Saturday, October 26, 2013

Next Years Goal

Our main gardening goal for next year is improving food quality.  To accomplish this we will be focusing on improving soil quality, which should in turn improve the health value in our produce.

We have taken some brix readings as a base point this year so we can see if there is improvement or not year to year.  For an idea on how to take brix readings, and what that is all about, check out the following you tube video by John Kohler.

Some of the things we have purchased this year and plan to implement next year are:
  • Water filter for our garden house to help protect soil microbes from the chlorine.
  • Making compost tea from Boogie Brew
  • Adding Sea-90 as a folier spray and possibly fertilizer.
  • Adding more compost we made last year to each bed.
Our goal is to improve the soil to make healthier, more disease and bug resistant plants that are better tasting and more nutritious.  If we are going to spend our time, money, and energy in gardening.  Why not continue to improve and make it better?

Apple Tree Blessing

There is a small Jonathan apple tree that the previous owners planted in our front yard.  It usually produces apples each year, but they tend to be scarce and pretty buggy.  Last year, we had early warm weather then a hard frost which caused the tree to loose all it's blossoms.  There was only one apple that survived last year.

This year, because of the extra energy from not making apples last year, the tree was loaded with blossoms, which turned into lots of apples!  Also, because there were very few apples last year, the apple pest population was way down, which means a very good year for our apples because we don't spray.  We collected eight 5 gallon pales full!

This was surely our biggest blessing this year, and we didn't do anything but harvest.  Once harvested, we turned the apples into apple sauce so we could preserve them.  It sure takes a long time as we spent probably 16 hours over 2 days processing all the apples.  Thank you God for blessing us with the apples this year!

Funny Men

Shannon likes making things.  She made the "pot man" who sat by the front pond this year.

She also made the "tomato man".

Fruits of our Labors

Below are some pictures of our fresh harvests this year.  Enjoy!

White onion, Detroit Dark red beet and a Little Finger carrot

Mid-season bounty

Salsa batch #1

Blueberries and blackberries added to the harvest

Goji berries and black raspberries, green and purple pole beans

Lots of tomato varieties

Find the smiley tomato

We planted four varieties of onions this year

Salsa batch #2

Floral Beauties

Below are some select flowers taken around our yard this year.  Enjoy!

Gift from a friend.

Asiatic Lilies

Water lily in large pond

Asiatic Lily

Volunteer Sunflower from the bird feeder

Lessons Learned

This year has been much cooler over all than last year in our area.  Because of this, tomatoes and peppers did not fare nearly as well as last year which was much hotter.

One of the lessons learned this year was that mulch can bring extra issues to the garden.  Our biggest pest explosion was pill bugs, followed by slugs, and a few ear wigs.  Many of our peppers, among other crops, were damaged by them.

Another lesson learned is that it is best to add "hardware cloth" when making a raised bed, not afterwards.  Mole(s) and voles have been reeking havoc in our beds, disturbing or destroying plant root systems and eating valuable earth worms.  I have tried a mole trap with no success.  There are a lot of ways people try to get rid of moles, but many times the mole simply moves on, regardless of the method used.

I have only done one bed so far.  It is a lot of extra work to add the hardware cloth, which in my case is a 1/2 inch wire mesh, to the beds after they are finished.  Anyway, we have enough mesh for 6 of our 10 beds.  From the pictures below you can see snow accumulation.  It won't stick yet but it is showing up early this year. (10-24-2013)

A Little Visitor

On September 12 of 2013 we had a little visitor in our house.  We will frequently leave the slider door open during the summer days for our dogs who like to go in and out of the house.  A humming bird come in for a visit.  It wasn't too much fun for the poor bird as she frantically tried to escape bumping and bopping into the white ceiling.  The little hummer was getting tired and we couldn't coax her back out the slider.  Finally she tried to fly out our picture window and knocked herself silly.  She then rested on the ledge and was still.

That's when Shannon was able to grab the hummer with her hand.  It was very light and delicate feeling.  She took her outside and held her hand open next to our Rose of Sharon bush to let her escape to freedom.  Because of the tiring ordeal, she sat in her hand for about 30 seconds and Timothy was able to take some very good close up pictures of the humming bird just resting in Shannon's hands.  After the brief rest, she was happy to be able to zoom away to safety!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Onion Braiding

We have harvested some of our garlic and onions and they are now hanging up to dry out under our deck.  To get them to have good air flow is important for drying out.  One option would be to hang them each individually, but a unique alternative is to braid them.  Shannon, being experienced growing up with braiding her own as well as her sisters' hair was able to braid the onions together in short order.  Check out the picks below of her handy work!  :)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Garden Happenings

Here are a few pics of some random happenings in the garden.

Raspberry Cane Borer Damage
The cane-borers have been active this year with several raspberry plants hit.

Drip Line in Action
 The newly installed DripWorks drip lines have been working well!

Squash Bug Eggs
A new pest in our garden this year.  The squash bug.

Unidentified bug found on raspberry plants

Mulch – Pro and Con

In previous posts we discussed benefits of mulch and after watching “Back to Eden” we acquired loads of wood chips from a local tree trimming company.  Well it has been over a year since we got the “Mulch Mountain” and this is our Pro and Con list.

  • Less Watering:  This has been the biggest benefit of the wood chips.  Simply digging down below the service one finds soil that is still moist, much longer than the bare soil after a rain.  Even now, in the middle of summer there is still moist wood chips below the surface of our wood chip pile.
  • Increased earthworm activity:  The cover seems to be beneficial for worms, as evidenced by the increased mole activity.
  • More nutrients equals richer soil:  As the wood chips break down, very slowly, there is added nutrients in the soil.

  • Difficulty in starting seeds:  We found that too much mulch, and almost any amount of wood chips is too much when starting seeds.  We needed to dig down to the soil and the chips would get in the way.  Especially with fine seeds like carrots.  Larger transplants were not as much of a problem though.
  • More pests.  This is a very negative unexpected consequence in our opinion.  The mulch not only protects the soil, it also protects and attracts insects, all sorts of insects.  Some of them not so nice.  One surprise was the pill or sow bug.  They actually cut down one of our tomato plants much like a cutworm would have.  The increased moisture could also encourage slugs, although not too big of a deal for us, I could see it exacerbating the problem for those already suffering from them.  The biggest issue in our mind though was the discovery of termites and carpenter ants!  Whether they came as cargo from the original trees, or migrated into the wood chip pile later we are not sure but this can be bad for our houses and any wooden structures we don’t want to decompose.  I wonder if turning the pile regularly would keep their population in check???

Sow / Pill Bug Damage on Tomato Plant

Felled Tomato Plant - Sow Bug Damage

So, after weighing the pros and cons at this point I might be tempted to use leaves or grass clippings for mulch instead of wood chips in the annual vegetable garden. Shannon still loves wood chips for mulch in her perennial flower gardens.  Let us know what works best for you!

What Ya Been Eating?

Here are some photos of what we have been harvesting and eating from are garden, in the order of picture taken.



Red, Gold, and Black Raspberries


Basil - Preparing for Dehydrator

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Garden "Lumberjack"

We found a felled potato plant.  After mourning its demise we examined the remaining plant and found another partially chewed stem.  It was obvious that a cutworm was in the vicinity.

Cutworm damage on potato plant.

Shannon hunted unsuccessfully for the cutworm in the mulch surrounding the plant for about 15 minutes before giving up and going on to another task on the long list of things to do.

Later, after coming in at dark and researching cutworms online, Timothy headed back outside in the dark, armed with a flashlight.  He returned victorious with the offender on the end of a stick.

Cutworm "kabob"

Cutworms hide during the day and come out at night to feed.  The link below has some helpful information on cutworms.

Ooooh Pretty...

This blog is to just show off my flowers.  We were blessed with rain later in the spring after quite a dry spell and my flowers appreciated it.

Perennial Garden

White Daffodil 

Red Bud tree in front of "big" pond.

Volunteer Tulips

Apple Tree Blossoms

Tulips by mailbox

Strawberry Field

Front circle garden


Circle Garden

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on Azalea 

Bunny who ate my cabbage... Grrrrr....

Circle Garden

Purple and White