Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The final part of our front yard to be landscaped, that being the fire pit, is coming right along. Last month it was hydro-seeded with lawn. The past week Mr. Mac has been putting down landscape rock in the culvert area. Hopefully this fall, when plants go on sale at the end of the season, I hope to buy some slow growing, low to the ground bushes and perennial lilies to add to the rock area. I have to keep this area rather unobstructed and flat so we have an area to pile up snow from our driveway during the winter.

I've been so neglectful over here. You'd think I was up to nothing garden related. This is my first summer planting a veggie garden ... so I have no expertise to draw from ;) ... Just a blank mind, a blank plot of ground, and too much information from reading too many gardening books. I'm a hands on learner and have to experience the mistake of planting too many seeds too close together, or picking a spot that doesn't get enough sunshine. Not the brightest turnip in the patch you might say ... but, oh, once I get the hang of gardening through trial and error, I'll be shipping ya'all fresh produce by the bushel full. My goal is to keep a almanac of all things weather and garden related. My pop has just such a method that goes back years and years. Some skill he inherited from his parents. So far, I'm not too diligent about taking notes and I fear that next year, it may be back to the drawing board with a few new mistakes.

In April I planted a few different varieties of seeds indoors including: sweet peas, herbs, melon and tomatoes. Nothing but the sweet peas, basil and tomatoes survived. We had such an extended winter that the other plants got too leggy before the temps warmed sufficiently. I have found that it is much better to just wait and plant directly in the warm soil than waste too much time, money and energy on starting seeds indoors unless you have a green house, or perhaps expensive growing lights set up in the basement. I don't have the time or money for either, so will take my chances just planting outdoors next year.

The sweet peas take a very long time to mature and bloom. The package stated 120 days. I have no doubt that they took that long as the ones planted indoors in April just started blooming two weeks ago. I planted a bush variety instead of the type that grow on a net or fence. In May I planted nasturtium and have quite a few of the plants. The package stated they do best in poor soil ... that they got. Some did not receive enough sun ... others not enough nutrients ... the soil was VERY poor. Some have bloomed ... but not the large showy bushes with loads of blooms all at once. These plants have only a few blossoms at a time showing. The seeds are supposed to make good pickled capers. With such few flowers, I'd be better off just buying a jar at the market.

The veggie plot has six zucchini and three crooked neck yellow squash plants. I know, I know ... zucchini will be coming out my ears soon. I have tons of recipes and plan on freezing and pickling some of it. There are numerous tomato plants at various stages of growth. I hope to have loads of tomatoes to make salsa, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and other sauces. Last year I chopped and froze fresh tomatoes for the deep freeze and canned salsa ... but not enough. I hope to have enough so as not to run out this coming year. To go with the tomatoes is fresh basil, thyme and Italian parsley. There are carrots, chives, cucumbers, lettuce, and some volunteer cantaloupe plants ... a gift from my compost pile ;).

To keep the deer and rabbits out of the veggie plot I have staked six foot gardening poles every four or five feet and surrounded the whole area with deer netting. The netting has yarn tied about midway up to help the deer steer away from the net. Most gardening books recommend a fence 8 feet high. Since this is not a very large garden, this height has worked so far. The plot started off about 8 feet by 12 feet ... and of the 'no dig' variety. this meant just that: NO DIGGING! You simply lay down a quarter inch of newspaper top it with good compost material. The squash was planted on mounds of compost. The tomatoes are staked with posts ... cages would have worked ... but I didn't have any. I surrounded the entire edge with some logs that were just cluttering up the back yard. It looks much like a raised garden bed. After this was planted I got ambitious and DUG up an adjacent area that had some thimble berries growing. The soil was very good and easy to dig. This area has the lettuce, carrots, herbs, and additional tomatoes (which I hope will mature before we get frost. The tomatoes I planted are Early Girl so they should be OK). My strawberries are now just ripening ... they are planted in strawberry pots. It will be several years before my blueberry, sour cherry, and apple trees produce more than a handful of fruit. But, oh, it will be worth the wait.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

We're switching gears here. Since our new home is completed, I'm going to start chronicling my gardening adventures. Here you might spy photos of bountiful harvests, or puny crops that failed. Life is an experiment and I like to play in the dirt. If I'm not at home, check the back yard I may be working in the garden.

Photo: two rosemary plants purchased in 4 inch pots, basil started from seeds