What’s Happening in the Garden July 18

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While doing some work on the recent bean project, I snapped some pictures of our veggies growing happily in the summer heat.

 

yellow-squash
We’ve been harvesting zucchini and yellow squash for a couple weeks now. We’re just getting into the “squash coming out of our ears” phase. Interestingly, the yellow squash starter we brought home from the local nursery has almost split into 3 clusters, 2 produce yellow squash and the 3rd produces Romanesco zucchini. In addition to that we have 2 zucchini plants. Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Crop of Beans

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I decided to give a fall crop of beans a shot since I missed the mark this spring. With the unreliable weather patterns here in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I’m possibly starting a couple weeks too soon. I’m doing succession planting in case I’m too far off with start dates. Plus, if all goes well we’ll have many weeks of yummy bean harvesting come fall.

pole-bean-seeds

These are the 2 varieties I’m planting: Roma II (bush) and Blue Lake (pole). I’ve planted the 2 together before in the spring and the bush bean climbed just as well as the pole bean.
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Mulching the garden with straw

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We’ve always been conscious of our water usage and do our best to conserve water year round. In years of below normal precipitation it is imperative that we cut our usage. There’s a feeling of helplessness when thinking about the worst case scenario of our well running dry. It has happened recently up on our mountain to another family and it certainly makes us grateful for what we’ve got. This summer is expected to be especially harsh. We’re well below average in precipitation totals. California relies heavily on snow pack in the mountains, which is at 0% of normal.
We considered skipping the garden this year to conserve water, but ultimately decided against foregoing the garden as long as we took extra measures to conserve water.
Shortly after planting our vegetable starts, I brought home some straw to mulch the garden with. This was an appropriate task for a larger vehicle, ideally a truck, but I had my little hatchback with me and didn’t want to make a special trip with the jeep. Surprisingly, with the bale cut in half, she fit into the hatchback.

straw-in-trunk

 

We chose to use straw as a mulch for a few reasons: it is inexpensive, easy to spread, organic, won’t tie up nutrients in the soil as it breaks down because it decomposes slowly, keeps weeds down, and keeps the soil moist and cool. Be sure to use straw and not hay as straw has fewer seed heads (fewer weeds). Though I cant speak from experience, I’ve been told if you mulch with a thick enough layer of hay, weeds won’t be a problem.

straw-in-garden-cart

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Planting a Vegetable Garden

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We made a big push to get the garden going before losing too much of the growing season. Our season is pretty short normally with cool nights into early summer and they come back quickly in late summer. Even though day time temperatures get nice and toasty, the cool nights can really delay our garden growth. We spent a lot of time over Memorial Day weekend working on the fence, moving the raised garden beds, building a new bed, prepping the soil, and finally planting our vegetable starters.
I mix a store bought soil booster into the garden beds to replenish nutrients which have been depleted.

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How to move raised garden beds

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Now that the fence is up, it is time to get moving on the garden beds. We had built 2 raised garden beds out of some lumber a couple years ago before the fence went up. After the fence was up, I decided in order to optimize the garden space one of the raised garden beds would need to be repositioned. They were spaced originally much farther than necessary to allow maximum ease and comfort while working in the beds. I now wanted to add another bed and move then closer together.

raised-garden-bed-spacing

I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to move a raised garden bed which already had soil and had settled into its little space for 3 years, or if I could do this alone. I figured the easiest way to move it would be to dig out the new space I want the bed to sit in which also freed up the soil right next to the raised garden bed. Read the rest of this entry »

Installing a garden fence

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With the start of growing season fast approaching and the back yard area still lacking a fence (it’s a big project), we decided fencing in the orchard and the vegetable garden separately was the only option to get growing this year. This was our first attempt at putting up fencing and I must say I was pretty pleased with myself for sinking the t-posts by myself. We scavenged fence remnants from around the property and were able to repurpose everything. The orchard area was completed first and then we moved onto the vegetable garden.
The plot for the garden is on a slight slope which isnt a big deal, but makes the fence line less than perfect. I first sunk the corner t-posts then spaced the remaining t-posts about 6feet apart on all sides. I’m short so I utilized a lawn chair to get me to the proper height for driving the t-post into the ground with the t-post driver. For a more permanent and sturdy animal fence you would definitely want to go with a heave duty corner post for some strength. As long as a deer doesn’t get tangled in our fence and a bear doesn’t try to climb it, I’m expecting our t-posts to hold up our animal fence just fine.

Pound, pound, pound  and fast forward and the t-posts are in. I recruited help for the next portion because although I’m a scrappy gal, I just couldn’t wrestle the fence alone.

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How to Protect Trees from Sunburn

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With the fruit trees happy in their new home, we are in maintenance mode. The new pear and apple trees have not ever been painted and the few year old cherry and nectarine trees have little of their original coat of sun block remaining.

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Trellising Raspberries

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It has been about 8 weeks since we planted the raspberries. We’ve seen a lot of growth over the last month with the start of spring. All 10 of the canes seem to be doing well, some better than others.

training-new-berry-bushes
With the 6 inches or so of new growth, I decided it is time to begin training these guys.
They aren’t quite tall enough to reach the lattice but there is a bit of forward growth that I want to redirect. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s happening in the garden May 4

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I was out working on a few things this afternoon with my camera in hand and snapped some pictures of our progress thus far this year with our fruit. It is a few days into May and we’ve had a mix of weather since the official start of spring: temperatures as low as mid 30s at night and we’ve reached high 80s a couple afternoons. We also saw a decent amount of rain (hallelujah!) and some snow since spring has sprung.
We’ve got happy trees…they’re finally in the ground after much delay. The time spent in temporary pot homes ranged from 1-4 years (much too long). As you can imagine they didn’t do much growing in their temporary homes and never produced after the first year in a pot. They’ve impressed me with how quickly they’re flourishing in the ground. They still have catching up to do given their ages, but we’re on the right track.

baby-nectarines

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Planting Raspberries on a Trellis

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In early March we had an unusual stretch of warm, beautiful weather. We decided to take advantage of it and got our raspberry babies in the ground.
The plot is a space we were on the fence about for some time. It is prime real estate right off of the deck in the “back yard” and we wanted to use it well. We agreed a permanent crop would live there but debated trying asparagus or artichokes. Raspberries ultimately won the coveted spot because we wanted to utilize the existing lattice, which encloses the under-deck space, as a trellis.

fruit-bed
I haven’t seen much in the way of examples of neat and tidy raspberry trellising. Usually the trellis is more of a cage with the canes trained/trimmed to stay within the confines of the designated grow area.
Our approach is different because we want to train the raspberries to live in an espalier-like shape. I’m not convinced it will work but if it does, it’ll be wonderful! Read the rest of this entry »

Storing Bulk Cheese

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Always looking for ways to save a few bucks, I grabbed one of these 2lb organic monterey jack cheese blocks from Costco. Because we typically spend quite a bit on pricey organic cheese slices, this is a definite money saver….its fast and easy too.

bulk-organic-cheese
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Homemade Peas and Potatoes Baby Food

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Our plan for introducing solids to our little one was simply to mash up some of whatever everyone else was eating and offer it. We eat healthy, unprocessed foods and thought this approach would be ideal. We did encounter a few downsides with this method: sometimes we’re in a time crunch and whatever we quickly whip up isn’t appropriate for him or we’re away from home and don’t have something appropriate to offer. Little one has also been keeping us on our toes with randomly changing his preferences so what was planned for a meal sometimes doesn’t get eaten and we need a backup to offer. All of this led me to wanting a larger stash of homemade baby food prepared for these “in a pinch” situations.

baby-food-recipe

One of the things I’ve been doing which has been helpful is baking one or 2 yams, mashing, cooling and storing in the freezer or fridge for easy meals. This has been incredibly easy but he recently stopped eating one of his staple veggie meals and I’m wanting more variety for him (especially of the non-sweet veggie type). Read the rest of this entry »

Food Grade Drum Garden Bed

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This is a fun DIY project and probably my favorite recycling project yet. I had no hand in this project as my hands were busy with our newborn baby. Husband and Dad tackled this project one afternoon and I couldn’t be more pleased. I love the convenience of having waist-high garden beds and they were nearly free since we had the materials lying around.

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Spindly Carrots

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So, we attempted to grow some carrots this year. I’m not sure what went wrong but it was a huge disappointment. These Royal Chantenay carrots amounted to this after more than 3 months:

spindly-carrots

This variety states 60-70 days to harvest on the seed packet. After doing a few minutes of research I came up with a small list of possible causes. I think the most likely scenario is that these guys were overcrowded. A large portion of the seeded area was flooded before the seeds sprouted and only a small number of the carrots began growing. We ended up homing 2 zucchini plants nearby so the space wasn’t wasted. The zucchinis stretched out as they always do and this could’ve been the contributing factor in our sad carrot harvest. Oh well, there is always next year.

Fire Season

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I suppose nearly every place on earth has a drawback of some sort when it comes to weather. Ours is the ever present threat of wild fire and it is a serious threat every single year. Living in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where we rarely get any rain in the summer months and temperatures easily top 90 degrees most of the summer, it is only a matter of time before we hear the fire news rolling in. We take precautions on our property such as clearing brush and limbs that have gotten too close to structures but that provides little comfort when surrounded by a forest that could fuel a raging fire for days. Read the rest of this entry »