2012 Lookback

This looks to be my first and last garden post of 2012. Better late than never...?

2012 was an up year in some areas of the garden, and a down year in others.  I had fair success with the tomatoes and limited myself to just 3 varieties and 6 total plants this year. Sungold was an A+ (as always), Mountain Magic was an A- (good production, decent taste, and no blight!), Juan Flamme was a C- and not worth keeping around for next year.

I kept the two triangular beds as dedicated potato patches this year, and may continue with that in the coming seasons.  I stuck with the prolific and useful variety Yukon Gold, and I'm not sure I could be convinced to deviate next time around.

I saw some good success with Strawberries planted from seedlings in the summer of 2011. They came back strong and, minus the berries lost to birds and bugs, produced pretty darn well. My other perennial fruits were a little lackluster however as the black rasberries, and rhubarb provided little in the way of an actual harvest.  Also, of note, I planted a blueberry bush this year- time will tell.

I've about had it with my Aspargus planting as it is either simply too small or too shaded to be of any use.  I either need to just rip it out or try to dig up the crowns and replant in a more suitable spot.

Most everything else was buisness as usual.  Lettuce, basil, beans, peas, zucchinni etc. all performed as expected.  I did go back to the Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash for my winter squash this year and, despite nearly taking over the garden again, I was able to harvest quite a few jumbo specimens that found there way into soups, pies and other fall dishes.



Lots has changed in the garden since my last post.

Plenty of sugar snap peas to pick on a daily basis. Most get crunched right out in the garden.

I love the way this growing Kale looks. It's almost blue.

Summer squash plant looking great. This one is Yellow Crookneck I think.

Tomato lineup.

Bug's eye view of a tomato plant. They seem to be getting signifcantly bigger on a daily basis.

Winter squash growing over it's trellis.

This little blob will someday be a Burgess Buttercup Squash.

And this one will be a Potimarron Squash.

Everything is looking as it should in the potato and bean beds. I expect that we'll see some bean pods emerging in the next week or two.

I sneaked a peak at the base of my Purple Viking potato plant. And, sure enough, there are purple potatos growing.

The Black Eyed Susans lining the front of the garden look like they are about to bloom any day.

Some other back yard projects have gotten time recently. So far the deck is re-stained, plants are potted on the patio, and the fence is in the process of being extended down into the yard.

And I am happy with the way this bed on the side of the yard has turned out. I lined it last fall with broken pieces of our old sidewalk, and have mulched all the plants heavily this spring. Looking good.


Tomato Day 2011

In fact these pictures are from about a week ago, so tomato day was really last week.

Aiden was a good assistant.

It's only been a week, but these have almost doubled in size.

Learning about worms.

Eventually toys won out over garden projects. Still a good tomato day!



Finally got out into the garden early enough in the day to take some pictures in decent light. Lots going on.

Milk jugs in the foreground hold the tomato seedlings with huge bamboo stakes next to each.

The peas are a' growin.

Winter squash, both started from seed in milk jugs and now transplanted into the ground. Eventually there will be a wire mesh over the bamboo in this picture that the squash vines can climb up.

Swiss Chard in the sunlight. This amazing plant was overwintered and is now thriving once again.

Potatoes around the edge of this bed with beans in the middle. This year I am going to mulch all the beds heavily with grass clippings from the lawn. Keeps the weeds down and retains water, plus I like the way it looks.

Closeup of the grass mulch around the potato plants.

Stunning rhubarb stalks. I picked my first batch of rhubarb the other day to make a strawberry rhubarb crumble for Mother's Day.

Tomato seedling in a milk jug. This process seems to be working well; next year I may try to just the start the seeds right into the jugs.

Melon seedling in a jug. All three types are still small but look good. I'm in the process of prepping the melon bed to plant out hopefully in about two weeks.

A sea of young lettuce.

I am very pleased that the black-eyed susans that I seeded last year at the front fence of the garden have come back even stronger. Excited to see them in bloom.


April Rains

Soaking rains have been almost a daily event for the last few weeks, and the garden has benefited immensely with nearly everything planted showing significant growth.

Peas growing- so far the Amish Snap are outdistancing the Green Arrow, but everything is growing well.

I started bean seeds directly in the ground under old plastic soda bottles. This is the first time I've tried this, but so far so good.

The melons and squashes that I started in milk jugs are all looking quite good. The only thing that has shown no signs of life thus far is the strawberries.

Trying something a little different with the tomatoes this year. Typically at this point I would transplant them into individual plastic cups and let them grow inside on the windowsill for a few weeks. This year I am instead going to transplant the seedling directly into milk jugs similar to the way I did the squash and melon seeds. If this technique works than it would be a lot less fussy as once I plant the stuff into jugs it usually remains pretty self-sufficient until its time to put it in the ground. If this works maybe next year I could try planting the tomato seeds directly into the jugs, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

jugs galore.

I have gone a little crazy with the bamboo structures this year. I already have climbing space for peas, beans, melons and squash, and I still have to put in the giant tomato stakes. It's starting to look like a swiss family robinson garden.


Potato Day

April 7th was Potato Day for 2011. It's about 2 weeks later than last year, and even with the extra time I am nervous about cold weather doing some damage. The forecast looks quite good for the week ahead though, so maybe I am in the clear.

I got two potato varieties this year: Purple Viking (pictured above) which is a new type for me, and Yukon Gold which I tried and had great success with last year.

The Purple Vikings were quite large, and had to be cut in half to make appropriately sized seed potatoes. Both varieties were delivered in mesh bags which I hung in the basement for about 2 weeks to start sprouting.

I also allocated more space to potatoes this year as they did so well last season. I was surprised and pleased at how easy and prolific they were, and I am hoping for more of the same this time around.

Trenched about 5-6 inches down and ready to be covered with 2-3 inches of soil and a blanket of leaf mulch.

This is my secret potato weapon: coffee grounds. We've been saving our spent grounds from our french press for the last few months and after I planted and covered the potatotes with soil they got dressed with a light covering of the grounds. The grounds will slowly release nutrients into the soil that will help the spuds grow strong.

Using leftover bamboo stakes as plant markers this year. Also, trying to write the planting date on the marker this year for quick reference.


Peas Planted

It may have been a little hasty, but the 2011 garden season is, at last, officially underway. With recent temperatures hovering in the 40's I have been delaying my first planting of peas longer than I would have liked. Yesterday, however, the sun was out and the weather felt suitably spring-like so I decided that it was time to give it a go and get some seeds into the ground.

I am planting two pea types this year. Green Arrow (which I grew last year) which is a productive low climbing shelling pea. And also Amish Sugar Snap which is a vigorous climber and good for eating raw, pod and all.

I have high hopes this year to incorporate Aiden into as many garden activities as possible. He got a garden tool set for Christmas and has seemed excited to put his little trowel and watering can to good use. Pea planting was a perfect 3 year old garden project. We pushed aside the top layer of leaves around the pea teepees that I had built and Aiden used the wooden dibbler to poke holes into the ground.

After carefully placing a pea seed into each hole we filled in the holes and gave to area a good smooth pat down with our trowels. A few of the seeds received some extra water from Aiden's watering can for good measure.

Peas successfully planted!

Hopefully potatoes will follow in short order. I would have liked to have them in ground earlier as well, but cold wet weather can spell rot for seed potatoes, so I am going to dig in my heels and wait. I may try to "chit" my potatoes this year, which means to put them out on a shelf in the basement where they will begin to sprout- this could give them a head start in the growing department while still avoiding the bad weather.

Also, I planted the tomato seeds into my mini-greenhouse flat in the kitchen. Again I am about a week behind when I started seeds last year, but in the end I don't think that this should make too much difference.