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, 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.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

End of the Month Roundup--July

The Garden is hitting its peak.  The potatoes are starting to die back under the Agribon in the second row

Wow--I am SO glad July is over. Hot. Humid. Buggy.  We normally don't experience much in the way of any of that-but this year proved otherwise.  We had good rains at first and the mosquitoes and black fly were terrible.

July 7       1.1 inches
July 13        95/100 inch
July17/18     15/100 inch
July20         45/100 inch
Total for July---2.65 inches.  Not nearly enough with our sandy soil.

We had  27  Sunny Days
Hottest Day:    90  degrees on July 27
Coldest Temp--38 degrees on July 2

I had a great crop of broccoli this year.  The first of it was ready when we got home from our June trip.  I cut enough side shoots the rest of the month to provide all we need for the freezer, plus enough for weekly side dishes.  No bugs, no problems.  Will stick with Packman from now on.  It's worked best for me.  I'm done trying others. I left it standing to see if I get a Fifth cutting.

The Kale this year is a new one for me---White Russian.  It is prolific and pest free.  I am going to grow that from now on instead of the Blue Curled I used last year .  That strain was beautiful and produced well, but those gorgeous curly leaves hid bugs---and it seemed no matter how well I cleaned it, I always ended up with a worm or gnat or whatever crawling out of my salad. Ugh.

The lettuce this year was fabulous.  I used  Valentine mesclun mix from Botanical Interests. Wow--
it was by far the prettiest mix I've ever seen and it was all sweet lettuces---which we prefer.
I cut a large bowl full every other day.  It was wonderful!  I had to pull the plants July 25--our stretch of heat and humidity turned it bitter.   I had a "back-up" row of Buttercrunch---dull by comparison in both the looks and taste categories, but able to take bouts of heat/humidity, so salads continue.

A Bowl of Salad "fixins" cut first thing in the morning
The shallots were harvest July16. The onions are not sizing up well this year but as they still have time left to grow, I guess we'll wait and see.

The Mokum carrots started the second week of the month.  I just love them--super snappy and crisp-perfect for snacking.  I pull at least a half dozen every day.  I need to buy the biggest packet from Fedco next year----hopefully they have a  "pelleted" version----much easier to sow.  I kept them covered with screen the whole time and they were flawless--none of that root  rot I've had in the past.

The green beans went from not much
June 28
Beans August 1--one month later and they're producing heavily

to fabulous during the month. I picked my first dishpan full on July 30. July 31--another dishpan full.
I have 20% of the beans I need for the year in the freezer in 2 days. Usually I get completely done in just 5 days. I suspect these are not my usual beans (Blue Lake 274) because those mature all at once. I only have to deal with it a couple days.  Looks like it's going to take a bit longer.

The corn, which started out spotty in germination grew tall and lush. On July 23, however---SOMETHING got in to it and started knocking down stalks and chewing up the underdeveloped
ears.  This same thing happened to Margaret the day before:  Homegrown--Adventures In My Garden
I had been in the garden in the morning and it was fine.  An afternoon check showed the same knocked down stalks she had.  Whatever it was only did that once, thankfully.

Kohlrabi started July 20 and my laziness in thinning ended up working for the best.  Just a couple of bulbs size up at a time. I pick those and it allows some more of the plants to grow bigger. Works out perfectly.  I don't need lots of them all at once.

Blueberries are in short supply this year.  We had such a huge crop last year that I'm forgiving my bushes for taking a vacation this year.  The BlueRay are the first to ripen and there has been just about a pint a day, which means none for the freezer.   The Patriots aren't even worth mentioning as there are so few on them.   The Chandlers have a good crop, but those aren't ripe just yet.

Last week's heat and humidity gave the pumpkins a much needed boost
The Sunflowers started to bloom this week

Up by the house, the flower beds that got protected by my maze of ugly pieces of hog panels, chicken wire and misc. leftovers are recovering .  Some things won't bloom as their time frame for doing so is past, but I'm crossing my fingers that the Phlox might still bloom.
The Rudbeckia and Coneflower can finally bloom thanks to the hideous fencing we put up

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mid Month Garden Update

Missing from the Picture is my gorgeous pink Hollyhocks and Blue and White Delphiniums. Thanks deer!

Lots of things going on in the garden right now so I needed to post a mid-month update for my records.

July 2--Morning low of 38 degrees, I love it.Tomatoes, Melons, Pumpkins and Peppers do not.

July 6  --Second cutting of Broccoli--3 pints for the freezer

July 7  --First rain of the month--a real gully-washer of 1.1 inches. Much needed , but came
                        down so fast and furious, most of it ran off my dry as toast sandy soil.

July 10--Super Sugar Snap peas begin bearing heavily.  Chipmunks ravaging them. Set traps.

July 13--Harvested 23 Chesnok Red Garlic and 18 Persian Star Garlic
              Not sure if this is the right size of them--first year growing both varieties
              Rain--  ..95 inches

July 15--Deer mowed down ALL hollyhocks and phlox up by the house and broke all the Delphiniums that had just started blooming.  Erected hideous (!!!) temporary fence around
house to see if that helps. If it does, we'll have to find some affordable (ha ha) fence that isn't quite
so hideous (!!!!)

July  17--  .10" rain

July 18--First 90 degree day--and a reminder of how much I despise summer --heat/bugs/humidity
               .05" Rain

Chesnok Red and Persian Star Garlic

2 heads broccoli plus lots of side shoots and starting to thin the Mokum carrots

Copra Onions
Pumpkin finally starting to grow

Started Work on the expansion of our Blueberry Patch

Tub O' Mint

Green Beans starting to really fill out

Delphiniums by the Compost pile
Pink Spider Dahlia



A Peck O' Purple Poppies

Ditch Lilies in front of the Barn
Sidewalk Bed continues to fill in

Hope the summer has been going well for everyone. Thanks so much for stopping by. Happy Gardening!!