If you garden very long, you know that each year is a learning experience. I’m not a terrific record keeper, but I do take note of what is working, what isn’t, and tweak for the next year. In fact, this blog is one way that I detail my progress.
It seems like this year I’ve been able to take my past mistakes and turn them into gold. The garden this week is beautiful. Blooms abound on tomatoes, potatoes, squash, cucumber, and peppers. The tomato plants are packed with fruit. The newly planted herbs are thriving in their new sunny spot by the mailbox. The garden is virtually weed-free.
Of course, I can’t take all the credit – God has provided ample water (and more!). Bucket loads of rain have come down in long, soaking intervals every four or five days. My workload has really been easy.
I still have some big-time learning to do: the grapes didn’t get pruned this winter, and so they’re a mess. They’re currently full of new fruit, but much of it will rot unless I open it up to sunlight. The garlic is falling over because it’s simply so tall and heavy. I’m really not sure what to do – do you stake garlic? I know it still has some growing to do, because I pulled a plant to inspect the bulb – almost there, but not quite. And the plants haven’t gone to flower yet, either.
This weekend’s “to do” list:
- Clean the rabbit cages
- Use the rabbit poo to fertilize the herb garden
- prune grapes
- pull weeds from strawberry beds
What’s going on in your garden? What successes and/or failures are you experiencing this year?
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: gardening, Urban Agriculture, Soil, UVM, Dr. Heather Darby, Webinar
I live in Tennessee, and I’ve been able to take advantage of some resources offered by my local extension office. I took the Master Gardener course a couple of years ago and it taught me an incredible amount about plants and gardening and soils and – too much to mention. But throughout the course and afterward, I’ve been less than satisfied with the research done and resources offered by the UT Extension regarding organic farming methods. Other states’ extension programs are doing great research in this area, including Cornell University and University of Vermont. UVM has some great resources for small farmers, including some terrific webinars. I’ve just finished watching “Basic Soil and Soil Testing” with Dr. Heather Darby for the second time and wanted to recommend it to those of you who are really serious about gardening and farming. You can find the webinar recording here.
Here are a few tidbits:
- Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) – Who knew that being negative was such a good thing?
- The role of compost / organic matter in your soil (SPOILER: It’s not what you think!)
- The importance of micro organisms in your soil
- Different types of soil organic matter (SOM)
- Where to spend your money for the quickest production boost: “Lime is your cheapest form of fertilizer. The pH of your soil will highly influence how available many of the nutrients in your soil are.” “You can change pH rather quickly and for not much money and will have the biggest impact on your crop production.“
Pop some popcorn, send the kids outside, and set aside a block of time to watch the webinar. It’s an hour and a half long, but well worth it!
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: gardening, Memphis, Urban Ag, Urban Farming
The rain has come so often the last few weeks that I haven’t been able to do many of the chores that need to be done. Monday evening I finally got some okra in the ground, along with some kale and spinach transplants. In order to get the transplants in, I had a tremendous amount of cleanup work to do from the spring weeds. I also planted my rosemary and thyme in the front herb bed, and seeded the other herb bed with basil.
Today, while the sun is shining (it rained early this morning, and more is on tap for tomorrow), I’m going to attempt the following list:
- Clean the rabbit cages
- Turn compost
- Trip and trellis grape vines
- Plant more squash
- Plant oregano
I’m hoping that in between the rain tomorrow and a day of company on Sunday that I can butcher six of my rabbits. That will leave my breeders, Bugsy and Ruby, as my lone rabbits for the hot summer months.
How’s your garden? What do you need to do today?
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: gardening, tomatoes, Urban Farming, vegetables
I was able to get my seedlings in the ground April 15th. These were seedlings I’d started in the attic at the beginning of March. Imagine my surprise when I walked by the garden on Friday and saw blooms on my tomatoes! It’s a big deal for me, first, because this is the earliest I’ve had blooms, and second (and most importantly) because it proves to me that my methodology for planting from seed and transplanting has improved. My first few years of trying to grow from seed worked, but my plants were far less vigorous than they are this year, and matured much later than this.
The particular plants that have blooms are “Early Treat” hybrids, which I’ve written about before. They have small fruit but ripen quickly and produce all season. They’re a great option for impatient gardeners. My heirlooms look to be close behind, however, so I look forward to reporting on their progress soon.
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: gardening, Memphis, Planting, seedlings, spring, Urban Ag
April 15 in Memphis is “the day” to plant. Last year I fudged and got some plants in the ground a little early. I’m glad I waited this year. At the end of last week we were certainly having warm days, but then the temp would plummet back to the 30′s. Monday, and every day since, has been gorgeous, between 70-80 degrees, so my wife and I spent Monday putting seedlings in the ground.
Tomatoes, peppers and loofah seedlings went in, but my okra and herb seedlings didn’t look quite strong enough to put down yet. I also seeded some pumpkins, squash and cucumbers. My usual routine is to put my tomato and pepper seedlings in rows with adequate spacing, then plant vining, creeping plants in between rows to make the growing space a little more intense. Tomatoes grow up. Curcurbits grow out.
I still have some beds to finish up. I have spinach and kale seedlings to put in one bed, basil and cilantro to seed in another, and a few more cukes and squash to put into two yet un-weeded beds.
With all that said, the temp tomorrow is supposed to drop back down in the 30′s, but not quite to freezing. Hopefully the plants will be hardened off enough to handle the change.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Bees, gardening, Memphis, potatoes, spring, Turnip Greens, Urban Agriculture
Had a great afternoon working in the garden today. In preparation for planting my spring crop I harvested a boatload of turnip greens (with my first turnips). I let the plants go to flower because they’re really beautiful and have a fantastic fragrance. I picked some as a bouquet for the kitchen, let the bees enjoy some (the bees love them!), then fed the rest to the bunnies.
In addition, I did a walk through to see what was coming up, and it looks like my first potato is up, and the grapevines are covered in buds.
My seedlings are going in the ground next week, along with lots of pots full of plants. I’ll keep you posted.
How does your garden grow?
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: Garden, gardening, Garlic, Memphis, spring, Urban Ag, Urban Farming, vegetables
It’s 65 degrees here in Memphis today, so it’s not hard for me to be distracted by the garden, even though it’s mostly bare this time of year. One exception is my herb garden. In November I planted about 60 cloves of garlic, my first ever attempt at growing it.
Today I walked around to weed out some wheat that’s taken root (from the wheat straw I use for rabbit bedding and mulch). Here’s our current garlic progress. I’m so excited. So is my wife. And my kids. Why? We use an incredible amount of garlic around here, especially on homemade pizza night!
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: Garden, gardening, Memphis, seedlings, spring, Urban Ag, Urban Farming, vegetables
In addition, I planted some new seeds: Kale (Red Russian), Spinach (Long Standing Bloomsdale), True Lavender, Common Thyme, Rosemary, Okra (Bowling Red), and some Loofahs. I’m a little worried about the loofahs, though. I grew a couple of vines two years ago which did great. But last year’s vines didn’t come through. So these seeds are a couple of years old. I’m not sure how the germination rate will be after two years, but I’ll keep you updated.
Filed under: Bee Keeping, Gardening, Urban Ag | Tags: beekeeping, gardening, Rabbits, spring, Transplanting, Urban Ag, Urban Farming, Wendell Berry
There are so many sayings that folks throw around that they just can’t understand unless they garden or farm. “Make hay while the sun shines” is one of them. I’m on the road a lot and next week I’ll be away even more. But it’s mid-March, it was 74 degrees today, and there’s a lot of gardening to do. I had one day to get a lot done. So here’s a list of what happened at the homestead today.
First, coffee with a good book. Wendell Berry’s latest stories from Port Royal. Just got it yesterday.
Then it was time to get busy transplanting some seedlings.I had 54 tomato and pepper plants to put into their first pots; Early Treat, Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple tomatoes, and Serrano peppers. I created a quick video today showing how I do my transplants. You can check it out here.
Rats – after finishing the tomatoes, I ran out of potting soil. I make my own using organic potting soil and my own compost. But I had to cook the compost first. Into the oven with a batch of compost!
While the compost cooked, I also made a batch of sugar syrup for the bees.
On to the bee yard to feed the bees. They had already eaten all the sugar syrup I put on last week. Busy bees.
Meanwhile, time to clean rabbit cages. I turn my rabbits loose in the yard while I clean their cages. They love it, and it’s incredibly entertaining to watch. The straw, hay and rabbit poo goes into the compost pile.
Then on to plant potatoes. I have two big planters (used cotton seed containers) that hold four potato plants, so I had to fill them with soil, straw and compost. Three plants went in a raised bed, then three more in a trench in the yard. In case you’re wondering. I’ve got a little experiment going with potatoes, trying to find what is most productive here.
Time to take a break from gardening…and change the oil in both cars. I’ve got a big drive on Monday, so it’s got to get done.
And now to gather up the bunnies.
Got to finish potting the peppers and load them all back into the attic under the grow lights.
And I’m done. Big day. The sun finished shining a long time ago, but the hay is put up.
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: gardening, Seed Companies, Seed Growers, Seed Starts, seedlings, seeds
Each year I’ve been trying to perfect my seed starting routine. Last year was fabulous. I had plenty of healthy starts for myself and for all my friends (I had about 50 leftover seedlings I gave away last year). I prefer open-pollinated heirlooms, but I also grow a few F1 hybrids, like the “Early Treat” tomato I picked up last year. It’s about a 45 day tomato, and though they aren’t huge, they’re beautiful and delicious. A good carry-over until the big boys come in.
Well, it’s late January here in Memphis, which means it’s almost time to start my spring seedlings. But at this point I haven’t decided what I’m ordering, and who I’m ordering from. I’m late!
But I’d like your help. This year I’d like to know what some of your favorite varieties are, and what seed companies you order from. Again, I’d prefer open-pollinated heirlooms, so that I can save seed, and I’d prefer growers from the southeast, so that the conditions under which the seeds have been cultivated will be similar to my own.
So – what and who do you love? Post in the comments, below, and thanks!