February 22, 2011

Mostly standard lawn care this week, but some forward progress on the garden

written by Yvonne

We love using our rain barrels, but they haven't been at the right height in relation to the garden for us to use them efficiently.

Last weekend we drained the barrels and this weekend we added more cinder blocks to make them higher. Now we just need a good rain to see if they work any better.

I harvested about a pound and a half of collards and took them over to our neighbor.  We still have plenty left for dinners next week.

The spinach really popped up after a good watering.

Garlic seems to be doing well too.

This weekend we planted carrots and lettuce in Bed #1.

We also planted potatoes.

They look like dirt clots, but these are the seed potatoes.

Among the potatoes we also planted onions.

All of the above only took about an hour's worth of time.  Maybe a little longer.  The bulk of the weekend we spent doing general lawn maintenance.  I didn't want to write too much about that because there's not much exciting about trimming hedges and such.  However, Tom got an electric chainsaw and went to town on three dead treas, some out of control ornamental grass, and a few ugly things we've been dying to get rid of.

This is the end product of Tom's hard work.

We find this quite funny.  If you go onto Google, you can pull up a picture of  your house and view it from a satellite view.  The house in the middle below is ours. If you look closely you'll see that this picture was taken as we were building boxes 3 and 4 last year. You can see the planks of wood from three sides of a box laid out on the ground.  If you can't see what I'm describing, email me and I'll give you our address so you can look it up.

February 14, 2011

Out with the old, in with the new

written by Yvonne

Here lies the last of TYs winter lettuce, turnips, carrots (all two of them) and parsley. There is a nice harvest of spinach but this is not the last of it.  We'll keep the spinach growing in the garden as long as possible.

As all good gardeners do, we started the spring season by planning out what seeds we'll sow in each area of the beds.  We kept the following tips in mind:
  • what plants are good companions to one another
  • when will each type of seed be planted
  • when will produces be harvested
  • the height of climbing/tall plants (peas, bean, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra)
  • the sprawl of sprawling plants (squash, melons)
Due to the dog, bees, and such, we are not planning to build more boxes this year.  We'll work the four we have, plus a few patches in the yard, as well as some pots for herbs and flowers.  However, in addition to the bees, we will be adding another new item to the "farm" this year - berries.  Tom's been itching to get berry busies planted since we moved in.  We just put an order in to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of Mecklenburg County (geez that's a long title) for blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry plants. We'll go pick them up at the office of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of Mecklenburg County (heehee) in two weeks.
You may not be able to read this, but this is TYs spring garden plan...

and this is summer.

Beekeeper Tom has been doing well in bee school.  He's half way through the 8-week program and is learning a LOT.  His head runneth over with bee knowledge.  Saturday was a bonus class specifically about equipment.  He came home and promptly began assembling brood boxes and covers.  (It was a bit too cold Saturday evening to work outside so the floor of the den worked quite well.)

Plus he had an audience and lots of help.  Here, Olive supervises with an a string from Barkley (the blue toy) hanging from her mouth.

Maizie approves of this size box.  She wanted to test it out and make sure it was big enough to house 3 pounds of bees. She appropriately decided it was perfect for a queen. She should know, right, Queen Maizie?

Olive holds down the cord to the drill.

Sunday morning we took Olive for her first group hike at Reedy Creek Nature Center.  There were seven dogs and owners plus Turk.  We had a great time and Olive did too.  I didn't bring my camera but several people did.  They all got really good pictures of the dogs climbing on rocks and playing with one another.  If I can, I'll add them to the next post.

After the hike we came home and got working on cleaning out the boxes to get the ready for the new season.

Tom added leaves to the till into the soil.

He pulled out our old friend the Mantis tiller.  What a work horse this thing is.  Totally worth the money.

Because we have a few sections in each box with still-growing produce (garlic, collards, spinach), Tom had to carefully till only the areas where new seeds will be planted without disturbing the plants.  He did a great job!

I harvested a few more sprigs of parsley for dinner last night, then pulled the rest out.  Since parsley is an herb, I assumed it would die at the first sign of cool weather - like all the other herbs.  Who knew it would grow year round?  Nonetheless, it was time to pull it up and make way for some spring crops.

Apparently most veggies don't like being near potatoes so we'll use the same area we used last year - now called the 'potato patch'.  However it seems that potatoes and onions ARE good neighbors so we'll plant our onions with the potatoes and see what happens.  This will be our first attempt at onions.  The Mantis tiller not only tilled the ground, but by reversing the tines, Tom was able to get it to chew up all the monkey grass that bordered the patch.  (Wish he would have figured out that trick last summer before I dug up an entire bed of that stuff with a shovel.)

and TYs Spring garden has begun!

February 6, 2011

A new year of garden goodness

written by Tom

TYs 2011 garden has begun. We started by pulling back the frost cloth on one bed, as well as the leaf covering I put on the other beds. What I learned is that if you want to garden and eat out of it during winter, use frost cloth. The leaf cover wasn't as successful as I'd hoped, as it allowed rot to set in under the surface. However, it did protect some of our plants that managed to live above the "rot line", and as such we have two big beds of spinach ready for early spring action.

Once the frost cloth was removed, followed by a few days of rain, our collards wasted no time and sprang to life. Yumm, yumm, we're gonna be eatin' some collards this week (I even bought a package of bacon, for that purpose).

The lettuces fared wonderfully under the frost cloth, and we've already harvest about a pound of our purple loose leaf and the green and purple romaine variety.

Turnips and spinach. Well, the spinach survived my leaf experiment, but of the turnips only a handful made it. So, lesson learned. Frost cloth? Check!

And with the few days of rain, and removing the leaves, this second spinach patch really popped forward. Everything here was about half the size you see here when we covered them up for Jack Frost.

More spinach. Can you tell we were determined have us some dang spinach? "I yam what I yam," as the good sailor with one eye would say.

The weather this weekend is PERFECT February spring weather. I know, February isn't really spring. BUT, to a gardener and beekeeper as myself, when buds start appearing it's spring. This week red maple trees suddenly had lots of buds sprouting forth. They'll be opening in the next two weeks. This is a sign to get to work. First off? Get rid of that Pompass Grass monster in our back yard. I'd been afraid to tackle this giant. It was H-U-G-E. Yvonne's electric hedge trimmer sliced through that monster no problem. Olive decided that the grass fronds were new playtoys. Puffs of dog and grass were everywhere!

Olive shows off how well she can "place", which is to hold a spot until released on any surface. This old stump is what I use to chop wood.  It was a perfect place for "place". "Look, Mommy, I can do it!"