Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring! Spring! Spring!

So, spring is here, and it's grand! Every morning I walk outside just to see what has peeked its head above the dirt. So far, I'm pretty happy with the way things have overwintered, although I may have (once again) lost my plumbago. That's okay though - I'll just buy more and treat them as an annual. I also haven't seen hide nor hair of my whirling guara, but it's still early.

Everything else is coming up, including my Bird of Paradise I put in late last year. Even three of the four fall asters I mutilated managed to put up more new growth. My trumpet vine and passionflower vines are starting to leaf out, all my irises are blooming, my cannas are putting up l eaves, and the salvias are sprouting.

Attended a plant swap last weekend - took my DH and boy, it was fun. I was much more reserved this year than last, swapping everything I took but not being greedy and taking only things I thought I had a chance with. I even managed to plant a large portion of the stuff I got, which is a HUGE improvement over last year. And I'm being much more deliberate about where I put things - I don't want to expand the front landscaped area too much until I get all the areas directly next to the house landscaped.

We're also planting this weekend for our CSA. I have been lazy in the veggie garden, so none if the seeding got done. But that's the easy part, so I figure that I can work on that Saturday, then the GardenHoes are coming over to plant on Sunday. Yay!

I'll try and post some pictures soon. I am so happy that spring is here!

~Hoe Naomi

Sunday, March 1, 2009

CSA Update

We plan to put in seeds next weekend. The transplants that Heather is starting aren't quite ready yet, but we can always put in seeds for cucumbers, melons and beans. I still haven't figured out the best way to trellis and stake the tomatoes and cukes, but here is an idea from Hoe Nancy.

This is a picture from one of her friend Carole's kitchen gardens; look in the middle-ish for the hooped (rainbow tunnel) cow panel. It's high enough to walk into, and she keeps a walking path down the middle. It's a great idea for trellising vining plants, and Nancy suggest a smaller type for the tomato plants.

We've also talked about taking a road trip to Carole's - if this is just ONE of her kitchen gardens, can you imagine what the rest of her gardens look like?

Weekend Weeding

Spent the entire weekend weeding the gardens. I always forget how much work it actually is to pull up weeds, but there is an inherent satisfaction in popping a weed that does not belong. It's also gratifying to pull away dead branches and leaves to see new growth peering out of something you thought was dead. I was so happy to find new growth on two of the cupheas and two of the plumbagos (have had a problem bringing through winters in the past). Guess a mild winter is a good thing even if there was little rain.

One thing I did screw up while weed-popping. I planted fall asters for the first time last fall during my garden hoe project. Today, I was weeding the bed the fall asters are in and saw plant growth near the base of all the aster plants that didn't look like fall aster. If you remember from an earlier post, here is what the fall aster looks like:

Notice the narrow leaf. The weeds I saw were much different - wider leaves and slightly fuzzy looking. They were also coming up from the periphery around the base of the original plant. However, after weeding three of the plants, I realized that I wasn't seeing these "weeds" anywhere else in the bed except for around the asters.

Then I looked up fall asters again and this is what I found on new growth: I had been pulling the new growth the entire time! Talk about feeling like an idiot. All I can do now is just hope that I didn't totally kill the plant and that they still keep growing (even though I "weeded" all the new growth off of three of the four plants)! You can't tell me that this stuff doesn't look like a weed...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Indian Spring in Hoe-Land

Okay, so we've had an unusually mild winter and several warm days in a row. So warm, in fact, that my veggie garden is bolting and my other plants are starting to bloom. While I would normally love this, I know that over the next thirty days, we will experience at least ONE hard freeze that will throw all the bloom cycles off.

First - winter garden successes and failures.

This is one of my bolting cabbages. I tried my hand this year at cabbages and got a couple of successes, but this one flowered before I got any real cabbage leaves.

This is the only true good head of cabbage that I got this year. I was so proud that I had to take a picture. A couple more weeks and I'll be having cabbage for dinner. I got some leafy cabbage to grow, but only one head formed. Yay me!

This is my kale. I've never grown it before (or eaten it), but thought I'd put it in. Had some for dinner the other night and it's yummy. Mixed it with some swiss chard, and another oriental green that's growing, and sauteed with tomatoes, garlic and onion. It was actually good - I'll have to grow kale again next year.

Lastly, my lettuce patch. I tried to grow a bunch of lettuces really close together to see if I could go without mulch. The lettuce heads looked so good that I couldn't bear to eat many of them because they were so pretty together. Maybe next year, I'll grow it in the front for decoration and grow a separate eating crop in the back.

Now, bloomers. Because of this indian spring, I do have some early bloomers. I figure I'll capture them now because when the inevitable last winter freeze happens, at least I'll have the memories of the early blooms until they come back.

This is my carolina jessamine - I didn't realize it was evergreen, but it is. It's normally one of the first bloomers in my garden and is getting ready to really pop this year. That old saying we're so fond of "The first year is sleeps, second year it creeps and third year it leaps" really was true for this plant. This is year three and it looks great!

Here's another close-up of the jessamine. The flowers are so pretty and dainty, but the vine is so hardy. I may try to grow some and transplant to another fence for the cover.

This is wood violet. It's a groundcover/ vine that we got from a plant swap. We've planted it to grow over a small bridge on our pond. Last year was our first year and while the vines grew, this is the first time I've seen it bloom. It's really dainty and pretty - I hope it grows over the bridge.

My bearded irises are trying to bloom too. They haven't quite yet, but here's a few buds. I have three or four different kinds in this bed - light purple, dark purple, a few yellow, and the most fragrant wonderful baby blue that I've ever smelled. I picked up six or seven new varieties when they went on clearance at Lowe's about three weeks ago (and were nearly dead), and am trying to grow those in pots to see if they are any good. If they bloom, I'll replant them into the iris bed. Fingers crossed!

My grape hyacinths has survived being one of the favorites on the deer buffet. The first month these started to come up, the deer had a field day eating the tips down. Finally - some blooms. I love these little flowers - one of the few bulbs that will naturalize in our zone, I've heard. And they smell like grape bubble gum - yummy!

And lastly, my red yucca. I am so excited to see the first yucca bloom coming up. Last year was the first year I got any, and they were late in the summer. This year, they are starting early.

OK - so, that's the latest. Maybe we'll get lucky and avoid a March freeze, and I can keep my baby bloomers. I hope so - we've got lots of stuff already peeking their heads out of the mulch and if we can avoid a freeze, this spring will be a great show!

~ Hoe Naomi

It's been a while, but things are moving along...

It's been nearly a month since anyone posted, but we are still moving forward with the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) idea. We have four active participants in our garden co-op - three Hoes (Heather, Naomi and Anna), and one non-Hoe (Cynthia). We have had two work days so far and this is what we've done.

We met to go over seeds - what we want to grow and how much. We decided on two groups of crops:

a) Bulk crops - these will be grown in large quantities for our personal use and then if there are leftovers, possibly for sale at a local farmer's market. These were cucumbers, tomatoes (cherry, others), peppers (jalapeno, bell), melons, basil and green beans. Hoe Heather can correct me if I've missed any.

b) Fun "try-me" crops - these will be smaller crops, mainly for trying and testing various veggies. We chose edame, some different non-standard varieties of tomatoes, okra, and a couple of others I can't remember.

Hoe Heather is the designated list taker and organizer - she has the list of seeds, fertilizers and stuff we all currently have and the supplies we need. She is also the main seed grower - she has several different varieties of seeds that she is already beginning to propagate. This was a short meeting, but we did look at the layout of the garden and I was designated to get chicken wire to protect the garden and bounty from my rabid rabbits.

Our second meeting was much more productive, although I was sick from the flu and unable to participate much. Heather, Anna and Cynthia unloaded the compost and tilled up the entire garden bed (with help from my DH). Everything looks so good now and pretty ready to plant. Then Anna and Heather cleaned out my greenhouse (with very little help from me) and took some seed starting supplies.

Here's a picture of the area we will be gardening. Right now, I have the remnants of some winter vegetables (more about those in another post) in the front area. But the area is about 120 ft. long by 10 ft. wide. You can see the tilled area all the way back to the cedar tree, which is outside the fence. This entire area will be planted. We've decided to plant the first weekend in March - that's according to Hoe Anna's DH Manny - so we're sticking to his schedule.

More on the CSA later, but so far, so good!

~Hoe Naomi

Friday, January 16, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

Knowing what veggie you want to grow is only the beginning... There are SO many varieties of each veggie it is a little overwhelming trying to determine which will be best to grow. The choices are even greater when one wants to try some new things. I'm in hog heaven and going bonkers at the same time trying to determine which species of various veggies I want to try and grow this year.

While excited about doing fun tomatoes and some colored bell peppers, in addition to squash, zucchini and some other stuff, picking just a few is a very difficult thing to do.

My mouth waters with every plant pix I see as I dream of what wonderful harvest our garden will provide.

--Hoe Heather

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Here we go....!

Well, three of us met last night (over wine and munchies, of course) and decided that we ARE going to step out and try our hand at producing on a larger scale. We basically came up with this:

A. We're going to primarily grow food for our families but package and sell the rest at market

B. We're going to have a portion of the garden to grow a few plants in large numbers that we know are prolific and will have a large yield (for example: cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers) and have a portion of the garden for things we want to attempt or grow only for our personal consumption/ use (ex: loofahs, black tomatoes, yellow and red bell peppers)

C. We'll take the spring growing season to possibly recruit a few more folks, get familiar with how many plants it takes to produce enough for our personal consumption and selling

D. See if we can sell our excess produce at a local Farmer's Market maybe once a month or once every other month

I think this is great way for us to start. While we all want to jump right in and go gangbusters, we were able to restrain our enthusiasm and approach this rationally and realistically (surprisingly).

Hoe Heather and I were talking after our meeting and we both agreed (and I am sure the rest do as well) - gardening is our "fun" thing. All of us work full-time and have family and other commitments, and the last thing we want is for gardening to become "another job". If we can maintain this attitude and keep gardening "fun", then I think that any growth of this idea will come out of the passion we have for what we are doing, rather than a sense of obligation to what we've committed.

So, our next step is to meet this Saturday and decide what we want to grow. We're each going to pick a few things that we want to grow for us, then agree on what we grow on a larger scale. Then we start the real work: prepping ground, buying and sowing seed, organizing a schedule, etc...

Fun times in 2009!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Coop Farming for Farmer's Market?

To do or not to do...that is the question. In theory, we are like kids in a candy store and can't wait to jump in and get started. In reality, we're hoping to meet soon to discuss what exactly we're talking about possibly getting involved in and determining if it is something that we can, or really want to do.

The idea arose when a post was found about a new Farmer's Market hoping to start up here in our neck of the woods. initial thoughts were to expand Naomi's veggie garden and we'd just go bonkers growing produce and then we'd harvest the extra to sell at the Farmer's Market. As discussions progress, the idea continues to scale down. Hopefully, though, we'll have a pretty solid idea as to if this is something we're gonna tackle (in addition to our day jobs and regular Garden Hoeing). Keep posted for updates on the Garden Hoes Harvest of Byrne-Out Farms (or Ranch).