Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rain and Cool Weather

The Chives are in full bloom
The bumblebees are happy because the chive clumps are in bloom.  These are great to eat and I have seen someplace where they are dipped in tempura batter and fried.  Cooked onions are the only way I can eat this vegetable so maybe we need to try a batch.  Chive blossoms decorate the food from the grill for the next couple of weeks.  I also harvested leeks that wintered over in the garden.  This was a surprise to me that they would do this.  In between the two leek rows I planted the set onions for this year and will fill in the space with more sets as I pull the leeks - we like to keep the ground busy here.  I also made some jam from last years frozen currents.  Currents are high in pectin and as I make many kinds of jam, having some currents, usually a cup, to add to the mix, help with the jam setting.  I have gotten away from commercial pectin and use the currents as my pectin supply.  Home made jam is why I planted black raspberries this year and an apricot tree last year - planning ahead.

We had a rainy week and that was good for the garden.  The plants that were put into the ground last week before the rain got a chance to settle in nicely.  I have more to plant and even with the ground wet I should be able to plant.  One applies the old gardening adage of "Seed Dry and Plant Wet".  So the herbs that are ready, the zinnias that are in flats and ready, and all the parsley plants should get into the ground in the next few days.

I got all the EarthBoxes cleaned, filled with compost and fertilized with organic fertilizer so that I could plant the greenhouse tomatoes (Totem) and the white cotton.  The tomatoes are a determinate variety that seem really precocious as they already have flowers on them.  The cotton is in the EarthBoxes because last year the cold wet summer was the reason for my cotton crop failure  I have grown several cotton varieties in the past (check back in the blog) but this white variety is over 120 day plant and so they will need the greenhouse to give me the length of time. Also, as heavy feeders, the cotton plants can be fertilized in the pots easily.  I have planted the cucumbers that are also going to grow in the greenhouse and will transplant them into 5 gal buckets soon - filling with compost and fertilizer similar to the EarthBoxes.

While I was in Chicago this week I visited a location to see a sample of the benches I want to put in the greenhouse.  In the past, I have built a bench with wood, wire, and cement blocks.  I don't want that this time around so I found a sturdy plastic bench that I think will work.  I just happened to be real close to a place in the western suburbs that had this brand of bench as part of their spring plants sales setup.  The benches come with both solid and open tops and legs of various heights.  I have spoken with a sales rep and will call them back and work out a bench layout with his help and ship them in.  Then the greenhouse will be almost ready after the electrician and plumber do their magic.

Happy Gardening

Leeks harvested this season from a planting last summer

The white cotton in the EarthBox planter

Totem determinate tomatoes flowering already.

Current Jam - ready for biscuits or scones.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Gardening Begins

A Mason Bee structure in the apple tree.

With the new greenhouse done and the cold frames full of seedlings, some planting has begun.  We found two nice lilac plants for the hill area where the pine trees were removed; and then just this week we found another lilac so now that space has seven different lilacs from white to dark purple and shades in between.  Give them a few years and the view of the neighbors swing set and play area will be gone.

I got some of the annuals planted and the planters both on the patio and out front done.  The patio funeral basket has a mix of black petunias and pink flowered strawberries which should be fun.   I was thinking about a determinate tomato in the center but that might be a bit  too much.  The front planter has marigolds and some tall peppers now and I would like some nasturtiums too but that seed is just not germinating too well.

Lettuce and dandelions (endive) have been planted in the garden and we have started on some cutting of lettuce along with sorrel and arugula.  The arugula that wintered over is really spicy by now and too much in a salad is a bit overpowering.  We also have two kinds of kale that is fine for cutting too.  I  got the tomatoes planted this week.  I think the ground is warm enough for them even though its a week earlier than I usually plant them.

I bought a mason bee structure at the garden store and we ordered paper straws to fill the hole as the bamboos that the nest was made of were a bit big for the bees.  So as you see the straws are a nice size for mason bees to fill - if we're lucky.   Mason bees used to love the old greenhouse and would, as I found out when I took it apart last summer, fill the channels of the aluminum struts with their nests.

The bad garden news is that the oldest apple tree (maybe 25 plus years) and ironically the one with the most grafts on it has a bad case of Black Rot.  Both branches and the trunk are showing the malady and growth this season will surely be affected along with apple production.  All of this after I cut down the pine trees to give the apples more sun!  I do think that all my trees have it but the oldest tree has the disease the worst - lucky us.  I am just going to wait and see how the growth goes this season before I make any decisions about further pruning or tree removal.  Its getting a bit late for me to be starting with new trees and my grafting scion stock source may soon be a thing of the past too.

The earth boxes are planted with determinate tomatoes and white cotton this year  - our experimental plants for the new greenhouse.  Plus the cucumber seedlings are sprouted and they too will be grown    in pots in this new environment too.  Out in the garden the black raspberries are growing nicely and I am still waiting for the horseradish to sprout.  We have several kinds of sage seedlings to plant and both summer and winter savory to try this year.  So all in all a few experiments to test for  2015.

Happy Gardening

Straws in the bamboo

Lettuce, Dandelions, and Endive

New lilacs in place.

Three of the four rows of tomatoes.

The Queen Sophia marigolds in place - Profusion zinnias next.

The new Harry Lauder Hazelnut in the front bed.

Black Rot on all these pictures.

Stunted, pale leaves on this branch.

Black Mamba Petunias.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Vegetable Garden Returns...

After a long time and a number of events here in the yard I am returning to making garden postings to share what is happening in our garden space.

Last summer the old greenhouse was demolished and a new cement slab was put up.  At the time I was not sure what was going on the space other than chairs and a space for cold frames.  However, this winter I decided that I really needed another greenhouse and so the search began.  I looked at many types and a great deal of evaluations and finally settled on a Grandio Elite 8x12 polycarbonate greenhouse.  Two factors made my choice - I wanted  10mm panels in the structure and I wanted a kit that went up easily and had good personal reviews - the Grandio had all of that. 

The pictures help one see how the structure is constructed and pretty much as the plans indicate - two persons and about two days to erect.  I had help but I read the construction plans several times before I gave the copy to my handyman for him to read so we were both on the same page with construction.  I arranged all the parts by number order and as suggested taped all the panels before we put them in place.  The tape closed off the cells in the panels to prevent dirt and dust from accumulating and clouding the panels prematurely.

While waiting for the new greenhouse I started this years seeds in the basement under fluorescent lights.  My sucess with lights was OK but as soon as possible I have taken the seedlings outside and into cold frames.  I have had some problems with the heat mat and might have to purchase a new one for next season as this one gets way too hot so either the mat or the thermostat is not working correctly.

We also made some changes in the yard.  I had the three pine trees in the back of the yard cut down, allowing much more light for the apples and for the oak tree.  Last summer I planted an apricot tree, and this spring black raspberries, horseradish, and a new fig tree.  There is a possiblity that this fig might go in the ground on the south side of the house as an experiment to see if it will survive and produce in this climate.  I spoke with someone at Pinetree Seeds and she has a Chicago Hardy Fig in the gound in Maine! so only time and expreimentation will see.
Happy Gardening
The sad old greenhouse.

I removed all the glass and recycled all the metal.

Demolition of the old cement wall.

The new space last summer 2014.

One 8x12 Grandio Greenhouse delivered.

The foundation on the cement slab.

The next Saturday and up the structure goes.


The new growing space - really nice size.

New Chicago Hardy Brown Turkey Fig.

The pine trees before....

And they are gone and the apples and oak will have more sun.