Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The To-Do List

A week of waiting for a baby to be born. A week of neglecting the weeds and the aphids and the fungus. A week of my husband doing 90% of the absolute necessities at barely-dawn hours before work. Its amazing the things that cry for attention at the worst possible times. Here's my as-soon-as-I'm-back-on-my-feet to-do list:

1) All my empty beds in our beautifully expanded garden are COVERED in weeds... and the weeds are now starting to go to seed. I'll be weeding in there all winter.

2) Grass is coming up in the walkways meaning its poked through the weed cloth underneath the mulch. I need to pull it up, cover the main walkway with pallets and add more mulch to the other walkways.

3) Tie up the tomatoes again.

4) Crawl through the watermelons and clip out disease and spray for aphids again.

5) Plant more swiss chard, collards, bok choy and lettuce seeds.

6) Get more compost from our horsie friends.

7) Call the ag extension to find out why it appears as though 2 citrus trees have died.

8) Weed the herb beds and mulch for the 3rd time this summer.

9) Give all the animal waterers a really good scrubbing.

10) Rip out the cowpeas and luffa (and their weeds!), add more compost and sawdust, and cover until ready for planting.

Hopefully nothing else will get added until I can at least cross a couple off the list. Until then, its back to waiting for labor.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Garden Woes

I staggered through morning chores today... and the sight in the garden almost knocked me down completely... 4 tomato plants eaten!!! Not just the leaves, but eaten down to the half inch stalk! What animal (that we have around here) would get over a 2' woven wire fence to eat fibrous foliage? Coons get over anything, but they don't eat foliage. The rabbits can't get over the fence. Same for the gopher tortoises. We've seen deer out a lot on the highway, but I've never thought of one coming this close into town. No damage to the fence either. Its baffling. Guess its time to get the hubby to... ahem... add an extra measure to the fencing. Too bad its in the front yard. For those who don't know, urine is a fabulous barrier... it just washes away a lot quicker than a fence does!

Still waiting for the baby. Gonna go curl up for a nap and pray he comes this evening.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Last Days of Summer

Its the last days of summer. I got the okra ripped out and covered that little bed with a tarp for weed control since it will be quite a while before anything else is in there. I let several pods go to seed from the last remaining plant that was producing. I've got plenty of seed for next year, but will probably still buy some just to make sure at least some is pure.

I've looked high and low for more black garden plastic and everyone just says, "That's supposed to be bad to use." Well... it works! Don't know what's bad about it. Sure it heats up the dirt, but that needs to happen to kill the nematodes. It heats up plant roots too so you need to be careful with it, but nothing else is going to remotely control weeds. I had to laugh one day when I was reading in a magazine about people starting a new garden. The "expert" suggested to take a shovel full of sod and simply turn it upside down. The roots dry up in the sun and the grass decomposes and fertilizes the dirt. Right! Our grass would thank us for the respite from the sun and be all the stronger for it! That's like saying boiling water kills weeds and their seeds in sidewalk cracks all season. Doesn't even wilt them! I'd like to see these "experts" and their gardens and see if they know how ridiculous their claims are.

Anyway, I'm done with my tirade. We also picked a few luffa sponges, peeled them, cleaned them and deseeded them. Its a fun little novelty. I don't know if we'll do it again. I guess it depends on the kids and if we have room for it. If I'm doing a second round of planting for okra, cowpeas and yard long beans, I just may not have space for frivolities. But then again, if a pretty little farmer girl asks to plant some luffa, I just may not have the heart to say no.

The cucumbers are being utterly destroyed by an unknown enemy. They lay black eggs in clumps on the leaves. In ripping out a couple decimated plants, I noticed clumps of green eggs and what may have been tiny little mites all over the ground as well. I sprayed some yesterday and did a very thorough job today, also including the watermelons who are still battling aphids and this fungus. I noticed those black eggs on the watermelon leaves this morning. Very frustrating. I need to be watching everything like a hawk just when I'm about to give birth. My husband, while very much a trooper and loves the gardening rewards, is just not as familiar with danger signs. He'll be taking over the "farm" for a few days, but somethings may still my hand... or we just let it go and see what happens.

On the upside, all varieties of everything has sprouted at least some. Pretty low showing for the lettuces, but it has still been a bit warm for them. I'm thankful to see that the turnips haven't taken off and will probably be able to hold out in my tiny cups until I and the littlest one are fully recovered. It seems the broccoli, bok choy, swiss chard and collard greens that I have been babying for the last couple weeks will make it. I haven't lost any more in almost a week. We were able to have a small portion of collards this past week from the first round I planted. They were really tasty! But it may just have been that it wasn't okra that made them so good!

In the wee hours of morning on a sleepless night, I perused our seed catalogues with our spring garden in mind. While I found some good stuff, I think I'm still going to have to employ yet more companies to get all that I want. The majority will come from Baker Creek and Southern Exposure, but I do have some things for Johnny Seeds and it looks like Tomato Growers Supply and Evergreen Seeds will be tacked on too. I'm such a one stop shopper... even when dealing online! It will be nice when we have the bulk of our varieties determined and can save our own seeds and end the experimentation. But then again, I was a science major... experimentation is what I do best. I just want 100% success with each experiment!

I'm also planning on adding a little ornamental garden to the property. I haven't decided where yet, or even how big. I just want something where I can cut pretty flowers and have them spruce up inside the house too. That was probably the most fun part of looking through seed catalogues. I've never looked in the ornamental sections before! I'm hoping to get this in come spring, but that may be a bit ambitious. My to-do list is already growing and that's without a third child to love and care for!

And finally, we're still on a mad rage against something that is starting to really damage our citrus trees. Our trees were finally starting to grow this year, but then we got this "thing". And of course I've found it in no book nor online. It crinkles all the new growth, pales it to yellow and drops it off leaving dried, dead branches. About 2 months ago I started a weekly regimen of picking all affected leaves and spraying with a neem/soap solution. It's keeping them at bay, but at least one of the trees is really looking sad now. Its our tallest (about 5') with about 20 leaves left on it. It seems as soon as they start to grow some, this thing moves in and destroys the new growth and bit of the old as well. I don't know what else to do.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fall Garden Update

The temps have noticeably cooled down though I can still say its hot in the afternoon. Mornings are quite pleasant though. The afternoons have not cooled quite enough to forgo afternoon waterings of tender transplants... I seem to be learning that the hard way this year.

I fertilize weekly and the first Monday of every month I add a dry fertilizer. I prefer GardenTone by Espoma, but I've had to special order a big bag and it not in yet so I've been using Organics Choice. I ran out about 3/4ths of the way through so I did the rest in Sea Tea and made another batch of compost tea. I'm considering using compost tea twice a week instead, or maybe experimenting a bit to find out just what I need to do for abundant tasty veggies.

I strung up some neon orange plastic fencing... you know, the stuff that they use on construction sites. We managed to come by a large amount of it for free so of course we'll find a use for it. Right now its holding up our tomato plants. It looks a bit ghetto, but in time the tomatoes will swamp the neon orange and hopefully look a little less... well... ghetto.

I had also noticed, without any careful inspection, a dry and wilted patch in the watermelons a couple days ago. I did some research as it didn't look like anything we'd encountered before. Well, turns out its what we battle every season- aphids. That's the good news. They're fairly easy to control. The bad news is that they are only going after the undersides of the leaves making them difficult to find and time consuming to spray.

Sweet Chocolate bell peppers are beginning to flower. I did a third round of seeds on the Charleston Belles where I had such horrible germination. This time they did great so now I'm swimming in plants. I stuck one in a topsy turvy (where I had to evict 4 frogs that had taken up residence). I have had very poor production in the topsy turvies (upside down tomato pots), but am going to give them another go. I think part of it is too little light and part is never being able to tell if it needs water. More of my excess peppers are in other pots. I've heard peppers do better in pots than straight in the ground so I also have 2 buried pots (one of each variety) in the bed with the rest of them. They were transplanted later so it will be a while before I can adequately compare them.

I planted my first round of September seeds on Friday. Lots of turnips, a few cabbages, a small showing of broccoli and some dill are already sprouted. Got brussels sprouts, tomatoes, sage, and 2 varieties of lettuce waiting to pop. I expect these to sit in cups until I'm "back to action" after birth. Though I'm wondering now if, the turnips especially, will be far too big in less than 2 weeks. I just may be planting while in labor. Guess that beats endless walks up and down the street.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another attempt

I've noticed a couple laying hens acting a bit broody lately. So, I decided to give hatching eggs another whirl. I snagged 2 buff chickens (buff rocks, I think... they were given to us by people who didn't know the breed) and a barred rock in a pen with a golden nugget rooster (golden nuggets are the laying breed from S and G Poultry). I'm trying to think of what would suffice for a suitable nest box. I'm open to suggestions. It needs to be able to hold up with moisture yet be more stable and secure than our empty kitty litter containers that we use now. I figure I'll give them about a week where I still collect the eggs as they may not have begun to be fertilized yet. Then I'll leave them all in the nest box and hope they don't fight over who gets to sit on them. Once they're being set, I'll remove the rooster and probably the barred rock hen, leaving just 2 hens... to keep each other company. I'll leave them in there even after hatching and we'll see how they do.

This is a major experiment for us, but I think its worth it.