Tag: black plastic mulch

One Big Hole

Some weeks the work around the Micro Farm revolve completely around plants and plant care.  Other weeks, like this past week, work revolves around preparing a place for plants.  When work is not directly plant and plant-care related often it is focused on soil improvement.

Project one was moving the herb bed.  I wanted to get control over the herb bed which has been assaulted by a very aggressive mint.  My plan is to relocate the herbs that I want to keep, and then figure out what to do about the mint bed.

Creating the new herb bed posed one problem.  There was a large metal pole in the area I wanted to plant in.  I had tried to find a way to use the pole so I would not have to dig it out.   However, none of my ideas were visually appealing to my taste.  So dig it out was the best answer.

Top left - The pole and cement that I dug out; bottom left - The hole; Right - the new herb garden cardboard down
Top left – The pole and cement that I dug out; bottom left – The hole;
Right – the new herb garden cardboard down

I will get some more cardboard, then lay a mulching layer of pine needles down, finally transplant the herbs into their new home.

My local furniture company gave me a king-bed box, which was awesome.  I was able to cover last year’s luffa bed, which is now extended.  My goal is to plant this bed with plants that I will use to barter with my neighbor who currently sells us eggs.

The extended bed looks nice.  It should earn a few eggs.
The extended bed looks nice. It should earn a few eggs.

I was also able to mulch another large area.  This area I covered with composting black plastic and pine needles.  It covers quickly.  I have used this plastic the past three years and it works well.  The only down-side is that it is more expensive than the free cardboard I have been getting.

This is a main area mulched.
This is a main area mulched.

A few plant notes.  I was excited to see the Niagara grapes start to bud break.

The buds are swelling and a some have broken open
The buds are swelling and a some have broken open

I am always nervous when working with a new plant.  There is so much to learn, and I do not have a “feeling” for the timing of how things work.  I am pleased to see them doing well.

Next to the grapes are the red raspberries.  Unfortunately, I do not think the over-winter canes did very well.

No growth higher up, but lots of growth around the bottom
No growth higher up, but lots of growth around the bottom

I am going wait and see what happens with last year’s canes.  If they do not leaf I will cut them.  These raspberries fruit on the previous year’s canes so it appears there will be no spring raspberries on the Micro Farm this year.  It is possible I will get a fall crop, if they follow their history.

Plants sales are going on almost every day in our area.  I have a couple that I like to support.  One is at a local vocational high school.

There are 96 marigold plants.
There are 96 marigold plants.

I may have gone a bit overboard with the marigolds.  I use many of them to border my gardens.  They help keep the insects I do not want away.  But 96?

We have been getting adequate rain, and expect more this week.  The rain barrels are full and I have been using them regularly.  I enough water so far that I have not hooked up the hose at the house.  It is great to not have to spend energy to pump up water from the ground to put it right back in when I water my plants.  Now that they are hooked up, I have focused on making them a bit more attractive than giant, blue barrels that I am sure my neighbors love looking at.  I found a couple of spray paint products that cover plastic.  The one I picked up appears to work very well.

The rain barrel before and painted
The rain barrel before and painted “Nutmeg”

I think it looks less conspicuous and is more appealing.

Well, things are progressing on the Micro Farm.  Planting transplants is coming soon.  It has been tempting to put them in the ground, but late last week we had a frost warning.  I can not risk it, I do not want to lose my plants now.  To much work and time has gone in to them.  They are doing well where they are.  But, the time is coming.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.


Surprise In the Compost Bin

Reviewing last year’s information I planted my three weeks later than this year.  I also planted about 20 fewer cloves this year.  What do these differences mean?  I do not know.  I am glad to have the garlic in the ground and have it checked off my to-do list.  Today was cold, but sunny.  It was nice to be outside and working, even though I had to wear a winter hat.

Garlic cloves seperated
Garlic cloves separated

The first step to growing garlic is separating the gloves.  Then plant each clove about two inches deep and about five inches apart.

I needed to prepare the planting bed.

Over grown marigolds
Over grown marigolds and various other plants

I pulled the frost killed marigolds out.  They were really amazing marigolds, and I enjoyed them this year.  I pulled several failed plants that did not produce as well.  Most of those plants went into the compost bin.

Marigolds destined for the compost bin
Marigolds destined for the compost bin

The finished row looks good.  Later this week I will cover the garlic with two inches pine needles and straw .  The mulch will help keep a more constant temperature and protect the cloves from freeze and thaws.

Finished bed.
Finished bed.

My compost bin often has un-expected vines and plants growing in it.  I often let them grow out of curiosity.  When I was carrying marigold to the compost bins today I found a tomato vine with a one green tomato on it.

The last tomato
The last tomato

I brought it into the house, mostly for the novelty of it.  It is small and it is unlikely to ripen.

What has surprised you recently?

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.


A Little Surprise…

Frosts last week dominated most conversations.  Fortunately the frosts were light and only lasted a couple of hours.  I did not lose any strawberry blossoms, from what I could see.  Work around the Micro Farm has been shifting from cleaning and preparation to planting.

The final preparation steps are laying soaker hoses, black plastic mulch, and straw mulch.

Two soaker hoses and one row of black plastic.

Straw is then laid on top of the black plastic.  The straw helps hold the plastic down and helps slow evaporation.

Straw covering soaker hoses and black plastic.

Already the soil is dry. Additional help holding on to water is important.

I stopped by our local vocational high school’s annual plant sale.  I purchased five packs of marigolds.  Saturday I planted them along the edges of the beds.  They look really nice.  What do you think?

A few of the new marigolds.

I also transplanted several tomatillos plants and a few beets.

The beet transplants.

I also prepared the cucumber bed.  Currently, there are several green onions still waiting to be harvested.  I will pull them before they get in the way of the cucumbers.

One of the cucumber mounds and the green onions

While investigating the strawberry plants for frost damage I was surprised.

One of the first strawberries.

Now all I need to protect the berries from critters.

I hope you are preparing to put warm weather plants into the ground.  I know the upcoming weekends will be busy for gardeners and micro-farmers alike.  I hope you are able to spend some time in the soil and with your family.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.


Don’t Freeze In Place

I returned after a week of traveling to incredible growth around the Micro Farm.  Doing a quick tour I almost could not believe how everything had grown in just one week.  While that was great for the plants I want, the weeds definitely took advantage of my absence.

A few weeds that I need to pull.

I do not usually discriminate about what plants I put into the compost.  I knew that could create some challenges.  This year it has.  The compost piles did not get hot enough to kill them.  Once the seeds get water and sunlight they begin to grow.  I have two methods of eliminating the weeds, (1) pull them (2) cover open soil with black plastic.  Another method I have read about is the “ten-day rule” if you hoe or cultivate your soil once every ten days the seeds grow but never take root and create more seeds.  I will be using black plastic to cover most of my open soil to eliminate weeds and to help slow soil evaporation.

On my return tour I was really excited to see the rhubarb flourishing.

A healthy rhubarb plant

This poor rhubarb plant has been re-located twice.  Finally in its second home and a mild spring it is doing really well.  I am happy to see it flourishing.

Onion Sets
Onions coming up.

The onion sets I planted have begun to come up.  I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded of a couple of locations I had forgotten I planted onions.

Radishes needing to be thinned.

The few radishes I planted are doing well.  I do need to thin them out a little so when they “bulb out” they do not grow together.

My first crop of peas

I am trying something new with my peas this year.  So far everything is working well.  I hope they continue to grow nice and tall. I would love to have peas climbing the entire trellis.

While the frost-free percentages are good that this area would still have a freeze it has been several years since we have had one. Last year I planted my tomatoes and peppers this weekend.

This year as the frost is coming so I covered the strawberries.

Strawberry flowers

The strawberry plants are as strong as I remember them.  I really do not want to lose them to a frost.

Low tunnel
Strawberries under my home-made low tunnel hoops

I made these hoops last year.  I had planned to use them with some type of fencing to keep the animals away from the berries.  They went into use just a bit earlier than planned.  Hopefully this will keep the frost off the plants.  I had to use scraps of plastic, I do not a large enough clear plastic piece.  I will pull the black off when the temperatures are warm enough, and put it back on late in the afternoon so the sun warms up the black plastic.

I hope you avoid any frosts, and all your seedlings are doing well.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.


Pepper, Cukes, and Flowers

The Micro farm got a good, long drink on Friday.  The rain started early and was off and on most of the day.  It was not enough rain to turn all the brown grass – green but I did not have to water.

As I drive around I see a lot of corn that is short or tassling low to the ground.  My popcorn, and my neighbor’s, is doing well.

I tried to take this at level shoulder height. This is a shot of the tallest bunch. The shorter are just about shoulder height.

Have you had sweet corn this summer?  Some how I have missed out so far.  Something I will have to add to the grocery list.  I have felt successful at giving my corn the necessary water it needs.  Corn requires a lot of water.  My corn is planted through black plastic mulch which slows the evaporation of any water.

I planted pie pumpkins late this year. The three plants are doing well.

Two of three pumpkin plants. They are starting to send out vines.

In the same bed as the corn and pumpkins there were several tomato volunteers. I pulled most of them but left one to see what variety it was and what i would get.

This volunteer is doing well. It from the grape tomatoes I grew last year.

I am curious to see if they taste good.  I do not remember if the variety I grew last year is a hybrid or not.  If it is a hybrid I will get either the mother or the father, and I will not know until they are done growing.  I am hoping both parents are tasty varieties.

After taking off the insect barrier the cucumbers have filled in.  I was so surprised to see several cucumbers about this size.

These are just about the size for pickling!

Another variety of peppers popped up this week.

Although these peppers look hot most of them are sweet.

It looks like it will be a good pepper harvest this year.

I planted several types of wild flowers that attract beneficial insects, butterflies, and bees.  They are very beautiful.  I have tried take pictures that fully show their beauty.  After a few attempts today, I realized my photography skills are not up to this monumental task.

These are just a few of the flowers. There are so many colors. I hope I can represent a small part of their beauty.

After a quieter week at the Micro Farm I think this week will be busier.  Clearly, there are peppers and cukes to pick.  What are you picking at your home.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Relief and Bulbs

This past week of heat and humidity had me running inside as often as possible.  I do not do well in the heat.  I was able to water the Micro Farm in the morning or late evening.  I was amazed to only have to water every other day…the mulch and straw held that much water in the soil.

Water conservation is always a concern because our water source is a shallow well.  So using soaker hoses, black plastic mulch, and straw has been very helpful. The soakers put the water right at the base of the stem and the roots.  Water is not wasted spraying around or landing on leaves and dripping away.  In dry times like these I am happy to not waste water.

The herb, fruit, and cuke beds do not have soaker hoses.  So I have decided to recycle a few plastic jugs and re-purpose them.

This week I will put a couple of small holes in them and then fill them with water. The hope is that the water will slowly drip out.

I hope they will act like soaker hoses, but more mobile.

I always struggle about when is to early to plant or too late.  Many of the carrots and parsnips I planted did not grow.  So I planted a few seeds this week and covered them with straw so they do not dry out.

The seed packets, and a garlic bulb I pulled to determine its progress.

The garlic will be ready to harvest this week.  Re-reading the Johnny’s Selected Seeds garlic growing guide I saw the bottom leaves are brown and the top leaves are during yellow.

The yellowing leaves are a good sign they are ready to harvest. Then a couple of weeks of drying before they are ready.

Weeding around the onions I noticed how they were “bulbing up” very well.

You can see them bulbing up if you look closely. I am excited about having a good-sized onions this year.

The beefsteak tomatoes, peppers, and cukes arrived this week

A few young beefsteaks have arrived. I will need to run another string this week to help keep them up.
A couple of these peppers have popped up. They sure do love the heat
These are really great pickling cukes. They will make great dill pickles with the dill growing in the herb garden.

Lots to do this week.  With the cooler weather tonight I was able to get caught up with the weeding.  Hopefully, this week I will be able to get some more projects tackled.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.