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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 3

After getting through the third week of mother nature having mood swings, I have finally caught my breath. Pictured above is spinach beginning to stretch and show how different it is compared to its next door neighbor, the mesclun lettuce mix. 
 As you can see, strawberry overload is upon us. My wife suggested putting the strawberry plants in a gutter, to which I replied, "No way, I don't want to spend money on gutters just to put holes in them." Come to find out, I had a huge random gutter laying behind our shed. What were the odds? Every 8 to 12 inches, I punched holes inside the bottom of the gutter to allow for drainage.
Return of the frost strikes twice in one week!! If anyone reading this is from Georgia, you might remember that it got below freezing two nights in a row. I have to admit, I was caught with my pants around my ankles. The first night, I got home around 9pm at night from work and rushed to cover the garden beds with a laundry basket full of old towels and plastic sheets. For some reason, I had the bright idea that the potato plants would be fine because they had a thin layer of hay covering them....not so smart. The potato plants suffered (notice the blackened areas on the potato seedlings) from the first night of cold which was much colder than the night to come. Learning from my mistake, I covered up the potato plants with buckets and towels the following night. I'm hoping they make come back to life. If not, I have some more seed potatoes. Is it just me, or does the garden look like a circus for squirrels when everything is covered up? 
Peas are some of the fastest growing plants in the garden thus far. I have been amazed at how much taller they get each morning. For some reason, the picture below is so beautiful to me. To top things off, the peach blossoms are continuing to stun me day after day when I look out the window and bright pink flowers everywhere.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Week 2

We achieved germination!
I'm feeling overly excited about the growth in the garden showing in only 7 days.
I thought for a moment that my freshly tilled garden beds would be safe from squirrels until I woke to discover 4 big freshly dug holes in various beds where seeds were once planted. Those little rascals! This frustrating experience led me to put chicken wire over each bed except for the potatoes and onions which have a generous layer of hay on top. My fix seems to be effective so far at deterring squirrels from planting acorns in what must be irresistible soft ground to those little boogers. As an added benefit, I have noticed less big leaves landing in my beds that I would normally be picking out by hand.

"The rooster may crow, but it's the hen that delivers the goods."

-Margaret Thatcher

As you can see, our chicks and Silkie hen which I call "my prize chicken" (she hasn't won any prizes...yet) are enjoying their morning after their first night out in their coop. I'm feeling what empty nest syndome is like now that they are out of sight. I can't imagine when it is your own children. Let's pretend it isn't coming and move on to some new pictures.

There are pieces of slab to hold down the chicken wire which were also used as stepping stones between beds 1 and 2 in a previous post.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pesky Squirrels and Peach Blossoms

My desire to become Carl Spackler from Caddyshack is about to manifest. I'm afraid if I go to bed tonight, I'll wake up in the morning with the bright idea to throw dynamite at squirrels. As usual, I find the damages from those pesky rats with fuzzy tails every morning when I check on the chickens and the new sprouts in the garden each morning. In response to the local squirrel A-Team, I added a plastic netting over the bed that was left from the prior owners of our house which protected their grape vines from birds.

As I mentioned in my Week 1 post, I left a row of potatoes and onions open because I laid hay over the plants and had not noticed any disturbances on the soil. I suppose the squirrels took what they could get and dug around 3 holes in the that one bed.

 "I smell varmint poontang. And the only good varmint poontang is dead varmint poontang, I think."
-Carl Spackler from Caddyshack

These beautiful peach blossoms have been introducing themselves and I'm hoping to get my hands on some yummy peaches this year. Last year, there were only two peaches because there was a late frost that killed the buds before they blossomed. This is my first experience with peach trees, so we'll see what happens.

I haven't done any research on peaches, but it is about time I learn given there might be an abundance of peaches soon to care for in the garden.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Week 1

Ground has been broken on my new garden in the hopes that there will be an abundance of wonderful veggies. Considering that the most experience I have is helping my parents plant vegetables and watching our family dog eat our patiently awaited watermelons and zucchini, I would call myself a first time vegetable gardener. There were one too many grape vines and wooden posts firmly planted in concrete a few months ago, which are now gone thanks to some back pain, sweat, and choice words. Now, I have space for yummy garden vegetables to be freshly picked and served at the family dinner table.

Here is my layout for our backyard vegetable garden. Mind you, it can be adjusted to in any way to suite your own needs. I used "Starter Vegetable Gardens - 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens" by Barbara Pleasant. It gave me ideas and the feeling that "I CAN" do this with some practice and hard work.

Row 1: Lettuce Variaties
Row 2: Broccoli and Kale
Row 3: Will contain Cucumber and Squash
Row 4: Will contain Tomatoes.
Row 5: Onions and Potatoes
Row 6: Lettuce, Carrots, and Peas
Row 7: Peppers
Row 8: Spinach and Mixed Lettuce (Mesclun Mix)
Row 9: Will contain Pole Snap Beans

Seeds were planted in early March because I am in zone 7. The beds you see here are shallow raised beds that contains conditioned soil that 12 inches deep  into the ground. The soil is a combination of compost, top soil, and manure.

The stones in between beds 1 and 2 are both functional and a good use of old materials laying around the yard. Soaker hoses seemed to be the easiest way to keep the beds watered with little difficulty. The pvc pipe in bed 2 is directing water inside the bed instead of watering the surrounding stepping stones. It works like a charm and conserves water.

Bed 5, covered in hay, contains the potatoes and onions. I read somewhere that hay helps keep beetles and other creepy crawlies from getting to potato plants. To plant potatoes, you simply buy seed potatoes of your desired variety and cut them into pieces with around 2 sprouts on each piece. You sow each piece of potato at around 2 inches deep. The carrots in bed 6 haven't been planted, but I plan on adding them next weekend. The trellis is constructed out of bamboo poles, wire and re-purposed string from the bale of hay.

The brass attachments were added because I wanted the ability to target certain beds. Is this necessary? Probably not, but my neurosis kicked in and needed it.  As you can see below, I am utilizing both soaker hoses and a sprayer attached to a hose for watering the potatoes and onions as the hay retains more moisture and does not require the same amount of watering as the open beds.