Looking back at 2021’s gardening season

We had a decent summer. I got really busy and have not updated here in awhile. My main garden is fenced, inside another fence (for our dogs). The deer have not really gotten in until this year – my dogs are getting older and I guess don’t really bark at the deer when they come in. The deer figured this out and essentially annihilated my main garden toward the end of the season. They ate all my tomatoes, and zucchini, and anything else they found out there. I did get a good harvest but I had to get what I could before they could eat it all. There are some things I didn’t even get to harvest because of the deer, including cauliflower and broccoli. Looking forward to next year, I’m going to have to make my garden fence taller, or something. I’ll figure that out. Luckily they didn’t get into our cottage garden (not sure why, but I’ll take it). For now, here are some cool pictures of the end of our gardening season 2021:

Mid Season Bounty

Our garden is growing like crazy! Some vegetables are starting to ripen, and we’re eating lots of fresh stuff. We had a lot of lettuce, which I’ve been trying to pick before it bolts. We have had zucchinis galore! I’m growing three kinds this year, a regular green type, a yellow zucchini, and Zucchini Rampicante (a long type that curls). I’ve even just picked a couple of vine-ripened tomatoes! (Usually I’m waiting on some of those till later in the season). My garlic is almost ready, and we’re getting cabbage. Below you can see the photos of the garden:

Garden updates late June 2021

The garden is doing well. We’ve had a weird June. Some colder temps here and there. I’ve had to re-seed several things a few times, and some of those just didn’t take after all that. I had to re-seed gourds, zucchini, cucumbers, and broccoli. My beans have done horribly (I planted them too deep maybe? or soaked them too long when the package said to soak overnight). I have 8 bean plants out of 2 packets I planted. But most things are growing well. Here are some updated pics:

Here are some Valerian and Daisies that are growing at the front of our old chicken coop.
Here is a fairy door my husband put in, against the chicken coop/cottage building. The flower bed in front of it is supposed to be full of poppies. They are slowly appearing (I seeded it with tons but it’s not as full as it should have been).

Here are pics of Canterbury Bells that I planted LAST YEAR but never came up. (Or I didn’t realize they came up last year, they didn’t flower); along with some white Black-Eyed Susan vine (growing in our Moon garden).

Here are some Dead Man’s Fingers mushrooms. I found some of these last year in this same spot, and there are more growing in the garden nearby. They are weird looking but pretty cool. I read online that there must be wood fragments under the soil because their mycelium feed on wood.

As you can see, the garden is coming along well. I just wish I didn’t have to re-seed things.

Garden updates May 2021

Our yard the week of 5/21/21.

Our spring was very cold for awhile, and then the last couple weeks it’s been super hot. It was 85 degrees yesterday and humid. Today it’s in the 40s. Tomorrow it is supposed to warm back up. It gets hard to plan your garden and planting when you’re not sure if the weather is going to cooperate. Here where we are situated, I follow a couple of different Last Frost dates – one for Houghton, Michigan, and one for Marquette (they are each about an hour or two away from me, I’m in the middle). According to my source, these two towns which are only a couple hours away from one another, are about 2 weeks different in terms of last frost date. One is mid May, one is late May. Then our weather can vary from day to day. It can be really hot and make you think “oh, I can plant those tomatoes” and then we get frost. Or even snow! I saw we might get some slight snow / rain showers in a couple days. But the temps shouldn’t be too cold where I’m that worried about us getting it. Anyway, I planted the last bits of my garden this weekend (before I saw that snow prediction). If I have to cover things, I will. I do have one or two things still waiting in the house – ginger, which can’t take ANY cold at all, and some gourds I’m waiting to sprout.

Here are some updated pictures of our gardens the last couple of weeks:

The garden is growing and our spring is definitely under way. Hopefully the weather keeps cooperating.

Still waiting for real spring

Our yard. It’s green at the moment, but it keeps raining/snowing, and it’s not very warm out.

Our weather is still being finicky (not unusual for the Upper Peninsula, but it’s still disappointing). We had an early snow melt in March, with nice warm temps – it got us all excited for an early spring. We still are mostly snow-free, but out temps keep being kind of chilly. Too cold to really do much outside, I feel. We keep getting rain/snow mix precipitation too, so we have woken up to about an inch of snow here and there. I started to clean the garden up a bit yesterday, it was in the 50s, maybe into the 60s. But today it’s colder. We are supposed to get an inch of snow today. But the daffodils are blooming! My tulips are coming up. I planted a new variety of strawberries outside a few weeks back and they are growing now. And my garlic is all up, about 3 inches out of the soil.

I know it will get warmer (and stop raining and snowing all the time) and I’ll be able to do some stuff outside soon. But for now I am just taking comfort in my future garden – a lot of which I have already started in the house. I have tomatoes, peppers, ginger, and a lot of herbs and flowers started. They are all growing nicely.

Some of my seedlings. These are some various herbs, flowers and cabbage. The back of the photo shows some of my onion seedlings.

I’ve been using old mushroom containers as grow containers for my seedlings. I used an awl and popped holes in the bottom of each container, and the mushroom containers are all on boot trays, so any extra water drains onto those. I have about 40+ mushroom trays of plants here. The last pic above is my ginger. I bought a pound of seed ginger from Fedco Seeds ( a company in Maine) this winter. It came in March and I’ve been working on sprouting them. I tried a couple years ago with about 3 roots, from a different company, and didn’t have as much success. This time the pound I bought came out to about 12 roots. All of the roots are starting to come up, or are just about to. I just had to be really sparing with watering, and super patient with them. The ginger is all planted just under the soil in an old plastic planting flat, and that is sitting on a heat mat. The directions Fedco sent said that consistent heat is needed, and to water sparingly until they come up. I give them a light spray once a day. They are prone to rotting until they come up above the soil if they get too much water. I will be putting these in my greenhouse once it’s warm enough outside and they are bigger.

Hopefully the weather will turn better here in the next week or so and I’ll be able to get back outside comfortably. Like I said, the daffodils are starting to bloom, so that is a good sign.

One of the first daffodils to bloom in 2021 (in my yard).

Garden Planning 2021

It’s the middle of winter here in the U.P. We have a bunch of snow, and more on the way today.  Typically this time of year I am planning my garden, but I was way ahead of the game this time, and actually drew up plans in the late summer/early fall of last year.  I was taking a look at what had worked, what I was tired of picking, what things we didn’t want to grow again this coming year.  Because last year was such a mess trying to get seeds (with Covid lockdowns, and everyone wanting to grow a garden suddenly, seed companies were out of things –  I had to order from 5 different places to get all the varieties I wanted), I just stocked up in the fall.  So I really don’t need to get any new seeds this year. I might add a couple things as spring gets here. We’ll see.

Here you can see my snowy cottage garden as it looked this morning: (We are getting a bunch more snow as I type this).

I started my onions in January – they are doing pretty well. I am growing a large yellow variety called Ailsa Craig. I am on an ongoing quest to get really big onions. Last year I had some get to a decent size, like a small baseball size, but not the full size they could have gotten. We just recently used up the end of my saved onion stash, and we were down to a lot of tiny 1-inch onions at the end. I am hoping to increase the amount of large onions I grow, and hopefully get less smaller ones. Even if that means growing less onions, so be it. Besides those large onions, I’m also growing leeks, green onions, and shallots from seeds. I also started some red onions – the seeds are from year before last, so they are not as viable as I’d like, but I got some to sprout. Onion seeds only last about a year or so – a lot of other seeds are viable for longer. I have been fertilizing my onion sprouts this year – something I read about this winter. I’m hoping that I will have close to pencil-width onions ready to go into the ground by April or May (probably May but a girl can hope for an April warm-up).

I planned this year’s gardens last fall, just drawing up a plan on a couple pieces of paper. I did go through all my seeds this fall, and I made a big spreadsheet so I know what I have to work with. I then had to decide what to NOT grow this year. I tend to want to just grow it all – I am using some restraint and only using about half my seed varieties for this coming year. Below are my plans I drew up:

As you can see, I’ve changed things a little bit here and there – there are some scribbles where I made revisions, but going in I knew a few things we’d do differently this year. We had too many winter squash last year, and I have frozen a lot of them. I fed extras to the deer before they could go bad on us (and because we got really sick of squash). I won’t be growing any winter squash. I’m growing 2 plants of cucumbers (2 varieties, one plant of each). I’m only growing 12 tomato plants total! (I had over 24 last year). We still have a lot of frozen tomatoes. They are good but we were a bit overrun in the fall and I got really tired of harvesting them. The only problem with planning is you never know what the weather in the summer will be like. I hope we have a nice hot summer and those 12 tomato plants actually produce as well as they did last year.

I took the seeds that I decided to grow this year, and set up groups (all rubber-banded together) in terms of when they get started and where – so I have a big group of “start inside in March” that will get started around the first official day of spring. I have a few types of seeds in the fridge cold-stratifying, those all will get started in March – those include two types of Milkweed/butterfly weed. I’d like to get some established in my yard for the Monarch butterflies. I also have some sets of “Start outside” for as soon as the snow is gone and I can get into the soil, and “start outside May/June” for after the last frost (mid-late may, depending on who you ask). I ordered a couple of things that should be coming this spring – Ginger for sprouting (probably coming late March) and also more Strawberry plants – I think those come in April or May.

I’m excited for this year’s upcoming garden. For now I am just looking out the window at our snowy yard and dreaming of spring.

End of Season thoughts

We had a great gardening season. I’ve been so busy with the harvest that I have not had time to post anything. Fall has come and almost gone – winter seems like it is coming early this year. We’ve had close to freezing temps for weeks already, which is not typical for us. I think a lot of the upper U.S. is in this weather pattern as well. I have not yet planted my garlic – I ordered from one website, and then saw that it was back-ordered, and they were not going to be shipping till late October. I typically plant the first or 2nd week, so I cancelled it. I ordered from another place that I know grows their own garlic, thinking that they would ship quicker. I ended up having to order a different kind, but it’s still a Porcelein type of garlic (they typically have 4-6 large cloves per garlic head). They have not shipped yet either, so I called this week, and they shipped it for me yesterday – I have a blanket on the garlic bed, trying to keep my ground from freezing before I can plant the garlic.

Our front yard on October 17th. Not a nice sight to wake up to – I’m not ready for snow yet. It luckily melted the next day.

With our hot summer this year, some vegetables grew fantastically, and other plants didn’t do so well. Some things I thought did horribly but as we cooled down they surprised me – our cauliflower grew really large, but didn’t head until September after the rest of the garden was dying. We had a whole lot of squash and tomatoes. I have so much squash that I don’t think I will plant any next year, at least not winter squash.

Here are squash waiting on the porch after picking. I ended up putting them in the greenhouse to cure so they will last most of the winter.

Last year I planted 3 plants of butternut squash, and got about 1 per plant. This year, I planted three butternut and three Gete Okosomin squash plants. The butternut gave us 11 very large squashes, and the Gete Okosomin gave us 28 – the largest was 25 pounds. These things were massive. Our super-hot summer really helped.

Another pic of some of our squash (with a couple of our Jarrahdale pumpkins).
Here are the squash being stored in our house. We are using them as we are able. Eventually I might have to cook them up to freeze them, but we are currently out of space in our freezer.

We bought a pig for meat from a butcher / farmer this year, and our freezer has run out of room with that and all the vegetables. I have a lot of tomatoes that I just froze instead of canning, and a lot of zucchini that I froze, besides the pork. I am hoping the squash will mostly last for us through the winter since I cured them for awhile. I will check them here and there to make sure they aren’t softening.

We had too many cucumbers this year – we tried to make pickles but we just got tired of them. So that is something I won’t grow next year, or maybe a plant or two. I had at least 6 plants this year – too many. I also grew Patty pan squash but we weren’t very excited about them. I grew some Zucchini Rampicante, a curly long zucchini variety – they were really nice. The plants sprawl everywhere, so I’ll trellis them next year, but the flavor was really good and if you forget them or don’t find one until late, they turn into winter squash. They just harden up a bit on the outside and turn from green to brown (like a butternut color).

Pumpkins we grew (the orange one is not from my garden). They are called Jarrahdale, a white / light green pumpkin. Most were left outside as decoration, but I took one in so we can eat it later. The ones outside are doing ok but they have frozen and thawed, so probably wouldn’t be good for eating. I’ll open them up for the deer after Halloween.

This year was pretty good for our gardens. I don’t like the cold of winter, but I do like that we get a time to slow down. I’ll start getting the mid-winter gardening itch probably in January once we’ve had snow for awhile.

(Pictures in this post are all courtesy of my husband, Elton Powell).

Early August Garden Updates, 2020

We’ve had a lot of things happening – it was really hot for the beginning of summer, so my garden was growing like crazy. We’ve cooled down a bit for the last few days, and today it got sunny again. Here are some nice pictures of our gardens and yard:

bee balm
Some bee balm growing against the house. I split this plant – took some and put it in the cottage garden.

destroyed garden 2
Last month, I went out and found that my beautiful herb spiral was ruined by something – we suspect skunks. They moved the rocks, and then have been digging for grubs or something. Some plants survived – they didn’t eat the plants, just messed them up on their way to the grubs.

destroyed garden
Here you can see another spot where my spiral was messed up, but not as bad. I tried fixing the spiral for a couple days and then gave up. I will get some motion lights to try to deter the skunks before I try recreating it.

squash jungle
Here is the squash jungle. This part is butternut squash.

gete okosomin
Here are a couple baby Gete Okosomin squash. There are tons of them on the 3 plants I am growing.

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Here is a Gete Okosomin that we accidentally picked early. It was in a weird spot and I wanted to keep it off the ground – I went to adjust it and knocked it off the vine. It was 6 pounds. They can get up to around 20 lbs when ripe. We cut it up and it was soft like zucchini, so I used it as I would zucchini this week.

gourd plants
Here are the gourd plants. They are both birdhouse gourds. I had a mixed pack – there is one plant that is very tiny by the door in the background. I don’t know that I’ll actually get any gourds from it. I was hoping for a bowl gourd plant.  But birdhouse ones are nice. I want to make some cool gourd art eventually.

gourd flower
Here are the gourd flowers. They are really cool, I was expecting them to look like squash flowers. I like how these are growing, they just look really whimsical.

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Here are some gourds getting bigger on the vine.

tall sunflower
Our giant rogue sunflower (grew from last year’s seed, randomly in the garden). This was just before something knocked it over – it was broken at the base but still connected. I tried tying it up to save it. It still flowered but the leaves look dead.

tall sunflower 2
Here is the bloom – for a few days after I tied it back up,  the leaves would wilt by end of day, but be all healthy looking by morning. But for the last few days the leaves have been wilted all day. It now has 3 blooms though, even though the leaves look sad.

red sunflower
Here is my first red sunflower – one I started from seed this year (on purpose instead of volunteer/rogue).

squash jungle 2
Another picture of the squash jungle, from inside the garden fence.

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Here is a terra cotta frog I have in the cottage garden. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)

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The terra cotta frog sits under the foxglove. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)

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Here is another view of the foxglove. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)

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I’m growing Balsam for the first time – the blooms are pretty. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)

toad
Here is a little helper, (well, kind of a big helper), Mr. toad. He was living in the main garden, I found him under my tomatoes.

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I’ve been wanting a wind spinner. I have a plastic colorful one, but I wanted a metal one. I had some scrap aluminum sheet, so I made my own. I just made it the other day so I have not seen it actually spin in the wind yet. We’ll see how this works. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)

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My Wizard has a friend. This black and white kitty comes to our yard sometimes. She has stayed with various neighbors around here, but I don’t know what home she originally came from. My son named her Shadow. She and Wizzy are good friends. (photo courtesy Elton Powell)

Early July – Garden Growth Explosion!

Things are growing really well around here. We’ve had really hot weather, with temps in the 80s and 90s. It’s also been super humid, but we haven’t had a lot of rain – we have been getting rain maybe once every couple weeks, it seems. We got a decent thunderstorm the other night but I’ve been having to keep up with watering everything every couple days so that plants don’t die on me. We haven’t really had to mow our grass much, weirdly. The lack of water is helping us there.  Usually our lawn a bit of a jungle. Below are some updated pictures of our yard and gardens:

persimmon
I’ve been wanting to add Persimmons to my yard for awhile. American Persimmons SHOULD survive here, they are supposedly hardy to zone 4. (we are zone 5). I have been daunted by the prices I’ve seen around, but then a couple weeks ago I saw Musser Forests had a deal on potted ones, I got 2 for $8 each (so a good deal). You need two to get fruit. We will probably have to wait years before that happens, but that is fine.

deer proof persimmon
We found some old chicken wire and made a deer guard for the Persimmon trees. They are settling in wonderfully.

mulched arborvitae
I mulched the rest of the trees up front as well. Our Arborvitae were starting to be lost in the grass, since we can’t mow there anymore. So they, the lilacs, and the elder trees and gooseberry bush all were mulched too.

one week difference
What a change a week makes! I took the pic on the left last week, and the right one today. With our heat, everything is just exploding out there. The squash plants and the tomatoes are loving this summer.

gete okosomin plant
Here is a Gete Okosomin squash. I’m getting worried that these are going to take over but it will be an adventure training them along my fence. I’ve had to move branches of theirs and of the butternut squash plants a few times already.

gete okosomin
Here is the start of a Gete Okosomin squash – I’m hoping this flower was pollinated, and then this fruit will keep growing.

patty pan
I see a patty pan starting. I’m growing some Gelber Englischer Custard Squash – like an orange patty pan. They are supposed to be really good. I have three other types of summer squash as well, but this is the only patty pan type.

tomato
I have tomatoes fruiting all over the place. I’ve been wrangling the plants, tying them up to their trellises. I’m going to have to go in and start cutting some of the lower branches soon, to make it not such a jungle.

lemongrass
Here is my lemon grass. I’m just keeping it in the greenhouse. It seems to be doing pretty well.

foxglove
My foxglove plant made a new flower stock, which shows that it is settling in where I put it.

bean flowers
My beans are finally getting flowers. These are Roma Bush beans, they are supposed to be a wider green bean. They were slow to start, and then I reseeded and the old seeds came up just after that (of course). And then the deer ate a bunch of the tops, so I was worried I wouldn’t actually get any beans. But this is promising.

gourds
Here you can see my gourd plants, trying to reach for the sun. I have now attached a couple of tall sticks to the fence here (thick trellis-like sticks) so that they can keep climbing. I’ll get some pics of those for next time. I’m growing these from a mixed pack of gourds, so I’m not sure what they are – I’m hoping they are birdhouse or this large round kind. (You can make bowls with the large round kind).

chicken house before
We are starting a project – a Moon Garden! I saw an article in a recent Farmer’s Almanac Magazine about moon gardens. So we cleared this wall (the old chicken house) – it had a bunch of junk sitting against it for a long time. We painted it white. Here is the before picture (I of course didn’t think to get the “before” pic before starting to paint it)

chicken house after
Here it is painted. The idea is to have a bunch of white and light colored flowers, mixed with green. When the moon hits the garden, everything should glow nicely and make a nice scene. That is the idea anyway. I have a few plants I want to move, and some seeds I’ve ordered for other things. Then we just have to wait for it all to grow and bloom.

Deer Devastation

Our strawberries have been coming in well – I had gotten a couple cups a few days ago, and at that time there were a bunch almost ripe and ready to pick. So yesterday morning,  I walked out to the strawberry patch to harvest, and came across this sight:

deer eaten strawberries

A deer got into my strawberry patch and eaten the tops and the berries off most of my plants. The way they were eaten and the amount taken points to deer. And we have deer in the yard a lot. Here is what the plants were SUPPOSED to look like:

stawberries last week
My strawberry plants last week.

Luckily they just got the tops of the plants, so the plants will live to give me strawberries next year. I have it all fenced with a makeshift gate, but the gate had been off, since I don’t have to worry about chickens getting in there. The deer must have figured out she could get in through the open door.  The deer also got into the open gate of the cottage garden (which I also had left open since we don’t have chickens anymore) and tried a bunch of other things. She must have thought it was a salad bar:

deer eaten beans
Some of my green bean plants got the tops taken off.

The deer ate some bean plants, some chard, some lettuce, a bunch of my orach, some Borage and some broccoli. She wanted nothing to do with the huge patch of Kale or Asian greens that the chard and orach were between, for some reason.  This deer just came in and had a taste of random things.  A lot of herbs were untouched as well, fortunately. I have since made sure that gates are closed, and also got some fence to cover things a bit – I laid pieces of fence a little over so the plants are okay but the deer can’t get to the leaves, just in case they decide to just hop the fence to get some more salad. I was lucky that they didn’t completely devastate anything, but it was close. I only will get a few more strawberries, not the nice crop I was hoping for.

One bright spot was that my poppies are starting to bloom:

poppy

I’ve been trying to get poppies started for a few years and usually the seedlings disappear after I plant them. I put a ton in this year and they are all coming up and now this was the first bloom.