The weather is fair today, a perfect time to snap some (or...as it turns out, a lot) of photos of the garden and other outdoor projects. I've been working outside like crazy for the last few months, although most of it won't have visible results for a while. Like all the trees I planted (I think 18 or 19, including pear, peach, plum, cherry, almond, and walnut), the kiwi vines, currant bush, climbing roses, passion fruit vine, and all of the other things I planted that start out so so small that one could never imagine them growing at all. I also planted two pecan trees I ordered from Gurney's, but they came small as sticks of linguini and have just as much life in them. Oh well. Most everything else is doing splendidly and is growing, growing, growing! My tiny butterfly bush even has a flower bud!
One project that has been slow going that I mentioned here a long while ago is the "underneath the porch". I finally finished hanging the lattice and painting it. A good book on tape made the painting go faster. I started to add stone veneer to the pillars, but the mortar I got is as useless as wet sand. I found a bonding agent that might work though, fingers crossed!
I left the end of the porch open and am using it as a shed. I built a shelf to hold unused terra cotta pots and garden tools and stacked the wood for our place there too.
Some very sad news on the chicken front. Turns out we have a resident fox family living in the woods behind the house. On Saturday I had let the chickens out at noon when we got back from garage saling and within a half hour (the time it took me to eat lunch in the house), all we had left were three. They would have gotten them all I'm sure of it if I had gone back outside any later. Very very sad.
Also sad because the three I have left have to be under lock and key now. I was so hoping to have a happy free range flock...but that dream has been squashed. :(
I have been bringing them into the garden with me while I work out there though, which has been nice. Now that the plants aren't seedlings anymore, the chickens can't do too much damage and they really like to take dirt bathes, like they are doing here under the potatoes. So cute!
Too bad I can't keep them out there unattended during the day. As you can see they have no problem jumping the fence, as I'm sure the fox can too.
So for now I'm dreaming of building something like this. Maybe more simple...but we'll see...something with room and lots of perches.
The garden itself is doing quite well and have been relatively unscathed from varmints, save the flea beetles. Everything is growing very well and Ben and I have been enjoying the fruits...er...veggies of my labor for a while now!
I'm experimenting with dry beans this year. I eat tons and tons of beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.), so I figured why not try to grow them? The growing season here is just long enough. I bought some dry beans from the grocery store to plant. I think many people don't plant them because they are so cheap at the store and it's probably a lot of work to harvest them...but what the heck...I wanted to check it for myself! Fingers crossed for a good crop!
I also planted chick peas...the plants themselves kind of look like peas. We'll see how they do. They only bad thing...each pod has only one, maybe two chick peas...lol. Also for the first time I planted celery. It doesn't mind some shade, so I planted it in a cool and slightly darker plant in the garden along the fence.
The cucumbers are growing well so far. Sweet gherkins here we come!
The photo on the left are my carrots, which I interplanted with onions. Last year my carrot crop was severely damaged by carrot fly larvae. Supposedly the smell of onions help deter the flies and also not thinning the carrots too (when you pull them up, the flies can smell the carrots and are attracted to them). I planted each seed very carefully so I wouldn't have to thin them later and believe it or not, I think I saved time in the end. Thinning would have taken longer than my careful planting. Fingers crossed my tactics work and I get worm free carrots!
On the other side I planted soybean. Again, this a first time crop for me, and my little niece loves edamame. Next to the soy beans are turnip greens and beets.
I love my greens and went to town with planting them. I had two big patches of spinach this spring (one I planted last fall). I harvested and froze (or ate) all of the fall planted spinach already and need to freeze the rest of the bolted spinach. The bolted spinach shown here is called "Long Standing"...ha! It didn't waste any time in bolting. The one in front that hasn't bolted? "Baby Spinach." I might just plant nothing but that variety from now on.
The other photo shows my spring mix lettuce with the parsnips behind it. The thing I love about mesculin mix as opposed to growing regular lettuce...mesculin mix never seems to go bitter. The argula and watercress has bolted, but the leaves are still tender. The red and green lettuce is overgrown now, but still delicious. It may even last all summer, although I may start another little patch of it somewhere else, just in case.
I started the broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage from seed and they are growing big and splendid.
The potatoes are already huge too and pretty soon I might start poking around underneath them for some tiny potatoes to eat early. I grew mostly red skin potatoes from the potatoes I grew last year that never got eaten, but also bought just a couple of wax potatoes, blue potatoes, and fingerlings, just to try.
The tomatoes and peppers are among the last of the veggies to go in, since they are the most tender. The plants on the left are ones that grew voluntarily from the tomatoes that rotted on the ground from last year's harvest and the tomatoes on the right are ones my mom and I started from seed a month or two before the last frost. If you can't tell, the size difference is marked. It makes me wonder why we don't plant tomatoes straight into the garden from seeds a little early? Well, I've transplanted many of the volunteer tomatoes into rows and am very curious to see what they'll decide to give me as far as fruit. I have no idea which ones they are or if they were hybrids.
The peas are getting big and are starting to produce pods...yay! This is the first time I've ever grown peas too. I could pick them now, but I like shelled peas best, so I'll let them get nice and plump before picking them.
The ground looks so bare among the tomatoes and peppers, but before I know it I'll barely be able to walk in that area!
A patch of clover showed up in the early spring in the middle of the main pathway. I decided to leave it there because it had an unprecedented amount of 4 and 5 leafed clovers on it! The lucky ones seemed to have disappeared, but now I add some to my salad and the chickens like it too.
The perimeter of the garden has almost as much going on as the inside of the garden. The rock wall is teeming with life...some unwelcome (I still need to weed much of it, lol). I planted lots of herbs too: spearmint, oregano, terragon, sage, thyme, parsley and some I probably forgot. Many of which are perennials and will probably take over the area in time.
The wildflowers I planted in early spring are already starting to bloom (the orange poppies anyway), and many more buds are appearing.
I have two flanking gardens on the sides of the rock wall. One holds perennials that I planted last year and this year and is all abloom. I wasn't sure what would grow tall and what would grow short, so I think some rearranging and transplanting might be in the future.
Instead of flowers, I planted on the other side of the wall the majority of my onions. Some look almost ready to pick already! Ben and I eat soooo many onions, so I'm hoping for a good storage crop this year.
The other flanking garden is currently bare by comparison at the moment. I planted squash, pumpkins and cantalope and within a few months with any luck, the whole thing will be a big mass of vines.
The cantalope sprouted! Most everything else has too, but some didn't. I was too rushed to mark them, so it will be a mystery to see what I end up with at the end of the growing season.
Next to the squash is some rhubarb, so generously given to me by my neighbor. You're not supposed to pick it the first year...but I have so much now that I think a little bit of strawberry rhubarb pie is in order.
Bunnies don't seem to like basil, so I planted it opposite the peas and in other areas around the fence.
Behind the garden I planted garlic. I planted some last fall that I bought at the farmer's market and it's almost to my hip already with scapes ready to pick. I didn't think I had enough, so this spring I bought some "spring garlic" from Lowes and it's super sad and pathetic, just like the blueberry I got there too and the not so hardy azaleas (hint: Lowes has good seeds, but stinky plants).
Out in the yard I we have little grove of trees. Mostly locust and apple. Our property used to be part of an apple orchard, and so there's still lots of viable apple rootstock in the ground that has popped up everywhere and growing into "apple bushes", which are multiple small trees crowded together. The large trees are filled with apples at the moment, but they are wild apples (which is what apple growers use for root stock) and aren't good for eating. The trick is to graft the kinds of apples you like onto the rootstock! My neighbor used to own the apple orchard here in town and has taught me a lot so far!
In early spring, when the orchards were still dormant, I asked a friend who also own a small orchard if I could have some sticks from his trees. I collected four different kinds, plus some pear sticks.
The tree in the photo above had four branches on it. So I cut the branches off, leaving a few inches on each one, and grafted each of the four different varieties I had collected onto each branch. Three of the four varieties took and are growing (yay!!), so this tree will wind up producing three different types of apples (snow apples, macintosh, and red delicious. The Northern Spy apple is the one that didn't take). I'm very excited about this!!
I'm nerding out on apple trees right now, so I did a little diagram of what's what. The red delicious I thought was dead for a while, but just recently I noticed that it's starting to grow! The little stick of wild apple that's growing is growing off of the main stem, which is the rootstock. Normally I would cut that off, but I might let it grow and try to graft something else onto it next spring so I'll have a 4 variety tree. We'll see!
The red delicious on the left with only tiny, but healthy leaves so far. And the two dead sticks of the northern spy...just to give you an idea of what they look like when they start out...just dead sticks attached to other dead sticks. You never know what's going to end up growing!
We did a bunch more grafts on other trees, but they all failed except this other one. This skinny little tree was cut almost to the ground and I grafted two snow apple sticks to it and they are both growing! Snow apples are small apples, but one of the only kinds I like (is it weird to admit that I don't like apples that much!). I like also like Macs and Ben really likes Red Delicious, so it all works out!
I wasn't planning on growing peach trees, because again, I'm not a huge fan of peaches, but when I saw them at Walmart for $20 a piece and a one year guarantee, I couldn't not try them! I bought two different varieties of hardy peaches and planted them in a rather sheltered area that was sunny, but still had big trees around it, since they don't like winter winds. One of the trees was in bloom when I bought it and is now chock full of tiny peaches!! They are looking really healthy so far and I'm hoping the bugs don't get into them before they're ripe. Ben and my mom both really like peaches, and I like canned peaches, so it would be fabulous to boast about our upstate NY grown peaches!
The other photo shows one of my pear trees with a single pear growing on it. It had a few more, but they fell off. I'm hoping this one sticks it out. I also mentioned that I got pear sticks from the orchard this spring. I grafted two different varieties onto each of my two trees. One hasn't grown at all and the other one was dead on the top, but growing on the bottom...go figure! I think the grafted variety was seckle pear (my trees are summercrisp and red barlett). Who wouldn't want more pear varieties?
And back to the porch, where our tour started. I have some black raspberries growing up the railing with fruit that's getting plumper by the day!
Another little project that I'm quite proud of...this succulent planting on the porch steps. Ben and I found this old worn and moss covered cinder block in the woods behind the garden. I had Ben carry it out and I planted some sedum and hens and chicks, one pot for each hole. It looks marvelous right now and one of the hens and chicks is blooming with deep pink flowers! Love it!
And with the succulents, the quails are also hanging out on the porch these days. I kept them in the aviary in the dining room in the winter, but I think they are enjoying the fresh air now. And Mrs. Quail (the dark one) is producing more eggs than I can eat!
I hope you enjoyed my outdoor tour!! Hopefully in months and years to come I'll have lots more to show you! :)