Planning & Planting in Early May

We have had a strange spring, it’s finally warming up again. Our weather was warming when I last posted, and then we got more snow over the Easter weekend – about a foot. That melted after a week or so, so we are finally getting into actual spring here.   I planted some tulips in the fall and those are emerging now, and our daffodils are getting ready to bloom soon.  We’ve been adding some stuff to the yard, planning the garden, and we put up a greenhouse yesterday! Here are some pictures of our farm in early May:

garden
The main garden is getting ready for planting, although we have a while before our last frost date. We put in newspaper and cardboard covered with old chicken bedding as mulch, to try to keep weeds down this year. Next I’ll be turning the actual beds for planting.
onions
Here are the onions, I am starting to harden them off so I can put them in the garden soon. This picture was just before I took them out to the porch to harden off.
seedlings 2
Some seedlings – these are mostly cauliflower I think.
seedlings 1
More seedlings. I am growing 10 types of tomatoes this year!
asparagus
Here are the asparagus. I’m growing two kinds, and planning out their permanent bed – we’ll be putting that in soon.
haskap 2
I planted some Honeyberries, or Haskap. They are a cold-hardy oblong blue berry, that is supposed to taste something like a cross between strawberry and raspberry.
haskap
Here is another Haskap. I put in 4 bushes. I got these from Honeyberry USA, out of Northern Minnesota.
gooseberry
Here is our Gooseberry bush, I got it a few years ago, but planted it next to the house. It really didn’t thrive there, because it was always crowded by weeds and wildflowers,  but it lived. So I just transplanted it into our front yard so it will hopefully do better there. We do tend to get gooseberries from it, but only like 4 or 5 per year so far. Maybe it will get more this year since it has more room. I also fenced it against deer in case they decide that it looks tasty.
elderberry
Here is one of the elderberries – I just put in two trees in our front yard, and circled them both with fencing to keep the deer from eating them. I have attempted to plant them before but had deer destroy them. This time they are protected.
arborvitae 2
We got some Emerald Green Arborvitae to make a privacy hedge in our front yard – here they are – they are all just under a foot tall right now – they should grow 12-15 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide, so they’ll make a nice hedge.
tiny arborvitae
Here is another view of the arborvitae. We put in 10 in a little haphazard row to make the hedge. We fenced this also, to keep the deer from wrecking them.  Luckily this part of the yard doesn’t grow grass very quickly so it won’t really need mowing while they grow in.
greenhouse
Here is our greenhouse! My uncle gave it to me in the fall. He had had it sitting in his garage (had been given it by our other uncle) and neither uncle wanted to use it anymore so they gave it to us. We put it up yesterday, and then extended our dog fence around it (so it will be easier to access from the backyard where the garden is). It’s approximately 10×10 feet. It’s pretty nice, we are happy with how it went up.
wizard
My cat, Wizard was investigating the greenhouse and decided to pose for some pictures.
wizard 2
Here is another picture of Wizard. He is excited to be able to explore outside without dealing with snow. We are all happy it is spring.

Spring is here, 2020

Spring is finally here – it comes a little late to us here in the U.P.  I am on a lot of garden groups online and have seen all sorts of people showing their gardens already, and we are just seeing the snow melting now.  I’ve been a bit jealous this spring but my turn will come soon, since it’s warming up now.

We made the difficult decision this spring to get rid of our poultry – the costs for feeding them all were getting too hard for us, so we sold them to our neighbors, who were happy to get already-laying hens and ducks. I do miss them but it’s for the best.  I will be using their old chicken yard for gardens for greens and herbs, and there are spots I can un-fence now – the deer don’t bother these areas but the chickens always liked to dust bathe in a few spots and would decimate plants, if there was no fence. I can take those fences out now.

I went around today and took some pictures of our yard, here is how the snow melt is going:

old chicken yard
Here is the old chicken yard. I have a plan to take this whole space over with plants this year.
garlic
Here is an existing garden – the snow is right over where I planted garlic and shallots in the fall.
cat in rafters
While taking pics, I heard meowing from the old chicken house. My cat, Wizard was inside, up in the rafters, chasing mice. He didn’t go in when the chickens were here, but he’s been spending a lot of time in there now.
back garden
Here is a back garden space, we are thinking of adding a porch where the big doors are. We’ll see if that happens this year.
strawberries
Here you can see my strawberry plants are waking up.
snow melting
Our yard.  We still have a lot of snow, especially where there were banks around the house. I am glad to see it melting.
crocus purple
Our crocuses are up! Here are some purple ones.
crocus yellow
Yellow crocus.
iris
Here you can see a bearded iris – I found them on sale in the fall and got a dozen – they are planted around our oak tree in the front – they all seem to be coming up.
spruce trees
Here are our spruce trees in the front. The little one looks like it still needs to recover from being completely buried by snow all winter. The largest one is about 4 feet, and that one was peeking out of the snow, but we had times where the other two were completely buried.
onions
I started onions in February – they are doing well. I am planning on starting tomatoes and stuff today so they are nice and big for transplanting into the garden in June.
poppies
Here are some poppies, I started these in February as well. I have tried to start them in May before and they are always really small when I’ve transplanted, and they don’t seem to survive. So I thought I would try to have them larger for transplant. If this year doesn’t work I’ll throw seeds in directly in the fall so they come up next year.

End of the 2019 gardening season

It is now mid-October and our weather is taking a turn for the worse. We’ve had a month or so of way too much rain, with a few days of nice temperatures and sun thrown in, until this past weekend – I had ice on my car window yesterday morning. I knew this was coming so we pretty much pulled everything in that remained outside.  I experimented a bit this year, I grew some sunchokes and some crosnes – those grew but never flowered. The deer ate most of the sunchoke plants the other day. I am leaving them where they are to see if they will come up again in the spring.  I grew peanuts and ginger. Our ginger did really well in the early part of the season, with our hot weather, but then we got lots of rain in the later part of the summer and the temperatures really weren’t warm enough – I have two plants and I have pulled them both in the house to keep growing, under grow lights.  My peanuts, however, did really well, despite the rainy later summer/fall.  Below you will see some highlights of this year’s garden:

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Carrots – I didn’t get a lot but most of them were very large.
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My two pumpkin / hubbard squashes – seeds for these were from the same “Heirloom” pumpkin I bought last year at Walmart. These were on separate plants, as best I can tell,  but the seeds were from the one pumpkin. I’d be interested to see what other variations come from these seeds. I suspect they weren’t actually heirloom or were cross pollinated somehow when they grew them.
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A nicer photo of my carrots, all cleaned up so you can see the colors.
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Fort Portal Jade beans. I have not tasted these yet because I am waiting for the rest of the pods to dry. I brought all the bean pods in to dry inside because of the wet weather.
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My beets. I got a lot of plants but not very big (I failed to thin them at all so they didn’t have a lot of room to get big). These were mostly about 1-2 inch diameter beets.
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Here are the peanuts! We got one pound of peanuts out of a small packet of seeds (5 shells total that I planted). I was worried these were going to rot in the ground because of the rain this fall, so I pulled them; when I did I found that they were already ready to harvest.
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Peanuts cleaned up and ready for roasting. They were pretty good tasting. We plan on growing these again.
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Some of my other bean pods (a cranberry type bean) and the last of my scallions from the garden.
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A teeny tiny cauliflower. I did get one decent sized head, but most were this size. This is the first year I got them to actually create heads, so I feel that this was a successful year for these, for me.

I still have a few things in the ground that may be ok till the ground freezes – kale, brocolli, and some brussel sprouts. I planted my garlic and some shallots last week and covered them with some straw.  All in all, I feel 2019 was a pretty good gardening year. I do wish the rain would spread itself out over the whole season instead of walloping us either early or late – this year we got nothing in the spring and way too much in the later part of the season. I am already thinking of what to plan for next year’s garden.

Carrots, Sunflowers, and Purple Mashed Potatoes

We’ve been busy in the garden.  I am starting to get carrots now – I had planted seed tapes this spring, with tons of carrots. My double dug beds are supposed to allow you to cram things in, so I had seed tapes next to each other and carrot seeds spaced about 3 inches between (so I wouldn’t have to thin.)  Because of our lack of early summer rain, the seed tapes didn’t do so well. I got several carrots, but they are spaced way far between – I planted about 140 with the seed tapes and I think there are maybe 20 or so that have done anything – but they are HUGE.  I had a couple that were popping out of the ground, so I picked them – they were mostly dark purple and 11-12 inches long.  I had planted a mixed blend (old seeds I had on hand), plus these dark purple carrots called Black Nebula, and some yellow and orange carrots.

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Some of our first carrots. The purple ones are Black Nebula (I got from Baker Creek Seeds) – they are purple all the way through. I grew a different purple kind last year but only the outside was purple – with an orange center. These are nice, they just taste like normal carrots. (I couldn’t tell a difference, anyway.)
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Here you can see these purple ones have a lot of hairy little roots – those washed right off luckily.
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I was making mashed potatoes and decided to see if one of the Black Nebula carrots could color them. I cut one carrot up and boiled it with the potatoes in a pot – the water turned all black, and when mashed, we got purple mashed potatoes!
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I have a ton of sunflowers and was thinking it would be nice if I had some other colors besides yellow. I forgot I had planted a mixed seed bag – we had a couple of red ones open this weekend. Here is one (with the yellows).
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Here is another one – this one is more orange colored.
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More yellow – these sunflowers are all about 7-8 feet, I am estimating.

The garden is doing well, but we are getting into fall and the Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting some yucky weather later this month.  (They talked about a snow/rain mix at the end of September. Yuck. I hope they are wrong). Hopefully I’ll get all my vegetables to ripen before we have to worry about frost or snow.

Tomatoes in August, and lots of squash

The garden is doing really well. We are getting ripe tomatoes in August! Typically it’s into September before we get any.  More exciting pictures below!

tomatos
Some of our tomatoes – I’ve been watching for them to start turning pink. Then I pull them in because I don’t want to tempt fate. I left a roma to ripen on the vine and it started getting blossom end rot. So I’ve been letting them start to turn and pulling them in.
big ripe tomato
Here is the big tomato in the previous picture, now ripe.  It ripened on our counter.
round squash
We have lots of squash – I saved seeds from an Heirloom pumpkin (I think some kind of hubbard squash) – I have two plants, and both of them seem to be growing different shapes of fruit. This one has things that look like this, rounded. The other one has big pumpkin shaped green and yellow squashes. We’ll see what we end up with. Either way, it’s very exciting.
pumpkin
I received pumpkins from a coworker in the fall and saved seeds – he had grown them locally. This is one of those pumpkins. The plant has two fruits that I can tell, and they both are oblong like this and currently zucchini colored.
butternut
Here is my butternut squash – this fruit grew from almost nothing in about a week’s time.
giant pumpkin
Here is the other heirloom squash. This one continues to grow. I am wondering if the color will change much when it ripens, or how it will change.
onions
We harvested onions today – I got 110 yellow, and 20 red. I had been taking them here and there for cooking as well, so we grew a little more than that.
calendula
Some of our calendula – these were two plants that have merged into one mass of flowers.
sunflowers
More sunflowers keep blooming.
sugar rush peach pepper
Here is one of my Sugar Rush Peach peppers – it’s not ripe yet – they are supposed to be an orange color.
bee
Here is a bee that was sunning itself on our porch.

The garden is really doing well – a lot of stuff is starting to wind down though. I can’t believe it’s already almost September.  But the season is still in full swing.

Farm updates early August

Everyone is very busy around here – the garden is giving us a lot of vegetables, and showing us a lot more to come. New pictures below:

bee balm
Here is some bee balm (bergamot) I didn’t know I had – I planted it last year but it didn’t actually show up / bloom till now. In the spring I had what I thought was Moldavian balm coming back, but then it bloomed into these. It is really pretty and the bees love it.
bee on the balm
Here is a bee enjoying the bee balm.
atat and downey
Our dogs, Downey at Atat (Atat is in front) playing outside. They miss Nova but they seem to be taking her loss ok.
goldendrod
Here is some goldenrod that is in my hollyhock bed / weed garden. The bees really like this as well.
hollyhock
We have hollyhocks again! The chickens had decimated them, and so last year I fenced the bed and planted some new hollyhocks – only a couple plants lived till this year, and now one is blooming.  (The fence got knocked down a bit by snow falling from our roof, so it’s a little bent in- hence the hollyhock is actually growing through the top of the fence.)
big tomoato
A monster tomato waiting to ripen. I noticed my cherry tomatoes are starting to turn, so hopefully we’ll have some ripe ones soon.
cantaloupe
Here is a cantaloupe, I have found there are at least two growing. I grew this kind last year and I don’t think we even got one melon. I changed the location this year and they seem to like it.
chilis
Our first peppers are getting big – these are a “Sugar Rush Peach Hot pepper.” They should be orange, sweet and hot.
pumpkin
Here is one of the pumpkins we have growing.
rooster
A couple of our young roosters. The one in the center – I really like his coloring so I think this is probably the one we’ll keep (along with Bertram). We have many contenders this year for “2nd rooster.” We are waiting to see how annoying they get with their crowing, and if any get really aggressive. Mean and annoying roosters don’t stick around long.
rooster band
And here are a lot of the roosters. Most of (if not all of) the chickens in this picture are boys. The gray one on the left might not be, and the buff one on the left with her head down is most likely a hen. We had a white rooster also but he was crowing incessantly and he was not on the “keep” shortlist, so we took him out last week. We now have 28 chickens. 7 or 8 boys, we think, besides Bertram. We might list some of these guys on Craigslist, but it is hard to get rid of roosters.
short corn
Here is some of my corn. This is an “Art Verelli’s” variety.  I had read that the stalks don’t get very tall, and these are about 4 feet tall – so very short for corn. They already are forming ears. My other variety is a regular sweet corn variety and that one is still just getting tall, with no ears yet.
squash
Here is one of my grocery store pumpkins (I think a Hubbard squash, actually). They were supposed to be heirloom squash so I saved seeds, and here we are.
summer squash
Our summer squash are starting to be prolific. You can see our light zucchini, the yellow squash, and our patty pan squash here. I also have one plant that produces dark green zucchini.
watermelon
Our watermelon is doing good – I need to make some kind of sling for this one – I’m worried the weight will break the stem eventually.
sunflower
Here is a bloom from our second sunflower to bloom – I have many blooms on our first one, but this is the 2nd plant to give us a show.
garden
A picture of the right side of our garden. The weeds have caught up with me a bit, but my plants are not being overrun, so I’m just not worrying about it unless they are. (There is carpeting in the path, that was an old rug we cut up in an effort to keep weeds out of the main path).
garden 2
A better pic of my main garden as of yesterday.

Rest in Peace, Sweet Nova

Nova
Here is Nova enjoying the sunshine and some petting.

We lost our wonderful dog Nova this past Monday. She started coughing in late June, and our vet at first thought it was bronchitis. A week or so later she started coughing blood – they did an x-ray and she had a massive tumor in her lung.  The nearest vets that do any kind of biopsy are way down in Wisconsin, or way down in the Lower Peninsula; the tumor was pressing on her trachea (actually bending it) so we figured the best thing to do was to keep her comfortable for whatever time we had left.  I hoped it would have been longer, but it was only about a month.

nova

We had her for almost 4 years. Nova was a yellow lab mix. She came to live with us in November of 2015; Her story as we know it starts when she was roughly 2 years old, she was a stray dog down in Georgia, found with a dog that they figured was her daughter.  She was adopted from a shelter by my former coworker’s son, who was in the Air Force down there at the time. She was with him for a couple of years until they moved back up here. Nova lived with my coworker for a little while, since her son could not keep Nova at his new apartment, but she seemed lonely there.  I had two other dogs so my coworker let us take her so she would always have someone around.  She was a very good dog, she loved to eat (too much – we had to buy her a “slow down” bowl).  She loved to eat apples off the ground when they fell off of our tree. She loved cuddling with us on the couch. She loved to play with her dog brothers, Downey and Atat, and she loved to sit in the sunshine.  Her favorite thing was to get petted by people. She didn’t care who it was, or what else they were doing (cutting her nails, etc) as long as she was being petted.

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Our hearts are broken but at least she is not hurting anymore.  We will miss our sweet little dog.

nova ears

Poultry in Summertime

Our chickens and ducks have been enjoying this summer. We let them free range when we are home, and they love to wander around our yard, looking for yummy things to eat. We currently have 4 ducks and 29 chickens (14 adults, 15 chicks/almost adults). Here are some updated pictures of the flock:

older ducks
Here are our older lady ducks. These two and the new ducks still hang out in two pairs, mostly. We can tell them apart because these ladies have dark-stained bills, the newbies have orange bills.
newbie ducks
Here are the new ducks, they were running away when I tried to take their picture. Another way to tell the pairs apart is that the male (in back, here) quacks softly, all the time. So you always know where he is in the yard.
Esky
Here is Esky (short for Escape Artist). She is one of our oldest hens, and the only one who lays white eggs.
esky daughter
Here is Esky’s daughter – she has the same comb as her mom, and was born the next year (so is about 3 years old)
brahmas
Here are our two Buff Brahmas, they were enjoying a dust bath. They along with Esky make up our 4 year old hens.
bertram
Here is our older (2 years old?) rooster Bertram, patrolling the yard.
food
Here are a bunch of chickens coming for treats. The black hen at the front is an older lady, and most of the rest are chicks from this year. You can see some of the coloring now – some of the chicks have really amazing feather patterns.
orloff son
I believe this is a young rooster, and he looks like a young Bertram.
chicks
Here are more chicks – they are all different – some light, some bright orange, some black and gray. We have a lot of muff-necked chickens now.
red and brown
Here is one of the really cool looking ones – orange and black with a muff neck.
white roo
Here is one of our young roosters. If you look back at our chick pics, this one was the one with little cat-eye eyeliner. He likes to come out of the coop each morning and crow before Bertram does. Bertram doesn’t seem to mind just yet.
buff hen
Here is a Buff-Orpington looking hen (she seems docile like a hen, anyway) as well as the back of our older Brahma’s head.

 

The Garden is Growing!

We started off this summer a little dry, but we’ve been getting more rain now, along with hot, humid weather. The garden is very happy about this – my plants are growing like crazy. Here are some photos of the garden from this weekend:

yellow sky
The sunset from a couple of nights ago. We looked out and the sky was yellow, so we had to take pictures.
garden 1
Here is the left side of the main garden. (Taken from my porch, where I usually look out at the garden).
garden 2
Here is the right side of the main garden.
ground cherry
I’m growing ground cherries this year for the first time. The plants are doing well, so I’m hoping they will fruit for me. I have never tasted them, but I’ve heard they are good.
peanuts
Here are my peanut plants. They are now getting flowers. At some point they are supposed to get a stem of some kind that pokes into the ground and that is where the peanuts grow. These seem to be growing well so far.
first fruit
My first tomato! This is one of my larger types, so this is not ready to ripen yet, but hopefully I’ll will see a few ripe ones before September. I usually have to pick them to ripen in the house.
english cucumber
Our first English Cucumber. I am growing these and an Iznik variety. I grew Iznik last year, they were good but not very prolific. I haven’t grown English cucumbers before.
squash
Here you can see my jungle of summer squash plants. I planted the rest of my variety seed packet from last year, so the types I get would be a surprise.
patty pan
They are all fruiting now, so I know I have a couple of Patty Pan squashes like this one here, a few yellow squash plants, a light green zucchini and a dark green zucchini. I put in 9 plants but I think only 7 survived. They are blending together now so it’s hard to tell.
watermelon
Here are my watermelons. I put these and the cantaloupes in a really sunny, sandy-soiled spot. They do seem to be growing really well. I read that they prefer sandy soil so I’m trying that this year. (My foot for scale) I have two plants here and am trying to train them to grow away from each other.
ginger2
Here is one of my ginger plants. They are growing in bags in the garden and are doing pretty good so far, especially now that it’s hot.
ginger1
My other ginger. I started with 4 rhizomes but two died when I was trying to sprout them.
cantaloupe
My cantaloupe plants. These seem to be happy as well. I have three plants here.
chickpeas and rogues
My chickpeas seem to be growing well. I have rogue tomatoes growing among them – I may leave them since the rogues are these really good cherry tomatoes that keep coming back each year.
cabbages
My cabbages. They have gotten a little cabbage-worm damage but I made an insecticidal soap/garlic oil/citrus concoction, and I’ve been spraying all my brassicas with that. So far it seems to be working, but I have to respray each time it rains. There is damage but they are not destroying the plants. I consider that a win.
atat and hubbard squash
Here is my Atat, outside of my garden fence. To the right you can see my Hubbard squash / heirloom pumpkin now growing outside of the fence. (I’m not sure exactly what it is, it was an Heirloom pumpkin from the grocery store).
sunflower prebloom
My first sunflower bloom – this is the flower I posted the pic of last week. It has grown so the flower is almost eye level with me (I’m 5’6″). And it’s about to open.

The Farm in early July

This summer’s garden is going well.  We have had a weirdly dry year, compared to the last few. I have had to water things to make sure my seeds sprout. (I’ve had seeds drown and wash away in previous years). Everything seems to be growing pretty well though.  The chickens and ducks are doing well too, and seem to be happy with the summer weather. Here is a photo tour of our little farm:

roses
The roses are blooming. My parents planted these many years ago.
roses 2
Here is a better view of the roses.
peonies
Peonies. These smell really nice.
columbine
Here is the columbine I found in the roadside ditch last year and transplanted to my front flower bed. It grew back this summer and bloomed, so it must like its new spot.
bleeding hearts
Bleeding hearts (this photo is catching the end of the bloom for this year).
hens
Some of my older hens hanging out near the shady side of the house.
chicks
Here are the chicks – they are doing well although we lost another one about a week after my last post. (I was on vacation, my husband said that he counted at night and one was missing, with no trace). We have luckily not lost any more since then. So we now have 15 chicks (29 total chickens). They are almost full sized so hopefully that will deter whatever took the two we lost. They free range in our yard, so they were behind the chicken coop here.
bright chick
This is one of the chicks. Possibly a hen, we are just starting to figure out who is what. We have at least three young roosters, based on them crowing. We’ll have to decide what to do with them later this year.
comfrey
My Comfrey is doing well. I put in 3 plants a few years ago and they keep coming back and spreading a bit. They are pretty and the bees like them.
strawberries
Some of our strawberry harvest! My patch did really well this year, I got at least 6 cups of strawberries.
potatoes and squash
Here is a side view of my back garden – the potatoes are on the left, summer squash on the right in the middle of this picture. Strawberry patch is behind the summer squash.
cauliflower and brussels
My cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and lettuce on the right.
butternut
Butternut squash plants. I put in a fence trellis for them to climb – the trellis is resting on the main outside fence of the garden, with enough room for us to go in and grab fruit if it ends up hanging under the trellis.
garlic
The garlic are doing really well. I harvested some scapes the other day.
corn
Here are some of our corn. I have two patches, two different kinds – these are a Golden Bantam variety.
peanuts
Peanuts! These are growing well, as far as I can see. Our summer has become hot and humid lately, and they seem to like that.
onions
My onions. These are doing nice.
main garden
Here is a picture of the right side of the main garden – the other corn patch is in the background. Then coming forward there are peanuts, peppers/green onions, and cucumbers/shallots.
tomato fencing
Here you can see my tomato trellises. I set it up right this year (instead of using sticks like last year). I just used welded wire fence sections, and pounded some stakes in and attached the fence with wire. I tied the tomatoes up after I took this pic – most of my tomatoes are determinate varieties but they still get pretty big, and droopy when the fruit comes in. Some are indeterminate though. They are starting to get flowers now. I can’t wait for tomatoes!
grape vine
A grape vine my uncle gave me last year. I had it in a pot until late fall and I realized “oh, I’d better get that in the ground before it snows.” – I put it in not knowing if it would come back, but it did. It’s in a good spot too, right at the fence at the northern side of the main garden, so it can grow there and not be in the way.
sunflower
Here is my tallest sunflower so far – it’s about 3.5 feet tall currently. I have 14 or 15 sunflowers coming up that I’ve found so far.  I planted several seeds, but I have some rogues coming up as well.