Archive for July, 2013

First harvest!

Well, more like unintentional harvest.  I finally got around to weeding this weekend, with a HUGE thanks to a good friend that was able to help me.  We worked for about 2 hours, which was all we could really do in the heat and with all the labor involved.  We intended to weed on Saturday, but the ground was so hard that it made it more or less impossible to dig up anything.  I put the sprinkler on for about an hour or two to soak and soften the ground and we went out to Bass Pro to look for some things before my reward certificates expired.  I’m told that they don’t really expire, and you can have customer service reactivate them, but I just wanted to use them so I don’t forget or lose them.  I got a really nice fire pit, which I obviously don’t have plans on using for at least a few more months.  However, with bullets still in short supply, and nothing else on my wish list at the moment, I figured it would be a good time to buy it.  Well, we wandered around a little too long, so by the time we got back it was too late to weed that night.

Well, anyways, while we were weeding, he accidentally stabbed one of the eggplants with the weeder, and I accidentally pulled up an entire Eggplant plant with a handful of weeds.  So 1 Eggplant down, only 5 more now 😦  I’m hoping the plant that had the stabbed eggplant will start growing a new one since I took the damaged one off.  The plant I accidentally pulled up, I didn’t try to replant, since the roots looked really damaged.  I took the eggplant off of it and will try to make something with it.  They’re still immature, so it might taste a little bitter.  The mature ones are a little soft when you press on them, and the one I harvested is still pretty hard.  So that’s my first harvest of the summer!  Well, technically I’ve been harvesting the cherry tomatoes for a while.  They were container planted, so they get plenty of water and had fantastic soil to start with, and they’re just growing like crazy.  I’m getting about a handful of tomatoes every few days.  But for The Farm specifically, this is the first thing to come out of it.  I also harvested a sunflower head.  I didn’t really read up about harvesting them until AFTER I cut the head off (typical of me), so I didn’t realize you’re supposed to leave them be until after they turn brown.  You don’t have to, but drying them on the stalk is supposed to be the preferred method, provided you put a paper bag (not plastic, since that won’t let the seeds dry and could cause mold/rot) over the head to keep birds away and catch any falling seeds.  I could tell after cutting the head off that the seeds weren’t quite ready, but I still have several more left, including one massive one that will probably yield at least a pound of seeds or more, though I’m not a good judge of yield or weight.  The seeds are still a little grey and are pretty damp, so I’ll have to see if they are mature enough to eat.  I’m going to try to air dry them inside, and then see how they taste.  I have pictures of both the eggplant and sunflower below, plus The Farm that is now looking more like a legitimate garden.  For those that just starting reading this blog from the top-down or just came across this page, I call my current garden “The Farm” since I need to differentiate my future garden which will have herbs and flowers growing in it from my vegetable garden that is much larger.  I know I could just call one “the herb garden” or “the apothecary garden” (the latter because I will be growing herbs that have health benefits in it, such as milk thistle, apothecary rose, stevia, and many other herbs used in cooking.  The other being called “the vegetable garden”.  Having just now thought of that, I think my main reason prior to this moment was laziness, and having to type that extra word each time made my lazy gland really hurt.  In case you’re wondering what a lazy gland is, it’s a small organ at the base of your brain that causes your limbs to suddenly feel really tired or your head to hurt whenever the prospect of work, physical or mental, is introduced to your environment.  It senses work by detecting slight changes in your chemical balance, and then seeks to further unbalance your bodily chemicals by making whatever you need to do suddenly seem much more lame and impossible.

So, considering I don’t have an herb garden yet, maybe I’ll just call “The Farm” a garden for now.  Especially since it’s really not much of a farm, and I shudder to think what a real farmer would think of what is essentially a weed patch with some tomatoes growing in it.  …and a turtle.  I didn’t get a picture of it, but I had that little guest in the garden when I was weeding it.  I figure it couldn’t do much damage, so I let the little guy hang out in there.

I may end up calling the two gardens the herb garden and the raised bed garden, since I am getting more serious about making the veggie garden in raised beds next year.  I at least need SOMETHING to keep out the grass from creeping in.  My uncle told me I could partially bury cinder blocks into the perimeter, since they’re cheap, they keep out grass, and you can even grow flowers in the holes in the blocks.  It sounds like a great idea, and it’s not totally out of the question, but I’m starting to think I might need to improve the aesthetics a little.  Not just for my soon-to-be new neighbors sake, but also so I don’t feel embarrassed whenever I post pictures here.  Raised beds will hold in top soil and composted soil better, and it would also be easier to put in floating row covers so I could keep out bugs and warm up the plants in early spring.   Plus, and most importantly, it would have predefined dimensions which would prevent me from getting overly ambitious in the future and attempting to sow half an acre of corn or something.  I would only grow in the raised beds, so I would have to plan out my veggies and it would allow me to set goals that are achievable and realistic.  Since I wouldn’t be walking all over the soil, I wouldn’t need to till the soil as much, or maybe at all.  A minor turning of the soil in the spring may be all that’s needed, but I’ll have to wait and see.  Another plan of mine, which does sound like it’s getting into the “overly ambitious” category, is to make raised beds that are around 4 feet high.  That in itself isn’t the ambitious part.  They would have a false bottom on them, so I wouldn’t need to back-fill 4 feet of soil, they would only go down at most 1 foot, and the empty space in them would have daisy-chained 55-gallon plastic barrels.  The rain water coming into the beds would fill the barrels via a filter and tubing, and then I could have a pump that would water the plants in times of no rain.  I would really have to sit down and work out the logistics of it, with the pump and the plumbing that would be needed but I have plenty of time to do that before next spring.  I will, of course, keep you all informed and educated every step of the way, so that I can create a road map if anyone wants to follow after I’ve completed the project.  This will be a great record of the progress, and I know some people like watching a project progress from conception to completion.  When I think more about possible layouts for a raised bed garden, I’ll post them up here.  While I think about that, I may try making a test bed, since next spring seems so far away, and I don’t have enough things going on in my life right now so what’s one more project (*SARCASM*).  I do want to know what I’m getting myself into, and a test bed would be a good way to see what’s involved.  Plus if I like how it looks, I can slowly start buying the materials over the winter, so the costs aren’t so painful if I waited for the spring to buy everything.  I could even slowly build the beds over the winter months after I harvest and clear out the garden, provided it’s not too cold for construction.

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Much needed update. Or “where has the summer gone?”

So, first off, I found out that at least one person reads my blog!  I’d give a shout-out, but I’ll leave that to later if they want to be recognized.  Second, I do want to say that comments are welcome on this blog, it might help keep me honest, and deligent with posting more than once every 2-3 months.  Needless to say, the summer months are busy.  Busy will mowing the law, swatting away bugs, dying from the heat, and staying inside whenever one can (all the time).  That being said, I have a sad update from the suburban farm.  No, it’s not dead, but surely it’s not thriving.

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Yes, unfortunately, that’s my garden.  Well, nobody…including me…thought that this year would be a bumper harvest.  But truly, I think that this is year zero, not one.  This was the control,”What would happen without fertilizer, without rules, without a plan, and without any real idea what I was doing.”  Besides that, I think in a few weeks/months, I will have a few vegetables to show for my “hard(?)” work.  I see some green tomatoes clawing their way through the weeds,  I beat back the grass and weeds to give the eggplant a change (and LOTS of Sevin), but the organic garden will have to wait until there’s a garden with a bit of time for organic gardening (when I have 5-7 kids that love to listen to me….HAH!!)

So, what does the garden look like right now?  Guff, you really don’t want to know.  I haven’t had much time to do anything with it, and with the lack of rain in the last week, I’m sad to say I’ve lost at least two squash plants.  I’ll post the pictures of it now, so I can look back at this in years-future and hopefully think to myself how I let that ever happen.

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Now, the good news is that a few things are actually growing.  the sunflowers have survived despite my many attempts to step on them (inadvertently) and the tomatoes are growing around the weeds and without any support with stakes as commonly done.  If I’m adept at growing anything, it would apparently be grass and those little things that look like mini corn-dogs.

My wife is very patient, and to that end, she’s allowed me to continue to grow weeds and a mess of green things next year.  However, I’ve decided to make some changes.  I thought that raised bed gardening would be pointless with so much room to grow things, but with the grass-creep, I’ve decided to try separating my valuables from the less-desirable’s that grow all around them.  Just because I have land to grow vegetables on, doesn’t mean I have to just toss seeds out onto it right?  (At this point, my family, neighbors and readers are probably screaming “no duh!”), but I wanted to give the “natural” planting a try.  Not to say in the least that it can’t or wouldn’t work, but with a full-time job, newborn baby, and a house that I’m moving into to deal with….it’s just not the time to try that.  So, to that end, this is what I’d like to try, and I’ll be sure to keep updating this blog all throughout the process, so you’ll have many data points to compare and analyze for your own gardening.  I promise I won’t ever sell out if I get popular and hawk gardening products, but if I get anything that works, I will be sure to pass along what I have found that works, so you all can benefit.

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