Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Weeding update

Well, we have had two non-raining days in a row!  It's been so nice to be able to come home and spend an hour or two working outside, like a normal summer.  It finally feels like we are accomplishing something.  Unfortunately, there is a long way to go.  Yesterday and today we were able to cut the grass down another layer, getting closer to our ideal length.  We also have weeded a good portion of the butterfly garden and the new hydrangea bed, preparing for mulch which we will hopefully get to this weekend.  We also cleared out the small bed in front of the shed in preparation for our new rose bushes and we took down a nasty tree in the front flower bed as well as some suckers growing along the fence.  Next we hope to clean up the front flower bed and get the new plants in the ground!  Plus new mulch all around.  After we get the flower beds tidied up, we will move onto the veggies which are also a mess.

Monday, 23 June 2014

I promised...

Well, I promised an rained!  The lawn got mowed in between showers, but that's about it.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Elephant Ears

So, I am pretty sure we have gotten over a foot of rain in the last week or so, which means the weeds are very happy and I haven't gotten into the garden at all, but I promise to update on Sunday after a full day of weeding!

I did just cut a whole bowl of lettuce for dinner, taste testing as I picked it.  It doesn't seem too bitter given the hot temps we have had.  I did throw out the radishes though, they were super bitter!

In the meantime, I am super excited to say our Elephant Ear Bulbs have officially survived the winter!  We stored them in a portion of our garage that stays around 50 degrees in a brown paper bag.  We saw little sprouts come up a week or so ago, but the leaves have now unfurled and we officially have little plants!  They were planted mid to late May, so it took just over a month.  I think/hope now that they have leaves they will grow quickly.  Aren't they fun? 

Also, here is my Zinnia.  So pretty!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Memorial Day Update

May has been a busy month and I haven't got much posting in, so here is an update of the work done this month.

The patio pots have been filled.  The pretty red flowers are begonias, planted with some pretty purple petunias.  In the shade we've done some impatiens, which I have never had much luck with, but we'll see.  In the big pots, we also are trying our elephant ears from last year that we over-wintered in a temperature controlled area of the garage.  We will see if they come up this year or not.  We also have some beautiful zinnia plants from the greenhouse.  Last year they were tall spikes with one flower on the top.  I wonder if they get pruned if we'll get more blooms?  Time for some research I think.

Before planting, I added a mix of top soil, compost and miracle grow potting soil, about a third of each.  I'm also watering once a week with liquid miracle grow for blooms.

What do you think?  I think I need more pots...!

We have three hanging baskets this year, purchased from Gerten's.  We added this cool hanger and put the hummingbird feeder out by the hammock.  I haven't seen any birds on it yet, but hopefully soon!  We have seen a couple buzzing around though.

The butterfly garden is slowly coming along.  It still needs some major weeding, but we are making some headway.  Once the plants start coming in strong and flowering, we will see about adding some plants, etc.

Hey look, the hydrangeas are growing and the sod is still alive!
And last but not least...the lilacs are blooming!  They have just started, but the smell is heavenly.  My favorite time of year.  

Woodland Wildflowers

Here are some lovely wildflowers we saw just starting to bloom on our Mother's Day walk through the woods.  So pretty!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Springtime planting

Here are some photos of our progress yesterday.  We made a new planting bed around the deck (half of it is done) so we filled it with some new hydrangeas and the little roses from the front yard.  We also laid some sod.

The lilacs are greening up nicely, hoping they will be blooming by Memorial day.  The little Hummingbirds are back too.  I don't know if they have found the feeder yet though.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

I forgot!

I forgot to mention I saw our first butterfly over the weekend!  It was darkly colored, I did not recognize it in my quick glimpse, but I do hope it sticks around.  Signs of spring are so comforting

Sunday, 4 May 2014

First planting of the season!

Finally!  We spent some long but enjoyable hours outside this weekend.  We spent a few hours raking up the sticks and dried grass and seeds and leaves from the backyard.  Hopefully with the warmer temps the grass will start to grow and the lawn won't look so sparse.  The front yard still needs some hard raking, which will hopefully get done after work over the next week.

We also had a nice bonfire this afternoon, burning up a lot of the brush that accumulated over the winter.  We still have enough for one good bonfire yet, perhaps next weekend.

In the garden, I got one of the planter boxes loaded up with some compost and a new layer of dirt from last year' pots (next year maybe we can do that in the fall...).  In it, I planted a row each of our spring crops:  sugar snap and snow peas, red and green romaine, spinach, arugula, radishes, carrots, cilantro and parsley.

We also made our first trip to Gertens this year.  We got some nice hanging baskets (I'll post pics later) as well as potatoes and onion sets for planting.  Hopefully we will get those in the garden this week.

I put my hoe from Johnny's today!  Used it for the first time-it works splendidly!  

Finally, we got the bird feeder stand put up in its new location.  I'm not convinced of it yet-it's a little low to be seen from the deck, but we will try it for a bit.  The feeders are full, except for the hummingbird feeder, I need to make some syrup yet.  We'll see how long it takes for the birds to find them again!

The next week looks to be filled with 60 degree temps and scattered showers.  Hopefully everything will respond and green things up!

Friday, 2 May 2014

...bring Creeping Charlie

It's the only thing that seems to be growing!  We have gotten over 4 inches of rain in the last week, but it's been so cold and dreary that the only think that seems to be growing is the pile of branches for the fire pit from all the wind we have been having.  Today, however, I got home from work and the weather was a stable, not too breezy 55 degrees.  The sun even tried to peak out for a few minutes!  So I spent an hour or so in the butterfly garden trying to carefully weed out the Charlie without disturbing the perennials...never an easy task.  But even if I accidentally sacrificed a columbine flower or two, it's worth it to get ahead of the creeper.  And since I don't trust it in the compost's more fuel for the fire pit!

Hopefully the balmy weather will continue this weekend and we can get a nice bunch of spring cleanup finally done.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

April Showers

As we enjoy a light rain and our first echoes of thunder of the season, it's probably a good time for an update.  Both work and weather have kept me out of the garden so far.  We have had a few nice days, but those hours have been spent doing spring cleanup, not planting.  About a week ago we noticed the first few bulbs popping up.  They are about 4 inches tall now.  I think the squirrels have done a number on them so we will pay attention to what is left and plant more this fall.

There is also either garlic or onions coming up in the raised beds.  Must have gotten missed last fall...oops!

What we have done is pick up some of the sticks that little the yard after the winter and put down some grass seed and fertilizer.  Our lawn has been in rough shape, so hopefully this will help it get back on track. 

We also spent a solid 3 hours putting together patio furniture yesterday...a good job done.  Now if it would only stop raining for a day so we could enjoy it!

Hopefully, as the saying goes, this next full week of rain showers will bring us some flowers.  The lilacs are starting to bud out (leaves that is).  Maybe we will have some greenery to look at soon.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Friday, 28 March 2014

Another sign of spring...

First Robin sighting was yesterday.  Funny how once you see the first one, they seem to be everywhere!  It does seem like one step forward, two steps back though...we had more snow today.  More big white fluffy flakes...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The turn is coming...

It has to be.  This morning we woke to 11 degree temps with wind chills feeling like 5 below zero...the average temp this time of year is 45.  The forecast looks promising, hopefully getting us up to average temps by the weekend, perhaps even above average.  I'm heading out of town this weekend, and hoping when I return the snow will be significantly melted.  We shall see!

Friday, 21 March 2014


Well, I spent the week in Charleston, West Virginia and in hindsight wish I had taken a picture or two.  It was in the high 50s to low 60s with lots of sun, no snow, and the daffodils and crocus were blooming. They have another shot at snow coming this weekend, but it certainly was a nice respite from the chilly temps at home.

A few more cold days and then the forecast says we will be in the 50s too.  Of course, I'll be gone again by then...oh well.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

10 days later

We still haven't made significant progress on the Spring front.  The 3-4 inches of ice are gone from the driveway and the massive amounts of snow and ice are gone from the roof, but what had melted in the backyard has refrozen into a very large ice rink and another winter storm is coming our way tonight.  At this point, it will be May before we get in the garden!

I shouldn't be so impatient I guess...this time last year we had plenty of snow on the ground, but that's not supposed to be the norm.  We still have single digit lows in the forecast!

Saturday, 8 March 2014


Well, it's March 8th and the garden is still buried in snow.  But the great news is that the sun is strong enough to melt the snow and ice even if the temps are below freezing!  And for the first time, the 10 day forecast has every day above freezing after today.  We're hitting 40 degree temps so things should start to slowly melt.  We are finally getting some average temperatures!  The meteorologist in our office says winter isn't done with us yet...but any movement towards spring is great news to me.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


We still have 3 feet of snow on the ground...and it's only 14F out this morning, but the first signs of Spring were here is morning!  No, not tulips or robins.  Not even melting snow.  BUT, my black coat hanging on the chair in the kitchen was warmed by the sun!  AND the sun was warming my face in the car this morning!  Ok, I know it's not much...but it's definitely something.  

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dreaming of Italy

Oh the Cooking Channel.  It has me dreaming of things 45 minutes ago I didn't even know of.  Some dreams, like a buying a villa in Tuscany, have been in my head for ages...but here are some things I want to remember to make when springtime comes around again:

Potato gnocchi (I still need to figure out how to make these successfully)
Home made tortelloni with fresh basil and ricotta
Corsetti, flat, round stamped pasta
These little one inch skinny noodles, like big rice...yum!

Can you imagine having an artisanal fresh pasta store in your town?

Basil cream sauce
Roasted eggplant, zucchini & peppers
Artisan bread bruschetta with grated tomatoes, olive oil & basil (never thought of grating tomatoes?)
Chestnut floor gnocchi...yum!
Pesto cream sauce, made by cooking the basil first.  I need to find a recipe...
Peach tiramisu, with white wine, vanilla,  mascarpone, whipping cream and lady fingers
Roasted plum tomato sauce, with white wine
Grilled steak, with rosemary and bay on the grill and a caramelized porcini mushroom, brandy cream sauce
Testirolli, kind of like a cross between crepes and pita bread, smothered in pesto.

I'm going to dream of food all night and wake up starving!  Mange!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Planting Tips

I cannot claim these as my own, rather excerpts from Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest (great book for anyone in a cold climate looking to extend their growing seasons!).  I would love to do cold frames, hoop houses, etc...but on days like today (-16F before wind chill!), I'm just not sure what would even survive.

Anyways...thinking of spring, here are a collection of planting tips from Mr. Coleman:
  • Beans:  Plant with the eye looking down.  Beans need to be picked daily for the best quality, and are perfect for succession planting.  Eliot recommends Johnny's "Garden of Eden" pole bean (we got "Fortex", maybe will try the Eden next year).  We'll start these from seed once the soil reaches 60F (they germinate best in even warmer soil temps), and I'll do one, four foot row up my arched trellis.  These should hopefully be good sellers at the Farmstand as well as for the freezer.  They take 60 days to maturity.
  • Beets:  Apparently, beets are tricky and need neutral soil (I wonder if that's my problem?  Another reason to do a soil test.)  They also like lots of organic matter - that I can do!  We'll also try these as transplants from the greenhouse this year.  We'll need to start these about 5-6 weeks before the last heavy frost (I'd say Mid-March).  They take about 46 days to mature.  I'll try about 20 in my whiskey barrel. 
  • Carrots:  We actually did have some success with the carrots last year (even though I completely ignored them along with everything else).  Carrots like autumn leaves in their soil (check).  We'll direct seed these in early spring, about 35.  This variety is good for storage, so hopefully we'll have some luck with these at the farm too!
  • Cucumbers:  We're only doing a slicing variety this year at our house.  We'll do these from transplants this year and run them up the arch trellis.  They need soil that is 60-70F (and it must stay in that zone) to germinate.  We'll start them about 3-4 weeks early, and I'll take one, four foot row.  They take 75 days.
  • Eggplant:  this is a new one for us.  Johnny's recommends starting seeds early, 8-10 weeks before transplanting (so first week in April?) and in warm soil temps (80-90F) until germination, 70F thereafter.  Apparently you can grown eggplants like tomatoes, staked or caged (who knew?).  I'd like about 5 plants for sure, maybe more.
  • Kohlrabi:  Another tricky one for me.  It says it's a cool season plant and Eliot only plants them in the fall - something to consider.  I think we'll try transplants, some in the spring, and some in the fall.  Kohlrabi likes leaves in the soil as well.  Johnny's doesn't say how early to start the transplants, but they can germinate in soils as low as 45F or so.  I think these should be able to go in the ground quite early, and we should start them inside about 4 weeks ahead of planting. We'll need to wait for the soil to get down into the 70s again for the second planting (we want to start these inside too).  They take 80 days and again are great for storage.  We'll try about 10 of these.
  • Lettuces:  We'll do all of these from seed, and plant them underneath our arbor trellises.  Hopefully, the trellised plants will be robust enough to shade the lettuces by the time it's warm enough for them to want shade.  I'm really hoping to get crops of spinach this year that we can freeze for the winter.
  • Peas:  We have two kinds of peas, snow and sugar snap, both of which I am looking forward to!  Peas like it super cool, so we're hoping to plant these in March.  They love fertilizer, and Eliot recommends fertilizing in the fall so the beds are ready first thing in the spring (more food for thought).  We'll be doing a row of each, four feet long on the trellises.  Hopefully these will prosper at the farm too, for selling and freezing.
  • Radishes:  these are something we do know how to grow!  We'll start these early in the spring as well, probably amongst the carrots.
  • Squash:  We'll plant the summer squash & zucchini from transplants this year, started 3-4 weeks before the last frost (Early April hopefully).  Eliot does say the younger plants produce more and better fruit, so they do a second sowing later in the year...something to consider.  We'll probably do 4-5 plants of each kind.
  • Tomatoes:  Ahh the lovely tomatoes.  I'm going to focus more on eating varieties now at my house, and utilize the space at the farm for the canning supply.  We'll put in transplants from the greenhouse, taking 2 of each kind for the planting bed as well as 2 of the Brandywines and 2 of the Rose plants in pots (maybe a wild cherry in a pot as well...but then I certainly won't need 2 in the garden).
In addition, we'll start the following from sets/transplants this year:
  • Onions & Scallions:  Onions are something we could start in the greenhouse from seed and then transplant in the spring, but we haven't tried this one yet.  Maybe something to consider for next year.  Onions want the richest soil in the garden.  Onions like to be planted in rotation after lettuce, squashes & melons (avoid planting them after cabbage family crops). 
  • Potatoes:  We'll do our two potato towers again this year as we had success with them last year, however, we'll need to improve the watering on the lower levels.  One piece of advice I read was to run soaker hoses throughout as you build the tower.  We may have to try that this year.
  • Peppers:  we'll get a few varieties of hot peppers again this year, probably the lemon drops and jalapenos again for making jelly (yum!), as well as drying into flakes.  We'll also get a few bell peppers for good measure.  Eliot recommends removing the flowers of young pepper plants to encourage a hardier plant - on the list for this year.
On a related note, I wonder if we could use the attic as our cold season storage?  In an insulated box perhaps?  I'll have to test the temperature up there this winter...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

2014: A new year for gardening

Well, I have to be honest.  Last year was a pretty sad year for gardening at our house.  The garden was severely neglected - even the tomatoes were ignored.  We had a few other things on our mind.  Like a new deck.  And a patio.  Which are done!!  *insert celebratory music*

So now it's time to turn our attention back to gardens.

We've made our order from Johnny's seeds today.  It includes:
  • Tomatoes -  Last year we planted Brandywines, Matt's Wild Cherry, Speckled Roman, and Big Beef.  The first two are heirlooms so we've tried our first attempt at saving seeds from last year.  We've reordered the Big Beef, a new heirloom paste tomato called Amish Paste (the Speckled Roman had a seed crop failure), and a new heirloom to try called Rose.
  • Carrots - Bolero again.  We had some success with these in the whiskey barrels last year so we'll try again this year.
  • Beets - we're trying Moneta this year.  I still haven't had much success with beets, but I think it's maybe my inconsistent watering style (which we will try to rectify this year).  We'll try these in the whiskey barrels again.
  • Radishes - D'Avignon French radishes again.  these are delish
  • Kohlrabi - Again, we've never had much success growing these but we'll try again.  Kossak is the variety
  • Peas - we're trying the standard Sugar Snap as well as the Oregon Giants, which are snow peas.  We'll see if we can get these to go up the trellises
  • Cucumbers - We're just doing a slicing cucumber at our house (Marketmore).  The farm will have a pickling cucumber as well.
  • Summer Squash - we've got the Raven zucchini and the Slick Pik yellow summer squash for the garden
  • Arugula - this is my favorite green.  My goal is to make some really yummy salads and pizzas with our arugula this spring.  My mouth is watering already thinking of arugula, prosciutto and pine nuts...yummy!
  • Spinach - We're trying a smooth leaf spinach called Space.  Again, my goal is to stay on top of the spinach so we can cut and freeze for use in the winter.  Also, I have a new apple spinach juice recipe for my juicer that I am loving.
  • Herbs:
    • Cilantro (calypso)
    • Basil (Genovese)
    • Italian Parsley (Giant of Italy)
    • Dill (Fernleaf)
    • Thyme (German Winter Thyme)
  • Eggplant - new this year!  we're trying a version called Oriental Express, which is an Asian variety
  • Pole Beans - Fortex
  • Flowers - Marigolds (Queen Sophia, hopefully some of these will reseed from last year), Impatiens (Athena Formula Mix), Zinnias (a tall variety called Zowie! Yellow Flame, might try these in a pot in the garden instead of on the patio), Nasturtium (Kaleidoscope mix)
  • For the Farm -
    • Pumpkins & Gourds - At the farm we'll do the same pie pumpkins and gourds (Winter Luxury and an ornamental mix).  We're also doing the Honey Bear acorn squash and the Waltham Butternut, same as last year, as well as a new winter squash called Sweet Dumpling which looks fun.
    • Halona Cantaloupe
    • Jersey Knight Asparagus - more for the corn field
    • Sweet Corn - for the farm, we're trying Luscious this year.  1,000 we go!
    • All Star Gourmet Lettuce Mix
    • Romaine Lettuce - red and green (Outredgeous, & Jericho)
    • Chinese Cabbages for the greenhouse - Bilko, Joi Choi, Tokyo Bekana, Tatsoi
    • Mustard Greens - Golden Frills, also for the greenhouse
    • Brussels Sprouts - these are definitely for the farm, not my favorite (Diablo)
    • Field Peas
    • Soy Beans - Tohya (edimame anyone?)
Many of these will get an early start in the greenhouse, which I am very excited about.  It's always such a relief to know that we are thinking about spring, even when the high temperature for Tuesday is 2 degrees F and there is a few feet of snow on the ground.  Honey Bunny loves it though!

Happy dreaming of spring everyone!