Thursday, April 28, 2011

2011 Garden - Tangled Snow Peas

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So the good news is my snow peas are ready for harvest, but the bad news is they are a completely snarled and tangled mess. I am harvesting a good handful of snow peas every day. I prepared my first quart size ziplock bag for freezing, and I hope I have many more to come.

Back to the snarled mess, we had a really bad rain storm on Monday and the peas completely fell over. I built my trellis 3 feet high because the snow peas were only supposed to get four feet high. Well they were at least five feet high when they collapsed from the weight of the heavy rain. They collapsed right at the 3 foot mark which was the top of the trellis. Most of the pea stems kinked and snapped and there is no hope of them growing straight again. They are still putting out flowers and pods, but it has made harvesting them a nightmare because now they are growing into themselves instead of up.

This was probably going to be the last year I planted the taller variety of snow peas anyways, but this has sealed their fate. The Oregon Sugar Pod II's don't require trellising and they only grow a couple of feet high. If they produce well than I won't grow the taller variety. I still have a lot to learn, and this has been a good learning experience.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Bad Storm - April 25th

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I think rain is a gardener's best friend and his worst nightmare.  Today around 6:45 pm, we had a really bad thunderstorm at my house that dumped two inches of rain in less than forty five minutes.  No pictures to post, but my broccoli plants were completely blown over, my snow peas are leaning heavily now, and half my corn was blown over.  After the storm passed, I tried to set everything up right the best I could.  I should be careful what I wish for because I have been complaining about the unseasonably hot weather and lack of rain.  Hopefully everything will right themselves and the weather will cool off from the rain.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

2011 Garden - First Lettuce Harvest

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I planted some lettuce this year, Great Lakes #118 to be exact. This particular variety is a heading lettuce that the seed packet said was great for salads. Sounded good to me at the time, except you have to wait 82 days until the head is ready for harvest. I didn't know the difference at the time between head and loose leaf lettuce. Loose leaf lettuce allows you to harvest a little at a time with a much shorter waiting period.

I started planting this back in late February up until early March. That put my harvest dates around mid May. I don't know a lot about growing lettuce, but I have read that it doesn't like heat and it will bolt to seed when it gets too hot. We have been pushing 90 degrees lately and the lettuce was growing great, but there was no sign of a head forming. I feared it might start bolting, so today I clipped some of the outer leaves on the largest plants. I was surprised at how much lettuce I got from just a few clippings. I washed it thoroughly, and then made a nice little lettuce mountain on my cutting board. I chopped it up really good and it completely engulfed the cutting board. It was the equivalent of two regular store bags of lettuce.

I ate a salad tonight and it was awesome. The lettuce was so crisp and juicy. It was all green lettuce too, not some green and some of the white stem lettuce like you get when you buy it in the store. We will be eating salads this whole week and I have plenty to harvest in future weeks if the weather cools off. I don't know if the outer leaves taste any different than what would form in the head, but it is good enough for me.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011 Garden - Obsessed with Snow Peas

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OK, I am obsessed with snow peas. I don't know why, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of growing them. I don't think I ate a snow pea for the first 33 years of my life. Since snow peas are so popular in Asian cuisine, that makes sense because I don't eat a lot of Asian food. Snow peas don't get a lot of hype here in the South. Here it is all about southern peas: field peas, black eye peas, crowder peas, purple hull peas, etc. Don't get me wrong I love those too, and I understand they are suited for the hot Georgia summers we have, but I think snow peas should have their place down south too. As long as you plant them early, that means Jan to Feb for my area, they grow quite well. With snow peas you eat the entire pod, not just the peas inside, thus you get better yields than standard peas.

I love eating them fresh in the garden, or I like picking a handful and frying them up with fresh squash. Talk about good. My melting sugar snow peas are flowering like crazy right now, and I have eaten a few fresh pods from the garden. I should have my first big harvest in a about a week. My Oregon Sugar Pod II peas are doing great too and have completely engulfed the bed.

Oregon Sugar Pod II on left and Melting Sugar on right

These are the largest batch, my trellis is 3 feet tall and these are at least a foot higher

Each white flower will become a snow pea pod

Here are a couple of pods ready to be picked, these are the perfect size. You want to pick the pods when the peas are barely formed inside and the pod is still pretty flat.

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2011 Garden Irrigation - Project

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Now that I have built my square foot garden area in my yard, I have found a problem with irrigation. My water faucet is located on the back of my house, and to water my garden I have to drag my hose from the back of the house, through my gravel patio, around my pavers while being careful not to hook the hose on anything. I thought it sure would be nice if I had a water faucet directly in the middle of my yard for easy access to my garden and other areas of my yard. So I did the lazy man's version, I went to Home Depot and bought a stand alone faucet, PVC elbow, 12 inch PVC pipe, and PVC hose adapter, all with threaded connections. Total cost was 10 bucks, and I put it all together using pipe dope on the threads. I took an old 4X4 post I had and placed it in the corner of my square foot garden area in concrete. I attached my 10 dollar faucet setup and my existing hose rack to the post. I bought a separate 50 ft garden hose and ran that from the back of my house to the bottom of my faucet assembly. I hid the hose by buring it under the rocks in my gravel patio and tucking it behind the pine straw in my garden area. While I could have made the connection via PVC rather than a hose, this would have required digging a trench through my garden area and my newly built gravel patio, something I didn't really want to do. Although I do have to turn on the faucet on the house first and then the one in my garden area, I really like this setup and it was very easy to do.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 Garden - First Harvest

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The first harvest of the year is here for 2011. I pulled up some radishes this evening right before dusk. I planted a square foot block in one of my beds, and these were the biggest ones. I planted these on March 8th and the packet said 28 days to harvest, but these came in at 41 days. I have about 15 or 20 more still growing so those should be ready in a few more days. I am not a big fan of radishes, but these tasted pretty good. I ate a few of them sliced up and dipped in ranch dressing, that seems to make all vegetables taste better to me. My mom really loves radishes so I am going to give the rest to her. I also transplanted a few broccoli plants tonight. I had four plants growing in one 2x2 foot block which is too close. I moved each of the four plants to their own 2x2 foot block. I hope I get some good broccoli, but I fear it will get too hot before it produces, only time will tell.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

2011 Garden - April 16th

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Wow, what a difference three weeks can make.  Everything is growing really well.  I went ahead and planted my zucchini and squash, two different hybrid varieties.  I put one zucchini plant per 2 by 2 block, I know it says to allow 3 feet spacing but I hope I can cheat a little.  I planted my squash in a different area of my yard away from the zucchini so they don't cross pollinate.  My first set of snow peas are beginning to flower now and I can't wait to start eating fresh snow peas.  I should be harvesting most of my spring crops in just a few weeks.

Garden Overall

Two Zucchini Plants just starting out - Elite Hybrid

I planted 10 Dixie Hybrid Squash Hills

Squash just starting out - Dixie Hybrid Squash

Corn is going good, about 105 plants there

Snow Peas - Smaller ones are Oregon Sugar Pod II and larger ones are Melting Sugar

Snow Peas Flowering



Broccoli with Snow Peas



Thursday, April 14, 2011

2011 Garden - March 27th

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Here are the pictures of my garden as of March 27th, 2011.  All of the trellis areas are for snow peas.  We loved them so much last year that we planted two kinds this year:  Melting Sugar and Oregon Sugar Pod II.  The Oregon Sugar Pod II I bought from territorial seed company.  I bought half a pound and planted about 500 seeds in a 2 by 8 area in one bed.  The Oregon Sugar Pod II snow pea was engineered at Oregon State University to be a heavy yielder that doesn't need trellising.  All of the other seeds are Ferry Morse brand purchased at Wal-Mart.

Link to Territorial Seed Company

Garden Overall

Snow Peas - Melting Sugar

Lettuce - Great Lakes #118

Radishes - Champion

Broccoli - DiCiccio

Carrots - Danvers #126

Snow Peas - Oregon Sugar Pod II
Look close at all the tiny plants just peeking through the soil

Corn - Peaches and Cream

Sample Spreadsheet to track Garden Plantings

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My day job is in the IT industry and I know just enough about Microsoft Excel to be dangerous.  That being said I created a gardening spreadsheet to track all my plantings in a garden season.  You enter your plant name, date planted, days to harvest, and the spreadsheet calculates when your harvest should be.  It will also track the number of days between your first and last harvests if you enter those dates also.  Enjoy.

Garden Yield Spreadsheet

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

University of Georgia Gardening PDF Files

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One of the most common dilemmas a vegetable gardener faces is "What to plant and when to plant?"  These questions depend mainly on what zone you live in and when your first and last frost dates are.

I found three files courtesy of the University of Georgia cooperative extension website that have been super helpful for me to know when and what to plant.  These files should be useful to any Georgia gardener.

The first file is a planting chart GA Planting Chart
The second file is a chart of average frost dates GA Frost Dates
The third file is a list of when to harvest your veggies When to Harvest

Thanks to the UGA Cooperative Extension office for these files.

2011 Garden - Square Foot Gardening

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I bought Mel Bartholomew's book Square Foot Gardening, and it completely changed the way I am doing my Garden for 2011.  It uses the method of building 4 by 4 foot raised planter beds and you divide the beds into 1 by 1 "square foot sections".  This allows you to garden without ever having to walk on and compact your soil.  It also makes for easy weeding and harvesting.  I definitely recommend this book for someone that wants to try gardening, but doesn't want a big commitment.  You can start with just one 4 by 4 foot bed.

Below are pics of my new gardening area based on the Square Foot Gardening technique.  I have a total of six beds: 3 - 4X4 beds, and 3 - 4X8 beds.  I built my beds out of 2X6 natural cedar.  I outlined the entire area by reusing my concrete pavers from last years garden  The area covers about 24 feet by 21 feet.  The walkways between the beds are about 3 feet wide and are covered in pine straw which is nice and soft on the knees.  I filled them using the old soil from last years garden and a mix I got from Mel's book.  My mix was one half dirt from last year's bed, one half quality dirt/compost from a local nursery, vermiculite, lime, and 13-13-13 fertilizer.  I made my grids 2x2 feet instead of the standard 1x1 feet.  That saved a lot of time, and 1x1 grids just seemed too small for me.  I built the grids using mason string and deck screws screwed in the top of the beds.

First Blog Post - Welcome to my Georgia Garden

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My name is Kris and I am an avid DIYer who enjoys improving my home inside and out.  I always wanted to build a vegetable garden, but never got around to it.  It wasn't until my daughter turned three last year, that I thought now is the time.  So last year in April 2010, I built an area about 16 feet by 4 feet out of landscape pavers.  We planted corn, snow peas, squash, and cucumbers in that little bed.  We also planted watermelons, cowpeas, pumpkins, and bush beans in other areas of our yard.  Like all gardens, some things did great and some did not, but we learned a lot last year and it was a great experience teaching my daughter about gardening.  Needless to say I am hooked on vegetable gardening now and have completely expanded my approach.  Here are a few pics of our garden from last year.  I am going to post pictures of our new expanded garden for 2011 and update its progress throughout the growing season.