Saturday, October 24, 2009

Veggie Bed Overhead

Here is an overhead view of my vegetable garden with the newest bed installed and two other "possible" beds laid out. The small bed will be for raspberries and the big bed is for pumpkins. The other bed will be a general bed. If everything goes well tomorrow I will be finishing all these and hopefully get them filled with compost before the end of the day.

Update (Saturday 2:18pm): I got called in to work, so I didn't make very great progress on this project. I will post a picture of my progress most likely tomorrow.

Update (Saturday 5:56pm):

I don't have the rebar in or the beds filled with compost, but I do have them leveled and ready to go whenever it quits raining...

Update (Sunday 5:32pm): It didn't rain like it was supposed to so I got the rebar installed on all the beds. Yay for me! I got an abrasive saw disc to cut the rebar to shorter pieces (1' instead of 2'); and I got an auger bit big enough to get through all three stacked pieces of landscape timbers which really sped things up! The disc cost $6 (but you can get them at the Big Boxes for $3) and the auger bit cost me $8 (and boy was it hard to find! Got it at Menards). Both were definitely worth their prices!

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Have Leeks!

I started leeks from seed three years ago. I didn't get any that first year that were big enough to eat, but I was very glad that I didn't pull them out in the fall as they overwintered just fine, much to my surprise.

The second year the leeks didn't get big enough either, but one of them did bloom. Again, I left them over the winter. And again they did just fine.

This year I found new leek seedlings from the seeds that blooming leek produced. Back in September I reported that the leeks had yet again failed to produce stalks big enough to use, so imagine my surprise when I pulled one that had seeded in an inconvenient place as I was cleaning the beds for winter and found that it was indeed big enough to use! In fact I found enough that were big enough that I could make my yummy leek and potato soup!

So it only took three years. I'm patient, because it's no work at all just waiting. I had 5 blooms this year, which means even more leeklings next year. I will just keep letting them do all the work and enjoying the results :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weather Reprive

After snowing/sleeting much of the week, it warmed up for the weekend allowing me to get some things done:
  • Weeded all the main garden paths
  • Raked the yard and mowed the leaves for mulch
  • Pulled all the dead plants and weeds from the veggie beds
  • Emptied the rain barrels for winter storage
  • Weeded some of the main garden for planting
  • Weeded the whole front bed for planting
  • Planted all but one of the 99cent plants I got from Home Depot
  • Laid out a new raised bed (to be finished later this week, hopefully)
  • Planted about half of the remaining spring bulbs
  • Harvested the rest of the beets, black-eyed peas, the shallots and the carrots
I was really surprised to see the carrots. I grow them in small pots because I have a nematode problem in my vegetable garden. Usually they never make a nice root. I was pulling them up to store the pots for the winter and there they were, chunky little carrots :) Not enough to make pickled carrots like I would like, but great for snacking. Garden fresh carrots are the best!

Speaking of canning, here is a picture of some of my harvest preservation efforts so far. I have canned lots of applesauce, tomato sauce, salsa, pickled beets, strawberry jam, grape jam, zucchini dill pickles, and zucchini sweet pickles. I have also dried mullein, black eye peas, apple wedges and made apple chips. Then there is all the vegetables I froze. A couple of days ago I used some of the broccoli that I froze earlier in the season - it was so GREEN! Even after cooking it!

Here are all the spring bulbs that I needed to get planted. Notice that there are bulbs here that weren't in the picture I took last week? I told you they follow me home!

I planted all the species tulips, one bag of the Princess Irenes, the Mr. Fokker anemones, The irises, and the bleeding heart. I still have almost 300 bulbs to plant! I'm going to love it in the spring, but right now - UGH!

UPDATE 10/19/09: It's 1:30pm and I am done planting ALL the bulbs! WHEW! Now I have to tackle the raised bed...

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Garden at the Moment...

Of course. Because I still have so much left to do in the garden.

Here's What I Still Have To Plant:
About 2/3 of these bulbs/plants plus three 14ct packages of Princess Irene tulips (which I bought a month ago and completely forgot!), 24ct bag of Mr. Fokker anemones, a 24ct bag of Azureum muscari and a 50ct bag of Lilac Wonder tulips.
And all of these 19 perennials, which I picked up at Home Depot when I was playing hooky Friday to... stop looking at me that way! It was fate! I got there just as they finished re-pricing all their perennials to 99cents!! I could not pass that up. I was practically stealing them. And they had some great plants, not just all Autumn Joy sedum and no-name hostas. I got: 2 Twilight hostas, a Christmas hosta, 2 Silver Mound, a Frances William hosta, 4 Can Can heucheras, 2 May Night salvia, a Snow Hill salvia, 2 Sunny Border Blue speedwells, a Moonshine achillea, a Pizzaz hosta, an Elegans hosta and a clematis (that I forgot to grab a tag for so I don't know what it is, but I think it was Jack).

Oh and just in case you don't yet think I am crazy...I was playing hooky to pick up another two bushels of apples from my orchard friend/coworker and to go pick the remaining apples at another friends house (another bushel worth). I am determined to not run out of applesauce!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

New Approach to Bulbs - Trial 2

I have been planting spring bulbs every year for years, and it has gotten to the point that I spend more time replanting bulbs I accidentally dig up trying to plant new bulbs than I spend actually planting the new bulbs! Also, I can't really tell where I need bulbs and what colors I need where.
Last year I devised a plan to have my bulbs planted yet portable so that I could place them in the garden in the spring when I would be able to actually see where they should go. I gathered all the perennial pots that I had saved (and even got a few from my friends) and planted a big cheap mixed bulb pack in the pots, secured those in a little loose compost and covered with leaves. The bulbs did just fine and I was able to group the bulbs and plant them where I needed them in the spring.

It worked so well, in fact, that I decided to try it again this year. I already planted the area I used last year with perennials, so I used my vegetable garden this year - I'm not going to be using it until after I can get these bulbs out of the ground anyway. I put them in pots rather than planting them directly in the garden and digging them out to transplant because I tend to do a lot of damage digging bulbs and I want these blooming next spring. I will be trying a straight planting for the purpose of transplanting with some smaller bulbs that don't need to be planted so deep.

Last year I planted one bulb per pot since I didn't know what each bulb would be, since it was a mixed pack, and I wanted to be able to group the like bulbs together. This year I used specific varieties and planted 2-4 per pot.

So far this year I have purchased 486 bulbs - I have about a third of them now planted -- and there most likely will be more to come, they just follow me home :)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Barter Harvest

I don't have an apple tree, but I do know people with them and I know one that owns an orchard and loves grape jam and pickled beets. And I have that to spare. So what do you get for a couple jars of jam and a jar of pickled beets? Two bushels of apples; quite a bargain barter!
He asked me what I wanted, I told him whatever would be good for applesauce. I got one bag of Sweet Sixteen (very sweet), 2 bags Cortland (very tangy and crisp), 1 bag Macks (very firm), 1 bag Honey Crisp (set those aside for fresh eating), 1 bag Chestnut Crab (very good, sweet, crisp apples - just the right size for a quick snack. Those I saved too), 1 bag Connell (good all around apple), and 2 mystery mixes.

I looked up a bunch of applesauce recipes and they all said that you needed a food mill. I didn't have a food mill, and wasn't going to be able to get one at 8pm on a Sunday night, so I winged it, as usual. I thought I might be able to press the cooked apples through my steamer basket, but then decided that I would just peel the apples instead and use an immersion blender. Worked perfect, except that peeling two bushels of apples is a pain in the butt!

Here's a tip to keeping the apples from browning while you're peeling all those apples: add some crushed vitamin C tablets to a bowl of water to keep the cut pieces in. The ascorbic acid in the C keeps the apples from browning.

The recipe is easy, just cored peeled apples, some water, and if desired: lemon juice, sugar and spices. Apples are high acid, so water bath canning is fine. The lemon juice option is just to maintain color. Some batches I sweetened, others I left plain. I used cinnamon and ginger for spices and dark brown sugar for sweetening.

My son assured me that these will not be around longer than a month. I'd better get more apples.

BTW: the really dark jars are pickled beets.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Mullein Harvest 2009

I grow mullein in my garden for a few reasons: I never have to plant it, the birds love it, it is pretty, and it makes a fantastic decongestant!

You can see how I use it in the garden here.

And you can see how I use it in my kitchen here.

To dry the leaves, I usually just clean them with either a little water or brush them off with a soft brush (like a paint brush) and then lay them on baking racks to dry for a couple of weeks. The results have been good, but I recently tried a drying method that works even better and faster. I just got some cheap thread, strung them up and hung the string of it in my kitchen.

I left a few mullein growing around the garden here and there just for picking off the leaves throughout the summer. I pick all but a few in the center to keep the plant alive so it can continue to produce leaves. Here is my harvest so far this year, dried and packed for storage:

Last year I had filled that big jar in the back, and it was gone before March. This just might get us through the winter this year.