Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday November 24

There's one vegetable left to harvest - parsnips.  And this weekend, which was actually warmer than average, offered an opportunity to dig some up.  The midwest has been bearing the brunt of the polar vortex for about a week and the soil had frozen somewhat but this weekend it thawed out. 

In the same bed with the parsnip I planted four rows of spinach in mid-October for picking next spring.  The spinach did not get much of a start before the cold and snow hit but they should be fine.  I planted two rows of Bloomsdale and two rows of a Renee's variety called La Dolce Vita.  The Dolce Vita is a large leaf spinach which is very slow to germinate.  Much of it has not come up yet but the Bloomsdale is established well.

I want to put the plastic put tent greenhouse over the spinach but first some of the parsnip had to come out or go under the greenhouse.  The parsnip has been through a decent freeze and should be ready to harvest.  I pulled up about half of the parsnip, just the plants that would have been covered by the greenhouse.

It's only about 2 and 1/2 pounds, and the quality isn't very good.  Just not a good year for snips, I guess.  Cleaned up and peeled they will be roasted with a pork loin.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Building the new garden bed

I got this idea to build a new bed that emcompasses two raised beds and the open bed that was made last year.  This year those three beds grew winter squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes.  I came to the conclusion that raised beds are simply not necessary for these three crops.  There's no need for easy access to harvest or cultivate.  These crops are harvested once a season, possibly twice in the case of winter squash, and the beds don't need much maintenance since the plants are vigorous growers that block out the sunlight. In this new bed the squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes will be rotated every year into new patches in the bed. 

First I cut down two small trees, a black cherry and an elm.  These were problem trees that I planned to remove anyway.  The trees were cut into sections and skidded over to the garden with the garden tractor.  Cutting the trees and moving them was the bulk of the work.

 The sections laid out roughly around the perimeter of the new bed.  From the picture it can be seen that any space gained comes from using the walkways between the old beds.  Since the ground slopes down from left to right the thickest logs were put on the low side of the bed.

Next the landscape timbers around the old beds were removed.  The lower layers were well rotted.  The logs were set into their places and cut to proper lengths and angles with the chain saw.  The thickest log on the right was excavated a few inches.  Since none of the logs were straight the ground was dug out around the low points to make the logs more stable.

Lastly I dug up the sod in the old walkways and turned it over.  I like to get some compost and dig it in before winter.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday November 3

Last week I picked the last of the peppers.  Later in the week we had a hard freeze, the end of the peppers.  There were a lot of green sweet peppers left on the plants, I probably should have picked some of them before the cold.  These are chilis, New Mexico, Ancho and Jalapeno. 

Last week the sweet potatoes and winter squash were picked, and they got to cure in the sun for two days before the weather turned.  I salvaged just over 13 pounds of sweet potatoes, the rest were put in the compost bin.  The winter squash, mostly Teksukabotu gave me over 20 pounds in the second harvest.   Two Teksukabotu plants produced  over 40 pounds for the season - impressive. 

There's one more crop to harvest, the parsnips.  Best year ever. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall crops

Things are definitely winding down.  This week the sweet potatoes and the last of the winter squash came out.  Well I should have gotten the sweet potatoes out two weeks ago, before the rains. The sweet potatoes were planted in one half of this bed, the other half got a summer squash.  One end also got a single row of pole beans.  Between those three crops this bed has produced an estimated 65 pounds of vegetables.

Well the sweet potatoes look pretty funky.  A lot of them are split and otherwise damaged.

Closer up:

I kept about half of them and put them in the mobile greenhouse to cure. The redder roots - these are Georgia Jets - are from vines that put down secondary roots.  They haven't been in the ground as long.  I'll try another variety next year.

The winter squash gave better results.  The Teksukabotu vines trailed well over 30 ft from where they were seeded.  They put down new roots along the vine.

It was quite a pile of foliage.

The sweet potato and squash remains all went into the compost bin.  It took some machete work to chop them up so they would all go in, as the vorpal blade went snicker snack.

These Teksukabotu squash are very productive.  The first harvest already gave me 23 lbs of squash from just two plants.  The greenish squash is certainly not ripe.  After the first week of September any newly formed squash were removed since they had no chance of ripening before the first frost.  Looks like I missed this one.  The others have had close to two months on the vine, and with a little curing in the sun should be fine.

With the squash out I removed the trellises and mowed the grass, or weeds.  They really weren't that bad as the squash leaves made dense shade.  The former squash bed is that brown patch in the background.

The landscape timbers in the two beds in the foreground are rotting and will have to be removed soon.  I'm thinking about making an open bed in this area and rotating potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash through the area.  The ground slopes away to the right and even an open bed will need some kind of terracing at the point where the slope becomes severe, basically following the outline of the present beds.  I'm thinking of felling some small trees in the woodlot to make the terrace.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday October 20

It's Monday, time to show what I got this week.  Well I got nothing, nada, zippo.  That's not to say it's all over, but most of the green vegetables are done.  It was the extended overcast weather that did them in, not surprising this time of year.  I took down the bean trellis.  The beans climbed jute twine, which is biodegradable, that is not synthetic.  Taking them down I just cut the twine and tossed the whole mass in the compost bin.

I still haven't gotten those sweet potatoes out.  The soil is still very wet.  At least the bean trellis is out of the way.

There's probably no chance I'll get another summer squash.  The two on the plant have been that size for nearly a week.  Nevertheless a stretch of sunny weather is in store and I can't bring myself to take up the plant just yet.

And why is it that parsley always looks the best this time of year, just before winter?  All summer long it looked anemic, and now this.  Guess I'll have to dry some of it.

There is one last fresh vegetable that will give me a nice harvest - the peppers.  Some of the sweet pepper plants are just loaded with green peppers, like the Marconi on the left.  By the end of the week the Ancho, New Mexico and Mole peppers will provide enough ripe chilis to dry for more chili

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Relief at last

It seems strange, but things are actually drying out.  This weekend I got outdoors and jumped on some chores like a dog on a ham bone.  Actually there was one other day with the same opportunities, last Sunday.  That day I raked leaves, mowed grass and seeded four rows of spinach for overwintering.  The bed was first spaded over.

I'm still trying to figure out why there are so many roots in this bed.  They must come from the hop hornbeam tree but that tree is about 20 feet away, and it's a small tree.  Anyway the bed was spaded, amended with some compost, tilled and seeded.

The compost bin has some nearly finished compost in it.  It should be rich compost.  After the fish kill in the spring I added a bucket of dead fish to the compost, and later the entrails from the rabbit litter.  It's been working all summer.

I  decided to split the compost between the two oldest beds.  Next year these beds will get tomatoes, peppers, eggplant - Solanacae.  The back bed did very poorly this summer and needs amending so I added about 2/3 of the compost to that bed.

Instead of digging the compost in I am trying a no till approach with these beds.  The compost was spread out evenly and a weed fabric was pinned in over the compost.  Since these beds will be planted with seedlings started indoors the soil won't need to be a fine tilth.  The fabric will allow the passage of air and water.

There were leaves to rake this weekend, mostly from the ash trees.  The leaves were shredded and put on top of the fabric.  I'd like to add a few more inches of leaves before winter, but this is a start.  The shredded leaves will provide a nice layer of insulation for the winter.   I like to keep the worms happy.

Next year after the potatoes have been planted these leaves will be taken up and put on the potato bed.  After the potatoes are dug up the leaves will go into the compost bin, at that point partly decomposed.  These leaves will get around.  I did this routine this year and it worked well.  Shredded leaves make excellent mulch for potatoes, blocking out most of the light.

Finally the compost bin can be consolidated into one stack.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The New Deck - Almost Finished

I was hoping to finish the stair railing before posting.  It has rained nearly every day for what seems like two weeks.  Thankfully there was enough dry weather last weekend to catch up on outside chores, rake leaves and mow the grass.  I wish I had dug up the sweet potatoes then because now it's a quagmire.  At least there are no frosts in sight.

This has turned out to be a bigger project than expected.  Originally I planned to add on to the existing deck, but after seeing the abysmal work on that deck I had to tear the whole thing out and start over.  Thus began the destruction phase. 

Then there was the damaged siding that had to be matched.  Here is the clean slate, the tabula rosa for the new deck, with the footers in place (digging and pouring footers is a significant portion of the work).

The substructure of posts, beams, ledger board and perimeter joists was put up:

The joist framework was built in stages.

And the deck floorboards were installed on the finished sections.

Fast forward to now.  The flooring is finished.  The posts have been cut and beveled, the handrails built. 

The stairs at the end still need some handrails but that is a relatively minor project.  It just needs to stop raining.  That's a handrail from the old stairs, which coincidentally fit almost perfectly.

And the view is great.  This will be a great place to grill or watch birds.

Does something seem missing?  Why yes there are no spindles.  That job will have to wait until next spring.  The treated wood needs to weather before staining and it will be much much easier to stain without the spindles attached.  I will set the spindles on a rack and stain them individually, then after the deck has sufficient coats of stain attach the spindles. Then it will be finished.