Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Done Planting!

Well, it seems to have taken forever, but I managed to get the last of my bulbs planted today. I went lazy and planted larger bunches in cardboard boxes rather than a few bulbs each in a gazillion plastic pots. I'll let you know how this works next spring. I figure that the bulbs will be easier to get at since I can just tear the cardboard away -- or even just plant the cardboard with the bulbs!

And, I managed to get my garlic planted too!

In the process of cleaning my garden for fall, which I almost never do, I even found some plants still in the pots that I bought them in. Oops! Now I have no idea where to plant them. Perhaps they can tough it out in the pots over winter.

I finally laid out my blackberry bed. Hopefully I will get some blackberries next year! The raspberries I planted out in nearly frozen ground last year did just fine and even gave us fruit this year!

I think my blueberry plants may be a lost cause. Oh, well. I can always try again next year. Besides, I plan on planting a ton of blueberries eventually. They are my favorite fruit. Then blackberries, then mangoes. Too, bad I can't grow mangoes.

I still have to pack up all my gardening supplies for a few months. I've been so busy this year, I am really looking forward to a little snowy respite.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tulip Haul 2010

I can not believe that it is already tulip time. And I was horrified to see that Menards had drastically parred down its bulb offering this year. They decided that instead of devoting a whole row of shelves to bulbs, they would put just a few out in one of their alley squares. Seriously I thought I was going to have a melt down. Where was I going to get all my bulbs and still be able to afford them?

Well, it looks like Menards is still offering a big variety of bulbs (maybe not as many as they used to), but instead of having them all out at once, they are putting them out a little at a time. The jerks. How am I supposed to plan my color, timing and texture schemes?

So, forget them. I did still buy quite a few from them (245 tulips, 12 daffodils, and 35 Dutch irises) but I refuse to run there every week just to see if they have anything new out yet. What a racket.

I decided to finally try out a couple of the other bulb companies that I have learned about since starting my blog. Thanks to many of my garden blogger friends, I chose Brent & Becky's Bulbs. Their order came fast and the bulbs look nice.

The other company I tried out was Blooming Bulbs. I had found them while looking for sites with good visual tulip indexes. They had really good prices on bulk bulbs, and they had a few that I had been having trouble finding. Their order came even faster and their bulbs look very healthy and well labeled.
Now the last test will be in the planting. I have had a few problems with tulips not being what they claim to be -- especially with ones bought on the internet. Breck's has done it to me at least three times. Unfortunately that means waiting until next spring since tulip bulbs pretty much all look the same.

Tulips purchased from Brent & Becky's Bulbs:
Rem's Favorite (10)
Sweetheart (20)
humilis 'Alba Coerulea Oculata' (5)
total 35 at $48.

Tulips purchased from Blooming Bulbs:
Cummins (25)
Rococo (25)
Weber's Parrot (25)
Persian Pearl (25)
Greenland (25)
Spring Green (25)
total 150 at $110.

Tulips purchased from Menards:
Van Eijk (28)
Purple Prince (14)
Zouave (30)
Kung Fu (45)
Odalisque (30)
Purissima (56)
Yokohama (28)
Apeldoorn (14)
total 245 at $48

So you can clearly see who wins out on bulb bargains. Also, the flowers have always been what was described on their package and the bulbs have proven to be very comparable to even Brecks.

Fine, Menards, you win. I'll be there later this week to check again...

[update: OK, so I went back today. I had a $10 rebate to cash in, so I bought Synaeda Orange (15) and Yellow Pomponette (15). I also stopped at Fleet Farm and bought Shirley (14) and Apricot Impression (30). That's 74 more tulips to my already 430. Now to find time to plant them all...]

Monday, October 11, 2010

Corpse Flower Live Feed

Our university has the privileged of being home to one of the few captive corpse flowers around the world. It has been about 9 years in the making, but it has finally bloomed!

You can go HERE to see the live feed of this flower and to learn a little more about this amazing flower.

It is said to smell of rotting meat, but I have smelled rotting meat and I truly beg to differ. It smells like a diaper pail. A giant diaper pail. In fact you can smell it over 100 yards away easily, even with no breeze.

It is beautiful, and HUGE!

[update: since the flower has completed its cycle the live feed is no longer available, but they still have a few pictures and some information on this flower at THIS LINK.]

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Where Did The Summer Go?

As you know I have been very busy, but where the heck did the summer go?! This was the summer that I was finally going to stay on top of my gardens...

Oh well, I guess they don't look that bad, and my vegetable garden is still producing a ton of stuff.

My tomatoes, strangely, are almost done giving fruit, but are still green and healthy looking plants. I got enough tomatoes to can about 10 quarts of sauce, make about 1/2 gallon of fresh salsa, and still have tomatoes for salads and fresh sauces.

I still have not harvested all my carrots. I was intending to pickle them, but that didn't go anywhere, and now they are too big. Oh well, I have lots of friends that LOVE carrots. And you never see carrots abandoned in the breakroom at work, so that will be a treat.

My Brussel sprouts might actually produce something this year.

My beets are just about ready to harvest.

My basil has slowed down in its production, but I am still getting an ice cream bucket of basil from it about every two weeks.

My pumpkins have gone wild. I grew a blue heirloom variety this year along with my favorite Triple Treat. The three blue plants that grew are far out-producing the eight Triple Treat plants. They are also steadily taking over my yard. I hope that these pumpkins are as good tasting as the description reports. They aren't much for decorating with.

I have a ton of edamame to harvest. I've actually lost track of all my beans.

My eggplants are producing through the roof! I actually got multiple eggplants from a single plant!

My squash finally decided to do something. For actual fruits, I have a couple butternut, quite a few scallop, two zucchini (thank goodness for other gardeners!), and about a half dozen delicata. I have no idea what happened to my acorn squash, but I have someone who promised to bring me in some of his extra hubbard and acorn.

I even have onions and shallots this year. The onions came from the onion parts that I planted earlier. They yielded baseball sized onions that were just as sweet as the parent onion, so I have continued to plant my onion bases throughout the garden. Even the shallots that I started from seed got to decent size. I am going to try leaving them in the ground over the winter to see if they make it -- I heard they were pretty hardy and that over-wintering is a good way to perennialize.

Then there are my turnips, which after so many years of failure I now have more than I seriously know what to do with! I would bring them to the food shelf, but most have root worms that need to be cut out. I don't have a problem with it, but not so sure about the food shelf.

Most of my pepper plants turned out to be Cherry Bombs, which I could not be happier about. Cherry Bombs rock, plus these are so hot, they could almost pass for cayenne.

My radicchio wasn't so bad. It was great chopped up in a salad and didn't cost me $4. I only harvested one head, but I only had planted two and just never got around to harvesting the other before it rotted.

I still have a fall crop to plant. Maybe I will actually get around to that this year!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Thank Goodness for Exchange Students!

I finally have a moment to catch my breath, and post. About two and a half months ago my family and I agreed to host an exchange student from Brazil for the entire school year, and he will be here this Saturday!

I have a tendency to tolerate dilapidation and primitiveness, so I had about 13 years of home repairs that could not be ignored any longer. Over the last few weeks I have been painting the house, patching holes in the plaster, fixing broken interior wooden stairs, patching exterior concrete stairs, replacing screens ripped out in the hail storm of 2001, finishing a 3 year old bathroom tile project, finishing a 5 year old shelving project, finishing a 10 year old wallpaper project, repairing ragged wallpaper from an ancient roof leak (pre-us owning the house), trimming the bedroom doors (the previous owners put in new doors but didn't bother trimming them, and neither did we), cleaning the basement (because we needed storage and tools for all that fixing), putting up more shelving, fixing a dresser salvaged from the neighbor's garage (he said that it fell off a truck while his son was moving it and he was using it as a tool box since it was in too rough of shape for clothes after that - not anymore!), sorting through all our old boxes of things (trying to figure out either why we still have it or where the hell we will put it while our exchange student is here), and, of course, cleaning cleaning CLEANING!!!

I am happy to say that we are in the home stretch of preparing the house. I feel much better about offering this more improved house as a home to this young man coming all the way to the US for the first time. And I have to say that as an added benefit, I am enjoying the house much more myself. Some of it was so simple that I really wonder why we waited so long.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

GBBD - July 2010

July is hardly ever a good month for my garden, and this year is even worse. It just looks like a huge jungle. I really didn't even think that I would find many flowers, but SURPRISE! There are some after all.

To get more info, hover on the picture.

Visit May Dreams Garden to see what everyone else has blooming!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Garlic Braids

With all that big garlic I decided that I should come up with a different way to store it. I have always like garlic braids, so I tried that.

An hour later, I just bundled the whole batch together, tied it and called it good enough!

Don't let anyone fool you, braiding is hard!

But I am tenacious, so I figure I just needed to see how it was done. I visited a bunch of websites with garlic braiding instructions:

BRAIDING GARLIC by Donna Metcalfe

Ok, huh? I don't get it.

How to Braid Garlic by Bloomingfield Farm

A little better, but still, after "illus. C" I am lost.

Garlic Braiding by gardenerd1

This was the most instructive illustration/video that I found. It was the only thing I found that made me feel "I can do that."

I ended up using the beginning braiding from Bloomingfields Farm, with the wind-around technique, and the general braiding from the Gardenerd video, "always down the middle", to take another crack at braiding with my most recent harvest (which my son was so nice to clean up purdy for me).

I knew I could do it! With this braid I didn't pay too much attention to order of bulb placement. I just made sure that the new bulb's stem went down the middle and put the bulb where I thought it would fit.
But I have a long way to go before I have braids as fantastic as the people at
Blue Moon Farm.

In all that research, I did find this great sight from Wisconsin: We Grow Garlic. Who the heck knew that there were so many different varieties of garlic?!
Especially growing in Wisconsin!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

First Big Harvest 2010

Although I have gotten a few things from my garden here and there this year (spinach, lettuce, peas, leeks); I am so excited about my first big harvest of 2010. The following are all things I pulled from my garden this last week.
I planted this garlic last fall. This is the biggest that my garlic has ever gotten! I have a ton of it too. This picture only shows a fraction of what I actually have harvested. I already gave some to my neighbor who forgot to plant some herself last fall. She will be planting some of what I gave her.
I finally grew turnips! I have tried 5 years to grow them, and I know that they are easy to grow. So what was my problem? Eh.

And to those who are saying, "why the hell would you want to grow them anyway" -- try roasting them. Yum!
Shallots were pretty easy to grow. I don't know why they charge so much for them in the store.

I am going to keep the largest ones and replant all the smaller ones. Soon I should have a nice big patch of them. They are supposed to be very hardy, so I will plant them this fall.

I have never had very much luck growing carrots... until this year!

I finally got rid of my knotty carrot problem by using raised beds. The soil in the beds is perfect now. You may have noticed that some of the root tips are bent a little, that is the side effect of transplanting the seedling. Not a big deal at all, huh?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Going North for the Fourth

I will be traveling about 250 miles north this holiday. My parents' town has the best firework display, and you get to stand right under them! A couple of years ago a few people got hit with smoldering ashes (I was one of them) and one lady's clothing caught on fire. Nothing serious, she was fine and even laughed about it. You know, it just isn't the Fourth of July until someone gets caught on fire.

Since I don't have time to post a bunch of pictures before I go, I thought I'd jot down some things that I learned about growing vegetables this year.

Carrots seedlings can be transplanted. I tried the seed mats with some luck, but it was far easier to sprinkle the seeds into the soil, wait until they got big enough, and transplant them the distance apart that I wanted them. I used a butter knife to dig them out, then and I used a chop stick to make a deep, thin hole and held the carrot in place while I gentle back filled. No thinning waste. I do this with beets, rutabaga, and turnips too.

Brussel Sprouts are slow growers. They are fairly easy to sprout, but don't do much after that. They have been in the ground for two months and have barely made any progress! It's barely even a crime when a rabbit decides to try one out, because I can get the same size plant in about two weeks. Ugh!

Tomatoes are easy to grow from seed. I have no idea why I ever bought tomato plants. These things are like weeds.

Peppers are a pain in the ass. They are hard to germinate, they love to damp off, they grow slow, and every thing eats them. But I love them, so I will keep trying.

Milk jug greenhouses are great for nightshades. The nightshades were easiest by far to start and get to a good size in milk jug greenhouses. They are the only reason that I have any peppers at all.

Only transplant big peppers to the garden. Ugh, yeah, peppers again. I have noticed that the bigger the pepper plant is, the less things eat it. So now I am holding onto a huge bunch of pepper plants until they are big enough to be out in the real world.

Always fence in edamame. Seriously, rabbits can't resist it and they will eat it to the ground.

Fennel is easy to transplant. I had the most success with fennel planting a bunch of fennel seeds in a rectangular deck planter then transplanting the plants to their final area. This also works great for basil, rutabaga and beets.

Eggplants need heat. They might produce without a lot of heat, but if you really want them to grow and produce, plant them someplace that gets and stays pretty warm.

Keep a few plants in waiting. It's good to have a few extra plants that you can plunk in if your other plants fail or get eaten. I just keep them in some bigger pots I kept from perennials. If I end up not needing them in the garden, I just keep growing them in the pots.

Some plants are best planted in summer. My pak choi and Chinese cabbage did well for a while then bolted. I started reading about their care, and it turns out that it is recommended to plant them in July-September. Huh, who knew?

Plant your corn then beans then squash . The three sisters idea seems like a good idea, but if you don't time it right, your beans won't have anything to climb and your corn and beans will be drowned out by the squash. I would recommend waiting a couple weeks between corn and beans and again between beans and squash to give everything a fighting chance.

Kohlrabi is best started in cell packs in early summer. I have tried to grow kohlrabi for 10 years with no luck. All the packages and gardeners tell me it is easy to grow, but for me, not so much. They didn't even take to the tp starter envelopes. I planted some in cell packs at the end of June - sprouted right away and have been growing well ever since -- maybe another of those summer vegetables?

So, I'm going to start planting those summer plants, find room for my extras in waiting that still haven't found homes, and hope that I remember all this for next year!

--I decided that I would like to add to this list as I find more tips so I made added a Vegetable Garden Tips post which can be found HERE.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vegetable Garden Tour

My vegetable garden had a somewhat rocky start this year as I decided that I was not going to buy any plants this year - they would all be started by seed by me. I mostly was able to accomplish that. The following are pictures from ten days ago and the same area this morning so you can see the growth over that time.

The tomato bed I built last year was filled with compost and topped off with compost/soil from another bed. I planted the tomatoes on the far end at the end of April and had the rest planted by the middle of May. Last year I had my tomatoes planted by the middle of May and they did great. I use cold hardier varieties, like Early Girl, so they don't even seem to be slowed down by the cool weather.
So many things want to eat my peppers this year - and they eat them down to a stick in the ground - if I'm lucky they leave that much. For the slugs I tried lava pebbles, cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, sand, and mullein leaves. So far the mullein leaves have worked the best. I put a little skirt around each plant with the mullein leaves facing up. The slugs do not like to crawl across it because of all the hairs on the leaves. One did cross and died a dried-up horrible death on the pepper plant it reached -- even though it was quite moist that day.
For the rabbits I have been trying coffee grounds. I thought if they could throw off the tracking capabilities of trained drug dogs, they might work with our mutant rabbits. So far, so good. It has even worked on the beets that they have been mowing down.
The squash is hidden somewhere behind all this garlic. My squash falls victim to the squash borer every year, so this year I threw every bit of companion planting deterrent that I could get my hands on: icicle radishes, borage, garlic, onions, and nasturtiums. Something has got to work, right?
This bed was built last year for growing pumpkins. Instead of crop rotation, I am just going to switch out the soil every so often as this will be the only bed big enough to house the big squash. What I have labeled as muskmelon actually turned out to be pickling cucumbers. Where did I plant that muskmelon??
I'm hoping that the plants that I have labeled as muskmelon in this picture really are muskmelon*! You can see that my leek bed has gotten really full.
*Nope. Pickling cucumbers.
These are just two extra shots of my vegetable garden ten days ago. I have had to use a lot of chicken wire this year due to the evil bunnies. But I think I may have a better solution: higher raised beds!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

GBBD - June 2010

Nothing seems to be cooperating with me for this Garden Blogger Bloom Day post. It was raining when I wanted to take pictures and Blogger was having issues with uploading the pictures. And now, as I am writing this, the sun has finally come out after days of hiding and I can't seem to type. Ugh.

But I did it! A GBBD post on GBBD! Yay. I am trying something new this month. Instead of writing the post and plopping the pictures into it, I am using hovertext to label -- so, if you'd like to know more about a picture, just hover!

As always, thanks so much to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for creating and hosting GBBD. If you'd like to see more blooms and maybe even share in the fun, go to her June post and include your blooms!