Monday, April 30, 2012

Garden Harvests - April 30, 2012

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It has been almost a week since I have posted and I have a pretty good reason.  I have been working on a project I have code named "Hell Week".  The project is almost complete and I will be posting about it in a few days.  My body is so tired I don't know what I was thinking.

On a separate note, I harvested the first yellow squash of the season, a good batch of lettuce, and a small batch of spinach.  Everything is going pretty good in the garden but we seriously lack rain.  It is so dry right now because we haven't had a drop in three and a half weeks.  There is no rain forecasted anytime soon so looks like the water bill will be high this month.

First squash of the season
They are a little warty because I left them on the plant too long

Huge basket of lettuce.
This was chopped up and we will be eating salads all week.

A little spinach, about 5 oz.
This was made into a hot cheesy spinach dip.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Garden Harvests - April 24, 2012

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I had a busy week in the garden.  I pulled out two beds of English peas that were a snarled mess.  I don't know if I will grow them next year because they were a real pain in the butt to harvest and to shell. 

My electric pea sheller would not shell them, only the smaller flatter pods.  The Mr. Pea electric pea sheller gets two thumbs down when trying to shell English peas.  Hopefully it will make up for it when the field peas come this summer.  

I also harvested some lettuce this week and I got to eat several salads.  I know I should probably venture out and try planting different varieties of lettuce, but I have such good luck with this Great Lakes #118.  It tastes great and is easy to grow.  I have been using the same seed packet for a couple years now.

Here is my first lettuce harvest this spring

Here is a batch of English peas after I shelled them

Here is a basket full of peas, this was 3 lbs worth after I pulled both beds.

It took me over an hour to shell them, 
but it was enough peas to fill a metal bread pan

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Garden Update - April 22, 2012

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I realized this week it has been over a month since I have done a post on the overall progress of the garden.  I won't type much except to say that everything is doing pretty good and I am trying to stay on top of things.  I took pictures of everything today and it is amazing what a month can do.

Bed #1 - Alaska Peas are a snarled mess, and
I am going to pull these up and harvest what is left.

The peas are also covered in some sort of bug, pea aphids maybe.

Bed #2 - Black Beauty Eggplant and California Bell Peppers

Bed #3 - More Alaska peas and also a mess

Bed # 4 - Four tomato plants, romas and better boys.

Bed #5 - Two Best Boy tomato plants and two Dixie Hybrid yellow squash.

Close up of squash starting to set fruit.

Bed #6 - Lettuce and Spinach Bed

Here are 3 more tomato plants I potted up 
because I didn't have the heart to trash them.

Coca Cola planter - Habanero and Jalapeno peppers

Peaches and Cream corn from my garden expansion area

Five more rows of Peaches and Cream corn, 
you can barely see them but they are just coming up among the weeds.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coca Cola Cooler Pepper Planter Box

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Last July I posted about a Coca Cola cooler box that I picked up at a neighbor's yard sale.  For the last nine months it has sat on my back porch.  I did not have the energy to fool with setting it up in the heat of summer.

I have known for a few months that I was going to plant hot peppers in it this year, specifically jalapeno and habanero peppers.  I started both from seed this year and they were ready for their new home.  I can't wait to see them grow in the cooler, and I think it is going to be an awesome addition to my gravel patio.

I decided to put the cooler on my gravel patio directly between two tiki torches.  I built the gravel patio last year after building my garden area.  I have never blogged about it, but we really like it.  It contains a swing, firepit with chairs, cedar logs used for end tables around the firepit, and a picnic table.  It has a pea gravel base with concrete stepping stones.  We love to sit out in the swing that faces the garden and the tiki torches.  This cooler is going to look so cool there.

Here is the cooler after I positioned it in place.

The interior is stainless steel and will never rust.  
It also has a drain so the dirt should drain well.

Here is what it looked like after I filled it with good garden soil

I planted 10 plants, five jalapenos and five habaneros.  They are spaced about a foot apart which is a little closer than recommended, but should be ok.

Here is everything all planted and ready to go.

Another angle, I like that one rusty corner, it makes it authentic looking to me.

One of the habanero plants is already forming flowers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Garden Harvests - April 17, 2012

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The harvests are starting to come in pretty regular now week by week.  I am done harvesting all my snow peas and the total harvested was just under 7 lbs.  I also harvested a pound of Alaska peas and a small amount of spinach.  I should have some lettuce and more peas coming in just a few more days.  It has been super busy around my house lately, and keeping up with the garden, much less my blog has proved difficult.  I am sorry if I have not been commenting as often on others, and I promise when things settle down I will.  Take care.

Here is a small amount of spinach, I just can't seem to grow good spinach.  
I have poor germination and small harvests.

Quart jar full of Alaska Peas

Same peas shelled

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Making My Bed

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When I was growing up I never liked to make my bed and I still don't to this day, but when it comes to making up a garden bed that is a different story.  Every time I prep a bed for planting I do it a little different and I learn something new in the process.  I think I have got my method down pretty good so here is what I do.  Some of this may be common sense to the veteran gardeners out there, but I wanted to share my method.

Step 1:  First you need a bed that needs some work like this one.  This is my snow pea bed.  I am going to plant eggplants and bell peppers here and need to get it ready.

Step 2:  You are going to need some soil amendments.  Most of the time my beds lose about an inch of soil every 3 to 6 months.  Most times I go to the big box stores and buy a bag or two of mushroom compost or cow manure.  This time I needed a truck load of something because I have another project that requires some soil.  My local nursery has an excellent "vegetable mix" as they call it.  It has everything you need and it only costs $42 dollars a yard.  That is the same price many places charge you for just plain top soil.

Step 3:  Work your soil amendments into the soil to level off the bed.  I like to take a board and screed the bed so it is nice and flat.

Step 4:  Next I lay down my weed fabric and tie my string grids to the bed.  The weed fabric is worth the cost and the little bit of extra time it takes to install.  This bed will not need to be weeded.  The only time I don't put down fabric is if I am planting something that is a lot of seeds and would be a hassle to cut a lot of holes, like corn or peas.  The grids are a carry over from the square foot gardening method, and I like to set them after I put my fabric down.  This makes centering and spacing the plants easier. 

Step 5:  Lay out your plants where you want them to go.  In my case I have four eggplants and four bell peppers each centered in the two foot grids.

Step 6:  Cut holes around your plants and plant them in the openings.  I mound my soil around each plant and water thoroughly.  I will add bamboo supports to the plants when they grow a little taller.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Garden Failures

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If you are a back yard gardener at some point you are going to have things that are complete failures.  If you have never had something fail in your garden, then give it time and you will.

My first failure this year was my attempt to grow cow peas next to my corn plot.  I don't know if I planted them too soon (probably), if I got some bad seed, or if I just didn't do something right.  I planted them twice and both times I got very sparse germination.  I feel like I am wasting 200 sq. ft. of good planting space fooling with these peas, so I decided to give up on them until the weather really gets hot.

My corn in that area is doing great, so I decided to plant an additional five rows of peaches and cream corn.  That gives me 250 feet of corn which I hope will produce a decent harvest.  This batch will be about a month behind my first planting. 

 Here is the corn, you can see the bare patch behind it

Corn is doing good, so I am doubling down on it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Update on Seedlings - April 11, 2012

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I didn't think this day would ever come, but it is time to put my seedlings in the ground.  I am happy with the results of my first foray into seed starting.

I already planted all my tomatoes in the garden about a week ago.  I was only going to plant six plants: two romas, two better boys, and two best boys.  I started nine plants just in case a few didn't make it.  Well, all six plants are thriving and of course I didn't have the heart to throw away three perfectly good tomato seedlings so now I have nine plants.  The three extras I had to put in pots.  So that leaves my peppers and eggplants left to plant.  Tomorrow evening I plan on prepping a 4x8 bed and planting four eggplants and four bell peppers.  This weekend I am finally going to put my coca cola cooler planter to use.  It is going to be used for hot peppers.  I am going to plant jalapenos and habaneros in it.  I have six each for a total of twelve plants and I don't know if I can use them all, but I will post something about that too.  Tonight is supposed to be a little chilly down to 42 degrees, after that I should be in the clear to plant.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Her First Day In The Garden

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It has been a memorable week for me.  The birth of my second baby girl is something I will never forget.  Unfortunately she has a pretty tough case of jaundice that we have been battling all week. 

Today during one of her fussy moments I decided to take her out in the sun for a few minutes.  Sunlight is supposed to help with jaundice.  I showed her all my vegetables: tomatoes, squash, snow peas, corn, lettuce, spinach, and peas.  She was quite the listener and before I knew it she was asleep on my shoulder.  My wife snapped this photo and I thought I would share.

God bless and I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Garden Harvests - April 6th

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All I can say is snow peas, snow peas, and more snow peas.  I have been harvesting snow peas for about 10 days.  At first I was getting a quarter pound a day, then a half pound a day, then a quart sized pickle jar a day, and finally two quarts per day.  

I have harvested 5.21 pounds of snow peas from one 4x8 bed.  This variety is Oregon Sugar Pod II and instead of bearing over a long period of time, for me they seem to produce all within 2 weeks and then taper off.  I compared my numbers from last year and I got 6.61 lbs, but that was from three 4x8 beds and two different varieties.  I am not sure what my final numbers will be, but I am guessing around 8 lbs.  I am ready to yank them out so I can plant some stuff in their place.

Needless to say we have been eating our weight in snow peas and they are so much better fresh then frozen.  I have already put away about 9 freezer bags worth.  This year I just froze them straight from the garden, no rinsing, no blanching, nothing.  Last year I blanched them before freezing and they were so limp and soggy when cooked.  I am hoping this way they will maintain their crispness a little longer.  

My daughter also has caught the snow pea bug and will eat them.  I steam them with a little garlic salt and add a touch of spray butter before serving them to her and she gobbles them up.  I don't know if she likes the taste or the promise of a popsicle if she finishes them, but who am I to complain.  I am just glad she is eating them.