May Harvest

Two beautiful words that don’t really belong together. The garden is so full as cool weather and warm weather plants are both in. And what is there to harvest? Very little, at least in my garden.  Some people are good about extending the harvest, which is something I need to work on.  But for now, there is not much available fresh.

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(Not yet.)

The only things I could eat out of here are cilantro, spinach, and green onions. In a few years I hope to have a productive strawberry and asparagus patch, and I guess that is what will tide me over for these months. Leaf lettuce would be ready around this time too, but I don’t grow any, because someone in our house will only eat romaine and iceberg.  Most cool weather plants around here won’t be ready until mid to late June. (Maybe even July since this year we got to a late start.). They are at least up and growing well, the peas, onions, broccoli, potatoes, and lettuce.

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(Nope.)

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(Closest to being ready, but no.)

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(It sure doesn’t look like much for how much work it takes.)

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(You can hardly see any plants here, but they are there.)

And as far work goes, there is a lot of it.  I put one thing in a day to avoid burnout.  Baby seedlings need to be, well, babied, making sure they are watered in and kept weed free, since it is hard for them to compete at this young age. I still have some things yet to do, like melons and a second corn planting.  By the time that is done, it will be time to put in fall-harvested things.  The weeds are happy and flourishing in the warm days and cool nights, so it is a constant battle. The second planting of carrot seeds need to be watered twice a day until they germinate, and then they have to be thinned. The first planting has some nice ferny looking leaves, but nothing else.  It is all work and and no reward.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a bountiful May harvest here. It’s just a harvest of a different nature.

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These were planted by previous owners, and we have not done a thing for them, except water them very rarely in dry spells. Past the gate is the old house, chicken coop, raspberry and blackberry patch, and the Pinecone Forest, where the kids like to play.

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We are collecting eggs by the dozen, having to give them away.  Any poor soul who stops by our house is forced to take a carton.

And wildflowers everywhere.

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Some things are all reward, no work.


Plant Tomatoes When the Dogwoods Bloom

Dogwood bloom? Dogwood blooms? The word dogwood now seems very weird.

Anyway, the time is here! It tends to be about two weeks after the average last frost date, and when nights are consistently in the 50s.  An overcast day is best so that they don’t get stressed and dried out after being transplanted.

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My tomatoes were taking over the house and it was such a good feeling to get them in the ground. They are also losing their dark green color which means they are hungry.

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How I plant them:

I set my cages three and a half feet apart, in rows three feet apart. I stagger the cages in a checkerboard pattern so there is a lot of air movement on all sides of the tomato plant. I do this because my mother in law told me to and she is the tomato master.

I always set up the cages first. It just helps me make sure everything is in the right spot before I get started. I loosely set them in the ground, then after I plant the tomato I set them in firmly. I have planned for 15 tomato plants this year, so naturally I have 11 cages and about 25 plants. The big cages came with the house when we bought it, which was great. I think they are some type of fencing rolled in a circle, and they are perfect. The little green ones I bought, and they are too small and I’ve already broken one.

After setting the cages, I take down the one I am working with and dig a wide, deep hole. I lay them down on their sides so that a majority of the stem is buried.  I snip off any branches that will go underground, just using my nails.  Roots will grow all along the stem and make for a stronger plant. The plant will look short and you will think how depressing, but in no time it will bounce back.

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This year I planted:

2 Celebrity (a classic looking red slicer)

2 Early Girl (a smaller, early red slicer)

2 Sungold (a very sweet orange cherry)

2 San Vincente (a red cherry, new to me this year)

2 Brandy Boy (a hybrid somehow related to Brandywine. It’s my favorite for taste, but gets a lot of cat facing.)

2 Madame Marmande (very beautiful red slicer)

2 Supersauce (a large Roma, good for canning)

1 Striped German (an heirloom that is beautiful but a little bland in my opinion)

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I asked Camilla to run into the house for pen and paper so I could write down what tomato went where, and this is what she returned with:

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But make sure you label them as they go in, because even though you think you will remember what goes where, I promise you will not.  I have mine mapped out on the back on an envelope.  I have forgotten for two days now to go actually mark them in the garden and live in fear of losing the envelope.

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All done! When the tomatoes are in, it feels like garden season is really here. The peas and broccoli don’t really count.

Now we just have to find a home for these guys.

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I’ll update as the season goes on to review the varieties and record the yield.

Happy weekend!

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Betty Crocker’s Kitchen Gardens

This winter has been long, with hardly any snow, lots of cold rain, and never ending wind.

But this weekend, the garden began! Twenty eight blackberry and raspberry plants got planted on Saturday, and this week 150 onion plants and a 20 foot row of potatoes, a few broccoli and cilantro plants and the first planting of peas. Tomorrow some lettuce seedlings go out, and sweet peas and dill will be seeded. This is exciting.

And so is the arrival of this:

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I have wanted this book for a long, long time. I finally ordered it as a gift for my sister in law.  I decided to keep it.  I suppose that is terrible of me.

There are chapters on planning the garden, preparing the garden area, and harvesting.  Then, as most gardening books do, it delves into individual plants.   First a second on herbs (quite a bit of space is devoted to this, much more than most modern gardening books), and then vegetables.  The vegetables are divided into “favorites”, ones that anyone can grow, even in containers, and then “elbowroom vegetables”, for people with larger plots. There is a section for kids gardening, including sample plans, and finally a chapter on  using your harvest, with ideas for herb mixes, vinegars, and teas.

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I must be approaching old age because all of my favorite housewifey books are out of print. (The Mothers Almanac, How to Live on Almost Nothing and Have Plenty, Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes). Some of them I’ve gotten from the library, decided I had to own, and ordered used copies of. This book reminds me of them. It is practical and beautiful. I love sketched illustrations in gardening and homemaking books. You can imagine the scene belongs to you, in a way a photograph would never let you.

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I love how someone has circled the name of some of the herbs. I just imagine some now-grandmother, then-young woman, going through this very copy. She was not interested in lovage, salad burnet, or watercress. (Is anyone?) She starred the line about corn being an attractive ornamental in the back of the garden, and that really is true. It just looks right, and very American .

There is a faint round mark from a mug of coffee or tea, and I am drifting into maudlin territory here, imagining her setting down her cup to attend to a little child. It’s just a book.  And funnily enough, a book only ends up on the secondhand market because someone doesn’t want it!  So I am being ridiculous.

If you are interested in gardening and like Tasha Tudor, I know you won’t be disappointed if you are able to find a used copy.

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Garden Plan Pro App Thoughts, plus my 2018 Garden Plan

This is probably the 20th version of my garden for this year. I love planning more than anything, and really enjoy redoing it. I had many graph paper versions, but this morning I decided to buy the growveg app for my iPad mini. It was 7.99, and I have been tinkering with it all morning.

Here are my two plans, one for spring and one for fall (only a few changes between the two, as most crops are all season long, like tomatoes and peppers. This is my main garden. I have separate areas for berries, garlic, and fruit trees.

Spring:

Midsummer:

(Onions finish up in July, fall potatoes and broccoli are planted in their place. Spring broccoli is done, and pumpkins get planted July 1st as small transplants.)

I have a few thoughts on the app that I wanted to share.

What I liked:

1. The fact that I can use it on my iPad. This is big for me because I can tinker with the plan while nursing and when I wake up at 4:30 and don’t want to turn on lights and wake up the kids.

2. How easy it was to customize. I could have written out the name of each tomato variety if I so chose. I was able to change dates easily to plan for succession planting. (For example, I said my onions would be in from March to July, and then fall broccoli from July to November.) I was able to change plant spacing easily also. The program recommended tomatoes 18 inches apart, but I like them 30 inches apart, so I changed it and the app automatically spaced them that way.

3. I liked the variety of plants available. After choosing “zinnia”, most of the varieties I plant, even ones exclusive to certain seed companies, were already available to chose from. If one was missing, I could create my own.

4. I think the pictures are cute and make for an attractive plan that would be a nice keepsake if printed out. You can draw shapes and add your own text if you wanted to do a whole homestead plan to include your chicken coop, barn, compost, etc.

5. The automatic spacing is very useful and shows you that small crops like onions and carrots will yield a lot in a small space.

What I didn’t like:

1. When the plan is finished, you are able to print it. But the printed image does not include the graph that shows square footage! So when you take it out to the garden, it won’t be terribly useful. I guess I will take the iPad out with me, or print a screenshot, which is what I have for my first plan.

2. It is pretty time consuming. Much slower than graph paper and a pencil.

3. The gardening “how to” articles are the same old stuff you hear everywhere. (Didn’t buy it for these, so I don’t care.)

Overall:

I am glad I bought it. It is not revolutionary, but I really enjoy it so far!


How much…

One of my pet peeves is articles about homesteading written by people who have never done it. “It is so easy to grow fresh food for your family!” “Sewing your own clothes will save you money!”, “chickens can provide you with free meat and eggs!”

None of that is true at all. It is hard, can be very expensive, and there will be years that all you do is fail.

And it is completely missing the point.

For example, did you know that a loaf of bread can be purchased for under a dollar?

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That eggs at Costco are less than ten cents each?

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That land taxes will go up every year?

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That free range chickens require you to go lock up them up every evening at sunset?

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That tractors, even used, are very expensive?

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That heating your home with wood is messy and requires year-round work?

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That the farther you are from town, the longer it takes your roads to be cleared in snow?

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That line drying your clothes will bring pollen and bugs in your house?

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That soap at Walmart is cheaper than making your own?

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That unless you are making minimum wage, it is almost always financially advantageous to work and put your kids in daycare?

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That porches are expensive to build and require maintenance?

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And that homegrown flowers save you exactly nothing.

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So put away your spreadsheet. It will never tell you what is it worth.