In the Garden: July 18

I watched a seminar on straw bale gardening earlier in the year at a Home Show. The premise was fascinating and seemed pretty solid. With living in a rental, installing garden beds and killing large swaths of lawn is not an option. So, I bought the book and four straw bales and gave it a go.

The bales are positioned between rosebushes in the decorative border filled with bark that edges the yard.  One set of bales has tomatoes.  The left three plants are Mortgage Lifters from Liisa and the one on the far right is a cherry tomato variety called Juliet.

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The other set is half cucumbers (lemon and burpless bush varieties), half zucchini.

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I used yarn in place of wire between the fence poles and put old CDs on the top string to help fend off birds. The CDs are also doubling as plant markers.

I’m pretty pleased with the straw bale garden so far.  The cucumbers plants are huge and happy, the most success I’ve ever had with them! The tomatoes are a bit small, probably because I planted them a little late.  Now if I could just figure out what keeps eating the ends of my baby zucchinis, we’d be doing great. I’ve already lost three baby veggies to whatever is nomming on the ends.

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Besides the bales, I have one tiny garden bed that isn’t completely overrun with strawberry plants.  In this bed are two snap pea plants and one edamame plant.  The greenery not in cages are beets.  I also have a banana pepper and basil and mint plants in pots, but I forgot to get pictures of those.  I enjoy gardening, but I am thankful that I don’t have to try and feed my family on just what I can grow.

So what are you growing this year?

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Peas and Light

I don’t know about you, but I’m already dreaming of spring, sunshine, and the gardening that comes with it.  The seed catalog is dog-eared and marked up, there are gardening books littered around the living room, and I’m spending way too much time on the Pinterest gardening boards.

I took a seed inventory a few weeks ago and visited nearly every gardening/urban farm store in town. (Two of them had chickens, one had shop cats, one had a shop dog.  Rex had a great time.)   I held myself back and only purchased a few packs of seeds to add to my collection.  Some of those seeds happened to be the ones I could plant first: peas! (I know, I know.  I’m a little early for my growing zone.  But I just couldn’t help myself. And yes, I know I could just direct seed them when the time comes, but I like starts so much more.)

I planted on January 19th and BEHOLD!  It’s alive! MUHAHAHHAHAHAHA!

wpid-IMG_20140126_114414.jpgCascadia Snap Peas (Uprising Seeds)

wpid-IMG_20140126_114407.jpgMaestro Shelling Peas (Territorial Seed Co.)

Want to check out my super fancy seed setup?

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I spared no expense with my dollar store bins, newspaper pots (I used this tutorial on YouTube), and recycled lamp that was destined for the Goodwill. I purchased some “natural spectrum” CFLs ($12 for a 2-pack) to give my little green babies some happy light and keep my power bill down. (Seedlings need at least 12 hours of light a day, and there’s no way we’re getting that yet.  Plus, all of my well-lit windows are not plant friendly, aka dog, cat, and kid accessible).

What are you growing this year?

Peas & Carrots

Over the weekend, my oldest nephew popped over and helped me with some heavy lifting and gardening labor.  He cleaned out the bed that will one day house cucumbers and other plants.  He also set up my new strawberry bed.

This simple bed (inspired by this post found via Pinterest) is made from the leftover cinder blocks after my large L-shaped bed was demolished.  Unfortunately, I can’t count, so I only purchased 6 strawberry plants.  The two plants in the front lower compartments are leftover spinach from the planting that went into the bed by the shed.  When it gets too hot for spinach, those two pods will house flowers or other warm-weather crops.  The bed is nestled neatly in some dead space between the back porch and the AC unit.

This bed now houses onions, garlic, lettuce, spinach, and sugar snap peas.  I’m hoping they will all play nicely together.  Very soon, I will be adding a trellis at the back of this bed for the peas to climb.  I’m thinking some modified hog panel will do the trick (an idea suggested by my Dad).  The lettuce, spinach, and peas were planted with the help of my five year old nephew.  He also weeded and planted carrots in the dirt where the L-shaped bed used to be.

The blocks were removed, but the dirt remained, so we simply put some rocks around the front and decided to give it a shot.  We planted Nelson carrots on the left side of this bed.  We ran out about halfway towards the right.  A trip to the Grange procured some Sugar Snax (chosen by T), but those will have to wait to go in until these ones sprout since I have no idea how far over we planted…

A Plan of (Edible) Attack

Being inspired yesterday with the gardening thoughts, I decided to take advantage of that state of mind and develop a plan of attack.  My gardens are generally late or don’t happen because I forget what I was going to plant/when to plant it/etc.  This year, I want to at least grow my favorites, so in the spirit of success, I’m forming a battle plan.  First, a list of the items I want to grow, when they should be planted, light requirements, and anything else I should know.  Armed with my local Garden Guide and a copy of Grow Great Grub, I set to work on a spreadsheet.

(Yes, I’m a big nerd.  But at least I’m trying to be an organized one!)

Ready for this?

Tada!

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Sure, it doesn’t look like much, but it tells me a lot.  First of all, the planting will all be done before the baby arrives (yay!) and secondly, I learned a few things from Grow Great Grub that I didn’t know.  For example, carrots like to be planted with tomatoes, onions, peas, and lettuce, but not dill or parsnips.  That means I can sow carrots in nearly every planter and raised bed I have.  Pretty awesome, eh?

The next step is to figure out where everything goes.  Armed with the extra knowledge of what plants don’t like to play together, I can start planning it out.  Both of my raised beds are partial shade due to the buildings they are up against.  The shed bed gets morning sun/afternoon shade and the house bed gets morning/afternoon sun with evening shade.  The potato planters are getting shifted and placed closer to the other beds in a place they will get morning sun.  The tomatoes will be trying this year out in the house bed with green beans and edamame behind, lettuce and carrots in front.  The shed bed will continue to have garlic and onions with snap peas behind, lettuce and carrots in front.  Cucumber and zucchinis will be placed in pots and trellised upwards.  (I have 4 large ones from Costco that will do nicely)  Those pots will be spread about in places that get the appropriate lighting and where I don’t have to mow around them.  The herbs will be put in pots small enough that I can bring indoors when it gets too warm.

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That’s the plan for now.  I’d love feedback or advice from more seasoned gardeners.  It’s a fairly small garden, but I want it to be manageable and filled with the foods we like to eat.  After all, what’s the point of a garden if you don’t eat what comes out of it?

Planning Ahead

My friend Liisa recently posted about her garden design.  She and I decided to order seeds together this year from a fairly local company, Territorial Seed (she’s ordered from them before, it’s my first time).  I took some inspiration from her and decided to draft out my garden plan.

It’s rough at best, but at least captures what I’m going for.  I badly need to rotate the tomatoes out of the square foot garden this year, so they’re going to live in the new bed.  The onion and garlic of course won’t be planted at the same time as the tomatoes and cucumbers as this represents the entire rotation from spring to fall.  The green shows beds/planters I already have.  The blue shows the potato boxes I need to build.  There are also four large planters in our side yard that will have herbs in them.  I have not yet decided what to do with the half wine barrel (pictured at bottom left) that used to house an artichoke (which died a horrible death last summer).  I’m thinking it may just end up with some sort of hardy flowers since it is a neglected area of the yard.

I’m trying several new-to-me plants this year.  In fact the only carry over plants are tomatoes, lettuce, peas, and carrots.  Everything else will be a new experience!  I have officially given up on peppers.  I’ve tried them two years now and they always fail miserably.

Now, the real trick will be if I remember to start my seeds at the right times and have plants big enough to transplant.  I’ll keep you posted on the garden progress as it happens.

Modifications

I’m working on modifications to the garden beds in the back yard.  They aren’t really beds right now.  Currently, they are patches of bark with rocks bordering.  Very boring and not very useful.  I’m working to change that, with some split faced cement blocks.  Not quite done yet, but progress has been made.

Unfortunately, I’ve changed my mind about the size and need to get more blocks from Dad.  Someday, this will grow up to be a lovely garden bed, perfectly fit for the artichoke plant that is taking over my normal gardening space.

(It’s the giant plant on the left, if you couldn’t tell…)