Monday, December 23, 2013


I haven't posted in a while, nearly two months.  Winter arrived early in SW Indiana, before Thanksgiving, with the whole package of cold and snow.  Then last week the weather warmed and Friday brought an epic rain.  With the ground no longer frozen it was time to get the parsnips out of there.  I planted only two rows this year.  Last year I planted about 25 square feet and the moles or gophers damaged many of them.  

I believe these are Lancer parsnips.  They are from 2012 seed.  They say you have to buy fresh parsnip seed every year but I've found the germination rate is still pretty decent the second year.  You just have to put in a little more seed.  I've found that parsnip does a good job of breaking up the soil.  It has a very deep taproot.  It was also nice to see as I dug them that the soil was loaded with large earthworms.

I might as well do a quick update on the winter vegetable beds now since it may be awhile until another post.  The plastic greenhouse covers a mostly empty bed.  There are two rows of spinach inside, biding their time until spring.  The greenhouse should keep the soil inside unfrozen for most of the winter, and the warmer soil in the spring will give other plants a head start.

Two of the beds made of landscape timbers were replaced with 2"x8" boards on stakes.  The garden is on a slight incline and I cut the boards at an angle in order to keep the bed level.  I could have buried the boards in the soil at the highest points but it seems that they will not rot as fast if they are not buried.  Yes those are brussell sprouts.  I never picked them before the bad weather arrived and it looks like they are over the hill now.

This is the newest raised bed, construction details here and here.  It will be planted with raspberry plants next year and I plan to leave room at one end for either asparagus or rhubarb, but haven't decided yet.  It's a hard call.  I added about two wheelbarrow loads of shredded leaves on top of the soil and spread a pound of chicky-doo-doo fertilizer on top, then covered the whole affair with landscape fabric.  That should give the earthworms a nice warm habitat to do their thing over the winter.

The same modified sheet mulch method is used over this ground to make a new bed.  This area had a tree that was cut down five years ago.  Last summer the stump had rotted enough for removal.  I removed about six inches of soil at the highest spot - it's amazing how even a small tree can raise the ground level - and put some of the soil into the raspberry bed above.  I don't know if this will eventually be made into a raised bed, but for the next growing season I just want to get the soil good enough to grow some squash plants in it.
That's all for now.  I'll try to post a summary of year end totals soon, and maybe some observations about new varieties that did well for me.  Hope everyone has a happy holiday.   Mike.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday October 28

It's over for the summer crops.  The last week has seen a number of nights below freezing.  The summer squash succumbed to the first freeze.  Nevertheless I picked one more squash from the plant that morning.  The beans made it through this frost with minimal damage.

More frosty nights and the rest of the crops were done.  I had to dig up the Silver Queen okra, more like okra trees, as there was no way I could pull them up.  They were about 9 feet long.

I meant to harvest the last tomatoes before the cold and let them ripen inside.  But I'm a lazy arse and never got around to it.  So they froze on the vine.

The rest of the New Kuroda storage carrots were pulled up. 

And the spinach for next year is coming up.

For the week:  snap beans 5 oz, summer squash 13 oz, carrots 2 lb 5 oz.  For the year 283 lbs.   

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday October 21

I haven't posted for a week and a half.  I've been getting firewood for the winter.  This year I haven't cut any wood so I had to buy 5 ricks (a rick in these parts is a third of a cord), in other words a single stack 4' high and 8' long.  Purveyors of firewood have to be the most irritating people on earth.  You'd think it would be no big deal - they have wood and a truck, I have cash, let's make a transaction - but they always make it as painful and complicated as possible.  You'd think they were selling Moroccan hashish.  With my daily gripe out of the way, on to the post!

Last week I dug up the sweet potatoes.  This was the first year for them and I did not expect much.  On the barren slope toward the pond I set two badly decomposed compost frames, 2 x 10's three feet on the side, put some soil and compost in them and planted the slips.  I made no effort to dig up the hard clay beneath the frames.  I harvested about 15 pounds, many of them deformed from where the roots ran into the clay.  There's Beuregard, Georgia Jet and Vardamann.

Next year I'll give the sweet potatoes some better growing conditions.

Considering that it is mid-October this week was a decent harvest.  I'm still picking Kentucky Wonder beans and have picked over 30 pounds of beans this year, probably more than I wanted.  The summer squash plant really grew fast after the competing acorn squash was removed, but the squash have grown slowly in the fall weather and many of them rot before sizing up.  This one was a keeper.

I'm hoping for a good crop of brussel sprouts if the pods will just size up a bit more.  I picked some more buds near the base before they opened up.

Sunday morning I found a nice sized summer squash, 19 oz, that seemingly came out of nowhere.  There's another one sizing up on this plant that should be ready tomorrow .  This area is supposed to get a hard frost in a few days, so I'll have to pick any tomatoes, squash and beans before that.

I picked some Parade scallions and a celery bunch from the Earthbox.  I tossed out the rest of the celery.  I'm going to make some tater salad using the scallions and celery, if the center stalks are mild.  Overall the celery was kind of a disappointment.  This was Sunday's harvest.  The pepper is an ancho.

Wait, I'm not through yet!  This morning I caught a catfish from the pond.  This may be the last fish of the year as they are acting like they are ready to go deep and stop feeding, so I thought it was worth a picture.  (I doubt if the fish agreed).  Not as big as some fish from the pond, but at 19 inches it makes two nice filets.

For the week:  celery 7 oz, beans 11 oz, summer squash 26 oz, tomato 4 oz, pepper 4 oz, brussels sprouts 9 oz.  Total for year 279 lbs.  I was hoping for 300 pounds this year but will probably fall a bit short.  To see what other people are getting from their gardens go to

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Getting ready for next year, adding space

The growing season is nearly over, and while I'm winding things down, removing spent plants and vertical supports I'm also making some new bed spaces.  This is actually a good time to add a new bed because some of the soil preparation can be done between now and spring.  The laborers are earthworms and they are hard workers. 

But first I'm going to talk about my white whale, the levee project.  I've found out the hard way some do's and don'ts of levee maintenance.  A big don't is this:  you can't let bushes or trees of any size grow on a levee.  There were a number of large multiflora rose bushes, the invasive kind, growing on the banks of the levee.  A bush that has a 10 foot diameter crown will not allow anything to grow in its shade, but it will only anchor the dirt around the base of the plant.  What is needed are short plants with fibrous root systems to hold the soil in place.  Like grass.  A torrential downpour last spring showed me the error of my ways.

I started the levee work in the spring, cutting out the rose bushes with a chain saw, and brought in two truck loads of soil.  This fall I brought in two more truckloads and finished the bank repair.  The rest of the soil was put on the top of the levee to fill in the low areas.  I set up a water level to find the low spots.  Then everything was seeded and strawed.  It was  huge job.  Twenty cubic yards of soil were delivered (I held two yards back for other jobs) and spread by shovel.  I've got to believe that this repair will survive any weather Mother Nature throws at it.  The grass is growing nicely.

Once I recovered from the levee project I went back to the berry bed.  The bed is just over 16 feet long.  I plant to put in raspberry bushes.  At one end will go either asparagus or rhubarb.  Can't decide.  Once the blocks were set I added a thin layer of compost, some fertilizer and several inches of topsoil, some of that soil I held back from the levee project.  It's sort of a sheet mulch.  After the leaves fall I'm going to top it off with some shredded leaves and set landscape fabric over all of it.  I'm hoping the black fabric will help heat the soil so the worms can do their thing.

And there's another bed.  The stump of a tulip poplar that I cut down five years ago had decomposed enough to remove.  The tree had built up a large mound of soil around it and I never thought about putting a bed there.  With much of the root system out the mound was leveled (some of the excess soil went into the levee repair).  It's a space where storage crops can be grown, either squash, potatoes or sweet potatoes.  This space goes into the shade early in the fall, but those plants are all done by that time. 

This will start as an open bed while I figure out if it needs to be terraced at the low sides.  I'll put in a sheet mulch using shredded leaves to get it ready for next spring, when it will be planted with winter squash.

The two apple trees I planted last year have grown about two feet this year.

The trees suffered a heavy infestations of aphids this spring, with the ants farming them.  It took several sprays to kill the ants and the aphids went after the ants were gone.  The insect pressure caused a lot of the branches to grow in odd directions.  I'll have to do some heavy pruning this winter, and spray them with dormant oil in the spring to prevent another infestation.

I'm still picking pole beans and there are a few summer squash which should ripen.  There's some parsnip and brussels sprouts still growing.  And some spinach has been seeded to overwinter.  Things are winding down.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday October 7

There was only one harvest this week.  I should have picked some beans earlier in the week, but there was rain, and back spasms, and a general malaise.  The back spasms were the result of the continuing work on the levee, work that involves lots of dirt moving.  They weren't the kind of back spasms that leave you immobile, they were just bad enough to let me know that I'd better not attempt anything like work or pay a heavy price. 

There was rain last week, lots of it. Saturday it started raining in the morning and continued throughout the day and that night.  The rain stopped midday Sunday and I went out to check the rain guage:  3 1/2 inches in 24 hours!  The wheelbarrow collected most of the week's rain:

Right now some plants are growing a lot but producing very little.  Once the acorn squash plant was pulled up the summer squash plant grew quickly to occupy the space.  Not many squash though, they are slow to mature and some rot before they are ready.  I might get a few more squash before the frost.

Same with the Silver Queen okra.  The plants are now eight feet tall, but are producing only a few okra in the cooler weather.  I have to use the small ladder to reach them now.

The Millionaire okra in the self-watering containers has been finished for about a month.  I find it amazing that the plants flowered and made a few okra even after all the leaves had died.  I don't think I'll grow okra in SWC's again, they are too tall.  Next year I think I'll try brussell sprouts or peppers.  I'm going to try to reuse the potting mix after it dries.

I've been hoping to get just one of the fabled Cherokee purple tomatoes to try.  Early in the summer the plant got Fusarium Wilt bad and it lost the first set of tomatoes.  Then it recovered, grew more foliage and set more tomatoes.  Then a tomato hornworm ate about half the foliage.  Now the recent rains have caused the tomatoes that had a chance of ripening to split.  More like exploding than splitting.

The Kentucky Wonder beans just continue to produce, and the beans are larger than ever.  On Sunday I picked two pounds of them, along with a tomato, a squash and some peppers.

Then I realized I had forgotten to pick the okra:

For the week:  squash 12 oz, tomato 8 oz, peppers 4 oz, okra 3 oz, beans 2 lb, 3.7 lbs total.  For the year 259 lbs.  To see what other people are growing visit

Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday September 30

The winter squash have been curing for two weeks in the sun, long enough to weigh them and put them in storage.  It wasn't a great harvest but the bed was new and the soil needs improvement. 

Last weekend I removed one of the frames where sweet potatoes were growing and fished them out of the soil.  I really did not expect much of anything, this being the first year to grow them.  The frames were set on some very barren soil, mainly clay, and some topsoil and compost was put in them.  I had visions of the vines spreading all around the box but they never got very far.

It looks like some of the sweet potatoes could not penetrate the clay and twisted themselves into odd shapes.  Still there were some decent ones in the mix.  Considering the shabby treatment they got I'm pleased with the results.  Here they are on the drying screen with the winter squash.  They are Beauregard and Georgia Jet.

The Kentucky Wonder pole beans keep on producing.  Everything else is producing slowly but I'm getting something.  This is early in the week, with an ancho and a pasilla pepper in the mix:

And another picking of beans this morning.  Except for a few beans with pits the beans are larger than ever of late.

This week's harvest:  Beans 2 lb 2 oz, okra 6 oz, peppers 3 oz, tomato 10 oz, butternut squash 6 lb 9 oz, teksukabotu squash 6 lb 15 oz, total 16.8 lbs.  For the year 255 lbs. To see what other people are growing mosey on over to 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Progress on the Berry Bed

For years I have wanted to build a bed here.  It's the only remaining space in the yard that is level, more or less, and gets a full quota of sunshine.  But I kept putting it off every year.  When the tree stump came out this summer it seems like the scales fell from my eyes.  I extended the limestone terrace that was built four years ago a few more feet then made a right angle turn to end the terrace into the slope, encompassing where the stump used to be.   Now I could build a proper bed for berry plants.

I got some landscape stone from the big box lumberyard.  I knew that I was going to set stone on the terrace for one side of the bed.  But the stone that I bought was too large. Set on it's end, it was too tall to be stable, and set flat it was not tall enough.

Then I found some stone at the local hardware store that looked just right, and at half the price it looked even better.  This stone is a bit lower and wider than the other stone, and looks plenty stable on top of the terrace.  I laid out the ends of the bed, then stretched a string to mark the south side of the bed.   Those giant okra plants throw quite a shadow this time of year.

The sod was dug inside the string, and the large stones were set into the trench alongside the string.  I used a level to keep this stone at about the same height as the stone on the terrace.  That little digging tool that is on the grass is a very handy tool for removing or adding small amounts of dirt when setting in edging stones.

The new bed will be 15 feet long and about 2 feet wide.  I plan to put in red raspberries.  I like other berries, and blackberries will probably outproduce the raspberries, but I just like the red raspberries more, always have.  I'm also thinking about putting some asparagus at the far end of the bed.  This will be a really great addition to the garden.  When the bed is built I will put in a sheet mulch to prepare it for next spring. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday September 23

The cool weather of late has really slowed things down.  There's been plenty of sunny days but many of the warm weather plants just don't produce when the temperatures never get above 70 F.  At this point the cucumbers and eggplant have been removed.  The lone summer squash plant is healthy, but there's a half-developed squash on the plant that hasn't grown any in days.  At least the pole beans, okra and tomatoes are still making a bit of produce.

The peppers still look good, although they are not producing much either.  The jalapeno plant has set out a flush of peppers, and since they ripen quickly I'll have plenty of those to add to eggs in the morning.  I find that fall-ripened sweet peppers have better flavor than those of summer.

I picked this on Sunday.  It's actually a relief to get just enough beans to eat in "real time."  I've frozen a lot of beans and don't want any more.

Harvest for the week: beans 20 oz, okra 4 oz, tomatoes 25 oz, pepper 4 oz. Weekly total 3.3 pounds.  Yearly total 238 pounds.  To see what other people are growing and harvesting see  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Berry Bed

Finally, a good rain.  It started raining last night and the rain continued until late morning.  Only an inch, but it was a slow rain that soaked everything.  Maybe now I can stop pumping water out of the pond.

In 2008 I cut down two small trees to make way for the vegetable garden.  The ash tree was just north of the beds but its roots were sure to compete with the vegetable plants.  By this summer the stump had decomposed enough that I was able to push if over and remove it with its roots.  Last weekend I extended the terrace about four more feet then made a right angle turn at the end, sort of enclosing the space where the tree had been. 

With the tree out of the way I decided to build another bed in this space.  More to the point, a bed for berry bushes, probably red raspberries.  I'm not sure at this point just how the bed will look, how big it will be or exactly what I'll plant, I just know there's going to be a new bed.  This space is the only remaining space available in the garden area that gets a full quota of sunlight.  Below the terrace the ground slopes to the north toward the pond.  I laid out some stone on the terrace just to get some ideas.

The terrace was made from rejects from a nearby limestone quarry.  I guess the color is off but they look good to me, especially at a penny a pound.  The blocks on top are colored cement edgers from the big box lumberyard.  I've always had some concern that the nearby hop hornbeam tree (behind the picnic table) could send it's roots into a bed here, so I'll stop the bed some distance from the tree.  I think a raspberry bush should be able to hold it's own, considering that the tree is a slow-growing and rather small tree.

I can never plan something like this and execute the plan quickly.  I have to make a prototype of sorts, come back to it the next day, maybe change it a little more before I can finally settle on the design.  Given time, the right plan always seems to emerge.

The other tree that was cut down five years ago, a tulip poplar, had also rotted to the point where I could remove the stump.  This tree's root system left quite a mound and I've been trying to dig the rest of it out.  It's not going as easily into that good night as the ash tree.  One thing I've noticed is that the dead trees impoverish the soil around them, possibly because the rotting roots use up the nitrogen in the soil.  I'll be happy to see the rest of this removed so the ground can be leveled.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday September 16

Around southwest Indiana this time of year I see a lot of gardens that have mostly been abandoned.  The tomatoes have been picked, the squash is done and most of the plants are diseased and dying so why bother?  There’s more than one reason to invest some late season work in the garden.  There’s still a lot of production to be had from plants already established and it’s well worth doing to continue to get fresh vegetables. 

Some varieties of tomatoes will finish up early and some will continue bearing until frost.  The Supersonic tomatoes have usually been reliable bearers for me until frost, as many of the modern hybrids are.   The Silver Queen okra hit its stride about the end of August and has been producing heavily, although the recent cool spell slowed it down. 

The Genovese summer squash plant has produced only about a squash a week this year.  Most of the summer it lived in the shade of a very large Honey Bear acorn squash and was kept in check.  That was fine with me.  I like small doses of summer squash but do not want great quantities of it, and there are other vegetables I prefer.  Now that the acorn squash has been removed  I redirected the summer squash, just lifted it and pointed the stem back into the bed.  Now that it has the sunlight all to itself it has put on a growth spurt.  Since the other vegetables are winding down a few more summer squash each week will fill the gaps.

The butternut and Teksukabotu squash were harvested this week.  They were grown in a new bed in the barrens near the pond – ground that had been scraped clean of topsoil to build the pond.  The bed was a terrace, two 2x4’s set against stakes with some soil piled up on the high side.     

The plants grew well in early summer then stopped growing.  They produced a few squash but it looks like I’ll have to improve the soil if I want a better harvest next year.  The butternuts were small.   I’ll let them cure in the sun for a few more weeks.  Not much for eight plants but they are a bonus, coming from space that was not used previously.   I'm anxious to try the Teksukabotu squash.

The beans have really slowed down with the cool weather.  About one month ago I planted three rows of Tendergreen beans, the last patch of bush beans for the year.  Lately the Mexican bean beetles have been shredding the leaves, the first time I’ve seen the beetles this year.  I sprayed them with pyrethrins a few days ago.  The beetles came back and I had to make a decision.  I could let the beans grow in the hopes of getting a few more beans, knowing that I could not spray them once they set beans.  If they grow they will be incubators for next years bean beetles.   I decided to remove them.  The few beans that would come from that patch aren’t worth it when weighed against the potential insect problems next year.
I remove any plant that is finished and compost it.  There’s no point in letting a spent plant remain in the garden and serve as a host for they myriad fungal diseases that take over this time of year.  I used to pull up the plant, but now I cut them off at the soil line.  Let the roots decompose in the soil where they will add organic matter. 

Here’s the harvest for the week.  First beans, okra and squash.  I wanted some brussells sprouts and picked a few from the base of the plants.  

Later in the week some Scarlet Nantes carrots (the carrot on the left is a New Kuroda) were pulled.  The long red pepper is a bullhorn, the blocky lobed pepper is Cabernet, and the small heart-shaped pepper Lipstick.  They are all very good.  The ancho peppers had been sun-drying for two days.  

The Honey Bear acorn squash that were picked last week were entered into the tally.  Not a bad yield from one plant – nearly 10 pounds. 

For the week: okra 22 oz, summer squash 2 lb, brussells sprouts 12 oz, snap beans 13 oz, eggplant 5 oz, carrots 2 lb 4 oz, tomato 10 oz, peppers 1 lb, acorn squash 9 lb 10 oz.   Total for the week 18.8 pounds, for the year 235 lbs.