A personal record of what's going on in my Northern Michigan zone 4 gardens. I use raised beds and grow organically. Nothing fancy--just trying to garden with nature in mind.

Monday, May 2, 2016

End of the Month Round Up--April 2016

An Overview May 2, 2016 
 April is when my seed starting starts in earnest and this year was especially busy.
I "invested" $6 on a half dozen clear plastic shoeboxes (with CLEAR lids!) to put the seeded cells in .
I put it on the top shelf--it's the warmest--and labeled the outside of the box with the name and sow dates. It kept the soil nice and moist......and kept it extra warm as well. I had the best germination ever--most of the time 100% germination.  No more messing with plastic wrap or those FLIMSY plastic trays with the domes.
Seed Packs staying moist and toasty in Plastic Shoeboxes
Seedlings moved to trays on lower shelves to  grow on in cooler conditions

April 1-7  Snow everyday.  Totall for the week-almost 18 inches. Sanity---Short Supply.
                Temps ranged from 10 to 20 degrees BELOW normal.  Several nights we
                hit lows of just 6 and 10 degrees.

April 9-- Sunny--HIGH of 27 degrees. Fahrenheit. Not Celsius. Good Grief. Happy Spring. Ha.

April 10  Abandoned House on local Tree Farm

April 10 More snow

April 11-12  Flurries

April 14  BOOM--Spring Arrives. SUNNY!!!!!!!!  58 degrees.  Hooray.  Sanity found!

April 15--Michigan is a terrible state to live in--our governor does his damndest to make sure
              it's citizens bear the brunt of costs, allowing businesses to not pay, but one thing that
              it does do for us is leave cut trees lay for firewood and chip up branches and leave in piles.
              Hubby scored TWENTY YARDS of mulch......for FREE, off the state.  Hooray.
              So, the next 2 weeks will be spent shoveling mulch all over my various planting beds.

April 16-18 Sowed a flat each  day of alyssum .  I edge EVERYTHING with alyssum.                                         Hubby surprised I don't serve alyssum with supper!

April 19  Edged perennial beds around garage, sidewalk border and scummy pond bed.

April 20  Edged flower beds around south and west side of house.  Crisp! Beautiful!
                The only thing that would make this better is NO DEER and some spring blooms!

April 21-24  Buckets of Dahlias planted. I move them in and out of the house every day. Tiring!
                   NOTE TO SELF---win lottery. Buy greenhouse.

April 24-26  Daytime highs only in the upper 30's for most of the day. Heats up around 5 pm--when
                    I am DONE for the day.  Not much accomplished. Hard to get motivated with a
                      bitter cold wind blowing.

Apil 27-28  Cloudy, cold, nighttime temps in the 20's and 30's.  Doesn't warm up until FIVE PM
                 NOTE TO SELF-Trying a heater in the garage on a timer set at 2 hour intervals.
                                           Has kept plants nice during lows in the 20's.  Will do from now
                                           on to spare me from running plants in and out of the house.

Mobile Table of Seedlings

April 29--58 degrees and SUNNY---Hooray.  Shovelled 10 more yards mulch
               Set up water tank behind little garden shed

April 30 --Sowed : Sugar Snap Peas
                            Lettuce-Valentine Blend
                            Planted Shallots

Last Years "Finds"--a water cart on wheels and double washtubs for planting up in the garden!

I'm so happy May has arrived. Though I am still 5 weeks away from planting the garden, it's nice
to be able to have the cold frames going and just enjoy a lot of time outside.
Hope you all have a great month.  I'll post again  after planting (June 4-June 10)
Date Day-April--RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame, Indiana

Friday, April 1, 2016

Garden Update and Plans --April 1, 2016

Overview of Vegetable Garden April 1, 2016

Greetings All
It's been the oddest winter up here---we had no snow until January and there wasn't much of it then.
We didn't even buy trail stickers for our snowmobiles---it was that lousy.
BUT--Mother Nature has a great sense of humor---we got 8 inches of snow last weekend, and this weekend we are to get another 3-5 inches.  Free fertilizer, right Mama Pea??

As you can see from the top photo---I've made some changes in the layout of the fruit garden.
I ripped up the four beds of strawberries---we have such cold nights in July that the berries would have heavy dews and just rot.  In five years , I only had one outstanding year.  No more. I'll buy them
and use the space for other things.

So, I made 6 beds measuring 8X10 foot.  I'll use them for Pumpkins, Corn, and Tomatoes
I also am re-trying sweet potatoes--a crop notoriously hard to grow in the north.  My Amish friend
Lydia said to do it in raised beds and keep them covered .   I hope that does the job as we eat a LOT of sweet potatoes.
New Beds for Corn, Pumpkins, and Tomatoes

I got all the sunflower and corn stalks run through the chipper already and redistributed back into
the beds from which they came.  It makes a fine mulch and puts everything back into the soil.

Sunflower and misc sttalks and stems ground up and returned to the soil

I have one cold frame started already with lettuce, spinach, radish and kohlrabi.  This is the first year I did not have to wade out in deep  snow and "pre-heat" my coldframe.  When we came home mid-March, the ground was thawed. Very very unusual for here.

I have started transplanting some of the new, baby Chandler blueberry bushes into their new home.
Hubby expanded the garden for me last year so I can put in another 14 bushes. We eat GOBS of
them and would like to have plenty extra on hand as well  to give away.
The New Addition --Space for 14 more Chandler Blueberry Bushes

And finally--this is the plans for the vegetable gardens.  I do not draw in the aisles, so just "imagine" them in between the beds. An artist I am not--but you get the idea.

Vegetable Garden -- 24 beds each measuring 4 ft by 8 ft

The Newly configured beds on the left and of course the blueberry patch (original one)

I'll update at the beginning of next month. There's really nothing much going on here for the coming month but a lot of edging of borders and the misc. "grunt" work--setting up trellises, etc.

Have a Happy Spring

Sunday, March 13, 2016

For Jim Sullivan of Places That Were

I always take photos of farmhouses and barns and other buildings on our travels. I love the architecture --it's a part of our history that is fading quickly.  As farms in Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois become bigger and bigger, the old farmsteads are bulldozed and the past is being erased.  It's sad.  I can't even say I think that you could call that progress....but it does seem unstoppable.

I am putting up this temporary post of my latest photos from Nebraska last week for Jim Sullivan, who has an awesome blog Places That Were.  He explores all sorts of abandoned buildings and has some excellent posts. If old places are "your thing" too, please check out his blog.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Nebraska-Spring Migrations-2016

Soaking up some sunshine(and eating a NO-NO!!) -Harlan County Resevoir, Alma, NE

Greetings from Nebraska---perhaps I should say WARM greetings. Oh my--this is heavenly! Mid 60's and more sun than I've seen in over 4 months.

We couldn't have timed out this trip better!  The cranes are arriving early--the paper said there are already over 300, 000 of them in the area.   PLUS-----we were at the reservoir the EXACT MORNING  the snow geese arrived!!!!!!  Wave after wave after wave of them.
I couldn't hope to have the words to describe the awesomeness of that morning. That truly was the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE.  I am not exaggerating.

Anyways, I've put on a couple of videos--the first is of a small flock of Snow geese in a field by Marquette, NE settling in to feed  and the second video is of a few cranes in a field near Kearney,NE.



I've disabled comments because I might not get to them---I'll catch up with all of you when I'm home.
Take care and "look up"---you never know what you'll see

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 Garden Winners and Losers and 2016 Seed Orders

A Winter "Date Day" at the Meijer Conservatory in Grand Rapids.

Well--isn't this the latest End of the Garden post.  We were gone from mid-September to Mid October, and then I battled a bug picked up on the road that "morphed" into pneumonia.
I'm finally back on my feet after 4 weeks of that fun. So, let's look at 2015's Winners and Losers!

2015 was a terrific year in the garden despite having left for the month of June---right after planting and when weeds are at their most prolific.  Newly planted seeds and transplants relied on Mother Nature for care and we were lucky that for once she cooperated with lots of rain.

Winners this year :

It's a toss-up which is my favorite.
This year I started digging just ONE bed of potatoes PER WEEK.. Those were brought into my "shop" and spread out to dry for a week under a covering of landscape fabric.  They cleaned up beautifully and I stored them in the shop until mid October when we came home from our trip to see "The Boy".  Doing only one bed per week saved my back AND did a better job on curing the spuds.

Another top thing this year was adding a 300 gallon stock tank to my collection of water tanks.
Hubby put up a gutter on the back of the barn and that huge expanse of roof gave us a full tank from only 1/2 inch of rain.  I never ran out of water this year---which was a huge improvement. I only watered with rainwater this year. I found that watering with my icy well water seemed to cause a lot of disease problems and frankly, I think it "SHOCKS" the plants.  Must be working as this year was the best by far in the garden---no diseases whatsoever and great production (except for the Red Pontiacs!)

THIRD on the winners list actually happened last fall.  I never cut down ANY of my flowers and WOW--that was a winner on all levels.
First--I fed a LOT of birds.
Secondly--I ended up with a TON of free plants that created the best borders ever
And best of all is some of those self sowers were the prettiest plants I've ever seen. Check out this self-sown petunia:
Incredible markings on the self sown petunias

And look how full and lush the self sown alyssum along the sidewalk is:
Alyssum (self sown) along the Sidewalk

And some of the self sown sunflowers were crazy tall and beautiful--having as many as 20 heads on them.
Oh, I had some really happy bees this year
HUGE Sunflower!
Self Sown Hyssop--an amazing six feet tall!!

I didn't have time to work on the East border and let Mother Nature do her thing and the results were incredible. I've never had so much wildlife---it was alive with birds in August and September harvesting seeds from all the self sown Heliopsis, Hyssop, Cleome , and Joe Pye Weed.
East Border--A Bird and Bee Mecca

I also used Deer Fencing for the first time ever and it worked!!  Ugly, but I ended up with flowers!!!
I think Hubby will have to splurge on something decorative around the house.

Now-for the Losers!
Well, by far the most mysterious and disappointing thing this year was the Red Pontiac potatoes. What a fail!  They are usually my best performers of all the potatoes, but not this year.  Grossly misshapen , hollow, light as balsa wood with a texture to match.  I can only blame this on the seed potatoes I bought as nothing for conditions was different from years past and my Yukons and Russets turned out so well.
Mutant Red Pontiacs

There was terrible production on the blueberries this year, but that was a combo of factors---We had our usual VERY LATE frost that got the BlueRays and Patriots, which were not protected (My Fault)
The Chandlers were covered, but production was much lower due to bad pruning (my fault) .  We got roughly a pint a day....terrible when you consider we have 5 of that variety. Last year I gave away QUARTS every day besides what I froze.
Lesson learned --cover the bushes and watch those YouTube videos on proper pruning!

This also was not the year for Tomatoes.  Even the cherry tomatoes were late to the party and didn't start bearing decently until Sept 3.

It's been such an odd year. I haven't had pumpkins in 3 years because it never got hot enough and yet this year.--tons. I had a great year for peppers, corn and green beans. And yet---the tomatoes didn't produce.  I guess it's just good that when some things fail, other things pick up the slack.

Seed Orders for the year:
Fedco again got the bulk of my budget $45 out of the budgeted $100

238B - Bush Blue Lake 274 Bush Green Beans 
282A - Fortex OG Pole Beans 
582A - Ambrosia Bicolor Sweet Corn 
2087C - Mokum, Pelleted Carrots 
2224B - Easter Egg Summer Radishes 
2510B - Space Spinach 
2712B - Black Seeded Simpson OG 
2795A - Lollo di Vino OG Cutting Lettuce
2861A - Jericho OG Romaine Lettuce
3309A - Green Super Broccoli 
3339A - Gustus Brussels Sprouts 
3425A - Snowbowl Cauliflowers 
3450A - Vates Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch OG Kale 
3473A - Winner Kohlrabi
3716A - Revolution Sweet Peppers 
4049A - Prudens Purple OG Tomatoes 
4069A - German Johnson OG Tomatoes
4264A - Juliet Grape Tomatoes 

Botanical Interests Order was placed 11/27/15 --Arrived December 4, 2015

Amaranth -Burgandy-OG
Sunflower-Goldy Honeybear AND Vanilla Ice
Canteloupe-Hearts of Gold OG
Lettuce-Salad Bowl Blend OG
Lettuce Valentine-OG
Mache-Corn Salad-OG
Squash-Acorn Sweet Reba OG
Tomato-Sungold Cherry
Zuchinni COcozelle-OG

That's it for me for the year. Enjoy the coming peacefulness of winter.
Merry Christmas to you all!  I'll "see you" in the spring

Novermber "Date Day" --Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Sorry for the lack of posts and my absence on your blogs.
Hubby and I returned from a month on the road just in time for me to develop a nasty bout with bronchitis that has left me bedridden for over a week. I'll be catching up slowly. Take care, all.
Spending our Anniversary in Oregon--Sept 25

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Garden Update--Part 2 and the End of the Month Roundup

Green Beans going to seed, Corn, Sunflowers and Tomatoes

August 17-- .65" rain

August 18--  .65" rain

August 19-20--  .25" rain
August 20  The Cauliflower that "Got Away"---didn't check it for a week. Ooops.

 August 20     Pulled the broccoli in both beds, topped each bed with a wheelbarrow full of                                      "doo - Found 3 more stray potato plants in those beds yielding another 15                                          pounds Yukons
                   Harvested the rest of the corn. Seven ears eaten for lunch, the rest put into storage.
                       Total corn harvest: 20 ears eaten fresh, 20 ears cut/blanched/and in the freezer
                   Running dangerously low on Mokum carrots--only a few more days worth. Yikes!

August 22--Pulled both Broccoli beds
                 Dug one bed of the Yukon Gems---yield 35 pounds--perfect-no scab or flaws at all
Broccoli Beds (on left) cleared and manured and one bed Yukon Golds dug
Pumpkins starting to "color up"

August 23---Rain  .70"

August 24---Rain  . 10"   Daytime high 61 degrees. YES!!!!

August 25--Rain   .2 "     Daytime high--57 degrees---DOUBLE YES!!!

August 28--  Rain   .3"
                   Dug a few Red Pontiacs. Somethings wrong--really wrong
                   The picture doesn't show it too clearly but they are like "unfurling" flowers.
                   It must have been the seed potatoes--I grew them as I always do. The texture is
                   extremely woody and they are light as balsa wood. NOT like Pontiacs at all!
All the Red Pontiacs are turning out grossly misshapen.  NO IDEA what is wrong
August 29--Dug a second bed of Yukon Gems--all perfect--roughly 30 pounds

Also picked the LAST of the Mokum Carrots---a sad day for us. We'll miss their crunchy sweet 
goodness!!  Next year I need two full beds of them.  

Elsewhere around the yard:
West Side of House

North Side of House
Agastache, Cleome, and Joe Pye are bringing in the bees on the East side of the House
Total Rainfall for the month --5.15"---about double the normal amount.
Coolest day---August 25-High temp of only 56 degrees
Hottest Day--August 14--High temp 89 degrees (blech!)

So far, no tomatoes---just a handful or two of cherry toms.
The Brandywines are loaded and the size is HUGE, but nothing is even thinking of ripening.

The onions are starting to look ratty, so hopefully next week they will be ready to be pulled.

Water tanks were drained on the last day of the month.  September is our "wet" month, and the garden is just about done anyway. I'm just waiting for that first frost, which typically is the 10th of September.   I'll do an update Mid-September and then the Winners and Losers post.

Hope you all have a terrific week in the garden!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

August 1 to August 15 Garden Notes

The Vegetable Garden  August 11

August is always a busy month for the vegetable garden and this year is no exception.

Green Beans-- Daily pickings started July 30 and  averaged 6 to 8 pints a day for the freezer. The bigger ones get done up separately for stews.  When they first started, I didn't think they were the right beans (Blue Lake bush beans) and that the harvest would take longer, but once they started, they just kept coming in strong. I got my 36 pints for the freezer done by Aug 6. We ate some fresh with meals, but the rest were left to go to seed.

August 2--  1.5" rain

August 4  A vase full of Dahlias, Phlox, Roses, Heliopsis, Echinops Zebrina,Physostegia, Cleome and Zinnias.  I never remember to cut any----but today I finally did.  They're gorgeous and all but the Dahlia, Phlox, and rose were grown from seed.

August 6--Picked the FINAL (yay!) four pints green beans for the freezer and got a surprise FIFTH
cutting of broccoli that yielded 4 cups more for the freezer.

August 7--Cleaned the 2 varieties of garlic that had been drying , the shallots, some red onions and dug up 2 stray potatoes that yielded a nice 8 pounds of potatoes for soup and  a Saturday breakfast.
                    Also got 2/10 inch rain

August 10--First of the Green Peppers.  They ended up stuffed for dinner. Yum!

August 12--First Cherry Tomato.  Yep---just one and YES---I gave it to hubby!
                   Rain: 1/2 inch

August 15--The first of the sweet corn--Ambrosia ---excellent taste.  I grew up in Illinois and when the corn was ready, that night's supper was nothing but corn on the cob-slathered in butter.  Now that I'm in Michigan, we have added  Red Haven peaches to the meal. Oh, heavenly delights!  That was, bar none, the finest meal ever!
The top ear is a bit "under-done". I'm hoping someone can tell me how you know when the ears are DONE.   I waited for the silks to turn dark and dry. Thoughts?

A Mishmash of Zinnias and Alyssum

Sidewalk Border Starting to Recover from "Attack of the Deer"
We've had a blast of heat the past 2 days and it's supposed to continue for a couple more days. The gnats, deerfly and mosquitoes have made this summer stand out as one of the worst we've experienced up here......BUT---I've had ZERO pest problems on my vegetables.  Very odd. Last year was miserable with beetles,, this year I've not seen a single one. 

Hope you're all enjoying the summer's bounty.  I'll post again at the end of the month.