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

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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

Front yard vegetable patches make food, but some gardens rile the neighbors

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One tomato plant at a time equates to one step at a time in a growing new movement of front yard vegetable patches. Yes, people are getting on board with the idea that one can actually grow food in their own yard and growing it in their front yard sends a message. Instead of all the work and chemicals to maintain a home and garden magazine type yard, one can grow their own food and still have a beautiful ‘growing’ front yard. What constitutes what is beautiful is in the eye of the beholder anyway, so who says that a perfect, green front lawn equates to the only kind of beauty a homeowner can share?

In this time of heightening awareness of sustainability, environmental concerns, global warming, ‘green’ living, I am pleased to see the return of something resembling the ‘Victory Garden’ of WW II era. Another time when this country was at ‘war’, although, I don’t subscribe to the invasion/occupation of Iraq as a ‘just war’, our troops are deployed in combat in wartime.

We chose to move away from urbania and don’t live in a cul de sac of well tended front lawns and landscaping, so I can appreciate that it is a courageous step for people who do live in those kind of ‘traditional’ neighborhoods to shift to planting vegetables in the front yard instead of trying to grow the perfect grass lawn edged by the perfect compliment of landscaped specimens.

The article mentions how neighbor concerns are met with compromise in growing vegetables in attractive ways that don’t detract. Fitting vegetables in among traditional landscaping can be done in such a way as to enhance both. I’m not sure it has to be one way or the other but a compliment of both ways. I saw a home where the front yard had been converted into raised bed gardening and it was quite attractive in a geometric kind of way.

I recently claimed a bit of our front yard to make a combination new flower and vegetable bed. I then claimed a piece along the side for more vegetables. This in addition to my actual kitchen vegetable garden which, btw, I plan to double or triple in size over the coming years. Now I will even plant a tomato plant or maybe a squash in the flower bed that faces the street as my own proud statement to the neighbors, although my neighbors where I live don’t require such a statement, they aren’t too likely to complain if I turn my entire yard into a vegetable garden and orchard.

Do it – make a statement, plant one vegetable in your front yard and then two and maybe you too will want to rip out your front lawn and grown vegetables instead.

Permanent Vegetable Garden Space – garden journal entry June 2004

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June 8, 2004
Well here goes my new journal for my gardening efforts. Like Pinocchio, I want to be a “real” gardener some day. I’ve had a hand at growing some vegetables in container pots. Last year I tried the split open top soil bags and planting the vegetables directly in the bags. Hey that worked! I had nice amount of summer squash, zucchini, pickling cucumbers, and even a hint of cherry tomatoes.

This year my husband cleared a garden space for me, I don’t know the dimensions, will ask him and post it here later. The grandkidlets are staying temporarily with us and took over the newly turned garden space into their own personal sandbox.

We had a family medical situation so I got a late start on the gardening this year. I claimed back 1/3rd of the garden space, laid down newspaper then dumped all the old last year’s potting soil from containers on top of the newspaper. Well, of course that was not near enough.

I asked my husband to buy some more potting soil, and he obliged me by purchasing 10 bags plus the 3 bags of topsoil I already had. Was enough to partially fill the newly claimed back garden space.
With such a late start, I didn’t think seeds would work out, so bought some starter vegetables and planted those. Okay, so now I have a tiny little wee garden woo hoo… and I thought I’d keep a journal of things that go wrong, and things that go right and things I learn along the way.

What I learned from last year, planting seeds is that it’s not wise to use cheap seeds, cause they are exactly that..cheap and don’t grow too well. So I’ll upgrade to better quality seeds. I did save the seeds from my mammoth russian sunflowers last year and planted them again this year. They seem to be sprouting again for 2nd year ..woo hoo for me.

See photos here(Sidebar note from summer 2004 – my sis (sil),  came out to spend a summer week with us and brought me a sweet birthday gift – a retro, 1950s, pink mixmaster to go with some of the other retro, 1950s pink items in my kitchen. When we were renting, I had a great kitchen with flowered wallpaper with pink flowers, and I was capitalizing on the Craftsman house era of the house, so I started a kind of retro era kitchen. Bought a chrome and copper formica table with pink chairs; a pink breadkeeper; a pink square cake taker and a pink Bauer chafing bowl.

We bought this house and the layout and decor just doesn’t fit well with my retro pink effort, but I haven’t the heart yet to give it up. So sis brought me an addition for the ‘pink’.

birthday gift – retro,1950s, pink mixmaster

Deersong

Vegetable Garden – Year 2 – garden journal

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June 10, 2004

I’m a frugal gardener, by that I mean whatever I can do on the cheap, by innovation, as close to free as possible. We reduced last year by choice to one income living and of necessity now, I look for the most inexpensive ways to enhance my yard and garden.

Got late start this year. But that didn’t stop me, no I bought some starter vegetables and reclaimed 1/3rd of my garden space from the grandkidlets who had homesteaded the space for a sandbox.

My husband, not much for the outdoor work, but very willing when I ask him had hand dug out the sod and lined out the space with railroad ties that he hauled from the neighbors yard across the street (it’s okay, they gifted them to us). I was sooo pleased and proud of him so couldn’t possibly let this garden space go to waste after his hard work.

I let my grandson have ownership of the tomato plants. I staked them using the aluminum prongs on an old antennae that came with the house when we bought it. My husband took that down last fall, and we figured if we saved it, the prongs might be useful as stakes in the garden. I used my mother’s tip for tying the tomato plants using old discarded pantyhose. Well it’s not very pretty, but hey, I’m practicing to be a “real” gardener so following wise gardening tips that I learn along the way.

To get the garden space ready, I put down newspapers, let the little ones hose them down (we have that breeze here ya know) so they wouldn’t blow away until I could take the next step. I went and collected all my old container pots that didn’t offer up any return plants after last year, dumped the used soil on the newspapers and that was the beginning.

I asked my husband, who I call Sweetie, to purchase some potting soil, (10 bags worth), then dumped that all into the space, bordered it off with concrete blocks and topped it with some top soil (only 3 bags, so thin layering). The concrete blocks are recycled from Sweetie’s brick and board bookcases. We got him a new bookcase for Fathers Day and I had said at 57 he was a little too old for bricks and boards concept of bookcases, that was better left to college students and aging hippies (lol).

So the little garden space has begun. I hope to claim another 1/3rd of it from the grandkidlets and convert them to caring for the garden plants, but I’m not real sure they are ready for that, as the corn plant already got stepped on.

The garden, begun in June when the plantings were just buds is growing and growing and growing. Lots of leafy plants, but few vegetables…yet! There will be vegetables, and I’m watching now daily for the plants that grew, produced flowering buds to now transform the buds to vegetables. Ah, the chance to examine how faith works, when not being scientific about the process of gardening, it boils down to trusting, following obediently the seasons’ and natures’ cues, and acting, in faith, that if you act (plant, nurture, water, protect, fertilize) the garden will grow.

Deersong