Monday, May 1, 2017

A Very Muddy Work Day

What happens when you have just one day set aside to rent a sod cutter to get ready for your raised beds, and it rains for days and days before that? Lucky for me, I now have this experience and can answer the question.

  1. The sod cutter wheels get caked with mud and fail to grip, so it requires some man-handling.
  2. The sod is much, much heavier than it would be if given a few days to try out.
  3. Carrying the sod to its resting place for composting turns your husband into Mud Man.
Aaron completely covered in mud, thumbs up
I just pulled these clothes out of the dryer. They're amazingly clean.

We stripped the sod from a roughly 65' x 6' area. I have an in-progress picture, but won't get another one until we dig out the bits that refused to be cut and it dries up a bit. Currently, we've just created a mud pit. It rained all day the day after we did this.
The bed on the right up against the retaining wall is home to about a half dozen raspberry plants, and a lot of weeds. We used some of the cut sod to smother the weeds and mulch the bed. The area in the middle will soon be home to eight 6' x 3' raised beds.

The upper garden is much further along. On April 23 I completed the prep and planting of the bed along the fence. What was once a forest of weeds and unwanted landscaping plants is now home to 50+ garlic plants, 200 onion plants, and 21 asparagus crowns.

Last week we had a landscaping crew on our property for two days, working to clean out the overgrowth and weeds around the property. Part of what they did for me was clear out a roughly 800 square foot area that will become the main part of the upper garden. I got two areas planted on Saturday - the strawberry/rhubarb patch (24 ever-bearing strawberries; rhubarb was existing) and the pea patch. I planted two 7-foot rows of peas along both sides of the temporary fence, and around the two tripod structures I found on the property. There's still room for another row, so I think I'll plant radishes here on the next dry day if I can find some seeds in my stash.

I also spent a lot of time this weekend potting up plants. In fact, my phone just died because I was down in the basement so long listening to podcasts, so I don't have any pictures. I'll have to save those for next time!

Head on over to Our Happy Acres for Harvest Monday to see what other gardeners are harvesting, prepping, planting, or preserving!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Seed Progress and Bed Prep

Since I'm going to submit this to Harvest Monday over at Happy Acres, I should probably start this post with my harvest for the week.

There. That's it. Brassica thinnings, which will find their way onto a roasted beet and feta salad this week. These were harvested while maintaining my seed starting operation in the basement. Photos are from a check-in on Thursday night.

One day after taking this photo, I added four trays of freshly-seeded tomato seeds. Good thing it's time for some of these trays to get hardened off! Here's where things are at presently.

Onions are the first thing I started. They're doing great. Tonight they will spend their first night outside, and I expect to have them planted by the weekend.

Sage - I've been feeling too lazy to pot it up. Should probably do that soon, though.

Thyme also needs to be potted up.

Parsley is doing well, and is getting ready to live on the porch full-time. It got its first dose of fish emulsion yesterday.

Peppers are chugging along. The sweet banana and early jalapenos are at the stage in the picture, while many others are still pushing up through the soil. These were started on March 31.

Eggplants are at varying stages, but this one looks great.

The brassicas (kale and broccoli) are just starting to get their first true leaves.

I spent a few hours outside today, continuing to work on the new garden bed on the fence. I finished part of it last fall and planted garlic. The rest is destined for an asparagus patch and this year, onions. I spent weeks digging out weed trees and holly bushes. Today I pulled the tiller out of storage and tilled the bed 7" deep. I also took a hoe around the edge of the bed where it meets the lawn (it's edged in brick), and removed all the grass and weeds the tiller couldn't get to. All that is left is to rake out the bits of roots (there are a lot!), mix in some compost, and plant the bed. I plan to do all of that by the weekend.

The next 6 weeks will determine if I can realize my 2017 plan for the garden. I have a sod stripper reserved for April 28 to make way for the raised beds by the pond, and a landscape crew is coming over before the end of the month to do a major spring cleanup. As part of it, they're going to clear the rest of the perennial garden that I want to turn into veggies. Yay!

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.