Blackberry harvesting with the kids

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…just kidding. But blackberry harvest ranks pretty high up there. I needed to pluck those yummy morsels from the thorny canes before they passed their prime and turned to chicken food.
Gardening has been one of the easiest outdoor tasks to get the kids immersed in. They either participate in the task at hand whether it be sowing, weeding, or harvesting, or they dig in the dirt and occupy themselves while I get work done. It’s a win-win because the kids are busy and you can get your work done too. What is it about flinging some earth around that fills their little hearts with such joy and contentment?

Summer is flying by, there’s only a week left in August, we’re a couple weeks into the blackberry harvest and the kids are insatiable. I attempted to incentivize them to stay focused on picking more and eating less by offering a special reward to whomever filled their bowl first. I can’t say I was surprised when 20 minutes later their bowl was empty. They truly were diligently harvesting (I checked often). They just couldn’t resist the temptation of the perfectly sweet blackberries. I don’t blame them a bit! Clint was his usual awesome self and helped pick plenty for his little sister. Continue reading “Blackberry harvesting with the kids”

Voles in the Garden

As a gardener I’ve not experienced anything more defeating than having something out of my control ruin my crops. We’ve had disappointments over the years when deer hopped the fence and chomped on the fruit trees, or a late frost killed off some crops. This year we were over run by voles and they slowly and systematically devoured the gardens.

The tell-tale signs started popping up slowing in late spring/early summer. Vole holes are small, about an inch in diameter. They don’t create mounds when they tunnel, and they leave evidence of their above ground trails, which is something moles don’t do. Continue reading “Voles in the Garden”

Starting Winter Seeds Indoors

We are in the midst of a thriving summer garden, with 90+ degree days, and patiently awaiting the onset of fall. Among the many enjoyments of fall is the ability to work more comfortably in the garden. Because of the strict schedule the harsh sun (and the children) keeps me on, my working time in the garden is really limited to the short time between dawn and the sun rising up over the trees, which is about the time it takes to get everything watered. In the past, I’ve waited for the cooler days to direct sow our winter crops in the garden. This has worked ok for some crops, but the Brassicas family has always struggled mainly because of poor germination. This year I’m going to try to give these guys a head start by sowing them indoors.

The crops were decided, seeds were ordered, supplies were gathered. We use reusable seed starting trays with humidity domes and peat pots. Everything that I started is about 6 weeks out from transplanting into the garden.

Seed-starting-mixSeed-starting-peat-pots Continue reading “Starting Winter Seeds Indoors”

Building Raised Garden Beds- Expanding the Garden

I’ve been busy planning away for the next 2 seasons in the garden. It took very little time to realize that in order to grow the variety of crops we envision we will need more growing space. I’m not surprised we outgrew our small garden so quickly, which is why I allowed for room for expansion when we put the fence up this last spring. To get the most out of the remaining fenced in space the 2 new beds need to be a different shape than the first 3.

raised-bed-garden

The first bed is a two tiered raised bed that I was fortunate enough to be able to piece together with recycled and scrap wood ( I love keeping the cost of projects low). We had some weathered 16 foot douglas fur boards that were begging to be used. The final size of the beds is roughly 5′ by 7′. I cut my douglas fur boards down to size and cut my corner posts out of a scrap 4 x 4 and some tree limbs from trees that came down on the property. The height of the beds was determined by the wood we have available which is 9 inches. Continue reading “Building Raised Garden Beds- Expanding the Garden”

What’s Happening in the Garden July 18

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. Continue reading “What’s Happening in the Garden July 18”

Fall Crop of Beans

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.
Continue reading “Fall Crop of Beans”

Mulching the garden with straw

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

Continue reading “Mulching the garden with straw”

Planting a Vegetable Garden

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.

garden-soil-and-boostervegetable-starters Continue reading “Planting a Vegetable Garden”

How to move raised garden beds

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. Continue reading “How to move raised garden beds”

Installing a garden fence

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.

hanging-deer-fencing Continue reading “Installing a garden fence”

Trellising Raspberries

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. Continue reading “Trellising Raspberries”

What’s happening in the garden May 4

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

Continue reading “What’s happening in the garden May 4”

Planting Raspberries on a Trellis

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! Continue reading “Planting Raspberries on a Trellis”

Food Grade Drum Garden Bed

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.

homemade-raised-bed Continue reading “Food Grade Drum Garden Bed”