Monday, July 24, 2017

My Harvest Life - Episode 6: Lush Rebounding Growth

Year 1 - Summer Day 33

It turns out that I did not in fact, murder my cucumber plants, as they are bigger and lusher than ever!  It was a delightful rainy day out and the plants are just cheery about all the wetness.  Thankfully the railing is containing them a bit and they are not sprawling across the entire garden anymore, but only barely.  Even with the wire frame I looped them through they are still crawling over the side of the raised garden and into my yard.

The tomato plants are also getting very tall and some of them are nearing the top of the twisty poles.  Flower have also started dotting the bean bushes and the potato stalks are springing up.  Looks like everything but the garlic and onions are growing very well and I'm looking forward to the buckets of veggies I'll get to pick soon.

Cucumber Plants

Tomatoes, Carrots and Basil

Bean Bushes, Spinach and Potatoes

- Level 1 Gardener: Jace -

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Harvest Life - Episode 5: First Harvest!

Year 1 - Summer Day 25

The first fruits of the garden are picked!  Well the first-leaves of the garden at least.  The spinach plants were doing well and were large enough to pick some delicious spinach leaves!  This breed is called Noble Giant and their leaves get quite large!  I'm not sure how big they would get but I picked a few of the lower, larger leaves to make a salad for lunch!  And boy was it good!

I used some leftover salmon and whipped together a dijon vinaigrette (which I put way too much on, it was very strong flavored) and added some tomatoes and romaine from the store.  It was fun to eat the first leaves from my garden and I'm excited to harvest more as we get later into the summer.

- Level 1 Gardener: Jace -

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Harvest Life - Episode 4: Angry Plants

Year 1 - Summer Day 24

I think I pissed off my cucumber plants.  They were getting massive and needed to be reigned in and grow upward instead of sprawling across all my other plants so I bought a plant rack to have them grow on, but I think all of the jostling really ticked them off.  Hopefully they rebound, I killed a few of their giant leaves in the process.  

Lesson learned:  First, next time I am going to build something like this earlier, I didn't realize just HOW much they would sprawl, and second, I'm going to build my own wooden rack next time.  The little metal one I bought barely stays together and might not even hold up the plant stems.

My tomato plants are doing well though, as are my Bean plants.  And finally I have some Potato sprouts!  I wasn't sure if the potatoes would grow because I had used store bought potatoes, but I finally see sprouts along the edge! Also my spinach plants are getting to where I could actually eat the leaves!  They're getting very large so I may make a salad soon with them.

As you can see above, I also got these little twisty things for the tomato plants to grow on, you have to train them up it as they grow, but unlike the cucumber plants, I've been working on the tomato plants from a much earlier stage.

The Bean plants are also doing well.  They're still trucking along, and they're bush beans so I don't need poles to train them up.  All in all, the garden is coming along nicely.  I put down a bag of cow manure we bought from a local garden shop and it seems to have spurred on some of the plant growth.

The onions and garlic don't seem to be doing amazing, but that might be due to pests.  I did see some digging marks near my garlic plants.  I might try putting down some cayenne near them to keep pests away.  Still learning a ton, I have a feeling year 2 will go much better than this year.

- Level 1 Gardener: Jace -

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Harvest Life - Episode 3: Half a garden of nutritious decay

Year 1 -  Summer Day 10

Unsurprisingly, because I'm still a Novice Farmer, about only half of the plants I planted are growing well.  Interestingly enough its all of the plants I planted in the first half of the garden.  I'm not sure if this is due to rabbits getting in and just eating what was closest when they hopped in or if the plants in front are getting too much sun.  Either way, I do have some plants which are growing well.

Five of the 16 tomato plants I planted are growing and about half of the carrots and a quarter of the onions are growing.  Interestingly enough all of the bean plants sprouted and grew, and all of the Lemon Cucumber plants grew pretty hardily.  Only two of my spinach plants are growing, out of around 8 or so, but they do appear to be doing well.

I ended up thinning a bunch of the plants a week or two ago, pulling out the tomato plants where 2 were growing in one spot, and thinning the cucumber hills to 3 plants each.  Today I did more thinning, reducing the clusters of basil plants, since the ones with less clustering were looking healthier and the onions were bunched in some areas, so I thinned out the weaker plants to allow the healthier ones to thrive.

The garlic seems to be doing okay, it doesn't seem like it's grown much in the past week, but the cucumber plants are getting large, as well as the bean bushes.  To increase the nutrition in the soil today I also did a pH Test to check the soil alkalinity of the garden as well as my compost, and once happy with the results added the compost to the garden.

pH Testing

A website I came across had a very simple way to test if your soil is very alkaline or acidic, and while not highly accurate, can give a good idea of the pH.  You can view the article here: PreparednessMama, but the gist of the instructions are:
  • Put soil in one cup, and soil mixed with water in another.
  • Add vinegar to the first cup and watch for a reaction, if there is fizzing and a reaction your soil is alkaline.
  • Add baking soda to the second cup and watch for a reaction, if there is fizzing and a reaction, your soil is acidic.
So I tested both the garden soil to see where it was at, and the compost I was going to be adding so that I could get an idea of where each was and if it needed to be adjusted or the compost needed certain things to adjust it one way or the other.

Garden Soil Results

The garden soil was almost entirely soil that was added from bags at Home Depot, so going in I expected the pH to be fairly neutral.  As you can see before and after, the first image is the raw soil, and the second is the soil with vinegar poured over it and water and baking soda added.  As you can see there is essentially no reaction to either so the soil's pH is neutral.  This is good, since having a neutral base will allow the compost to be more of one or the other.

Compost Results

The compost was a slightly different story.  We have quite a few pine needles in our yard due to large pine trees overhead, which cause the grass we put into the compost to be slightly acidic when it breaks down.  As you can see in the second picture there was a mild reaction to the baking soda, but not a large one, indicating the compost is slightly acidic.  Since it's only slightly acidic, that will be fine since the plants in the garden should do well with a lower pH soil.  At least from what I've read on that site, the garlic, onions and beans should do well with it.

Nutritious Decay

Finally today I added a bunch of the compost from our compost bin, which is really a giant brick square that I dump grass, dirt, sticks, and compostable food scraps into.  We started the compost bin last fall, so this is the first time using some of the broken down grass and leaves in it.  My back was dying from leaning over the bin and I had to shake out a lot of dirt and filter out the best dirt I could from the compost bin.  It also took quite a bit of flipping to get to the really good soil at the bottom of the bin.  I had made the mistake of putting a pallet at the bottom of the bin in order to hold it up to let water drain, but all that it ended up doing was making it extremely difficult to flip the compost.  Once we empty out the majority of the bin this fall when we till the garden with it, I'll pull the palette out and let the compost rest on the ground where it can just drain into the ground and create a nice place for creepy crawlies to break things down.

Finally I added the compost to the garden, nestling it around plants and pouring it into the rows between them to allow the nutrients to get into the dirt below.  Today I also did a deep watering with the hose instead of just the watering can.  This Article has some information about watering that has bene helpful, but I'm still learning.  I might be over  watering, as I do try to water with the can every morning, but it has also been rainy lately so it might be too much. 

That said, the plants that are still alive seem to be doing well, so I'll continue my efforts.  All in all its exciting seeing the plants get larger and grow, and though I'm still learning, next year I think I can get more of the plants to grow and stay alive.  Certainly I will invest some time next year in a better fencing situation.  Perhaps including a top to the garden so that birds do not pick away the seeds.  That's another reason that perhaps some of the plants did not grow.  Either way, next year I'll be more careful about how I plant them and hopefully more than half the garden will actually sprout and grow!  Art imitates life, but it does feel like a game sometimes where my level just isn't high enough yet to achieve consistent results.  This is a fun experiment though, and I do look forward to the harvest season as well as building neat contraptions to help automate the work.  It's very enjoyable to see the little seeds I planted a month ago sprout and grow.

- Level 1 Gardener: Jace -
Next: Episode 4: Angry Plants