Planting the Salad Crops

The days have been lovely and warm this week.  I ended up taking two days off from work to recover.  I still feel wobbly, but not awful – just tired, but I really wanted to take advantage of the comfortable temperature today to work in the yard.  I added some manure to one of the square foot garden beds and put in the salad crops.

10398736_10208874805686445_8949625700541521115_nThose are peas over by the trellis.  I started them indoors about four weeks ago and hardened them off this week.  They should be OK.  The other plants you see (if you can) are spinach and chard.  Filling the rest of the squares are three types of lettuce, a cabbage, radishes, carrots, and beets.  Some were direct sown, some already started.  Although our final frost date isn’t until April 15, I feel as if we have probably seen the last of the freezing temperatures.  As early as it is, if something does freeze, there will be plenty of time to direct sow later if need be.

I weeded the other square foot bed some more today.  It is going to take a ton of work to get back in shape, but it is more than half way there.  Moe is a little irritated with me for leaving clumps of weeds in the yard, but I don’t have enough energy to gather them up.  I’ll send one of the children out later to take care of it.  Once this bed is cleaned up I will put in the other plants.  Still not sure if I’ll waste it on the watermelon the kids want.  Ideally, we’ll get that grape arbor put in and I’ll plant the watermelon under that so I can put some better behaved plants in the bed.

Touring the yard, I found that the lilac appears to have made it through the winter, as well as the lillies, one of the peonies for sure, and the cherry trees.  All of the daffodils in the back are setting blooms, and the ones I planted out front in December are coming up.  Most of the tulips came up too, and one is setting a bud, so yay!

12814182_10208874797966252_8577431098681075097_nI should go shopping and pick up a new drop spreader so I can fertilize the yard, but I’m beat.  Instead, I’ll play the violin, read a book, and maybe knit.  There’s always tomorrow, right?

Garden Prep Time

We had so many responsibilities in town this week that we had to skip an event, which sucks.  But the advantage of staying near home is getting a lot done.  A couple of weeks ago, my friend Natalie and I went to the hardware store to buy some seed starter.  The hardware store is a dangerous place for me (and her too, it turns out!).  We bought so many seeds!  I also got yard weed & feed and some black plastic to kill off existing vegetation where I want to put a border along the back fence.

12662685_10208599242197530_3365714783705255403_nSaturday was beautiful and nearly 70 degrees.  I tried to put the weed & feed on the lawn, but my drop spreader is broken.  Fail.

So for my next trick, I rolled out a 10×25 foot stretch of black plastic, cut it in thirds lengthwise, and used yard staples to pin it to the ground along the back fence.  It’s about 45 feet too short, but it ends behind the shed which sort of looks as if we planned it.

After that, I cleaned out the near square foot garden bed.  It’s all ready to receive plants as soon as they can go in the ground outside. We probably have 7 weeks before it’s safe around here to do that.  Even though I let that bed go at the end of the year, cleaning out was just tedious, not hard.  I started on the other square foot garden bed, but gave up half-way through.  When I put that one in, I didn’t do as good a job digging out all the grass beforehand. It wasn’t so bad the first year, but last year I overwintered onions and didn’t bother to plant anything else.  And then it got ignored.

I did dig out some of the weeds after the onions were lifted, but by then the grass had found it’s way in and I gave up.  The same thing happened yesterday.  After about 40 minutes of pulling grass, I threw in the towel.  Perhaps we will have more warm days before planting time and some more weeding can get done.

Today I did some extra house cleaning because some friends were bringing by an antique screen that I bought. It looks marvelous, by the way!  I also started some peas, swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and peas so they will be ready to go into the salad garden when it is warm enough.  We are also going to plant carrots, beets and radishes, but we’ll direct-sow those later, along with more peas.  The boys want watermelon, and I have lots of flowers too.  We’ll find places for it all.  And Moe promised to put two 4x4s up for me so I can plant grapes too.  Fingers crossed that I don’t kill them.

Garden Clean Up

I’m home with a virus today and noticed bugs crawling around my back door. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be lady bugs. I opened the door and found the outside of the house swarming with lady bugs of all colors – yellow, brown, orange and red. Some with spots, and some with no spots.

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I don’t know why they chose today to attack the house, but it may have to do with the beautiful warm sunshine.

Since I was outdoors, I figured a few minutes in the sun might help kill some germs so I did a few minutes of garden maintenance. My husband picked some tomatoes and peppers while I pulled up the frost-killed marigolds, zinnias, and beans. I also took down the trellis and stored it in the garage for next season. There’s still some work to do out there, but there’s no rush to pull up the rest.

It is interesting to note that the straw flowers, calendula and onions are still thriving. I will remember that for next year. There are still tomatoes ripening on the vine, so I left the plants and cages intact. At some point I need to pull the dahlias, but first I need to look up how to store the tubers. I look forward to next year’s garden already.

It’s Alive!

I have to say for the record that the square foot gardening method worked for me. This is the first year ever that I have gotten to the end of August and still had a living, thriving garden. The tomato plants are taller than I am. The dahlias and zinnias did fantastic. The cucumbers, peas, beans, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, radishes, bell peppers, and marigolds all did wonderfully. I will not grow onions or pole beans again, I think. They did poorly.

The family all agrees that the produce from the garden is much, much better than what we get from the store. There have been so many tomatoes that we can’t eat them all. And weeding has been a complete non-event. I have pulled maybe three stray blades of grass from the garden. Overall, I am calling it a win. I might even expand it next year to grow more things. We’ll see.

Now that it is almost September, it is time to put in some cool weather plants. I will do another round of radishes, some lettuce, more peas, and maybe some spinach. I won’t go overboard and will probably confine it all to one square so that I can do some amendment to the soil in the first one. Seriously, guys-I never thought this square foot gardening thing would work out. I’m really pleased with this project.

Green Things and Violin Strings

The garden continues to mostly thrive.  The peas are growing especially well, and taste delightful.  Next year I will have to plant more because I’m eating them before they make it into the house.  The beans and cucumbers are only now starting to take off.  I’m trying to decide if I want to replant the harvested squares with something or just let them go until autumn.  Everything will need a nice thick application of compost as the current mixture appears to be too off balance for certain crops.

 

The boys are wrapping up their school years.  It has certainly been an off year for them both.  Hopefully next year they will find their respective niches.  I don’t remember having nearly as much school-related drama at their ages, but I don’t always remember stuff.  It’s times like these when I wish mom were still with us.  Of course she might not have remembered either because during those years things were pretty rough at home.  Probably the same reason my memory is for shit.

 

I am finally getting some traction in Suzuki book 4.  It appears as if my issues with playing the Seitz concertos may be partially related to my violin’s setup because I can play them just fine on my cheapo camping violin.  Anneliese is due a trip to our friendly luthier to check the tailgut length and bridge & nut height.  I recently gave up my Russian A string in favor of a synthetic core string, which helped a little bit with traction, but there is still some difficulty with higher positions and transitions between the A and E strings indicating that the string height and after length might be off.  My luthier is great.  He’ll know what to do – even if that means telling me I’m full of crap.  LOL!

 

Speaking of strings, I’m still experimenting.  Dominants went off for me in only 4 months and I don’t like their metallic ringing.  Vintage Brilliants sounded wonderful, but my teacher felt they were too loud.  Ametysts are only OK, but my teacher likes them.  My next set will probably be Ambers, and if I don’t like those, I’m not sure which direction to go. There’s Evah Pirazzis, and Passiones, or Obligatos, which are all on the pricey end of the spectrum.  The camping violin has Obligatos, but they are mainly on there to dull the unpleasant overtones of that particular instrument.  Anneliese has a very pleasant warm and sparkling richness that just isn’t responding well to any of the strings I was disposed to like.  Please don’t let my violin prefer Passiones!  I don’t think I could afford them as often as I need to do a string change.

 

Last week, my instructor let me know there will be a group recital this weekend and asked if I wanted to play a solo from one of the earlier books.  I’m unsure whether I will.  On the one hand, I think I need the experience.  On the other hand, one week isn’t long enough in my mind to drag something back up to performance level.  It’s a two-edged blade.  I rarely get the opportunity to play with and for others.  However, because I don’t have those built-in performance opportunities that the children take for granted, I am insecure about the few times that do offer one.  Plus, the recital is made up of children, with the audience made up of their parents.  It seems as if I’m taking the spotlight away from them.  My addition feels like an unwelcome afterthought.  I’m certain it’s not, but that’s how my mind works.

Garden Update

I have been terrible about taking pictures, but thrilled with the garden progress.  The peas are four feet high now with tons of flowers.  The flowers are all white so far, with the exception of one purple and lavender flower.  Yesterday there were just flowers.  Today, half of them are baby pea pods.  I almost can’t wait to eat the peas!  Next year I will plant a ton more.

The beans are still only about six inches high.  They seem to be getting a slow start as they are short and don’t have any flowers yet.  The replanted cucumbers are just about three inches high, but starting to gain some momentum.  The giant cabbage is definitely gaining ground – finally starting to create that tight ball of leaves in the middle.  When we beat the birds to the strawberries, they taste amazing.

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Tonight I harvested all the spinach, half the lettuce, two early onions, and four radishes to make into salads for dinner.  I can’t imagine a salad tasting any better than this one.  There is something about the taste of food that was harvested only 15 minutes ago that is delightfully different.  It tasted alive.

Most of the tomatoes have flowers and one of the romas has begun to set fruit.  The peppers look spindly and weak.  I really don’t have any luck growing those.  One is attempting to flower, but overall, they look pretty terrible.  It makes me crazy that I can’t grow a bell pepper to save my life.  However, we can’t eat the radishes fast enough.  Even though we planted them in stages two weeks apart, we had a week of rain and now they are all ready to eat, and some have split from all the precipitation.  The carrots are wimpy.  Maybe we’ll have better luck with them in the fall.  These just don’t seem to want to grow at all.

As far as flowers go, the zinnias and calendula grown from seed are doing well.  The bought zinnias are stumpy, fry fast, and have a bit of mildew.  Nasturtiums are still small, with just foliage so far.  The dahlias have beautiful leaves but no flowers; but the marigolds make up for them all with simply stellar growth.

I would say that the garden experiment is going well, and I am glad that we decided on the square foot method.  We did end up adding a slow release fertilizer that has made a huge difference.  More compost will be added prior to the next go round.  The mix we made seems to be lacking essential nutrients.

In other news, I only have three plants left to go into the ground.  One is the lilac bush.  Then there is the fuschia peony, and the rosebush the kids got me for mother’s day.  We will be returning the pomegranate tree as it died.

 
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Of Spinach Greens and Other Things

Plants grow so slowly.  I’m not usually an instant gratification sort of person, but I’m eager to see some sort of positive results.  There are some, but nothing nearly as dramatic as I had hoped.  We are 30 days post-sowing for most things, and about half still only have first or second leaves still.  Radishes should be ready by now.  One seems ready to pick.  The majority aren’t even close.  I think I may not have mixed my soil properly, because the spinach has some yellowing on the outer leaves too, and everything seems to be growing much slower and remaining much smaller than I remember from when we used to plant directly into the earth.  I expect the problem is that I underestimated the volume of compost needed.  Now that the plants are in, the only solution I can see is either top dressing, or fertilizing.

In other garden news, the frost did not completely kill those two tomatoes, the two peppers, or the nasturtiums.  They are back!  It took some time for the plants to recover, but they are sending out new shoots and leaves so I have hopes that we will see them mature.  The replanted cucumbers have first leaves now too.  The onions are doing quite well, with only one succumbing to failure so far.

I think I will buy some Miracle Gro; and in the meantime harvest some spinach leaves and that radish for dinner tonight so I don’t feel like such a loser.

Here’s the radish.  Still a bit twee, but tasty!

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The diet is going well and is encouraging me to get creative for meals.  We had fallen into a bit of a rut and keep going back to the old tried and true favorites, which get boring after a while.  Since those don’t work for me right now, I have been trying new recipes, which I make enough of each time to let everyone try.  Saturday night I learned how to make cauliflower breadsticks.  It’s not bread, but they make a great substitute when bread is out of bounds.  Everyone liked them, so it’s something I will make again.  The recipe makes a decent pizza crust too.  I will be trying that next.

Last night I wasn’t as well prepared as I was for the breadsticks.  I ended up Googling for a few ideas with the contents of the pantry in mind.  What we came up with were tuna burgers.  The tuna patties turned out fantastic!  One of the children declared they were good enough to eat, which from an eleven year old translates to a compliment.  The youngest was turned off by the fishy smell.  He ended up pouring himself a bowl of cereal instead.  Can you tell we never serve tuna fish?