March 29, 2011

Berries finally get planted

written by Yvonne

A rainy, rainy weekend limited our outside productivity, but we still scratched a few things off the list. Tom FINALLY let me use the tiller and I tore up what was previously the lettuce patch (which never worked).  Seeds from Baker's Creek will be ordered this week which will include a variety of mint.  That's what we'll plant here.

And it wouldn't be TYs VeggiePatch if we didn't misidentify something growing in our garden.  Last year it was the squash/cucumber/watermelon/cantaloupe.  So far this year it's the weed/potato.  What we thought was potatoes growing in the potato patch was actually weeds.  We know that now because a bunch of these guy showed up right on top of each potato mound.  So NOW, we really have potatoes growing.

Also in the potato patch is onions and we feel pretty certain these are identified correctly.

Tom dug some deep holes for the berry bushes and mixed in peat moss for good soil nutrition. Got the blackberries in the planted....

(Woops - dog walking in front of camera.)

and the raspberries.  The rain started coming down too hard so the blueberries will have to wait until next weekend.

The apple tree is in full bloom now and looks so pretty!

March 20, 2011

Spring Rolls On

written by Yvonne

Beekeeping mentor and Mecklenburg Beekeeping Association Vice President, Richard Flanagan, helps Tom assemble his first set of frames for his first hive.

With Richard's help, the two built enough frames for the entire hive. They also built two hive bodies, a hive stand, and an imrie shim. (I don't know what any of that means either. Email Tom with questions.) Tom was ecstatic with the amount of work they got done.

Here, Richard shows Tom how to light his smoker.  Clearly Olive didn't get the memo about the uniform requirement for the day.

He showed him how to maintain a nice, cool smoke.

Then they wired-up the frames. The wire gives extra support to the foundation on which the bees will build their comb.

Here's the finished product: a frame that's been assembled, wired, and foundation installed.  One down, 34 to go!

On the garden side of things, we finally figured out what to do with this space. Those of you who have been following along from the beginning may recall that we cleaned out this area of all the monkey grass and changed the stones around to create a bed.  Because it is mostly shaded we tried growing lettuce here last summer.  But the soil was just too dense and nothing grew - even though we added compost and wood ash to lighten it up.  So we let it go to the weeds for the rest of the year (which is what you see here).

While looking at it this weekend, I noticed that some of the weeds look like mint which gave me the idea that we should grow mint here!  I love mint and use it in iced tea all summer.  We didn't try to grow any in the main beds because it will encroach on the rest of the garden.  So we'll isolate it in this bed and see how it goes.

Boy, you turn your back for a second and next thing you know, things start growing.  This is the potato and onion patch.  It was clear something was growing but truth be told, we thought it was mostly weeds.  But when you get real close, you can see what seems to be the spindly tops of onions.  They are easy to miss because they are so skinny, but there they are!  The other green things growing are either weeds or potatoes.  We'll give them a few more weeks and see if they start to look like the potatoes we had last year.

Spinach is crazy happy with the cool weather and rain.  Every time a leaf gets harvested, five more jump up and take it's place.

What goes for the spinach goes for the collards as well.  Note: This picture was taken Sunday. This is what the collards looks like after a friend came over and harvested almost three pounds of collards on Saturday and I harvested about two pounds last Monday!

Garlic looks pretty happy.  I'm just DYING to pull one of these up to see what's happening underneath.  But I'll be patient.

Peas are doing OK.

And finally we see signs of carrots and lettuce.

The apple tree is budding and some of the blossoms are blossoming.  We have not yet gotten this apple tree pruned and nursed back to health, but it is on our list of things to do.  Maybe once the bees arrive, they will do their magic and the tree will be healthy and produce good apples.  Stay tuned and we'll all find out together.  For now, it makes for pretty photos.

March 7, 2011

With a Little Help from Our Friends

written by Yvonne

Spring is here! The peach blossoms are out and looking beautiful.

We started a very busy day by finishing up some tree trimming.  Tom wrapped up eradicating the monstrosity of a dead bush-tree along the fence line.  This was a two-weekend project.

It appears that we made the right decision to get rid of it because it was dead and hollow.

There is a bit more cleaning up to do here but this will now be part of the berry patch.  We purchased 2 raspberry, 2 blackberry, and 2 blueberry plants from the North Carolina Extension Service.  They are in the black buckets along the fence.  Hopefully next weekend we'll get them in the ground.  This area will be home to the raspberries and blackberries, while the blueberries will be next to the bee hives.

Tom took out this dead oak tree two weekends ago.  It will now be the location for the bee hives.

Olive and I posed for a picture so Tom could capture the new garden hat I made.  The fabric has different colored lettuce heads all over it.

As previously mentioned, the blueberry bushes will go next to the bee hives which means we had to find a new home for the compost bins.  Ugh!  I pulled the fencing off the piles and relocated them to a new spot in the yard.

The compost will now be along the back fence rather than along the side.  Unfortunately this spot will be in the shade which means it will take longer for the compost to break down.  But we figure it is more important for the bees and blueberries to get the sun they need rather than the compost.  Tom is testing out my bin configuration to see there is enough room for our NEW GARDEN CART.  It's SOOO much better than the wheel barrels we have - each of which got for free, and we'll still use, but this cart is great (a cart-release lever makes dumping sooo easy). Maybe one day Tom will quit playing with the cart and let me use it. You can tell he never had a wagon as a child.

Our friends Jen and Jill came over to take a look at the garden and to lend a hand.  They are starting gardens of their own and wanted to see our setup.  We put them to work moving compost right away.

We invited them both to bring their dogs for Olive to play with.  And boy did the dogs play!  Five in all chasing each other around the back yard and some of the time, through the garden.  More on this later.

Not sure they were all that interested in worm composting (see the look on Jill's face?), but it made for a good demonstration.  The yellow buckets in the background were full of food scraps he's been collecting all winter to feed to the worms. Yum! Here he is harvesting the worm casing from the worms.  We'll use this when we dig holes for the berry bushes.

Shredding newspapers is a part of the worm composting process too.  The gals and Tom had some laughs while tackling this job. Olive even joined in for good measure.

After getting everything ready everyone (including the dogs) headed to the worm bin.

Time to feed the worms.

Jen and Jill thought the food scraps looked good enough to eat.

We are inundated with collard and spinach so the gals harvest some greens for dinner.

The play date with Olive was fantastic.  All the dogs played and chased each other for hours. This was the ONE time four of the five of the dogs rested for a moment...

the fifth one headed for higher ground by hiding in our old, rusty wheelbarrow.