Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Garden is Almost Ready...

I have no harvest for this Monday, but let me share with you what we have been doing in our garden so far this year. We've been working to get our spring crops planted in time for them to take advantage of the warm weather, and we've just about got it done.

Here is a picture of our East Plot...

On the far left I have planted five rows of Fortex green beans. To the right of those there are three rows of Willow Leaf Pole Lima Beans, then two rows of Celebrity tomatoes. Then a row with six black beauty eggplants and three sweet banana pepper plants finishing it up. Next to that is the Swiss chard and then the buttercrunch lettuce that is going to seed. When the lettuce is finished, I'll plant something else in that space.

...and now the West Plot.

I finally fertilized and mulched the marconi peppers. Now they just need to show some green on those stalks! To the right of the peppers I planted three rows of La Roma tomatoes. To the left is a row of cucumbers, along with a row of Park's Whopper tomatoes. At the far end of the pepper row you can see bare soil. That is where I have decided to plant my two rows of asparagus, which will be going from left to right in the plot. It will be a very long wait until the first harvest, but it will be worth it. I still have to sow some Detroit Dark Red beets in a row along the far left edge of the cultivated area. Hopefully they will produce this year.

That's all that's new in the garden this week. Within the next two days I'll be planting the asparagus crowns.

I hope everyone is having a great time succumbing to their spring fever!

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, March 19, 2012

Harvest Monday for March 19th, 2012.

As the weather continues to get more unseasonably warm it causes some vegetables to bolt and begin to go to seed. Our broccoli has already been harvested due to this situation, and now we have harvested our Vates collards. We had many rows and it was doing well through the winter months until now. We needed to harvest it before it bolted and went into seed production.

On Saturday, my son Jonathan began pulling the plants and laying them across a plank on top of two sawhorses, and I began picking off the leaves.

He made light work of this job. He was picking them by the fistfulls. 

We had a steady flow of collard plants coming from the garden to our "picking" area. After a few short hours, we had completed the process.

We ended up with 56 1/2 pounds of fresh organic collards! What do we do with that much collards? Look out for our fellow man, of course. We were blessed to be able to take 35 pounds of fresh collards to the Oasis Social Ministry in Portsmouth, Virginia, so they can cook them in their kitchen to serve to people less fortunate than ourselves. They do a great job there and can use all the help they can get to perform their mission.

After that was completed, I picked the Swiss chard so my son could use it in a dish he was preparing for his family. The Swiss chard yield was 2 1/4 pounds, and it looked beautiful.

Next to be harvested was the scallions from the green onions I planted in the flower pot. We got 2 1/4 ounces of scallions.

It seems as if the days continue to be warmer and warmer for this time of year. March 15th broke a record with a daytime high temperature of 86 degrees.

I decided at this point that I should be checking the soil temperature for overnight readings. I prefer to not put any seeds in the ground until the soil temperature stays at least 60 degrees overnight. I went out early one morning before the sun shone on the soil in this area and took a reading with my probe thermometer. It is a rapid change thermometer, but I still left it in the shaded ground for a full two minutes. 60 degrees. It's time to plant!

As a point of interest, the weeds were kept down to a minimum by the cross-mini-tilling that I did until the plants were too large for the tiller's tines to get through without tearing up the large leaves. At that point, I didn't mini-till anymore this season. You can see in the center of the picture the seaweedy type of weed that grew in between the plants. It really wasn't that bad. I don't feel their presence affected the harvest at all.

The day after we finished picking the collards, we did the tilling. Here my son is going over the west plot for the fourth time. The soil looks great! You can barely see the marconi pepper stalks still in place between the tiller and the camera.

Here is a view of the west plot in the top left corner of the picture, and the east plot, in the center. Since the Swiss chard is doing so well in its current place, I decided to leave it there until the end of the summer. The lettuce, when finished going to seed, will come out and be replaced by another vegetable type.

Here is a treat for the tomatoes when I go to plant them. Pulverized egg shells. Since last fall, I have been drying them and crushing them up in a pot each time we use them in order to sow the shell fragments in the holes for my tomato plants for a calcium boost. I ended up with about 34 ounces of pulverized shells.

Finally, here is one of our garden helpers. A baby toad. We are fortunate to have a good population of them in our back yard and garden. We watch out for them when tilling or doing other work that might injure them. We just relocate them out of harm's way when we find them. Our yard used to be overrun with slugs, but for two or three years now, we don't see any. That's because these critters are feasting on them.

That concludes this week's Harvest Monday Report. Thanks for visiting and I hope you found it informative.

Have a great vegetable gardening day.
Veggie PAK

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Our Springtime Gardening Progress.

In years past, when clearing out the old plants in preparation for the spring planting, I would pull the plants and put them on a pile and then use my lawn mower to roll over the top of them until it was all shredded material for my compost pile. After it was all cut up, I would put the bagging attachment on the mower and go over it again and bag it, then dump it on the compost pile. It was a lot of work and it always left kind of a nasty juicy area on the lawn where I mulched it.

This year, I tried something different...

It was a lot easier mowing over the individual broccoli plants than it was to pull them all and make a large pile and then try to run the mower over it all. I will use this method again next year.

This is what my broccoli rows look like after I mowed them over just one time. It was slow going, but it was a lot easier on the ol' back. The broccoli plants were larger than the collard plants you can see in the picture.

After tilling the broccoli portion of my garden for the first time this year, this is what it looks like. Pretty good, I think. After I tilled it this first time, my son Jonathan tilled it again. One more tilling after the collards are pulled, and I'll be planting my Fortex Green Bean seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds and the rest of the crops.

This is my west plot where I had two rows of broccoli. That area is all tilled up as well. You can see the row of giant marconi green pepper stalks to the left of center of the picture. You can also see my compost area in the top left corner.

The warm weather is the enemy of the collards. Here are a couple of pictures showing how wilted they get in the heat of the day.

As you can see, some of the leaves are almost lying on the ground from the heat of the day. Consequently, the collards will be pulled up in the morning when they have snapped back and the leaves are full and crisp. I'm not waiting any longer to do that.

My Brown Turkey Fig tree is growing very nicely! I pruned eleven shoots from it and stuck each of them in a hole in the ground after I rammed a 1/2 inch rod into the soil. It made the perfect "socket" if you will, for the shoots to be stuck into so they can try to grow into new trees. When I planted the eleven shoots, they had tight green buds on each of them.

Just one week later, the same shoots have progressed to the point shown in this picture and the following one. The leaves are unfurling and they look just as healthy as can be. If all these figs survive, I will go from one fig tree to twelve fig trees! I know this way isn't the perfect way to start a new tree, but the opportunity was there with the pruned shoots, so I took it. What do I have to lose? Mother Nature doesn't provide perfect growing circumstances, and she does fine. Why not give it a try?

Looks good, don't you think?

Here is my row of Giant Marconi Green Peppers that I tried to winter over in their same growing places. From the looks of the plants, it isn't very hopeful.

In the next three pictures, take a close look at the bark on the "trunks" and see that it is loose and falling off.

It certainly looks like they are dead as doornails. I didn't know which way to go... give them a chance or just go ahead and replant new plants. I needed to find out exactly what condition they were in.

Like being in grade school and having your last name begin with an "A", this plant was the first in the row, so it was selected for reporting the status of it's growth.

I went to pull it out of the ground so I could examine the root system and see if it was possibly alive. You can see the bare trunk as the light tan area. The bark was gone. When I went to pull this stalk out of the ground, after the first two-handed tug it didn't move. I had to give it a good grunt to pull it out of the ground!

I took it to my work table and looked closely at the roots. They were ALL very moist and healthy. No brittleness, dried roots or any negative condition was found on them. However, given the condition of the stalk, I really wasn't sure of the condition of this and the rest of the marconi pepper plants.

I had to do something to find out the condition of the plant. I didn't want to do a destructive test on it in case it was still a viable pepper producing plant. I thought... what could I do to find if there was still life in this plant? The only thing I could come up with was to do a below grade scraping of the bark. As you can see in the picture, the stalk is a healthy green color! That's why it was so hard to pull out! I immediately went and replanted it in the same location so that hopefully it will recover from my investigation efforts.

Even though they look like they are going to rejuvinate very well, I still have no guarantee that they will produce well, if at all. However, I am committed to this "experiment" to see if pepper plants can indeed winter over in a Zone 8a area, even if this was a very mild winter. So they will stay and we all will see how they will produce this year. The next step is to apply dried blood to the soil above the roots, along with general organic fertilizer, and then cover that with cured compost. At that point it will be up to Mother Nature to see them through.

Oh yes, and then there's the buttercrunch lettuce. I am happy to say that it is already going to seed and I will absolutely be saving those seeds for my family's garden next year.

You can see the flowers beginning to form all over the plants. It won't be long and they'll be seeding up and be ready for harvesting.

That's my garden progress at this time. I hope you enjoyed reading about my gardening efforts, especially about the experiment of the peppers wintering over. The actual success of that remains to be seen, but it's looking good.

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Winter Composting Efforts.

Each fall I sow my lawn with annual rye grass seed in order to have a good supply of "greens" for my compost pile through the winter. This year was no exception. I bought a ten pound bag of grass seed for this on two separate occasions, for a total of twenty pounds of grass seed from two different batches. I sowed the seed on October 18th and watered it in. As you can see from the picture below, the seed didn't germinate very well. In previous years this area would be a solid lush green color. Not this year.

I suspect that this warm winter that we've been enjoying has affected the germination of the winter grass seed and the growth of the grass as well. My lawn got patchy enough to mow one time and that was in December. My usual locations for obtaining grass clippings are all the same way. It just didn't grow. Consequently, my compost pile didn't get the greens that it needed to cook properly through the winter. I went to turning it about every ten days instead of every three days, but there was no significant change in the appearance of it. It didn't even produce steam when I turned it on cool mornings.

Finally some lawns grew enough so that they were mowed and I was able to gather some bags of clippings and blend their contents into my compost pile.

Yesterday I mixed in six lawn bags of grass clippings, each about 3/4 full, with my compost. Finally the compost should resume cooking like it is supposed to, and I'll go back to turning the pile every three days. The nitrogen materials really make a difference. I have read many times that in a case such as this, you can just mix in some nitrogen fertilizer as a susbtitute for the greens. I tried that a couple of years ago and it didn't work for me. The only thing it did was use up a four pound bag of dried blood organic fertilizer that could have been better used elsewhere in the spring.

I just thought I would share this information with my composting friends out there in case it might help someone else.

Thanks for visiting and seeing what's going on with my compost area.

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, March 5, 2012

Harvest Monday & Spring Growth for March 5th, 2012.

This week was the final harvest of the broccoli from the fall crop that extended into this year. The final total weight of the spring broccoli harvest was 23.19 pounds.

This week's harvest was two pounds thirteen ounces of fresh organic broccoli. The remainder of the crop is bolting. With the current growth combined with this coming week's temperatures which are forecasted to be in the high 60's for several days, the end of this crop is a sure thing.

Here are a couple of pictures of my blueberry plants showing their new growth. I can't wait to see the harvest this year since I added two more bushes last fall.

The root that I cut off a bunch of store bought celery and planted last year has survived the winter without any protection at all. I wonder if it will continue to grow?

It certainly looks healthy to me.

The brown turkey fig tree is showing healthy growth all over. It should be a good year for it.

The garlic is still growing pretty good. It also had no protection from the "winter" weather we've had this year.

The green onions that I planted after using the scallions are growing very well. I'll be ready to begin harvesting more scallions from the same bulbs in just a few weeks.

Then there's my favorite... Red Raspberries! They are sprouting like crazy, even with frosty nights.

I plan to put in three or four more plants this spring. I simply can't get enough of them. My grandkids  love to pick them and eat them right there!

Be sure to visit DaphnesDandelions for more exciting vegetable gardening experiences in a northern growing zone, as well as beautiful pictures of her prepared food that will absolutely make you salivate!

Thanks for stopping by to see what gardening information I have to share with you.

My readers are still having some difficulty when trying to leave comments. I also have been frustrated when trying to leave comments at other blogger's sites. I wish Blogger would fix it and leave it alone.

I appreciate your perseverance when leaving your comments for me.

Have a great and warm vegetable gardening day.
Veggie PAK