May 272016

2016 Garden Update

Garden perennials are my friend. They get planted once, then come back over and over if treated right.  A great return on investment in my book.

There are now several various perennials in my garden, both flowers and fruits.  The flowers were somewhat unplanned, a rush planting when I happened to find them unexpectedly and they needed planting right then.  What could have been disastrous turned out to actually be the right call on my part.  There are a few that I wish I had put elsewhere, but those can be easily moved later in the year.

Last week a friend gave me two starts of Rhubarb.  Yippee, another perennial! This will be a long-term relationship as it will take several years before I can reap the rewards. Till then they will have a home in one of the garden beds.

After taking a year off in the plant starting area, I set out to start my tomato plants for the year.  While they sprouted, they did not grow much at all.  Perhaps it was the lack of putting them under a florescent light?  Either way, I knew I was going to have to look elsewhere for plants.  My neighbor had several extras so I went that route.  There are now 10 cherry plants (of two varieties), 3 yellow tomato plants, and 3 red ‘regular’ tomato plants.  So far so good.  I mixed up where they were planted a bit to see if my success at cherry tomatoes last year had to do with the type of plant or the location.

Over a month ago I picked up a bag of onion sets, planning to put them in the ground when I had a few free moments.  It is a bit too late at this time, but I hope to get at least a few from the bag of 100.  These are used a lot in our beef stew recipe.  I found they are available in the winter months at the store, in the form of pearl onion, though they are almost $4 a bag.  By spending about $2 and a bit of time now, I can have many more of these frozen in the freezer for future use.

Radishes were a spring crop that I harvested but did not plant.  Last year I had spread seeds in the gaps in the strawberry bed, leaving some to go to seed.  I would like to say it was a planned experiment, but like most things last year it was a “perfectly imperfect garden”.  This year I had radishes in the strawberry bed, as well as in the yard.  I gathered up the seed pods, saving them for this fall.  Several were opened, the seeds spread in a different bed this time.  I will let you know what happens.

strawberry patch collage

Three or four years ago I took two smaller raised beds and converted them to a strawberry patch. It was a learning curve for me, but now things seem to be doing well.  The strawberries came back strong this year.  While I have only gotten a picture of one day’s harvest, we have had several bowls of these the past two weeks.  I think part of the success was a mild winter.  They did not have to be covered and uncovered like they would have if it had been as cold as it was two winters ago.  They are already sending out runners, all of which are being directed towards one side of the bed.  If I can start getting that side established then I will be able to take out the old plants in 1/4 of the bed each year starting in Year 4.  This is a great way to keep the bed renewed and producing.

The blackberry plants began blooming this week.  I did a bad job keeping up with their trimming last summer and am paying for it this year.  The one group is too large and will cause me problems soon.  Later this summer I will trim them like they should have been in order to have upright canes.  Something I did do right last year as to lay canes over in order to create new plants for this year.  While I should have a nice small-ish crop this year, I am looking at having a much larger crop next spring.  All we can do is learn and grow, literally.

As for my goal of using up the canned goods I already have, I made 6 batches of cornbread muffins earlier this week.  It resulted in almost 9 dozen, most going to the freezer.  There are very few things left, namely – pickled beets, about 6 jars of crushed tomatoes, green tomato pie filling (destined for muffins), various jams and 2 more quarts of corn.  There are also a few quarts of  applesauce to be used up in the next month or so.  I had not realized exactly how much I had canned and how many jar I had till this past year.  I did no canning last year and yet we still have food in the basement.

May 132016

green strawberries plants

If you agree with the saying, “A watched pot never boils”, you should try staring at strawberries.  So many green ones that I am bursting with anticipation.  I can not wait till they start turning red.  Hopefully I can get to them before the other bugs do.

Spring of last year revealed that several of my strawberry plants had died. I filled in the open spaces with radishes in hope of helping keep out weeds. The strawberry plants came back fine this year, along with some self-sown radishes from plants I had left in the garden over winter.  Any runners produced this year will be used to fill in a section, thereby creating a section for Year 1 plants, a section for Year 2 plants, a section for Year 3 plants, and a section for Year 4 plants.  Any of the existing plants in the Year 2,3, and 4 spaces will be left.  After Year 4, the plants in Year 1 will be removed and the process begun all over again.  This will help keep the strawberry patch stocked with young plants, as older ones do not produce as many berries.

The thought of picking a bowl full of berries to eat with pancakes sounds so delicious right now.  So much so, I am pretty sure there will be none left from my patch to make jam.

Nov 222014

This week has been fairly quiet in the garden, if you look at just what I, personally, was up to.

The strawberry beds finally were covered for the winter.  I removed the bird netting and broke up a bale of straw to cover them.  (After looking it up, I now understand that hay is what animals eat and straw is what you use for bedding.  Seems I’ve been getting it backwards.)  I may cover this with old fencing.  Well, it will be ‘old’ once I pull up the broken stakes and remove them.  Next year I need to find fencing with smaller  holes and am going to invest in metal stakes.

I had bought two bales of straw for this, not realizing just how big the bales were.  The other bale will be used to cover the ground for next year’s potato patch, once I am able to turn over the soil and cover it with mulched leaves.  We are having a weekend of non-freezing temps that will hopefully aid in this activity.

Strawberry bed covered in straw

I also strained the apples peels from the jars sitting on the counter.  This was a first for me this year, making apple cider vinegar.  Once I get to the end result I will tell you all more about it.  It has been a learning experience and may be one I try again, after implementing the lessons learned.  🙂

Apple Peels In A JarSo that is what I, personally, have been up to.  Now begins the not so quiet part, and that would be the cue for the construction workers to enter.

digging for garage foundation collage

It began with the arrival of the jackhammer, used to break up the concrete in front of the garage.  This will be the first winter, since we were married, that my husband will have to park outside and potentially deal with snow.  It should not last long though, as they are moving along fairly quickly. Maybe a month, or less, and the garage will be usable for vehicles again.

After the jackhammer came the bobcat.  This was the Day Of Little Boys.  Olaf was first to watch them work.  Then he left, to be replaced by George and Jack after school.  The kids were so excited they wanted to share the thrill, so invited some neighbor boys to come watch. Four boys, grade K – 3, running around asking questions and just over all excited to have a bobcat digging up the yard was fun. The one neighbor boy stood by a tree and watched.  And watched.  And watched.  I am pretty sure he was in love.  🙂

Then came the COLD spell and all work stopped.  A broken hydrolic hose may have also helped with the break.  They covered the trench with tarps and let it sit for a few days.

Once work started again, the trench was dug all the way in front of the garage.  Now for sure we were not going to be parking in there.

Thursday rebars and other supports were added to the trench, followed by concrete on Friday.  Not sure how I thought concrete would be added, but a big yellow truck was NOT what I was thinking.

I contemplated bringing Jack home for lunch to watch the action, went so far as to call the school, but then realized I would never get him to go back to school afterwards.  Instead I took videos and a few pictures, which they watched on the way home from school.  Their greeting after school is no long, “Hi, Mom.  How was your day?”  It is now, “So, Mom, what did you do with the house today?”  Just a bit telling isn’t it?

Hope your week has been a good one.  ~Rosie



Jun 232012

Last week I was able to get some strawberries from another gardener.  However, I wasn’t near as happy with these as I was with the beets I recently pickled.

I can’t decide who is at fault with this disappointment.  I should have known better than to buy something I hadn’t had time to fully inspect and also while I was being distracted.  On the other had, the seller/grower should have known better than to sell such low quality produce.  Half, or a bit more, ended up in the compost pile.  That was the most I have ever paid for compost and the most I have ever paid to freeze strawberries.  Either way I am not happy about the berries.  Even my husband is hesitant to eat them, because he saw what the containers looked like.  But here they are.  I’m trying to move on from my disappointment and anger, at myself and the seller, so that will be the end of that.

If you look closely at the pictures, you will see that I did something wrong.  Do you see it?

I did not place them in a single layer.  It was the very end and I just wanted to be done.

Freezing the strawberries allows me more freedom in deciding what I want to do with them.  I could just leave them frozen, in a freezer bag, to pull out as I want a few.  Or I could decide to make topping, pie filling, jam, or any other canned item with them in the future at my time of choosing.  That last part is the best part of this plan.

I was able to get all the strawberries done in the span of one day.  Much faster than the pickled beets.

To get to the freezing part was pretty easy.  I washed the strawberries, cut off the tops and any unwanted parts.  I then dried them off, placed them on a pan covered with wax paper, in a single layer, and flash froze them in the freezer.  When they were frozen I placed them in the freezer bags.  I should then be able to pull out 1 or 20 strawberries when I need them.