Bugs, Butterflies, and a Greenhouse Update

Last year was the first year I had a cutting garden. I love having fresh bouquets around the house! Not only is it great to have fresh flowers around the house, but I’ve also been enjoying the little visitors that love the flowers. I snapped a few pictures today:    

           

And Tony is making progress on the recycled window greenhouse. It’s got a frame! 

   

And because no garden update would be complete without a vegetable update, here’s Cheesecake enjoying the green beans I haven’t picked yet.  Apparently it’s snack time whenever he’s in the garden. 

 

And the potatoes I pulled out a few days ago!

 
It’s the fun part of gardening now, when all the food is ready to pick! 

Garden Expansion Is Beginning

This is a quick post.  I’m updating from my phone because I’m so excited to share. Tony finally has a ‘free’ moment to work on the garden. I say ‘free’ because any of you that personally know my husband, know he doesn’t ever have free time. But he’s finding time and has started mapping out the garden expansion. 

Here’s a quick look: 

Below is the pile of building materials he’s been collecting. We are trying to do this as cheap as possible and most of the supplies have been free. 

   

I’m most excited about my greenhouse that’s going to be made completely out of old windows! Below is the picture of where it’s going to go. It’ll be small, but it’ll be perfect for me. 

  
The blue spray paint is actually how far it’s going to come out. The base Tony found on Craigslist for free! 

Here’s our view from the garden:  

And just for fun, Cheesecake our bulldog, Bailey our Jack Russell, and in the background you can see T.J. our most well-behaved dog:

   
 

I’ll be updating the progress. I’m so happy we are finally beginning this project! 

First Year Asparagus

Since deciding we are going to increase the size of our garden, I thought it might be a good idea to do a few perennial beds.

I have strawberries, mint, and now asparagus. In order to know how to plant asparagus, I did a quick Youtube search and I found this video. 

I didn’t really test my soil or add anything to it. Every year, I just get top soil. If I have a problem, then I usually look into doing something about it. Lazy gardening method? Maybe.

I got first year crowns at the end of April (a little late to plant them) but figured I wouldn’t be able to harvest the first year anyway.

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I watered the bed daily but it too FOREVER for the sprouts to come up. I actually thought maybe they weren’t going to grow at all. It took about a month. Finally small sprouts started shooting up and then eventually turned into ferns.

IMG_2398I don’t have to do anything at all the first year because they are establishing the root system. Makes one less raised bed to worry about. And since we aren’t planning on going anywhere, we will have asparagus for the next 15-20 years. Pretty cool, huh?

2015 Garden Tour

Good morning everyone! It has been a rainy few days here in PA. Although I loved not watering my garden, the weeds are a bit out of control now.

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been blogging just not here. I have not lost my interest in gardening at all. Being in the garden is peaceful and I often wonder why I waited so long to even start gardening. I didn’t start until 2012. It *may* have had to do with the fact that I was a teacher. I had no time and I was exhausted.

I was texting a friend last night about report card comments and I don’t miss that at all. In fact, there are very few things I miss about teaching. I only need to spend a short time talking to my teaching friends to remember why I quit.

It’s 7am here and I’ve already went to the gym, went to breakfast with Tony (it’s his last day of school today with kids), took pictures of the garden, and cleaned the kitchen. That’s what happens when you’re not exhausted all the time. You get up early and get stuff done.🙂

And so, it’s time to blog here for the first time in a while. I’m going to start with a garden tour. Here’s my 2015 garden.

 

 

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In the raised bed above, I have stringless bush beans and Zinnias. In the bed below, I have peppers, tomatoes, sweet olive tomatoes, and cucumbers.

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Then I have potatoes and sunflowers! I planted the potatoes in containers last year, which worked, but it just seemed like more work.

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The bed below doesn’t look like much but a bunch of weeds, but that’s where I started my asparagus this year. Part of the bed is also giant zinnias, which I’ll use to create fresh bouquets in the house.

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Look! Here’s a close up!

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The garden paths:

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Zinnias, apple mint, sunflowers, and wildflowers. I also have a strawberry bed, but didn’t take a picture of that or my potting area.

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Below is a sign I made using an old kitchen cabinet door. I spray painted it white and sanded through the top. I then added the vinyl words (I made using my Cricut machine) and sprayed it with a UV protective clear coat.

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Today is Tony’s last day of school with students, which I’m excited for! He will still go two days next week, but after that we have big plans for the garden. I’ll be fun having him home! I always love the summers spent with him.

For the last few months, have been collecting reclaimed wood and old windows. We are expanding the garden & building a greenhouse out of old windows. I’ll blog about that progress too, but the garden should double in size! And I think the greenhouse is going to be amazing!

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And we can’t forget about the salvaged bricks we found for free to build a path. Cheesecake is trying to eat my flowers here and not interested in the bricks at all.

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~Sondra

Where Have I Been?

I’ve been blogging, only not here. I’ll keep this post short and to the point.

So where have I been?
I’ve been blogging at A Calm Persistence. Feel free to follow over there too- it’s not always pretty, but it’s honest. The blog is about my experience with recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility and I’m finally ready to share my story. No more secrets.

Garden Update: June 12, 2014

It’s raining. So, what does a gardener do when it rains? She updates her gardening blog. A lot has been happening in the garden, but I haven’t had much energy to update this blog when I’ve been actually gardening. But it’s growing!!

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Potatoes, bush beans, tomatoes:

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More potatoes and mint:

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Potatoes growing in a crate:

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Cutting Gardening in progress-sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos: This picture is a bit blue, but you get the point. 

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I’m using watering system this year. If it works this year, I’m going to hide the hoses, but right now I really wanted to just see how it would do. Tony is in charge of watering my garden this week, so I wanted to quick install everything so he had less work.

 

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I got them at Walmart at the end of the season. They were originally $20 a pack, but I got them for 75% off and two from my brother-in-law for my birthday. I used 5 packs in the entire garden. I got them to stay by using a tent stake I bent to fit the hose. Each stake was $0.79 at Ace Hardware.

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A few reclaimed accents:

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Another use for an old chicken crate:

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I drilled holes in a wash tub and now it’s a planter for sunflowers and cosmos. My apple mint is a bit out of control here, you can’t even see the rusty mower in the back.

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My little guy. He HATES coming into the garden because he usually ends up getting sprayed by the hose at some point.

 

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And last, but not least the flowers are finally blooming:

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Hot Potato! Hot Potato!

There is just something about potatoes pulled right from the ground. They really don’t taste like store-bought ones at all. Last year, I mixed store-bought red potatoes with the homegrown (because I didn’t have enough from the garden) and Tony wanted to know “what the heck” was wrong with the ‘other’ potatoes. I told him they were from the store. He then chose to only eat the potatoes from the garden and he’s not a picky eater at all.

Why do I grow my own potatoes? One word: PESTICIDES. I’ve seen one too many Dr. Oz shows on why organic potatoes are the way to go. Growing my own, I KNOW they are organic instead of just some unregulated label they stick on the bag.

But with the cutting garden going in, there is really no room for potatoes in the raised beds. So, just like I did with my strawberries, I’m getting creative here too.

We’ve all seen on Pinterest how you can grow potatoes in a tower, a wire cylinder lined with straw, or even in a laundry basket, right? Seriously though, did you ever try searching “growing potatoes” on Pinterest? Potatoes are easy to grow so I can see why you can grow them just about anywhere.

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The problem I have with plastic containers is the chemicals. What is the point of growing them with organic pest control, in organic soil if you’re going to grow them in plastic bins that will bake in the sun? Wouldn’t that lace the soil and then the veggies with chemicals? Not that I’m crazy about this, but it IS one way I can control what I allow into my food.

So, because potatoes will grow just about anywhere I’m going to try to get a bit creative here just like I did with my strawberries. I got bushel baskets from my MIL (for free). She had gotten them from an auction years ago and never used them. She probably has about 20-30 baskets hiding out in her shed.

So here’s what I did. I planted 2 varieties of potatoes.. Red organic potatoes (early season) and regular potato seed.

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You do have to get actual seed potatoes and the time to buy them is in mid-March to right around now. Eventually stores will not sell them into the summer months because the potatoes will actually bake in the ground if the soil is too hot.

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You then have to cut the potato to separate the sprout. The sprouts will turn into your potato plants. I usually make sure they are about golfball size.

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Here are my potato pieces that will eventually be plants.

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They say you need to treat them with an anti-fungus powder, but I never do and they are always fine. I hope I don’t jinx myself this year though. Here is a started potato bushel basket:

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And the red potatoes are already starting to come up:

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This is the first spring I’m not teaching, so it’s so rewarding that I got a head start on my garden.  I already have lettuce, strawberries, and potatoes growing and it’s only the start of May! I’m pretty excited about this.

 

Starting more Strawberries: Creative Solution

Strawberry plants come like this in case you didn’t know- they are dormant so it’s okay they aren’t in soil. You can get a pack of them for $7-9. I found them in Mid April at all of my local greenhouses. Strawberries.org is also a very helpful reference for finding the strawberry type you might need.

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Just a reminder, there are three basic types of strawberries, June-bearing, Ever-bearing, Day-neutral.

  • June-bearing: produce strawberries in June for about 2-3 weeks. These are great for canning, strawberry pies, and jam because you really get a lot in a short amount of time.
  • Ever-bearing: I call these ‘garden snaking strawberries’ because they produce just enough strawberries all summer long to snack on.
  • Day Neutral: I don’t really ever plant these because the strawberries are small and they really don’t produce as much as the June-bearing.

This year I planted three different varieties. They are all technically June-bearing, but they will produce fruit at different points in the strawberry season:

  • Honeoye: Early-season
  • Allstar: Mid-season
  • Sparkle: Late-season

My thought is that I will have strawberries the entire way through the strawberry season. I might be giving strawberries away!

The problem? I do already have a strawberry raised bed located beside our house, not at the garden but there is no room for additional strawberry plants by the house or in the garden. So, I had to get creative. I’m not quite sure it’s going to work at all… I have no idea.

I made strawberry boxes. I figured you can plant them in planters or plastic hanging bags, why not in a crate? It will have good drainage and full-sun and that’s what strawberries love.

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So, I lined it with a straw blanket (The stores were out of burlap so I had to get creative). The straw blanket is usually used for newly seeded yards to help the grass grow, but I figured it would help the soil drain great. It also has a plastic netting inside so it’ll keep in the dirt.

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We (by we, I mean Tony) screwed them into the garden fence and added soil: (FYI- the bag was full of rain water too, so it was HEAVY. That’s why the hubs is making such a strenuous face). 

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I planted the strawberries. I’m thinking I over crowded the box (the recommendation is 1 plant per square foot or in a row-12-18 inches apart), but I don’t care I’ll just pull them out if they stop producing. If you want the actual planting strawberry suggestion instead of my ‘we will see if this works’ way, you can check out this great Youtube Video: How to Grow Strawberries, but honestly I just don’t have that kind of room. We are planning on extending our garden next year, so maybe then I do it the right way.

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I’ll keep you posted on how they do!

 

 

 

Peach Tree SOS

I know, I’m blowing up your reader or inbox with gardening posts today.. sorry about that. I promise this is the last post for today. I’ve been taking pictures, gardening, and now I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and record it all. 

Last year at the Mud Sale I bought two peach trees and two dwarf cherry trees. My peach trees are Baby Gold (apparently good for canning) and my cherry trees are Montmorency dwarf trees (sour pie cherries).  I have a problem though, I don’t even know the first thing about caring for trees! I’ve never grown a fruit tree before.

I honestly don’t even know where to start, but here are the pretty blossoms on the tree right now. Can I prune the tree when it is blooming? It seems to be growing straight up.

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I do know one sure way to kill a fruit tree is to prune it at the wrong time, so I started with Google and got mixed reviews on when it’s okay to prune. Then I put out an SOS on Twitter, but no one has responded yet.

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I’ve found this peach pruning “How to” and that helps, but I’ve already missed some deadlines for things I need to do. This will technically be my second summer (first full summer) with the trees.   I’m pretty sure I can’t prune them right now with blossoms on them, so I’ll probably just wait until next March.

Mistakes I made already with these fruit trees:

  • I planted them in awful soil.. sort of on a hill. How in the world am I going to pick fruit on a hill? 
  • I planted them in the burning heat at the beginning of July. Who the heck does that? It’s a miracle they’re even still alive.
  • They are too close together.
  • I haven’t done anything to them yet besides putting them in the ground.

So, I’ll fertilize and feed my trees now (pray they won’t die), treat them so the bugs don’t get them, and take care of pruning next year??? Unless someone tells me I can do it now. Can I? Does anyone know?

Oh, Blueberry Bushes

I always seem to kill my blueberry bushes. After some research, I’m realizing that the soil seems to be the problem. So this is what I constructed.. ALL BY MYSELF. They are not filled with new soil or feed yet and mulch will go around them so they won’t stand out as much, but they are at least completed. 

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The blue color matches the shed (it’s the same outdoor paint), but my thought here is that I can better control the soil.. I’ll let you know how that works.

Tony came home and there I was with the saw, his drill, and screws I managed to find around his garage. He was pretty impressed…. and a bit scared. He wasn’t sure I knew how to work the saw. How hard could it be?

1. I measured the boxes I needed:

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2.I used wood from my reclaimed wood collection:

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3. I cut the boards I needed and screwed them together:

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4. I set them in place before I painted them:

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5. Paint:

 

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I finally filled them with soil and am in the process of locating a good blueberry feed. Any ideas? I think just controlling the soil may help. They are not dead yet, but they’re headed there.