Garden Update: 5.19.19

This’ll be a quick update, as I just posted something a few days ago, but we needed to pull out all the spinach so I wanted to record how much we got. Seems like we have multiple Aldi-sized bags-worth of them, so it was worth the effort! Brooke thinks this is substantially more than we had last year, and I agree. Thus far, we’ve clocked 4 gallon-size bags full of it. The lettuce is coming on pretty well, too, but we haven’t harvested any of it yet.

We’ll freeze most of the spinach to be used for smoothies. We’re hoping some of the spinach continues to grow for a few more weeks so we can have some fresh stuff for salads, but the majority of it will be saved for our smoothie habit.

Other than that, we’ve got a few more things moving along, including some little strawberry-lets, so hopefully we’ll get a few of those in the near future, too! We weren’t anticipating that we’d get all that many strawberries this season yet, but we’ve got at least 5 moving along. Fingers crossed!

We’ve also got some buds on the raspberries moving along, so Calvin’s excited to start going out every day and stealing them before I can get one…

Brooke also put the next hive body on the bees today. She saw plenty of bees in there and some new brood, so the nuc appears to be doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

And last but not least, Brooke spent the week working on macrame so she could hang up some plants on the front porch. She’s very proud of them. 🙂

That’s enough! Looking forward to fresh strawberries! …so long as the squirrels lay off of them…

Garden Update: 05.13.19

We finally got some garden time in this weekend, between having an available day and also not having constant rain… It was kinda a “make or break” day for us to get things in, so we went by Orscheln to get some tomatoes, pepper plants, and some flowers for the front porch. This was after we visited the Birds & Bees festival in Arrow Rock to see some…er….birds and bees….but also to pick up some native plants and herbs. More on that later…

Regardless, the radishes and spinach are doing quite well! We’ve had about 3 rounds of radishes in the quantity pictured below. The spinach pulled is our first official harvest, but as you can see in the image above, there’s plenty more where that came from. Also, the open part of the plot pictured above is currently housing volunteer tomatoes, but is destined for cucumbers once we get around to planting them.

Otherwise, we also planted about 8 pepper plants (mostly green, one yellow), and a pumpkin plant that Calvin wanted (I said “no,” but was overruled…). Next to that set of peppers, we will be planting green beans, probably mid-week when the ground dries out a bit more.

The carrots are doing dramatically better than last year (which is to say, we have more than one carrot plant). They’re pretty small and took forever to pop up, but so long as it continues along this vein, we should end up with a decent number of carrots…er…eventually…

Again, the tomatoes end up doing well for us usually, but this year, we didn’t end up with freebies from the Botany class on campus. We grabbed mostly “beef-type” slicers and some Italian roma varieties. We didn’t plant many (any?) cherry tomato varieties because we always get volunteers, and lo and behold, we totally do.

We spent a decent amount of time cleaning out the herb garden, as there were tons of weeds and waaaaaaay too much mint growing. We think we left the flowers that have been growing from year to year, and also bought a few milkweed plants from the Birds & Bees festival to help the butterflies and bees. The kids also scored a free shining blue star that should do well in that spot in the coming years. Regardless, the mint, lemon balm, and oregano (that I forgot was even in there…) are all doing crazy well. I’ll probably need to pare those back a bit as the summer continues…

Lastly, the lettuce is finally getting to the point where we may be able to pick some of it. Brooke moved the chives to the raised bed, and also planted some sage and basil. Brooke dug in the raised bed a bit and we can’t say we are particularly impressed with the dirt we laid down awhile back, as it’s become kinda compacted and “layered” in the bed. It sure seems like the dirt in the garden is far blacker and healthier than what the raised bed has, so we’ll have to see what ends up happening in the next few years.

And last, but certainly not least, we’ve got some peaches and apples growing in our trees, which is in keeping with what we got last year (minus the Japanese beetles…), so that part isn’t all that surprising. What is exciting is that we’ve got about 6 pears growing finally! Our first crop of them! Woo hoo!!

That’ll do for now!

Garden Update: 03.17.19

Relative to 2018, we’re a bit behind. We’ve had so much rain, freezing rain, ice, snow, blizzards, and glaciers this year that it’s been too wet to till up the garden, let alone burn the brush off of it from last year. In the meantime, we’ve had it in mind for awhile to add a raised garden bed between our new patio and the rest of the garden, so we took advantage of one of the first nice days we’ve had in 2019 to get started on it.

We went with cinder blocks to get it started, along with PVC pipes to not only lock it down to the ground, but also serve as places to stick some re-bar hoops in to let us cover the plot in winter. Brooke also saw a post online where we could just put down cardboard to kill off the grass, while letting it biodegrade slowly. We also had some leaves and brush around so…we threw that in there… Why not…

Brooke had me pick up quite a few bags of dirt to throw in this plot. We put 5 bags of topsoil on the bottom layer, directly on top of the cardboard.

This was followed with a layer of peat moss. That stuff was a bit more “solid” than we expected, likely because it was so compacted in those giant bags. Believe you me, that 3 cu. ft. bag took up more space in the car than the 5 bags of top soil did…

Lastly, we put four bags of compost down, followed by a final layer of 5 more bags of top soil.

Finished product! The plan is to put lettuce and some herbs in it as soon as we can. We’ll put the re-bar in the PVC pipes this Fall and then find some thick plastic to cover everything, hopefully to keep things growing into January 2020. As I’m sure you know, more pictures to come as 2019 continues!

Garden Update: Late-September

So, being honest for a moment: I put these pictures in here earlier in October and forgot about it.  I’m a little late, but the garden hasn’t changed all that much in the last week, so oh well: it is what it is.

Aaaaannnyway, we’ve mostly shut down the garden for the year.  At this point, I’m still going out a few times a week to grab cherry tomatoes for Meg’s and my lunches during the week.  There are some full-size tomatoes still coming on, and we’ve still got peppers out there, but we’re only going out there when we feel like it, or when we need something for some reason.

Brooke picked the popcorn.  We got some this year, but nowhere near what we got two years ago.  She noticed a squirrel attempting to carry an ear up one of our maple trees a few weeks ago, so we know various pests also went after them.  Still, we got something, so it could have been worse.  The bean plot has some of last year’s straw bales on it to try and limit the growth of weeds, but other than that, we’re leaving that entire plot alone now.

The tomato and pepper plots are still moving, to a limited degree.  Somehow, earlier last week, we ended up with 80+ F temperatures before it started getting cooler.  The low tonight is supposed to be 38 F, so we’ve had a big swing in the last week!  We’ve also had some rain, so I should probably mow…er…sometime…

Earlier in October, Brooke picked as much as she could handle and ended up with quite a few tomatoes.  She’s pretty sure she’s canned over 20 pints thus far, though she put these tomatoes pictured here in the freezer until she’s ready to process them.  She expects that she can hit 30 pints by the time it’s all said and done, but the “official” count remains to be seen.

Our pepper crop ended up being pretty solid this year!  We didn’t get many traditional bell peppers, but the peppers we ended up with were still relatively mild and tasty.  

She ended up canning them after roasting them outside on the grill.  The roasting process was straightforward outside and provided the “real estate” to do all of them at one time.  Brooke brought them in and cut them all up and put them in small jars in the fridge.  I’m not entirely sure what she’s going to do with them, but I suspect they’d be good in a chili or on a pizza.  We’ll see!

Lastly, aside from the popcorn in the middle, here’s the soup bean and “pole bean” haul from this year.  Not a ton on any of their counts, but still: more than we had before.  We will definitely go with pole beans next year, but we haven’t decided whether to go with a more “prolific” variety, or whether we need to just add more arms to the teepee and get more plants going.  With regards to the soup beans, we knew going in that we weren’t planting as many as last year (we’ve still got some), but it just feels wrong to not plant them, so here we are.  We got something.  That’s what matters.

This post probably closes out this year’s garden posts for awhile!  I may do another wrap-up later after the sweet potatoes come up, but that doesn’t usually happen until we get closer to the freezing point (which is tonight…incidentally…who knows…silly Missouri weather…).  We had a good run in 2018!

Update (10/16/18): Rather than starting a whole new post about this, I figured I’d add a few pictures from yesterday.  Our first frost hit last night (a low of 29 F), so we picked the rest of the tomatoes and peppers that were out.

The tomatoes weren’t in the best of shape, but I got almost a “car wash bucket” out of them.  I’ll be sad to see the cherry tomatoes go this season, as I’ve been eating them in my lunch twice a week, but I suppose all good things must come to an end…

The peppers were in better shape, overall.  Lots of big ones and little ones out there.  Brooke’s going to freeze these after she slices and dices them and we’ll use them in chili, on pizzas, etc. I think our pepper haul was shockingly good this year, though I guess I can’t say for certain whether we got more than last year or not (I suspect so…).

Sometime in the next few days, Brooke will dig up the sweet potatoes.  That’ll close out the garden for 2018 for good!

Garden Update: Late-July

It continues…

The garden has slowed down to a degree, mostly because rain has been very scarce.  I’ve watered as best I can, of course, but there’s only so much a sprinkler can do.  The temperatures this week have been great: the A/C has been off for a week and will remain that way into next week!

The green beans are “done,” it seems.  You can see in the picture above, but the middle of the crop just died off all the sudden and we aren’t sure why.  Regardless, Brooke canned 28 pints of beans, plus another 2 pints that didn’t seal correctly, and the 3+ quart-size bags we’ve given away to others.  Brooke has also canned cucumbers as lime pickles and ended up with 7 pints of those, but the cucumbers are still coming so she’ll end up with more.

Tomatoes and soup beans

The tomatoes have taken off and have tons of green ones on, but we have relatively few that have actually ripened.  And by “relatively few,” I mean “two.”  We’ve stolen a few from the Gault’s next door, as it always seems like theirs ripen a month before ours do.  I’m not sure what black magic their casting, but whatever it is, it works.

Mama Tomato and Papa Tomato.

The soup beans are also vining out substantially, though the ones furthest from the trees are doing better. I’m sure it’s the excess sunlight they get over there, but still, worth noting.

Berries, pole beans, sweet potatoes.

The berries aren’t doing much right now.  The Japanese Beetle War of 2018 spilled over to them for a little while, but I’m not sure they actually did much damage.  We did lose all the peaches except for four that I picked early.  After the beetles were done last week (seriously, it took a month this year…), there were still 3 or 4 peaches out there, but when we looked this week, we couldn’t find them.  We suspect the neighbors stole them…grrrrrr…

The pole beans have some nice looking pods on them, so we think we’ll be able to pick some soon!

Peppers!

The peppers keep truckin’ along.  We’ve got Margaret Peppers coming off the plants, as they’re starting to turn red.  They’re bell-type peppers, but they’ve got an ever-so-slight “kick” to them that Meg doesn’t seem to mind.  The other plants are mostly hot peppers of the Coyame variety (I think…they at least look a lot like those from last year…)

An extended walkway!

Last but not least, we added to the walkway over the past few weeks!  Meg and Calvin helped a little bit, but weren’t as interested this year in concrete work.  I think I ended up getting something like 20 or 25 bags (80 lb) of concrete mix to finish this up, though I’ve got a few extra I didn’t use.  The intent is to put a few patio chairs out there and move the chiminea onto the platform, but I’m waiting a few more days for the concrete to harden more fully.  I put sand and pea gravel on today, but I still need to get some more to fill in the gaps a bit better.

Just need some chairs now…

We’re happy with it, but may need to add a few more segments depending on which chairs we end up settling on.  We’ll probably landscape around the patio a bit, but as it’s so shaded there, we need to be careful what, exactly, we plant nearby.  Brooke has a large pot she picked up to get something started for next year already, so that’ll make an appearance once she gets some time.

Ultimately, we want some nice old metal chairs, or something similar, but they’re ridiculously expensive and you kinda need to run into them at antique malls, so we’ll get something for the meantime and keep our eyes open for “just the right chairs” to go there.  It may be a bit before we find exactly what we want.

Also, in the space between the patio and the tomato garden plot, we’re going to put in a raised bed and a make-shift greenhouse for some lettuce.  We want to get that going in the next few weeks so we have time to plant lettuce for the Fall, and perhaps a few other things.  I think Brooke’s going to plant some herbs there, too, but we’ll need to wait until next Spring for those.  We’ll see what she picks, I suppose!

Garden Update: Early July

So many beans…

The garden mostly took off while we were on vacation.  We had some weeds to clear out, mostly from the pepper and tomato plots, but we have everything generally back up to spec after a week.  The corn has gotten taller, though no tassels have appeared.   I feel like they’re doing better than last year, but that’s probably because we planted them late last time around. There were flowers on the green beans when we left and they turned into full-fledged beans in that period of time.

Seriously. So many.

Brooke’s canned 9 pints so far and we’ve eaten on and given away others.  As usual, we can just toss green bean seeds into dirt and grow a ridiculous crop.  You can’t not grow green beans, folks…

Tomatoes! Takin’ off!

The tomatoes have been tied up and flowers are showing up all over.  There aren’t all that many actual tomatoes on yet, but we’ve seen some tiny ones on there, and some romas that are getting within striking distance.  The plants are looking healthy, but rain has been sparse, so we’re having to water them quite a bit.

They’re little. Gettin’ there, though…

The peppers are similar.  We’ve actually got multiple bell peppers that are nearly ready to pick, as well as some hot peppers (no idea what they are…some assortment Brooke planted) that are nearing full size, and on those plants, we’ve also got more on the way.  In the picture below, you can see the remnants of the lettuce in the background that’s getting taken over by weeds, so I need to flip it all over in the next few days.  Brooke’s thinking she’ll plant some more spinach and eventually some lettuce for the Fall crop.  One step at a time…

Mmmm. Peppers.

The pole beans and sweet potatoes are still truckin’ along.  The raspberries are still coming on a few at a time, and we had Sam’s cat sitter eat on them while we were on vacation, so I think she probably got the bulk of them.

Berries, pole beans and sweet potatoes.

The trees are another story.  The peaches are looking really, really good, but the Japanese beetles are terrorizing near everything else.  They’re really hitting the apple trees, cherry tree and almond tree and we’ve been waging war as best we can.  Brooke’s got two traps up and emptied one already, and I’ve been spraying the trees with an organic pesticide that shouldn’t affect bees or other pollinators.  Hopefully this ends quickly, but until then, it’s a headache (as it was last year…).

The Japanese beetles are the worst.

Lastly, Brooke spent some time watering the front porch plants today and pulled down a hanging fern only to find some stowaways.  🙂

And baby birds for good measure.

 

Garden Update: Mid-June

Cucumbers, corn, green beans

As we’re heading off on vacation soon, I figured I should put up an update on the garden, so if the Squirrel Apocalypse takes them, we remember what all our crops looked like…

Overall, everything appears to be coming up pretty well and some of the plants (notably the green beans, tomatoes and peppers) have some flowers on them.  The cucumbers are starting to vine out a bit, so by the time we get back from the Grand Canyon, I expect them to have taken over the yard…  The green beans look great as always.  I’m pretty sure we could plant those in sand and rocks and still have them grow, as we always seem to have good luck with them (despite my hard work at killing them off…).  The corn keeps on trucking, albeit inconsistently.

Tomatoes and soup beans

Again, the tomatoes are starting to get some buds on them, so hopefully we’ll grow some sooner than usual.  We aren’t focusing on soup beans much this year (we still have some from last year and we always end up with more than we need), so they’re just planted in two of the corners of this plot.  Most of the tomatoes should end up being “paste tomatoes,” though we’ve got some “slicer” varieties planted, too.  Hopefully we won’t end up with any weird varieties, but we had to transplant a few “volunteers” from last year’s plot to fill some holes of plants that didn’t make it.  We’ll see!

Green peppers and lettuce

The green peppers have finally taken off in the past week.  We got some rain (1.5″) earlier this week and I’ve been watering them , so they’re looking better.  The lettuce is doing shockingly well still, but we expect it’ll be done by the time we get back.  We ended up getting quite a bit of lettuce this year and I think Brooke’s going to plant another round when it starts to get toward the end of the season.  She comes home from work and grabs a few leaves for her sandwich every day.  Like ya do. 🙂

…herbs?

This plot is still kinda a mess, now that the mint has almost fully taken over…  There’s lemon balm in there still, as well as a random orange flower that came back from last year that I can’t identify (and/or remember).  There are a few other flowers in the northern portion of the plot, but they’re already dying off.  A volunteer sunflower from two years ago has popped up recently, too…

Raspberries, sweet potatoes and “pole beans”

We’ve got raspberries!  Not a ton, but we ate a few last night and there are still some on now.  The pole beans are vining appropriately and the sweet potatoes are truckin’ along.

All the trees!

And the trees.  Still lots of apples and lots of peaches, but still no cherries or pears.  We didn’t expect almonds, though we did see some flowers on there over a month ago.  The peaches are looking especially good, so I hope they make it!

That’s it for now!  The harvest will be plentiful, as usual…as long as the squirrels leave it all alone…

A Memorial Day Weekend Project

Those bushes…

The bushes in front of the house have been there since, likely, the 1950s.  It’s hard to know for sure, but considering how “full” those things were, it had to be for decades.

They weren’t particularly good looking and housed wasps and ground bees from time to time, so we’d talked about removing them for the past few years.  The floorboards on the porch have gotten worse this year and needed replacement, so we were prompted to move up our timetable a bit on removal of the bushes.

We need to do some work on the porch…

We haven’t had much time this Spring so far, so Memorial Day weekend was the best option to try and get some of the work done.  Last weekend in Columbia, I picked up a new reciprocating saw and some blades; we picked up some new clippers for Brooke for her birthday; and we borrowed my Dad’s chainsaw.

We went at them with the clippers first and then employed the reciprocating saw to go closer to the stumps of the bushes.  There were two bushes in the front on each side that we were trying to remove, as well as one pine tree on each side.  The spirea bushes were also overgrown, but we wanted to keep them and our local landscaping company, Springwater, recommended trimming them back substantially and letting them grown out again.  Springwater also gave us some other landscaping ideas that we’ll employ as the Summer progresses.

Demo time!

The first two bushes went down relatively quickly and we had the next two trimmed down before lunchtime, so we made good progress before the temperature increased, though the sun got intense as the afternoon went on.

High of 93 F that day…

We took some breaks, of course.  The kids were in the backyard with the pool up and various water toys, so they were entertained while the grown ups did actual work on their Memorial Day weekend

I ended up using Dad’s chainsaw on the stumps and was able to flatten them out a bit to make it easier to cover them up.  The stumps proved a lot stronger than we’d anticipated and the chainsaw proved useful, but not enough to complete the job.  I hacked at the last stump as best I could but may need to let it rot a bit first before I can take an axe or something to it.

Done for now!

The wood under the porch floor seems to be pretty well intact, so we don’t think we’ll have to gut the whole thing and should just be able to replace the floorboards.  Obviously, that could change (because we’ve never done anything like that before…), but we’re hopeful that it should be a relatively easy project.

We’re going to wait until after vacation before we kick that one off, though!

Garden Update: Early May

Garden 2018, ya’ll…

Well, the garden’s finally planted.  In some ways, I feel like it’s later than usual, but in other ways, I feel like it’s early (probably because we planted popcorn in, like, July last year…).

The tomatoes are in the rightmost plot this time and green beans and popcorn are in the leftmost, largest plot.  New for this year, Brooke put in some cucumbers.  The kids actually eat sliced cucumber sometimes, so perhaps we’ll get something useful…

Looks kinda desolate so far…

Brooke planted radishes, carrots, spinach and lettuce about a month ago now, but there was a massive rain (~4″ in a few hours…), so the seeds she’d just put in the ground shifted out of their rows and/or didn’t come up.  Honestly, they look a little better than we expected, but we need to water the garden and get some grass clippings put in to limit weed proliferation.  Last week was the first time I mowed the lawn (fully, at least), so I’m only now getting to the point where I’m mowing regularly.

Pretty flowers!

The “herb garden” section still needs a little more work, though.  Brooke put some bulbs in last Fall and they came up looking all pretty-like.  Some of the other perennials have returned, but we’ve added some milkweed and indigo from the Botany class on campus.  Again, lots of landscaping to finish off.

Millions of peaches…

The trees have also had their flowers on already.  Like last year, the peach tree had a bunch of flowers (and they didn’t freeze this time…yay!), but new for this year, the apple trees, cherry tree and almond tree also had some blooms.  We’ll have to see if anything comes of it, especially on the apple trees where the buds were on the smallest of branches…

First harvest!

That’s it for now!  We’ve got some radishes ready and the lettuce is moving right along, so onward, summer!

R.I.Bees

Brooke had been meaning to get into the hives for the past month or so, but the weather simply wouldn’t cooperate this Spring.  March and April had very few warm-ish days and they were typically followed by long rain sessions.  Then, if we actually had some good weather on a weekend, we’d be out of town and still unavailable.

Eventually, after Girl’s Weekend, Brooke was able to leave work early and open up the hives and see how the bees were doing.  We’d noticed that there wasn’t much bee activity coming out of the hives on the warm-ish days, but again, as weather was back-and-forth for awhile, we couldn’t be sure whether there was a problem or whether the bees simply didn’t know what was going on with the weather situation.

Unfortunately, there were no bees.  Our original hive from 2016 was completely empty and was likely “robbed” by another hive of bees.  There was still some honey in the 2017 hive, but no bees to speak of, so they likely took their queen and swarmed sometime earlier in the year.  The food Brooke put in late in Winter was still there, so it’s likely they left sometime shortly after she was last in the hive.

In many ways, we count ourselves lucky, as many beekeepers lose 1/3 of their hives in a given year and we didn’t lose any last year, so we were probably due to have something like this happen.  We’re going to “re-set” the hive boxes to be lifted up a bit before putting any more bees in there, so in some ways, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of how we’ve been managing them and correct a few things before any new bees take up residence.

Thankfully, we’ve still got a decent amount of honey available to get us through the next few months.  We think we may be able to score an extra package of bees from Brooke’s Dad in the next few weeks, depending on how his bees hold up.  It’s the right time of year for bees to be delivered, so we’re hopeful that if Mark doesn’t end up having extra, someone else will, and Brooke has enough contacts now that we can probably get something going.

Here’s hoping!