Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cabbage Worms

This is the moth that lays the eggs...

That hatch into these little fuckers

That eat the hell out of my cabbage.

Spring Harvest

I ate the first salad from the garden without taking a picture. It was delicious. My parents got the second salad since without my mom's help with Bea NOTHING would have been planted.

I also harvested 1lb. 11oz. Of White Icicle radishes. I was never a big radish fan until now. They were so easy to grow and were ready to harvest in about a month. They restored my faith that things I planted from seed would actually grow into something tasty. I think they're so beautiful. We'll plant more in the fall.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Damn Canadians.

This Canadian thistle is everywhere. It's prickly and I can't eat it and it grows faster than everything else. It is incredibly deep rooted and will form new leaves off of even the tiniest piece of root. I hate it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tomatoes part 2

I decided to restart the tomatoes since they were super leggy. The new ones will go in a little late but will be much healthier.

Friday, April 22, 2011


All I have are lots of pictures of dirt, so I'll leave them out.  On 4/12 I planted radishes, sugar snap peas, beets and carrots.  All except for the carrots have sprouted.

On 4/17 I transplanted the cabbage, which seemed to stop growing in it's little pots so I'm not sure it will make it.

Yesterday, 4/21, I transplanted leeks and cauliflower, seeded kale, swiss chard and planted the asparagus crowns.

So much has been done, but all I can see is how much more there is to plant, tend to, harvest, put up.  It's such a huge project, I don't think I realized when we started just how big it was.  I hope the harvest feels abundant, because now, looking at the very leggy tomato plants, worrying over the stunted cabbage, searching for the chard and peas that haven't yet sprouted, I am praying we will have more than just a handful of veggies to fill our bellies this summer and fall.

All of that said I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.  To have a few uninterrupted hours in the garden is heaven.  I love our little piece of land.  I love how beautiful it is here in the spring.  Maybe it won't sustain us this year but I know that one day all of this work will feed our family. I also know that Bea will know that food comes from dirt and hard work, not just from the grocery store.  Those are the things that make it all totally worth it.        

Sunday, April 10, 2011


So we've been getting a lot done in the garden, though it still doesn't look like much yet. All of the photos are below.  It was beginning to feel a little overwhelming, I ended up turning down a job because of the anticipated watering, weeding,  harvesting and subsequent freezing, drying and canning that is sure to come.  So I had to take a break for a minute.  We're about two weeks behind schedule for planting, but I think there's some room for error.  We had started hardening off the cabbage, leeks and lettuce and then they took a nice long vacation inside of our nice warm house for the past two weeks.  They've been set out again this week, so hopefully they'll survive when we plant closer to the weekend.  The nice thing is that with so many of these crops we have plenty of seeds left and I'll get a second chance in the fall if things don't work out in the spring.  Every time I'm out there, I'm reminded that all of my hard work and planning is such a tiny fraction of the end result, which helps to take some of the pressure off.  

There has been so much rain (not nearly as much as PDX, I'm not complaining) that it has been hard to find enough consecutive dry days to dig out more beds, so we've been busy doing other things.  Dave is building a fence, I built the compost bin and trellises, Bea has been making best friends with the worms.
Here's what we've been up to:

Fence building - We have never built a fence before.  We also don't have a book on fence building, so most of what is happening is a combination of some internet research and trial and error.  Dave is doing a great job.  In our backyard, the possible invaders we've seen are, a family of five deer, one old raccoon, one really, really old groundhog.  The groundhog was a bit of an obsession. Every time we'd see a neighbor, they would ask us if we've seen the groundhog.  The family who owned this house and land before we did farmed the entire backyard.  Evidently the groundhog was a real pain in the ass.  One neighbor has a huge pile of rocks behind his shed that the late Mr. Duerbeck threw at the groundhog. Duerbeck died about ten years ago, so it is possibly the oldest groundhog in the world since they have a life expectency of 2-3 years.

At first I thought he was kind of sweet, but after reading more, now realize he's more like an oversized rat.  They technically are rodents, most closely related to the squirrel and are also called woodchucks, or land beavers.  I think the latter name is especially appropriate, because the first time we saw it I was pretty convinced it was just a confused beaver who had wandered off from the resevoir near our house.  Then I saw it chase after the neighbors cat and made an awesome beaver chasing pussy joke.  Anyway, the fence is really important so these animals don't eat all of our food.

Deer can jump an 8 foot fence, raccoons and woodchucks can climb fences, and bunnies, who we haven't seen, but are pretty sure will show up at some point, dig underneath of them.  Based on our requirements, the materials available near us and our budget, our solution is this: One welded wire fence, four feet high with a four foot wide gate - hope for the best.  We'll use trellises at the bottom of the garden to grow squash up and place them three feet inside of the fence.  Deer have terrible depth perception and evidently won't jump into any area that they don't feel like they can land safely in - we're counting on that.  Hopefully planting squash around the corn patch will keep the raccoon out and we'll try to trap the woodchuck if it ever shows up again.  I shoved an old blueberry bush in his hole - don't figure it could be that easy, but we haven't seen him since.  Here's Dave driving the t-posts...

And because so much of what is going on is utilitarian, I wanted a really beautiful garden gate.  We have lots of fallen branches from the cedar tree out front.  So Dave is putting together a frame and I'm finding and cutting the branches to fit.  Eventually we'll stain or paint it.

While Dave was driving the t-posts and putting up the fence, I was building a compost bin out of pallets we got for free.  I think this scored my first hardcore gardening point.  It's ready for the immature waste, I've been collecting food scraps in the freezer and the grass is almost long enough to mow.  The bin is 4'x4', one layer is equal to about one wheelbarrow.  

I also built some trellises.  Two pieces of electrical conduit bent, clamped together and then fitted over rebar.  Buying the supplies at the hardware store was like a shining moment in my life.  It cost about $100 to build eight with some extra rebar, but we can reuse them every year and they're sturdy and tall enough for our indeterminate tomatoes and squash to grow vertically.  I've left the netting off until we get everything planted.
We also learned that Bea has a limit to how much compost she wants to shovel.  When we would suggest it she started looking at us like this:

That mad face was inspired by my talented friend Kim, but clearly she needed another backyard activity, so I decided to build her a teeppee, why not, right?  More rebar, a two day hunt for bamboo poles, some drilling of said poles, questionable internet directions and we've got this.  

Again, not totally complete but now our new activity is painting the teepee, which she loves.  It will take weeks to finish and can be done indoors or out which is pretty much the perfect kid activity.  I bought a butterfly bush, some native grasses and some annual flowers to plant around the outside so it can feel like a real hideaway.  She'll be able to chase bugs, pick flowers and hide in a shady spot while we weed and take care of the garden.  

So now our backyard looks like this, which I think is way more interesting.

Eventually the plan for the level where the teepee is, is to have a natural playscape with a slide built into the hill, big sandbox, something to climb, more places to hide, and a water station.

I also planted strawberries.  Some June-bearing and some Ever-bearing.  Strawberries are susceptible to some of the same diseases as tomatoes, so you're not supposed to plant them where tomatoes have been. That is however, exactly where our strawberries were planned to be.  I pulled out a lot of old tomato plants earlier this spring but since they were planted before we bought the house, I have no idea if they were diseased, or if the variety was resistant.  I decided on a wilt resistant june-bearing variety, Surecrop for half and Ever-bearings for the other half. 14 total, thought we may add more depending on how much space we have left.  
And here they are mulched with straw and covered with some impromptu cages I made to protect them while the fence is being finished. 

Finally, the blueberry bushes are starting to get their leaves.  Here they are at sunset:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Out there, things can happen

Big things have happened over the last 3 days.  Friday was our first delivery of compost - 3 cubic yards, just over 2 tons.
Two days later and the compost is still steaming hot when we take it out from under the tarp.

Saturday brought another 4 cubic yards of leafgro compost and we started digging out the garden beds.  Actually double digging the garden beds.  Because we plan to use intensive planting to make the best use of a small space, we're giving our plants a good 24'' of loosened, fertile soil to grow in. Their roots can grow down instead of out and so they can be planted closer together.  As the plants mature the leaves act as a living mulch, reducing the need for water and keeping weeds at bay.

Sunday we dug from 9am-7pm with a bacon cheeseburger break somewhere around noon and finished one and a half out of the four beds.

 The idea is that you dig off the top 12 inches of soil,

then use a garden fork to loosen the next 12 inches, and then return the original topsoil to the trench you just dug.

I've gathered most of this info so far from one book on organic gardening and lots of research on the internet.  I've just given in and spent the $16 on a guide to bio-intensive farming that should save some research time.

Hopefully this will be the last time we have to do this for these beds, using deep rooting cover crops in the fall to help with the work, as well as all of the worms that we're hoping will take up residence in the newly amended beds.  

It's all very exciting, finally moving from the planning phase to the digging phase.  The cabbage, leeks and lettuce are all spending a few hours outside everyday so they'll be ready to plant out in a couple of weeks!

What's growing now...

  • Early Flat Dutch Cabbage
  • American Flag Leeks
  • Pickling Cucumbers
  • Bush Cucumbers
  • Brandywine Italian Paste Tomatoes
  • Super Choice Tomatoes
  • Dr. Carolyn Tomatoes
  • Hungarian Italian Paste Tomatoes
  • Brandywine OTV Tomatoes
  • Early Snowball Cauliflower
  • Waltham 29 Broccoli 
  • Thyme
  • Calendula
  • Lemon Balm 
  • Chives
  • Sage
  • Marigolds
  • Zinnias

Starting seeds

We've had a few different versions of our own seed starting operation over the past few weeks.  The first seeds, cabbage, leeks, thyme, lemon balm and sage were sown into 3'' pots on February 18th.  Next came the lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, oregano, calendula, watermelon and cucumbers.  All in two giant lasagna pans.  That was not a good idea, since all of the seeds have different germination times and like different temperatures.  When it comes to watermelon and cukes, they shouldn't really have been started for another few weeks, but, hey, there's a pretty steep learning curve here. I'm dealing with it.   

There's been a lot of tweaking, here's the latest version:

It worked well for the past week and a half but now the plants are growing too tall and starting to touch the lights.  I don't think that's a good thing, so tomorrow I'll reconfigure them.  I found the shop lights in our basement, we had the shelves and I got a carload of the pots and trays from freecycle. The baking pans under the pots were about $1 each at Target.  There is a lot of shuffling that happens since there are more plants than lights and I keep dreaming about having a slightly more sophisticated set-up next year, but it was mostly free and took a lot of measuring and staring, so I'm pretty proud of it.   

We have a lot of digging to do...

This is our backyard.