Monday, July 17, 2017

Garden update

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your condolences regarding Lydia's unexpected passing. It's funny how the loss of a pet can send a family reeling.

Because my mind is still regaining equilibrium and I'm not up to writing anything coherent, I thought I'd give you a quick tour around our garden since I haven't showed it yet this season.

We haven't added anything new to the garden this year. Partly it's because we had the killdeer nest in the way, and partly because we're waiting for a replacement cylinder for the tractor which precludes using it for any heavy lifting (such as installing more tires for additional growing beds).

However I do want to point out one lovely project Don just completed, which is a gate through the grape arbor.

Don built the arbor last year when we planted the grapes. Up to this point it's just been blocked off by a cattle panel, but he's always wanted to install a more decorative gate.

He has the amazing ability to visualize a completed project and then mentally back-track to how to build it.

One side finished...

...and both sides finished. Beautiful, n'est-ce pas?

So here's what's going on in the garden.

Last fall I planted potatoes in eight tires as part of an experiment; to wit: is planting in the fall better than planting in the early spring? Would fall-planted potatoes do well?

As spring progressed and I saw no signs of growth, I got nervous. This past winter was very harsh and perhaps the fall-planted potatoes didn't make it? Not wanting to miss the window of opportunity, I hastily planted additional potatoes in four of the beds on May 21 (and onion sets in the remaining four beds).

Of course, you can guess what happened. The potatoes I planted last fall grew vigorously. So did the potatoes I planted in May. So four of the beds are double-planted with taters, and four of the beds have both potatoes and onions.

Lots of potatoes in this planter, and you can see the onions in the one behind.

Here is one of the two ever-bearing strawberry beds.

We've been picking heavily off of them.

The peas, which I planted on May 2, are going absolute gangbusters.

There's just something so pretty about peapods.

This is one of our two mature pear trees. Earlier this spring I trimmed a couple of low-hanging branches that required propping up as the season progressed, and I think the tree looks better for it.

This is our other pear tree. It's the same age as the bigger tree, but this one nearly died several years ago and managed to recover. It's smaller but bearing prolifically.

Lots and lots of young pears among the branches.

These are the rest of our strawberry beds. An ever-bearing rectangular bed is in the lower left, and all the June-bearing beds are in the circular tires on the upper left and on the right. After last year's massive crop, the June-bearers seem to be taking a breather this year -- which, to be honest, is something of a relief. We got kinda overwhelmed with fruit last year.

These are the corn tires. This year they're the corn-and-beans tires.

In these tires I planted calypso beans, an heirloom dry bush bean. (I can't grow pole beans among the corn because the variety of corn I grow, Yukon Chief, is too short to support pole beans.) In some beds the beans are predominant, largely due to the influence of chickens scratching up the corn seed.

In other beds, the corn took off.

Here are the rows of smaller tires I use for viney plants such as melons or pumpkins. This year I have watermelon, cantaloupe, and tomatoes planted in these tires.

Some of the watermelon:

Some of the tomatoes:

The baby orchard we planted last year is doing splendidly. (The bushy stuff in the tires with the trees are wildflowers we grow for the bees.)

We have two Stanley plum trees. They are producing prolifically this year.

We have four types of apples: Braeburn, Gala, Snow Sweet, and Honecrisp. While all four varieties are producing fruit, the Snow Sweet seems to be setting the earliest and largest fruit.

And the peaches are producing! I'm most excited about the peaches, which are hands-down my all-time favorite fruit. I've never even picked my own peaches before, so this is a thrill for me.

Here's our garlic boat. If there's one thing that grows heartily in our area, it's garlic. We have a bumper crop this year.

Our mature blueberries were problematic this year. You might recall I transplanted these bushes from a weed-infested spot several years ago (in 2011). Unfortunately, in an effort to keep as much soil around the roots as possible, I also transplanted some stubborn unrelenting grasses. As a result, the blueberry bed regularly gets overwhelmed with weeds.

This year they were so bad I almost threw up my hands and abandoned it. Instead I buckled down and yanked. These tough grasses can't be pulled up (unlike most weeds) since their root system is so deep and they spread vegetatively. But I could, at the very least, yank out what I could and give the poor blueberries some breathing room. It's the best I'll ever be able to do in this bed.

It took three days, but the result was better than I expected.

Now the bushes are ripening their crop. I'll be picking within two weeks.

The younger Hardyblue blueberries, the ones we planted in 2015, are doing well though still quite small. The berries are smaller than the berries on my original bushes, but much sweeter. (A few random ones have already ripened for a taste test.)

By default in the rest of the garden, whenever I had a spare tire, I planted bush beans (Jacob's cattle beans in this case) and carrots. The carrot seed is from the seed I harvested last summer, and let me tell you carrots produce a LOT of seed. As a result I broadcast carrot seeds heavily and will need to go through and thin them shortly. I have many tires of this beans/carrots combo.

I planted two tires of potato onions last fall, and mulched them with pine needles.

I have a lot of volunteer potatoes growing in various beds. Here are some among the Brussels sprouts -- which, incidentally, I'm watching like a hawk for aphids. So far so good.

More volunteer potatoes, and the corn you see growing among them is an experiment: Popcorn. I started just a few seedlings in the house in the spring, and transplanted them to see what would happen. Popcorn takes a fairly long growing season, so frost may hit before I get anything, but what the heck, it's an experiment.

As another experiment, I planted three beds of red lentils. The result so far is "meh." Lentils are clearly a field crop for a reason. No bang for the buck. I won't plant them again.

I planted a few cayenne peppers in one of the lentil beds.

Here's just one bed of Walla Walla sweet onions planted from sets. I'm not a huge fan of sweets (I like onions with a bite) but they're not bad.

Here's another experiment: breadseed poppies. I ordered these seeds something like ten years ago and forgot all about them. I decided to broadcast them to see what happens (poppy seeds need light to germinate, so they shouldn't be buried but instead just broadcast on the surface). Only a few grew, so I planted beans in the rest of the bed to fill it in.

Here are the buds, getting close to flowering.

I love poppy seeds -- the girls always teased me for blackening my English muffins with poppy seeds before toasting -- so if this works, I'll always have a bed or two of poppies sown from now on.

Some lettuce. I haven't planted this in years -- it just re-seeds itself from season to season -- but it's always fun to pick a salad. I'll let the rest of this bed go to seed for next summer's salads. There's also some basil planted in there, and a lonely little petunia Younger Daughter bought.

Horseradish. Unlike years past, so far no flea beetles have attacked it.

Spearmint. I picked up a tiny plant two years ago on a whim, and my goodness it's grown. (One of the advantages of tire gardening is invasive plants can't spread vegetatively beyond where you plant them.) Oddly enough I don't care for mint tea so I never really use the spearmint; but my goodness it smells absolutely divine.

Oregano. This stuff would take over the garden (by seed) if I let it. It grows, literally, like a weed.

Rosemary, one of two pre-grown herbs I bought this year. Rosemary is a perennial but it can't survive our winters. A neighbor has some in his greenhouse and it's enormous. I may pot one of the plants this fall and bring it into the house and re-plant it next spring.

Parsley, the other herb I purchased pre-grown. Just didn't get around to starting it indoors in time.

English thyme. This is growing in one of my old herb tires from five years ago, and it's fairly choked with weeds (mostly grasses). It's my intention to dump this tire and grow some fresh thyme in another larger tire.

So it's very convenient that last year, the thyme seeded itself in the adjacent grape bed. I'm keeping the bed weeded and eventually I'll transplant this baby thyme into a new tire.

The grapes are producing a few nascent clusters, which disproportionately pleases me. I've never grown grapes before, so this is something of a thrill. Someday I'm hoping the whole trellis will be overgrown with grapevines, and we can walk underneath plucking low-hanging fruit.

The raspberries are peaking right, and we've been picking and freezing the fruit.

We're not the only ones enjoying the raspberries.

Thanks for touring the garden with me.


  1. What are you using on your fruit trees to keep your produce looking so healthy?!

    1. So far, nothing. However next spring we'll be spraying for peach curl as well as using a dormant oil spray for everything.

      - Patrice

  2. Your garden looks just perfect! I have been trying to grow some corn in normal dirt down here. The plot is in what was pasture for years and even has some Bermuda grass. Needless to say I am not having much luck. I may even go so far as plane regular field corn that is round up ready so I can spray the grass. I hate to do that but that may be the only way I get a crop for my chickens. The wife is using raised beds and hers plants grow just fine. I wish I was young enough to have the energy to hoe the corn but those days are past me now.

  3. Very nice! Lots of work! MB

  4. Home grown popcorn will spoil you. Don't shell it until you're ready to pop it, though.

  5. Patrice your garden looks amazing! Don did a great job on the arbor and I love the gate!
    Janae @ Creekside Farmstead

  6. Just lovely! In Minnesota, we used to go to a farm to pick ears of popcorn. If it will grow there, maybe it will grow well for you, too. Enjoy!

  7. You have a beautiful garden!

  8. Last year I tried potatoes for the 2nd time. Epic failure, they got hit with some sort of blight type problem and most of the plants withered and died quickly. End of the summer I dug up a strip of the bed, and found a few small potatoes, all bug eaten. I didn't bother to dig up the rest.

    This spring I planted the same corn you grow in that bed, figuring that if I got a few potato plants to no big deal......but I didn't expect any potatoes, thats not a tire bed, and it was cold last winter.

    I was wrong. There was ALOT of potatoes I didn't pull up. And they've taken over the bed! The corn isn't thrilled, but it hasn't been good corn growing weather anyway this year.

    1. Will the potatoes that are growing from the last years bug eaten ones be good? Sorry if that's a dumb question, I'm just learning. Thanks. Deb k

    2. I have no idea, I do intend to find out though!

  9. Your garden looks awesome! It brings me pleasure just looking. We opted to plant a scent garden as we live in the burbs. My kids get no end of joy out of all the smells - spearmint, mint, a few types of basil, thyme, rosemary, jasmine, etc. When there is a breeze, the smells waft over the patio. Plus they love having a taste of a crushed leaf. The small things in life...

  10. Your garden really looks good, Patrice. I started two years ago with one raised bed. I'm now up to four and will have to expand next year. I also have 3 buff orpington hens that are about to make the leap from crate in my guest room to chicken coop. Quite a change for a city boy from South Philly, but I love the country life.

  11. what variety of poppy seed plant are you using and where did you purchase your seeds.

  12. What do you use for soil?

  13. You have probably named the varieties in other posts,but may I ask if you can run a list of the varieties you have planted that you feel are successful?

  14. Are you sure you have enough of those delicious orbs to share with all of God's creatures, great and small? Just askin'.

  15. Well, Hello Patrice! I am very new to your blog (1 hour?) and came here from good old Google when I was looking for sources for info on canning garlic scapes (that weren't just pickled). Lo and behold the wonder of finding a sort-of neighbour (I'm in Spokane) and a fellow gardener. I'll be doing lots of exploring around your site! So here at the end of September I'm finally tired of the bag of garlic scapes in my fridge still in pristine and juicy state despite what Dr. Google says is a '2-week storage' limit. Uh, yeah. And now that there is so much interesting content to explore on your blog I think instead of trying to non-pickle-can the remainder I'll just toss it in the dehydrator so I can settle on and learn neat things from you! One thing I wanted to comment on from a post of yours from a few years ago (and no doubt you have already figured out on your own?) is that with your garlic don't just save the teeny ones for the super-prime-giganto ones instead. I do that and every year the ones I grow are bigger and bigger.