Sort of success

Last night as it thundered, lightninged, and rained buckets full, I brought in the plastic pail I gather weeds in for the chickens and spread a huge garbage bag on the dining table to process the garlic for braiding. I watched two different videos on how to braid garlic and both were different, so I just did my own thing. The garlic was spread out, the dried roots trimmed and the dirty loose outer skin removed. They were sorted enough to see the sizes and braiding began. What a mess I made, but dry and easy to clean up after I was done. Every year I have planted garlic, I have planted hard neck varieties and they can’t be braided, but I ordered late last year and could only get soft neck varieties which can be braided.

It isn’t the prettiest braid, but what fun. While braiding, one of the stems had what looked like little round cloves breaking though it so I did some research. They are call bulbils and can be planted to produce small cloves that are then planted the following year, a two year process to produce bulbs of garlic.

There were only half a dozen, but I will plant them, well marked in the fall and again next fall to see how they turn out.

This morning, I dumped the compost waste from last night and tackled the onions, again filling the compost tub with tops and roots.

As you can see, the potato onion are small. Good for kebobs, or pot roast, or when I only need a bit of onion. After the bin was dumped in the compost pile again, the onions were loaded into it and relocated to the huge shelf and grid unit that Son 1 built several summers ago in the basement area that is not climate controlled, my “root cellar” in a sense.

The bottom two shelves are boards and store jars as they are emptied then filled jars as canning commences in the summer. The pressure canner belongs to Son 1 and DIL and needs some replacement parts. The top three shelves are hardware cloth with great ventilation for storage of onions, garlic, potatoes, and pumpkins. The onions were spread out at one end of the lowest wire shelf to continue curing and for use in cooking. Though I will replant a few of the smaller ones this fall, just because they are fun to watch develop, I will reserve most of my onion space for early spring onion starts.

As I evolve with my garden space and learn from my successes and failure, I learn to enjoy it more each year. This is the first year that I have tried the single leader on indeterminate tomatoes and love how they are up and not all over the ground. I realized after a couple of years that the asparagus bed was not well placed as it shades the beds on either side of it in the morning and in the afternoon as the sun moves across the sky. There isn’t much I can do about that without digging the bed out and starting over which would mean a couple of years without asparagus, so I need to use those beds for crops that mature early. This year it was peas in the spring, but bush beans are in that bed now that the ferns are tall. Tomatoes are on the west side, so they are getting afternoon sun, but I bought all indeterminate varieties and three of them ended up bush varieties and one of them is now sandwiched between a tall tomato and the asparagus so not getting much sun. Each year I grow something new and sometimes repeat, sometimes not. This year I tried soft neck garlic and will return to hard neck, already ordered; potato onions and will return to traditional onions; Chinese Cabbage, but will start them indoors; and ground cherries. Since they were just planted, we will have to wait and see.

If the heat wave ever breaks, I need to build the garden box and rebuild the one that had onions and garlic in it. The beds that will be fall garden need to be enriched and the ones that will be idle through the winter need a ground cover or at least a good thick layer of spoiled hay or straw. But again today, it is too hot! Last evenings thunderstorms cooled things off over night, but the heat and humidity are back.

Stay safe everyone. Please wear your mask. Today I went in our little local store to get a newspaper. Newly posted on the door is the sign that says “You must wear a mask to enter.” I asked the unmasked clerk if they were going to enforce it and she smirked and as well as we can. The owner and most of the customers in there were unmasked. So frustrating.

Successes and failures

Basically, I consider this year’s garden a success. In pictures with captions.

Many future tomatoes, all still green, two varieties, paste and slicers.
Healthy peppers with blooms, basil, Chinese cabbage, and more tomatoes.
Vigorous cucumbers, taking over.
Lots of young cucumbers, this is the largest, just another day or two.
Soft neck garlic and potato onions pulled to cure.
With potato onions, you plant a single bulb and it produces clusters like this. The larger ones will be used as onions, the smallest will be replanted in fall for next year’s crop. I think I will plant some traditional onions next year too, most of these are under 2″ diameter.
They will stay in the sun to cure for a couple of days then be brought in to the garage or wire shelves in the basement to finish curing, then their box that was not rebuilt in spring because it was already planted last fall will be rebuilt, given a load of compost and replanted with either beans or a fall vegetable in a month.
While pulling weeds in the potato bed, I uprooted this little new potato. I didn’t dig for more, but it is hopeful that they are making potatoes under the leaves.

Failures. The multiple plantings of corn have produced less than half of the stalks that should have grown. There may be some corn, but certainly not for what we had hoped. The experiment planting pepper and tomato seed directly produced nothing, nor did the direct sow of basil and dill. The two rows of Chinese cabbage that were planted after the peas were pulled did not germinate a single plant. Thus, now that the onions and garlic are pulled, there are two and a half 4 X 4 foot beds idle as well as the area where the mint was dug out and that box has still not been built and installed which will give me another 4 x 6 or 4 x 8 foot box. That is a lot of space that can be used to do a third planting of bush beans, some winter greens like spinach, fall peas, carrots perhaps. Anything planted now will need watering, we have reached the hot, dry period with occasional afternoon thunderstorms that are very hit or miss.

When I rebuild the box and build the longer box, I think I am going to use corner posts at least 14-16″ so that heavy plastic can be laid over the bed to extend the growing season even after a light frost or two. We often have a frost then another period of mild to warm weather that would allow the harvest to be extended.

More bean seed and some fall veggie seed were just ordered. As soon as it is appropriate, seed will be planted.

While the pizza was baking and then after dinner, I moved and stacked the mini wall to help prevent erosion on the steep.

Most of the stones are ordinary, but there are a few lovely dark purple gray and this one.

Today we will buy another car load of Black Cow and at least toss the bags down on the hay before the afternoon storms begin. The hay men didn’t finish all that was already mowed, but have lined up 31 huge bales for picking up on the trailers and trucks. They will probably try to get the rest of what is mowed before the rain begins.

The morning began with “Yogurt in a cooler.” It has been a while since I have made my own yogurt, having been buying a quart a week from the Natural foods store in town and having it curbside delivered with other food needs we can’t grow. But it is easy and cheaper to make my own. A half gallon of quality local milk that will make two quarts if I ate that much in a week, costs between $2 and $5 a quart less depending on which brand they put in my order. I have the jars, the cooler, and a supply of beach towels with which to wrap the cooler, so I am back to making my own.

I also decided I was tired of trying to climb up in the coop several times a day to move eggs to nesting boxes to discourage the laying in the corner under the perch and encourage returning to the nesting boxes. I did a partial coop cleanout because the water inside the coop leaked and created a mess just inside the door and to open up two more nesting boxes. Three had been blocked off with the feeder and the water in front of them. By removing the water and just giving them water outside, two of the boxes could be reopened, that is 5 to choose from though when they use the boxes, it is never either of them. As I was working, the culprit that lays the first egg in the corner kept coming in and surveying her spot from which I had removed all of the straw. Fresh straw was put in the nesting boxes and 3 terra cotta flower pots were placed upside down in a row where she wanted to be. As I climbed back down out of the coop, she came right back in to the corner and this is what she found.

Now she can use a nesting box or if she chooses to not, at least I can reach them from the pop door, or with a scoop from the main door. I’m curious what she will do.

A beginning

Saturday, I sprayed the interior area of the walled garden with a 3% solution of the citric acid spray. It did a fair job on some weeds, didn’t do much to the grass or other weeds. Yesterday, I upped the game to 9% and sprayed again. The area is mostly browned off now with only some grass still showing some green. This morning, I shoved what was left of last year’s chicken run bale of hay over with the tractor bucket, I couldn’t get it in the bucket by myself to just drive it over. That bale is rotted on the side that was on the ground and so moldy that a cloud of mold spores erupts when part is pulled off. It seemed like the perfect solution to hold the cardboard down and be a layer to compost under leaf mulch or soil. Early in the spring, when it appeared that between DIL who started the wall began a full time job a while ago and COVID, that they wouldn’t be able to come this year to work on the house and the wall, so I began rock stacking to make her wall higher in low places and thicker in thin places and while doing so, I tossed smaller rocks up into a pile where the patio will eventually go.

I talked to my son about whether I should load them in the tractor bucket and relocate them to a rock pile and his suggestion was to use them along the edge of the cardboard or weed mat that would go down before soil was added and to build up the wall on the lower back edge at a slope. This morning, all of the cardboard that was left after doing the garden was hauled out to that space, boxes opened flat and i began below the retaining wall where the garden will be deepest and will house the herbs that might survive the winter if kept warmed by the stones. There, I can drape heavy plastic from retaining wall to garden wall to create a mini greenhouse in the coldest part of winter and perhaps the rosemary and thyme will survive there. When I ran out of cardboard, I had enough weed mat left over to do two strips of it as well. As I went, I gathered the smaller rocks again and stacked them against the back of the wall on the cardboard.

The area that has been covered was given a layer of spoiled hay to help hold it down and to begin breaking down.

The area shaded by the retaining wall is the deepest part. It receives full sun in the afternoon year round.

You can see the edge of the weed mat to the right of my shadow. It goes up to the top of the retaining wall and I’m in a shallower, flatter area now. It is hard to tell where the killed off grass ends and the spoiled hay begins.

Looking down from the deck, you can see the gorgeous heavy stone retaining wall that Son 1 and DIL built (without heavy equipment mind you) and how the garden wall wraps around to it. That area beyond the retaining wall was steep and difficult to mow. The double crook hanging pole is in the flat lawn level area. The round concrete pier in the lower left corner was where the old deck extended and all of the stones remaining and in the garden wall were under the part of the deck that did not get replaced. The pier is going to hold one end of an arbor and the patio will be between it and the house.

The outer pier can be seen here, where the path/patio has been started and you can see there is still a significant pile of smaller rock to be used or moved. Behind the end of the grill and in an area that will become part of the patio, there are bearded Iris, Dutch Iris, and a tall plant that has yellow flowers that used to be along the edge of the old deck. They will have to be moved soon. What is remaining of the hay bale can be seen in the yard, there is enough to finish the job if I can get cardboard or weed mat and some of that rock pile will go along the back of the wall.

Progress has been made. Now to finish it and get leaf mulch or composted soil to top the spoiled hay so that I can plant the garden. The patio will have to wait until the hay is down and I can get to the many rock piles with the tractor to bring large flat rocks up. The cracks will be filled with pea gravel or sand and the area will be easier to maintain, a practical space, and a joy to look at. It may need a second Hummingbird feeder for the back and an umbrella for the table so I can sit out there and enjoy it.