Sunday, November 30, 2014

Late Fall Chores

Meaning doing something with the leaves.   When you are surrounded by woods you get lots of leaves.  Since I persist in the 'civilized' approach to maintaining my property there's a lawn to maintain.  Not much of one -  I've tried to keep the lawn reasonably small - but it's there, the grass and its incessant demands, so the leaves must go. 

Then there's the moles.  They have gone insane this autumn, looking for the last worm or grub before winter.  I'm convinced that they have access to gas powered equipment.  No rodent that weighs a few ounces can to this much damage.  There are tunnels everywhere, those can be stamped down or rolled, but in places they break the ground and bring up so much dirt that the ground can't be leveled.

But back to the leaves.  It may seem a little late to rake leaves, and it is.  That's because the weather has been brutally cold for several weeks and the leaves were mixed with ice.  My leaves have two acts.  First the ashes and other trees drop their leaves.  Most of these can be ground up with the mulching mower.  Later the oak trees let go.  But not completely.  The pin oaks will hold on to some of their leaves until late winter then drop them on the snow.  They do this just to annoy me.

So this weekend the weather warmed nicely - a window of opportunity so to speak.  Saturday I raked the leaves into rows and let the sun dry them.  Today I raked the rows into piles and put them into the power shredder.  Filled the garden cart up with shredded leaves.  They (?) say that a shredder reduces the volume about tenfold.  That sounds about right judging by the size of the leaf piles before shredding. 

It's a lot of leaves but they will go to good use, into the compost pile then next year the garden beds.  Leaves don't have quite enough nitrogen to make good compost so I'll have to add some.  Their compost gives a nice addition of organic material to the soil.  I also use them to mulch the potato bed.  Unfortunately there are still enough leaves on the lawn to fill up another cart after shredding.  I'll do that the next time the weather lets me.

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.