options. Alas....
The sweet corn turned out better than I could have expected. Planted it late from seed....and still got 2-3 dozen nice ears from the small patch I planted. I have never had luck with sweet corn before, perhaps the key is plant it haphazardly and just hope for the best as I did this year?
This spring we planted a good amount of trees on our small acreage. 18 Douglas firs went in to the North and to the East of property to be used (eventually) as a windbreak for the horse and goat pastures. We have seen around 3 inches of nice new growth on the little seedlings we planted. It should just be a matter of time (LOTS of time) now before we reap the rewards.
Apple trees and grapevines went in as well this spring. While one of the grape vines is flourishing, one never bothered to show us a leaf and the other, while doing fine for a while, was massacred by the chickens. The apple trees were 50/50 - one got leaves, one didn't. All our trees and bushes were purchased from a catalog called "Burgess". Most of the plants and trees we purchased have done well and they do have a return/replacement policy that I very much plan on taking advantage of with those plants that never thrived.
We even put in a few decorative shrubs and trees: 2 butterfly bushes (bloomed lovely and yes the butterflies surrounded them), 2 osage oranges, 6 sand cherrys. All are doing quite well and have shown us good growth this year. The butterfly bushes in particular grew from a 12" stick into a 4 foot multi branched bush.
All of our trees this year got the special treat of being watered with "manure tea". Sounds yummy doesn't it? Anywhere from once a week to once every other week, each tree was graced with a healthy drink. It really is wonderful for newly planted plants as well as potted plants. We made the manure tea as follows: Scoop about 4-5 "piles" of FRESH manure (in our case we used horse) - so it about 1/2 fills a 50# empty grain sack. Set 1/2 filled sack into something along the lines of a large storage tote or even a plastic barrel - anything that will hold about 5-10 galllons of water AND the bag of manure. NOTE: make sure the sack you use will allow water to run through it, but not let the manure wash away (think tea bag). Run a hose over the manure in the sack. The water should begin to seep out the back into the tote. Fill the tote/barrel with about 5-10 gallons. Leave the bag in the water for about 3 days - swishing it around daily. By the end of the 3rd or 4th day you should have a container full of rich dark "tea". I use this mixture either full strength or diluted up to 50/50 on trees, flowers, container plantings etc. Try not to get it directly on the leaves, but water directly at the base of the plant. I have a few gallon jugs and a funnel I keep specifically for this purpose.
NOTE: I see that I've had a bit of trouble keeping up on this journal. But here is the wrap up of the 2011 season with some ideas for the upcoming 2012 season:
2011 SUMMARY and IDEAS FOR 2012 SEASON
Well, last years garden is done and mostly gone. I have a few quarts of dried tomatoes, a couple quarts of canned tomatoes, three bags of frozen zucchini and one bag of frozen green tomatoes. Add a handful of pint size salsa and that's what I've got....and it's only January! It's time to do some planning for the 2012 season (hopefully I'm not already to late).
Last year's crop of heirloom Yellow Mortgage Lifters was my pride and joy. Luckily I did save some seeds from it (and all other tomatoes that actually fruited). The other tomatoes did okay (listed in order from best to worst) - Stupice, Red Zebra, Black Prince, Amish Paste, Gajo De Melon (although later maturing with a small crop these were awesomely tasty). The Spear's Tennesee Green MAY have made an appearance, but since my row marking system left a lot to be desired - who knows if they were just overlooked as the unripe fruit of another variety.
My beans - both Contender Green and Purple Royalty - were pretty much bug food once the Rose Chafers invaded the neighborhood. Although the the bugs also hit the apple trees quite hard, I still got a very large apple harvest - which the horses, goats, pigs and chickens enjoyed along with us.
I saw a handful of Delikatesse cukes but never saw one Fin De Meaux cucumber. I suppose the weeds were to thank for the cukes I couldn't find until they were as big as a size 10 shoe.
The weeds also choked out my beets, radishes and carrots. Although the pigs did find their share of puny carrots while tilling my garden for me.
Peas did alright, but should have been put in the ground earlier (along with the poor broccoli and brussel sprouts).
I think it's hard to do anything wrong with zucchini and I did get a good harvest of zukes until the squash bugs withered all the plants. The squash bugs also had a side helping of summer squash plants and then moved to my Minnesota Midget Melons,
Australian Butter and Bush Buttercup for desert so I never saw any harvest of the last three. I did however get a nice harvest of some volunteer decorative gourds for my fall decorations (which I later fed to the pigs - waste not want not).
Due to a late planting along with some plants I improperly hardened off - the peppers didn't even get a chance to bloom before dying off in the first freeze.
Lettuce did quite well in the containers this year and I did get a good amount of it.
I forgot where I planted the onions AND the garlic so I can't properly judge how they did - perhaps they are thriving somewhere under the snow?
As mentioned earlier, the apples did quite well despite a bug invaision. I planted a new cherry tree this year in anticipation of the slated destruction of the mature one on our property. However the tree trimming crew only took one branch off the awesome cherry tree - and that was AFTER I had a chance to harvest bowls and bowls full.
The herbs did awesome this year and I will see how well they survive the winter.
The potatoes were also a success in their towers.
So, with all the above info I'm going to change a few things this year. Here is how I plan on changing things somewhat.
I am going to put in at least a few raised beds this year. I will not use "sterile" soil, but instead our nicely cooked compost.
Hardening off the plants properly will be a priority this spring. We have such a windy area that I need to take extra precautions to protect them until they are ready for it.
Plant markers, row markers and a planting guide are all going to be utilized fully this year. I can't be expected to remember everything I planted and WHERE in the yard or garden I planted it!
WEEDS I think were my number one enemy last year. I MUST be diligent in my fight this year. Perhaps the raised beds will help along with the fact that Roto and Tiller did quite a job tearing up and eating all the plants and roots in the garden.
Bugs, well let us just say a prayer that the plagues of 2011 are only a cyclic occurance every several years. I will have to do some more research into organic repellants to use on the plants along with companion planting that may help. Otherwise there is last years standby of the shop-vac again.
I think I will attempt a few different varieties of plants this year in place of the few that didn't seem to thrive here last year. TheYellow Mortgage lifters were awesome as far as fruit size, taste, amount of harvest and plant hardiness. I also saved seeds from all tomatoes (other than the Spears Green) and will attempt to increase yields from them by keeping the weeds down. I will purchase a few more heirloom peppers (both hot and mild) and try raising them from seed again.
I will plant another batch of Purple Royalty bush beans. However I will plant some type of green pole beans to utilize my fencing around the garden - or I will try making a nice tee-pee pole type trellis for them to climb.
I will continue planting my lettuce in containers this year but with two small changes. Number one - I will NOT place any of the containers below a bird feeder. Number two - I will make smaller containers and use succession planting a goal. I found that as the season progressed it would have been nice to have smaller containers to move according to sun and shade needs.
I don't think I'll change anything with the zucchini or summer squash - other than the bugs they did well. Weeds don't affect these fast growing plants much. I will have to figure something out on my heirloom squash (Australian Butter and Bush Buttercup) to give them more growing season. I will start them eariler this year and if that doesn't work well, I will have to find one that can do better in our shorter growing season.
I will be doing some sort of trellis system for the cucumbers this year. I think I will also try some type of hybrid "store bought" seed this year. The vigor just wasn't there in those I bought last year.
Potatoes will still be grown in their towers but I will have more than three built this year. I may put another material inside the burlap or fencing to help retain more moisture as the burlap seemed to allow too much drying of the soiI.
I planted a few sunflowers around the yard this year and they did great so I hoping to get a larger amount planted this year to use for the birds in the winter - they have already finished off the harvest of 2011.
The decision will have to be made if I'm going to even try the beets, broccoli and brussel sprouts. I'll think about that one over the next couple of weeks.
Corn will NOT be part of our garden this year. I have never had a green thumb when it comes to corn and although last years crop did pretty well - by the animals standards not mine - I won't do it again. The ears were puny and mealy and made fine animal treats but weren't meant for my table.
Melons just don't do well for me either, I think I'll just continue buying mine at the store. If anybody has a suggestion though for a good Michigan growing variety - I'd love to hear it.
Well, I think the seed catalogs (all twelve of them I received this year) are calling my name!