Monday, May 24, 2010

Done with dirt

We finished moving dirt today! All of the beds are filled, the two massive mounds of soil are gone and grass seed is down. That makes 40 yards of dirt and 60-80 yards of mulch moved so far. Our backs and arms are ready to be done. Some pictures to show our progress since last October.

We burned some stumps and laid a lot of mulch to turn this field into a garden.

The fence has proven to be both dog and deer proof so far. Success.

The aerial view of the completed beds and planted trees.

Grass seed down. Its finally time to get to the fun part of gardening!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Planting the Garden

We had a wonderful weekend gardening. This is the stuff that I've been daydreaming about for 6 years now. Over half the garden was planted out. This includes: the perennial flower bed, fruit trees, raspberries, honeyberries, currants, perennial shade bed, lettuce, swiss chard, potatoes, onion and herb seedlings. We bought and planted strawberries and some fun herbs (like pineapple sage). I also seeded beets, spinach and some cut and come again lettuce mixes.

Eventually, this bed will contain a stone walkway down the middle. At 8 x 26 feet it's a bit too big to reach across for planting and harvesting. On the north end of this bed (furthest away in the picture) we are going to plant some asparagus, rhubarb and sunflowers. On the South end, (closest in the picture) we planted our strawberries. In between the two ends are a variety of herbs.

The view from above. I took this picture in the middle of a thunderstorm from our roof. Doesn't sound so safe, but I really wanted some proof of all of our hard work!

The view from the furthest bed. You can barely see some lettuce seedlings and the potatoes and onions.

Overall an excellent weekend. My shoulders are sunburned and my hands are tired. It seems like everything is the way life is supposed to be.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Outdoor Gardening and Finished Fence

We finished the deer fence! It finally feels like we have a garden. Completing this part of the project allowed us to finally plant out our fruit trees, currants, honeyberries and raspberries. We will be planting out more over the rest of the weekend, but I had to post an update on the massive garden project.

Jeff is putting the finishing touches on the fence. We used 4" x 10 foot posts buried 2 1/2' and deer netting for now. Next year or the one after we'll upgrade to wire. We still have some soil to move and some beds to fill. We wanted to get the fence up first as we had fruit trees and berry bushes to plant. We're still 2 weeks ahead of our last frost date, June 1.

The fence looks gorgeous! Jeff did an awesome job. It will look even better when grass is growing all around the edges and there is a nice fresh layer of mulch.

An aerial shot of the garden. We've got one wonky corner in the back left. We were constructing our garden and pretty far along in the process when a neighbor came by and let us know where our property boundaries were. Turned out the guy who sold us the property had it wrong. Oh well, it worked out.
Our attempt at the American Gothic pose with our Italian plum tree. This was the first living thing we planted in our garden!

It's hard to see, but all of our fruit trees are in. We have 2 dwarf northstar cherry trees, 2 pear trees, 2 apple trees and one Italian plum tree. Behind that, we have 2 honeyberry bushes, 1 black currant, 5 heritage raspberries, and 5 fall gold raspberries.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Our bees finally arrived today! We got two packages of Italian honey bees and are setting up two hives. We made sure to introduce the new members of the family to the pups who seemed to be quite mesmerized by the bees. The bees were very calm and even let our dog Zoe (the black and white one) lick them without stinging her. We sprayed them frequently with sugar water which helped calm them down.

Noah was not quite as sure about the bees as his sister. I wonder if he remembers when he ate a bee at 8 weeks old...

Honey bees are adorable. I was amazed by how calm they were.

Our two hives disassembled ready to take in some bees. The center parts are the brood chambers that go on the bottom of the hive. The queen will live down here and lay eggs. Each hive will get two brood chambers, one that will be more for reproductive purposes and the next level that will be for honey that we leave for the bees to feed themselves. There is a screen that will go between the top brood chamber and the next level, the super, that prevents the queen from getting out. When we harvest honey, we will take it from the supers.

I think I've got that right...

To get the bees into the hive Jeff pried out the above can that was wedged in a hole in the boxes the bees came in. After that was loose he literally poured the bees into their hives. They stuck together and very few were flying around. He probably didn't even need much protective equipment besides some garden gloves.

A couple good whacks to the boxes got most of the bees into the hives.

Pretty crowded in there! It was challenging to take a good picture as we did this around dusk and the bees were constantly vibrating to keep warm.

The queen came in her own little box so that we wouldn't lose her. We stuffed a mini marshmallow into the end of the box so that the other bees could eat her free once they were all tucked away in the hive.

It's not everyday you get to have your picture taken with a queen! The queen was placed into the center of the hive and then everything closed up with a layer of food in the middle.

It took about an hour to get everything done.

Now we're going to go watch some Winnie the Pooh.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Green Tomatoes

Check out our 'maters! They're getting to be pretty big. We've been checking the big ones every day for signs of ripening, but not yet. This particular tomato is a greenhouse hybrid beefsteak variety ('trust') that I started from seed on February 1st. The temperatures in the solarium are perfect for tomatoes - currently minimums around 60 and maximum temps around 90-100. These tomatoes are growing in 5 gallon pots. They've had a diet of water and a little bit of blood and bone meal. They're in a south-facing window angled to allow maximum sunlight in and get 10 hours or so of full sun each day.

The variety above is a debarao tall vine tomato. I originally thought we were about 60% successful germinating everything by hand, but it's turned out to be closer to 80-90%. We still make our daily rounds with the paintbrush. These plants are covered in blossoms.

I don't know why I ever thought a tomato variety called "tall vine" anything would be good for growing in pots. Next time I'm getting smaller, more compact varieties. The greenhouse hybrid one has done very well. The brandywines have also done pretty good, however they've got some sort of fungus going on. It doesn't seem to be slowing them down very much and we've been treating it with a store bought organic fungicide.

These sweet antohi peppers were also started from seed february 1st and are growing in 1 gallon pots in the solarium. They're a bit slower than the tomatoes. I'm dying to pick these peppers and try them out, but I'm waiting for them to get an extra half inch in length.

These bell peppers are growing in milk jugs and don't seem to mind one bit. Maybe another week or two before I pick this pepper. Hmm.. should I roast and stuff it?

These antohi peppers were transplanted into the beds in the greenhouse near the beginning of March. The cooler temperatures in the greenhouse have definitely slowed down their growth, but they still look quite healthy.

We found a spot that lettuce seems to love in the greenhouse. This bed is about 24 x 2 feet, and 5" deep. This is on the north wall of the greenhouse and is a little shaded by the timber frame construction of the greenhouse. The lettuce, endive, arugula and spinach are all thriving back here. We've been having salads full of baby greens in addition to the mature heads of lettuce that are growing in a larger bed in the greenhouse.

Not a great picture (it was getting dark when I took this), but this is a cucumber plant in the greenhouse. This evening I was checked on the cucumber, melon and cantaloupe seedlings relaxing in the solarium when I discovered a fully opened flower on this baby of a plant! I did not expect a plant with 2 true leaves to start flowering this quickly. I probably ought to pick the flower off, but we've got back up cukes in case this one dies. We're going to see what happens with this one.

We're still working on the fence. The fruit trees and berry bushes are in a holding pattern in the greenhouse and are hopefully not getting too comfortable. The rain has been preventing us from getting the fence posts in the ground. It looks like things might be drying up soon though. Keep your fingers crossed for us.