Urban Homesteading on a Small City Lot: April 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Typical Spring Weather Around Here: Cold, then warm, then cold again

It has been a while since I posted an update on the lawn, the raised beds, the chickens and the tomato and pepper starts indoors.  I think I will try to break it up so my post isn't like a book.  I took pictures on April 22nd and then again a week later on the 29th so I will try to put matching things together so you can see how much they grew that week.  First a quick update on the veggies in the raised beds:

April 22nd -  The tendrils of the peas are really grabbing onto the plum branch trellis.

April 29th - The second row of peas I planted has pretty much caught up to the first so it is one big mass of peas.  I love it.  We are going to get so many delicious peas.

April 22nd - You can compare the peas in this photo to the April 29th ones above.  Also, the broccoli and salad mix are visible here.

April 22nd - You can see each of the potatoes poking their heads out, some more than others. After I took this picture I decided it was time to pull some of the dirt down of the hills to bury the potatoes more.

This is a closer look at one of the Yukon Gold potatoes.

Just in case you were curious, this is what the buckwheat looks like when it is a couple weeks old.  I am sorry that we won't see what it looks like later because I pulled them all up when I moved the dirt onto the potatoes.

April 29th - The potatoes are all up through the added dirt I pulled down from the hills.  It is looking almost level now.  Just the few smaller plants have little dips now. There will be room on the left side (the front that faces the road) to put in flowers to make it look really nice from the road.

April 22nd - The Spinach.  This comparison will be slightly misleading because I have picked some to make two salads.

April 29th - I have also harvested leaves from this mixed salad greens section on the end next to the spinach.

April 22nd - They grew a lot in that week, didn't they.  Sometimes plants are so fast, and sometimes it seems to take forever.

April 22nd - This is a brussel sprout plant.  You can see where my cat, Cooper, chewed on the leaves.

April 29th - I don't have a picture of the brussel sprouts, but this is one of the broccoli I planted at the same time.  Cooper ate pretty much every leaf off of this one.  It is growing really big new leaves.

April 22nd -This is the other mixed salad green section. This mix is very different. I scatter planted these instead of rows.

April 29th - This picture is taken from a different perspective and farther back, but on the left side you can see that the salad greens are really growing.  Like I mentioned earlier, I have made two heaping salads from the garden for all three of us.  I just take my scissors out there and cut off leaves and leave the plants to make more. On the right side and middle of this picture you can see the radishes.

April 22nd - You may be able to tell that these radishes need thinning in this picture.  Don't worry, I thinned them as soon as I finished taking the picture.

Here is a closer look at one of these crunchy, sweet and spicy little guys.  How do I know what they taste like, you ask? Well, I ate some, of coarse.

Look at all these radishes I picked when I was thinning.  I also picked a few more for each of the salads we ate and a couple more for my uncle when he came to visit.  I have told you before, my uncle loves radishes fresh from the garden.  It really is all for him that I plant those.  I do like them, but I just don't get excited about them like he does.

April 22nd - The award for the most impressive growth in a week goes to: the romaine lettuce...

April 29th - Look at it.  I have even picked some, too.

April 22nd - I was very curious to see what arugula looked like when it came up.  I have eaten it and ordered it on pizzas, but I haven't grown it before.  It is very small when it sprouts, but it is growing. Compare it to the picture above to the right of the romaine lettuce.

Super close up.  I need to thin it, but it is very small and crowded   The seeds are so small that it was hard to plant fewer seeds at a time.

Three Kinds of Kale:
             April 22nd                                          April 29th

Smooth Leaf Kale

 Blue Curled Scotch Kale

Russian Red Kale

April 22nd -The golden fingerling, a.k.a. banana, potatoes are finally starting to get a foothold.  They are all up and have lots of leaves I just started bringing dirt down from the hills to cover the stems.

April 29th - In the background you can see the fava beans and the cabbages.

April 22nd

April 29th - They are starting to form little heads:

Look how cute they are.

April 22nd - the fava  beans are so huge, but I can't really see them growing lately. I think they are putting energy into branching out.  It has been cold and windy, too.

April 22nd - This is the Strawberry and fava bean patch, with the extra pots in the background.  I am still figuring out where I want to put those to make it look nice and increase my growing area.

April 29th




Okay, I'd better stop here or else it really will be a book.  I will have more updates coming up.  The chickens are doing great, and the lawn is coming along.  I have some news about the seeds I started indoors, too.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

No Foolin' This 70 Degree Weather Is Making Everything Grow

Happy April Fool's Day!  I didn't even play any jokes on anyone today.  I guess I still have a few hours.  We'll have to come up with something.  Now I have some serious growing to report on from my garden, and I'm not foolin' around. Wow.  I planted a bunch of things last Tuesday, and a lot of it is already sprouting.

I planted three kinds of kale. Two of them have sprouted already. This is Russian Red.

You can kind of tell they are different. This is the smooth leaf kale.  I am still waiting on the Blue Curled Scotch.

It appears that the buckwheat that I planted a few weeks ago is coming up after all.  I have planted potatoes in one of the beds that I had planted the cover crop in.  I had given up on it. I guess I shouldn't have.

This kale seed must have been dropped here by accident.

The romaine lettuce is coming up really strong.

This is a picture of what is coming up in one of the salad mix squares.  Some of these sprouts look very radishy, or maybe kale like.

Speaking of radishes, these are the sparkler radishes I planted last week. With this heat they are going to catch up to the cherry belle.

The cherry belle radishes are looking very good.

This is the other salad mix square.  You can see little green sprouts everywhere.
I think that is all of the things that I planted last week, but all of the stuff I planted earlier is also growing by leaps and bounds in this wonderfully warm weather.

The fava beans that I started indoors and moved to the pot are really getting big.

I put my hand in this one so you can appreciate how big they really are.  The ones that I planted directly in the garden have not sprouted yet, but with all of this warm weather I don't think it will be long. It only took 3 days in the window for the toilet paper roll experiment. I never did tell you what I thought about the toilet paper experiment.  Well, I won't be using them again, sorry to say.  They all grew the most disgusting thick layer of fungus all over them.  I was surprised to find one of the fennel sprouting right through the 1/4 inch layer of mold three days ago. I transplanted it, just in case it will make it.  so far so good, but no other seeds have emerged through the fungus.

The peas are growing so fast in this warmth that I think the second row is going to catch up to the first row.  I had planned to plant a third row of peas last Thursday, to keep up the pea planting every two weeks idea, but I didn't.  I just don't know if I want to use that much space.   Maybe this weekend I will plant a third row.
The spinach sprouts are getting bigger and bigger, but have not gotten their second leaves yet.

The strawberries are getting more green new leaves, and the old leaves are dying off.  I don't think we will get a huge crop this year, but hopefully they will spread out with their runners and cover the beds they are in.

The potatoes haven't shown any green above ground yet, but I think they are working on it because I can see cracks starting to break where they are planted beneath.

I think you can finally see the grass on the photographs of the front lawn now. Look at it. It is getting pretty green. I am a bit worried about how many weeds are there with the grass.  I have been reading and everything says we can't treat with herbicide until the grass is really established and has been mowed a few times. I carefully pull out the ones I can reach from the side, and some of them will be taken care of the first time we mow (the sunflowers and the maple trees) but some of them will be an ongoing problem, possibly into next year.  We have some of those early spring annual weeds that are already flowering and will be done making seeds for next year well before we mow this lawn.  I will have to remember to put on a very early weed and feed treatment next spring for those sprouts.  Just in case you haven't figures it out yet, I am not one of those organic only people.  I am a chemist by training and have loads of experience with pesticide analysis in food, soil and water and have come to grips with the fact that chemicals are everywhere and are useful. I believe the real problem is that they are not being used in a sustainable way.  I might expound on this opinion in a paper or video later, but since my family has heard it all, and they are the only ones reading this blog I won't take the time and space here.

Okay, here is an update on the pear grafting experiment.  Well, sort of.  There is nothing really to report.  I can't tell if they are taking or not.  They aren't dried up and dead, yet, but they also aren't really showing signs of being healthy either. The natural buds are starting to open and show leaves and flower buds, as you can see in the pictures above and below. The grafted terminal buds seem to have swollen a bit, because they cracked the wax that had been covering them, but that is the extent.  I believe that if I had placed these buds into the ground they would be this far along.  I will not call this a success or failure until the grafts are really dead or have leaves growing on them.

I will have flowers very soon on this pear tree.  Since I need cross pollination I may not have pears this year. I know I should remove pears this year to give the tree a chance to establish itself, but I really love comise pears, and I am excited to see what they are like on my tree. I could bring home a few flowering branches from work and put them in a bucket of water next to my tree for the bees. I could make sure and pick off all but a few pears.  Hmmmm.  I will think on it.

My little rhubarb is taking off.  I am no longer worried about it. I don't think I will pick any this year, but it will be just fine despite the fact that I thought it was a goner when I bought it. I won't have enough strawberries for strawberry rhubarb squares anyway.

The tulips we planted last fall are getting loads of leaves but are showing no signs of flower buds yet.  I think I do remember reading on the label for these tulips that they were a later blooming variety.  I think that will be lovely.

The miniature irises have all bloomed now.  Look how cute.  I think for next year I will try to plant a few more, so they are not so lonely.  I know they will fill in a bit on their own, also.

This tulip bud is on one of the volunteer tulips. It looks like I will get to see what kind they are pretty soon.  I will probably dig them up soon after they are done.  If they are really pretty I will relocate them. If not then I will get rid of them.  I am such a ruthless gardener.  I have adopted the mantra "if I didn't plant it, I don't want it."  It saves me a lot of decision making anxiety.  These tulips have survived this long because they are beneath the weed block, and it will be quite an ordeal to dig them out.  My procrastination may save their lives.

Here are a few more pictures of the front lawn coming in all green.
You can see some sunflower sprouts in this close up shot.  They are everywhere.  When I pull them I can tell that some of them have been tilled way under and have still come up through 6 inches of dirt. They are determined little pests.  I want to eradicate them this year.  I do plan, however, to plant some sunflowers of the mammoth seed producing variety.  I hope those do not create the horrible weed problem that these ones have.  The neighbors said that they may have grown from the bird seed that the lady threw out for the birds, but they remember her saying she loved them.

Oh my gosh! I almost forgot to tell you I finally found some fingerling potato starts.  I have never grown them but I do love to eat them.  I wanted to try growing some this year.  My aunt had some fond memories of  a specific variety that her friends grew in Alaska and I found some seed potatoes for them at the Savemart here in town.  I only bought five of them.  I really don't want to use any more space for potatoes, but I had to give these a try.  They are in one corner of the bed with the fava bean row.

My blog posts are always way too long for any sane person to read, but if you are still reading, then have a very happy April Fool's Day and don't play any cruel jokes, just nice ones.