Saturday, November 28, 2015

How To: Planting bulbs

I planted over 230 bulbs this fall in two different areas which called for two different ways of planting.

The first area was a hosta bed on the West side of the house.  The bed is shaded by tall oak and maple trees during the summer but in the spring the bed gets several hours of full light before the leaves fill in.  I am hoping that the foliage will get enough light to keep them happy.  I had a bag of 55 daffodil bulbs and a bag of 60 crocus bulbs that I wanted to scatter among the existing hosts.  I cleaned up the bed, trimmed the hosta leaves back and laid out the daffodil bulbs evenly throughout the bed.  I did not want to disturb the roots of the hosta plants so I dug a 6 to 7” deep, narrow hole for each bulb.  I put the soil from the hole into a bucket to keep the area tidy and for ease of transferring back to the hole.  I put a large handful of compost at the bottom of the hole.  Next I put the bulb in, pointy side up and poured the soil from the bucket back into the hole followed by replacing the mulch that I had moved aside. 

For the crocus bulbs which only need to be 3” deep I put my trowel into the ground about four inches in and pushed it to one side creating a 3” v shaped hole.  I dropped the crocus bulb in and slid the trowel out and tamped the soil back down.  Since they are much shorter than the daffodil mix I planted, I kept them more towards the front of the bed so that the emerging hosta growth would not hide the flowers. The crocus planting went much faster than the daffodil planting.

The second area that I planted was on the north end of food beds 6 through 10.  There were a couple of perennials at the end of a few of them but since we can see that area from the house, I thought some color in the spring would be nice before the blueberry bushes leaf out.  Since I had an open space to work in, the way I planted the bulbs was different from before. 

I moved the bark out of the way and trimmed back the perennials.  In this case it was sedum.

I then dug a hole about 7” deep and 2.5’ long.  I put the soil into buckets to facilitate an easy refill of the hole and to keep it tidy.  I put down an inch of compost at the bottom of the hole and then was ready to put in the bulbs. Approximately 20 to 25 bulbs went into each hole.

The depth of planting for a bulb depends on its size.  Generally you plant the bulb a depth of 3 times its height.  Therefore a 2 inch daffodil bulb goes in 6 inches deep.  I pushed the big daffodils in a little deeper and the tulips a little shallower but all were around the 5.5 to 6 inch deep range.  I have read that planting them a little deeper is safer than too shallow.  Too shallow and they can come up too soon, be affected by freeze thaw cycles or found quicker by rodents.

I then filled the hole in with a couple of inches of soil.  I then planted the muscari on top.  Muscari has a lovely little habit of putting up leaves in the fall which is excellent for marking the site of previously planted bulbs.  I generally plant muscari with all my bulbs in any area where I might be digging or forget exactly where the bulbs are planted.  I did not plant crocus with the daffodils because I am not going to be digging about in that bed for a while. 

Once the marker mascara was in, I filled up the hole and replaced the mulch.

It rained the day after I planted so now all I need to do is have a little faith and wait for spring.  I am very proud of myself as I finished planting everything before the end of October.  In the past I usually end up putting in the last bulbs on a miserable cold rainy day in late November instead of the lovely sunny and mid 50s day I had.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's a jungle out there!


We wanted to share a few pics from our recent harvests as well as some of the critters in our "jungle".  I say jungle cause many of our plants are reaching their zenith now as summer is winding down.  I found 3 tree frogs in among the raspberry plants as well as in the purple pole beans.  The tree frogs remind me of the little frogs found in the rain forests.

There was also lots of activity from a couple of humming birds so I got out the zoom lens and took several pics from the deck.   Enjoy the pics!

Hardneck Garlic harvest.  Bulbs planted last fall.

Volunteer lettuce from last year now bolted into lettuce towers.

Harvest Bounty

2 new items this year in the mix... Dragon beans and okra.

Tomatoes, big and small and multi colored.

Carrots grown in the tall raised beds, one of our best carrot crops yet.

Not just tomatoes here....

Jungle shot from the deck

Towering sunflowers 12' tall!

Morning glory using the sunflowers for a trellis, worked great!

Moon Flower fresh with dew,

Monarch on Autumn Sunflower

Curious hummer wondering what I am doing with the camera.

Amazing Humming Bird

Tree frog in raspberry bushes... silly frog.

Frogger and the beanstalk?

Busy Bumblebee

Cleome or fireworks flower.

Line of flowers.


Mammoth Sunflower and native bees

Self watering planter

Taste of the Dessert (Gift from a friend)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Brilliant Bugs

I just spent a few minutes outside in the garden today, taking pictures of some of the amazing insects hard at work.  Some of the insects are as brilliant as the flowers themselves.  God created a fascinating and incredible world that displays His majesty.  Enjoy the pics!

Romans 1:20   For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Bumble Bee on a Hyssop plant

Wasp near Tansy

Native Bee pollinating the melon plant


Monarch.  We have a great number of Monarch friendly plants in our yard.

Ants herding aphids on a Lemon Sunflower plant.

Native bees, wasps and flies on a Queen Anne's Lace umbel

Flower Longhorn Beetle on pink Yarrow flower

Bumble Bee on Liatris 

Iridescent Green Long-Legged Fly on a Stargazer Lily. Seriously, that is its name.

Grass hopper... yeah, we don't really like him but he is cool.

Native bee on Echinacea

Honey bee on Hyssop plant

Green bottle fly on green lettuce

Flight of the Bumble Bee...   Monarda or Bee Balm

Monday, July 13, 2015

Garden Update

Well if anyone noticed, it has been awhile since our last post.  It takes time to collect the right pictures and write the verbiage to go along with it all and sometimes we wonder if it is worth all the effort and if it is at all helpful to anyone...

At minimum it is good for us to reflect upon how things are going and consider what things should be worked on yet.  Here are some of our recent pictures and thoughts...

One of the first main crops we harvested this year was our strawberries.  They were so much sweeter and tasted better than the berries we purchase from local growers in the area hands down.  We just didn't have enough plants to give us enough berries to freeze for later when the harvesting was over.  We had recently redone the strawberry bed (see earlier post) to clean up the overgrown terrace but that wasn't a big enough spot for all the berry plants we wanted.  There were some plants that we had left in the mulch by one of our raised beds that we decided to leave and I am glad we did as this area produced more good berries than the newly prepared bed we made on the terrace.  We are thinking to remove most of the gojies next year and make that area into a new strawberry bed as our goji experiment doesn't seem to be working.  The goji plants don't produce well and the area is becoming overgrown and needs to be redone too.

Strawberry Patch growing in mulch path.  No S isn't picking strawberries, she is weeding.  We would have loved to have a full 5 gallon bucket of berries!

The strawberries have so far been our best garden blessing this year.  T came up with a strawberry shake recipe that is delicious and something we have very much enjoyed this year.

A typical daily Strawberry harvest.
Speaking of berries, we are currently harvesting from our red, golden and black raspberries as well as a few blue berries.

Barry medley harvest
We have not escaped different garden pests this spring.  The biggest menaces to date this year have been the pill/sow bugs which eat almost any of the garden plants they can get their grubby munchers on and the cabbage white worms.  Grubby munchers is a very nice name for these little crustaceans.  Others who write about them online are not at all family friendly in their descriptions.

Pill-bug damage on pepper plant
Because the pill-bug damage has been so rampant this year T did some research and found that traps that work for slugs also work for pill bugs.  The main method involves burying a tuna fish can at surface level and filling it with beer so that the bugs would be attracted, fall in and drown.  We have been playing with some other attractants as we don't typically buy beer and one post T read mentioned plain water with some tuna bits left in it which we tried and seems to work well.  (see next picture)  We have also tried a lid from a spaghetti sauce jar with some sauce and water which works good too and we like this version better because it doesn't get the rotten flesh smell like the tuna did.  Now we just need to collect a couple of cans and lids for each raised bed!

Pill-bug trap success!
Here S is hunting for cabbage white worms in the cauliflower.  Some of the worms hide in tight crevices so we employed the use of a needle nose pliers this year to extract them which worked quite well.

S on the hunt...
Collected worms which we later left on a board for the birds (and ants) to find.
Some other issues we came across this year were yellowing of some plant foliage shown below.  T saw a YouTube video that stated yellow leaves with green veins indicates a magnesium deficiency, so as a test we added some Epson salt to this squash plant.  T also did some compost side dressing to some yellowing green pole-beans (not pictured) as a test to see if it will help there.

We think this is Magnesium deficiency.
Here is another new issue this year, a reverse leaf curl on one variety of tomato plant that we haven't determined the cause for yet.

Tomato leaf curl.
Some plants, called annuals, live, make seed, then die in one season.  These plant seeds can spread and produce many new plants the following season. In our garden we have some lettuce and dill (pictured below) which has done this and we have these volunteer plants now in our beds and pathways. Sometimes this can be very messy in your garden area.  Last year we were able to take some of this extra dill and sell it to a vendor at the local market.  The moral of the story: if you don't want a bunch of babies from these annuals, pull them out of the garden before they go to seed or cut off the seed heads.

Mini - Dill Forest
The next photo is of our asparagus bed which we should be able to actually harvest some spears from next spring.  It takes a few years for new asparagus plants to get established and grow large enough to harvest.  At some point after about a month of harvesting, one needs to let the plants grow and form ferns so that it has enough energy to return the following year.  Although these ferns look similar to the dill, they are definitely different plants.

Asparagus ferns.
Here is an example to show that careful observation is important when harvesting as hidden among the parsley is a weed.  It could be a "wild carrot" or possibly "poison hemlock".  S thought it was a Queen Anne's Lace when she found it but closer observation is needed to tell for sure.  At this point in the plant's growth they all look quite similar. Can you spot the parsley impostor?

Beware of the parsley impostor.
 The next photo dramatically shows the importance of having enough soil for your plants.  In the photo are two pots of Aristotle Basil that we started from seed, and at the time of potting, the starts looked identical in health and size.  The pot in the foreground is approximately half the volume as the pot behind it.  Notice how much darker and fuller the larger potted plant looks.  Both pots contain the same grade of soil.

Basil potting comparison.
 Next is a photo of one of our purple cauliflower plants.  This plant had fallen over several weeks ago and we had propped it up.  We found it interesting that it was the only one which developed a head from the 4 cauliflower plants we planted.  We are hoping to get some from the other plants later in the season.

Purple Cauliflower Plant
 Yesterday we harvested this cauliflower and steamed it to go with dinner.  It tasted delicious, but sadly lost most of the pretty purple color in the steaming process.
Cauliflower bouquet.
We planted several variety of peas this year with about half the varieties to eat young in the pod and others for shelling and eating the pea without the pod.  T found that some of the varieties could be eaten either way depending on when you picked them and one of the varieties (gray dwarf) which was stated to be eaten in the pod early, was more preferable as a shelling pea.  Lesson is, try your peas at different points to find which way you like them best.

Days harvest of shelling peas and pod peas.  Gotta keep 'em separated.

Here S is planting some flowers to bring joy to the raised beds.

Adding flowers.
 Below are a few pics of flowers from in and around our gardens to enjoy.


Butterfly weed with honey bee, shhh... don't tell the butterflies...
 Below is one of Ts favs, planted primarily in the tall raised beds.  It is the edible nasturtium.  T likes to snack on the leaves and flowers whenever he walks by.  They have a spicy / radish flavor.

Nasturtium edibles.

 See the amazing self wrapping and climbing capabilities of the pole bean (purple) shown below.

Purple Pole Bean

One of the recent things we have been thinking and working on is knowing what our life purpose is and making goals and having a vision.  It can be hard to plan ahead when the future is unknown and we don't know the turns we might take and where we may end up down the road.  This can cause indecision and we may end up not making any decision for fear of making the wrong one.  The result is life just passing us by and we wind up with regrets as we passively go where life takes us downstream, instead of being a proactive force, taking life to the highest level that we are able to go.  We are deciding that it is better to try and fail at something than to never try anything at all.

One thing we are considering doing early next year is taking an online permaculture course and learning ways to be better stewards of this world God created for us to live in.  The course is taught by Geoff Lawton who is a famous permaculturalist from Australia.  Just watching the free videos offered on his website:   has given us some ideas of ways to improve things we are currently doing.  Our hope is that this course will give us the knowledge we can use to better plan for the future.

Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) - Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Do you have a goal / plan for your future?

If you have any thoughts or comments, please share them below.