Friday, April 30, 2010

New Fruit Vines and Bushes

I went to Lowes this afternoon looking for my tomato supports and found they had a bunch of blueberry bushes fresh off the truck. We now have five new blueberry bushes, two 'Premier' and three 'Sunshine.' I read at this site that the 'Sunshine' variety is supposed to be very tasty, with pretty pink flowers, and that the bush doesn't grow as large as the 'Premier,' a Rabbiteye variety. They will be planted in a plot behind the bees that the chickens in the chicken tractor have been clearing out. Lowes had figs, raspberries, kiwi, and a few grape vines too. I also picked up a couple of raspberries and one kiwi. I think we'll be busy planting tomorrow. The kiwi vine will have to go in front of the garden fence for support. The only challenge there is that we don't have irrigation set up. We've been talking about putting a fence up around the new raised beds. If we do, it will be protected from chickens and other gatherers out there. Since the raspberries are thorny, they might do well in or near the blackberry patch, if they live well together.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Garden Rotation, Tomato Supports, and Vertical Growing


I read recently that the optimum garden bed rotation to avoid nematodes is four years. I drew our garden as it is this spring, because it is easy to lose track of what was where each season. What I noticed is that we have squash and pumpkin in almost all the beds. So, I think the only solution is to plant a cover crop this summer which will help restore the soil.

My other dilema this week is how to support the tomatoes which are growing in one of the new beds without t-frames. At this point, the two or three twisted 6' wires aren't giving enough support, and tomatoes are just beginning to set. I read a review that recommended putting four of the wires in a square and then tying them together with twine to form a pyramid, which would give the structure support and prevent it from toppling over. At this point, this is what I'll have to do, since it's too late to dig in a t-frame in that bed. I was looking at these cages, but they don't look strong enough to support a large tomato plant, much less stacking as they suggest.

I read a good article this morning about the importance of growing plants vertically, written by Jim Kennard (Mittleider Method).

Monday, April 26, 2010

We've got bees!

Don and Michael picked up two brood boxes of Italian bees this morning. This is it! We are now official beekeepers. The bees were easy to handle, and nobody got stung.

Lighting up the smoker with pine straw

Smoking the bees in the car before moving them.

Their new home

This is how calm they were, I got pretty close to this box and wasn't wearing a veil...

Putting our own boxes over the brood boxes we bought this morning. We're told the workers are ready to migrate up and build more comb up there for the queen to lay her eggs in and for honey!

All set. Some of the bees reamained stuck on the brood box lids. It didn't take them long to find their way back into the hives.
In the last ten years we've read beekeeping articles and books, attended classes, met lots of beekeepers, gone on several bee fieldtrips for school... I'm thinking, why didn't we do this sooner?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Non-GMO Shopping Guide

I found this guide to be very useful last time I went to the health food store, because if a product doesn't say organic on it, it probably has GMOs in the form of one of the many names they use for corn by-products.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chicks!

Our chicks from McMurray arrived last week. We got 29 females of assorted brown egg layers picked by them, except for two Araucanas - the kids love the "Easter" eggs. We drove all the way to Gainesville to purchase organic starter feed for them. They are growing like weeds. The girls have been busy naming them all... Two of the chicks had bare necks, I went to the website and found out they're called Turkens. They are not the prettiest chickens, but I hear they're great layers - I can't wait to hear what the girls name those two...

This week's harvest, so far...


Dill - used the new dehydrator to put up bunches of dill. It loves the hydro-buckets.
Lettuce - we have lettuce growing like crazy. I found a Julia Child recipe for braised lettuce last night that asks for four heads. Guess what's for dinner?
Bok Choy - The bees are going crazy over the ones that have bolted. I'm keeping a couple in the ground just to hear their buzzing while I'm out there. They should soon be very busy with the cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins.
Parsley - Almost gone now, gone to flower and very few leaves left.
Basil - growing like crazy! I'll be freezing some pesto soon.
Watercress - Most of it is going to flower. I'll make some leek soup with watercress again tonight, another one of Julia's great recipes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Garden is Producing Again

I harvested lettuce, our first zucchini of the season, and sweet peas for our salad this morning. Yesterday's rain was good for the garden.

I noticed the first female pumpkin bud this morning. I will be watching it and making sure it is pollinated. There are two pumpkin plants which are growing out of one of the compost bins. The seeds from last season's pumpkins sprouted and the seedlings have survived even a couple of frosts, probably because the bin is black and warmed the soil/compost. I have several other pumpkin plants that I planted in other places, this is the first one with a female bud on it. We'll see how the plant does, now that the temperatures are warmer and the sun is beating down on the garden, the leaves of the pumpkin are shading the black bin and keeping it cool, so it may be a great place to grow pumpkins.
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