Monday, December 1, 2008

Still Going

I just thought I'd post to note that I have abandoned neither the garden nor the blog. I pulled in a handful of green tomatoes last week and yanked the vines. Decent tomato crop this year. I've still got one Chinese cabbage out in the east bed. No idea what to do with it. I have no plans to plant this winter. I keep telling my wife that the old sliding glass doors are there for my winter garden. One of these years she'll make me plant one or throw them out.

My oldest daughter is eighteen months and she walked around the garden on her own this weekend. I think by spring she may go out there with her watering can to help. When we go to the backyard she always wants to go to the garden ("gar-gar"). I've yanked the dead things except a few dried brown basil plants and the lone still-purple coneflower.

I have yet to improve the soil. Fatherhood has cut back my time with the garden. Composting is going well. I hope to run another batch of twigs through the chipper shredder soon. The shredded sticks and leaves have really jump-started the compost. Also, I've started putting more stuff in it besides kitchen scraps: used coffee filters (with grounds, of course), contents of the vacuum cleaner (bagless), dryer lint, and dog hair (beyond what comes out of the vacuum). I have even composted a few cloth diapers that have become too threadbare for diapering. I'm trying to find a better use for them, but the composting works.

I keep thinking I'll borrow my father-in-law's truck and get out to a stable one of these days, but more likely I'll have to order a few yards of manure. I just need to do it in the next two months.

Seed catalogs are here and I'm getting excited about all of the possibilities. I just have to remember to buy what we eat and keep the experimental stuff to a minimum. Maybe beets. We'll see.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A year gone by

Wow! Nearly a year since I last posted. I'll have to put up a new picture of the garden. Very bad year. I stopped planting green beans since we weren't eating them. All of my carrots died, only about three sprouted. I put in trellises for the vines which had mixed results. My echinacea came back from last year and looked great, but what the hell do I do with it? I suppose it brought in some pollinators. I had a nice cilantro plant, but my wife hates it and it came early (May) so I had no tomatoes ready to make salsa anyway. It went to seed (coriander) and now is shrivelled up and pretty well dead.

The trellises are electrical conduit, ten feet high and five feet wide with a nylon mesh that is supposed to last five years done up with duct tape and zip ties. It gives great support for the vining plants. The problem is all of my squash and cucurbits are bedeviled by vine borers. When the vines are along the ground, you can cover them with dirt every few feet and they re-root, so vine borers will only take out a little bit of the vine if you get them in time. With the trellises, everything from the entry point up dies. So my zook, my crooknecks, my butternuts, and my cukes all got hit hard and early. I was dusting weekly with rotenon and dipel dust, but it wasn't enough.

I planted simpsons lettuce and chinese cabbage, which did well once I dusted with dipel and surrounded with diatomaceous earth and that cleared up all of the green worms and slugs. We just weren't eating it. The lettuce has gone to seed and the leaves are all bitter. I haven't dusted the leafies in over a mont, so the chinese cabs are worm food. I've been really bad about maintenance. I'm sure I'll have a bunch of vine borer cocoons in my west bed and the center east bed.

I have very weak soil. I really need to boost it this winter. I think that's why all of the carrots died. I need a couple of yards of manure, optimally. My compost program has gone very slowly. The hay bales I picked up at a construction site (from the dump pile) have been slowly decomposing next to my beds. I've gotten some good browns for the pile from the chipper shredder, too.

I'm kind of writing off this year. Maybe I can do a winter cabbage or winter squash, but probably only in one bed. I guess if I dump a whole bag of blood meal and bone meal and some phosphate in one bed I can farm it through the winter.

Lots of basil came back, so I should have a nice pesto crop. We're having company next weekend and I'll be making a calzone. I can load it up with fresh basil.

Strategy for next year.
1. Improve the soil this winter.
2. Plant early. I need sprouts in February and plants in the ground in March.
3. Dig out vine borer cocoons.
4. Use fine mesh netting to physically keep vine borers adults off the plants.
5. Plan to hand-pollinate.