Tag: cohocton river

Garlic Madness

How does growing garlic get out of hand?

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My garlic and onion patch

Most of this patch is German Extra Hardy, a common variety that stores well and is delicious.  Last year, I saved more than I need. If you would like some they will be for sale in the next month.

The other four varieties are Broadleaf Czech, Chesnok Red, Pink Music, and Hanging Dog.  I am growing Chesnok Red, Pink Music, and Hanging Dog for the first time.  It is always exciting to see how the plants look in the spring.  I had not seen them before this spring.  They are all heirloom varieties.  In a few years I will have enough of a harvest to supply my growing and eating needs.  I am most excited to dig up and eat Hanging Dog, from what I understand it is an elephant style variety.  So I am looking forward to seeing what a full head looks like.

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Hanging Dog garlic

The garlic flowers are also developing.  The scape is the flower of the garlic plant.  I cut them so the plants put more energy into the bulbs.  There are some who disagree with this process, but it works for me.

The spring weather has been beneficial for the raspberries and other early fruits.

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Spring Raspberries

The yellow raspberries are coming along nicely too. It is nice to go outside early mornings and pick fresh raspberries.

Fresh lettuce this time of year is great too.  Tennis Ball lettuce is a very nice head lettuce.

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Tennis Ball lettuce

The Monticello gardens grow tennis ball lettuce.  Apparently, President Thomas Jefferson liked how easy and low maintainence this lettuce is.  It is also tastey.

This looks like a busy week, with lots of projects to get down.  Fortunately, we are eating well.

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

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Transplanting is Transformational

The Micro Farm is a “buzz” with activity.

Pollinators are enjoying the black raspberry flowers
Pollinators are enjoying the black raspberry flowers

The strawberry patch is also producing lovely berries this year.  Such a nice crop mean I need to protect the ripe berries from animals nibbling.

The strawberries protected
The strawberries protected

I use a bird netting purchased at a local nursery.  It keeps most of the critters from eating the ripe fruit.

I spent a good deal of the week transplanting seedlings.  One evening while working on the Micro Farm.  I noticed small movements near my neighbor’s shed.  Sure enough two small rabbits.  I knew I needed to do something to protect my tender and young plants.  Fencing is what I needed, but I wanted to avoid the traditional woven metal fence.  A local home store had landscaping timbers on sale, decision made.

New "fencing"
New “fencing”

Hopefully this will keep the rabbits out.  We will have to wait and see.

I transplanted tomatoes, peppers, celery, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Cabbage transplants
Cabbage transplants
Cauliflower transplant
Cauliflower transplant
Tomato transplants
Tomato transplants

I also planted five pounds of seed potatoes, another 75 onion sets, beets, edamame,  popcorn, and carrots.

Growing greens has been a failure so far this season.  So I am tried putting some seed in six-packs to determine the quality of the seed.  The seed produced well.  I In another week I will put them into the ground.

Lettuce seedlings
Lettuce seedlings

As the rain falls tonight.  I am excited to see how the young plants spring to life over the next week.

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

Herb Garden On the Move

Thank you to you if your loved one did not return from service to our country.  Memorial Day is a time to remember and to hold those lost close in our hearts.

The roller coaster of temperatures has been an interesting challenge this week.  Monday was hot and humid.  Friday we had frost through out the area.  Monday is supposed to be 85 degrees.  We have had some rain, but sunny and windy weather means the soil is drying out and more watering.

I did re-locate the herb garden.

Left - cilantro; Top middle - thyme; Middle - winter savory; Bottom middle - oregano; Right - basil
Left – cilantro; Top middle – thyme; Middle – winter savory; Bottom middle – oregano; Right – basil

It took a good portion of the day, but the herb garden was moved.  Many of the plants were large.  So I only took a small section of them.  If the re-located plants do not make it then I will try another part of the plant.  I really like how this new garden bed looks.   I also added a toad house.

The toad house a cool place to hide
The toad house a cool place to hide

Toad’s eat a lot of insects.  The also tend to eat the insects I do not want eating my plants.  So I like to find ways to encourage them to hang out in my garden. One way is encourage them is to create a shelter where they can go if the sun is intense or they need cover.

Earlier this week on a Micro Farm inspection walk.  I noticed my grapes had been chewed down.

Chewed down grapes
Chewed down grapes

I suspect rabbits ate my grape vines, but I have no proof.   I have added protection so the grapes can recover.

I planed about 150 onion sets.  It took some planting plan changes but I got them all in.

The home of almost 200 onions
The home of almost 200 onions

I have written for several weeks about my rain barrels.  Last week I painted them to help improve their appearance.  One disadvantage of using rain barrels is the low flow pressure.  Raising the height of the barrel uses gravity to increase the pressure.  I have my barrels raised up on cement blocks.  Hopefully, a few flowers and plants can help mask the blocks.

Flowers to mask the cement blocks.
Flowers to mask the cement blocks.
The coleus is no doing so well
The coleus is no doing so well

I was hoping to use coleus to cover these blocks.  It is not doing so well.  I am afraid there might be something in the soil they do not like.

This week I have a bunch of seedlings to transplant.  I also need to start some new seedlings for second crops.

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

The Butterfly Buffet?

Everyday Biscuit (our dog) and I take a walk.  We have our patterns and variations on a theme but we regularly follow the same route.  Our route takes us past several areas that currently be used for field corn.  Eventually, these areas will be developed into either residential or business uses.  Over the past few summers I have seen an increase in milkweed plants.  I was very excited to see milkweed on the edges of the corn field and hoped the Monarch butterflies would be equally excited.  Last summer I noticed a disturbing trend.  The farmer pushed further than he had in previous years and could be plowing under more and more milkweed.

Coincidentally this summer a friend, native to this area, was sharing how she used to see fields full of Monarchs and that she had not seen one Monarch at all this past summer.  On one of my walks looking at the seeds of the milkweed ready to take flight I began to wonder if I could save milkweed seed and start some on my own.  If I could I thought they would be a great addition to our native and butterfly planter.

Sure enough you can propagate wild milkweed.  I ended up using Wild Ones’ website.  They promote native plants and landscaping, which was what I was the type of website I thought would be most helpful to me. I did not want to use the milkweed in a way that was outside its preferred characteristics or unknowingly unleash an invasive plant in my community.  They have a nice milkweed fact sheet to help the average person, like me, propagate and learn about milkweed.

Milkweed is the only food source for Monarch larva.  If, for example, the plants in my neighbor hood get mowed down next summer what or who is going to replace that food source.  Hopefully, I can help build up the milkweed population in my area in places that will be more stable than along my walking route.

So what have I actually done so far?  This fall I harvested a few seeds from a few plants.  I tried not to take to much from the plants, but just enough for my purposes.  I pulled off all the fluff and keep them in a cool, dry place.

A few of my milkweed seeds.
A few of my milkweed seeds.

I did some simple research and I believe I have Common Milkweed or Asclepias syriaca.  Today they were mixed with sand, according to the Wild Ones’ instructions and were placed in our refrigerator.  The process is called stratification and it is to create a simulated winter experience for the seeds.  Wild Ones recommends sixty days for common milkweed, but the USDA recommends ninety days.  I am trying sixty plus a few days to see what will happen.

Common milkweed seeds undergoing stratification in my refrigerator
Common milkweed seeds undergoing stratification in my refrigerator

In about sixty days I will start the milkweed seedlings.  It should be interesting to see how it works out.  I am hoping to be able to help provide some food for local Monarch butterflies.

I would encourage you to watch for milkweed and try planting around your home to help feed the Monarchs.  I have heard several reports about the Monarch population is declining.  Maybe this will be one more piece of the puzzle to help increase the population of this wonderful butterfly.

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

Springing Forward

The Micro-Farm is really starting to take shape after winter.  I have removed 90 per cent of the old plants.  I have enjoyed taking a few minutes to enjoy the hard work that has gone into the micro-farm over the past four years.  While ever farm is a place of constant change there are goals I have hoped to achieve.  This spring I feel good about where the micro-farm is and where the next steps will take it.

I attempted to sift the compost piles a month ago.  After removing the first layers on both piles I ran into two compost ice cubes.  After stabbing both piles with a shovel I quickly realized I needed a few warm days before any sifting was going to take place.  Two weeks later I took the weekend and dedicated it to compost sifting.  I do not enjoy the sifting very much but the end product is great.  I filled almost two lawn tractor trailers.

I have also been doing some planting.  It may seem crazy, but there are some really crazy plants that do not mind the cold.  I planted over twenty-five pea plants, beets, a few leafy greens, onion seedlings, and turnips.   Many have sprouted and are, slowly, growing.  The garlic planted last fall has come up and is about six inches tall.  A couple of frosts have slowed the garlic down but it is still going strong.

The garlic a couple of weeks ago.
The garlic (37 plants)  a couple of    weeks ago.

We have a very tall pine tree near the garden beds.  In the fall it sheds a lot of needles.  Without a better plan last fall, I mounded the pine needles around a planter box.  I have been spreading the needles around and using them for mulch in my garden walkways and paths.

The other side of the growing beds
The growing beds when I was beginning to put down needles and before compost
Beds with new compost and needles in paths
Beds with new compost and needles in paths

I like the way they look, feel, and smell.  They also do a good job with keeping the weeds down.  Possibly most important the price: free, all around pretty good.

Last growing season the grass and weeds took over my pea bed.  I fought them for a while, but eventually they won.  I worked hard on last year’s pea bed, this year’s cucumber bed, to clean out the weeds and grass.

Now it is cleaned out and ready for cucumbers
Now it is cleaned out and ready for cucumbers

When I was in middle school NASA gave students tomato seeds that had spent time either on the Space Shuttle or on the space station.  I totally loved it. Seeds from space!  They even came in a Mylar seed packet.  I asked to keep information on how they progressed.  I have no idea what happened to those plants.  Most likely, they dried up or were choked out by weeds.  I have felt a little guilty for those plants.

Now I have a sense of redemption.  I am growing turnip seeds for Seed Savers Exchange’s M-Gen program.  I am asked to keep details and records on how they are doing.  So far I have been keeping everything up-to-date.  I planted twenty seeds a week ago.

The bed on the left has been planted.
The bed on the left has been planted.

This weekend I have seen a few seedling popping up.  Next Saturday I hope to plant another twenty seeds in the bed on the right.  I am really looking forward to this project.  You will see further reports as the season goes along.

You can see a lot has been happening.  I also should report that I lost my second thyme seedlings.  For the third try I moved them to the kitchen where they get southern sun and have a higher, and more consistent, temperature.  I have about five times more seedlings and they are growing well.  The third time is the charm.

I hope you are enjoying your spring clean up and planting.  Please share what you are doing it motivates me.

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

Taking Care of Thyme

Friday was in the low 50’s.  So I was adventurous and looked underneath my pine needle mulch to see find out if my garlic was there.  Sure enough I saw a small green spike poking up through the soil.  So I have, at least, one garlic plant for Spring.  If we can get consecutive warms days they can stretch out of the soil.

The seedlings are growing well.  I had a few more pepper plants show themselves.

A few pepper seedlings
A few pepper seedlings

I have about ten pepper seedlings with more planted a week later.

Last fall the thyme plants in the herb garden looked like they were struggling.  I am not sure if it was my timing or the plants.  Going through my seed packets I found I had a few thyme seeds that needed to be used.  I figured the long and hard winter may have done in my thyme in the garden.  I took the old seed and filled on cell in a four pack.

My "old" seeds doing very well
My “old” seeds doing very well

I did not expect the germination rate to be so high.  In the other cells there are thyme seeds I purchased new this year.  Will I have enough time for all my thyme?

On our front porch we have a couple of hanging baskets.  A friend has graciously given us flowers each year.  Last year the flowers were impressive.  Now we are just left with two hanging baskets.  So I am experimenting with a variety of strawberries called “Gasana” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Gasana is an ornamental strawberry that works well in containers.  It is day-neutral so it will produce small to medium fruits.  If everything works.  So my plan is to sit on the porch, read, and snack on strawberries.

Gasana seedlings.
Gasana seedlings.

I have found it challenging keeping my seedlings watered this year.  They are drying out quickly.  Heating from below really improves germination, but it makes it difficult to not dry out young seedlings.  To challenge myself more, I have been starting seedlings at different times.  So there are different needs all under the same light.  I think everything is good now, but it has been challenging.

What are you seed starting challenges?

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

 

True Leaves and Soil

The onion, tomato, and tomatillo seedling’s plastic was impeding growth so I removed it for good this week. It is exciting to see them progressing well.

Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings.  You can see the "true leaf" starting to develop.
Tomato seedlings. You can see the “true leaf” starting to develop.

While taking pictures this evening I noticed there had been a small water accident and a number of my seed packets were wet.

Wet bottoms of my seed packets
Wet bottoms of my seed packets

Well, mistakes typically force us to create a better method.  I will have to work on developing a better storage plan.  I should be keeping seeds in a more water tight containers anyway.  So I will be thinking about how to do this efficiently and cost-effectively.

The weather has been difficult to work around.  On Friday morning I went cross-country skiing in my neighbor’s field.  By noon that same day most of my tracks had melted from snow to grass.  Looking back over four years of pictures about half the years I am working the soil, but this is not one of those years.  Until the soil thaws I will not be working the soil.  Walking on wet soil just compacts all the air pockets and makes it the harder for roots to push through the soil and for them to get the nutrients they are desire.

I did order another type of tomato seeds.  I have been growing Pruden’s Purple the past few years.  I like the tomatoes, and I find it is fairly disease resistant.  So they should be arriving soon, and I will get them started so they can be big and strong going into the soil.

I hope we will all be getting hands dirty soon.

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