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Archive for the ‘mulch’ Category

On the first weekend in May, Husband worked super-hard and got our yard into great shape!  One of his projects was to prepare the garden (isn’t he a great guy?).

garden before tilling/planting

This is what it looked like “before.”  We’d dumped all the leaves that we’d raked from the yard into the garden to cover it for the winter.  Husband has decided that he will not do that again!  It made tilling it (by hand) extremely difficult, and there are big chunks of partially decomposed leaves throughout the soil now.

compost from last year

This is an oh-so-glamorous shot of our compost bin.  We ended up “cold-composting.”  All last growing season, we added material to the compost bin.  When the growing season ended and we deconstructed the garden, we stopped adding to the bin and just let it sit.  We didn’t turn the contents at all.  So when Husband opened the bin, we found a layer of nice compost at the bottom, but there was still material above it that hadn’t transformed.  Not a bad result for basically no work!  Husband mixed the layer of compost soil into the garden, and left the other material to start this year’s cold compost.

After the back-breaking work of tilling the garden and working in the compost soil, Husband let me plant my (rather pathetic) seedlings, at my request.  (Side note: it was way harder than I expected to be kneeling on the ground and working around my big ol’ belly, haha!)

seedlings before planting

 

And here are those sprouts, above.  The leftmost column are the peppers, next are the Best Boy, the three in the middle-right column are what is left of the Jelly Bean sprouts (sad), and the Fourth of July sprouts are in the far right column.

I direct-sowed cucumber and zucchini seeds, as well!

 

Now for some not-very-illuminating photos of the planted garden:

Garden planted and mulched!

Garden planted and mulched!

 

By the way, you can see our rain barrel all set up again to the left of the garden.  Thanks to some absolutely crazy rain storms recently, it is nice and full already, and we used it for all of our garden watering as we planted!   When Husband set it up a couple weeks ago, he added a second layer of cinderblock to give it additional height, which hopefully will result in more water pressure when we hook up the soaker hose later.

 

cucumber seeds planted at base of trellises, pepper plants in the three middle spots, and zucchini seeds planted in the two foreground spots.

cucumber seeds planted at base of trellises, pepper plants in the three middle spots, and zucchini seeds planted in the two foreground spots.

 

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Best Boy seedlings in the back row, Fourth of July seedlings in the front row.

 

I also direct-sowed a packet of mixed herb seeds (basil, dill, marjoram, and savory) that I got as a freebie last summer at the county fair.  We’re using the box on the porch railing for this, and I”m going to try to be much more reliable about watering it this year! 😉

planted a mixed packet of herb seeds in the box on the porch

Finally, my little girl has been SUPER excited about the garden.  All spring long, she has been talking about helping in the garden.  So Husband and I decided that she should have a container “garden” of her own; the rabbit-proof fencing makes it difficult for her to get into the main garden!

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We picked out a compact cherry tomato plant at our local Home Depot, and she helped us to plant it in one of our large terra cotta pots.

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I’m so excited for her to help take care of it and watch it grow!!

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The 2013 garden is officially planted.  Hurray!

Note: This is a long post with lots of “repetitive” photos.  I will post an “official” diagram and list of seed varieties separately. 

On April 21, I raked the soil in the garden plot ’til it was smooth(er).  We measured carefully and added the trellises for the cucumbers and the stakes for the tomatoes in the proper spacing (3 feet on the long axis and 2 feet on the short axis).   You can also see the stakes for the fencing in this photo:

planting spots marked, trellises and stakes in place

After that was accomplished, Husband installed some (hopefully) rabbit-proof fencing.  This wire fencing (which comes on a roll) has increasingly small spacing from top to bottom to prevent the smaller “rodents” from getting through.  We’ll see how it works.  There are bunnies all over the yard in the evenings, and I’m hoping that my garden won’t become a smorgasbord for them.  It’s not as pretty as a non-fenced garden, but I think it’s a necessity.  It is hard to see in this photo, but you can see its shimmer at the closest corner:

rabbit-proof fencing installed

We bought some mulch, which I’ve found to be pretty important for keeping the soil from drying out quickly… and it also dramatically keeps the weeds at bay.  I spread it out that evening and took some photos the next morning:

garden mulched

Right after I’d put down the mulch, I direct-sowed my cucumber and zucchini seeds.  The cucumbers will grow (hopefully) up the trellises, and the zucchini plants will be in front of them.

 

cucumber and zucchini seeds planted

As of the writing of this post (April 30), I haven’t seen any sign of sprouts.  I did plant some extras this weekend (April 28) and mixed in a bit of random potting soil I had on hand because I was concerned that the soil may have dried out.

P.S. The big white tube thing is a downspout diverter.  We are trying to come up with a solution so that it’s not as ugly… maybe a rain barrel?  Not sure if that would be better…

Oooh oooh oooh!  I have herbs!  While we were picking up the mulch, we saw that they were on sale at our local Home Depot.  In addition to the basil I already had, I planted thyme, dill, and curly parsley (R to L) in a wooden box planter that we secured to our back  porch railing:

herb box

You may recall that I originally intended to have my herb garden on my kitchen counter, but after trying to keep some plants alive there earlier this spring, I discovered that it isn’t as sunny there as I’d thought.  This box of herbs is right outside the door to the porch from our kitchen, so I will have easy (no-shoes-necessary) access.  Plus, it’s nice and high and out of critters’ reach.

This Sunday morning (April 28), before church (which ended up being a good plan, because by the time we got home, the sun had gone away and it was raining!), I planted my tomatoes.  I decided to risk planting them out a bit early, since they were looking sort of anemic in their cups:

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I have two of each variety in the ground now:

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What, you can’t see them?  Haha, I know.  But they are there!  I promise.  I’m hoping that they have been doing okay this week.  We’ve had some nice, gentle (as far as I can tell), soaking rain, but it’s been a bit chilly.  I think the sunshine is coming back soon, though!  Hurray!  I’m excited to see my plants grow.

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I’m going to just skip trying to explain why there hasn’t been a garden post in like, forever (I’ve been taking photos all along, but haven’t gotten them online ’til now), and jump right into sharing the current status of the garden, and make up for it by writing a tome of a post!  (All of the photos in this post were taken yesterday morning…)

Despite very dry conditions in the past few weeks (see how brown the poor grass is?), my garden has been doing well.  I’ve watered it a few times to make sure it doesn’t completely dry up.  That’s a nice thing about in-ground gardens… they don’t require nearly as much intentional watering.  Plus, the mulch is helping the moisture stay in the soil.

Maybe you can see, though, that the zucchini has fallen prey to a marauding groundhog… or deer, or something.  The hostas in our front beds were the first victims, ::sigh:: and then the beastie found the succulent zucchini leaves.

It’s not all bad, though, because we still actually got a nice zucchini — our first harvest of 2012!  You can see it in the photo above, and of course I took a glamor shot…

I added some green onions (Purchased at the grocery store for a recipe…  you can plant the white ends after you cut them, and they grow back!) next to the tiny pepper plant (who knows if that little guy will ever produce in our short season):

Before I go much further, I should make a comment about the garden layout.  Because things have changed a bit since I planted it!

The current garden layout

The week after we planted the seedlings outdoors, we had some super-hot temperatures.  We were also away, and even though a friend of mine came and watered the garden (thank you so much, K!!), the seedlings got fried, because they weren’t very strong to begin with.  So we lost one Fourth of July plant, two Jelly Bean plants, and one of the zucchinis.  The stronger of the two pepper plants met its end when I was over-zealous in my weeding one day (boo!!!  it was so tiny, and blended in with those pesky weeds).  So I had some empty spots.

My friend K, who watered my garden, planted some tomatoes and herbs of her own, and generously offered me the extra seedlings from the flats she purchased!  So generous!!  So I added 2 Big Boy tomatoes and 3 Red Cherry (large) tomatoes to the empty spots.

And now for the confession.  I planted the seedlings and just as I was finishing up, it started pouring.  So I ran inside, fully intending to label my plants when it stopped raining.  But of course I got busy, and thought I’d remember.  But guess what?  I forgot.  Ooops!  I know that tomato #6 and #8 are Fourth of July, and I know that tomato #3 is the one remaining Jelly Bean (my absolute favorite).  But I’m going to have to wait to see for the others! Thankfully there should be a distinct difference in size of the fruit, haha!

Speaking of fruit, the tomato plants are definitely starting to produce little green beauties!

Tomato #1

Tomato #2

Tomato #3 (Jelly Bean)

Tomato #4

Tomato #5

Tomato #6 (Fourth of July)

Tomato #7

Tomato #8 (Fourth of July)

Last, but certainly not least, I have to share my hanging herb basket!!

It hangs over our front porch, and I. Love. It.  It’s perfect!  No groundhogs or other pillaging wildlife can access it, yet it’s so easily accessible by me!  My friend K gave me basil and parsley when she gave me the tomatoes, and the plants are thriving in their aerial home.  I have been reveling in fresh parsley in my chicken and tuna salads at lunch, and basil sprinkled over my pasta with marinara sauce.  I am so very excited for the tomatoes to ripen so that I can make caprese salad!

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First of all, I want to mention (because I keep forgetting!) that I haven’t seen the groundhog since about the weekend of June 18!  Maybe Mr. Groundhog got discouraged because I brought the herbs inside (I still haven’t found a good way to have my pots inside.  I was hoping to find an inexpensive baker’s/plant rack to elevate them out of the groundhog’s reach and put them back on the porch, but no luck finding one so far.  Anyone have suggestions?).

Yesterday I went out and did a bit of garden maintenance.  Like I said in a previous post, the mulch has done wonders for suppressing weeds.  I have no idea how I could have thought to manage without it! Maybe you can tell from the top picture how crazy and jungle-like the garden was getting…{click any of the photos in this post to see them larger}

The bottom photo shows the “after” look.  Maybe it’s not so obvious from the photos, but there was a lot to be done to the tomato plants themselves.  I trimmed a ton of suckers** off of them and actually just pruned some of the large, sprawling branches.  I also threaded escapee branches back into the tomato cages.  Note to self:  stay on top of trimming those suckers!

Here are some photos showing the progress of the zucchini, cucumber, pepper, and tomato plants!

zucchini

cucumber

pepper

Early Girl tomato

Fourth of July collage

Jelly Bean tomato

Yellow Pear (top) and Red Lightning (bottom) tomatoes

 

**P.S.  When I say suckers, I am not using it in the slangy sense (although it’s kind of funny when you read it that way!).  I’m talking about the extra branches that grow out of the crooks of my indeterminate tomato vines.  According to McGee and Stuckey (see full book info in my Garden tab), you pinch off suckers to prevent bushy foliage and few fruits.

 

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You’ll notice that the garden is looking extra spiffy, because when Husband’s parents were visiting last week, they helped us spread some beautiful black mulch over the garden bed (as well as the decorative beds at the front of the house).  Let me tell you, that mulch works *wonders* suppressing weeds!  I haven’t had to do weeding since the 17th!  Before, it was absolutely necessary for me to weed at least once per week to keep the garden looking nice.

one more Jelly Bean (tomato; on left) and two zucchini

 

empty pot (so sad) and two cucumber plans

 

In non-vegetable garden gardening news, Husband’s mom also showed me how to divide and transplant hostas.  It’s so easy!  So now I have a nice ring of hostas (from the ENORMOUS plant in our front bed) around the base of the beautiful pine tree in our back yard.  It looks so nice!

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