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Garden Report June 2017

Let’s talk tomatoes!!!! We built these two trellises out of electrical conduit and “trellises netting”… 6 feet tall, 12 feet wide, with a horizontal support tying into the wall of the house. As expected, this location seems to be great for the tomatoes, full sun all morning and then eventually some shade in the late afternoon.

We just harvested a few wittle tomatoes off of one of the stupices, they’re 52 days to harvest so that’s about on schedule. But we’ve got tons of big fruits starting to red on the early girls (no surprise) and the san marzanos (whaaaa that should be for another 2 weeks at least. Weird.) Here you can see, from front to back, a San Marzano, a cherry, and an early girl. Oh, and some sad looking basil:

Both of the cherry tomato plants seem super small, but they have plenty of fruit, and the fruit is supposed to be small, so maybe that’s normal?

Also, this whole thing where I prune the indeterminants so they make a single vine up the trellis has been working great. They’re only 2 feet apart, but already 4 feet tall, and not crowded together at all. Well except I planted 2 romas, and they’re determinate, so I’m just letting them be crazy bushes. I thought I could kinda tie them to the trellis, but they’re too…. 3D. ๐Ÿ™‚ the stupices are semi-determinant, so I’m pruning them to 3 vines. Since they’re next to the romas I can sorta rain them up and over the roma bush things. ๐Ÿ™‚ but yeah if I do determinants again I’ll put them somewhere else and go the cage route.

Enough about tomatoes, here’s the rest of the garden:

The peas were fantastic, they almost got to the top of that first trellis. But they’re done now and I’m trying to convince some spaghetti squash to grow there… I’m not doing a very good job of watering though, so I already lost the 2 seedlings that actually germinated. Bah!

Here’s my box o’ potatoes:

I was expecting them to be done by now, but I dunno, I’ve never grown potatoes before. I think they’re supposed to flower or turn yellow or something? Anyway, I’ll give them another 2 weeks then I’ll dig them up, because I want to grow some green beans here!

Here is my “slightly shady” box in the foreground, and my big sunny box further back to the right:

There was an incident with my broccoli… ok not really, it was the only thing still growing in the sunnier box and I wanted to make room for the peppers, so I tried transplanting it and it wasn’t so happy about that. Ah well, the kale seems happy at least… and I already have one little pepper fruit growing, so I’m already doing better than last year with the peppers.

Here are my two new strawberry boxes:

I got some fruit at first, but then temperatures were in the 80s and I think I wasn’t watering them nearly enough. These boxes get late afternoon shade (as you can see) so I’m hoping they won’t fry like my plants last year…

And here’s my experimental strawberry patch:

The decorative fence is to try to convince the dogs to stop running right through it. Sigh. I’m cutting all the runners off the plants in my long skinny boxes, but here I’m just letting the runners do their thing, and we’ll see what happens. The soil here was really compacted, and I just added a few inches on top, so it’ll be an uphill battle for these guys.

One last thing, since my front yard is just a plot of weeds, I decided to try growing some pumpkins. This area near the front gets full sun:

I’ll just have to make sure the vines grow back toward my yard and not into the neighbor’s yard… what could possibly go wrong??? And if nothing germinates, well now I’ve got this random compost-y spot. I’m sure I’ll think of something. My neighbor is really cool, he says he used to grow tomatoes right next to this spot, on his side of the property line of course. ๐Ÿ™‚ If I actually manage to grow some pumpkins I’ll totally give him some.


The Garden Report

I’m way overdue for some birthday posts, but we spent today puttering around the garden and the yard in general, so I snapped a bunch of pics and will just talk about that instead. 

I tend to be pretty optimistic on my seedling starting dates, so unfortunately my basil and tomatoes are more than ready to go in the ground… but we have some predicted overnight lows of 45*F this week, so I’m trying to hold off on transplanting for now. My system of leaving the tomato pots out during the day and tossing my PVC pipe coldframe on them at night has been working quite well though. Here are the 16 plants that fit in the cold frame, they’re in 1 gallon pots, and the coldframe is sitting in the background, where I generally leave it during the day:

The wire fencing was an impromptu barrier against a rampaging toddler. 

The rest of my seedlings mostly stay on this little “greenhouse shelf”:

Because the basil plants are still in 4″ pots I worry about them not retaining enough heat at night so I’ve been bringing them in pretty much every night that’s supposed to get under 50*. I’m getting pretty sick of it though, so I think I’ll go ahead and stick them in the ground on the warmest looking night this week and hope for the best. I do have a bunch of individual plastic cloches, so I’m thinking I’ll cover them for the first few nights, but after that I think I’ll just wish them good luck and call it done. 

I’m trying again with peppers despite last year’s failure, but this year I’m going to be much more serious about keeping them warm, so I’ll be babying them along in individual pots for quite awhile. I may not put them into the ground until June. I had them on the greenhouse shelf with the basil, but it’s been cold enough I finally decided to bring them back into the garage with the warminb mat underneath and the grow light on top:

It feels so silly to have them under grow lights when it’s so nice and spring-like outside, but it’s not supposed to even get up to 70* for the next week. Bah. 

Moving back outside, here are some new things I’m trying this year… potatoes (foreground box) and snap peas (background box):

I planted them both in February, but they spent a  lot of time doing nothing and then finally went to town once it stopped raining. I used the hoop over the potatoes to throw plastic over them and keep the rain off so they wouldn’t get too waterlogged. Once they’re done I’m going to refill the box with soil and put green beans in on a trellis. The trellis that’s currently holding the peas in the other box will get spaghetti squash in a month or so. 

Here’s my garlic (going great) and broccoli (why can’t I grow straight broccoli? Sad face):

Oh and I have volunteer cilantro all over the place. ๐Ÿ™‚

And here’s some spinach that’s kinda growing. And non-existent carrots. (I sowed seeds and saw some growth but it’s gone now.) And kale that seems to have survived being transplanted:

Perhaps the spinach would grow better if the toddler didn’t sit on it? Anyway, this is the “partially shaded” box, but it’s a lot less shady now because we just had the tree people in to lop the top off our elderberry:

Okay, that photo isn’t terribly illuminating, but just take my word for it that it’s a lot shorter now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Moving along, I got more bare root strawberries this year, and they’re already a lot bigger than when I tried to plant them last year. Good job, self. Here they are, in the foreground and along the left side:

The two new strawberry boxes, the ones in the foreground, should get some afternoon shade, so I’m hoping the plants won’t fry the way they did last year. 

One last picture… a friend gave me some calendula seeds last year, which I just tossed around near the back corner of the yard and then ignored. They’ve been happily growing and reseeding themselves ever since:

I really should do a post about that chicken run thing at some point. Ah well. ๐Ÿ™‚

2017 Garden Planning

Last year was my most successful year ever in the veggie garden, which means I actually harvested something! So the bar is not set terribly high for me to do even better this year. ๐Ÿ™‚

Spaghetti Squash: this was my big winner, I think I ended up with about 10 squashes off of 2 plants, out of the 4 that I initially planted. Here’s how they looked midway through last season:

My biggest learning there was to make sure I put something over the newly planted seeds and then the new seedlings until they get established. My first attempt I think a squirrel came through and dug everything up, so my second attempt I put overturned buckets over the newly planted spots. But then I don’t think the trellises I had were big enough for 4 full-sized plants anyway, so I’ll have to up my trellis game this year. We do spaghetti squash basically once a week all fall and winter, so I need more!

Tomatoes: similarly, I got 4 good-sized seedlings transplanted, but 2 thrived and 2 limped along until I finally pulled them. I thought I got them in pretty early but they took a loonnnggggg time to finally really start setting lots of fruit. Possibly the soil mix wasn’t very good, Or I planted them too deep and they spent all their energy making new roots? At any rate, I was finally harvesting lots of fruit and many more green ones were forming when it finally got too cold back in early November-ish. I was super happy with the trellises we made out of trellis netting and electrical conduit for a frame. Here’s how it looked early in the season (I don’t seem to have a photo from the end of the season, but the plants were almost to the top!):

The problem is I don’t really have all that much raised bed space, especially if I want to actually, you know, rotate my crops each season. So I’m going to be brave and plant them… gasp… in the ground this year! There’s a big spot, about 4 feet wide by 24 feet long, on the side of the house, that up to this point I’ve just used to stash random yard stuff and junk intended for the landfill. I haven’t been deliberately amending the soil, but I’ve been throwing layers of cardboard and mulch there ever since we moved in to keep the weeds at bay. So the top 6 inches or so look pretty nice, then it gets dense and clay-like. So for now I’ll throw a bunch of compost on top. And in April I’ll dig big holes and add fun amendments and stuff in with my tomato seedlings and hope for the best! Here’s how the space look right now:


Other stuff: I’m putting hoops on one of my raised beds, I’m hoping to use row cover to keep it shady and a little cooler, maybe it’ll help the broccoli, spinach, and cilantro when things get hot in the summer?ย  I’ve ordered more bare-root strawberries, and I might try putting row cover over them in the summer too. I’m going to try some peas on last year’s tomato trellis this spring. And I’m going to try filling one of my 3’x3′ beds with potatoes. Potatoes! Crazy!

I’ve also ordered some bare-root blueberries, but the spot I have picked out for them is on the other side of the yard, and I’m going to build a new raised bed to hopefully keep the soil appropriately acidic and keep the bermuda grass out. I think that will kinda be a separate project from the rest of the garden, we’ll see.

Gardeningย  things are happening!

Shipping Pallet Compost Pile

Dave recently (and perhaps foolishly) mentioned that there are occasionally abandoned shipping pallets at his work that he could abscond with. I had to immediately show him a sampling of the insane number of “make X out of a shipping pallet” tutorials there are on Pinterest and pretty much all over the internet.

He gets a reprieve though, as I’m not actually very into the whole reclaimed wood look (yet…) but I did recall seeing examples of shipping pallets being used as bins/fences for composting. And especially now that we have chickens it seems silly to not have a compost pile, especially as this is the third year in a row where I’ve gone out and bought compost for gardening.

Compost Pile

So yes, behold! Compost. I’m not trying very hard, I suppose I should do some reading, as I hear that there’s brown stuff and green stuff that you’re supposed to layer or something. Anyway, I figure I’ll go buy a pitchfork and turn it occasionally. And keep adding the stuff I clean out of the coop and trimmings from the yard, and hopefully the whole brown/green thing will work itself out. Here’s a better shot of my veggie garden with the compost lurking in the background:

Garden and compost pile

And here’s the view of the whole side yard from the back patio:

Side yard garden garden and compost

The shipping pallets are in the back right of the photo. They look halfway decent from this view!

I have started separating out raw veggie scraps from the stuff that we put in our city compost bin, which still gets discarded meat from dinner and Starbucks cups and such. But I figure I should be offering the veggie scraps to the chickens? I guess if I do they’ll still eventually end up in the compost pile… In a sense. ๐Ÿ˜€

Speaking of chickens, I’ve finished framing the coop and moved it into place in the back yard. Now I just need to add the siding and the roof:

Coop progress

I’m planning to build a small (four feet long) outdoor run off the right side of the coop, and also enclose the part underneath the platform with hardware cloth for a little more secured outdoor space. You can see the remains of the old fencing slats piled up behind the coop, after I pulled out the pieces I wanted for siding, which are in the garage being cut down to size.

Lucky me, Dakota still really likes hanging out in the back yard and is decently good at keeping herself entertained!

Outdoor baby


New Projects

I was originally just going to blog about the vegetable garden, but there’s not too much to say yet. I made another, taller raised bed so I can plant onions and carrots and such. I also resurrected the bed from two years ago. Dave kindly tied the strings so I could plant stuff Square Foot Garden style. Not too much is planted yet though.

Garden bed prep

In other new project news, I’m going to add some coat hooks to the wall by the front door. I was thinking I could put some trim up on the lower half of the wall and paint it all white, creating a faux board and batten wainscoting. The blue horizontal tape shows where the chair rail would go and the short verticals are where the “battens” would be spaced, going all the way to the baseboard.

future wainscoting

Although… Now that I’ve actually measured the space, it’s a little less than eight feet wide and a little less than four feet tall. So I could just buy a bead-board panel and a single piece of trim for the chair rail and make things a lot simpler. Hmm.

Last up, I finally think I’m ready to turn our spare room into a functional space. I’d like it to be an office and crafting/work space, because currently all computer stuff, bill paying, sewing machine usage, etc happens on the dining room table:

dining table mess

(Oh, and I got a bamboo roman shade for the window. I’m trying to decide if I want to buy more for the living room windows.)

The spare room is a lot cleaner than it used to be, but it still has a way to go before it can become functional. Here’s the view from the door:

Spare room mess

And here’s the rest of the room:

More spare room mess

The big question is whether I have the motivation to paint it right now or not. ๐Ÿ™‚ obviously not a required step in terms of functionality, but it would be super nice to be able to get rid of the last of the beige walls in the house…

Outdoor Chore Catchup

The weather has been just gorgeous for the past few weeks! Sorry everyone in the rest of the US. If it makes you feel better, sales tax here is 9%… Anyway, We’ve been spending as much time as we can outside, and as a result I’m soooo close to being caught back up on chores that got shoved aside when Dakota was born. For instance, the side yard (where the garden box and apple tree reside):

Side yard weeds

This was back at the end of November, when the apple tree (back left of the picture) had leaves and a few fruit left. Three apples that I managed to salvage, in fact. Well a few times a week I’ve managed to plunk Dakota down in the back yard like so:

Baby outdoors

And get a little weeding/mulching/pruning done. I finally got it down to this:

Weeded side yard

It’s much easier to see the garden box and the apple tree, right? That hulking mass of green in the back is one of several privet invasions. This one was still small enough for us to handle ourselves, so Dave got to break out his cute new chainsaw:

Attacking the privet

And it’s way better now, though there’s still a bit of overgrownย  greenery back there. It’s technically on our neighbor’s yard, but the fence there is pretty much toast so we need to discuss things with him about that whole area anyway.

Unfortunately I still have this part of the side yard to tackle:

Side yard mess

This is off to the right of the newly weeded and mulched area. Plant-wise, we have from left to right: Prickly yellow rose, overgrown jasmine, diseased red rose, more overgrown jasmine, behemoth white rose. I’d already pruned the white rose half-way back when I snapped this pic… it’s still 8 feet tall, but at least now it’s not 10 feet wide. And note the lovely sheet of plywood covering the hole in the fence that Loki was using to visit the neighbor and the rest of the block.

Back to Dave though, since he was on a roll with the chainsaw, he decided to finally take care of this yucca growing in the front yard:

Pokey Yucca

This thing was stabbing me with its fronds ever time I went into the garage. Ugh. Anyway, I didn’t even have a chance to get a front view picture because it came down so fast, So here’s a photo from the middle of last year:


here’s the post-demolition side view:

Yucca Gone

And here’s our new front view:

Yucca-Free Patio

The window to the front bedroom is now a little short on privacy, I’m on the lookout for a big hanging plant to place over the railing to help with that.

Now I have many much more fun outdoor projects I can get rolling on, like restarting/expanding the vegetable garden boxes, starting a compost pile, fixing up the swing set, getting the mulberry tree cut down, setting up a storage shed, and CHICKENS! Chickens are finally happening. Oh yes.