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.

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.