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Archive for the ‘watering’ Category

Now that the weather is consistently warm (yay!) the garden is thriving and growing quickly!  Here are some photos from a few weeks ago.

The garden today.

The garden on June 3.

The garden today.

Another view of the garden on June 3.  

zucchinis are finally coming up (from seed)!

The zucchinis are finally coming up (from seed)!  –June 3

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Since all but one of the cucumber starts I purchased got eaten(? by deer??), I poked some old cucumber seeds from a previous year’s garden into the ground at the base of the trellises. And they’ve come up! Hooray!  –June 3

The kids' tomato plant

The kids’ tomato plant looks hale and hearty.  –June 3

The kids' tomato plant

There are even a few flowers on the kids’ tomato plant!  –June 3

A week later, the kids helped me to water the garden. Look how much the plants grew in that short time!

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On Monday (almost three weeks from the first set of photos), I took some more photos of the garden– it never ceases to amaze me to see how quickly plants grow in the summer heat!!

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The garden today — June 20 I haven’t been out in it much, since our deck is being redone. We’ve moved the kids’ container tomato to the middle of the in-ground garden for now!

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The garden today — June 20.

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The cucumber vine (from the purchased seedling) is starting to bloom.  It’s the biggest vine, though the sprouts from the seeds I planted are catching up! –June 20

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There are even female flowers on the biggest vine! Hoping to have some cucumbers growing soon. –June 20

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The Tami G Grape tomatoes are flowering.  The flowers are so delicate.  –June 20

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The kids’ container tomato is looking good… –June 20

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…and there are some baby fruits forming. –June 20

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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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Husband set up the rain barrel for me!

rain barrel set up

It collects water that runs off of the roof of our garage.  A bit after I took the photo above, Husband came home from work one day and said, “I’ve been thinking about the rain barrel…” and proceeded to tell me a plan to make my garden watering even easier (he knows me well, haha!).  He suggested that we get a soaker hose and run it from the barrel through the garden.

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This way, I can go out each morning, open the spigot to the hose, and then come back inside for a while as the hose does all the work for me!  I set a timer so that I don’t forget to turn it off later.  The photo above shows the initial arrangement of the hose.  We have been experimenting with how to snake it around the plants so that they all get a good amount of water.

We were so excited to see how it worked the first time we hooked it up.  Since the water pressure is low (there is no pump on the rain barrel, of course!), the water oozes out of the pores in the hose like little jewels.  So pretty!

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Everything got set up just in time for… several days of storms with heavy rains.  I’ve only used the “irrigation system” twice, but I definitely love the way it works!

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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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I am thankful today 

for the rain.  Yeah, it’s kind of nasty and chilly out there, but it’s been so dry recently, the ground must be cheering 😉  And my garden is probably happy about it too.  I’m not so good at remembering to water it sometimes…

for progress that I made at work this week.  I was pretty happy about the short week this week (off on Monday due to Labor Day holiday) but I really was hoping to get a lot done… and at the beginning of the week, conditions out of my control (remote computers inaccessible, etc.) were really putting a damper on my fragile sense of motivation.  But once I got logged into those computers, things really took off and God helped me maintain a good focus to get my to-do list items crossed off!

for fun times with friends.  I was especially excited to see one of my friends on Monday– I have hardly seen her since practically my wedding 2 years ago! and she lives in the same town!  A group of us girls got together and just hung out and it was really fun.  And I’ve/we’ve had fun times with other friends in the past week too– it’s been great!  

for low-key, stay-at-home dates with Husband.  We’ve been watching The Office on DVD (we’ve seen Seasons 1 and 2, and only part of Season 3, so please be kind– no spoilers!) and it has been so fun (and addictive!)

for the prospect of vacation coming up soon.  🙂

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Well, we cut our last cucumber last night.  It may have had some time left on the vine still, but it needed to get cut…  The second (and last) cucumber plant contracted something nasty…  I’m pretty sure that it had powdery mildew* and then last night I noticed something else:

I have *no idea* what this might be.  It looks like little mold spores or something like that.  So I decided that the cucumbers needed to get cut down before this started to spread to my other plants.  If anyone knows what this is (is it just a later stage of powdery mildew??), please leave a comment.  One other thing that I wonder is whether this has contaminated the soil in the pot.  Can I use it later or should I throw it out?

 

I set aside time this morning to do some work on the balcony.  First I chopped down all of the cucumber vines and bagged them up.  While I was out there, I trimmed any suckers that were growing on the tomato plants– and discovered that some of my tomatoes were suffering from blossom-end rot:

::sigh::  I cut four tomatoes that had this problem and hopefully I can prevent it in the future.  According to the two reference books I have (see the new tab above), blossom-end rot can be prevented by even watering: making sure that the soil never gets completely dry between waterings.  It is thought to be caused by calcium deficiency, so next spring I am going to try to remember to put some crushed eggshells in the bottom of my planting holes…  

 

There were still chive plants in the pot where the first cucumber formerly grew (no black things on this plant before it bit the dust).  I decided to try transplanting them to smaller pots just in case I try to use the big pot again (I’d like to replant lettuce and/or peas when the weather gets cooler in the fall!)

 

*Before I found the nasty black things last night, I was going to try to treat the powdery mildew according to the directions I found in The Bountiful Container (pg. 76):

“Cut off the most severely affected leaves, and spray the rest with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of water.  You may have to repeat sprayings every few days to keep the problem from spreading.”

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New fertilizer

Until now I’ve been using Miracle Gro (the multi-purpose formulation) to fertilize my garden. It works fine, but I ran out 🙂 So I went to the store today, and started looking at the fertilizer options that they had.

I’ve learned that fertilizers mainly contain three nutrients necessary for plants’ growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (for leafiness, floweryness, and rootyness & vigor, respectively). The package will give a ratio that tells how much of each three (in ratio) are present in that particular formulation.

Because I have only fruit-bearing plants left (the lettuces have bolted and are basically done), I want to promote the flowering/fruiting part of the growing. So I decided on a 9-12-12 fertilizer made by Pennington:

The instructions on the back were kind of minimal, so I interpreted them as best as I could– I sprinkled about 1 Tbsp of those granules around each pot, then watered them all thoroughly. The package said give each plant 2-3 Tbsp every 3-4 weeks, but I thought I’d start out slowly, since the plants are in pots–the drainage might be different, and I don’t want to burn the plants’ roots.  I’m going to have to be good about watering those plants every day! 🙂

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My black-seeded Simpson is not doing very well.  I’m not exactly sure what the problem is.  Ever since I thinned them, the sprouts have languished– one of them has even flat out died.  They don’t seem to have any self-support the way they used to, and I usually find them sort of lying down.  Perhaps when I thinned the seedlings, I disturbed the roots of the ones I left (I did cut the extras out rather than pulling them up…)?  I think that I have been watering them enough, and it has certainly been raining a lot here lately.  The last time I watered the plants, I added fertilizer (Miracle-Gro) thinking that it might help.  I also planted a couple new seeds to replace the sprout that died.  

Does anyone have an idea of what might be going on?  Not enough sun?  Too much water?  Not enough water?  

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This garden is going to be our biggest one yet!

First, a quick update:

I FOUND A PEA SPROUT YESTERDAY!

I had almost given up on the peas, because it had been 14 days with no sign of a sprout.  I was going to sort of poke around in the soil and see (by sacrificing one seed, if necessary) if anything was happening, or if the peas were all duds.  But I found one poking up just in time 🙂  And when I watered the plants today, the water washed away some soil, revealing two more sprouts!  YAY! 🙂

The lettuce is growing really well, too… Here are pics of my three pots:

Now for the new stuff…

We decided to take a trip to Prairie Gardens with my parents this afternoon. I really needed a watering can (the orange juice jugs I was using were a little too open-mouthed for the tiny lettuce seedlings) and we wanted to get another tomato cage (for the cukes) and check out the options for strawberries, cucumbers, and herbs.

While we were there, we decided to start the cucumbers from seed, so I got a packet of the Spacemaker Bush variety. I thought I’d see how the bush type of cucumber does, since that’s what The Bountiful Container recommends for container gardens. We also decided, after seeing the prices for 4 tiny herb seedlings compared to a seed packet, to start chives from seed this year.

Next, we went on a hunt for strawberries. There was a rack of plastic “baskets” of strawberry plants, but they were already putting out fruit!! We didn’t think that would go so well in our garden (if they were a June-bearing variety, they would be finished hardly after we planted!). Husband sought out an employee, and found a “Plant Expert” who was very helpful (unfortunately, I can’t remember her name). She told us that bare-root strawberry “plants” were in a cooler, and we should get an everbearing variety. We found a pamphlet that listed the varieties recommended by the local extension unit for the name of the everbearing variety: Quinalt. I really hadn’t expected the bare root thing– I had gotten the impression that you would buy little strawberry seedlings and plant them. The Plant Expert told us that we should take the bundle of 25 (!!!) roots and soak it in room-temperature water for about 30 minutes, then plant the roots in damp soil, leaving the little nubbin from which the roots emanate above the soil.

So, in addition to the seeds, we picked up a few more 6″ pots (the pot size recommended to us), a tomato cage, more potting soil, and a coconut fiber basket for the top of the wrought iron plant stand from Ellie. Since we knew we had 25 strawberry plants, we decided to get a metal basket with a coconut fiber basket liner to hang along the inside of the balcony railing, too! (Husband is VERY excited about having strawberries!)

We decided to plant everything this afternoon! We filled a little bucket with room-temperature water and started the strawberries soaking…

and rearranged the pots and plant stand on the porch.  (We also tied the coconut fiber basket to the top of the plant stand, just to be safe…)

We mixed our new bag of potting mix with more perlite,

and filled all our three 5.5″ (from last year) and two 6″ pots as well as the coconut fiber baskets.

We wet down the soil with the new watering can 🙂 and I planted my cucumber seeds in the center, with the chives in a ring around the outer edge of the pots.

I’m not sure if that combination will work, but I figure it’s worth a shot! Besides, we wanted as many pots as possible for the strawberries.

We managed to plant 21 of the 25 strawberry roots!  (Did I mention that Husband is VERY excited about strawberries?)  After about 30 minutes of soaking, I separated the individual strawberry nubs and their roots:

Most of them were about this size:

but a couple were strawberry beasts!

 

Husband planted them carefully, spreading out their roots and covering them with some soil (but leaving the nubbin above the soil).

We filled all the pots that we had, and a couple of plastic ice cream buckets in which we poked some holes…  We had four strawberry roots left over, so we gave them to my dad… he’s going to take them home and see how they do in a pot on my parents’ back porch 🙂

P.S.  Husband is VERY excited to have strawberries! 😉

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It is a gloriously beautiful SPRING day outside today! So this morning I decided that this is the day to plant my peas and lettuces!

I started by unwrapping the six 14″ terracotta pots from their winter ensconcement (I think I just made up that word, but I like it 🙂 ) under the garbage bags. I decided on an arrangement of the pots (they’re pretty heavy and I didn’t want to be hauling them around a lot), and filled them with potting soil. For 5 of the 6 pots, I used the potting soil saved from last year, and then I ran out. We had about 1/2 a bag of Miracle-Gro potting mix left from last year, so I mixed in some more perlite and filled the last pot. I covered two of the pots with the garbage bags– these pots will hold the cucumbers, and it’s not warm enough to plant them yet. So hopefully the soil in the pots under the bags will get nice and warm as the weather does.

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I (gently) poured 1.5 to 2 gallons of water over the soil in each pot (except the cucumber soil, since it’s still hibernating) to give it a good soak. That soil was bone-dry! Finally, I began planting the seeds.

In the pot all by it’s lonesome, I planted 9 peas around the lower perimeter of the tomato cage that I’ll be using as a trellis.  (Obviously, I will thin them if/when they sprout.)  I am not sure that this will be high enough for the peas; I may discuss with my husband getting a bigger trellising device for that pot before the seeds get going. This corner of the balcony gets some extra sun in the mornings.

In the three remaining pots along the side of the balcony, I sprinkled lettuce seeds around the outer edge. I plan to put tomatoes in the middle of those pots when the weather is warm enough. At that time, the lettuce will probably be getting too warm for comfort. Two of the pots are planted with the Black-Seeded Simpson variety (and later, the Early Girl tomatoes), and the pot in the middle is planted with the Mesclun mix (and will later have the Yellow Pear tomatoes). I hope that I’m not being overly ambitious to fit both lettuce and tomatoes in the same pot.

I’d never seen lettuce seeds before, so it was neat to open the seed packets and see them. Most interesting to me was the Mesclun mix– the seeds are very distinctly different!

Now I have to wait 10 or so days until the seed start to germinate!!

Extra notes: the Mesclun packet says to direct sow “when the soil warms, thereafter every 2 weeks until heat of summer”. Will this work in my pots? The Black-Seeded Simpson packet recommends planting again in late summer (for a fall crop)– I need to remember to try this! The Pea packet also recommends a second planting in late summer for a fall crop.

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