Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Garden Update

The garden is slowly expanding and will soon be taking a fair portion of my time each day. I have a lot of updating to do...

Ollas: The ollas are in the ground. We ended up putting 6 in a 4' x 12' raised bed. We planted 20 tomato plants in the bed. After burying the ollas and planting the seedlings, we watered the whole bed and filled the ollas. Each one held about one gallon of water. Since then, I have been watering the tomato plants individually only on the side of them that is closest to their nearest olla (I haven't read anything about this, but seems to me it'll help their roots seek out the olla?). The ollas are not yet covered (hoping to get out to buy something for that tomorrow) and they are losing about 1-1.5 cups of water per day. One is losing water a bit faster and I'm thinking it may have a slow leak, considering digging it up to investigate. The ollas have only been filled with collected rain water.

Strawberries: We are picking a big handful of berries everyday, sometimes more. Some of the plants are really full of berries just waiting to ripen up. I'm still seeing lots of new blooms in the garden. Since these are supposed to be June-bearing plants, I'm hoping we continue to get lots of berries. Right now, I pick berries every afternoon, leave them on the counter overnight and then wash, cut the tops off, pat dry, and throw in a gallon freezer bag. When the bag's full, we'll make jam and start in on "plan B" (eating fresh, fruit leather, dried berries, and selling them)

Potatoes: Are growing faster than we can keep up. We have shoveled dried grass clippings and leaves on top of the plants twice (the latest being at the end of last week) and they are already more than a foot taller than their highest covering. I saw a house with about 15-20 bags of leaves put out for the trash and I think we'll probably pick those up and cover the whole potato bed. Like the hay last year, the leaves may be too "airy" and not increase yield too terribly much, but it's something and if nothing else, it'll mulch back into that patch of ground.

Tomatoes: Well, I goofed on the seedlings somewhere. I'm not entirely sure where. I'm pretty sure it got too cold in our non-heated back room during the last few cold snaps, so they just didn't grow as fast as I expected. As soon as the weather warmed up, I just moved them outside and they seemed happier. Still looked like they could use a little compost tea or something. But, well, when you get right down to it, I'm a lazy gardener. I decided to take my chances and just transplant what I had. It's been about a week now and the plants are looking very happy in their home. I can see new foliage everyday. I had a little bit of cash we received as a gift, so I hedged my bets and bought two 6 packs of tomato seedlings at a local produce stand. One of the varieties I got was Homestead, which we weren't already growing and has given us fantastic yield in the past.

Melons/Squash: While I was buying the above seedlings, Sierra asked if we could get watermelon seedlings. I'm not a fan of growing watermelon. We've been completely unsuccessful in the past and the fruit we do get, we always manage to pick and cut into before it's ripe. To humor her, I got a 6 pack though. They're in the ground and I'll read up about increasing our chances of success. The other squash and melon seedlings were transplanted and they're already putting out male blooms (you know men, always trying to jump the gun!)

Onions: Some of our onions decided to bolt! Not cool! Typically, onion seed is planted in the fall, the onion grows a small bulb during cool weather, goes dormant in the winter, then puts out leaves and roots and build a large bulb in the spring and summer. The second winter, the plant goes dormant again and then the bulb sends out a seed stalk. Our onions were big enough this winter to "register" one winter gone past. Then it warmed up, then it got cold again, then got warm again. Our onions said, "man! that year sure went by fast, but I've had another winter, so this must be my second spring" and sent up a seed stalk. Once this happens, the bulb won't get noticeably bigger and the quality noticeably decreases, so the onions with seed stalks had to be harvest. We pull them up and have them hanging to dry. They are big enough to be usable, but it's still a bummer. There are plenty left in the ground and we're hoping they behave themselves and can be harvested at the same time as the tomatoes so we can use them in spaghetti sauce and salsa. these smaller bulbs we have will be used fresh and some will be dried for future use.

Other plants: The english peas are looking good, but we haven't given them anything to climb yet (remember? lazy gardener). We really need to get on that this weekend. Pole and bush beans will be planted this weekend as well. Carrots will probably be ready to harvest pretty soon. Bought a pack of cal wonder bell pepper seedlings (ours were from old seed and never sprouted). Chili pepper seedlings we started are doing well and will get transplanted this weekend.

Chickens: The egg layers are nearly back to full production and pretty reliably give 4 eggs a day. Meat birds are being meat birds. They stink and I'm not sure I'd want to do them on a regular basis, even if we had a large piece of land. If we could continue to get 4-H cast offs once a year and only have to put in 2 weeks of effort to get a year's worth of meat, that's worth it, but I'm not so interested in raising larger flocks for profit. If you read my comment on my previous post, you know there was an unfortunate run in with the dog. She managed to get into the part of the yard we'd fenced off for the chickens. The chicken she got had no bite marks, but I'm pretty sure she had a heart attack or something, because she could move everything, but she was very clearly NOT right. She was put out of her misery. There's a silver lining to everything...we now have 40 meat birds, and 40 is a much nicer number than 41 when I'm figuring costs up. Oh, and the dog is no longer allowed outside without supervision. Sorry chickies :-(

Ideally, the garden will be in full swing by the end of the weekend. I'll post pictures!

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