Thursday, June 3, 2010

Good things growing in the garden - Early June update

The last few days have been spent in the garden as I've been busy working with my new mantra -- "Stop whining, get gardening!" (For the back story, go here.)

I've got all five of the remaining "small" beds (20 ft x 7 ft) in, leaving the two large plots: one which will be for the tomatoes, basil and little fingerling carrots and the second will house the kids' bean teepee, three sisters garden and melon patch.

So here's a quick tour of my "delicious mess" so far. It's a bit photo heavy, folks.

Here's the pea/spinach/corn/sunflower patch.

The peas are continuing their climb up the makeshift trellis. I staked some feed bags behind the trellis to act as a windbreak until the tendrils get stronger and more established. I won't keep it there for long as I don't want the peas to get "cooked" from the sun reflecting off the back.

The spinach patch is struggling along. I only had about 50% germination (possibly because of birds or I might have weeded out the earliest seedlings) so I put some Cherry Belle radish seeds in the empty spots.

In the top right, I planted a row of Mammoth Russian sunflowers to act as a windbreak and a small patch of Mandan bride corn, which is the same variety that'll go in the kids' three sisters garden. It's an heirloom ornamental flour corn variety from the Mandan First Nations people of North Dakota. It grows to 8" and the stalks to 6 feet and features a rainbow combination of red, purple, yellow, white and variegated kernels.

Aren't the seeds gorgeous?

The next plot has two raised beds with cucumbers in the back (with some radishes tucked in between) and two varieties of bush beans in the front -- Improved golden wax and Tendergreen Improved, which will make good companions to the cukes.

As you can possibly see in this bed (and the other three new ones), I ditched the idea to encircle the plots with wood and run a plank down the centre as it was getting to be a hassle when mowing the grassy paths. I also ran out of wood.

So now, I've created two raised beds within the larger bed, which seems to be working out just fine so far. I've still got to put down newspaper and mulch but I was racing against time yesterday and just finished getting in the last of the transplants before a whopper of a rain storm came through.

I'm experimenting with my cuke staking/growing methods. I'd read about growing cukes in large tomato cages but as I only have small tomato cages, I jimmied up this monstrosity: two cages, one down/one up, with their middles wired together and supported with a wooden stake. It might be far too narrow or short and may strangle the cukes, but I thought I'd be interesting to see what happens. The cage on the left has Mideast prolific heirloom which I started from seed while the other is seeded with Marketmore 70, which I found in last year's seed "bank."

I also thought I'd try trellising the cukes. Here's a small one I made with some leftover fencing.

The third cuke is left to simply grow on the ground.

The next bed is for our summer squash. We've got four Ronde de Nice green zukes in the front row and three Golden Dawn III yellow zukes in the back row.

Ella insisted on planting the yellow zuke she grew from seed.

And yes, we are going to be up to our necks in zukes come August.

The next bed houses 10 Jimmy Nardello red frying pepper plants and two green pepper plants (variety unknown). I still have to put a hoop over the bed once we've found some clear plastic. I'm thinking about covering only half to see what the difference in yield is like. More on that experiment later.

This front bed is partially seeded with Chantenay red cored carrots, along with some nasturtiums and green banner onions for companions, as well as a wormwood plant, to keep away the carrot fly.

Last year, my carrots washed up into a bunch, so I wanted to try making carrot seed mats as suggested by a brilliant garden blogger, Annie's Granny. Read her excellent tutorial here.

Here are eight seed mats in place, ready to be tucked in.

I find it a bit labour intensive to make the mats -- not difficult, just time consuming -- but if I get better germination and don't have to take time thining, it'll be worth it.

I still have to make more mats for the rest of the front bed as well as some beet mats for the back but in the meantime, I set some of last year's beet seeds (a mix of heirloom beets with Golden, Chioggia, Bull's Blood and Cylindra varieties). There are some under that board and others were left exposed. After last night's rain, half of them may have washed away so it'll be interesting to see how many germinate.

Ella decided she wanted to plant a mix of cut flowers in this little empty bed here, beside the onion sets.

She was intrigued with all the different shapes of seeds. So was I.

All tucked in.

Of course, one of my garden updates wouldn't be complete without photos of the radishes...

... and lettuce.

I'll spare you photos of the onions, garlic, chard, kale (growing nicely) and strawberries (struggling, unfortunately. Too dry, I think.)

I still have to get the tomatoes in as they're getting a bit stressed and leggy looking (hopefully today, if the sun comes out and dries out the garden a bit) and the kids are getting pretty excited to plant their kinderGARDEN.

Despite the sore muscles, it's been good few days. Besides, I was lucky to have some good company.

Happy good growing day!


Annie's Granny said...

Oh, I'm anxious to see Ella's cut flower bed in bloom!

I hope your carrot seed mats work as well for you as they have for me. I absolutely hate thinning carrots!

Erin said...

I have a terrible time with carrots too. I used Granny's mats this year and it was definitely better - I just need to remind myself to make those mats ahead of time! Those trellises will work great for your cukes, I am sure. You have been so busy! Everything looks so full of promise. My peas are barely ready and 90 degree temps are here to stay, so I hope I can get them all out this weekend. hahaha those are the same sunflowers I grew for my kids' "fort" a couple of years ago, they got over 12 ft high! I started some in a flat the other day since the birds eat them all if I direct seed and guess what? I left the dome cover off of them the other night and in the morning all the tops had been bitten off, right in my seed flat on the 3rd shelf up on my rack! And how does Henry's "bib" stay so white? Miss Marley goes out every morning with me to water and her bib and white feet are a mess! Maybe if she had a boyfriend like Henry she would have a reason to clean up her act a bit, LOL

Mr. H. said...

I like how you used the tomato cages for your trellace, great idea. I might steal that one from you and try it myself.:) I'm also looking forward to hearing more about your pepper hoop experiments.

Fiona said...

Thanks, Granny for the tip -- I'll let you know how it works out!

Erin -- I STILL have to make more mats. Sigh. Yep, been busy but still loads to do! We grew the Russian Mammoths last year and they were incredible -- birds loved them and the kids couldn't believe such a massive plant came from a relatively small seed. Henry is only clean looking from afar, lol! He goes for a soak in the ponds, which helps keep him clean -- no swimming tho (does Marley swim?) -- until he finds a lovely steaming pile of horse poop to roll in. EEeeew!

Thanks, Mr. H! Feel free to steal away! I'd love to see if this cage idea actually works for myself and/or someone else :) I'll keep you posted with the peppers too.

Erin said...

Marley swims if it involves kids or frisbees! When we had the ugly above ground pool, we had just adopted her so we didn't know about her water issues, but she ran round and round the pool herding kids she could hear but not see until she finally climbed the ladder and jumped in! So she swims, but it seems to be driven by neuroticism rather than a love of water LOL!

Rose Gold said...

Wow. you got a lot of garden space there! I really envy you. I would love to see your garden after a year or so; when everything is blooming and flourishing. Oh I can't wait. Actually, I am planning to put up a garden but just a small one.

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