Monday, September 20, 2010

I have great garden sitters

My great grandmother passed away last week, and so my husband, brother, his 4 children, and I had to make a flying trip to Illinois on Thursday to attend the services on Friday/Saturday. I wanted to pay my respects, but I must admit I had some trepidation about leaving my fledgling garden. But my brother-in-law and sister-in-law garden sat for me, so my fears were misplaced. We got in late last night, so I checked the garden at daybreak. (I was too exhausted to check last night after spending 30 hours in a car with 4 screaming, arguing children.)

Here's what I found this morning:

Sugar snap peas are coming on

Lettuce - not doing as well as I'd hoped, but I did direct seed it, so I didn't have really high hopes


Looks like a green bean got in the spinach square. Not sure how that happened.

Green beans look great! I got about 100% germination last time I planted them, so I only planted one seed per hole.

A few little carrot sprouts. I have a hard time with carrots.

Radishes look pretty good too. Not as good a germination rate as I'd hoped though.

So far so good with the fall garden. Our mornings and nights are cooler, but daytime temps are still in the 90's.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trying a fall garden

So I've decided to try a fall garden this year. On Saturday I got my beds prepped by removing all the shriveled victims of my spring garden and putting them in the compost heap. Then I mixed in some new soil. Did you know that Miracle Gro had an organic soil mix? I didn't, but I was pretty excited when I found out Saturday. My nephew helped me get the grids screwed back down on the boxes, and we started planting. We planted 4 squares of Chantenay Red Core carrots, 2 squares of radishes (not for me), 4 squares of green beans (not for me), 2 squares of lettuce, 4 squares of sugar snap peas (not for me), and 2 squares of spinach.

As of today the lettuce, sugar snaps, green beans, radishes, and spinach are starting to sprout! Exciting how quickly things come together. I'm not sure about the carrots. The soil got a little dry today, because I forgot to water this a.m. Maybe they'll sprout anyway.
A couple of weeks ago I started some broccoli, cauliflower and onions. So far the broccoli has sprouted and is looking good, and a few onions have as well, but I don't think I single cauliflower has sprouted yet. Not sure what that's about.

Over the next few weeks I am also hoping to plant some fall squash. I'm trying to decide upon acorn, spaghetti, or butternut. I may just plant all of it, and see how it does!

Sugar snap sprout - 1 is just peaking through

Green bean

Lettuce sprouting. I hope it's okay to direct seed it in the garden.

Spinach (I think)

Radishes. They're sprouting very well! I hope my friend likes lots of radishes.

Broccoli sprouts. They're looking great!

Onion seedlings. A few sprouts

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The chickens have landed

So it's been what like two months since my last blog post? What can I say. I'm just not a devoted blogger. And time has been a relatively limited commodity as of late. In one of my last blogs I mentioned getting a few chickens. Well, a few turned into 26 as I received my order of day old chicks from Ideal Poultry. Initially I had placed an order for 6 Silkies (straight run), 4 Rhode Island Red pullets, 4 New Hampshire Reds pullets, 4 Delaware pullets, 4 Easter Egger pullets, and one New Hampshire Red rooster. I really wanted some Wellsummer chickens because I love the nice dark brown/speckled brown eggs they lay. And the roosters are super handsome!

Unfortunately per Ideal's website they were out of Welsummers. I called and left a message stating I really wanted to add 4 Welsummer pullets and 1 Welsummer roo instead of the New Hamp roo to my order just in case they might have some come available. I left them my number so they could call me back to let me know for sure. I had planned on telling them when they called that I also wanted to cancel the New Hamp pullets if I was going to get some Wellie pullets. I never got a call, so I assumed I would not get any Wellies.

My chicks arrived on July 9th. The post office is supposed to call you when you have live chicks arrived. Apparently the Lufkin post office does not follow instructions well. I had to call them - three times! Finally found out the chicks were there and beat feet to get over there and pick them up! When I got home I discovered I had 27 little peepers in the box! Ideal had gotten my message and sent me the Wellies!!! But as I discovered later I was shorted one Wellie (though I originally thought I was shorted 1 RIR pullett). But 26 chicks is QUITE the hand full!

So the arrival of the chicks sealed the fate of this year's garden. That and the fact that it turned unbearably hot (triple digits, high humidity), and it quit raining. The chicks took a lot of time to care for, and honestly they are much cuter than zucchini.

As of today the chicks are 9.5 weeks old, and I'm preparing to put in a fall garden. The peeps are in their newly constructed coop now, and don't require as much attention from me anymore, so I hope the fall garden will be able to compete with them. We'll see!

I wanted to wait til my nieces and nephews could help with the planting, but I've been waiting for two days now, and I'm ready to get this show on the road. I may just move ahead without their help/hindrance.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Die, bunny! Die!

I foolishly thought we could live in peace and harmony. The rabbits contentedly munching on bahia grass, and my garden safely nestled behind the confines of the electric fence. I was wrong.

This morning as I began my ritual of checking on the garden and hand pollinating my squash I was shocked to discover a rabbit inside my fence and eating the ONLY Cherokee Purple Tomato I have!!! It had plucked the just starting to turn pink fruit off the vine and was chowing down.

My trigger happy husband has been asking me if he could shoot the rabbits that frequent our yard, and I naively kept telling him to leave them alone. Today, however, I'm putting a bounty out on my four-legged foes, and all bunnies who dare hop onto our property will meet a solemn fate compliments of Remington.

I also intend on upgrading our FiShock to a horse and cattle unit. Hopefully doing so will prevent further ground outs from twigs touching the fence and stem any further losses.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Count 'em. Four, yes, four!

This evening as I was watching the US Open i.e. attempting to nap to the US Open, my husband asked me if the electric fence was on. I forget to plug the thing in half the time, so my immediate thought was probably not. And I was right, so I went outside to plug in the fence to discover what I initially thought were three little hoppers in the backyard. They didn't even budge as I walked out the door to plug in the fence. They all just continued to contently munched away on our overgrown bahia grass - not such a bad thing.

Since they were not intimidated by my appearance I decided to come back in the house and grab my camera. They weren't disturbed by my second appearance with camera in tow, so I was able to fire off some shots of them grazing. As I took a few shots I realized that there weren't just 3 rabbits - there were four!

I stood outside and watched them for at least 10 minutes. Two of them got dangerously close to the electric fence as they peered enviously into the garden. I just knew I was gonna get some really cheap entertainment when one of them touched their nose to the fence, but alas, no luck tonight.

The two smaller rabbits were a bit more shy and stayed closer to the safety of the wooded area.

These two felt perfectly comfortable hopping around in the open area of the yard, and even playing with each other. I was only about 15 to 20 feet from them as I snapped these shots.

I bet he's thinking the garden looks pretty tasty, but he'll have to settle for bahia.

First harvest

Today I picked the first veggies from my garden. I think I left the crookneck on the vine a little too long. See how bumpy it is.... Guess I'll find out when I try to eat it. It along with its zuke cousins will be on the menu tomorrow. yum

This year's first harvest

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pics from the past week or so

Here are some pictures I've taken since I got back. Most with my phone because it's easier to carry to the garden than my camera, and easier to upload too because I don't have to resize the pictures. The downside is the quality is not nearly as good, and the focus is not sharp. But these are garden pictures not pictures for the art gallery, so I guess they'll do.

I'm having to hand pollinate all of my squash and zuchinni, which is kind of a pain, and I've lost several female squash blossoms because I overlooked them during my morning garden inspection, or they bloomed after I left for work.

Last week pics:

Baby eggplant

This week's pics

Eggplant blossoms

Almost ready!

Getting bigger

Cherokee Purple - it's kinda split. Not sure if it is gonna make it to ripening with all those splits

No, I have not given up again

I just had to go on vacation. Well, I didn't have to. I wanted to.

Luckily I have a wonderful sister-in-law who is an expert at garden sitting. It made leaving so much easier knowing my garden was in good hands. She doesn't have any gardening experience, but having an SFG makes gardening easy - water every other day or when the soil feels dry and make sure the electric fence is plugged in. Not much to it, and she followed the instructions to the T.

When I arrived back from vacation I was thrilled to find my garden in wonderful shape (the rain we got helped too!) with tons of little green tomatoes dotting the vines, sprawling squash and zuke plants, and flourishing seedlings. It was a sight for sore eyes.

Here are some pics I took when I got back from vaca:

Sweet Baby Girl cherry tomatoes

Early Girl tomato

Female zuke flower - finally!

Another female zuke flower

Fantastic tomato

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thank you, sir. Can I have some more please?

We had a great little shower last night, and it was much needed. I was really surprised it rained because the forecast has been absolutely abysmal with no hopes of rain, but this storm blew in seemingly out of nowhere, and liquid gold poured from the heavens. Everything is looking a lot greener this morning, and it's cooler this morning than it has been for about a week. Even better I didn't have to water the garden! I put a little water on the tomato plants yesterday morning, and was going to water the rest of the garden this morning, but now I don't have to. yippee!

The garden is really doing well. I can't believe how moist my beds are staying - even in the heat and dry. The heavy dews have subsided in the past few days, but the Mel's Mix is still damp in even the boxes that receive the most sunlight. I'm so impressed with how much the mulch helps retain moisture. I know I've mentioned it before, but considering last year's abysmal "can't-keep-enough-water-on-the-beds" failure I just can't get over what a difference it makes.

Yesterday morning I went out to take pictures of the garden. My squash is blooming like crazy. I've got tomatoes coming on really well. And everything but the okra is looking really good. I took the pics, came in and showed them off to The Brawn as we ate breakfast, then went to the computer to download them, and they were gone! I tried putting the card back into the camera, and still no pictures from the day. I was so sad. I had taken some really great pictures, and I didn't have time to retake them. I think there's something going on with my card reader. So today I took no chances. I hooked my computer directly up to the camera and downloaded them that way. And voila:

Black Cherry and Fooled You seedlings. I lost one Fooled you, and the others look kinda blah, but the tomatoes look good.

Female squash blossoms. When are they going to open up already??

Eggplants are looking good. I hope that's a bloom about to open up!

Peekaboo little squash blossom.

This guy isn't shy at all. I just hope I have some male flowers left by the time those two chaste girls up there open up.

Sweet baby girl tomatoes.

The Fantastic is finally blooming and getting fruit

I think this is an Early Girl

Cherokee Purple is still looking good.

Zuke blooms. Still no females though.

And another Zuke off my smallest plant.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chickens & SFG?

I've been telling my husband since December that I really want to get a few hens for laying purposes - maybe half a dozen or so. He is an egg eater extraordinaire. I think the man could eat eggs three meals a day, seven days a week. Despite his love for all things eggy, he immediately and emphatically told me no. His dad and stepmom had chickens when he was younger, and that experience has tainted his view of chicken ownership. (He also refuses to own goats or rabbits). I found it very unfair that I had to suffer because of his poor childhood memories of chickens roaming free and pooping on everything, especially given the fact that I don't want free range chickens - just chickens in a large pen. But since he's the brawn behind my brains, I slowly started to accept that I might never own a chicken.

Of course, that didn't make me drop the matter altogether. Especially after I got my June/July issue of Organic Gardening with its cover story of Happy Hens. I once again voiced my desire to have a few laying hens. No dice.

So I had to call in reinforcements. I told his mom that I'd like to have chickens. She always buys yard eggs for her bed and breakfast, and she is forever extolling the benefits of yard eggs vs store eggs. She also told us about a set up her brother had told her about. A farmer who had chickens built large fenced in area. He set up the chicken coop in the middle of the fenced in area and divided it into two halves. He gave the chickens access to 1/2 of the area, and planted his garden on the other half. The next year, he moved his garden to the other side of the enclosure and turned the chickens loose in the old garden site. The chickens ate the bugs, picked at the weeds, kept the soil scratched up and added fertilizer, so the next year when the farmer again switched the chickens and the garden, the garden was good to go. I thought that was a pretty ingenious idea, but The Brawn was still unimpressed.

Last night out of the complete blue, The Brawn told me he'd been looking up chicken setups similar to the one his mom told us about on Google. I almost fell out of bed. I'm not sure what was more shocking - the fact that he was now expressing a willingness to own a few chickens or the fact that he actually Googled it!

He had found this website and accompanying picture of their garden set up:

Gardening “With” Chickens by Self Sufficient Steward

I like the fence that's run around this chicken/garden set up. Click on the link above to check out the photo.

I found this one:

Save time and energy with the fenced chicken coop/garden By John Silveira

I like that the compost pile behind the coop is incorporated into this design.

Now we have a lot of decisions to make. How should we set it up. The two examples above have given us lots of ideas. What kind of chickens should we get? How many should we get. I know I said 6, but now that I've got him on board, maybe I'll add a few more.... How much is it gonna cost to get something like this built.

I'm also wondering if a setup like this will work for the raised beds of square foot gardening. Yeah, the chickens will probably poop in the boxes, but they're also gonna poop on the ground. Of course, I guess it's not that difficult to scoop up the poop and throw it on the compost pile.

Lots of research to do. I'm giddy with excitement. I think I need to get out more...