Friday, July 11, 2014

Growing Space: Success at Gardening Part 4

The greatest summer ever continues to deliver.


Not only was it wonderfully cool again yesterday morning, 
but I also get several more days off from watering.


A garden literally bursting at its seams.

Time to journal about where to garden. 
What kind of space do you have for it?

If you have no yard, invest in some great pots
and start container gardening.

The biggest issue I have with container gardening is the constant
watering.  In my climate, these pots can dry out quickly, 
requiring water at least daily, if not more.

I don't really have a great collection of pots as
I do this only for seeding herbs, eventually transplanting
 most, if not all, into the herb gardens.  Sometimes I 
will bring herbs in to cook with over
the winter.

If you have a small yard and think you don't have
room for a vegetable garden, think again.  
Think about your flower beds.

One of the herb gardens earlier this year

Vegetables can be grown in your existing flower beds.
Mix them right in there among the flowers.

Putting herbs closer to the house keeps them 
handy for cooking.

My herb gardens make up my "flower beds" along
two sides of my house.  Being a practical person,
I see more use in growing edible landscape!


Also think about growing upward.
Growing any plant that vines onto trellises can
increase your space exponentially--cucumbers,
peas, many types of squash and pumpkins,
melons, etc, all all do well on trellises.

If you are lucky and have plenty of space to choose
from, here are some things to consider when deciding 
where to put your garden(s).


Keep in mind the positioning of the sun during the 
seasons.  If the area is shaded in the spring, it will 
take longer to dry and warm up before you can plant.
You also want a spot that is sunny at least half of the 
day, and more is better.  If you can't avoid some shade, 
keep in mind a little shade in the hottest hours of the
 day can be a real plus. 

*
Avoid low-lying areas or you'll be dealing with too much
water which leads to fungus and rot.  If it's in your
budget, consider raised beds...eventually.  Pace yourself!

With all the rain we've had, I'm so glad we added the raised beds this year.
Drainage and soil aren't really issues so I chose to keep them to a minimal height.
*
Is water readily available?  The less time and effort
you can spend lugging around garden hoses, the 
happier you'll be.  Ask me how I know.
*
Can you keep a compost nearby?   You'll spend lots
of time going back and forth between the two areas.
*
If you can, just as with herbs, put the garden close 
to your kitchen.  You'll spend a lot of time going back 
and forth between these two places as well.
*
What about wind break?  nice breeze can make working
in the garden so much more pleasant, but a hot wind 
can dry it out quickly, and a big storm can do a lot of 
damage--even knock over taller plants.
My garden has a solid row of trees to the north.
To the south there is a row of trees that are trimmed up
high and a row of currant bushes below, allowing
 a breeze and protection.
*
Do you have room to expand?  ALWAYS start out
small.  You can add more space and other gardens
after a year or so learning what you can handle.  
My expansion was phased over 5 years or so.

These two long, narrow gardens were added several years after I started
my current garden.  Note also the heavy wind-break of trees to the north.
*
Obviously a spot with great soil would be ideal
but I would almost make this lower on the priority list,
especially if you're determined and patient.
The position of my garden fit about everything BUT 
good soil--it was hard-packed, clay-like and full of weeds.
A few years of intense composting brought it around
nicely.  One of my brothers still shakes his head 
in disbelief when he sees the soil I have now!

When it comes to gardening, 
where there's a will, there's a way!



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Question of Time: Success at Gardening Part 3

Our weather has been so wonderful these
last months that I've been able to spend
time in my garden every. single. day.


Basically, that has never happened before.

Early spring in the garden

The timing couldn't have been better.
I really recommend gardening for therapy.
It's right up there with quilting and cooking.

Another angle, early spring.

It's all about allowing yourself to focus.



I spent hours leisurely--leisurely!--designing, 
planting and transplanting, pulling weeds and just
creating order.  Focusing.


I also spent lots of time at my cafe table,
working on my Bible study and journaling.


Chloe usually joined me.  

Chloe sometimes thinks she's a human.
She also loves to photo-bomb--watch for her!

Not every year offers this kind of weather...or time.
Believe me when I say this has been very unusual!

In planning your garden, it's very important to 
factor in the time you'll be able to devote to it.
Grab your journal for answering the following questions.


The questions aren't meant to deter you but to give you a more practical and honest
 idea about what you're undertaking.  Sadly, it's not all flowers and sunshine...
but then again, if it were, it wouldn't be as rewarding now, would it?
Are you willing to get up early to catch the cooler 
temps if you live in a warmer climate?
*
Do your kids play sports?  Other activities?
If so, you'll have schedules to work around. 
*
If you're planning on preserving, are you willing
to stay up late if you're schedule gets thrown?

Produce should be preserved as quickly as possible after picking.
*
Do you take vacations during the busy garden months?
If so, can someone cover while you're gone,
watering, harvesting and, if you're lucky, weeding?
*
Do you have others--spouse, children, etc--to help
in the garden or with other chores?
Even keeping things running in the house by making dinner or keeping up the
laundry can be a huge help when you're spending extra hours in the garden.
*
What other factors might affect your time?



Please Help Identify the New Chicks on the Block

I'm going to back up a little here.
(Probably be doing that a lot till I catch up!)


As we were down to only 6 hens (who weren't
laying well) I decided to order a new batch this year. 
They arrived May 1 and, as it often happens, I even 
received an extra.  Bonus!  I've never had this many!


It's a very good thing my dh built that 
great run a couple of years ago! 



I actually ordered 5 Buff Orpingtons, 
5 Black Stars and 5 Araucanas.  


Exhibit A:  Um, with those chest feathers, this isn't a Black Star or an Araucana.

I'm not sure what I have but, now that they are
10 weeks old, I'm pretty sure I didn't get my Araucanas--
at least not all 5 of them.
(Chicks are not that easy to identify as they 
lose feathers and change as they mature.)


Exhibit B

I've wanted Araucanas for quite a while,
especially for the different colored eggs.
We've only had brown egg layers.  

Exhibit C:  Will this turn into an Araucana?

Needless to say, I'm very disappointed.
Of course, I've now invested my time and money
in these so I guess we will make due.

Exhibit D:  My biggest hopes are on this one...

I'm not that familiar with very many breeds.
Certainly someone out there can identify for me?


Exhibit E

Please tell me at least one or two of these are 
Araucanas!?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Growing the Dream: Success at Gardening Part 2

After an extra month or so of cool temps and rains,
it looks like summer has decided to show up
in Kansas after all.   96' today, 98' tomorrow.  
Yikes...and yuck.


Peas in front and back (on other side of zucchini);
 a little worn but still producing nicely.

I've pulled the peas and most of the beans, a process
that was painful for this gardener and cook as they
 were still producing; however, a look at the forecast
has taken care of most of the guilt I had.  I think these
crops would've started to fizzle in the heat anyway.


A pile of plants waiting, in the cool shade, for my boys to remove the beans
before the rest hits the compost pile.  Quality family time, right?  Not sure they
would agree now but years later they will.

Plus, we've eaten our fill.
I've also frozen and canned all we need.

For optimal flavor and vitamins, I always serve as much as I can 
of any vegetable straight out of the garden--often they're 
 just minutes old.  This year I was still able to put about 
25 cups of peas in the freezer--my best crop of peas yet.

Still, it would've been fun to see just how much 
of these the garden could've produced.
Oh well...


Peas removed, tidiness restored and space open for Jack-B-Littles.
Plan ahead for crop rotation and to make the best use of space.

Which brings me to today's lesson.
The most successful gardens all begin with planning.
My garden may be in full production but I'm still 
thinking and planning for next year's as well,
which is why I make lots of notes this year.

The most useful tool a gardener can have is a journal.



Mine is simply a 3-ring binder--green of course.
I keep a running journal throughout the year on my
computer, printing off a hard copy to go in the binder 
after the season is over.

If you're new to gardening, or you just want to 
play along, how about starting now with the dream.
Write down everything you'd love to grow in your 
garden next year.



Your favorite vegetables to cook with.

Flip through your recipe collection if it helps.



Add herbs for flavor.



Don't forget flowers for color, to draw bees and

even repel pests and bunnies!
(we'll get to that)

Growing Patience:  Intro to Successful Gardening


Monday, June 30, 2014

Growing Patience -- Intro to Gardening


We Americans have this annoying little habit:
we want our home and gardens to be 
picture perfect the day we move in.
I suppose you could say it drives the economy
 but, frankly, it drives me nuts. 


I once saw a garden show 
featuring a large, beautiful English garden.
Gardens, actually, as they covered an estate.
The gardener gave some rather liberating advice. 
He pointed out our lack of patience
over here on this side of the pond, 
saying we want everything perfect right now.

National Botanica of Ireland

But a real garden takes time.  Years.
With big gardens such as those, 
hundreds of years even. 
I don't write that to freak you out--
I write it to make you relax! 

Chester, England

I should cut us a little slack...
America does have a shorter history, 
 and, in most areas, more varied climate.
Still, we are so impatient and
we often forget the reward of investing 
our own thoughts, time and work.
And then wonder why our garden doesn't
look like, and produce like, the one
we saw in the magazine--a still life
 of a growing garden.


We should take a much more practical 
approach to gardening.



One that we can grow with, rather than tired of.



One that doesn't overwhelm us 
but inspires us to do more as we learn.


Not a quick-fix that fizzles but the kind of approach
that slowly, year after year, becomes a rewarding 
pastime that enriches our health, 
and our spirit as a bonus.


I've written about my garden in the past.
But it is always changing, as is my knowledge
and ideas.  Plus, I'm enjoying it more than ever. 



I've decided to go a little deeper into 
my own personal gardening experience 
and, over the next few weeks, maybe I can 
inspire a different and more rewarding approach
 to any aspiring gardeners out there?

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