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.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Goodbye Until Spring

Greeting to all!
Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving.  We had a fine HUGE meal and a very peaceful day spent skiing. 

I'll be going "offline" for the next few months.  I tried it last winter and loved the extra time spent learning new things and want to continue that this winter as well.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a  New Year filled with peace and happiness.

I'll be back in Spring----I'll miss your blogs, but feel it's necessary to unplug and explore new things.

See you in March!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Harvest Totals for 2013

Mmmmmm--goodies from the garden
We got our first frost Saturday-Sept 14.  They called for it, so the day before was a busy day finishing up the harvesting.  I'm thrilled that we had a longer than usual growing season this year.  Last frost this spring was June 4.  That means I had OVER 3 months. That's very unusual for here.
The summer was very cool but those extra 2 weeks meant tomatoes (hooray!) and melons.  

The amounts given are what I have FOR STORAGE.  I did not weigh  anything. I only note what I have for storage----this is for my records so I know what to increase/decrease next year.  I can't give "specifics" on things like lettuce, strawberries, etc  that we eat  fresh as they come in.  It's only when I freeze/store things that I can give "amounts".   So, that said----

Apples---24 individual serve containers applesauce-freezer, PLUS 19 pints of applesauce-(freezer)

Beans---8 pints-(freezer)    Three separate sowings only yielded about 6 row feet.  Blaming cold soil this year.

Blackberries--Big Fat ZERO---Frosted out

Blueberries--72  pint bags--freezer. Oh yum!  We ate at least twice that amount. It's amazing we aren't blue!

Broccoli-- 16  pint bags-freezer

Carrots--  16  pint bags-freezer

Cauliflower--0--(something ate them!)

Celery--8 bags-chopped-freezer

Corn--2 sowings, 120 seeds, only yielded 12 stalks, Cold Soil???  BUT--15 totally delicious ears gave us enough for 3 meals--none for the freezer, though I certainly TRIED.
                                                      Bodacious Corn---it was fantastic

Garlic--40 out of 40 planted--(pantry)

Grapes--didn't think they would ripen in time, but since we've had an extra long growing season--I have plenty for fresh eating for a week or two.

Onions--128--medium sized bulbs--(crates in the basement)

Peaches---Froze Out---bought what I needed for the freezer (24 bags) from the Farmers Market.  However, on 9/30, I did see 4 peaches on my tree that I didn't see earlier---3 of which were thoroughly pecked to death by birds.  I'm ripening the fourth on the counter. We'll see how that turns out.

Pears---Hubby collected a 5 gallon bucket full--it was a really good year for them

Potatoes--   Yukon Golds--poor yield so I made potato soup base for the freezer --ended up with 14
                       pint bags puree (for 14 pots of soup)--enough for the whole winter plus a half-crate full
                         for hashbrowns and misc.

                    Red Pontiacs--12 plants---1 milk crate FULL--entry hall-(my "cool" storage)

                    Russets-Not Planted, but compost heap yielded 5 pounds (must have been peelings?)
                      and an additional stray plant yielded another 5 pounds--entry hall (my "cool" storage)
          The largest russet measured an incredible 9 inches long---plenty for hubby and I to share!

Raspberries--none--tore out patch to establish new patch--succumbed to drought....

Squash-Butternut--5 --will be used for trade. I don't eat them.

Strawberries--24 pint bags-freezer

Sweet Potatoes--an experiment--1/2 dozen small tubers. Oh well, this was expected. I tried......


We arrived home from our anniversary trip to Nebraska just in time for fall foliage.  Looks like it's going to be a good year for it.  Since the garden is done and put to "rest" for the winter, there is plenty of time for leaf-gawking.

That's it for this blog for the season.
I'll be checking in with your blogs from time to time, but will be taking the winter off for the most part.  I'm looking forward to seeing your plans for next year.

Have a great fall!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

2013 --Part 2--The WINNERS!!!

It's hard to imagine a year starting out as badly as this one did, and yet, things turned out okay.

The TOP PRODUCER in the garden---BLUEBERRIES.  We literally were drowning in them for a solid EIGHT WEEKS.  They started July 12. I picked my last 2 pints on September 11.
I averaged over a quart of berries a day. It was crazy and wonderful.  I ended up with 72 (one cup) bags in the freezer for winter.  Joy!!

Tenting them with fabric kept all birds away from them.  I will definitely do this from now on.  I laid old boards on top of the Agribon on the ground  and clipped the tops on to conduit my dear hubby ran from one end of the row to the other.  It was a simple matter of "unclipping" a section each day to pick.  Easy and effective.

I didn't change much as far as vegetable varieties go. We still rate Brandywine as the best tasting tomato.  We tried a new variety-Lakeside- this year. It was NASTY . It's a "local" strain, bred for our very short season. They can keep it.  We hated it.  
 I also tried an Early Girl--not by choice, but since most of the seedlings I grew succumbed to the cold spring weather, I had no choice. It was too late to start seeds, and so I picked it up at the nursery .We didn't like those either.  We're sticking with the best, but will keep trying shorter season ones because a lot of years we don't have enough time to get the Brandywines.

I also tried 4 varieties of carrots---the Mokums still taste best, but germination was terrible again this year.   Prodigy was our next favorite, followed by SugarSnax , and dead last--Danvers Half Long. That said, however--the Danvers produced really well, and despite their "rooty" nature, they freeze well.

The corn--Bodacious--was excellent.  I wish more than 12 stalks would have germinated. Durn cold spring!  We will be repeating this variety next year. Loved it!!

As for FLOWERS--
 The BEST NEW FLOWER this year was one I bought specifically for "the critters". 

Joe Pye Weed -Eupatorium maculatum- is a prairie native growing 4-6 feet tall--  though mine hit heights of over 7 feet.  I planted it under the drip line of my roof and the moisture from the sweating metal helped this baby thrive despite our lack of rain.
It was the first year for it and it got HUGE.  The bees and butterflies swarmed all over this one. It also blocked the summer sun from coming in my picture window--a real benefit when hubby will not allow curtains.   The birds loved using it as a perch and I got a real close-up of them. An all-around winner!  I do have to remember to run a cattle panel in front of them--the flower heads, running upwards of 10 inches around, tended to "flop" in the rain.   I bought seeds for a white version this summer and will be adding that into the area next spring.


GERANIUMS IN THE "FLOWERS" TUB-- I loved the geraniums in the "Flowers" tub--a mix of peach and white. Gorgeous!!

I also try different ways of doing things around here---always trying to make things go smoother.
Some things that worked really well---
SCREENS FOR WATER TANKS-- Keeps bugs/critters out and is easy to lift to get out water.  I used to clip some of the Agribon fabric over them but it's far easier to remove a screen.

SCREENS OVER CARROT AND SALAD BEDS-- Screens over the beds containing lettuce, spinach, radish, kohlrabi and carrots cut problems down to near nothing.  Birds pull the carrot seedlings out. Screens eliminated that problem completely.

MOSS ON TOP OF PLANTERS--Topping pots with moss worked wonders at holding moisture levels in the containers.  Despite endless weeks without a drop of rain,  the planters thrived with
only watering on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  That saved a lot of time (and water!)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2013--Part 1--The Losers

                        The terrible drought we had all August shows in our crispy lawn.  
                  My wonderful Hubby hauling an exhausted Me after a day with the grandson.

I always like to get the "Losers" out of the way first.  I like to make note of it, then move on. Life is too short to dwell on the bad--especially in a year like this when most of it was weather related.  I can't change the weather.  So, on that note --

2013 started out cruddy.
We had snow on Mother's Day and the last frost was June 3......though June 4 wasn't much better at 34 degrees.  So, right off the bat, we were dealing with COLD soils at planting time.  The temps stayed very cool in June--plenty of nights in the 40's.   July was a bit better, but even then we only managed one warm week.  August was the same---3 cool weeks and one warm.

Overall--it was the year for cold weather crops--broccoli, carrots, peas, potatoes, onions, and garlic.  The only failure on the cold weather crops was cauliflower--they constantly got eaten. I gave up on them after the 3rd planting.

Warm weather crops were a disaster.  Who ever heard of green beans not germinating??????????
I didn't think it was possible, but three separate sowings only yielded about a six foot row's worth of plants.
With only 8 quarts to freeze, I had to turn to the farmer's market and BUY THEM.   Think about that---BUY GREEN BEANS.  I never thought I'd see that. Cripes!

The corn was the same thing.  The cold soils just caused the seed to rot.  Another sowing yielded just 12 stalks from 120 seeds.  Disappointing , to say the least.  The dozen ears we had we delicious.  I will try the "Bodacious" variety again next year. I would have loved to have enough to freeze.

Pumpkins were also a no-go this year.  The vines did start out nice, but within a few weeks, just died.  I have a real problem with BUYING pumpkins--I refuse to spend $3 or $4 for one---when I know I usually use at least 20 in my fall decorating.  I am not spending $80 for something that is usually (in a normal year) so easy to grow.  I guess the fall d├ęcor around the house will be ...different.

The peaches did not bear this year----they got hit with the late frosts.  I have stocked the freezer, however, with lots of them from the Farmer's Market. Unfortunately--I was unable to find organic ones.

The grapes were very late in leafing out this year with the cold weather, and though they did make a herculean effort to produce, it was too late for them to mature and ripen.  I'll give them an A for effort though.

The strawberries were mixed.   The Cabots and the San Andreas bore very well.  The Cavendish, Record, and Northeasters--though LOADED with berries, just sat and rotted.  That was odd. We didn't have ANY moisture. I don't know what happened with them. 

As for the flowers--the biggest problem that cropped up  was some enthusiastic munching by the local deer herd on my sunflowers by the house.  A little more vigilance with soaping them down cured that problem.

                                                    A Goldfinch Enjoying the Sunflower Seeds

I did lose all my mums this year.  Most of them were 4-5 years old.  From what I understand, even "hardy" mums don't always make it, so I'll count myself lucky I had them that long.  It did, however, leave some mighty big holes in the plantings and I miss their beautiful blooms.

I also need to be a bit more thorough with watering.  I despise watering and usually do not do it--even though it would certainly be benenficial.  This year was particularly droughty and I lost a few plants just because I was lazy.  I'm working on that---I've started a watering "schedule" and it's helping.
I don't like anything that makes gardening a "job".  I LOVE gardening and look at any time spent outdoors enjoying the sun and wildlife as fun, not work.  But watering--well, I just don't like it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

End of the Month Roundup-August

 It's that time of year when the garden is really looking "worn".  Despite the horrible start, yields of most things are good on the stuff that wasn't killed by late frosts, gnawing pests , and just plain weird weather. Many of the beds are almost set to be put to bed for the winter.
Rainfall was horrible this month---an inch on the 2nd, and a whopping 3.3" on the 27th.  NOTHING in between.  That heavy rain on the 27th beat our record of 1.2 " by a wide margin.  It's all or none anymore it seems.  Crazy crazy Mother Nature!
Temps were mostly in the 70's by day and 50's at night. We had one week of hot weather--but now it's back to normal (whatever THAT is!)

 I pulled the onions on August 25.  I got 128 of the Copra--my favorite storage onion. That is perfect.

I'm trying a new way of drying them--on my shelving units in the garage and on the covered deck and it's working well. I was just laying them out on newspaper , but they always got in the way. This is faster and better. See? You can teach an old dog new tricks!

 Broccoli side shoots have been harvested 8/15, 8/20 and 8/25.  I've already removed one bed full that bolted and will be pulling the other two beds in the next week.  Though I usually plant 2 full crops-a spring and summer, the late arrival of spring (June) made that impossible. I still ended up with a good 3 month supply in the freezer.  It's not enough, but better than expected.

 And proof of how odd things are this year----BRANDYWINES!!! I don't get them most years, even if it's warm. They take 90 days. And yet, here they are, August 27 brought in the first two and I picked two more yesterday.  Though I'm mostly vegetarian these days, we've gone through 2 pounds of bacon in the past week.  BLT's are on the menu for at least a couple weeks. Hooray!!
I even managed a watermelon on August 27.  There's one more out there.  I am NOT repeating these next year.  For such low production, the space is better used for something else. I can get these organic at the farmers market for $2.50.  It was fun growing it once, but I won't again.
Carrots are starting to be harvested.  On the left--Prodigy ( I only pulled one to see and compare) and on the right-Danver's .  The Danvers are really "root-y" and we don't like them for fresh eating, but blanched and frozen, they will make a fine addition to soups and stews.  Production was great, once I figured out it was the birds eating them and covered the seedlings with screens.
The compost heap yielded a nice surprise---5 pounds of russets---must have been from some storebought last winter. I haven't grown russets in a few years. We prefer Yukons, but there are some nice sized bakers and the rest can go in stews.

I'm digging a few of the Yukons as needed, but haven't dug the majority. They're better off waiting in the ground until my cellar cools a bit.  I'll probably dig them in Late September.  Yields of what I have used are average (small).  The quality is the best I've ever had.....very hard and not a flaw on them.

Around the house, things are in full glorious bloom.  August and September are really the best months for my flowers. I need to do better early in the season. I'm always so envious of folks with loads of spring blooms.

 Who doesn't love sunflowers and some of the self sown ones are gorgeous this year.

Loving the Zinnias from Botanical Interests. What a show they've put on this year.
 First time growing Cosmos "Seashells".  I like the fluted petals and the blooms are quite large.

The sidewalk border .  Love the Zinnia Zahara line-they really stand up to the heat and drought.
I'll have harvest totals once I'm done with everything, and then the usual "What Worked, What Didn't" post and then that's it for the year. I can't believe how fast the summer has gone.
I've enjoyed all your posts --it's so satisfying to see such bounty in all your gardens.
Have a wonderful Holiday weekend.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Garden Update Aug 20, 2013

I'm away from blogging this week--my son and grandson are up visiting, but I needed to post an update for my records and say HI to all.  I'll be back to your blogs next week.

The Chandler blueberries are incredible this year despite the lack of rains.  I've kept them "tented" and since Mrs. Robin is unable to eat them all--we have plenty.  The size has been incredible---some up to a quarter sized---none of them smaller than a nickel.  And ALL of them very sweet and mild.
I've been getting a bowl  full each day--approximately 3 cups. I don't freeze any of these--we eat them all fresh. I pick one bush each day, then prune out any dead and water it.
It's working well.   At this time, it looks like another week of GOOD picking, and then they should be about done. The Chandlers were definitely our favorite.

The BlueRays are on their last leg...... most of the berries are done. I don't bother picking them anymore. I have 65 bags of berries in the freezer. That's enough. The birds can forage through these as a reward for bug patrol.  The BlueRays had the most "intense" flavor of the blueberry varieties.

The Patriots--the first blueberries to bear --are completely done.  This was the lowest producer of the three varieties. They had a tart taste-which is great for baking or smoothies.

I still have another batch of side shoots to cut on the broccoli.   Normally I would have pulled the original plants and planted new ones in early July, but with the LATE start to the garden this year (snow on Mother's Day, for goodness sake!) , I didn't have time to do that and so I am just cutting side shoots. It's still pretty good production and I'm happy overall with the broccoli this year. I have a 3 month supply in the freezer. It will have to do.

I have 2 watermelons on the vine--one looks to be about ready, but I'm not sure of when it's ripe. I'm going to let it be for a bit.

I also have 2 cantaloupe---but those aren't quite ready yet either.

There's quite a few butternut squash but they don't look even close to being ready.

Of the 120 corn seeds I sowed, the 12 that germinated are looking good. The tassels have started to die back and I'm going to harvest some this week.

About half the onions have fallen over--I'll wait until rain is called for to pull them. It's easiest to let them dry out there as much as possible .

Carrots are doing well. I've been pulling some every day for snacking (the Mokums). The Danvers look fantastic and will be a welcome addition to stews this fall. I don't care for them for snacking.

The Yukon Gold potato vines are mostly shriveled. I've dug quite a few for potato soup. The production is better than last year, but still disappointing.  The Red Pontiacs have not started to die back yet. I'm hoping for a much better yield from them.  They were not bothered by potato beetles. The Yukons were---despite being covered-- they found their way in and I didn't see them. That may be why the potatoes are already died back.  My fault.

Cherry tomatoes are finally starting to come in good.
We've had about 4 big tomatoes from the Lakeside plant. They're lousy. Watery and not a good taste at all. I won't try them again. 
The Brandywine is loaded---but will they ripen in time??????
The Early Girl I planted to replace Don's Jetstar that died is also loaded......but again, none are close to ripening.  Looks like I have (had????) a hornworm, but I cannot locate the bugger! Perhaps the birds got him?

Stuff is so horribly dry. We've had no rain in 3 weeks, and even the last rain doesn't really count because it was only a 1/10th of an inch. The perennials around the border of the garden are really suffering.  The lawn is burnt off (yay-no mowing!) and I'm at the point of just being tired of sunshine every day and watering,watering,watering.   I'm looking forward to the final harvest and being done with it all.  How can that happen in just 2 months?  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tent City and Some Dahlias

 The Garden on August 4.  Broccoli under tents has been cut--yield was good. Not enough time to plant new plants so I'm letting these ones stand and hoping for a good crop of side shoots.  Also under fabric--the Chandler blueberries, which just started and are HUGE. The birds are not getting a single one of these.


 Dahlia-Klondike    The blooms are VERY large.  One of the new ones from Dutch Gardens this year.
I wasn't sure about an all white one, but this is very pretty and I'm happy with it.

 A bee "passed out" on this one.  He slept there for quite awhile before flying off.

 Something is chewing on this one but it's still pretty.  Love how the pink fades to white.

 Same plant---showing the different colorings.  The blooms are not as large as I had hoped, but wow-the coloring is BETTER than expected.

The most dreamy shade of apricot--fading to a yellow center.   This plant is in its second year. I may have extra tubers to share from this one this fall.  Nothing beats sharing plants--I love to think of my plants in gardens all around the country.....and I've been on the receiving end of many myself. What a joy to look at them and think of the person that shared them.

Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

End of the Month Roundup-July

Yes, I'm back.  I've been "reminded", ever so gently, that though I have no vegetable garden this year, I might have SOMETHING worth showing. So, this is for those who wrote (thank you!!) and asked to see the flowers.  I also forgot that I do need a record of temps/rains/etc. , so I guess you are stuck with me yet again.

  July had to have been the oddest month ever. A roller coaster of temperatures---highs at times in the upper 90's--very uncommon here---and some chilly mornings that had trouble reaching 40 degrees and sent me out weeding in a winter coat.

Rains were scarce and of course, not enough.   For the month, we got just 1.85", not nearly enough with all the heat and winds we had.  The lawn dried to a crispy brown . Good riddance. I hate mowing with a passion and always look forward to our droughty summers.

The deck planters seemed to enjoy the heat..........

My Joe Pye finally reached the eaves.  Though basically a plant for swamps and wet areas, this one was place under the drip line of our roof .  With our cold mornings, it got a steady supply of dew running off . Seemed to work well.   The birds are already starting to use it as a perch when they queue up to the feeders.

Out front, the Cleome and Heliopsis have finally started growing and are now attracting bees by the hundreds.  I love to stand there and listen to the buzzing.

My wheelbarrow overflows.............

In the garden , or should I say the disaster zone, the flowers seem to be the only thing performing well this year.  Maybe I should give up the vegetables.

I tried two new zinnia mixes this year...both from Botanical Interests.  This one is Art Deco---huge flowers in shades of pink, lavender, and royal purple.  They are the most gorgeous and HUGE  blossums I've ever seen on a zinnia.

And this mix is Zinnia 'Fantasy'--they have "rolled" petals and also have huge blossums.  They make the most spectacular bouquets.  Again, it seems to be a mix of pinks /purples with some white in it for contrast. I am definitely doing these again---en mass. 

Self Sown Cleome in the vegetable garden.  I pretty much let Ma Nature take over out there and wow-she's done a great job. 

The barrels out by the road have finally started doing something besides shivering.   They really make a colorful splash out there.  They get watered twice a week--that seems to be the right amount.

The tall garden phlox out front has started blooming as well.  It 's in it's second year in this spot--I think I finally found the perfect place for it.  No mildew. No burning off. Perfect!

The sidewalk border leading to the door from the drive.  I still haven't gotten the left side to my liking. I have no idea what to do with it.

I am going to be making a separate post on my Dahlias in a few days.  Some of the new varieties I tried this year are so beautiful.
I wish my vegetables would have turned out better.  It makes me wonder why the weather is so good for some things, and so lousy for others.