Archive for ‘Garden 2013’

October 24, 2013

I’m digging, I’m searching right through that luggage…

I for sure just referenced a rap song in my title.

Anyway, gosh, where have we been? In Milwaukee, mostly. Playing disk golf and enjoying piling our friends into our cozy house on the weekends. Watching a couple from our house church get married and then getting our groove on at the reception. Because the church that dances together stays together, right?

I’ve also been feeling pretty inspired to write. Obviously, not blog posts. But I’ve parked myself on the couch or at Colecterra* pretty much any chance that I have some free time because, well, I’m writing a novel. That feels weird to say. I don’t really have any intent of submitting it for publishing, but for me to even undertake such a huge project is kind of empowering. I’ve written 12 chapters. And honestly, I could write 12 more. It’s gotten to be that engaging for me.

We have another HUGE project that’s taking up all of our free daylight hours:

That’s right, the vegetable garden is growing! Boo mapped out the dimensions of it and helped me create a final design. I’ll scan it and post it here at some point, but to give you some idea of what it will look like, we’re going to create a large rectangle at the ground level. It will expand from the eastern edge of the existing raised bed to the compost bin and have a circular feature in the center. I’d like it to be a multi-level thing, with strawberries on the bottom tier, pollinator-attracting flowers in the middle, and some sort of trellis or spire on the top. Or maybe a blueberry bush. For right now, I’m just going to work on cultivating the strawberries along the border of the circular garden, leaving the middle open for future building up. The remaining garden will have pathways laid out diagonally. Essentially, I’ll have four large triangles for vegetables.

I’m still debating about it, but I may use the existing raised bed exclusively as an herb garden. Again, I’d like it to have a few different levels and look like more than just a big box. Also, some herbs can spread too easily and will need to be contained in their own separate boxes anyway. We’ll see!

Eventually, we’re going to fence the whole thing in to keep out the hungry bunnies. This will also allow us to build in some garden benches and trellises.

In the meantime, we are quite busy DIGGING! It’s hard work! Boo’s been doing most of the sod-breaking because he wants to dig down deeper and move the sod to some bare spots we have near the house. We joke that he’s working at Jason’s Sod Farm. Anyway, digging that deep requires lifting heavier shovelfuls and I’m just too scrawny!

So, I’ve been keeping busy by cleaning out the old plants and then going through the whole thing with my trusty rototiller. After everything is cleared out, I’m going to seed most of the garden in winter cover crops.

It’s  big chore, and we very well don’t get everything done before the ground freezes. We still have to rake/mulch leaves, clean the gutters, and wash the windows before it gets too cold, and we only have so many hours of daylight. But I’m already so amazed at how big the garden has become. I can’t wait to see the whole thing in action!

*Our local coffee chain, Alterra, recently changed their name to Colectivo. While I respect their reasons for doing it, I’m not personally a big fan of the new name. So, to rebel a little bit, I often refer to it as Colecterra or Altivo.

September 15, 2013

Magical Melons

This year, for the first time, I attempted to grow two varieties of musk melons: Minnesota Midget and Collective Farm Woman. I would say both have been a success so far.

I ate the first Minnesota Midget variety over Labor Day weekend. The one that I harvested was ripe and a little on the small side – about the size of an apple. I wish I had taken a photo, but I was too anxious to cut it open and see what it tasted like! It had to be the cutest melon I’ve ever eaten.

The flavor was good – not amazing, but certainly good. Given how easy they were to grow, I think I would give them another go around. They would be especially fun if you have kids at home who want to grow a plant of their own. Maybe if I’m still involved in the community garden next year, I’ll start some of these for a kid’s plot.

September 14, 2013

Blooms in the yard – August Edition

I love having enough space to grow a few cut flowers around my yard. We always, always had them growing up and there’s nothing prettier than a vase of fresh cut flowers on the table.

My marigolds that I planted for companion purposes are also looking great. In fact, I think I may grow them in my windowboxes next year – they were so easy to start and filled in so well. And of course, the bees love them!

September 12, 2013

Corn-fed city

So, one of my Three Sisters gardens is producing an amazing crop of dent corn.

I’m not sure if this is the blue or green dent corn…but either way, it looks like I may have some homegrown cornmeal this winter. Exciting stuff!

The other two weren’t doing well, and I kind of assumed they wouldn’t produce but lo and behold, both have started to tassle and are forming ears.

I can already foresee the vigilant war I’ll have to wage against the squirrels when the corn starts to ripen and dry out.

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I loved playing in the cornfields. It felt like being in a jungle or something. I was looking at the dent corn and realizing that I had forgotten how tall it grows! Even now that I’m an adult (albeit a short adult) the height that something can grow in just a short season amazes me.

September 10, 2013

More pickles

Two weekends ago, I set aside an afternoon for harvesting and pickling.

I know that pickled food isn’t exactly “healthy” – you’re cooking out most of the nutrients from the fruit in the water bath. However, home canned pickles are a much more sensible treat than potato chips, and we enjoy eating them all winter long.

I ended up with quite a haul:

Yum. I’ll have one more round of bush beans before the cold weather comes, and should end up with a few more pints worth to pickle. Not only will we have enough to snack on, but I should be able to give some as gifts.

September 8, 2013

An Unfortunate Incident

Sometime around the end of August, a big tree branch dropped from our Elm tree and fell right smack in the middle of one of my Three Sisters gardens. It took out a few stalks of Strawberry popcorn and some pole bean plants, and bent the gourd frame all out of shape.

However, there was a silver lining: while cleaning up the damaged plants, I noticed that the Rattlesnake Pole beans had started producing:

It was good motivation to gear up for a weekend of pickling – more on that later.

It was also a somber reminder that we are going to need to take that tree down someday sooner than later. We have a love-hate relationship with it – it’s such a beautiful old tree and provides habitat for lots of birds. However, it shades a lot of the garden, and it’s growing right next to both the house and the garage. I wish we could somehow transfer it to the back of our long yard!

September 5, 2013

So long, sweet summer

Ya’ll…life in the big city has been crazy time for this past month. We have a LOT going on, and this definitely requires some of my time and attention:

So, if you’re wondering what’s been going on and why I didn’t post about the awesomeness of my first homegrown heirloom tomato for 2013, I apologize. I’ll be doing some August recapping over the next week or so whilst patiently waiting for my spinach and chard to germinate and give us greens throughout the fall. Stay tuned!

August 14, 2013

We don’t grow plants here

We grow small trees:

August 12, 2013

The first pickles

Last Sunday, I realized that I had enough Mexican Gherkins and Parisian Pickling Cucumbers to make my first small batch. The Parisian Pickling cukes are producing steadily, but not really prolifically – making it hard to time pickling sessions because you want to be able to make as much as possible. I ended up composting two or three of them because they were the only ones that were ready to be picked and eventually they got too big while I was waiting for some of the smaller cukes to ripen. Oh well, at least now we have a compost pile.

The Mexican Gherkins just don’t quit, but because of their small size they simply don’t take up much space in a jar. Plus…well, in order for them to make it into my kitchen and get turned into pickles, they need to last longer than they have been. I tend to “graze” while I’m out in the garden and this often includes a handful of the sweet, crunchy cucumbers so handily growing on the cabbage frame ;).

So, to save some time, water, and energy, I used our large stockpot for a water bath. It’s about 50% smaller than my enamel pot, and the whole process was easier.

I was too impatient to see how the Mexican Gherkin pickles turned out, so I popped open a jar yesterday after only giving them a week. Oh wow – these little pickles are amazing! if you are growing Mexican Gherkins and looking for something different to do with them other than munch on them or put them on salads, pickle them! They’re a treat, for sure.

August 4, 2013

Three Sisters Stuff

I have to say – I’m really pleased with the Three Sisters method of companion planting. I did three different patches, and two of the three are doing so well. The third one is up in the “raised bed of death” and while it’s growing, it’s extremely stunted. I may just count that one as a loss and use the short corn stalks for decoration this fall…we’ll see.

However, the other two, located in my 5×5 Challenge garden, are flourishing:

This is Three Sisters #2 and it contains strawberry popcorn, Rattlesnake pole beans, African Bottle gourds, and Cinderalla pumpkins. Some of the corn sustained significant aphid damage early in the year, but it now seems to be doing great, albeit a little behind. It’s exciting to think that I may actually get popcorn out of this bed. The beans are doing well, as are both the vines…especially the pumpkins.

They’re creeping their way into the tomato patch, which I don’t particularly mind. There’s space for them, and it helps shade the soil around the base of the tomatoes.

This is Three Sisters #1 – Dent Corn, Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans, and Minnesota Midget melons. The corn in this bed is really taking off and starting to form tassels. The beans were my first venture into seed saving – I saved some pods from a friend’s garden last fall and they’re doing well.

The melon vines are in full bloom, and I’ve been finding a few of these little fuzzballs on them:

I will certainly be using this method of growing in the future. It’s a great way to utilize space and grow some healthy plants.