Sunday, January 15, 2017

Planning Gross Farms 3.0

It's been a while since I published a post on this blog. There a few reasons for that. After the 2014 gardening season wound down, I decided to focus on getting my dissertation written. I'd been sitting on an almost-finished proposal for over a year. After nine months of solid focus, I defended my dissertation in September 2015. This gardener now has a Ph.D.! 2015 was a great year for gardening but I didn't have time to write about it.

Also in fall 2015, my husband accepted a job offer with the company I work for. This meant we were both commuting almost an hour each way, which seemed silly. We started to hunt for a home closer to work, in the country, with lots of land for us to pursue our hobbies (including gardening). We found it! In December 2015 we moved into our new house in the tiny hamlet of Kroghville, WI. It's located on a 1.6 acre lot and was previously home to a master gardener, so there are beds everywhere, mostly filled with perennial flowers. We took 2016 as a year to figure out what is really growing here, and how we might want to adapt it to make it our own.

Existing Spaces and Plans

We certainly have an amazing canvas to work with.

grass and overgrown perennial gardens

The side border and the front of this perennial garden will stay in flowers for the foreseeable future, although we have a lot of work to do to clean them up. They've been spreading and left unweeded for a few years.

grass and overgrown perennial gardens

At about the point where the pergola is built, I'll start my vegetable garden. There's about a 400 square foot area here for planting. When possible, I"ll transplant some of the special flowers that are currently in that space. Plans for that space include peppers, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, beans, cucumbers, and strawberries. There is an existing rhubarb plant.

garden plan

The further back you go along the fence, the more overgrown it gets. I've started clearing a 28' x 5' bed here.

Overgrown perennial bed with the following text: It has been determined. This will be a garlic bed (probably with room for other things). Now I need a frost to kill all this stuff so it's easier to rip out.

Plans for this space in 2017 are garlic, corn, and and asparagus patch.

garden plan

On the west side of the house is an amazing pond. Between the perennial border and the pond is a 60' x 6' strip of grass that is difficult to get to with the mower, and holds a lot of water. I'm going to remove the grass and put in six 3' x 8' raised beds, surrounded with stones.


Plans for this space in 2017 include: onions, carrots, fennel, celery, beets, chard, kale, broccoli, and tomatoes.

This will give me a total of 684 square feet of growing space in year one, if I can get it all in this spring.

Initial Preparation

I've already started on the side border, and have a 8' x 4' block of German Extra Hardy garlic planted that I picked up at the local farmers market. The purchase of a new rear-tine tiller made this job a bit easier—and more fun!

Tilled and planted garlic bed

Seed Order

Yesterday I placed my seed order. Here are the varieties I plan to grow in 2017 (will all be started from seed in my basement or in the beds).
  • Asparagus: Will decide on variety when I see what the local greenhouse has.
  • Beans: Rattlesnake, Purple Pod
  • Beets: Lutz Winter Keeper
  • Broccoli: Arcadia
  • Carrots: Mokum (early), Dragon (main crop), New Kuroda (late/storage)
  • Celery: Conquistador
  • Corn: Golden Bantam 8 Row
  • Cucumber: Diva, National Pickling
  • Eggplant: Black Beauty, Slim Jim
  • Herbs: Florence fennel, Caribe cilantro, Dukat dill, Greek oregano, Italian parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
  • Kale: Red Russian
  • Onion: Yellow Sweet Spanish, Red Wing
  • Peppers, Sweet: California Wonder, Sweet Banana, Chocolate Beauty, Purple Marconi, Lilac Bell
  • Peppers, Hot: Cayenne - Long, Early Jalapeno, Habanero
  • Potato: I have ideas but might see what the local garden center has to offer.
  • Strawberry: Will wait on local garden center
  • Squash, Summer: Lebanese White Bush, Zephyr, Cash Flow zucchini
  • Squash, Winter: Red Kuri, Waltham butternut, Vegetable spaghetti
  • Tomato: Plum Regal, Blondkopfchen, German Pink, Moonglow, Incas Hybrid, Little Napoli Hybrid, Health Kick, Riesenstraube
This is actually a short list compared to past years, but I'm starting slow (for me). I've also signed up for another half share of a CSA just in case I don't have the luck I suspect in our first year here. I anticipate I'll be preserving a lot of food in 2017!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Harvest Monday: Garlic!

On Friday night I decided I start digging up my garlic. I was extremely excited to find bulbs almost the size of my hand.

This particular variety is Music, and I purchased it from Territorial Seed. I'll have plenty of my own for seed this year. I harvested about 30 heads on Friday, and then decided to let the ground dry out just a bit more and finished on Saturday night. All in all, I got about 70 heads of garlic, and they're all hanging in a shady corner of my garage to cure. We won't have any vampires sneaking into the garage any time soon.

Green beans have been coming in just a bit every day, and I've gotten broccoli about every other day (either a head or a side shoot). They've made excellent side dishes for my burgers topped with peach salsa (made with garden jalapenos and cilantro). 

On Friday, I harvested the first zucchini just in time for lunch. It joined green beans as a side for a sloppy joe (which contains green peppers and onion from the garden).

While all these harvests look delicious, I've been battling Japanese beetles in the garden. First they were on my green beans, and within days they spread to the basil and zinnias. On the advice of a local CSA farmer, I've sprayed the affected plants with neem oil. Hopefully that takes care of them.

To see what other gardeners are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Harvest Monday: Peas & Carrots

There were lots of harvests at Gross Farms 2.0 this week, but I was terrible at photography them (it doesn't help that my memory on my iPhone is full, so I have to delete photos before I can take more).

Monday - Thursday I picked the last of the sugar snap peas. They had terrible germination, but the plants that did grow produced well. I'll definitely grow them again next year (Sugar Lace), but I'll give them the support of a small bunny fence—even though the package says no support needed. It lies.

On Thursday I picked the first St. Valery carrots and two gorgeous fennel bulbs. I had my eye on this soup recipe to break in my new pressure canner, but I didn't have enough carrots for it yet. I used some of the fennel fronds to make fennel tea, which was quite delicious.

Sunday was a day of garden transition. We picked the last of the snow peas (an entire gallon bag full) and ripped them out. They'll be planted again next year as well (Mammoth Melting) but with a much taller fence to climb. I ripped out the fava beans that never produced (planted too late), and harvested the rest of my 5' x 3' bed of carrots, which included St. Valery, Cosmic Purple, Lunar White, and a rainbow mix. For some reason, the white carrots never really want to do their thing. I'd estimate I got about 10 pounds of carrots total. Plenty to make the soup, which made a delicious Sunday dinner.

I also got my first handful of green beans, and my second head of broccoli. I'm eagerly awaiting the first zucchini.

The snow peas were replaced with chiogga beets, the carrots were replaced with red bush beans, and the favas were replaced with more carrots.  If I can keep the soil wet so they germinate, this will be my first year with a semi-successful mid-summer plant rotation.

To see what other gardeners are harvesting this week, check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Preview Of (Canned) Things To Come

I've been traveling for work, so the blog has been neglected. The garden is busting at the seams though. I hope to have some updates this weekend.

In the meantime, I just ordered this. I'm so excited to can soups, stews, chili, stock, corn, beans, etc.

All American 21.5 Qt Pressure Canner

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Garden Is (Mostly) In!

If it wasn't for a bum ankle, we would have finished all the items on our garden to-do list this weekend. But, I severely sprained my ankle on Friday and couldn't put much weight on it Saturday. On Sunday, I puttered around the garden with a crutch, and today I could walk (slowly) with my foot in a brace.

Every bed that we planted first had to be weeded. Mom did a great job weeding the entire garden in April, but those stinking weeds grow fast! Here's what we accomplished (no pictures because were chased in my rain when it was all finished):

  • Weeded 6 8'x3' beds and 4 3'x3' beds
  • Planted 32 tomatoes, 41 peppers, 10 parsley, 4 dill, 12 cucumbers, 4 kale, lettuce bed, 5 cilantro, 5 fennel, 6 eggplant, miscellaneous zinnias, 1 brussel sprout, herb garden
  • Mulched all those beds
  • Dug 2-foot deep post holes for our gate
  • Anchored the arbor to the ground
  • Put up 21 tomato cages (need to get a few more, and stake the indeterminants with rebar.
Yup, that's a lot, but we still have to:
  • Plant 24 basil, 5 squash, 32 corn
  • Harvest the spinach and transition that bed to rutabaga
  • Build A-frame for the cucumbers
  • More weeding (never ending)
  • Plant flower containers for front of house.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Harvest Monday: First Spinach

This, my friends, is the first outdoor harvest of 2014. You're looking at twelve ounces of delicious spinach, overwintered from a September planting. I steamed it and added some white balsamic vinegar and salt, and it became a side for our garlic crostini topped with asparagus, morels, and parmesan.

The bread is a garlic sea salt sourdough from Water House Foods, which I love. I could easily eat an entire loaf of this bread in one day ... without butter. It's drizzled with some garlic olive oil, and topped with asparagus and morels from the farmers market and a sprinkling of shredded parmesan. This was absolutely amazing.

That's the extent of the Gross Farms harvest this week. To see what other gardeners are harvesting around the world, check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weekend Work: We Have Apple Trees!

I went to the local garden center to pick up two bags of potting mix on Saturday. That was all I needed. But then, beckoning to me from the row behind the potting soil, was a sign that read "Fruit Trees On Sale." I poked around, saw some stuff I liked, and then went to the cash register. And when I got there, I turned around and went back to the trees. They were a pretty good deal, and they had some interesting varieties. I called my husband (who was out of town), didn't get him, and left a message. I checked out with my two bags of potting soil and left the garden center.

After driving two blocks, he texted me. He said we should definitely buy two apple trees for the front yard. So I turned around, grabbed two trees, and managed to fit them in my car. I was highly motivated (and had to take the back roads home so I wouldn't damage the trees).

This isn't a great picture, but nothing was going to keep me from getting those trees home.

I ended up with a Snow Sweet and Honeycrisp. They're both planted in the front yard, which happens to meet our HOA requirement of having two trees in front. No one said they couldn't produce a crop! I've never grown apples, and haven't really done much research about them ... so if you have any advice, feel free to share in the comments!

Prior to going to the garden center, I accomplished another gardening task—I put together the large greenhouse my father in law gave us. We only had two small 3-shelf greenhouses, and I figured this would give us all the space we need. Well, it's already full! If I don't start seedlings for friends in future years, I think it will meet our needs.

I took some photos of the garden on Friday after work. Even though the majority of the garden isn't planted yet, there's still a lot going on!

The garlic is looking great! All but one clove came up this spring, and one shot up two stalks, so I got exactly what I planted (the extra stalk will be harvested as spring garlic so it can have sufficient space to form a head).

My mammoth peas are finally doing something! The second round that was seeded a few weeks after this one isn't far behind.

What a beautiful strawberry blossom! Unfortunately, I had to pluck it. We're not letting the strawberries form fruit this year, so all their energy will go into developing strong plants that will hopefully last for years (and produce even more berries next year).

Asparagus is "look but don't touch" this year. Thankfully, every crown has produced shoots, and some of them are a few feet tall already. We planted two-year crowns, so next year we can harvest them for a few weeks.

Other tasks: I pulled a few weeds, planted fava beans, transplanted celery for friends, made my first seedling sale to a friend, and Aaron planted two landscaping bushes in the front of the house (unfortunately, they will not produce a harvest). There was a harvest from the garden, but I'll save that for Harvest Monday.