Last Saturday I went over to survey the garden after a couple of storms blew through the area. For the most part everything looks good but several crops took a beating. The corn, which started to put on tassels, was darned near blown down and several sunflower plants were planking also. The remainder of the garden and the beehive looked good.
Speaking of beehive, a few weeks ago I added an additional super to the stack. Since then, the bees have drawn out almost every frame. The queen has started laying in the newly added space, as evident by capped worker and drone cells. In addition, workers have filled most of the newly drawn cells with nectar and pollen deposits. The hive seems to be doing well, so well that I’ve added an additional super to the hive. While I’m seeing capped honey on several of the frames, my plan is to leave it for the girls this year and rob any surplus next spring, assuming they make it through the winter.
I’ve not seen any bees on any of the crop flowers but then again I’m not there 24X7. So far every plant looks healthy, including the corn and sunflower plants that took a beating during the recent storms. Before the recent storms I went over to work the garden and noticed a head of cauliflower that emerged from underneath outstretched the bundle of protective leaves. Realizing the yellow sun kissed band across the exposed portion of the head I decided to harvest it. While there I checked the progress of the zucchini squash. As I expected, it was ready to be harvested also. In all, I harvested six zucchini squash and 7 yellow crookneck squash. After the harvest I split the bounty with my dad and took the rest home for supper.
Since the initial harvest, I’ve made a return trip and was not disappointed. The garden yielded 12 zucchini squash, 15 broccoli offshoots, two cauliflower heads and 8 yellow crookneck squash. A portion of the bounty was used to show appreciation to my uncle for turning the garden in early spring. Another portion was given to my dad while the remaining third went home.
From the looks of it, the BT has been extremely effective at performing its job. Mummified cabbage worms liters the recovering cabbage leaves. Cabbage heads have formed a nice tight nucleus and are adding layers each week. Within another week or so I may harvest the first head.
So far I’m thrilled about the progress of the garden. The sweat, sore muscles and callused hands are all worth the satisfaction of sharing the harvest and watching my family enjoy garden fresh vegetables for a change.
Since my last post we’ve gotten a little bit of rain. Not near as much as I hoped to see but enough to keep from having to water the plants frequently. As a matter of fact, most of the plants only source of water is rain. As long as they are looking healthy I’m going to continue the pattern.
Speaking of looking healthy, everything looks really good except for the swiss chard. Heck I still don’t see it germinating. I’ve given up on it. I guess I’ll try to plant it in my fall garden. Within the last two weeks the green beans have started to put on buds, corn has quadrupled in size, the watermelons have started to run and cabbage plants have more than doubled in size, which brings me to my first problem. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one taking notice of the progress. Cabbage worms started by nibbling on the larger bottom leaves and have now made their way to the tender leaves of the cabbage head! Time to wage war!
Earlier this Spring, I used diatomaceous earth (DE), an organic material of fossilized plants. Up until now, it, coupled with used coffee grounds, has worked perfectly. Since planting the garden, I’ve purchased my first colony of bees and DE is indiscriminant in what insects it wipes out. Dad suggested Sevin dust, another no-no. Realizing I only had a couple of days to figure something out I researched like a mad man until I found an organic solution that knocks out cabbage worms and other garden caterpillars. At the end of the day I settled on Bacillus Thuringiensis, also known as BT. This naturally occurring organic bacteria wreaks havoc on cabbage worms all while not harming my bees. After purchasing, mixing and spraying a bit on every cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plant in the garden we’ll see how it does.
Let’s pick back up with the good news, since my first harvest of broccoli, two weeks ago, we’ve had the chance to harvest more. Last weekend we harvested a good amount of side shoots. The cauliflower’s center leaves have closed, which indicates the head will be forming shortly, if not already. Both rows of red and yellow onions are looking healthy but for some reason, they don’t look quite as big as last year’s crop around the same time. I did purchase the bulbs from a different supplier this year and sat them out a little later than normal so that may be the difference maker. The three original okra plants are thriving but only one of the replanted seeds germinated. For the amount of okra we eat, four plants should be enough. All of the acorn squash and replanted zucchini and yellow squash seeds have germinated. The seeds that made it through the cold weather have turned into solid plants that are bearing small fruit. If all goes well, the first zucchini squash will be harvested by the end of the week with yellow squash right behind it.
Two of the three cucumber mounds made it. The one that didn’t was a result of the tiller’s tine guard. The brandywine, roma and lemon boy tomatoes are also doing very well. This year I planted the plants a little deeper than normal and pruned all suckers and non fruit bearing branches from the bottom of the plant. The result is a plant that looks much healthier and stronger than plants that I’ve grown in the past. Within another two weeks or sooner I expect to be eating the first of the tomato harvest. Lastly, the sunflower plants are really growing. They have started to head and are almost as tall as the peaches and cream sweet corn.
All in all, the garden is where it should be around this time of year, especially, given the late start to warm weather. I hope the honey bees take notice once the plants start sporting flowers more consistently.
In this post I’ll provide an update on our row crop garden. Since the last post we’ve gone through the typical early spring frost and received little rain. Just like last year I had to replant. Thankfully the replant was limited to the zucchini, yellow and acorn squash. We also ended up replanting a few okra seeds.
Since the replant the garden has been doing very well. The squash seeds have germinated and are sporting healthy “ears”. The cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and onions are booming. The tomato plants corn and watermelon are thriving and the green beans and sunflower plants are sporting rabbit ears. The only thing that has me slightly concerned is the swiss chard. This is my first attempt at growing it and I really don’t know how long it will take before the seeds germinate. I see fresh growth but I’m uncertain of its origin. Instead of chopping it I’m letting it be. We’ll see.
In addition to the row crop garden I also planted a square foot garden in my backyard. For some reason its performance has decreased over past years. If you’ve read past posts you may recall that it only gets approximately 5 hours of direct sunlight. That along with the fact that I haven’t replenished lost nutrients more than likely equals root cause. Whatever the case this will be my last year planting it.
Even though I’m done with square foot gardening I’ve been spreading the word. A coworker, Laveda, had thought about planting a garden in her backyard and our conversation sealed the deal. Unlike my setup, she has a yard that gets full sunlight all day long. After reclaiming several cinder blocks, her and her family took the first steps to square foot gardening.
During our conversation I warned her that she would experience a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from a sense of accomplishment after building the garden and planting the first seeds and/or plants to waging war against pesky insects. I also explained that the plants, like children, would go through numerous stages ranging from nice healthy growing plants to sick (nutrient deficient or over watered) plants. To date I think she’s experienced each one of them. But, not to fret, like most children the plants will continue to grow, mature and become fruitful.
With that being said, the garden photo journal will highlight photos from my row crop garden and photos that Laveda provides of her square foot garden. Stay tuned for updates. I may still be able to talk her into becoming a contributor.
For those who frequent my site on a consistent basis I’m sure you’re wondering why no posts about a 2014 garden. If you’ve been sitting on pins and needles take a breath. My family and I have been working behind the scenes preparing for the growing season. Actually, we’re going into week number two since we initially broke ground.
Given the success of our garden last spring and fall, we decided to double the amount of space we’re planting this year. Before I continue I have to thank my uncle for turning the soil, my cousin for tilling it and my dad for letting me use the property. I truly appreciate it.
Before putting seeds in the ground this year we decided to do something different. Instead of turning, tilling, throwing down lime and fertilizer followed by planting, we decided to turn, throw down a thick layer of decomposing leaves, till, and add lime and fertilizer before planting. The purpose behind the ideas was to use the decomposing leaves as a method for holding moisture at root level throughout the summer while adding additional nutrients at the same time. Another reason leaves were added was to help condition the soil. We’re planting in hard soil so hopefully the decomposing leaves will help make the soil more manageable. I must admit that the idea didn’t just come to me. I ran across it while watching the “Back to Eden” gardening method.
Anyway, enough of that. What’s going to make it into the garden this year? Well let’s start from right to left. The first row will be split between Contender Green Beans and Swiss Chard. The second row will be exclusively Contender green beans. The next six rows will be Peaches and Cream Corn followed by four mounds of watermelons. Each mound will have a different variety planted. The first two mounds are Jubilee and “Yellow Meats” while the next two are Jubilee and Crimson sweets. As we move the next row, two rows of Green and Red Cabbage will lay adjacent to two rows of Red and Yellow onions. Next to the onions will be ½ a row of Okra and ½ a row of Acorn Squash. Next is a full row of Zucchini and Yellow Squash with three neighboring Roma Tomato plants and three Brandywine Tomato plants. Three Cucumber hills face the West while three Lemon Tomato plants and quarter row of Marigolds are planted towards the east. Finally, an end cap of Sunflowers provide a natural border to the garden.
Right now everything seems to be germinating and growing well with the exception of the squash. I’m not sure what’s going on. Of the many seeds we planted, only a hand full have started to break the surface. While working the garden today I was tempted to till them up and start over but I figured I’d wait until Monday. Monday we’re scheduled to receive rain with the possibility of severe weather. I’ll check things out Wednesday or Thursday. If nothing has changed, they will be tilled under replanted.
If you’re interested in checking the progress of the garden, head to the photo journal and view the garden gallery. Like last year, I plan to update the progress on a weekly basis.
Last Saturday I spent more time in the woods hunting for turkeys. Just like the previous weekend, the morning started on a promising note. Unlike the previous weekend, I watched everything develop from a ground blind that I sat out the evening before.
As first light appeared I executed a fly down cackle and slapped my hands against the pockets of my cargo pants. Like clockwork the two hens, which I’ve been accustomed to seeing, pitched down, yelped a bit and started feeding in the mucky field. I watched as they fed and worked their way deliberately across the property. In a short amount of time one hen walked out of my view as the other walked by me and onto the adjacent property. As she strolled by I decided to strike up a conversation. Using my diaphragm call I yelped softly. A few times she stopped, held her head high, looked around a bit and yelped back. The video camera recorded it all.
After she left the area I increased the volume on my yelps, cackles and cuts. Eventually I heard two gobblers in the distant mountains. Wanting to be sure the gobblers were responding to me I repeated the sequence and sure enough they responded. Given that I was on family property I didn’t have the flexibility to put a move on them. My only option was to call and hope to entice them to step foot on our property.
The call sequences went on for 2 or 3 minutes before I went silent. I figured I’d make the gobblers work for it. After 45 minutes or so of inactivity I yelped again. I was answered by a single gobbler behind me that was relatively close. In the cover of the ground blind I stood up to get a visual and sure enough there he was. Standing approximately 60 yards from my position I watched as he, already in full strut, modeled his Sunday best. A fresh jolt of adrenalin ran through my body and I started to think this would be the day.
In an attempt to maintain his interest I cooked up a few clucks. In response he extended his neck parallel to the ground and let out a loud gobble. I kind of chuckled a bit when I saw that. He went from looking like a boss gobbler to a nerd wearing flooding corduroys. His skinny legs were reminiscent of the white tube socks. Nevertheless, big boy was looking for love and judging by the way he recovered by entering full strut he was ready to speed date. Read More of Close But No Cigar