Thursday, May 19, 2011

Slowly Kissing Our Spring Garden Goodbye

It's been a wonderful spring here at our house. Summer is quickly approaching and the temperatures are now creeping into the lower 90s and it's only May. Mildews and fungus are also taking over the leaves in our garden, so much so that we've already begun pulling stuff out. I thought I'd do a little "wrap up" of what we got out of our garden this year, what we learned and what we'll do differently this fall.

For starters, I REALLY and DESPERATELY want to have success with our corn, but it just didn't happen this year. I know that corn needs constant babysitting if you want to grow it Non-GMO-and organic style, but I guess I didn't do a good enough job this spring. It was our first attempt, so I'm not heartbroken just yet. Army worms were our main culprit as they usually always are. As we picked up fresh milk today, I was talking to our dairy farmer (who also has a garden) and he said to try diluting some chewing tobacco in some water, letting it sit overnight and spraying the corn with it. I want to do some research on this as I'm not familiar with tobacco and not sure I want it on my food. We shall see.
Next up...we learned A LOT about blueberries this spring, mostly from visiting our fellow organic blueberry farmer. We learned that it takes multiple species of blueberry bushes (cross-pollination is what does it) to create good, juicy, big berries. We now have the following Southern Highbush plants...'Emerald' (which is actually a self-pollinating species), 'Jewel', 'Gulfcoast' and 'Windsor'. We learned about pine bark and it's many benefits to using it with blueberry plants. We learned how to take clippings from the plants, using root toner to stimulate root growth. We also planted some seeds (froze them first for a few days to stimulate sprouting), but know that it takes a lot of patience, IF they are to succeed.
Beans came out our ears this spring and we must have canned at least 20 cans, froze 2 large Ziplock bags, ate some straight from the plants themselves and had a few freezer bags of fresh green beans kept in the fridge. Nothing like paying $3.00 for all of that!!!

One thing we'll do differently this fall with the pole beans is we'll be replacing the nylon netting used to support their HIGH growth. They outgrew the 6 foot trellises that we gave them this year! We'll be using a wire trellis come fall and I'm on the hunt for some that is 8-feet-tall.

We did try some Rattlesnake green beans this year. They're green, but with purple stripes on them. They're juicier, have a longer growing period (we're still getting blossoms!) and they can really well.

Some watermelon that I don't have high hopes for. Fungus is really setting in even as I'm watering in the a.m. and spraying with organic, anti-fungals. We shall see.

blackberries are now turning a deep red color (this was taken over a week or so ago)

More green beans! It was so worth staggering out the bean planting this year every few weeks. We've been getting beans for the past month or two thanks to that.

I have to laugh at how our tomatoes grew this year. I get ZERO credit for them...really. I originally started our tomatoes in flats (as I always do), but for some reason, they didn't transplant well. The only plants that were really successful at producing were the ones that randomly grew from our compost seeds. You throw some rotten tomatoes into your composter, after a month or so, you transfer the compost into the garden and somehow, the rich soil has helped it sprout into a tomato plant (conveniently right in the middle of your onions or carrots). These plants did really well and we're still getting oodles of tomatoes. So far, I have one large Ziplock freezer bag full of the cherry and Roma tomatoes, we've eaten a TON just from going out in the garden and having a "snack" as well as the fresh ones we've used in salads and in pastas, etc. I've lost count. I thought I'd be super organized and record all of what we harvested, including the weight and quantities, but that didn't happen. {smile}

We had some new additions this year. Yes, some women love shoes. Some women love purses. I love books and PLANTS! In fact, I told Rob never to buy me cut flowers for birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Days etc. anymore because I'd rather have "the real deal". So, I've accumulated a few rose bushes over the past year and there are no complaints here. Anyway, this is our new kiwi plant. We did get two as they need a male and female to cross pollinate and produce fruit, period. No, I haven't named them! Hee, hee.

We had two large storms so far this spring and here's what one of them did to our bean trellises (another reason we're switching to wire for the future). Blew two of them right over.

Herbs...dill (wish our cukes had success so I could make pickles with the dill, but oh well...fall), parsley (can't get enough of this stuff!) and sweet basil (oh how I love thee!). We have some basil growing in the indoor garden and it smells simply heavenly. I find excuses to use it in our cooking whenever possible.

Carrots...sigh. I was lazy and didn't weed them apart as I should have and they were too small to keep. The chickens and rabbits had a hay day though eating them. Chickens LOVE carrot tops. Whenever we go to the market for fresh veggies, I always buy the carrots with the tops, thinking of our beloved biddies. Onions are in the back and I have yet to harvest them.

Some lemon seeds the kids and I planted. So cool that they sprouted. It'll be at least 5 years before they bare fruit, but they were FREE and we love using lemons as we make lemonade, use them in canning jams/jellies, use them for iced tea, etc.

We also saved some orange seeds and they've also been growing. Not as many as the lemons though.

Elderberries were a new addition. One that I'm super excited about! We love making Elderberry jam. If you know how to locate and identify these gorgeous blossoms and berries, you can find them all around. We went fishing the other day and to our amazement, found a HUGE bush growing down by our local creek. You can bet we'll be clipping these berries as they ripen, using them in our jams.

apple blossoms

Of coarse, I had to take a photo of "the ladies".

Recently learned that you need to have a 7 to 1 ratio (7 chickens to 1 nesting box) in a coop. We're currently housing 14 laying hens and have 5 boxes, but when our new babies (30) come up to take their place in about 4 1/2 months, we may look into putting in a few extra just in case. We have one really cool hen ("Checkers") who is really broody. Broody, meaning that she loves being the "mother hen", sitting on her eggs all day. It's weird because we don't currently have a rooster mating with them, but she still gets really defensive when you try to take her eggs. It's been on my mind to start self-reproduction with our hens by keeping another rooster and trying to use Checkers as our incubator for the fertilized eggs that are produced. She'd do a great job at it too! She's the only one I might fight Rob on in terms of processing. We'll definitely be keeping her around. From what we've witnessed in raising chickens for the past two years, it's not easy finding a good "mommy hen".

fresh eggs...I never tire of going out to our coop and picking up a fresh chicken egg, still warm and full of nutrients. I know they haven't been painted. I know they haven't been bleached. I know our chickens eat good grains, greens, flax seeds and bugs (they're going to have a blast this summer when we let them in the garden to till up weeds and worms...we have a TON of worms).

'The Babies' who will take the place of our laying hens. We started with 35 chicks, but have lost 5 total since we've had them.

1 comment:

Rachel E. said...

What an awesome garden and a great harvest to boot! I never thought about the benefit of having a warm climate like Florida. I can't stand Florida, but there you go, right?