The garden is now planted.

I got the garden in a few days ago. It looks a bit sparse yet, but it will fill in soon. So far I haven’t lost anything I’ve planted – sometimes I have to replace a plant or two. I have extra seedlings for most things though.  I doubled my garden space from last year, but I ended up running out of room for some things I had planned on growing.  I didn’t plant any corn, or peas.  Corn doesn’t usually do too well (we get a few good ears) since we can’t grow enough to get a really decent crop – maybe that’s a project for a few years down the road – making a corn patch somewhere.   I planted 4 watermelon plants, 2 cantaloupe, and 2 pumpkin plants – so those took up a lot of the room.  I think it will be a good garden though.  Here are some pictures:

garden planning
Here is the night before I planted everything. I got my pathways ready (a bunch of cardboard strips – once weighed down they make great weed-free paths and they break down over time.
seedlings
The seedlings waiting to go in.
tomatoes
Here are the tomatoes. I put 16 plants into the garden, 8 different varieties.
tomatoes 2
Here are the tomatoes the next day – a few looked a little floppy, but a nice drink of water perked them up.
watermelons
I’m trying something new this year – these are the watermelon and cantaloupe plants. We’re using animal feed bags as weed-proofing. I cut a hole in the middle and planted each seedling there. We’ll see how this works. I saw a tip about this somewhere, probably in Mother Earth News magazine.
herbs and etc
Here are rows of herbs, cauliflower, and peppers. I started to run out of room at the end so they’re a bit cramped, but I think they’ll grow ok. It may just be a bit hard to get to them all once grown.
garden 2
Here is the planted garden. I have a lot of things I put in as seeds, such as beans, zucchini, chard, and other stuff.
planted
Another pic of the garden. It will be nice to compare this pic to one taken a few weeks from now.

I’m glad the garden is in. Now I just have to keep ahead of the weeds.

Getting the garden ready

larger garden
The newly upgraded garden space.

I’ve been planning this year’s garden for awhile, since sometime in February. Over the last few years I’ve learned some things about gardening in the U.P.  We have a shorter growing season, so I can’t plant pumpkins or other things that need 110 days, because I most likely won’t get that long.  Luckily there are a lot of shorter-season versions of those kind of vegetables out now.   I grew some smaller, shorter-season pumpkins last year.

I’ve learned that even though our last frost is (usually) in May, it’s better to wait to put things in the ground. I used to garden in southern Michigan, and I could start my garden at the beginning of May.  Here around June 10th is probably best (or after the first Full Moon in June – which is June 9th this year)  – we are well past the last frost dates, but the soil also takes awhile to warm up – a couple years ago I put things into the ground mid-may, and my plants just languished there – some wilted from the cold, some died outright, and I had a lot of replanting to do.  I’d rather just put the whole garden in once, than have to replace everything.

I doubled our garden space for this year – the last couple years I had a 10×30 bed, this year it is 20×30.  I started my seeds in early May, and have some nice seedlings that are now hardening off on the back porch. I tilled the garden yesterday – there are some grass clumps that need to get taken out, and then I’ll re-till it again before planting, which will happen next weekend.

seedlings
Some of my seedlings. I also have a bunch of tomatoes and peppers.

I have three flats of seedlings, and I am making seed tapes for small seeds like carrots, using newspaper.  I cut strips of newspaper and then used a water/flour paste to glue seeds at the correct interval – I can lay the tapes down, cover with a bit of dirt, and then the seeds won’t migrate.  I won’t have to thin them either. I also have a bunch of stuff that I will be seeding directly into the garden, like corn and beans.

I’m excited for this year’s garden.

Harvesting the garden…

This year’s garden is starting to wind down. Our growing season is not typically very long. I’m hoping we’ll hold off on getting a frost for another month, but a lot of plants are done producing anyway. I pulled out our yellow squash, and picked most of the tomatoes. There are a few straggler tomatoes left on the vines. My son harvested about 8 ears of corn from his 10 or so plants.  We still have a few things waiting to be picked, like beets, kale, chard, eggplants, and zucchini. Take a peek at our recent harvest:

tomatos
I grew five varieties of tomatoes this year: Early Girl, Druzba, a Blue type, Cherry (very tiny) and some Romas. We got a good crop of them this year.
canned-tomatoes
My first attempt at canning tomatoes! I think it went alright. The half pint jars were a little small, I have realized. I will do pint jars for the next batch I can.
green-tomatoes
My canning book talks about picking tomatoes green and letting them ripen on the counter, maybe so they all ripen at the same time? We picked most of what was left. I keep worrying about frost anyway, so this way I don’t have to rush out and cover anything.
yellow-squash
One of the last yellow squash we picked. We got a whole lot of these. I had three plants, which was too many for us this year. We froze a lot of this.
backyard-sunflower
One of my sunflowers from our back yard. This was several days ago, when it was still standing tall, before we got days and days of rain…
weepy-sunflower
Here it is today… looking very sad.
watermelon
The watermelon has not grown a whole lot. I think it’s supposed to have stripes as well. It’s still hanging in there. I will let it sit as long as possible and see if we get an edible melon.
tiny-pumpkins
Our tiny pumpkins. The plants are done for this year. I really like these, and will grown them again next year, along with a little bit bigger variety.
tiny-eggplant
A tiny eggplant. These plants grew wonderfully, but didn’t flower until late August. Now they have tiny fruits on them. They are not ripe yet. Hopefully they will get bigger and ripen before we get a freeze.
kale
Our Kale, still going strong. I’m going to attempt to leave these, and see if they will come back in spring. I have heard that Kale (and Chard!) will grow as perennials. We will see if they come back in spring. I have been cutting, using/freezing, and then waiting for more to grow, like cut-and-come-again style. We have a lot of kale frozen for winter.
garden-9-28
Here’s my garden today. It’s still very green but there is not much in terms of vegetables left.

Mid August Garden

The garden is starting to really produce now.  I have already harvested one tomato! An Early Girl from my grafted plant.  That tomato is the only one that has ripened yet, but a lot of others are on their way. We are getting beans and squash and kale and chard – lots of it. I’ve started freezing beans and zucchini already. I have gotten some nice cucumbers already and have started some refrigerator pickles.  Here are some pictures of the garden lately:

garden mid august resized
Here is the garden
garden mid august 2 resized
View from the other way. On the left the dark leafy and green leafy things in the foreground are beets.
foxglove resized
A foxglove plant.
corn resized
The corn in my son’s section of the garden is coming along nicely. It’s almost my height.
artichokes 2 resized
My artichoke plants are really doing well.
artichokes resized
Some of these artichokes are getting ready to pick, I think.
zinnia resized
Here is a zinnia in the garden.
tiny watermelon resized
A tiny watermelon. This plant is actually planted several feet away, and wound its way through the tomatoes to the fence. I knew it would wander but I didn’t know it would go that far. I’m not very experienced with watermelons.
sunflower tall resized
This sunflower is towering over my head – it’s probably a good 7 feet tall or so. It does not yet look ready to bloom. This is a giant sunflower, so it will get one very large flower head. And then it will droop way down.
nastrurtium resized
A nasturtium in the garden. My son insisted we plant these in his part of the garden because the flowers are edible. He likes to eat them.
processing vegs resized
Here you can see beans and squash chopped and ready for freezing. In the basket on the upper left is kohlrabi and cucumbers, and a test carrot (I pulled one up to test how they are doing). I’m trying to freeze and process things as they are harvested so I don’t feel overrun with too many vegetables.

 

 

 

Mid-summer on our farm

Here are some pictures of the goings-on around our tiny farm:

zucchini
My zucchini and yellow squash are going nuts. These plants are huge!
zucchini with cat
Here you can see them with Wizard in front, so you get a little more idea of scale. There are 5 plants in that mess, plus some sunflowers sticking up in back.
ducks
Somehow our duck door got left open – they were starting to spill out.
ducks 2
More duck spillage.
chickens
Here is a picture of the chickens. I love the variety of colors we have.
dogs
My husband got this cool picture of our dogs. Atat’s tail is curled around Downey. Nova thinks the camera is some type of food.

Mid July on the farm

We have been very busy.  Last week I went camping.  While I was away, it seems that my garden has exploded. (It tends to do that when you don’t see it every day).   I hatched hatch# 3 of chicks a couple days ago, and we found our first duck egg today!  Here are some pictures of the latest happenings:

garden 7.16
Here is my garden. I get to do some weeding today.
greens
Here it is, growing away. The red bits on the right are some beets.
tiny artichoke
A tiny artichoke. It’s about an inch tall.
sunflower
A sunflower. This is only about 2 feet tall right now.
roma
Roma tomato.
pumpkin
My pumpkin plants!
kohlrabi
Kohlrabi. First time growing this – we are not sure if we like it yet. We will be trying it when it’s ready.
daniels garden
My son’s garden. His corn is doing well. There is a zinnia blooming.
early girl
Our Early Girl tomato. This was a grafted plant I bought. I somehow forgot to plant seeds of my Early Girl tomatoes.
hatch 3_2
Here are the newest chicks! We have 14, they all hatched on Thursday, and they are from my own chickens’ eggs. We now have 57 chickens all together. That total will go down once we cull the extra roosters.
hatch 3
A chick’s eye view of them.
hatch 3_3
Another chick’s eye view.
barnyard
Here is the bird yard. You can see we have Pekin ducks here.
blue duck egg
We got our first egg from the ducks today. It’s about the size of a chicken egg. Not sure why it is bluish. Pekins are supposed to lay white/cream eggs.
duck egg
Here is the egg again. Like a large chicken egg – I figure its a starter eggs for the ducks, so they should get bigger soon, and probably change to the cream/white color. Not sure if we’ll eat this one since it’s a weird color. I know it was laid this morning / last night, so it’s fresh, but it’s still not the color they are supposed to be from the ducks.

Exciting times!

A peek in the garden – Early September

We’ve been having some hot days lately, and last night we had a crazy thunderstorm.  This morning my yard is very wet – I had plans for some yardwork jobs, but it’s just too wet.  My garden is still going strong.  I’ve been getting some nice corn cobs, despite the early visit from some raccoons.

The garden, early September.
The garden, early September.

I had a few tomatoes fall off the vines while I was picking suckers, and my son also decided to pick a few that were starting to ripen.  I didn’t realize I grew an orange tomato, but I did grow a couple new varieties so I guess this one was orange.

We have these tomatoes in the window to ripen.
We have these tomatoes in the window to ripen.

I’m growing indeterminate varieties – I had been cutting off suckers and new flowers, but I got impatient.  We don’t have the longest growing season, and I don’t want a repeat of last year – because of frost warnings we had to pull all the tomatoes in so they could ripen inside (none started to ripen on the vine last year).  Luckily we’ve had a lot more heat this year.  I went at my tomato plants last week and cut off the tops of the plants, extra leaves that were shading the fruit, and any extra branches that didn’t have fruit on them. That has seemed to help speed things along.

My tomatoes waiting to ripen.
My tomatoes waiting to ripen. This is after I went to town trimming them.
Here is one that my son didn't pick!
Here is one that my son didn’t pick! This one looks like it will be red (the picture makes it look orange).

I also have a bunch of tomatillos – they are still small, but they are getting there. Last year I grew some but I added them really late, and they didn’t start forming fruit till mid September. These ones have been growing for about a month now.

Tomatillos.  I have lots of hummingbirds that like these flowers as well, so they are helping to pollinate them.
Tomatillos. I have lots of hummingbirds that like these flowers as well, so they are helping to pollinate them.

I am attempting artichokes this year – I read that they can be grown as an annual.  I haven’t seen any sign of any fruit, and really didn’t know what to expect. This morning I found this:

A tiny artichoke!
A tiny artichoke!

I looked on another plant and have at least one other one forming as well.  Very exciting, even if they are very tiny.

Another tiny artichoke.
Another tiny artichoke.

I’m growing Evening Primrose this year, I didn’t realize they’d take so long to bloom.  They started this week:

My evening Primrose.
My evening Primrose.

Here are some marigolds that I planted, they are doing extremely well, but they are really easy to grow:

Marigolds.
Marigolds.

My sunflowers are going strong. The bees and hummingbirds are enjoying them now.  They should start going to seed soon, and then we’ll have the chickadees and other birds, and chipmunks and squirrels, eating them.

My sunflowers - some are about 8-9 feet tall now.
My sunflowers – some are about 8-9 feet tall now.

Harvesting and Freezing

I’ve gotten a lot of vegetables so far this year.  I’m still waiting on my tomatoes to ripen, but they are coming along. I’ve been picking suckers and new flowers left and right, and I can see the tomatoes are starting to get a pinkish tint to them.  We’ve had 80-90 degree temps this week, and it’s expected to continue – I think that will help with the ripening.

In the winter we were buying a lot of kale, so I grew a bunch of it, and we haven’t used a whole lot yet.  So this weekend I decided to pick as much as I could, and freeze it.  I left the plants, with new baby leaves in the centers, so I will still have fresh kale until we have snow (it supposedly can survive frost, and gets better after a frost, so we’ll see how that goes).   I ended up with a giant basket of kale:

My big basket of kale.  This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That's a whole lot of kale.
My big basket of kale. This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That’s a whole lot of kale.

I took the leaves off the stems, blanched them for 2 minutes, and then froze them up.  I ended up with about 10 cups of frozen kale.

This year I decided to grow lemon balm.  I picked some to dry for tea.  It smells so good!

Lemon balm.
Lemon balm.

I have had tons of zucchini and yellow squash, and I have frozen a lot of it.  I read online that you can get away with not blanching it first, so I am trying that this year.  Last year I blanched it, and it worked fine but it was more labor intensive;  Also, since it was wet when I put it in freezer bags, I ended up with blocks of frozen zucchini.  I don’t know if the slice/freeze method will still produce this result; I’ll have to wait and see.

I also grew acorn squash for the first time this year.  I had four plants; most produced only one fruit – I did have two forming on one plant, but when I went out this weekend I realized that one of the fruits was rotting on the vine.  The other four seemed ready to pick.  The plants still have flowers so it may produce more, I will have to wait and find out.

Acorn squash.  Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.
Acorn squash. Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.

My corn is getting close to being ready.  The silks are turning brown on the cobs. Last year I read that you wait 10 days after the silks turn brown – I checked a few cobs and I think by this next weekend they may be ready.  I noticed today though that I must have raccoons or something attacking the corn.   It must be raccoons – they are notorious for getting into corn in this area – I found a half eaten cob in my garden on the ground. I hope they give me time to get at least a few ears before they get them all. I’m not sure how to deter them – they climbed my fence.   I’ll have to figure out some kind of raccoon deterrent – maybe putting a lip on the top of the fence so they can’t come over the top of the fence.

Farm updates Early August

I haven’t posted in over a week, because I went to California to meet my new niece.  Before I left, this was my garden (taken on 7/23/15):

Here was my garden just before I left for vacation.
Here was my garden just before I left for vacation.

I came back less than 7 days later and my garden had exploded:

My jungle of a garden.
My jungle of a garden.
There is a pathway here, somewhere.  The calendula has fallen over into it, because the squash plants are pushing it over, I believe.
There is a pathway here, somewhere. The calendula has fallen over into it, because the squash plants are pushing it over, I believe.
My tomato plants were separated by the aisle, and they have decided to join hands. I had to re-separate them (it didn't work very well - I'll have to tie them up more).
My tomato plants were separated by the aisle, and they have decided to join hands. I had to re-separate them (it didn’t work very well – I’ll have to tie them up more).
I have tomatoes! They are getting pretty big, I didn't even see any fruit starting before I left.
I have tomatoes! They are getting pretty big, I didn’t even see any fruit starting before I left.
My tinier tomatillo plants are getting large now, and one has flowers. That gives me hope that I will have fruit this year. The largest plant has had flowers for awhile, and just keeps growing.
My tinier tomatillo plants are getting large now, and one has flowers. That gives me hope that I will have fruit this year. The largest plant has had flowers for awhile, and just keeps growing.
My Black Eyed Susan Thunbergia through the corn/sunflower jungle. I have some regular Black Eyed Susans and calendula planted between the corn, and those are getting very tall also.
My Black Eyed Susan Thunbergia through the corn/sunflower jungle. I have some regular Black Eyed Susans and calendula planted between the corn, and those are getting very tall also.
One of my tall sunflowers. Just taller than me right now, and starting to form a flower.
One of my tall sunflowers. Just taller than me right now, and starting to form a flower.
I have peas! These need a couple more days and then I will pick them, there are several on the plant so I'm excited for a decent pea crop this year. I only got a few pods last year - the plants really faltered.
I have peas! These need a couple more days and then I will pick them, there are several on the plants so I’m excited for a decent pea crop this year. I only got a few pods last year – the plants really faltered.
My cucumbers are getting flowers, and growing well. I hoped for more, but not all my plants took - I ended up with three plants. I love making pickles.
My cucumbers are getting flowers, and growing well. I hoped for more, but not all my plants took – I ended up with three plants. I love making pickles.
My beans are going crazy, climbing to the top of my tree-poles.  I wonder how tall they would get if they had all the room they wanted.  I have tiny beans forming all over my plants.
My beans are going crazy, climbing to the top of my tree-poles. I wonder how tall they would get if they had all the room they wanted. I have tiny beans forming all over my plants.

The chickens are doing well.  We had planned on starting to cull some roosters when I got home. A couple on the shortlist have redeemed themselves for now.  We culled two on Sunday – one was getting very aggressive and had pecked my son, and the other was picking on the rest of the big roosters.  We will need to take out a couple more before winter, but the ones we still have are behaving better.  One of our youngest roosters, Wonky Top:

Here is Wonky Top.  My husband named him, because of his goofy comb.
Here is Wonky Top. My husband named him, because of his goofy comb.

Wonky’s comb has been straightening out.  He has straightened out too – he was going to be one of the first we took out, because he didn’t get along with anyone – he was really skittish, and he fought with everyone. We had separated the roosters from the hens for awhile, and he would get picked on by the bigger guys, and then escape. Each time we caught him and put him back with the roosters, he would escape again, and then evade capture for most of the day.  I finally put him in with the hens.  He stayed there while I was on vacation. When I got back I thought my roosters were bored being over in their side (we had them in the grassless side because it was easier to get them in at night), so I put them with everyone again.  Wonky then asserted himself, pretty much saying “you’re on MY side now!” and he wouldn’t take any flack from the big guys.  Now he doesn’t seem so skittish, and he’s getting along with everyone better. So we have decided he can stay, for now.  I suspect he’s a Cuckoo Maran – I really wanted some Marans (the hens can lay darker brown eggs ) so if possible we may keep him for breeding. We will see.

I was planning on keeping certain roosters based on looks, for breeding purposes, but we are starting to cull based mostly on their behavior, especially toward us.  Our big Black Langshan rooster was one that we took out this weekend, since he flew up on my son and pecked him in the chest.  That was the deciding factor for him.  We were planning on keeping at least two – I read that if you have 3 or 4 they can get along better than having just two.  We’ll just have to play it by ear with them.

The chickens are enjoying their outdoor shelter – we allow them in the coop anyway, but this shelter was already in the part of the run that I have them in right now, so we left it (it’s a little large so we’d have to disassemble it to remove it) – they have learned they can go on top of it. That puts their heads only about 6 inches from the top of the fence.  They have not seemed to figure that part out yet though – I was worried they would jump out but nobody has so far.

My chickens having fun sitting on their outdoor shelter.
My chickens having fun sitting on (and in) their outdoor shelter.