A Few New Things This Year

This is my third season growing a garden, and my desire to grow more in the garden include growing more varieties of plants.  This year, I’ve expanded the area dedicated to some plant, and have added several new ones.

Seed pods on the turnips

Seed pods on the turnips

I mentioned in my last post that I overwintered turnips, and I am letting them go to seed.  In the past few days, the flowers have started disappearing and the seed pods have arrived.  The plants are producing what looks like a large amount of seed, to the point that I should not need to buy turnip seeds again.  I’ve also noticed that the turnips seem to be a nest of bugs: I’ve counted no less than 11 lady bugs on the plants, for which I am very grateful.  Less desirable are the multitude of what looks like could be Harlequin Bugs.  I still need to check the bugs against the pictures I have found of these bugs before I will trust that I have the correct identification.  I hope it does not turn out to be a big problem.  As long as I get seed from these plants, I will be okay with the rest of the plant dying.  More of a concern is that I have cabbage planted elsewhere in the garden that might be affected by these bugs.  For now, they appear to be content to hang out in the branches of the turnip tops.

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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.

First Garlic Harvest

Garlic bulbs layed out in the garage to dry.

Garlic bulbs laid out in the garage to dry.

Today, I decided that the garlic was ready to check for harvest.  A few of the lower leaves on the garlic have already turned brown, which is the first sign the bulbs are getting close to being ready to harvest. After using a garden fork to break up the soil around one of the garlic plants, I found the bulb was small but fully formed.  So I went ahead and harvested the rest of the plants.  In total, I got fifteen plants out of the original three bulbs I bought from the farmers market last year.  I plan on using most of the garlic in this harvest to plant out more garlic later this year.  I expect to get about forty to fifty plants from this.  I will only be planting the larger cloves and the smaller cloves will be used for cooking.

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.

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.

Pole Beans? Onion Seeds?

Storm clouds right before some much-needed rain.

This last week has had quite a bit happen.  I finally have a fully functional riding lawn mower and it only took me six months.  Mowing an acre and a quarter with a push mower takes a little more than a day.  The week also gave us just over an inch and a half of rain.  I am very grateful for this as it gave me a bit of a reprieve from watering the garden manually and it also refilled my rain barrels.

Turns out the pinto beans are pole beans.

Well, it turns out that the pinto beans I got from the whole foods store in town ended up being pole beans. Growing these beans has been rather interesting as the source of these was a package labeled for food purposes and not seed. No instructions or information about the pinto beans.  Within the past two or three weeks, the bean plants have put on flowers, started making bean pods and started growing vines out the top of the plants.  The last part caught me off guard as I only had a handful of bamboo stakes to use as poles for the beans.  Thankfully, the tree in my back yard where I keep the dogs likes to grow somewhat straight branches which I helped myself to.

A line of small pinto bean plants.

This past week, I also planted the last of the beans I will be starting this year for food.  If I end up planting any more beans, it will be as a green manure cover crop to provide fertilizer for next year.  Unlike all my previous pinto bean plants, these were planted directly into the garden rather than be started in the greenhouse.  It has gotten so hot in the greenhouse, up to 113 degrees farenheit.  The seeds don’t like it that much and are not germinating very well.  Because of this, I have stopped using the greenhouse for germinating seed and have put everything away until the fall if I decide to try some fall crops, or next year if not.

An onion seed head. Perhaps I will have better luck with these than I did with the packet I found in the shed.

The previous owner of my house left a lot of things here when he left. Among them was an onion in a plastic pot sitting next to the greenhouse.  I haven’t paid much attention to this plant until recently when it flowered and then formed a seed head.  I believe this is a yellow onion, but I will be waiting to check this until after I have collected the seeds to use for next year.