Garden Going Strong

The garden has a lot growing in it right now.

The garden has a lot growing in it right now.

The garden has really started to pick up recently.  All the plants are starting to fill out nicely and in some areas are so dense that weeding is no longer needed.  This is especially true under the radishes and the pinto beans.  I’ve made better use of the garden space this year than I did last, but I still think I could easily squeeze in double what I have now if I were to plant more densely and start succession planting.  This is quite evident where the peas were.  I’ve harvested all the peas I will eat and am saving the remainder as seed.  However, if I had planted beans in the rows by the peas about two weeks ago I would have small pinto bean plants already up.  The main reason that didn’t happen is that was about the same time I caught something that the remnants of are still plaguing me.  Also, while the lettuce I planted by the perennial flowers is doing quite nicely, there is still ground that could have been planted.

Peas and buckwheat seeds.

Peas and buckwheat seeds.  Both were very easy to save.  Just let them dry out on the plant and for the peas, to shell the pods.

One of the things I want to do with my garden is to become mostly self-sufficient with seed.  This obviously requires that I become familiar with saving seeds from all my plants.  Last year, I saved seed from the pinto beans, the onion, some mint and a pumpkin.  This year, I have added buckwheat and peas to the list and I am planning on adding radish, sunflower, lettuce and okra to the list.  I’m still waiting on the sunflowers to bloom and the lettuce to bolt.  In the mean time, I’ll be battling the caterpillars that started appearing on the sunflowers a couple of days ago.  My main plan of attack is to knock them off the leaves into a gallon-sized freezer bag and freeze them to death and also preserve them for David to use in his aquaponics system.  Since my tomato plants never made it in the ground and David’s are doing amazing, I might be able to get a tomato or two in exchange.

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Sprouts Galore

One of several lines of pea sprouts.

One of several lines of pea sprouts.

Things are finally starting to pick up in the garden. Nearly all of the peas I have planted have sprouted, and those that haven’t sprouted, I don’t really expect to see.  The seed I was starting with was a couple of years old, so it doesn’t surprise me that some would not sprout.  In addition to the peas, the beans are also starting to sprout.  I still have several lines of beans to plant, but it looks like I’m getting good germination rates so far.  About half of the seed in the ground I saved from last year, so I’m pleased with the results so far.  I also have a few corn plants sprouted, but I have barely planted any corn so far.  I intend to plant a lot more along the back yard’s fence line.  This will be new garden space, so I am unsure how it will turn out.  Probably fine, but there is always the chance of some wrench getting thrown in things.

Pea Sprouts and Flowering Cherries

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A honey bee on a cherry blossom. When I took this picture, the whole tree was buzzing with insects.

The last chance of frost is quickly approaching.  Already, one late frost hit the peach tree pretty hard and almost all of the blossoms died before starting to set fruit.  Compared to last year, only about one in ten or twenty flowers is setting fruit.  I hope the tree will compensate by making larger fruit, but even if it doesn’t, I’ll be happy with whatever fruit I do get.  I still have several jars of canned peaches in the pantry to use.  The cherry trees and the apple tree missed that freeze and are in the process of blooming, and hopefully the soft freeze forecasted for next week does not affect fruit set.  At least this year, I know which tree is which.  Last year, I mistakenly though the cherry tree was actually an apple.

One of the first five peas that have sprouted.

One of the first five peas that have sprouted.

About a week and a half ago, I started direct planting peas and beans in the garden. So far, the results have been rather mixed.  I have had five pea plants sprout and several of the beans also sprouted.  However, the beans don’t seem to be surviving the cold night temperatures, so it is just as well that the majority of the beans to sprout yet.  I have plans to plant the beans close enough that they basically form a blanket over the garden bed.

The grape vine is starting to put on leaves.

The grape vine is starting to put on leaves.

The grape vines are just starting to put leaves on.  Last year, the grape vines had this happen almost a month earlier.  In general, this growing season seems to be taking its time to get going.  Not that I mind too much.  I just am anxious to start seeing the results of my work.  Last year, was not able to do very much with the grapes I harvested, and almost all of them went into the freezer. Because they are seeded grapes, they are not really useful for eating straight, so grape juice and wine are really the only uses for them and only the grape juice is really an option for me because I refuse to drink alcohol of any form.  The only way I could get juice out was to cook the grapes and then strain them thru cloth.  The resulting juice had oxidized and was not very good.

The steam juicer I used to make fruit juice.  This is the same style of juicer that my wife's grandmother used.

The steam juicer I used to make fruit juice. This is the same style of juicer that my wife’s grandmother used.

About a week ago, I got a steam juicer in and was able to easily turn the grapes into very good tasting grape juice, along with the peach peals and apple peelings and cores.  The juices will probably need to be mixed to get a good final product, particularly with the peach as it is quite tart, but overall, they taste quite good.  The grapes in particular were quite good because the juicer keeps the grapes from oxidizing and giving the juice an off taste.

Daffodils in Bloom

Daffodils in bloom

Daffodils in bloom

The daffodils are finally in full bloom.  They took about a week or so longer than last year.  About a week or two later is about how this spring has been going so far.  I’m just starting to get things set up for starting seeds, where this time last year, they would have already been germinating.  But unlike last year, we had a rather late cold snap that is probably responsible for pushing out spring.

About three feet of pinto beans direct seeded in the garden, just above the swale-alike.

About three feet of pinto beans direct seeded in the garden, just above the swale-alike.

The one thing that is taking place earlier than last year, is direct seeding of beans in the garden.  If we have another sudden cold snap, these will likely end up dead.  I only planted such a small amount because I am not certain that they won’t end up dead or that they will even germinate.  If this line does, I will be putting in more beans next week and hoping they don’t die by frost.

My spring ToDo list is starting to grow rapidly.  I have compost to move onto the garden plot, seeds to start in the greenhouse and in the garden, preparing some new ground near the fence line for corn and buckwheat.  And before long, the bees will need an inspection.  And I still need to finish the fence work in the front yard, pulling weeds for the compost pile has started, and a bunch of other small tasks.  Also I’ve ordered new tires for the band saw that should arrive late next week, which will allow me to start producing bee frames on a much more regular basis.  Until the rush to get all the plants in the ground subsides, I’m going to be keeping very busy.

First Frost of the Year

Frost on the leaves of the bean plants.

Last night, we had the first frost of the year. I’m not too surprised, because the weather forecast had us under a frost advisory and the previous night got down to 41°F.  I’ll just have to wait to see if anything dies because of the frost.  I’m not  worried because it should be up in the fifty’s today and not get quite as cold tonight.

All the pinto beans I’ve grown this year. Not too bad for my first time gardening.

The bean harvest started and I did not report it.  So far, I’ve harvested about a pound and a half of pinto beans and there is still lots of bean pots on the plants that.  I should have a nice batch ready for picking when I get back from a business trip this week.

From everything I’ve read, it is about time for me to plant fall garlic.  The signs I’ve read about for the right time to plant is after the first frost and when the soil temperature at four inches is 50°F, both of which happened last night.  I need to look over the planting material once more before I put the garlic in the ground and hope for the best.  Worst case, I just end up planting spring garlic.

 

Next Bean Harvest Getting Close

Some of the pinto beans nearing harvest.

Things have been very slow around here lately.  The plants are doing basically what they do: grow very slowly. The pinto beans have filled out very nicely and one of the two fall plantings is getting close to harvesting.  I should be able to harvest sometime in the next few weeks.  I think I will be getting considerably more beans than the harvest earlier this year.  The beans were planted much closer than previously.  I like how this turned out enough that I will intend to do this from now on.  I have a few more patches of beans growing in the garden that are probably  a month behind these.  If this winter is anything like last, things will be very mild and I should be fine, but there is always the chance of a surprise frost from mid October on.

Jars of apple sauce and dried apple chips.

I finally managed to get the apples finished last week.  I ended up turning the remainder into apple sauce and canning it.  Doing everything manually takes a lot of work.  I was only able to make about two or three quarts in a given evening and it left me quite exhausted.  Things like this remind me how much I have been spoiled with food so far.

Chives gone to seed. I’m hoping to collect these seeds for next year.

It is about the time of year to start thinking about the next year.  There is still a huge list of things that need to get done.  Finishing up the harvest, planting fall garlic, adding compost and manure to the garden before putting it to bed for the winter.  I plan on planting lots of pinto beans next year, but I am also thinking of trying a few more things.

A honeybee on a cluster of flowers.  This flower I got from my grandparents.

I want to try planting a small plot of buckwheat.  This should give me something like a grain and also provide a good nectar source for the bees in the spring and fall when they really need it.  But first, I want to get a separate garden plot for it because buckwheat has a tendency to drop some seed before it can be harvested.

Each year is a new start with gardening, and I feel like I have learned a lot in my first year.  Maybe by the third or fourth year I might start getting good yields from the garden and I can start being more adventurous with my plantings.  I enjoy trying to make the future into the present.

Garden is Finally Doing Something Again

Finally, some more bean pods.

I just got back from a week-long trip for work and came back to find that the beans are putting out pods once more.  The last round of beans I planted were pretty much a dud as I got not even a full handful of beans out of the crop.  So far, this is looking to be my largest crop yet.  The plants are packed in much closer than my first attempt at beans and there are flowers on everything.  Some of the last round of beans  decided to start flowering as well, so I will probably end up getting a some beans from that as well.

One double row and a partial single row of pinto beans.  There is communal bee feeder  at the very top of the picture.

The two latest plantings were both directly seeded into the ground in double- and single-rows. I am liking how this is turning out much better than my first plantings started in the greenhouse and I will probably be doing this for all but very earliest crops started before the chance of frost has completely passed.  I think that I will be doing that from now on to try and get as much in before the high summer heat stops everything from producing fruit.

Flowering chives. I hope I can get some seeds off of this.

When my grandparents came to visit, they left me with a bunch of chives in addition to other plants and flowers.  Regardless of what I get out of this plant, the flowers are quite beautiful. I think it was worth getting for just for that.

Once the summer heat wave broke and we were no longer dealing with highs of 115, the plants have sprung back quickly and the flowers are seem to be trying to make up for lost time.  I’ve seen more growth in the past couple of weeks than I have in the rest of the time I’ve had them.  It makes me hopeful that I’ll have some really nice flowers to show off next year.

The pecans are getting nice and big as the harvest starts getting closer.

After I finish with harvesting all the apples, the only tree harvest remaining will be the pecans.  This will be the first pecan harvest I have here.  I’ve had one other place that I have lived where there was a pecan tree, and that produced a freezer full of pecans from a single, giant tree.  I don’t think that any of the trees I have will produce that much, but I do have four trees, so I might end up with more pecans.

A bunch of bees and one wasp on the communal feeder.

While I was gone on my business trip, my brother in law stopped by to build a communal hive feeder and to do inspections.  This should make it quite a bit easier to provide large quantities of feed to the hives without a lot of work.

During the inspections, it looks like the blue hive has no eggs in it.  This may be because the queen stopped laying, or because the queen died.  I hope it is just the first.  But to be safe, a frame of brood has been moved from one of the other hives so the bees are able to raise a new queen if the old queen died.