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, October 31, 2011

Carrots, Broccoli, and Skunk--Oh MY!

Happy Halloween to all. Hard to believe it's the last day of October already. The frost is definately on the pumpkins (as it has been for the past 7 weeks!)

Things are slowly returning to normal after our great Skunk disaster.


I've managed to put up a few decorations. Most of our efforts have been concentrated on ridding the house of the awful stench of skunk.

Hubby did a fabulous job of getting rid of the stripey devil, but unfortunately, as some of you know--our home took a direct hit. In the crawlspace. OMG.


The hole has since been dug out, fresh concrete poured, and fresh dirt hauled in to replace the "bad" stuff. It's been a hellish week and my huge thanks to those of you who wrote words of encouragement. Home has always been my sanctuary and these past days have certainly taken a toll on me. It's good to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


This year was very good for the mums. I'm impressed with how well they bloomed despite almost the entire month having nighttime temps in the 20's.



This is my Oddball mum---it was purchased last year---the blooms were a combo of orange with yellow striping. It came back this year a mix of ALL orange and ALL yellow blooms. Odd.




The coldframes are hard at work cranking out lettuce, spinach , carrots and broccoli.



I've gotten several pounds of carrots this month......This bunch was from Oct 26.



The broccoli is almost ready for cutting. I have a dozen plants under the Agribon that promise at least a few more meals of good eating.


Wasn't that snow out East something?? So many areas still had leaves on the trees..what a shame about all the damage to them.

I've been frosted out since early September. Our leaves have been gone for weeks. According to the Farmer's Almanac, we're supposed to get plenty of snow this winter and I'm glad.

Stay warm and safe, everybody!

Monday, September 26, 2011

2011 Final Harvest Tally and Notes for 2012

The pumpkin vines have been pulled and the fruit garden gets it's final clean-up. In the background-the new lean-to addition on the barn can be seen. It's a much needed new space, and I'm eyeing that as mine. Don has other ideas. Silly man!





My "shop" (garage stall) is filled to the brim with harvest projects-herbs drying, geraniums being potted up to bring inside, sunflowers drying, squash curing , perennial seedlings being prepped for planting. I need more room!





The Pumpkin-on-a-Stick drying for fall decorating and buckets of apples waiting to be made into applesauce.





The Agastache really going full bore now in the final weeks. Shouldn't be long until I can harvest seeds from this one. Despite numerous nights in the upper 20's and low 30's, this stuff looks better every day. I think all the rock and the large expanse of concrete in the driveway keeps this area going long after frosts have done in the vegetable garden. Maybe I should be putting my Brandywine tomato here?????







2011 Harvests--Starting /Ending Dates and amounts


Spinach--5/8-early July--plenty for fresh eating-



Radish--5/14--early July--about a pound a week



Peas--6/19-7/21-- enough to last thru 8/13



Strawberries--6/18-7/21-- 75 Quarts


Broccoli--7/8--8 heads, Fall Crop--not ready YET


Carrots-7/8-9/5--Plenty for fresh eating all summer, plus final harvest ~5 pounds, more in ground for hopefully a late fall crop.


Kohlrabi-steady supply until July


Garlic --7/21--42 heads


Zuchinni-Never Mind--too many!


Green Beans 7/22-8/4--42 pints frozen


Cukes--7/29--65! Cripes!


Matts Wild Cherry 7/29--- About a handful a day until first frost


Cauliflower 7/31-- 7 heads, 8/16-- 3 heads., 9/12--5 heads (15 heads total/16 planted)



Cabbage 7/31-August--8 heads



Celery 8/2 -9/6 Four large bags chopped and frozen


Yellow Pear Tomato 8/9-Sept 5 A Good Handful a day


Supersweet 100 Tomato 8/11 Many Handfuls a day!


Yukon Gold Potatoes 8/12--1 milk crate full


Melon-Fastbreak--8/15-Sept 20 --13



Melon-Hearts of Gold--Plant fully loaded, none ripened due to lack of heat/not enough time



Brandywine Tomato 8/23-Sept 5-- 15


Russet Norkotah potato 8/23 --2 milk crates full



Jetstar Tomato 8/27-9/5 -----Too Many-STILL eating them 9/23


Onions 8/27---170



Green Peppers 8/29---A whopping TWO



Butternut Squash 9/3--X4


First Frost 9/5/11


Pumpkins---9 large, 5 small


Overall-I was pleased with the year. I wish I had gotten some of the Hearts of Gold melons, as they are the best .....but the Fastbreak melons were delicious and did satisfy the melon cravings. Our summers are very short and quite cool, so I'm glad there is a canteloupe that can deliver.




Pumpkin and Butternut harvests were the biggest surprise....very disappointing. Last year was far more productive, but again-cooler temps this summer were the villain.




I wish I had gotten more Brandywines. I couldn't believe how prolific the Jetstar were once they started. Loved the Yellow Pear--new to us this year and will return again next year. I have to narrow down between the Matt's Wild Cherry and Supersweet 100 though. Two cherry tomato plants is too many for us. I don't know which one I'll keep yet. Too close to call.




As for potatoes-after TWO disappointing years of Yukon Gold harvests, I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't give up on them..........but they are my FAVORITE. I will try a different supplier next year and if it's still a bad harvest, I guess I'm done with them. I can't afford the space for something that doesn't produce. But gosh, I do love them!!



Broccoli---next year plant MORE. It turned out so extra wonderful this year grown under the fabric. We could actually use 24 heads for the freezer and an extra dozen for fresh eating.

Shoot for 36 heads next year.




Carrots--keep up the steady sowing--a few rows every 10 days--and keep covered with fabric




Kohlrabi-don't try to grow through June/July---hates heat, gets woody




Cabbage--we don't eat enough to justify the space--skip?




Acorn Squash--I didn't grow them this year because we don't eat that many.....but I missed them. Sigh.


I know so many-especially in the south-have struggled with their gardens this year-between the heat and the bugs it must have been tough. Up here in the north, I guess it was an okay year--not nearly as prolific like last year, but heck, I live up here because I despise heat. So, I don't get the melons I love so much, or much for Brandywines either, but I grow a mean cauliflower, so I'll be satisfied with that, I guess.


This will be the last post for a bit, aside from updating some notes for 2012 as I think of them. I have nothing new going on. To those who have emailed-thank you so much-I really enjoy getting to know you.....and I am always happy to share seed if I have it to spare. And a huge thank you to those whose gardens continue LONG after mine--you are what keeps me going up here. Remember--pictures!! And lots of them. It is my gardening lifeline!


Have a wonderful fall!!

Sue

Thursday, September 15, 2011

End of 2011 Season RoundUp-Part 2--The Winners

Okay...no big surprise here that the FABRIC row covers were the very best-est thing in the garden. I used them on the potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, salad beds, and carrots (and on the blueberries too). Wonderful wonderful stuff. No bugs. No worms in anything. Love love love it!



The Agastache cana wins hands down on the best performing plant this year. I grew these from seed and even in my incredibly short summer, these grew and filled out so fast, and put on such a great display. They are fantastic and will become a much bigger part of my garden next year.

The front bed that I was trying to make into an English Garden proved to be too hot and dry for most plants because of the stone wall. I am going to definately use these up front next year. They thrive on that.

Now, this one I'm not quite sure as to whether it was what I did, or a fluke, but I read that withholding water from melons at the end of their growing period concentrates the sugars and makes them sweeter.

I withheld all water from my Fastbreak Melons for the final 3 weeks. Not hard to do considering it only rained twice. I used the infamous Blue Tarps to make a tent over them when rain was called for. I've grown this type for the past 3 years and I have never had a sweeter and juicier melon in my life. I mean chin-dripping juicy. Stand over the sink to eat it juicy. Fluke? I don't know, but from now on---no water for the melons in their final weeks.



Flash Blend from Botanical Interests. Great variety of sunflowers that brought in honeybees by the hundreds. They loved it, and so did I!




Sunflower-Burpee Aztec Gold--great producer of striped seed-done in only 70 days.




Grandpa Otts Morning Glory--self seeded from last year turned out more robust, and produced sports of light pink and the most incredible shade of pale blue-which I've marked with zip-ties to save seed.




For the end of the raised beds, this combo of dk blue, light blue, and white petunias stood up best to the heat and drought. Still looked good even after frost.





Zinnia Zahara-Starlight Rose. VERY drought tolerant. And it's in a spot surrounded by concrete-so it stood up great to heat also. I had my doubts on this one when I bought it, but it did very well.






These fushia geraniums just kept going and going all summer long-definately repeating these ones in this tub.





Petunia Sanguna Blue Vein. One plant per tub-completely ran over the Purple Wave petunias I put in with it. This stuff just blooms it's fool head off. I don't even need the purple waves in there anymore. Pretty drought tolerant too. I watered these tubs twice a week. Not bad!





Argyranthemum Butterfly. OMG. It's STILL blooming, even after 2 frosts. Given to me by my good friend Deb Arnold, this is definately being used next year.






Winter Sowing--also another winner. It gave me something related to gardening to do in those cold winter months, and with little effort and not much expense, gave me flats of perennials that I've struggled to start in the past. For the best source of info: http://wintersown.org/


This is by no means everything that worked , but it is a list of what is new for me, and that will become a regular part of my garden in the future.

I'd really love it if the rest of you guys would feature what really worked for you (and didn't!)

We all learn so much from each other.

C'mon, any takers??

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

End of 2011 Season RoundUp: Part 1- The Losers

Look at that gorgeous melon plant. Hearts of Gold. And 2011's winner of the LOSER category.


Why?? My stupidity. Yup. My growing season.......short. Hearts of Gold's growing season....90 days. Or should I say 90 HOT days, which we can't seem to manage up here. So--why didn't I put the Hearts of Gold in the raised beds, where I could MAKE IT HOT???? Instead, I put the Fastbreak Melon in there-which only needs 69 days. So, I am sitting with darn near a dozen very UNRIPE melons on the ground, and I'm desperately running out there covering them with blankets and tarps every night. And, I know they won't ripen. We've already had lots of frost. Sigh. NEXT YEAR----PUT IN A RAISED BED WITH A COLDFRAME, Dummy!!




Runner Up---Green beans. Doesn't matter which of the 3 varieties I planted because I did this stupid manuever with all of them. Sowed a row, waited a week, sowed another row RIGHT NEXT TO IT. Well, guess what. Stupid. DO NOT PLANT DOUBLE ROWS----TOO HARD TO HARVEST. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but makes it almost impossible to see all the beans. I'm only planting them on the very outside from now on. Carrots can fill up the center of the beds.





I like to put flowers on the ends of the raised beds--makes it look a little less graveyard-y.




This combo of Verbena and Nicotiana looked great in the beginning, but FRIED by summers end. Do not repeat.





Sheet Mulching was another stupid thing I did this year. I tried to cover the SW bed with double layers of cardboard and a good 8+ inches of Donkey Doo. Within 2 weeks the lilies and Bishops Weed began arising from their stinky grave. DIG THE BEDS, SUE!! Stop taking short cuts.






The north side of the sidewalk border. Hated it. The marigolds CLASH with the Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', the Osteospermum spent more than half the summer in various stages of NON-blooming. Rethink the whole thing.





Cosmos--Don't try putting it in a bed and expect it to behave. Love the "blousy" blooms, but they need space and lots of it. It ran right over the Eryngium you see in the middle of that bed.





And, after a lifetime of trying Phlox, I officially give up. It looks SPECTACULAR in everyone elses' garden but mine. This is NOT mildew, my loves. This is DRY SANDY SOIL and what it does best--sucks the life out of anything. I love Phlox, but it does NOT love me back.




Next week, I'll have the post on my 2011 Winners--the best plants or ideas about my garden.


The final posts for this year will be the Harvest Totals and Notes for Next Year. I can't believe how fast this summer went. That's okay though, because my love for each season runs about 3 months. I'm ready for fall---crisp days, bike rides, hiking, and getting to know my house again!




Have a wonderful week in the garden!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who Was That Masked Man? And THE FABRIC!

Darth Vader in my garden? Nope. Frost protection. We got our first frost yesterday. We're having ANOTHER one today. So it's tarps and blankets and frantic cover-ups every afternoon. Sue will do a LOT to protect her precious Brandywines.




The flowers by the house were spared. You can see the yard beyond is well coated.





Pumpkin Vines-- Um-not so good.








No more cukes. And I'm GLAD.




Oh, poor basil. Black is SO not you!!



Why do I not seem upset? Because we had a WHOPPING 96 frost free days this year---a full ELEVEN days more than last year. I am thrilled! Those of you with "normal" growing times can't begin to imagine how hard it is to get things like tomatoes and peppers . And I'm not going to even justify some of those short season tomatoes. I like Brandywines. 90 days. And I got it!!



:D






Now then. I have gotten sooooooo many questions about the Agribon fabric that I used on my potatoes/broccoli/cauliflower and strawberries.



And first off ------I DO NOT HAVE ANY (ANY!!!!) affiliation with the company. It's just the one I chose to use. And I only brag it up because IT WORKS. I hate sounding like a commercial.



I dislike product endorsements.....but if something works, and works WELL--I'll shout it from the rooftops.



(and likewise-if something SUCKS ((like HughesNET)) I will tell you that also!)






So--I got the Agribon 15 from Johnny's Selected Seeds. Please don't tell me if it's cheaper somewhere else or blah blah blah. This is just where I ordered it from. Here's the link.









I bought the 118" x 250 ft roll---$47.50.



Expensive? Heck yea! BUT---so is MY time and it's MY food and it WORKS.



I am also incredibly cheap. It's so much cheaper buying a roll this size than the 50ft roll. I have a LIFETIME supply of it now.....for less than fifty bucks. Well worth it to eat broccoli without worms. A tiny price to get to eat ALL my strawberries---instead of the birds getting them






Sorry to be "commercial-y". It's good stuff.



Have a WONDERFUL week--I'm going to go clean up dead stuff. Haha--no more cucumbers!!



Thursday, September 1, 2011

End of the Month RoundUp-August 2011

August is over. Yay! September usually heralds the start of the fall rains and boy, do we need it.
This past month we had 25 sunny days, 6 cloudy days, 1.9" rain (NOT ONE DROP in the past 11 days!), and average temps in the low 80's in the beginning of the month dropping to mid 70's the past two weeks. We've had 5 nights in the low 40's....a gentle reminder of what's to come.

I started planting a couple of the new beds---I have tons of the wintersown perennials that need to get into the ground and get established before the cold hits.




One of the seedlings I am most proud of is the Agastache cana. Beautiful stuff and the hummers and bees are going crazy over it. I'm so glad I planted this in the kitchen window border-it's nice to see the activity while up to my elbows in dishwater!




Against my better judgement, I started planting the southwest border, despite the disaster with the sheet mulching this spring. I need to get all these seedlings in before the cold of autumn.



This bed will have blue Lupine, yellow foxglove, various iris, hollyhocks, delphinium, and phlox-white ' David' and purple 'Laura'




I had yet another run-in with ground bees this past week--I was going to plant some of the ornamental grasses. I didn't realize they were nesting in one of the containers and when I picked the grass out of the bucket I got stung. I dropped the grass and ran into the house, not realizing that they were in hot pursuit. My shirt was FULL of them-I ended up with at least 20 stings, 5 of them quite bad. I got my revenge later in the week, though. I went out in the dark and filled a barrel with water and threw the grass in while they slept. It was only 41 out, so I think that even if it had been light out, they wouldn't have been too active...but better safe than sorry!



I still have one nest to deal with in my raised beds. Will deal with that later.




In the garden, more beds emptied........but I'm STILL waiting on the final bed of potatoes--Red Pontiacs. I'm curious as to how well they produced given the lousy Yukon Gold crop, and the fantastic Russet Norkota crop. I don't know what to expect now.




The ENTIRE pepper harvest. Yup. Two. Which, in reality is okay, I guess.



I don't use many-Don hates the smell of them cooking so I only use a bit here and there for omelets (when he's not around) Each pepper gave me almost a cup diced. I froze them for use this winter.





I thought this was funny---perfectly square cavity when I cut the ends off.



Doesn't take much to entertain me.





Pulled the onions August 27. It was a really good crop this year-a lot of big ones. This is not all of them--I filled my little wagon too. I have more than enough for the year for us-and I have plenty to share with the neighbors.




The cauliflower has been trickling in--a few heads here and there. They are perfect size to freeze whole. I've gotten 6 of the 9 in that I planted for fall already processed and am waiting on the other 3.
Not a bug on them. Can I say enough good about that Agribon row cover fabric??????






SuperSweet 100 cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes are giving me about a quart a day between the 2 of them. The Matt's Wild Cherry never makes it to the house. I eat them as I wander the garden so I don't know how much I'm getting. Maybe a handful a day? Three?? It's not really bearing as well this year for me--but I have more than enough.





The Jetstar I planted for Don finally started producing . Blech. But at least it keeps him out of my beloved Brandywines. It's so odd that they are ripening so much later when they are "supposed" to take 2 weeks less to mature. The yield has been "just right"....about 1 per day.





We've started getting color in the Maples. I took this over a week ago. Yesterday when we went for ice cream I saw some crazy beautiful colors, but didn't have my camera. Will post as I get them.
Labor Day we are expecting temps in the low 30's, so more color to follow!


See--there's something I get before all the rest of you!!!




The pumpkins are far behind what they were at this point last year, but that was an exceptionally odd year. I don't have nearly as many either, but this bad boy is HUGE and I'm looking forward to picking them hopefully in the next week.






The fall broccoli crop has finally started growing... kept protected, they should be able to produce in time. And again---love the row cover! I bought some broccoli at the farmers market last week and it was so wormy. I got spoiled on my bug-free stuff this spring.






Elsewhere--still drowning in zuchinni, salad beds for fall growing well except for the spinach, butternut squash should be done next week, celery about ready, carrots doing well and averaging a nice bunch weekly, and getting a melon every other day---which is okay as they are perfect size for Don and I to share. Yesterday I had 3 ready-so a couple neighbors got a welcome surprise.






I hope all of you that went through the hurricane are doing okay with your clean-up . What a terrible storm that was. Let's hope that's IT for the year.






Have a wonderful week in the garden!