Summer Garden into Autumn garden

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Summer ends.  Autum leaves turn.  The garden valiantly lives on…the carrots are growing, the beets, newly planted lettuce varieties.  Parsnips planted (but  I think the visiting dog dug that section up).  I already know that parsnips, carrots and beets will be okay in the ground from my ‘accidental’ discoveries i previous years.  I had given up on the garden and was surprised to find these root vegetables were quite content to be in the ground, and entirely still viable.   Now I will more deliberately, not accidentally, have root crops growing this Fall and Winter.

Deersong

We’re trying raised bed gardening – the slugs you know ….

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He digs in, my husband, who has been diligent in helping me create our kitchen vegetable garden bed these past several years. He digs it and turns the soil by shovel each spring, and then I add seeds, water and watch it grow. Oh were it that simple! Not!

The first couple of years, vegetable garden grew well. When he first laid out the garden bed, I came in behind him, laid down newspaper to cover the soil, then added bags and bags of topsoil. Planted seeds and good garden that year, lots of varieties of produce. . The next year, he turned the soil for me. Fairly good garden that year. The following year, he turned the soil for me, and increased the size of the garden bed somewhat. I repeated the working formula of coming in behind him, laying down newspaper and bags and bags of topsoil. Ooops – garden wasn’t so good that year. And then last year, he turned the soil, and I planted and tended and the garden, and very little happened. No squash, no cucumbers, no tomatoes, squeaky little peppers, and pretty much everything planted didn’t produce.

Well there are the slugs – voracious and muchly increased since the first year we began the vegetable garden. My husband supplies the heavy labor, and I pretty much tend to the rest. My gardening knowledge is limited and I am in a continual learning cycle. I don’t think I’ve even reached my learning curve yet. So this year, I asked him if we could try something different. He agreed to build me some raised beds. He has built 4 so far, and I will want several more to contain all the little baby potted seedlings that I have been growing from seed.

Using combination of 1/2 compost, 1/2 topsoil in the raised beds, I am hoping we can get a clean start this year while I work aggressively to fight off the slug population that has grown in our yard since I first began the vegetable and flower gardens. Looks like I may have planted the kinds of things that attract the slugs and they have ungraciously repopulated themselves many times over.

Think I might add photos of the works in progress. Mostly though, wanted to add a post sharing that I am so pleased to have my husband working in our vegetable garden side by side with me when he is home on the weekends. This last weekend, he completed another raised bed for me, and I attempted The Three Sisters model of planting that bed. Corn, beans and squash. I’ve been doing my research over the winter months, and was determined to try the Native American way of using The Three Sisters principle in planting out this combination crop.

But — the weather in our region has been quite uncooperative, remaining unseasonably cold and chilly throughout most of the spring months, with even some hints of frost and snow way past the usual frost days. A trip to the local store in a nearby town helped me feel a bit better about the serious delay I’m experiencing in planting this year – their entire inventory was dead. Wow!
Rows and rows of dead and dying vegetables and flowers. Guess it was unseasonably cold. Good thing for greenhouses and nurseries, eh?

We paid a visit to the only greenhouse nursery close by, and she was having her end of the season, getting ready to close up for the season, so we got there just about in time. Were able to pick up a few vegetable starter plants – collards and swiss chard. Then a stop at our local public market (which is often short on plants and vegetables), I was able to pick up some more starter vegetables – primarily the squash varieties. Supplied to the public market by a nursery, I inquired where the nursery was, cause I didn’t know about it, and was advised it is wholesale only nursery. Ah, too bad.

So armed now with my newly purchased squash starters, the corn seed which I had planted earlier was just about the right height to be transplanted, and ditto on the bean seeds I had planted earlier, our purchased compost and topsoil and the newly built raised bed my husband made this weekend, I was ready to plant that bed in the manner of The Three Sisters. While this is not quite at all the instructions I copied in how to plant in the fashion of The Three Sisters method of planting, I’m hoping my hybrided version will still net me results — I mean produce.

The bed is in, and it remains to be seen now what kind of success I will have. The technique to The Three Sisters is planting the seeds in alignment with the growing season, so that the squash leaves don’t shade out the beans and corn, the bean vines don’t overtake and strangle the corn. Since I couldn’t plant the seeds in accordance to the plan, I fear the squash starter vegetables may already be too large for the smaller beans and corns seedlings. Hmm, we’ll see how it goes. Oh, and there was only room in the bed left for one sunflower – so that is more a symbolic gesture. Also, I’m thinking the container bed may be too shallow – not enough soil depth, but again, we’ll see what we get. And hopefully the slugs won’t have a feast before we do.

Deersong

Growing Sweet Potatoes – underneath those vines, there really are sweet potatoes

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I have a sweet potato vine growing in a container in my kitchen window, and I keep wondering if it would actually grown a sweet potato underneath the soil. Perhaps so. From a poster at one of the listservs I am subscribed to, she cites her experience with sweet potatoe vines…and it sounds like it was an unexpected surprise to her to find actual sweet potatoes growing.

I am put off a bit by learning the sweet potato is a cousin to the morning glory vines, and yes, the leaves of the vine do look much like the morning glory vines in my yard. Since I already ‘fight’ with the spreading morning glory vines that never really are eradicated, but I try to keep them from overtaking our intentional plantings, I’m not sure I would want to generate another aggressive vine spreader with sweet potatoes. So, I will think some about this, how I can grow and keep contained, because I do want sweet potatoes – Yes!

A shout out of thanks to Brenda for sharing her experience:

I just took pieces that were sprouting & put them against a chain link fence. The vines grew all over the fencing. Then they branched out all over my garden.. like weeds. When the leaves started to die a little, you could see the potatoes peeking up from the mound at the base of the plant. As I started pulling up the runners, I kept finding more.

They are a member of the morning glory family & the vines act like it… I had one potato that was the size of a coconut!! No special care. Didn’t water them any more than the normal grey water from the laundry & whatever water God gave me. No pesticides. A little mulch from the horse stable but nothing special. I harvested more today. Very hardy. Willing to take over the world if you let it.

Deersong

Growing Potatoes in Garbage Can or similar other container

Okay, I wanted to try this last year, and so another growing season, and I am doing it this year (2008).
From a poster on one of my listservs – the simple explanation and then the detailed explanation with link to site;

We have been growing potatoes in containers for years and it is really easy. You need to put drainage holes in the bottom and broken clay pot pieces to help drain water off the roots to prevent root rot. Add some rich soil (we compost all left over veggies from the kitchen) then plant your potato eyes. As the vines grow cover them with more loose compost and they will keep growing. Web site that explains the process in more detail.

Link (no longer works)  to detailed instructions;

How to Grow Potatoes in a Container (Ciscoe’s Secrets)

Get a clean garbage can or similar container. Plastic works great because it won’t rust out. Drainage is absolutely necessary. Drill several 1/2 inch holes in the bottom. It also helps to drill some holes in the side about half-inch up from the bottom of the container.

Fill the container with about 6 inches of good potting soil. Mix in about a handful of osmocote 14-14-14 fertilizer. Osmocote is a slow release fertilizer that will stay active for approximately 2 1/2 months. Organic fertilizers formulated for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons also works well. (Note: After 2 1/2 months with osmocote, or about 1 1/2 months with organic, fertilize with a good water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Grow about every two weeks according to directions on the label). Place whole seed potatoes in the soil. There should be about 5 inches between potatoes. Cover with an additional inch or so of soil. All potatoes should be completely covered with soil. Water the spuds in.

The potatoes will begin to grow. When the vines reach 4 inches, cover all but 1 inch with compost or straw. I like to use compost, because it is easy to reach in to pick potatoes. Every time the vines grow another 4 inches, keep covering all but the top inch. Eventually, the vines will grow out of the top of the container. It is a good idea to stake up the vines so they don’t fall over and brake. Place 4 bamboo or wood stakes (one in each corner) and tie the vines to the stakes with twine. By now the whole container will be filled with compost. Soon the vines will flower. Not long after that, the vines will begin to produce potatoes all along the vines that are covered with compost in the container. Once they have become big enough, you can reach in and pick a few for dinner any time you want. These spuds are called “new potatoes.” They won’t keep long in the fridge, so pick-em and eat em. After the vines die back at the end of summer, the potatoes remaining are storing potatoes. You can harvest and store them as you normally would. These will keep well as long as they are stored in a dark, cool, and relatively dry location.

One last note: take care to provide adequate water. You don’t want to drown the plants but it’s also important the soil at the bottom never dries out. In late summer spuds may need to be watered on a daily basis. Use a watering can to water to avoid wetting the foliage. I found that keeping the containers in an area with morning sun exposure prevents the soil from drying out too rapidly and still allows enough sun for a bumper crop.

This method of growing spuds is really fun. You get lots of them without using much space, and it amazes visitors to your yard. Last year I harvested 35 large Yukon Gold and 55 good sized Peruvian Blue potatoes. Great served with brussels sprouts!

Deersong

Independence Day Challenge 2008 – A Food Management Challenge

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I’m pleased to have found this great challenge and it is a challenge – Independence Day Challenge 2008 – at Casaubon’s Book blog (her blog no longer a link). The blog is full of useful information and worth a look. We (husband and I, oh and our dog and cat) are already into our efforts of trying to learn how to take care of ourselves (primarily feed ourselves) as the oil/food/economic crisis continues. And we recognize we will fall seriously short in our efforts unless we learn the skills and make them part of our daily habits.

Much of the blogging that I’ve done to date has felt more like ‘heed the warnings’ sort of messengering. But I think the ‘warnings’ now are coming from many messengers, and I want to change the direction of my blogging efforts.

With that in mind, I’m liking what I’m seeing in taking the Independence Day Challenge 2008. It seems like good practice to get in better shape for food management challenges headed our way.Read the details at Casabon’s blog –Independence Days; My First Challenge (link no longer works) Simply stated —

That means in each day or week, try to:

1. Plant something.
The idea that you should plant all week and all year is a good reminder to those of us who sometimes don’t get our fall gardens or our succession plantings done regularly. Remember, that beet you harvested left a space – maybe for the next one to get bigger, but maybe for a bit of arugula or a fall crop of peas, or a cover crop to enrich the soil. Independence is the bounty of a single seed that creates an abundance of zucchini, and enough seeds to plant your own garden and your neighbor’s.

2. Harvest something.
From the very first nettles and dandelions to the last leeks and parsnips dragged out of the frozen ground, harvest something from the garden or the wild every day you can. Be aware of the bounty around you realizing that there’s something – even if it is dandelions for tea or wild garlic for a salad – to be had every single day. Independence is really appreciating and using the bounty that we have.

3. Preserve something.
Sometimes this will be a big project, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t take long to slice a couple of tomatoes and set them on a screen in the sun, or to hang up a bunch of sage for winter. And it adds up fast. The time you spend now is time you don’t have to spend hauling to the store and cooking later.

4. Prep something.
Hit a yard sale and pick up an extra blanket. Purchase some extra legumes and oatmeal. Sort out and inventory your pantry. Make a list of tools you need. Find a way to give what you don’t need to someone who does. Fix your bike. Fill that old soda bottle with water with a couple of drops of bleach in it. Plan for next year’s edible landscaping. Make back-road directions to your place and send it to family in case they ever need to come to you – or make ‘em for yourself for where you might have to go. Clean, mend, declutter, learn a new skill. Independence is being ready for whatever comes.

5. Cook something.
Try a new recipe, or an old one with a new ingredient. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with all that stuff you are growing or making. So experiment now. Can you make a whole meal in your solar oven? How are your stir-fried pea shoots? Stuffed squash blossoms? Wild morels in pasta? Independence is being able to eat and enjoy what is given to us.

6. Manage your reserves.
Check those apples and take out the ones starting to go bad and make sauce with it. Label those cans. Clean out the freezer. Ration the pickles, so you’ll have enough to last to next season. Use up those lentils before you take the next ones out of the bag. Find some use for that can of whatever it is that’s been in the pantry forever. Sort out what you can donate, and give it to the food pantry. Make sure the squash are holding out. Independence means not wasting the bounty we have.

7. Work on local food systems.
This could be as simple as buying something you don’t grow or make from a local grower, or finding a new local source. It could be as complex as starting a coop or a farmer’s market, creating a CSA or a bulk store. You might give seeds or plants or divisions to a neighbor, or solicit donations for your food pantry. Maybe you’ll start a guerilla garden or help a homeschool coop incubate some chicks. Maybe you’ll invite people over to your garden, or your neighbors in for a homegrown meal, or sing the praises of your local CSA. Maybe you can get your town to plant fruit or nut producing street trees or get a manual water pump or a garden put in at your local school. Whatever it is, our Independence days come when our neighbors and the people we love are food secure too.

She does have one of those challenge buttons at her blog and provides the html code. I couldn’t seem to get the html code to work so don’t have the button on this blog — yet. But I hope to make weekly reports, I think, about how I’m handling my Independence Day Challenges.

Deersong

Update – Yard and Garden – July 15, 2007

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Update – July 15, 2007

Vegetable Garden; doing well enough.

Progress of seeds I planted;
— Corn plants are looking now like corn you see in corn fields.
— Beans, coming along, not too impressive yet
— Squash – zucchini doing okay; yellow summer squash doing okay; acorn squash planted late but they started then failed overnight one night (slugs?? or was it because I decided to fertilize and the acorn squash plants were too new to take being fertilized.
— Cucumbers – well, there are plants, but it’s not too impressive yet.
— Beets have popped up and are shaping out nicely. Note; beets seem to do well here.
— Radishes planted and harvested already, much less nibbling by critters this year.
— Elephant Garlic is doing quite well but can’t tell till I harvest the bulbs.
— Garlic (normal size) seem to be doing okay, can’t see any flowering though. The transplants at the back of the house failed.
— Pumpkins – only one or two, the rest failed.
— Green, Red, Jalapeno peppers – failed
— Dill – failed
— Carrots – two plants growing – the rest I accidentally stepped on when they were newly coming up and they were damaged, okay ruined.

Progress of transplants from garden center;
— bib and red lettuce – okay and growing well. Note; red lettuce adds color to the green garden. Use again!
— spinach – failed.
— tomato plants – doing well, one plant has tomato forming.
— pepper plants – seemd to be doing okay.
— cucumber plants – hard to tell, still so compact and small.
— pumpkin plant – slow but growing.
— onions – doing okay. Separated each bulb and planted 2 batch crops in garden.
Newly planted vegetable bed by front door;
After Sweetie recreated the entrance area at the front door in front yard, he created a new bed for planting. This year I wanted to use it for more vegetables. Since it is strictly clay, I needed to amend it with compost and top soil, before planting anything. It is too late in the season to plant seeds, so I picked up some vegetable plants at the garden center at our one and only department store in the region — Dennis Company. I’m grateful they carry vegetables, herbs, flowers favorable to our climate and area. It makes for a somewhat limited line to choose from, and it’s about 75/25 that what I buy will do well in my yard.

— Squash – flying wheels squash (looks interesting on the label!) – 1 plant.
— Squash – hubbard squash – 2 plants.
— Squash – acorn squash – 2 plants.
— Peppers – varieties – jalapeno – 2 plants, pimento – 2 plants, green – 2 plants

When Sweetie began this project he finished up another project at the other corner of front yard, bricking in and squaring off that corner. I had started last year to create a tiered flower garden effect to replace the brick step tiers he took out. We discovered in our digging that PO had apparantly tried to create about 4 steps, using bricks, from the garage up to the front yard. Over the years, it got buried, so we found a treasure of bricks and attempted to make it workable. It wasn’t too workable, which is probably why it got overgrown in the first place.

He took the bricks to use elsewhere, and that left the tiered effect, which I was prepared to design into a tiered flower garden. I started with some plants late last growing season, and they hadn’t much chance of setting up in their new places, so when he decided to change the corner, the plants were amenable to being transplanted.

I’m not real sure now what those plants are by name, so I’ll have to backtrack and see what I blogged last year. One is hellebos, and three others to be identified.

Deersong

Willow Twig Rooting Solution for new cuttings recipe

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I tried what is known to garderners in hand me down folklore of using willow twigs to make a rooting solution to use with new cuttings. I cut several off my mother’s old willow tree, and put them in a large jar, let them gestate for several days and then added the solution to the ‘new cuttings’ to take root. I wasn’t successful.

I found this at another blog and wanted to share the ‘recipe’ here, so for my own use in my own garden on my own blog here is another recipe for Willow Water rooting hormone.

Here’s what you do:

1. Get a handful of willow twigs (any Salix species will do)

2. Cut them into pieces a few inches long

3. Soak the twigs in a few inches of water for a day or two; then remove the twigs.

4. Use the willow water to soak cuttings in overnight, or to water flats of newly started cuttings, or to help transplants.

Now remember since this method isn’t very exact, the strength of the willow water can vary depending on the time of year, the number of twigs, the concentration of hormones in the twigs, and the amount of time that the twigs were soaked. You will, however, still get a solution that will help your plants root.

hat tip to Weekend Gardener

Deersong