Things have been pretty busy on the farm, but there is one truth that is self evident: The shelves in the greenhouse are covered in a healthy green mass of plants yearning for the sun. All of the hard work invested in constructing this gem of a building, starting with diging the foundation by hand all the way through attaching the clear panels with help from Nate, is paying off once again. The planning is detailed, the outcome is not always assured, but with a little faith, lots of help, and some good dirt, it’s all working out ….. [ Continue Reading at I.T. Farmers new home: http://itfarmersblog.com?p=2620 ]
I haven’t been so excited to see rain clouds move in since I was a little kid. It’s been a very dry year in NW PA, and patches of my yard have lost all color. To keep everything growing well in the garden, I’ve been lugging around the hose, and a small lawn sprinkler. It’s not much work, but it requires constant attention. From time to time the sprinkler will freeze in one place, and require a bit of finagling to get it moving again. I’ve tried all manner of watering devices, and they all seem to fall short. My current setup includes several buckets strategically placed throughout the garden. I place the sprinkler on the bucket to add height, and allow the water to fly over the plants, rather then spraying into them.
I may soon invest in some heavy duty sprinklers, that come on a telescoping tripod. These must surely work better then the current system.
After the rain, the garden took on a beautiful glow, almost in appreciation to Mother Natures kindness. In the front are melons, and cucumbers, with a volunteer Mexican Husk Tomatillo marked with a stake. In the background corn grows. You may notice the ground covered in grasses. It’s nearly that point in the growing season when it becomes impossible to remove weeds. I’ve been pulling up the invasive ones, such as pig weed, but other then that, the garden plants will soon over take everything else.
Here is the section of the garden where most of the root crops are planted. These include carrots, beets, turnips, and potatoes. They too seem to glow in appreciation of the rain. In the background are more cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and lots of tomatoes. If your wondering just how many tomato plants are shown, I planted 361, and 4 have been removed due to an unknown ailment. There are also well over 100 pepper plants near the end of the garden, but they aren’t shown. You may ask “Why did you plant so much ?”, and my simple answer would be “Why not ?”.
Having a garden is like having a grocery store in your backyard, and it’s a great feeling to walk out without paying a dime. It’s almost like you feel guilty for “stealing” food. The only theft your really guilty of is from your self, and the hard work you have invested. This is the outcome, the payback, the reward.
In between helping a friend with her MP3 player, I found the above assortment, without much effort. I consider it the calm before the storm, as these plants are just barely getting started. The produce above includes Cucumbers, Squash, Tomatoes, Cherries, and a Merlot Pepper. Earlier in the day I had found some Black Berries, and a few small Blueberries, but they found their way to my belly before this photo was snapped.
Once again, this garden has amazed me. Above is a Pickling Cucumber, and I had no idea they were capable of growing so large. I’m not sure how I missed this one as it was growing, but grow it did… I bet this one could be made into a whole jar of pickles.
Here’s me and my little gardening helper. We were checking out the size of the Yellow Brandywine Tomatoes, which are almost taller then my nephew. The heat has been quite warm lately, hence me and the little guy figured we’d show off our Muscles. He’s quite a strong kid !
The Yellow Stuffer Tomatoes are doing very well. This particular plant was placed in the ground on May 24th. These tomatoes are growing a hollow portion in each of the lobes, much like peppers are hollow. Many recipes which use this variety recommend stuffing the hollow cavity with meats, cheeses and other veggies. I can’t wait to try it out.
The Amish paste tomatoes are setting some very healthy sized paste tomatoes. When I ordered the seeds, I expected this plant to grow tomatoes about twice the thickness of my thumb, and here this green sample is more then four times my thumb. My Amish neighbors always seem to look at me odd when I tell them I’m growing tomatoes named after their devotion. Maybe I can talk them into growing them in the future, and judging by the size that shouldn’t be a hard task.
Finally here is my new early summer favorite, Red Alert. This is the only type of Tomato in my garden of the Determinate variety. Determinate tomatoes will set fruit once, and then be done for the season. Indeterminate will set fruit and continue to do so until the frost kills them. I am quite happy with the speed at which these tomatoes are growing and rippening. They are plum sized, but will do wonders for my salads from here on, holding me over till the flood of other types kicks in.
Melons are something I didn’t think I was very good at growing, as last years melons never got bigger then the one in the photo above. This year, I’ve changed three things: Manure, Water and Weed Cover. These changes have caused the plants to grow much more rapidly, and set fruit far earlier then last year. We used black weed cover, which helps prevent weeds, but also heats the soil up. I’ve also made it a point to water huge swaths of the garden daily due to the high tempuratures. I usually get started around 7:30 and finish up well after 10.
I’ve been adding composted Rabbit Manure to the last portion of the garden, where we’ve planted winter squashes. The plants in this area were all started from seed, after everything else was planted, and they were a bit slow starting. I’m hoping to encourage them to grow faster with some good old black dirt. This manure has been cooking for about 6 months, and I had to wheel it by hand from the other side of the valley where it was piled up. So far the plants have responded quite well.
For the most part, I spend a good amount of time in the garden alone weeding, watering, and turning the soil, but every few days I get a whole bunch of helpers at once. Many hands makes short work for sure ! When I get all of these helpers weeding at once, I can relax easy at the end, knowing we’ve put forth a huge effort in the war on weeds. The garden has very few weeds this year. I should find some pictures of last years garden… I was a bit lazier then…
I’ve had a few tomatoes affected by some sort of affliction. I’m not sure what this pest is, but I’m fairly confident it is not Late Blight, as the whole tomato patch would surely be in ruins if it were. I’ve ripped out three plants, all of the same variety that showed damage. I’m not taking any chances this year, after loosing several hundred plants last year. If you can identify this affliction, please leave a comment with it’s name.
The rest of the tomatoes are doing great. I have Not been watering them, since I do not want to foster the conditions for blight. The tomatoes seems to be getting enought water though, as their leaves show no signs of need. If they begin to look wilted, I’ll definately give them a sprinkle.
It’s official, I think I’ve seen everything now…
The day started like any other, hot, and dry. I was in the greenhouse cutting some hose for a different project when I heard a huge gust of wind, and felt the structure move a bit. I have been in there during lightning storms, so I really didn’t give it much thought. I was actually happy to hear the wind, as that is usually a sign of rain. I went into the house only to notice papers scattered everywhere, and a lamp knocked over. I then began to feel the wind again, and it was a bit disorienting. I rushed out to the porch, wondering if I would need to find cover. When I stepped out, I noticed one of the largest trees in my yard get literally beaten and thrashed by wind like nothing I had seen before. It was almost as if nature was out to break this tree apart. I also noticed the still air everywhere else. I ran to get my camera, and got it just in time to capture this twisting air carring dust up off the drive way.
When it dissipated, I got curious, and began looking for other signs of it’s passing.
When I got to the tomato patch, I noticed about ten plants knocked over, and beaten up a bit. The plants should grow back and be fine, I’m just amazed some times thought; of all the possible reasons to have trouble growing in the garden, I just never thought a twister would damage these plants. I’ve worried about bugs, blights, rusts, watering and minerals and here wind is what’s setting these plants back.
Once again, Hazel was knocked over…
This spring, I’ve met a new friend, who hasn’t done much gardening in the past, but was quite interested in trying it out. There was some nice dirt next to the barn, and the previous gardener decided not to plant anything this year. I had some extra seeds left over from my garden, so Becky and I worked away in the soil for a few hours. We planted these crops later than the ideal timing of Memorial Day, but I think this soil will help them grow to fruition quicker then most. You see, it’s all horse manure, composed for years next the the barn. Last year, George decided to spread it out and his friend planted it. It was still a bit too “hot” then, but this year it seems to be ready to grow plants quickly.
This winter while planning the garden, I decided to place an order for a half an ounce of Cucumber seeds. The price was right, and I had no idea how many seeds this would be, but I knew I would need many more then the tiny packs they sell in most places. When the seeds arrived, my niece counted them for me, and there were about a thousand seeds. There are about five rows in the photo above.
Here are some melons in the foreground, and pumpkins in the back. Notice the hill in the far background. I love how this hill blots out the rest of the world, and makes the valley almost seem like my own little world. Don’t get me wrong, I like people, however, everyone needs an escape sometimes.
I also saved a bunch of Sunflower seeds from two plants which grew along my walkway last year. I had planted a bunch in my garden, but there are no where to be found. I’m quite happy that I suggested planting them here as well. There are several rows of this short-for-the-season plants, but they are picking up momentum each and every time it rains.
Finally, I just had to get a shot of my whole garden, as seen from across the valley. The top half has only Tomatoes and Corn, and the bottom half is where we’ve planted everything else. The corn starts right around where the greenhouse is shown in this photo. I love how the rows look so planned, and well taken care of. On a personal note, from all of the weeding and general work, I’ve found that six pack of abs I lost so long ago. = )