My neighbor John noticed that we have been using the tractor and brush hog to mow the field around my house, and he wanted me to stop up and see about mowing some of his fields. While I was there, I thought it would be neat to take some pictures of John and Martha’s garden. The family is one of many Amish households in the area, so they always grow a garden, regardless of the current state of the economy, but they too are expanding the size of their plot for next year. In the background is the field which I’ve been mowing with the tractor. Since it’s taking so long, Davie has offered to help while I’m at work. The two of us should be able to mow the whole thing before winter.
While I generally grow bell peppers, the neighbors usually grow banana peppers. I guess I should ask them where they get their seeds from because I have only started to see flowers on my pepper plants.
Their cabbage is also doing great, and although I don’t like eating this veggie much, I’m a bit jealous as I’ve never had much luck growing these plants, and theirs look phenomenal.
Their onions are a bit taller then mine, but here I don’t feel so bad. My patch isn’t nearly as weed free, but my plants are about the same size.
I also transplanted my Pak-Choi out to the garden over the weekend, and sowed some additional cucumber and zucchini seeds, which should have just enough time before winter to grow food.
I’ve been trying to expand my gardening skills to include cooler weather crops, or in other words the items that I didn’t like to eat as a child. I’ve had to adjust my thinking about the growing season to get the plants going, but I think I’m on the right track. I planted my broccoli weeks before the garden was roto-tilled, using a pick axe to turn over and smash up the soil. The plants were tiny then, and after a few visits from some ravenous critters, I wasn’t sure if they would make it, but here they are, growing quite well.
I’ve found a few peas that are ready to be tossed in salad even though they were planted late. I’ve also found that the squash plants that have invaded my strawberry patch are quite good, although they don’t seem to taste like zucchini. They carry a nutty flavor, and light colored stripes. I’m going to assume they are a cross over mix of many of the squashes I grew last year. Either way these plants must have gotten a very good jump on the season, as the rest of my zucchini plants are shorter then the veggie shown.
I’m not the only gardener thinking about the late season possibilities. Over the Fourth of July weekend, while visiting the whole family and enjoying my birthday cake, my Mother and I began conspiring to plant cooler weather crops, and so we planted seeds for broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I hope to add cool season kohlrabi to the mix if I can locate seeds soon. We decided to leave the seedlings on the steps to allow them to grow up in full sun.
The peppers and tomatoes seem to be right on track now, after some heavy watering with my new water cannon. The peppers shown still need some help from the compost pile, but in due time they will be growing like the bean in the fabled jack in the bean stock story.
The honey berries that I planted in the field are doing really well. They have begun their vertical reach, and are nearly 8 inches tall. I wasn’t sure how well they would do in my neck of the woods, but daily trips out to the edge of my yard with a gallon of water have paid off very well.
I’ve finally taken the plunge and moved out my tiny goji berry plants. I’ve added a layer of safety just to be sure the sun would not cook them while they were taking root. I placed a green mesh over the plants to block out about half of the sun’s day time rays. I was mainly trying to block the hot rays the sun beams down during the middle of the day, as they seem to be the most damaging. I moved one of the plants out to the field last week using the same setup, and recently added the second. The shade will be in place for about a week just to be sure the plant gets a good grip on it’s new soil.
I’m still waiting for my paw-paw tree, which won’t be shipped until September or October. I find the timing of shipping to be odd, as most plants arrive in spring, but when it comes to paw-paw trees, I’m the still the amateur.
I still need to call the Rototiller guy and schedule and appointment, so for now I need to work the soil the old fashioned way: By hand. I was using my garden hoe to level dirt as part of my chicken coop project, and couldn’t find it when I was ready to get started, so I used the rock pick in the photo above. I am so impressed with how well this pick works that I will be using it from now on to work the soil in the first pass. The tool is somewhat heavy, so once you lift it off of the ground, gravity kicks in and propels it deep into the soil, much easier they a hoe.
I planted some De Cicco Broccoli right next to my already thriving Swiss Chard. This is my first year growing broccoli from seed, and with all of the spring rains, I’ve just now gotten it planted outside. Hopefully I haven’t ruined the taste of the produce by exposing these young plants to temperatures above 90F in the greenhouse. I guess it really doesn’t matter, as I’m not a big fan of most cold weather veggies. I’ll just smother these broccoli heads in cheese, or chop them up real small and add them to macaroni and cheese or spaghetti for nutritional value.
So here’s the progression of my cold weather crops plot, with Peas on the far left, Cabbage and Cauliflower in the second row, Swiss Chard growing like mad in row three, and Broccoli on the right. The Chard is doing so well, that I’ve had to use a plastic barrel to hold my sprinkler high enough off the ground to hit all the transplanted seedlings.
There is one cool weather crop that I have a fond taste for: Strawberries. I used to spend hours in the fields of Sullivan County, PA collecting the smaller wild versions of these. I would return home at a young age with my shirt held out holding a large collection of berries witch surely stained my shirt. I couldn’t return without enough to share with the rest of my family, and my father would usually look at my filthy stained shirt, smile while shaking his head and hand me a large bowl, to which I’d return once again filled. This was once my favorite activity, with Blackberries and Raspberries also in abundance. Now that I’m older, I hope to build a more complete collection of edibles on the farm for my nieces and nephews to pick. I’ve got everything from Gooseberries and Apache Blackberries to Honey-berries, Strawberries, Grapes and Cherries so far…. I guess if I’m not conning myself these berries are as much for me as the children.
I’ve been watching patiently as my cool weather crops progress. After ignoring these plants for my first few years gardening, I’m quite surprized by there growth. I’ve been in the routine that once the frost comes, game over. No extra innings, no second chances. When a plant had frost on it, it was dead. This is the way of past gardens, and it is the way no more. I’m expanding my reach into the cool weather crops, and even if they don’t have the juicy flavor of a brandywine tomato, they are still good for me, and worth my time to grow them.
I should get my veggies straight however. In an earlier post, I labled my cabbage as broccoli, and vice versa. These two crops were planted at night, with a flashlight guiding the seeding process. I had two packets of seeds, and some how mixed up which I had planted in each row. Now that the cabbage is starting to form a rounded head, I can see my error clear as day.
The Swiss Chard is still growing well, at least the small center leaves anyway. I’m hoping it will survive until at least next tuesday. If it lasts that long, I plan to pick some, and hopefully make some sauteed swiss chard as my contribution to Thanksgiving. I’m not much of a cook, and I’m sure we will all be eating some Yukon Gold potoatoes from the garden, but I really want to cook an actual dish this year, rather then just he raw ingredients. Maybe I’ll cook some winter squash as well, since there is still a large pile on Mom’s side porch.
On August 19, I planted some broccoli and cabbage. A few weeks later, I released my chickens to roam free for the winter. What I found out is that chickens like to eat healthy too, so I’ve had to put up a small fence to keep them out. I didn’t have much wire, so I choose the group of plants that looked the most promising, and placed the wire around them. They are growing fairly well, and I’m actually looking forward to eating some broccoli. I’m not a big fan of most cold weather veggies, but when you grow your own food, it always tastes better. I figure I can stomach them if I add a little cheese, or maybe some bacon and cheese…. now that sounds good !
The cabbage is also growing pretty well, but I’ve only got a few plants protected, so there won’t be enough to make home made sauerkraut. I hope to build a chicken house before spring, and attach a fairly large run for them. Then maybe I can grow a larger cool season garden. It just doesn’t feel right not having row after row of veggies. Spring won’t be here soon enough.
On August 19th, I worked the soil, and planted some Cabbage and Broccoli. The timing is something I’m a bit unsure of, and I wanted to make note of it for next years planting. It’s also been very dry lately, so I water these tiny plants every day or so after I finish up my other chores.
I got a little creative when I took the picture above. I wanted to capture the leaves from a different angle, as the two different types of seedlings have very similar starter leaves. Now that I got a good look at the picture, I can’t help but notice just how much this micro environment looks like a desert. After seeing the lack of moisture in the soil, I’m contemplating adding a layer of hay or stray to keep the water from evaporating away.
Finally, I thought it appropriate to show how my cucumbers planted at the beginning of August are doing. These plants are not cold tolerant, so I’m hoping to get some really late cucumbers, just before the first frost. The plants are looking pretty rough, but I remain hopeful, as the ones that are growing, are growing fast. Perhaps it’s time for some more manure…..
This years cucumbers ran out of steam a few weeks ago, and I’ve stopped weeding them. Above you can see just how quickly pigweed can overtake the garden. The brown mass in the center is a pile of weeds harvested from the other side of the pole beans, where we’ve planted fall cucumbers. I’ve found if you pile the weeds up and let them rot, they will turn into black bio mass.
Here’s the same spot an hour or two later. Notice the pile of weeds in the left hand side towards the top ? They all came from that small patch of the garden. Once they were removed, I worked the soil to break it up, and loosen it a bit. When I was ready for the seeds, the sun was long gone, and helpers were needed. Jen and Adonica held flashlights as I dug a small trench and placed the seeds. I had a packet of cabbage seed, and one of broccoli, each containing twice as many seeds as needed. Since this is a fall planting, I will need to sheild the dirt from the direct sun to encourage germination. I’m thinking a tarp will do the trick, but first I will sidedress them with some rabbit and goat manure, as I’ve learned from the Winter Squashes.