Country Living Series

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spring garden update, homestead chores

The garden is not completely planted -- there are still a lot of staples I have to get into the ground, including corn, potatoes, tomatoes, etc. -- but here's an update on spring happenings:

In late April, the pear tree was chock-full of blossoms.

Now we can see tiny pears forming behind the blossom ends.

The cherry bushes we planted three years ago are thriving. This year, for the first time, they exploded with blossoms.



Minute cherries, about 1/4 inch across:


In late April, Younger Daughter and I weeded the pea beds...

...and got four rows of peas planted.

They're now poking up. I'll get them trellised shortly.

Inside the garden expansion, on the other side of the pond from where we planted the orchard, was an unused strip of ground.

Don rototilled this area, over and over.

We plan to heavily amend the soil with compost and some sand, and try planting corn there this year. As the development of our tire garden abundantly illustrates, we've had limited success planting directly in the ground in years past, so this will be an experiment.

Of the cayenne peppers I planted indoors in February, it was past time to get them planted. Some were even forming flowers.

I hardened them off thoroughly over a period of a couple of weeks...

...and cleared three beds for them.

A few days ago I transplanted them into the garden. I planted about 58 (give or take) and still had about a dozen left over, so I gave them to a neighbor.

Rather to my surprise (since I always expect plants to die on me, black thumb that I have), they are surviving so far.

The older blueberry bushes are heavy with blossoms.

The younger blueberries we planted last year are also blossoming in modest amounts. They're all healthy, but they're also just getting started, so I don't expect a lot out of them for a couple more years.

We've seen a few pests hanging around. I have a feeling it's going to be a heavy yellow jacket year.

The raspberries are lush and full...

...with thousands of buds about to blossom.

The strawberries are absolutely exploding with blossoms, thousands of them. These are some of the June-bearers:

This is one of our ever-bearing strawberry beds (we have two):

This is one of my surviving pineberry plants. I planted two tires' worth of these hybrids in March, but unfortunately I neglected them during a dry spell, and many of them didn't grow. My bad. My hope is the eight surviving plants (four per tire) will spread out and multiply over the next couple of years. (Black thumb, I tell ya.)

The Brussels sprouts I planted a couple weeks ago are doing wonderfully. I lost a few, of course, but the majority are thriving.

I had three that looked like they died, but they have small new growth, so I'm hopeful.

I'm using a variety of tools to clear tires of weeds and prep them for incoming transplants or seeds.

This is a winter wren, a tiny bird with a huge and beautiful voice.

Now that the pond is entirely enclosed, Lydia (who is not a water dog) likes to explore the edge.

She doesn't like to swim, but she does like to pretend she can catch frogs.

I have three beds of potato onions, all growing well.

These are red grapes (I have to look up the exact variety), temporarily potted until we can get tires and a trellis set up. These are a new venture for us. I chose this particular variety because it's supposed to be suitable for three purposes: fresh eating, juicing, and even wine.

Some of our second-year carrots. These overwintered and will go to seed this year.

At this stage they look like these huge freaky mutant things. I've never watched carrots go to seed before, so this will be interesting.

I planted some red bell peppers in the house a few days ago.

This is just a grocery-story pepper. In the past I've planted seeds like this and they've grown beautifully, but so far nothing has come up. We'll see what happens.

Today I planted eight each of cantaloupe and watermelon (no pix, sorry). I also planted broccoli...

...and carrots.

I also got the basil in the ground, the plants I started from seed in late March.

The basil will share a tire with some lettuce that keeps reseeding itself from year to year.

We're making progress in the garden. It's slow, as always, but we're moving forward.


  1. I need for you to settle our little disagreement: Is the current picture of books at the top of your blog, your home library, or is it not?

    1. Nope, it's a bookstore. More on that in a future blog post.

      - Patrice

    2. Yes! I love being right LOL It hardly ever happens though.....

    3. That bookstore is to die for! I also thought that maybe it was your own personal stash!
      Mary Ellen

  2. I hope you aren't in the zone for the 17 year locusts. I've already seen my first empty "shell" here.

  3. Love the update. Your plants all look so good I do have a question do you need to add anything tothe soil for blueberries? I am new to growing them.

    1. Blueberries like loose acidic soil. I amend my soil with sawdust and add some azalea fertilizer.

      - Patrice

  4. I'm in Idaho also and have horrible heavy clay soil that wouldn't grow anything, I started using the "back to eden" method and have never been more amazed by the results. It has been a year and a half, everywhere that is heavily mulched has the best soil underneath. No tilling, weeds are so leggy it's more effort for me to bend over than it is actually pulling it. I can't recommend enough! There is lots of info on youtube if any one is interested. This year I will be finishing the rest of my beds with this method.

  5. Hi, everything looks wonderful. Currently looking to use large tractor and other vehicle tires for a 7' bearm/wall. Any issues for your application around the garden ? TY, love your page.

    1. None whatever. Tires (unless they're shredded) are pretty much inert. See this post for more information:

      - Patrice

  6. Those peppers may have been irradiated or are just hybrids that don't really do anything 2nd generation.

  7. Could you point me to any posts about you starting seeds early or perhaps do a blog post on your method? My daughter just spent several weeks starting plants inside and slowly hardened them only for her plants to die after about 4 days in the beds. Her plants always look like bean sprouts, not strong like yours. She reads a lot to try to figure out what she is doing wrong but we don't know. I know she used liquid fertilizer on the seedlings but that didn't encourage growth. She is really disappointed that pretty much everything died this past week. Any tips?

    1. I just put the seeds in commercial potting soil and keep them under fluorescent lights while growing, before slowly hardening them off. I've had things die in the garden too, but if your daughter constantly has troubles, it might be her potting soil. Just a guess.

      - Patrice

    2. IF you follow this link you should see some of Patrice's posts on seed starting this year:

      I'm going to agree with the suggestion to switch potting soils in her seed starting pots AND in the garden, and/or see if anyone local to you is doing garden soil testing and have the garden soil checked.

      Have her take another look at her watering habits. Its really easy to keep stuff watered in the house, but they need to be watered regularly after being planted out too. A ground watering system like Patrice's is ideal, but a sprinkler works. If you're not getting regular rain (like, daily) for at least the first week after planting out then they very well need additional water.

      Check the fertilizer. To much, or the right amount but applied incorrectly, can actually damage the seedlings.

      If her seedlings are tall and spindly then her light source is to far from the leaves. Its very difficult to get ENOUGH light from artificial sources, so the plants shoot up to try to reach more light. Have her put her grow lights on chains so they can be lowered to about an inch from the tops of the plants and then raised little by little as needed.

      Those are the big ones that I had trouble with, so I hope that helps!

    3. Thank you both so much! I will pass on the knowledge offered to my daughter. I also think I need. Invest in some fluorescent lighting next year. Thanks again!


  8. We used to do a lot of tilling in Colorado for landscape clients. As the soil was very hard and full of rock this proved difficult.
    I found the best method was to first till forwards then back till slowly. The gives a deeper, finer till and kicks out the rocks instead of hopping over them. Once or twice back tilling then a final forward till to remove the tire compaction. You have to lift the back guard with a small chain to back till. It also gives a good crick in the neck too.
    The wasp appears to be a paper wasp and mine are not aggressive at all. Yellow Jackets on the other hand need to be hunted down and killed.

  9. This is a perfect post because I wanted to let you know that I planted the Yukon Gold corn you recommended. I am in the central valley of California but wanted to have something for spring. It past knee high and looking great. Thanks for the tip.

  10. Where is the bookstore in the picture located? We saw one just like this in Milwaukee. I can't imagine another one like this.

  11. On the 'garden thumb color scale'(have to remember this!), black on the left and green on the right, you are waaaay past the middle and very close to bright green! :)))

    Great job!

  12. Garden looks fabulous! Love the tires too. Have you ever thought about winter cover crops to decrease the weeds? We use Australian peas, winter rye, crimson clover (zone 7) and buckwheat in the summer. Also, have you ever done any winter sowing (WS)? Am going to try WS this fall and am trying to sow some lettuce in the shade just to see if it works. Thanks for all your updates and great information!

  13. I am so interested in your tire garden. How many tires do you have in your growing area, and how much food do they produce for you? do you grow your berries in the tires also? Thank you for your great blog!