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Showing posts from February, 2012

2012 Master Plan: The Driveway Quadrant

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Here we are … the plans for the final quadrant! This section is close to the house and to the right, near the gate to the driveway. The path on the left is the central brick path; the path on the right leads to the garage and workshop.

To the far left, a long, skinny row along the brick path will be trellised cucumbers. The section below the gravel entry path will be for pickling; the section above for salads. Behind the pickling cucumbers will be tomatillos. We planted these together at the Red House and it worked well. Behind the salad cucumbers will be mustard plants. These are going out kind of late (in May), but they are mostly for mustard seeds and not for greens (although we'll pick some greens while they are still young and tender to add to salads). We grew mustard and harvested seeds before at the Red House, but did not have time to process them before we moved, so we ended up chalking that up as a loss. We are looking forward to trying again!
Along the bottom row are se…

2012 Master Plan: The Workshop Quadrant

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This quadrant is at the far end of the garden from the house, on the right side when looking out the back door. The brick path that runs along its right side goes from the house to the workshop. Like its mirror image to the left of the center brick path, this quadrant also has grapes and herbs running along the back bed that borders the lawn. 

In the bed that runs up and down along the left side, we marked off five foot long areas. Instead of planting different vegetables in each area, we are using the areas for succession plantings of the same items at different times. In each five-foot section will be carrots, radishes, lettuce, beets, Swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, radicchio, and arugula. These will be planted in 6-inch wide rows (our favorites will be doubled up) that go across the bed the short way — another pretty intensive planting. These plants will be sown directly in the first section on April 14, then again every two weeks until the last sowing on May 26 (that's a hal…

2012 Master Plan: The Swingset Quadrant

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As the garden planning went on, we moved our operations into the dining room, where we had much more room to spread out:

This photo makes this process look neat and orderly, but behind the table on a bench is a much messier stack of catalogues, reference books, and scraps of graphs paper and lists that you can't see here.
Anyway, the next quadrant is the one closest to the kids' swingset. It is far from the house and to the left when looking out the kitchen door. As described in earlier posts, this quadrant has asparagus in the long bed to the left, and has grapes and herbs in the long bed across the back (or top, in this view):

The new areas are the annual vegetables. Starting at the bed toward the front (bottom), are 52 Roma tomatoes: Monica and Bellstar. These plants are bush varieties, so they take up more room than the vines that we will trellis. They will also ripen at more or less the same time, which is useful for making large amounts of sauce to can, sun dried tomato…

Ordering Day-Old Chicks

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Based on laying ability, cold hardiness, and personality (docile and friendly!), we picked our chicks today. Because we live in a city, we can't have a giant flock, but we were able to order a small number of chickens from My Pet Chicken. The best part is that we are able to mix and match varieties, and although the shipping is expensive to keep such a small group of chicks warm and on the road for as little time as possible, it's well worth it to have a manageable (and legal) flock for our yard.

Below are photos of the varieties we chose (one of each). These are obviously not our chicks. We will get ours the week of April vacation, just a day after they hatch, and they will be tiny balls of fluff. These photos are just samples of what they'll look like as they mature.


Red Star

Barred Rock

Rhode Island Red

Easter Egger
I suppose this post is a classic example of counting one's chickens before they hatch, but we are pretty excited to get them started!

2012 Master Plan: The Patio Quadrant

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It's here! We finished the garden plans last weekend, but I'm just now getting around to writing about it. It was a long and sometimes frustrating process to take crop rotation and seasonal sowing into account, but I think we finally have everything under control. These are big grids, made by taping four pieces of graph paper together. One square is 6 inches. Here is the patio quadrant:


This section is, when looking out the kitchen door, to the left and nearest the house. As discussed before, the far left bed of this quadrant contains the strawberries (although as only 1/4 of that area will be planted out this spring, there is also plenty of space for an extra-early, experimental cold frame of salad greens that we'll plant this coming weekend if the weather is good. It has been far too mild a winter to pass up a chance at some early veggies!). Across the bottom are the other perennials, including (from the center outward) lavender, rhubarb, and roses.

Along the right side…

Sprouts!

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Less than three full days after planting, our broccoli and cabbage seeds are sprouting!


This is excellent news. We don't have our seed tray on a heated mat or anything, but it looks like it is plenty warm enough in the house to get them started (at least these cool-weather guys!). They also get lots of direct sunlight on the porch:


With all the shades pulled wide open, there is direct sunlight in here (barring the 20 minutes it's in that little shadow you see) for just about as long as the sun is up, because this room is lit from the east, south, and west. That is an excellent feature of this house. At the Red House we didn't have such big windows, and the way the house was oriented on the lot, we were always struggling to get enough sunlight in a lot of places (indoors or out). Hopefully this will be enough to get these seedlings off to a good start!

Update

I originally posted the bit above this morning. Now it is afternoon, and it is a sunny 55 degrees. The kids are play…

Seed Starting

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It's time to plant some seeds! Part of the gardenplanning that we have been working on (and finished this weekend, by the way — more on that later) involves noting when to start seeds and/or set out plants of each type of vegetable we are growing. A great resource for this is Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening, which has a handy chart of when to start everything in relation to your last frost date. After we had everything plotted out on the graph paper plans, we added planting to dates to our family iCal (I am a huge fan of this, since one of us can update something and the other can see it on his or her iPhone almost instantly). This will allow us to check planting dates easily from year to year since we'll have a record of it, and I also set up the alerts to remind us the Friday before of what we need so that we can run and get any seeds or supplies before Saturday morning rolls around. Hooray for technology!

Anyway, this weekend is 12 weeks before our frost-free d…

Orchard Maintenance

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Since we are in the midst of yet another mild winter weekend, we took the opportunity to go out and prune our fruit trees for the year. Late winter or early spring is the time to do it, so we are right on schedule with this annual task. Young trees that aren't bearing fruit yet don't need much, and this is all we ended up cutting this year from the 10 little trees in front of the house:


On the left are branches from the peaches and nectarines; on the right are the very few apple branches we pruned this year. The only branches that we cut were ones that were crossed, a few water sprouts, and one or two on our biggest peach tree (the Reliance) that were ready to be headed back a bit. This summer will be the third season for most of the trees in our orchard, so we are hopeful about having some fruit this year. Here is a look at a few of our trees, post-pruning:


Our big Reliance peach is probably the most likely to bear fruit this season, and the one that got most of the pruning …

Garden Planning 2012: The Snacking Bed

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Now that all of our perennials have (proposed) homes and have been ordered, over the weekend we turned our attention to figuring out where all the annual garden veggies should go. This is a big, big job. I guess that's our own fault, since we went and created this big, big garden and all.

But it's more than just size. We also need to consider crop rotation for future seasons, and saving space to sow a fall crop. We also need to think about which vegetables to trellis and where they should go to avoid shading out others. We're also still working on fine-tuning how many of each vegetable we need to try to get through a whole year (by eating fresh and having enough to preserve for the winter months). Whew.

That last bit about how much of each to grow will take several seasons of experimentation to figure out, but the rest of it we are trying to manage from the get-go. The trellising adds the third dimension of height to consider, and then the fall/winter garden and crop rota…

Rosa Mundi

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Now that we have the plan in place for where all of the perennials will go in the vegetable garden, I was able to spend some time this week researching roses. As detailed here, we need two rose bushes for the beds near the patio, and they need to fit in a 4x4 foot space and bear hips for making things like sauces and jams.

In general, we already knew that the best roses for hips and fragrance would be old garden roses rather than the newer hybrids that you see in a florist's shop. Further research suggested that the tastiest hips would be from rosa rugosa plants, but those are so tough that they grow to more more of a hedge size — possibly 6 to 10 feet! So that's obviously too big for the space, and we had to rule it out.

Rosa officinalis is another old variety suggested for scent and herbal uses. It is also known as the apothecary's rose — in general, any plant variety with officinalis after its name is a classic for herbal use, because the officinalis designates it as ha…

Plotting the Perennials: Asparagus

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Last but not least in our planning of where to put our perennials fruits and veggies: asparagus! As we have seen with some of the other perennial fruits and herbs, each time something gets moved around on the plan, it forces a whole series of plan changes. Kind of like veggie chess.

Our original plan was to have a long bed of asparagus on the outside edge of the patio quadrant, which would make (in the summer, anyway) a nice ferny screen to block the boring view of the fence. But that spot is now taken up by the strawberries, so we had to find another place:


We decided to move them back towards the lawn, running along the same line as the strawberries, but in the rear quadrant (in the photo they are to the far left). Because we decided on a hybrid variety of asparagus (Jersey Supreme, which we will order from Johnny's Selected Seeds), there will be more spears per plant, and we won't need to plant as many for the same yield. That allows us to leave the end of that bed open f…

Plotting the Perennials: Strawberries and Friends

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The more things we got settled into place with the perennial planning on Sunday, the more changes we had to deal with. The tricky part about things like berry bushes and grapes is that once you plant them, that's where they need to stay. Forever. So we really didn't want to rush.

Once we got the grapes and herb combinations figured out, we were left with some (imaginary, as yet unplanted) displaced strawberries. As you may recall, we thought they would be in the same bed as the grapes, but that was not a viable combination.

We knew we wanted another big, long bed for them (the side of one quadrant, somewhere), but we didn't want to take any of the long stretches down the center paths. We think that (in the future) the beds along the brick paths will be ideal for a strong-but-portable greenhouse structure--preferably one we can walk into, but still break down in the summer and rotate around to different areas each fall. That's another tall order, and something we don&#…

Plotting the Perennials: Grapes and Friends

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After solidifying our plans for the berry beds yesterday, we moved on to the next easiest step: choosing the grapes.

We have known for some time that we wanted grapes to run along the back of the garden to make a sort of natural, visual fence between the garden beds and the lawn beyond. We also plan to put in an arbor at the end of the path that will form a doorway by which to enter the lawn. You'll have to use your imagination to envision a line of grapes in the last horizontal beds and an arbor over the path where it ends. You'll also have to imagine grass, since this is a pretty old photo:


I'm so used to imagining this that it seems like it's kind of already there, but you may not be able to see it just yet. I guess that's ok. If you have a good imagination, you might even picture mature grapevines going up an over a rounded arbor that covers some benches on either side of the center path's doorway. Something like we saw over the summer in Philadelphia some…

Plotting the Perennials: The Berry Beds

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Today, after a month or so hiatus from gardening, we broke out all of our graph paper, catalogues, and reference books to begin planning for the 2012 garden: 

We already had four giant (1 square = 6 inches of planting area) graphs drawn out and ready to go from last summer — one graph for each quadrant of the garden. That was pretty overwhelming, so we started with the easiest thing: planning the berry beds that are off to the side. Back in October we built them, filled them with dirt, and added sulfur to acidify the beds that will be for blueberries and cranberries. This is what they look like today, in their finished state:

To the left is the raspberry bed. Down the center of this 22-foot long bed will be 8 plantings of raspberries: three Latham (a red, midsummer raspberry), three Fall Red (an everbearer from UNH that will produce in summer and again throughout the fall), one Allen (a black raspberry), and one Bristol (another black raspberry). We had great luck at the Red House wi…