Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Garden Photos....."

A quick trip out with the camera to take photos of some of the garden this morning.  "Quick" being the key word, too......I had to move fast to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.  I will be going out to do some work in a bit, and that is when I will spray on the mosquito repellent.

This basket holds 2 Heritage "Golden Grape" Tomatoes, which I started from seed and was able to move out from the greenhouse a few days ago. My germination rate was not at all good with these seeds....2 out of 20 planted.  I mentioned this when I drove to Mariseeds ( a few weeks ago, and I was given a free heritage tomato plant as goodwill.  I hadn't mentioned it to be "reimbursed", but thought they should know, and they wanted to do something, so insisted I take another variety of heritage tomato.  That was fine with me!  :)  

This is the heritage Cherry Tomato, "Sun Gold", that I was given when I drove to Mariseeds, which is just south of us, outside of Copemish, MI.

These 2 tomato plants, "Hana", a Dark Purple and Yellow Saladette Tomato, and "Wild Thyme", bi-color green w/orange stripes when ripe, both heritage varieties, were started quite early in the house and repotted several times.  A few weeks ago, I moved it from the house to the greenhouse, then my daily routine was pulling in out from the greenhouse each day for hardening off and then putting it back in the greenhouse at night.  It is a bit "leggy" but so far it has been a successful experiment for starting a few plants earlier than usual.

Here is an overview of most of the garden.  Behind me and to my right are a couple more raised beds, which hold more strawberry plants, 3 blueberry bushes (which are loaded with blossoms right now), 3 rhubarb plants (which I am not going to harvest any stalks from this year to allow for the plants to become more established/stronger), and 2 red raspberry plants that have sent out a multitude of new suckers.

This bed of strawberry plants is planted with several plants I found while cleaning out the overgrown raised beds last year.  I took all of them and planted them in this bed, then bought another flat of strawberry plants, adding some to this bed and the rest in the raised bed that holds the blueberry bushes.

In here are 5 of the 6 "Bellstar" Broccoli plants that I started from seed earlier this year.  The other was in a bed with 6 more broccoli plants I had purchased, all of which fed a rabbit(s) one night.  :(  Thankfully, this old fire ring must be too tall for the rabbits to use as a buffet.  I also seeded some "Bloomsdale" Spinach in here, some sprouts which you can see if you look closely.  :)

I this bed, I transplanted 6 heirloom "Dwarf Blue Curled Kale" seedlings, 3 heritage "Green Martian Dwarf Tomatoes", 2 "Success PM Straightneck Summer Squash", and 2 "Dark Green Zucchini" plants.

In this shorter and older bed, are 4 varieties of heritage tomatoes.  I planted 2 more seedlings of "Hana", and 2 more of "Wild Thyme", plus 2 of "Crimson Cushion", and 2 of "Hungarian Giant", both of which are beefsteak sized tomatoes.

In this one, I have planted the 6 varieties of heritage peppers I purchased at Mariseeds.  "Giant Arconcagua", Chocolate Bell", Tollis Sweet", "Golden California Wonder", "Orange Sun', and "Lombardi Pepperoncini".  I also had room for 2 more tomatoes.

This bed has been planted for quite awhile now.  It holds heirloom "Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas" which are along the far and left edges. The rest of the plants/bulbs I purchased.........a dozen Cabbages, 6 Brussels Sprouts, 3 types of Onion sets (red, yellow, and white), and Garlic bulbs (planted last fall).

I suppose it is now time to "spray up" and go outside to do some more work (pleasure actually) in the garden.  :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Picnic With The Kids....."

Last Thursday, we drove down to Brethren to have a picnic with the kids.  They were going to visit Julie' family over the holiday weekend so we thought we'd get a short visit in with them before they left.  We packed up the car and headed South.  :)

We met the kids at their house, then drove to one of the village parks.  We had made sure we had included Abigail's booster seat in our car so that she could ride with us.  This gave Patrick and Julie the opportunity to ride together on one of Patrick's motorcycles, meeting us at the park.

Our former neighbor, Maniphone, who now lives in Grand Forks, ND, had sent me a little "gift" for Abigail.  Abigail happily opened it as everyone sat down to eat.

Here is a close up of the bracelet Maniphone made for Abigail.  Beautiful, isn't it?  :)

To keep it safe while Abigail was playing with Grandpa Don on the playground equipment, she had "Horsey" wear it.  :)

We had a great time and plan to do this more often.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

"Seedless Grapes!"

I drove to Garden Goods once again to see if their grape plants had arrived.  They had and I bought 2  Niagara, a white seedless grape, and 2 Caco, a red seedless grape, one for each side of the new cattle panel arbors.

Here are the 2 arbors with their grapes planted next to them.  The shaded area gets full time sun in the morning and will gain more as we move into June......

My next job will be to plant all of the "heat loving" vegetable plants that I started from seed which are in the greenhouse.  I may wait a few more days to make sure the nighttime temperatures stay consistently in/near the 50's.  :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Cattle Panel Arbor....."

I drove into Chums Corners to the Tractor Supply Store (TSC) to purchase 2 "stock/cattle" panels that I planned to use for making 2 grape arbors.  I need to buy 4 more "T" posts (4'), which I used for anchoring the panel to the ground.

I used 4 "zip ties" on each side to secure the panel to the "T" posts.

The arch isn't perfectly rounded but it will be fine once covered with grape vine, right?  ;)  I think I will probably add a few taller posts on each side, to firm up the structure and give it more strength/sturdiness.

The White Pine that I cut down the other day will probably be cut to ground level, unless I think of a reason to keep it "as is".

I haven't decided where the 2nd arbor will be located, but once I get more posts, the decision will be made.

Now to find some "seedless grapes to plant at the base of this, and the soon to be constructed arbor.  :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"More Tonic......"

I had to make more of the Honey, Ginger, and Lemon tonic this morning.  I only have a few dregs left in the refrigerated quart.  We had picked up our organic ingredients yesterday while in Traverse City on errands, so this morning it was time to make more.

I wasn't sure if I had enough for 2 quarts again or if I would be using a quart jar and a pint jar, but thankfully, I have enough ingredients to make 2 full quarts.  Now it needs to steep at least 24 hours before using it.  I think I might add small, honey infused pieces of the left over sliced lemon and sliced ginger from the depleted quart of tonic when I make smoothies.  It certainly couldn't hurt and might actually be good for me.  ;)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Straw Filled Raised Bed....."

I bought 6 bales of straw this afternoon and filled the new raised bed.  I had a small space between the last 2 bales so filled it with some of last years straw mulch that had been removed from another raised bed to allow the soil to warm up more quickly.  I then covered the entire bed with more old mulch and began watering it in hopes of saturating the new bales prior to covering them with my growing medium, "Wholly Cow".  I won't be covering the straw until near the end of the month when the chances of frost might be over.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"The Newest 2' High Raised Bed........"

I decided to go the less expensive route when building our 2nd, 2' high raised bed.  Last time I used cedar and for the same price, I could have made 3 of these.  This time I went with regular pine 2"x4"x8', and for the sides I chose 8" pine car siding.

Here are the 8' side frames.

Next the car siding was screwed onto them starting at the top of each side.  There was just enough frame left on the bottom to attach another 2"x4"x8' piece of lumber making the sides even more sturdy.

I stood the 2 side frames on top of 4 sawhorses so I had the ends easily accessible for completing the box frame.

Don helped me maneuver the box onto our 2 wheeled cart and off we went to place it in the garden area.

I plan on planting our squash in this raised bed.  Last years squash harvest was dismal.  I "think" that our "Wascally Wabbit" ate most of the squash blossoms, so I'm taking no chances with having them within his/her reach this year.  There will also be room in this bed for bush green beans.  It will be quite nice not having to bend over so far for picking them, too!  ;)

As in last Falls raised bed, I will be placing full bales of straw for the base in this bed, covering them with several bags of "Wholly Cow", my preferred growing medium mix of compost, manure, and peat moss.  As the straw decomposes, more organic matter will be added to the bed giving me even more nice, rich soil in which to plant.

Here is the long view showing our 4 raised beds.  After having already provided Mr./Mrs. Rabbit with a broccoli buffet, I'm pretty sure I will be surrounding the long raised bed with a fence of plastic netting, hoping it will deter him/her from snacking on the tomatoes and peppers once they get planted.  Planting Marigolds is supposed to help repel rabbits, too, and I have quite a few seedlings in our greenhouse waiting to be planted and begin their guard duty.  ;)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Seedlings, Greenhouse, and Garden Update......"

If you recall from an earlier post, one of our Aero Gardens pump stopped working, as did the replacement one in less than 24 hours, so it was time to retire its hydroponic grow system and use it strictly for its light system.  I bought a heat mat to lie across the former grow surface and began placing our 3 "mini greenhouses" on top, having wonderful success with sprouting seeds, although a few varieties have not done anything yet, especially the Lavender.  Out of the 2 dozen "jiffy pods" sown with seeds, only 1 has sprouted.  The directions do say that sometimes they take an extremely long time to germinate, but it has been well over a month to date.  They probably have rotted in their jiffy pod, but since I no longer need the space, I will continue to let them stay in their little greenhouse under the Aero Garden light.

Most of the other sprouted seedlings from the mini greenhouses got transplanted today and are now on the windowsill.

Yesterday, I emptied the windowsill of our earlier seedlings, and they are now living in the outdoor "pop up" greenhouse.

I could probably bring the towels in that I used for extra protection but until I need the extra room for more plants, I will play it safe and have them readily available.

I also took a photo of the peas beginning to sprout along the inside edge of the raised bed, too.  Isn't Spring wonderful!?

I noticed that many of the Spinach seeds that were sown in the broccoli raised bed have also sprouted, but the sprouts are too little yet for a photo.  More updates will be posted soon.......

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"The Last 3 Fruit Trees Are Planted...."

Yesterday was beautiful and was the perfect time for planting the last 3 fruit trees.

The newly planted trees are in an area that still needs more clean up, but I felt it best to get them in the ground and then clear out the area when I have more time.  There are 2 smaller Spruce trees that need to be transplanted elsewhere and one large White Pine that will, unfortunately, have to be cut down.  It is throwing too much shade into the garden area.

Here is a better view of the White Pine that needs to be removed.  I hate to cut it down, but in order to have better sunlight for the garden it needs to be removed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Putting the Greenhouse to Work!"

After sowing many seeds in the little water absorbing Jiffy Pods, it became time to move them from the "seed starter domed tray" and into peat pots of their own so they could expand their root systems.

Since I now had benches in the greenhouse, and had run out of windowsill space in the house, it was time to try moving some of those transplanted seedlings into the greenhouse full time.  It still has been getting very cold at night.......down into the low 30's, so I needed to experiment by putting several peat pots of the heritage tomatoes (one of each variety), plus a peat pot of Sweet basil, and several newly sprouted Kale seedlings, into the greenhouse to see if they could withstand the cooler temperatures.  The first night I just had them sitting on the bench, uncovered, and found them little worse for wear the next morning, although the Sweet basil was a "little" droopy.  I then had this idea of covering the seedlings with towels to see if they faired better.  The 2nd night, I brought in a laundry basket to cover the plants and then covered it with towels.  The plants looked very good the following morning (no droopy Basil), so that brought about my need to make a more permanent and larger frame to cover with towels because more seedlings would be joining the "experiment" group.

I built this frame yesterday.  Unfortunately, I did not take into account the slant of the greenhouse roof and my original frame wouldn't fit due to the ends hitting the roof, so instead of taking it all apart and cutting the pieces shorter, I decided to cut each of the horizontal supports of the front and back frame, and slide the ends towards each other.  After finding the "sweet spot", I then just screwed the overlapped pieces together.  :)  Last night was in the low 30's again, but once again, all the plants looked great this morning.  As an afterthought, I added the string lacing across the top this morning to better support the insulating towels, keeping them from sagging down into the seedlings headspace.

Notice also my new high/low thermometer on the back support of the frame.  After reading what the low and high temperature was, it uses a magnet to reset the gage.  The original digital thermometer on the left left me somewhat confused each morning with what the low temperature had been so I asked Don to order the simpler thermometer for me.  It is very similar to the one we had in our greenhouse in Madison.

As I said, the "experiment" plants all looked very good this morning, so I decided to take more seedlings from the house windowsills and move them to their new home in the greenhouse.  It is a beautifully sunny day so I thought this would be a good time to begin "filling the greenhouse".......and according to the weather forecast, the nighttime temperatures are supposed to be in the 40's (and maybe even the 50's!) for the next week, so I feel safe in adding more plants.

I also plan on planting a couple of our Golden Grape Tomatoes into their hanging basket now, too.  The baskets hanger will act as their "tent" support when covered with towels.  ;)

Keep your fingers crossed for me that we don't have a sudden, super low temperature, cold snap!  ;)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"Greenhouse Workbenches....."

I decided yesterday that I needed workbenches in the greenhouse.  Our windowsills are overflowing with seedlings and more room will be needed very soon once many are repotted into larger peat pots. So after taking measurements, off I went to Menards to pick up lumber and screws to build my workbenches.

I had one bench frame built before I realized I had not documented my project, so the camera was retrieved from the house and from then on was carried in my shirt pocket.  ;)

Here is the first side bench during construction.  I used plain old 2"x4"x8' pine lumber for the framing.  It wasn't practical to buy cedar for something that won't be used for too long each season.

2 workbenches in place and 1 more to build.

Number 3 installed and it was time to start cutting the bench tops from the 1"x3"x8' pieces of lumber.

I did screw the smaller benches to the larger one to give them all more stability, making sure I could easily reach the screw to take them apart when time to disassemble the greenhouse for the season.

The greenhouse is now ready to become home to all the seedlings once the nighttime temperatures are consistantly a bit higher.  Hopefully, the sun will soon come out long enough so it can heat the greenhouse (before the seedlings go in) and warm the water in the 55 gallon drum enough that it will temper the cooler nights and the seedlings can go out sooner rather than later.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"That "Wascally Wabbit!"

Unfortunately, I had seen a rabbit hereabouts as of late.  I had planted our Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Cabbage plants in the raised beds last Monday.  However, the raised bed that is constructed of stones is "buffet" height for a rabbit, and Don aptly predicted "it is only a matter of time".  He was, of course, correct in his prediction and that "time" has come to pass.

Here is what the bed looked like after planting.......

And how it looked when I went outside this morning.  Yes, all but one Broccoli plant had been eaten and/or nibbled upon.  AND.......adding insult to injury, I just went out to transplant the remaining Broccoli plant into the 2' high raised bed and it was GONE!!!  Yes, that "Wascally Wabbit" returned and finished off its buffet, which I possibly interrupted when I walked out this morning.

Last Summer I planted green beans in this same bed, surrounded by marigolds, and they were never touched.  Either the marigolds deterred the rabbits or we were just plain lucky.  Unfortunately, it is too early to plant marigolds in hopes for this bed being used for any plants that attract rabbits.  Thank goodness I have the 2 other raised beds to pin my hopes on any brassicas surviving.  ;)  Here are photos of those planted beds.  I hope the old fire ring is high enough to keep enquiring rabbits from discovering the rest of the Broccoli plants.

I do feel confident that the newest raised bed will be tall enough at 2' high.  By the way, the "blocks" of soil additive are pieces that were still frozen in the bags when I emptied them into the raised bed.  This year instead of mixing commercial compost with peat moss, I am using bags of "Wholly Cow" (, which is a combination of top soil, compost, and peat moss, which I purchased at Garden Goods (

This gardening season "might" be a bit stressful on this old guy.  LOL  I guess I best try to keep my sense of humor, eh, and try to "out think" that "Wascally Wabbit", eh?  ;)