Tag: southern tier

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.

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.

Unexpected Productivity or Who Knew?

Earlier this afternoon I started to wonder what had happened around the Micro Farm this past week.  The events of the week that first came to mind were good things, and productive, just not around the Micro Farm.

Then I went out to take pictures to document the plant growth of the past week.  The pictures tell the bigger story.   After a light rain in the middle of the past week I realized I needed to re-configure the angle of the gutters.  After thunderstorms today the gutters are working better.

These are things growing well on the Micro Farm  Upper left - strawberries; Upper right - rhubarb; Lower left - blueberry;  Lower right - peas
These are things growing well on the Micro Farm
Upper left – strawberries; Upper right – rhubarb; Lower left – blueberry; Lower right – peas

The rhubarb is coming along well.  It has been a very dry spring for us, and I was concerned it would slow down the rhubarb.  I am please to see it doing well.  I have a rough history with this blueberry bush.  It has been there for about three years.  It has watch me kill its three other compatriots.  Now it is full of green growth.  I am very happy to see it doing so well.  I am looking forward to strawberries, basically for strawberry-rhubarb pie.  Hmm. Now I am hungry.  The peas are pushing their way through the pine needle mulch.  They are looking very strong.  Although, it has been unusually hot here for about a week it is expected to cool down.  This is good news because peas get tough in the heat.

Upper left - cilantro;  Bottom left - basil; Right - alyssum
Upper left – cilantro; Bottom left – basil; Right – alyssum

I have grand plans to re-located my herb bed this spring.  I have a spot that gets a little more shade that I think would be more conducive to herbs.  It would also let me get away from a wildly aggressive mint plant.  So I started a bunch of basil and cilantro.  I also use flowers to help with insect control.  I like alyssum, or carpet of snow, so I started several six packs recently.  It will not be long before they are placed in the gardens.

So while I was thinking not much happened, I am thrilled to be wrong.  There is much more to do this week.  It would be nice to get more done than I think for two weeks in a row, but that might be expecting too much.

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

Wood Chip Madness

Lots of manual labor around the Micro Farm this weekend.  It all started with a truck load of wood chips.  Several municipalities in our area offer free wood chips, you just have to load them.  I filled the bed of my Ford Ranger and drove them home to unload.

I have been reading and learning about “permaculture” this past winter.  One permaculture technique is “sheet-mulching”.  You put a layer of cardboard, or something similar, and then put mulch on top.  Wood chips are free so I used wood chips.  When everything breaks down, I will just put down another layer of cardboard and wood chips.  Hopefully, building my soil upwards.

DSC09376
New growing bed. The cardboard watered. The next step mulch.

Several beds were mulched with wood chips others will be mulched with pine needles.

The "circle" garden and the primary wood chip bed.
The “circle” garden and the primary wood chip bed.
The cucumber bed, mulched with pine needles.
The cucumber bed, mulched with pine needles.

I was also able to fully connect the second rain barrel.  The gutter is about 18 feet long and catches water from three roofs.  This winter ice accumulated between the buildings make it difficult to navigate.  The gutters and rain barrel will help reduce that problem.  I like solving two problems with one solution.

DSC09365
Rain barrel connected and looking better than last week.

Spring is springing in big ways around the Micro Farm.  The raspberries are starting to leaf.

DSC09370
New growth from the yellow raspberries.
DSC09371
Young leaves on the black raspberries.
DSC09372
Red raspberries are putting up new canes.

I planted over 200 peas this spring.  They were from seeds I saved last fall.  As a new seed saver I am very nervous about not doing it correctly.  I was starting to get nervous that my peas would not come up.  I figured I could not have screwed up 200 seeds. Right?  Well, in the past coupe of days I have seen many pea shoots coming up.  I am very excited.  I really enjoy fresh peas.

 

 

DSC09375
Yeah. The peas are sprouting.

After a few more things are cleaned up we should have the Micro Farm presentable.  The past two weeks have been busy, but productive.  We will see what the fruits of this labor will be.

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

One project, two project, yeah!

The past two weeks have been a busy around the Micro Farm.  The first project was a new compost bin.  We have become the compost center for several households in our neighborhood.  The two bins we had did not give us enough space.  I also had several pieces of material that needed to be used.

The new compost bins.
The new compost bins.

There are now three bins instead of two, and all three bins are larger in size.  I also was able to sifted a load of compost in my lawn tractor trailer.  I am hopeful these new bins will help us make more compost.

The second project has been connecting our rain-barrels.  I was able to connect the first barrel using parts that I had on hand.

The first barrel connected to our garage
The first barrel connected to our garage

This barrel is completely full after about two storms.  It collects from about 18 feet of gutter and fills with a small rain shower.

Connecting the second barrel required new equipment.  I am still waiting on a few parts from the store to complete the full set up.

However, with a few pieces installed and a little rain fall I have been able to collect about ten gallons of water.  Only 10 feet of gutter is connected, and the rain fall since it was connected has been small.

The second barrel connected.
The second barrel connected.

I am not happy with how the downspout looks.  After the rest of the parts arrive I will make that change and a few other small changes.

I have also planted several cool weather crops.  The peas were planted but have not come up yet.  The radishes have come up though.  There are two varieties this year, an heirloom black radish and an heirloom red radish.

Small radish plants.  You might have to look close.
Small radish plants. You might have to look close.

I walk in the garden everyday and I am still amazed to see the garlic as tall as it is.

Two varieties of garlic.  Foreground is one variety; background another
Two varieties of garlic. Foreground is one variety; background another

I have a good crop of plants.  I planted four varieties of garlic in the fall.  Two of the four did not come up.  They did not look good when I planted them and was not surprised when they did not come up.

The other two are very strong.  It is difficult to see in the picture but each varieties’ greens have a different color and shape.  I am excited to taste each variety.

More projects are on the way.  The seedlings are growing in the basement.  It looks to be shaping up to be a nice spring.  Hopefully, it warms up a little.

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.

Forward to 2015

Happy New Year. I hope your holidays were fun and safe.  Planning for the 2015 planting has begun.  I have begun to plan my growing beds for the next year.  There are always edits that need to be made, but for now I have a start.

Click to Enlarge the Square Garden Plan
Click to Enlarge the Square Garden Plan

I practice rotating my crops and attempt to not put the same family of plants in the same row two years in a row.  There are some challenges with space so that goal is not always achievable.  In the square garden you will also notice several rows of buckwheat.  Each year I take section of the growing beds “offline” and plant a cover crop.  This year the cover crop will be buckwheat.  It does not over winter and is easy to pull.  I am planting buckwheat for the first time and I look forward to learning how it works at the Cohocton River Rock Micro Farm.

The circle garden will be fully open this year, after  two years of being planted with a cover crop. Having the entire circle is exciting because it is one of the easier places to plant popcorn, one of my favorite.

Click to Enlarge the Circle Garden
Click to Enlarge the Circle Garden

Now that a general plan has been put into place the next step is plant variety selection.  First, priority is using seed I currently have in my collection.  Then I will look for varieties I do not currently have but plan to grow.

Just a sample of the seed catalogs I have received.
Just a sample of the seed catalogs I have received.

I have been receiving seed catalogs since before Christmas.  Some go quickly in to the recycling bin.  Others I spend time to read.  Still, others I keep for the year for their growing information.  Everyone has their favorites.  I have mine, but my favorites are the ones that include lots of growing information.

Several years I have tried to improve my succession growing (planting at different dates to have produce throughout the growing season).  It has been a struggle.  I have begun working with two spreadsheets created by Johnny’s Selected Seeds to help me be more specific about the dates I need to be planting.  I am hoping this will be the next step to improving my succession growing plans.  I guess I did have a New Year’s resolution after all.  I hope your gardening resolutions all come to be.

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