Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Gardener's Work Is Never done.

Today I had planned on tilling all the new beds, but I spent half the day emptying and cleaning the refrigerator instead.  Unplanned work, I assure you.

I did manage to go cut more bamboo and construct a trellis for the sugar snap peas and the pole beans.  I went ahead and planted pole beans, again, it may be too early, but I think they'll be fine.  I had planned on planting Nikki, but the seed I ordered in January (and was charged for in January still haven't arrived.)  I won't be ordering from them again, less than half of my order was in the box, and phone calls haven't yet worked.  So, I planted Santa Anna instead.  If the Nikki make it here, I might go ahead and plant another bed so I can try them. 

I trimmed back the hibiscus, but I ran out of energy to haul the trimmings to the curb for pick up.  Maybe tomorrow.

The following pictures are awful, shadowy, poorly composed and poorly lit.  The yard is also a bloody mess, but if this is to document what I'm doing in the garden, I'm going to go with the good the bad and the ugly.  I will hope to show you great improvement in the next few weeks.  Remember, it is only February.  (All photos may be clicked to make them larger)

This is the view from the back door looking west.  You can see the rainbow chard on the left side of that bed.  Carrots have sprouted in the rest of the bed, and cucumbers will go there when it gets warmer.

Here you can still see the chard, now on the right, and three of the new beds.  If you look back into the corner you can see where I have cut back a wisteria and a bougainvillea.  They both where a pain in the ass and planted in the wrong spot.  I am temporarily moving my compost pile to that corner after I dig out the roots.  That spot will eventually be home to flowers and a water feature yet to be determined. 

This is looking back the other way, mostly north.  Don't look at the fence, I'm in the middle of a project with it.  I hope to have it done by the end of spring.  If you look past the birdbath you can see my existing compost area.  I plan on planting Scarlet Runner beans there when I get the fence finished, and I hope they will climb all over it.

 Looking back from the other side of the yard you can see the baby tomatoes in the left foreground, some lettuce behind it and the pea and bean trellises.
 A closer look at the lettuce.

 Baby tomatoes - the bottles of water help them stay warm at night.  I meant to cover them today, but I ran out of time.
 The asparagus peeking up.
 The two beds in the back have what's left of the collards, I will plant summer squash there when it gets warmer.
 Little marvel peas with some nasturtiums coming up in the center.  Radishes in the foreground.
 The lettuce left over from fall.  I will have more in a few weeks.

The potatoes.  As the plants grow I keep covering them with soil until just a few leaves show.  Keep doing this every few days and by the time the containers are full they will be full of potatoes.  This works because potatoes only produce tubers above the original root.

 The tomatoes from the other side.

Friday, February 15, 2013

About The Castle Grounds . . .

Brave Sir Robin has been busy of late.  Let me give you the Reader's Digest Condensed version before getting on with this post.

You know I got married, right? 

I reconnected (via Facebook) with a girl I dated in high school.  She had been living in Miami and was willing to leave paradise and join me in her hometown, (where her parents still live).  So, I have a wonderful wife, whom I have adored for well over thirty something years. I also have wonderful in-laws, (retired school teachers - I had both as teachers.)

I am also now an empty-nester.  Let that one sink in.  The kids are all away to college.  I have a Senior, a Sophomore and a Freshman in College.  Zoe will be 13 in September.  (Zoe lives with her mom, as I'm sure you remember.

So. . . . over the last year or so, we have been gravitating to a more healthy lifestyle.  We read Michael Pollan's book "Food Rules" and sort of casually started following it.  Being a cook, and a gardener, I sort of naturally have always been interested in healthier, more natural food.  We both started losing weight, feeling better, sleeping better, and just generally feeling better.  We then watched "Food Inc.", and "Forks over Knives",   that sort of reinforced our desire to eat real food.  We purged the house of white flour, and pretty much anything processed.  We haven't become full out vegetarians, but we are flirting with it, and rarely eat meat more than one or two meals a week, often we may go a couple of weeks meatless.  The point of all this is that our garden has become much more than a hobby, it has become a very important food source for us. 

I switched to raised beds instead of long rows years ago.  It's way more work up front, but over the long term it makes it much easier to work the bed.  I started with three raised beds over the spot where my original garden was.    I have expanded it bit by bit, until this year I had 9 beds of varying size.  This week I had 7 new beds dug.  I generally  will dig them myself.  I use a shovel to dig out the Saint Augustine and it's root system, about the top 6-8 inches, and then I till and amend like crazy to build about 14" of good friable soil.  We have a very thick black clay soil that doesn't drain well and dries like a brick when it gets hot and dry.  It is a very time consuming process, and the soil being removed has to go somewhere.  I have run out of places to put it, so this year I hired a couple of my wife's students to do the initial digging and to haul off the sod.  I now have 7 new beds to begin the prep work on. That brings me to a total of 16, 17 if you count the little bed I have my rosemary plant in.

My plan is to use the space we have to produce as much of our food as possible.  Our fall garden was very successful and I harvested the last of the kale today.  I still have an abundance of collards, lettuce and rainbow chard left from fall.  A few weeks ago I planted spring peas and followed it up with carrots.  Today I planted early tomatoes and peppers.  I know it's early, but the weather has been warm, sunny and quite beautiful for quite a while now.  I also put in an asparagus patch in a 5' x 5' square that's a bit shadier than the others.  (I put those in a couple of weeks ago and they are already putting on ferns).  Today I planted 4 early girl tomatoes, one Mr. Stripey, one Celebrity, one Florida 91, one Heat Master, one Yellow pear, and one Supersweet 100 cherry tomato.  that's 10 tomatoes on Feb. 15.  We'll see if that was too early or not.  I also planted a pimento pepper and a Big Bertha bell pepper.  I also planted 19 potato slips in containers.  (More on that later)

I plan on using this space to journal my garden and our quest for better food.  I'll work on getting pictures up soon.  I changed computers a while back and I don't have any software loaded on this one yet.

All things in time.