Monday, June 29, 2009

First Harvest

It isn't much... yet... but it's ALL mine!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Garden of Delight - The Pics

Sorry for the picture quality. I had to use my camera phone, but you will get the gist. Container gardening is way to go. If I had the money, this is the way I'd go, probably adding a unit or two per year. But I don't have the money, so this is how I do it.

Above is a topsy turvy planter, yes the same one you see on TV, that my mother-in-law gave to me. Instead of going with the tomato seeds she gave me I put an eggplant in it. I'm not crazy about eating eggplant but I'm will to try. Below is Rose's onion. This onion sprouted on the counter top and I decided to go ahead and plant it so that she could watch it grow. When I water the eggplant is drains out the bottom and waters the onion. Pretty slick, huh?

This is the side porch. The topsy turvy planter had cherry tomatoes in it last year. It did OK but I wasn't really impressed. This year I planted pickling cucumbers in it. I've made homemade pickles before and hope to do the same with these. The plant is growing well, it remains to be seen how well it produces. Next year I want to grow some gherkins too. Underneath is a large planter that I have used for years. At various times it has had beans, peas, and tomatoes. Remember, I hate bending over or getting on my knees. I made the soil mix myself. It is a mix of sand and potting soil. That is sand you see on top and keeps the weeds to a minimum and easy to pull when necessary. This year I planted radishes around the back radius. Silly me never thought that one radish plant produces one radish. I had six nice radishes. Note to self: plant a whole container of radishes next year. Where the radishes were I planted carrots, I'll get six of those too. Silly me. Well it was my first time for both. In the front of the planter are spring onions. They are growing well so far. Yes that is an oak tree in the middle. The tall ones seems to have died, but the short one is growing well. They were given to me as six inch starter saplings and I didn't know what to do with them. Still don't but I couldn't bear throwing them away.

Here is an aerial view of the garden from the side porch. I can't take credit for this gardening system. The guy who owned the house before us started this and left me half of the beds. They are blue plastic 55 gallon (40 gallon?) drums split in half and mounted in frames made of 2'x4's. Holes are drilled in the bottom for drainage. A few of them are pretty rickety and will eventually need to be replaced, maybe with weather resistant wood. I want to add another one too but will have to wait until I have funds. The previous owner even took the time to paint a few blue, why I don't know. I put in the floor of cardboard this year because I couldn't afford new mulch and have way too many moving boxes. You can see my laziness though, I didn't finish the right side.

Here's a view of the garden from ground level. I stole Rose's wagon for hauling dirt. I need to give it back!

Believe it or not this is a compost pile though refuse pile is probably more accurate. This pile was all on the left this morning. On this side was a small brush pile which I burned today. I turned the compost over to the right after everything had burned out. You're actually supposed to turn your compost about every three days but I'm taking it slow. This will probably be ready for next year. I have a lot of branches and brush mixed in which isn't really right but in my mind I think of them as providing air space in the pile, aerating the compost which is important. Eventually it will break down or I'll sift it out. When I turned it I noticed I have some good looking compost already now, at the bottom of the pile and some huge earth worms which is a good sign. Since it is now turned you can't really see all of the table scraps I've been throwing on the pile, watermelon rinds, corn husks and cobs, egg shells, coffee grounds. Big stuff is supposed to be ground up but I have not been taking the time to do that which makes it more of a refuse pile at times. I have an old garbage disposal that one day I hope to resuscitate for that purpose. Behind the pile you can see the huge burning "pit" that the previous owner of the house had that I hope to reclaim, slowly.

This is the only ground level bed I have but learned last year that corn does not grow well in the above ground beds. I think the roots need to go deep. This was a big experiment. Corn is fussy. You can't really start it indoors and transplant it, it really needs to be sown directly into the soil. But I hate weeding. Years ago I started playing with weed block with row crops but I had never done it with corn. My great idea was to make slits in the plastic and sit mini-peat pots in the holes and plant to corn in the little pots. This is a new bed so I don't have well tilled soil underneath. Next year will be better but so far the results look promising. This bed has shade in the late afternoon but gets full sun starting in the morning. The four plants near the corners that don't seem to belong are pumpkin plants. I went with cooking pumpkins but we'll use a few as little jack-o'-lanterns for RoRo. I have a few more beds like this that need to be reclaimed, one is a large bed of strawberries that doesn't produce much. I think it went wild. I might try reclaiming one of these beds for a late season of corn.

This is basically a tomato bed. On the left are two watermelon plants, one in each corner. The hope here is that the plants will either spread under the tomatoes or drape over the sides, either way works. The tomatoes are planted by height. The two cages on the left are bean cages. I had lima beans and pole beans here last year but opted not to plant either this year. My limas were disappointing last year, just not a large yield. The pole beans did well but I think I prefer stringless bush beans, at least I have in the past. Two of these tomato plants are cherry tomatoes, an early and a late producer. Cherry tomatoes tend to grow quite high. The other is a Cherokee purple tomato.

This bed has more tomatoes and peppers. These are the large and medium tomatoes that don't grow as high. I've had some pepper plants grow fairly high so I caged them this year. I have the plant tags stapled in front of each plant, you can see them on the edge. I didn't take the time to read them so I can't report which ones are which.

The herb garden. At one time this had about six herbs in it but I never seem to use as much as I think I will. I used to have cilantro in here but it goes to seed so quickly that it is simply easier to buy it at the grocery. I'm sure I have wild cilantro growing underneath. On the right is a single thyme plant that has taken over the bed. It is about two years old. I stopped trying to control it. I cut half of it out last year and couldn't give it away. It came back with a vengeance. On the left is a new parsley plant. I'd love for it to take over that side like that single thyme plant did. There's some wild grass and weeds in there too that I hope the parsley chokes out.

This middle bed has two more watermelon plants on the right and snow peas on the left. I may have to stake the peas, I'm not sure yet. I've found that snow peas need little support. This is a different variety than I planted last year. Like the corn, I planted these and the beans in the next bed in individual mini-peat pots that I pushed though a slit in the weed block. Success so far. The middle section I deliberately left unplanted. This is where I will plant a late crop of beans and/or peas, probably next week.

This bed has shade late in the day. On the left are two more pepper plants. One is a jalapeno the other is a pimento chile. I have no idea what to do with the pimentos but I have a bunch of Spanish and Basque recipes that call for them. I usually end up freezing or drying most of my peppers. In the middle are the stringless bush beans. They are doing very well. On the right is a cluster of straight eight cucumber plants. Like the watermelon I'll let them branch under the beans or drape over the sides.

So a little inspiration for all of you gardeners out there, if not this year then for next year.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Garden of Delight*

When we got back from Nashville my priority was to get the garden in. I was pretty anxious as I really wanted it in by the end of April and now it was looking more like May 15. Ugh.

I've been gardening for years, though I would never say that any of them have been that successful. My best garden I think was my first one in South Carolina. I was living with a buddy of mine in a single wide deep in the sticks of SC, Hodges. His trailer was dropped into a clearing of a woods. Our crazy "neighbor" had a farm tractor and came over and tilled up a nice patch for me. It's amazing how well that tractor prepped the soil. All I remember of that garden was that I had so many cucumber I couldn't give enough away. I had a bumper crop of bush beans and I thought the corn was promising but it went to smut.

When had my own house in South Carolina I also tried a garden. I borrowed my friend's brand new rear tine tiller and it promptly broke. It wasn't my fault. The tiller had a cracked block from the factory but I don't think I have borrowed any power tools in my life since. I had high hopes for that garden. I think the first year went well but the succeeding years got worse and worse, finally going wild in the end. I hated the heat in SC and just couldn't muster the resolve to get out and tend the garden.

In Michigan I also put in a garden. It started out well but when I left the foundry and started traveling for a living that was basically the end of my gardening career there. I was never home to take care of it. Sometimes I was gone for multiple weeks at a time.

When we moved to Georgia I didn't even bother gardening in Bainbridge. It was more miserable than SC. When we moved to Blairsville, the previous home owner had a neat above ground system for gardening. He had taken blue plastic drums, cut them in half and mounted them in wooden frames. This is great because a fat guy like me hates bending over or getting down on my knees. In addition to his system, I cover each planter with weed block and grow my plants through them. This not only eliminates any weeds but also retains more moisture in the soil which is important since we've been in a drought the past few years. I have pictures on my half dead laptop that I can't get to and I can't post from this net book. Sorry.

The first summer here I only did tomatoes, snow peas and herbs I think. Last summer I added Lima beans, pole beans, peppers, cucumbers and watermelon. Also last summer I ordered my tomatoes and peppers plants on-line. That worked out fairly well. The heirloom tomatoes didn't grow great but I was still pleased with the results of ordering plants on line.

A while back I had posted on the importance of gardening and eating more locally. One of my challenges was to either start a garden or add something new to your garden. So here is what I have done to step up to my own challenge. Once again I have chile peppers and tomatoes from This year I added an eggplant from them. In addition to the "normal" cucumbers I bought a pickling cucumber plant (I prefer to start from live plants rather than seeds). I'm trying a different watermelon this year. I've never been successful with watermelon. But I try. I switched from pole beans to bush beans, the same beans I had so much success with in that first garden in Hodges.

I'm also trying corn this year. This is a big experiment on two fronts. One, I reclaimed an old garden bed from the PO that had gone wild. This plot has not been well worked or tilled. This plot is also partial shade. And two, trying to use my weed block system, planted all of the seeds in mini-peat pots. So far so good. The early corn is up and the Silver Queen is right behind it. I planted some pumpkins in with the corn also. I went with cooking pumpkins instead of jack-o-lanterns but with Rose's since who's to say we can't use them for Halloween? That is if they grow.

On the porches I have the eggplant in a topsy turvy planter that my mother-in-law gave me. Rose helped me plant it so we call it HER eggplant. That's on the front porch. I also had a white onion sprout on me and she planted that. I sits underneath the eggplant. I don't expect much out of that, certainly no onions, but hope that it grows tall. I have topsy turvy planter on the back porch also that I had cherry tomatoes in last year. This year I put the pickling cucumbers in it. So far so good. That hangs on the side porch.

Also on the side porch I have a HUGE pot that I had used for the snow peas in the past. This year I have radishes and carrots. I planted them after being inspired from a visit to my sister-in-law's. On a whim I bought some green onion seeds. Rose planted them. Those seem to be growing well along with the radishes, not sure about the carrots. I'll try to post pictures later for inspiration.

I think I rose up to my own challenge.

*song from Mission UK's album The First Chapter