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!

Garden Update: Early March

Gettin’ ready

It’s been a long time coming.  This Winter was quite a bit colder and, more recently, wetter than last Winter, so while we’ve wanted to get out in the garden to get things started, our schedule and the weather simply haven’t worked out.

Case in point, I was on Spring Break this past week and for the first 3 days of it, the temperatures were below 40 F and were rainy and gross.  Granted, I was on Break and wasn’t particularly motivated to do anything, but oh well…that’s my excuse.

Regardless, Brooke ordered some seeds and tomato plants from Jung Seed, so we needed to get the ground usable prior to their arrival.

“Fire!”

For the last few years, we’ve kept the leftover stalks and grass clippings on the gardens for the season.  Last year, Brooke burned it all and we opted to do the same thing this year (this time with a permit, so a bit more legal…).  It was just windy enough to feed the fire, but just damp enough so that it would take a little time to burn it all away.

After the fires were done, I used the neighbor’s tiller to turn it all over and make it look all pretty like.

Healthy dirt!

I’m still impressed by how dark the dirt is after using it the past few years.  We haven’t had to add much compost, though we did add some manure last year (just a sprinkling, really…not much).

The garden plots are going to get rotated again, but I’ll post more about that once we actually plant some stuff.  For now, the plan is to put the carrots, radishes and lettuce are going to go where the tomatoes and peppers were last year.  We’re planting all that stuff a week or two later than last year, but whatcha gonna do?

A Welcome Thaw

They live!

I’ve been meaning to post something for a bit, but with the weather we’ve had these past few weeks, we haven’t done all that much! In the past month, we had a few nights in the -10 F range and at least a week where we didn’t go above freezing. Last Tuesday, school was cancelled for Meg because we weren’t expected to get above 10 F, and apparently waiting for a bus when it’s -3 F in the morning isn’t ideal…

Anyway, this past week, temperatures started getting up into the 40 F range for once, getting rid of the snow we had last week…  Yesterday, we made it into the 50s (though I was on campus working with a Science Olympiad competition we were running, so I didn’t get to really enjoy the weather all that much), and today, we’re in the mid-60s.  Not bad for late-January!

We’ve been keeping an eye on the bees throughout this process, as they don’t survive well when it’s below 0 F for extended periods of time.  Generally, as long as you’ve got enough bees in a hive, they can surround the queen and flap their wings enough to keep everyone warm and survive.  We had some much colder days this winter than last winter, though, so we weren’t sure how they’d handle it.

Based on the picture above, they did just fine!  Brooke got in and put in a solid feeder “cake” sort of thing to get them through the rest of winter (at least, most of the way there) and she pulled off the super to keep them concentrated in the lower portions of the hive.  They’re pretty active on a day like today, so hopefully they don’t burn through the rest of their food supply thinking it’s Spring (hint: it isn’t).

Better late than never, right?

In other news, in keeping with this blog’s need to post everything garden-related possible, here are some popcorn ears Brooke finally picked.  Because, you know…it’s January.

Not that long ago!

Like I said, we had some snow last week on Martin Luther King Day when both kids were off school, so it was the perfect time for Calvin to go sledding for the first time.  Again, it hasn’t gotten than cold the past few years and, incidentally, we haven’t had enough snow for sledding since we first moved here, so Calvin hasn’t been old enough to enjoy it yet.

He took to it like a champ. 🙂

Garden Update: Mid-September

Beans!

The garden is certainly on the decline, but we’re still picking a substantial amount of stuff.  When all was said and done, we ended up with over 20 pints of green beans canned this year, along with all the rest of them we ate fresh.  There are still some beans on the plants, but most of the pods are empty, so we’ve largely given up on them.

Tomatoes and soup beans

The tomatoes and the soup beans, on the other hand, are ridiculous.  The tomatoes have certainly slowed, but Brooke has been keeping up with canning sauce, freezing batches until enough are ready.  Brooke has canned 32 pints of tomato sauce so far.  This time, she hasn’t canned any whole tomatoes like she’s done before.

Bounty!

We also have 5 quarts of soup beans.  As in, a full ice cream bucket full of them.  And there are plenty more on the vine.  This may be our largest haul of those beans yet!

We’ve had some banana peppers here and there.  Our pepper haul this year was lower than before, mostly because the volunteer tomatoes encroached and limited their growth.  We haven’t eaten many of them yet, but Brooke’s frozen slices of them for later use.

Pumpkin…sadly, not gonna make it…

Here’s that really good pumpkin, completely with a grasshopper to add some scale to the picture.  We were hopeful this one would make it, but some bugs drilled a hole in the side.  It isn’t rotten yet, but we can’t say we’ve got much hope for its survival.  There are a few other little baby pumpkins growing that are still yellow, but they surely won’t make it.

We think this is a watermelon…it kinda looks like it…

We actually had more luck with watermelons this year.  This is the biggest one, yet it’s strangely misshapen.  There’s another, rounder one, but this late in the season, we aren’t hopeful much will come of them.  Still, it’s the most success we’ve had with watermelons!  They just took a lot longer to get moving than we expected.

Popcorn!

The popcorn also took awhile to get going.  There are fewer stalks this year, but what we’ve gotten so far is promising.  Obviously, the weeds are taking over…

A closer look…

The corn ears are pretty skinny still, but I seem to remember them looking like that last year.  We aren’t expecting to get a lot of popcorn, but last year’s crop worked out better than we expected, so perhaps we’ll be surprised again!

Raspberries, blackberries and future sweet potatoes.

The raspberries came back with a vengeance!  I figured they were done a long time ago, but the last two weeks, we’ve been getting handfuls of them.  We haven’t really done anything particularly interesting with them, but Meg and Calvin each had 10-15 last Saturday afternoon while they were playing outside and, frankly, that’s a good enough reason to grow them.

The sweet potatoes are still growing and we haven’t done anything with them yet.  We assume there are potatoes down there.  I guess we’ll find out eventually, when we get around to digging them up!

That peach tree is still growing great! The rest…well…

The fruit trees are still there, with the peach tree leading the growth chart.  The rest of the trees got hit hard by Japanese Beetles and, while they’re still growing alright, they’ve got a long road to full recovery.  Their trunks have fattened up substantially, so I hope the root system has followed suit, even though the leaves haven’t.  We’ll add some fertilizer and mulch to them in the next few weeks and hope that helps them out over the winter months.

That’s about it!  Probably the last post on this for the year, but who knows…maybe those tomatoes will keep going through November…

Garden Update: Mid-July

Crazy town up in here…

It’s a little early to be posting another garden update, but we’re reaping some benefits from our copious greenery, so I figured I should put up a few pics.  Above, the pumpkins (big leaves) and watermelon (in front) are growing alright, but we haven’t seen any fruit on the vines yet.  There are some flowers there, so we’re hopeful.  The green beans have gone crazy, so we’ve been picking quite a few of those in recent days (just about every other day).

Vegetables of our labors.

Thus far, Brooke has canned 16 pints of green beans and we have another 4 pints (we guess) in an ice cream bucket waiting to be fully processed.  There are still flowers on the plants, so we expect more to come, however the temperature has been in the 90s all week, so despite my watering of the garden every few days, we figure the beans are going to slow down pretty soon.

We also picked our first few tomatoes last night, and that seems a bit earlier than last year’s harvest.  The plants have also gone kinda nuts…

Eeeesh…

…and that isn’t helped by the soup beans that surround them.  We spent some time last night pulling the soup bean vines off the tomatoes and tied up the ‘mater plants to the trellis, but I suspect the beans will continue to encroach.  The soup beans are also doing quite well, so we’ll end up with a great harvest of them.  The tomatoes are mostly green at this point, except for the ones we picked last night.

Peaches!

Also, last, but not least, we got some peaches before the Japanese Beetles got them!  We ended up with 5, total, though one fell off early and the other was split down the middle, so we didn’t eat it.  They were very good!  A bit soft by the time we picked them, but the flavor was quite nice.  Not too bad for 2 years of having trees!

Speaking of which, the beetles have been really bad this year, mostly targeting the peaches.  We put up a beetle trap last night and we’re hoping that mitigates the issue a bit, but we’re wary of how helpful it’ll be…

Onward!