Sunday, September 29, 2019

Autumn Countdown

There is not a lot left in the garden, but there is still growing going on.

Most of the beds are cleaned out and being weeded

The second bed of cornstalks is cleaned out

I arrange my stalks around a shepherd's hook and tie them with jute twine
Two beds still have buckwheat in them.

The tomato bed is full of nasturtiums that have re-seeded from the earlier plants

As expected, the older bed of bush beans has begun to flower again

The younger bed of beans is supplying more than enough beans

The cauliflower are growing by leaps and bounds.
I finally had to get serious about covering them with a row cover to keep the butterflies off.

I am still paying the price from my earlier laziness.
Every couple of days I pick caterpillars then hose off all of the 
poop to make them easier to spot next time.

We have plenty of cucumbers still growing

It is apple season.  I have a pot of applesauce cooking on the stove now 
and I needs to make some pies for the freezer.

The lettuce is actually growing...

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Brick by Brick

Another thing we accomplished over the past couple of weekends:  Our long awaited fire pit is finished.   We probably have at least two or three good sized bonfires each year to take care of the tops of whatever trees we've had to take out as well as any fallen limbs and general brush.  We sort of enjoy these fires, but they are too massive to sit around and roast marshmallows over. 

For many years we've been wishing we had a fire pit for cool evenings and early autumns.  We also wished we had a place to put the lawn furniture where it didn't need to be moved every time the lawn is mowed. This patio was built from about 500 re-claimed city road bricks and other reused materials.  It doesn't look like a huge project, but it took more than four full days of dirty, heavy work to complete, in addition to brick-getting excursions.

Day 1 involved leveling the site and building the frame out of reused 2x4s.  The ones we had to use were fourteen feet long, so the patio is fourteen feet square.  There is also a nine inch drop from right to left.  The slope of the lawn had to be excavated and the frame leveled all the way around.

Day 2 the pit itself had to be dug (pick-axed) out of the hard clay ground.  There is a level of concrete blocks at the base, and the pit is filled with six inches of gravel to hold rainwater below the surface while it drains away (slowly - verrrry slowly).  A second layer of solid blocks was glued on top of the foundation blocks to raise the edge above the level of the patio.   We had a heavy iron grate which was cut to size and placed in the bottom of the pit, sitting on house bricks to further elevate the fire surface above any moisture.

Days 3 and 4 was bricklaying.  The bricks were all "free".  They came in two batches.  The first, largest pile of about three hundred was found and brought to us by someone who owed us a favor (debt paid in full).  We also had almost a hundred bricks hanging around which we have used to hold things down and prop things up.  But the last hundred and forty had to be searched for.  Finally, the exact right amount of bricks was located, the only price being the effort of hauling them out by hand a thousand feet from the road and a nasty case of poison ivy.  The other alternative was to buy them from the city scrap yard.  .75 per brick, and you still have to go get them and load them yourself.  So it all worked out, except for my poor husband with the poison ivy.

Anyway, the hundreds of bricks were laid over two day's time.  A careful eye was kept on all the gaps as well as the level.  Then size 1A gravel was swept into the cracks

Each time it rains it helps the "grout" settle into the cracks.  We've used the 1A on another brick walkway and liked how the jagged edges knit together so well.  It will probably need a little more added as the gravel slowly works its way down to ground level and forms a hard network.  The top soil around the low sides has been replaced and graded into the lawn and grass seed planted.

We added a few cut up telephone poles that are fanny height and give a good definition to the back of the patio.  These will have some plants planted between them.

Last month the poplar tree (which fell two winters ago into an area too wet and mucky to get the tractor into until this summer) was hauled out and processed.  We have plenty of nice split cord-wood to feed our autumn fires.

And we also have our horseshoe pits for fun
Our city still has a lot of brick streets.  After laying two hundred square feet of bricks you begin to wonder how it was done on such a large scale.

Jump to 2:00 to see the actual brick laying

And this is how it happens now

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lettuce Pray

Let us pray for the well being of my lettuce...

DO you see it?  There are two lettuce plants in this photo
I knew it was being sluggish.  I planted it in Mid-August and it hasn't changed a bit in weeks.  Last week, out of desperation, I transplanted it anyway to see if that would jolt it into growing,  I've been perusing my own blog and found this entry from Sept 18 2016.  Just look at those lettuce seedlings!  What gives?

Lettuce Sept 18 2016

This is what tired out mildewed zucchini looks like.  I had been holding the mildew at bay for several weeks with Safer-Gro Mildew Cure which also worked really well on the pumpkin vies.

Over the past week the growing tip on one vine shriveled and let me know
 there would be no more blooms.

The other growing tip was still viable but sluggish.  But I don't need anymore zucchini.
So out they came.

This is what you get if you ignore Jade Bush Beans for a few weeks.  They're monsters.  I'm using beans from the newer rows but I've still been too lazy to pull these plants out because I want them for compost and the compost tube is too full to accept them.

Yesterday I picked four cucumbers.  This one I'll leave on the vine a couple of days.  These late season cucumbers do not keep in the fridge as long as the summer ones.

Yesterday one bed of corn stalks were removed.  That was a chore!!! 
I cut the stalks and stacked them in a shock to store until I can process them for compost.
The roots I pried out with a fork.  Fun stuff

I removed the last of the tomato vines last weekend but I left the Nasturtiums which are just beginning to bloom again.  I've been collecting the seeds for next year.

Now - I have to get my butt out of bed, make breakfast, and get back to work.   I have a lot of perennials to move, ground cover to plant, shrubs to prune, bulbs to set out, a car to wash.....

Its the last day of Summer.  Make the most of it!

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Dirt Locker

For several years now I have wished that I had a place to store lightly used soil.  Anyone who does a lot of gardening in containers will know what I mean.  Sometimes when you dump a container, there seems to be no soil left in there.  There is nothing but a mass of roots, and the dirt has completely disappeared.  Other times you have a large container half or three quarters full of slightly tired soil.

The Dirt Locker
Now there are a few things you can do with it.  You can dump it into gardening areas to improve the native soil, you can put it into your compost pile or you can leave it in the container for next year.  For my large whiskey barrel planters, of course I leave it in.  They are too big to dump over, and they are large enough to mix in new ingredients.   Before I plant again I will add a balanced fertilizer, and then top it off with fresh potting mix to replace what was removed with the roots as I pulled out the dead plants last year.  

A mass of roots, some empty plastic pots for filler,
but still some usable potting mix to reclaim
But my raised beds cannot take large quantities of new material each year.  Putting it into the compost seems a bit of a waste since it is still light and fluffy and full of peat and vermiculite and perlite.  As for leaving a bunch of half filled pots around - well I like to scrub out my containers and store them away each winter.  We have a lot of autumn leaves to deal with and we need a clean slate.  Stacks of containers everywhere just collects leaves.  And the winter weather will continue to age the planters unnecessarily.

Some of the ingredients that go into mixing your own potting mix
Absent from photo: large quantities of compost and peat or coir
Another plus of saving and reusing potting mix is the cost savings.  Whether you buy it by the bag or mix your own, potting mix can represent a large portion of your gardening budget.  You can go broke pretty quick growing a year's worth of potatoes in containers of brand new medium.  It never hurts to have a quantity of lightweight, clean potting mix on hand.  Often you just need it as a filler at the bottom of a large container.  I also have used straight compost for filler, since we usually have a substantial amount of that cooking, but that could be considered a waste of good compost.  In the cases where I've used compost, I always try to return it to the compost pile when I dump the pot.

So this weekend my husband treated me to a 73 gallon deck box.  Now I can store a useful amount of used potting mix for the filling of large containers.  I will still buy bags of new potting mix for topping off each pot, and those dump neatly into a large Rubbermaid container so I can tote it around and store it temporarily in a dry place instead of having half full opened bags of soil setting about.

My typical potting day set-up
I'm pretty tickled with my dirt locker.  It is just one more step towards getting all of my potting activities in one spot.  Next year the plan is to add a greenhouse where I can have all of my pots and supplies stored together near where I actually keep my plants and pot them up.  Right now I have containers and the potting bench stored way back in a canvas storage building.  My compost pile and messy work area where I store half filled containers is in another spot.  My cold frame for tender plants is up by the garden shed.  And my soil additives and hand tools in the garden shed.  I spend a lot of time in the spring bent over a wheelbarrow filling pots.  In good weather I bring the potting bench up to the garden.  On cold rainy spring days I round up everything and take it back to the potting bench and then haul it all back to the cold frame. I can put in a lot of steps in a work day.  Yet another way that gardening is good for your health!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Autumn in New York

September Status Report

Morning in the garden.   
Everything still looks respectably green and healthy

When I looked at those two photos side by side on my 
desktop it was sort of a cool effect so I stuck them together.
Click photo for larger view

I have several beds with young buckwheat.  These late cucumbers (below), seeded mid-July, are starting to produce a few cucumbers.  

The cukes are smallish, about the size of Italian Sausages, 
but very useful for the occasional dinner salad

The sweet corn is done.  I need to cut the stalks which I plan to use for autumn decor at the doorway.  The yield was fairly low.  I think I crowded them too much.  Next year I will be one more step up the learning curve on that.  But all of the ears were very very sweet.  Last year I heard several people just rave about the taste of the local corn and we never got a good batch.  I got our corn from two different farm stands throughout the season, so several different varieties, and not one was really any good.  I expect to have at least one meal each year that is exceptional, but last year the taste was all below average.  That's why I grew the Gotta Haveit which I've grown in the past and the taste did not disappoint.  I also had enough to put I think ten double portions in the freezer and I am buying some additional from the farm stand to bring my stock back up to twenty which will hold us over.

At the feet of the corn I have a few pumpkin vines.

I still have enough tomatoes coming to keep me in sandwiches.
There are four vines left with very few leaves but several fruit each

The cantaloupes are beginning to ripen.  They are small but tasty.  I don't think I'll bother next year.  Its an awful lot of maintenance and waiting for a few average melons.   Ironically, the yield is higher this year than last, if I can keep the vines going.

My Dunja Zucchini is finally starting to mildew.  It still looks pretty darn good for an aging squash plant.  I have not removed a single leaf.

It is still steadily producing squash.  I have more than enough zucchini bread portions shredded and frozen and I have a face cord of squash stacked up in the kitchen waiting to be used or frozen.

The old bean plants are producing a small amount of rather tough husked beans.  The plants are still healthy and I can see the top growth is preparing to put out new flower buds.  I ought to pull them out, but I just haven't gotten to it.  Since they aren't ugly, it hasn't been high on my list.

The second planting seeded that last week of July is now mature

I found enough young beans in there tonight for supper

As for my other odds and ends.  Below is a Musquee de Provence pumpkin.  I have five nice ones growing and a couple are just beginning to color up.  I've never made pumpkin pie from scratch and these are supposed to be excellent tasting.

I am beginning to use carrots.  These went into the crockpot with potatoes and pork chops.  They are a mixture of A1 and Scarlet Nantes.  I've always liked the A1 because they are long and slender, but when I felt I was getting a poor germination with them I picked up a packet of Scarlet Nantes and over-seeded with those.  I have to say the nice thing about the Nantes is they fill out to a blunt tip that is easy to trim whereas the A1 has a long unfilled root at the end which feels wasteful to trim off.

I've harvested all of my potatoes.  A low yield.  My plants did well but never flowered.  I have to say that the spuds were as near perfect and disease free as I could want.  I did get one too close to the surface so it has a big green spot, and one inexplicably rotted almost completely away but the others are smooth and scab free with no wire-worm holes.  Since I have a hard time storing a large amount anyway, I'm pleased with the result.

Second half of the harvest

In addition to the dozen cauliflower plants I already planted I planted another dozen of spare transplants in the potato bed.  Fall lettuce will be planted under the frame which will hold a frost cover.  The lettuce seedlings are in that flat waiting to be transplanted but they have stubbornly refused to grow at all in the past two weeks.  They are still the size of dimes

So that's the status of the garden.  I have yet to do my Good Bad and Ugly synopsis of this season.  It feels like such a long season that the task is almost insurmountable.  I've had a lot going on in the garden this year, and I still have a lot to pull out and tidy up before leaf blowing season starts, and yet I've just planted two beds, and begun harvesting from two others.