Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bishop Bean Trellis update

An update on the Bishop Bean Trellis.  It WOULD HAVE worked if we had done our layout a little differently.   We should have planted the beans end to end instead of side by side.  The first box shaded the second one too much & harvest was poor on the second one.  Another thing that lessened my bean harvest is that my McCaslan beans were mislabeled and turned out to be white half runners, which are MUCH smaller & stringy.  I'll order my seed next year instead of going to my local co-op.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Part III, June 2014 garden

I'm almost finished with show & tell, so bear with me.

Just a little more on the vegetable garden.  We are trying a new trellis system that was featured in Heirloom Magazine from Baker Creek Rare Seeds.  It is the Bishop Bean Trellis (Elvin Bishop) and is an inverted trellis.   We are using it in 2 1x6 boxes that are side by side, but next year we will use 2 boxes end to end.  Even with 3' spacing between boxes, it is going to be crowded when harvest time comes around since the trellises are wide at the top.    Can you see the tarp covered mound at the far end?  That's my coveted mushroom compost pile.

These are McCaslan pole beans, a flat Italian type bean.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 2014, Part II

Wow, 2 posts in 2 days!

I love Fedco Seeds.  I've also ordered quite often from Baker Creek, but Fedco has better prices, a much larger selection & FREE SHIPPING.

I ordered 2 sweet pea varieties & a new larkspur, Carmine.  It was their last year to carry Carmine, and I'm really glad I ordered  them.  They are double flowered, a rich pink & so pretty.  I planted them with a mixture of blue, purple, lavender & pink larkspur that I already had.

Here are the sweet peas.  The first one is America.  Fedco's description is very accurate, except I would call the color bright pink:  "An antique striated variety, arresting both to eyes and nostrils. Each blossom contains subtle variations of bright reds with creamy white streakings. Heavily perfumed. Looks lovely next to Cupani. First offered in 1896 by Morse-Vaughan. Vines grow to 3'."

Per Fedco:  "Oldest and among the most fragrant of all sweet peas. Celebrated its 300th birthday in 1998 amidst a surge of renewed interest. Named for the Sicilian monk who found these bicolors growing wild, Cupani combines deep maroon-purple upper petals with deep violet-blue lower petals. Grow Cupani for enticing intoxicating aroma. 5' vines."  Mine were planted against a fence with poppies.  The poppies grew about 6' tall & the sweet peas didn't get enough sun to do well, but the blooms are still very pretty & fragrance is outstanding & are a "keeper".   

If you are interested in non-GMO, open pollinated, heritage varieties you need to check Fedco.  Their catalog is printed in black & white, but you can always Google if you aren't familiar with something.  Their catalog is really interesting and they give lots of plant history and vintage line drawings.

I don't get any compensation or discount from Fedco, I just really like them a lot.

June 2014 Garden - Part I - mostly tomatoes

OK people, it's time for my semiannual blog post!

We (well, it was mostly my hubby, but I am a very good supervisor) completely redid the garden this spring.  We built more boxes, moved the pre-existing ones and mixed, mixed & mixed Mel's mix.  A friend from church brought me a large dump truck full of mushroom compost for $350, which should last for as long as I am able to garden (I turned the ripe old age of 65 this year & am proud of it.)

The initial investment is a bit costly, but after the boxes are built & filled, you only need to replenish the compost after each harvest.  When something is through producing, just pull it out, add a scoop of compost & plant something else.  Remember, with Square Foot Gardening you don't use garden soil - a mix of 1/3 each compost, vermiculite and peat moss.  The mix doesn't pack down, you can plant in it right after a rain and NO WEEDS.

My previous beds were 4x8, which were too big.  I could never quite reach the center of them.  I also use a lot of trellises for cukes, delicata squash & Tromboncino squash at the end of most beds, so we changed the sizes to 3x6 and 1x6.   So far I am really liking the new design.  I'm especially pleased with the tomatoes in the 1' wide boxes.  Plenty of air circulation.

You can click any picture for a larger view.

I have eight 1x6 boxes, each of which has 6 tomato plants.  And no, I don't know why I thought I had to have that many tomatoes.  Actually I do have a good idea as to why - I start my own seed & in the dead of winter I get a little carried away sowing seeds.

 It is very important to sucker the plants or you will have a major jungle on your hands.

Each tomato is supported with a length of heavy nylon fishing line that is looped over the top of the PVC pipe, extends to the ground with a couple of extra inches.  As the plant grows, I just loosely wrap the nylon around the plant.  Every few days I wrap loosely til the plants are at the top of the pipe.  Nylon carpet yarn is actually better, but I couldn't find any this year.

As large as these plants are, the one strand of nylon is all that is needed & doesn't cut into or through the plant.

 PVC frames are removable - just slip them out of the pipe clamps.  This will help with crop rotation.  My husband is really brilliant figuring out stuff like this.  I give him a general idea of what I want & he makes it.

Huge German Pink tomatoes

Rumi Banjan tomato

Rumi Banjan is a new variety I got from Winter Sown; they have been the earliest ones.  It is a medium sized, somewhat ribbed tomato that was brought to the U.S. in 1937 from Afghanistan and is thin skinned & very juicy.    Rumi Banjan is bright yellow with a pinkish blush on the bottom.   The taste was pretty good, especially for the first tomato of the season, but a little too tart for me.  (That doesn't mean I had any trouble eating them!) .

And now the ugly:  My grandmother always said the Japanese beetles arrive after the first rain in June and unfortunately this has been my observation too.  I hate that they are so reliable.  

Stay tuned - I actually have plans for another show & tell post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SPRING is on the way!

The past few days have been fantastic - temps in the high 60's and low to mid-70's.  We are due a cold spell (one of several, I'm sure) with temps going down to the mid-20's for a couple of days.  The only bad thing about the warm weather is that the mosquitoes are out in force. 

What's going on:
  • We have been moving boxes and building new ones the past few days. 
  • Planted 18 squares of cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower.  
  • Two 72 cell trays of tomato seedlings are up.  Varieties include Dad's Sunset, Dixie Sweet (heirloom from my family), Donskoi, Isis Candy, White currant, Amish paste, German Pink, Opalka, Rumi Banjan, Stump of the world, Maiden's gold, TN surprise, Tomcat cluster, Tidwell German pink and Early Cascade.  
  • Prisma shallots, King Sieg and Lincoln leeks have sprouted very well.
  • Rhubarb seedlings potted up.
  • Foxglove seedlings potted up.
  • Worked on bean trellises - one of 4 finished. 
  • Cut down 1 of my old 12' x 4' boxes to make two 12' x 2' boxes for blueberries and blackberries, will transplant as soon as we get them filled with Mel's Mix.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My newest book addition: The Complete Guide to Greenhouses & Garden Projects: Greenhouses, Cold Frames, Compost Bins, Trellises, Planting Beds, Potting Benches & More

I recently ordered this GREAT book from Amazon:   The Complete Guide to Greenhouses and Garden Projects: Greenhouses, Cold Frames, Compost Bins, Trellises, Planting Beds, Potting Benches and More by Black and Decker.  It is well worth the money spent. This is a quality paperback book measuring 8 1/2 x 11 inches and loaded with color photos.

Like all Black and Decker's DIY series books, it covers everything you need to know, including:
  • Choosing a greenhouse
  • Choosing a site
  • Greenhouse styles
  • Greenhouse Elements
  • Complete plans for several different greenhouses
  • Garden projects including seed starter rack, cold frame box, raised planting beds with and without cover, potting benches, hoop houses and MUCH more.
Check it out at Amazon.com for preview pages of this great book.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2014: The year of my dream shed

For years I have wanted a rustic shed with a greenhouse and it looks like this is the year for it and I am really excited.  Today we measured and squared up the layout, ready to dig the footing.  

This first photo is the area where we are working.  We had lots of large trees in the woods with dead limbs and trees that only had limbs on one side due to lack of sunlight, so the best way to start was to clear out this section to the end of the driveway, leaving the largest, nicest trees in place.  This  photo doesn't look so bad, but in actuality it was pretty awful.  There were lots of scrubby growth, some sort of wild huckleberry bushes (not edible fruit) and just trashy looking.

We had power lines coming through this part, so before cutting down the trees we had the power lines put underground.  That is a story in itself, but briefly while we were in the midst of having the lines moved, we had a huge storm that downed one of our largest trees at the very end of the drive.  It fell right across the power lines and pulled everything off of our house.  Since all we had to do was have the new breaker box inspected before the actual change-over, we decided not to replace & repair all the damage and have the power turned back on.  

We figured this would only take a day or two since we had already called for our inspection.  Ha!  It was 5 days before the power was turned back on and temps were in the high 90's.  Since we kept thinking we would only be a day or two without power, we went to my Mom's.  I dearly love my mother, but she is 85 and is really cold natured and she wouldn't turn the thermostat down past 78 degrees.  I'm overweight and don't handle heat very well and was MISERABLE, especially at night when trying to sleep in a hot room.  

This second photo was taken after the trees were cut.  We still have a lot of clean-up to do, but it's coming along nicely.  I have a nice, level area (about 60' x 200') for new SFG boxes, but I won't be using all the area for SFG. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A glorious day!

Thank you, God, for this beautiful day.  A week ago we were waiting for the snow, today the temperature was around 60. 

Here in the Chattanooga area (about 2 hours north of Atlanta) we don't get much snow.  We usually have one, maybe 2, snows a year, but never much accumulation.  A couple of weeks ago we had less than 2 inches, which was mostly ice, which pretty much paralyzed all of the Southeast.  Then last week we got 10 inches of snow, which is VERY unusual for us.  As you can see, it was beautiful.  The best thing about it was that it melted off the roads quickly due to the above freezing temperatures.

Today was really nice and I couldn't stay out of the dirt.  Since I practice Square Foot Gardening and use Mel's Mix, my boxes thaw quickly and digging in wet "soil" doesn't pack it down.  In one of the 3' x 12' boxes we (I use the term "we" loosely, since my husband did most of the heavy work) added mushroom compost and worked it in well, then moved part of an asparagus bed into it. The roots were huge and I expect quite a nice harvest this year.  This was my newest bed, which is about 3 years old now.   I now have a total of 100 asparagus roots, so maybe we will get our fill of asparagus this year.

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