|The rabbits' salad bowls filled with foraged greens|
from the property (weeds) and baby carrots that
were on sale at Aldi so they got a treat that week.
|A raised bed of crimson clover.|
I decided the best way to introduce the gardens, without going into a lot of details that I plan to cover in subsequent blogs is to give you a verbal, virtual tour as if we are taking a walk around the property and I am pointing out the gardens to you. I have also included a visual aid, as I was planning out our extensions this year I re-acquainted myself with an old friend - my graphics design program - to create layouts of each garden and I am also including links to PDFs of the schematic I created for each garden.
View Kitchen Garden PDF
|A typical 'path' to the gardens.|
Here we are at the first garden, we call it the kitchen garden. We originally named it the south garden, because it is on the south side of the house, but a couple years ago we added in the garden that is a little farther south down the slope. We considered calling that one the south-south garden but thought it might be confusing, and I liked the idea of having a 'kitchen garden'. Technically, this garden is not outside the kitchen door like the term usually refers to, but the kitchen window over the sink does overlook this garden. By the way, we now no longer have a south garden because we started calling the other garden the 'bottom garden' because the original section was at the bottom of the slope going down towards the road.
|East half of the Kitchen Garden|
|West half of the Kitchen Garden|
There are also a couple of tires in this garden. Some people frown at using tires for container gardening but I have never come across anything in my research to prove there is any harm in using them and they work great for vegetables like squash and pumpkins. Since you usually plant these types of seeds in 'hills' rather than rows, I consider each tire to be a hill. I place them along the fence line for trellising. I just planted a pumpkin in one of the tires, I don't even know what kind it is because it was given to me by a barista at a coffee shop we frequent. She grew it from seed but did not know if it was a pie pumpkin or not. But is does have a name, in fact other than the Seven Dwarfs (see my last blog) this is the only plant in the gardens that has a name. The pot the pumpkin came in was labeled 'Basil' so he is Basil the pumpkin.
The other tire has one of our ubiquitous luffa gourds. The first year of gardening I grew these on a whim. I had always thought luffas were sponges until I saw the seed packet for luffa gourds. That fall as I peeled the dried gourds, shook out the seeds and cut the fiberous gourd into hand sized 'sponges' I was hooked and I grow them every year. Last year we discovered the rabbits absolutely love to eat the luffa leaves, blossoms, vines and immature (2-3 inch) gourds, so this year we have tripled the number of luffas and hope to have them vining along the fence lines of all the gardens. They also blossom all season long and attract lots of pollinators so the honey bees should appreciate them, too.
All that is left to see in this garden are the tomatoes. The eight extra-large planters on the southern fence line have Amish Paste tomatoes. When I started looking for tomato varieties, I wanted determinates as I planned to can all that we harvested. Determinate varieties set all their fruit within a short time span while indeterminate strains spread their production out over the entire growing season. Amish Paste are actually inderteminates, but that is no longer a factor to me as I mostly dehydrate my tomatoes now. It is actually a plus that I do not have to process them all at once and these are a very meaty tomato that remind me of an overgrown Roma. The extra-large planters will hold two 5-gallon buckets of dirt. Many people grow tomatoes in 5-gallon buckets so this year I have doubled up my tomatoes in a few of these containers as another experiment. Well okay, I had more tomatoes than containers so I created another experiment, five Amish Paste are planted individually and six are doubled up in three planters.
Right next to the deck we have our second variety of tomato, Mariglobes. Five of these are planted in large planters which hold about a 5-gallon bucket worth of dirt and then another four are planted in half of a plastic 55-gallon drum that sits in the back corner of the garden. I will not call this an experiment, I just had way more tomatoes than expected thrive through my seed starting process this year. Without grow lights, I am always rotating my seedlings into my south facing window during the day for light and then move them over by the wood burner at night to keep them warm. I start more seeds than I plan to plant knowing I will loose some before it's time to move them outside.
Now on to the Bottom Garden, it's just a little ways down the hill but watch you step. There are a few big rocks along the path I could not dig up, I call these the icebergs - they may look like just a little pointed rock sticking up out of the path, but once I started trying to pry them up with a crow bar or the 6-foot pry bar. If they look to be larger than a bowling ball they are allowed to stay.
View Bottom Garden PDF
|The newest extension to the Bottom Garden.|
You can see the water tank for the shed roof
on the slope above the garden.
I forgot to show you our watering system in the kitchen garden. We use the water from our main tanks which are pressurized. We also treat that water so I always make sure not to water the kitchen garden for about 24 hours after Alan adds the chlorine powder to the tanks. If need be, I can always carry a bit of water up from the bottom garden in 5-gallon buckets if something up there needs watered right after the main tanks hve been treated because we never treat the tank connected to the bottom garden hoses.
|This is the rhubarb I started from seed.|
|The cutting I took from the healthy black current plant|
and transplanted to the pot on the right.
|Grapes getting ready to blossom|
|The raised bed in the foreground are two types of beans.|
The cattle panel fence is the grape trellis and behind that
are elderberries. The pots on the right are the black currents.
That raised bed at the bottom of the garden was just filled with dirt a couple days ago. I turned it into a second bed of ground cherries because our little granddaughter loves ground cherries. Last year I mailed her a package of them and also made her a ground cherry pie at Thanksgiving. So now that bed has been dubbed "Hanna's Ground Cherries".
|This view is from up in the 'ell' extension we added to the Bottom Garden.|
As everything grows, I will include more detailed photos in my updates.
Right now, many would be just dirt and I wanted to give an overview.
These three pots over by the St. Pierre tomatoes have cayenne peppers. I plant cayennes every year, not because we use a lot of them but because I like how they look growing in the garden and also how they look dried whole and stored in glass jars. They make a nice gift. The favorite way I have used them is adding a few flakes to my pickled pineapple chunks that I can - yummy!
The tires over by the rhubarb have a new squash for this year called Trombocini. This one piqued my interest because it can be harvested as a summer squash and a winter squash. I have not found a summer squash that I like, and you can image how Alan feels about them (he claims to be chlorophyll intolerant, remember) but reviews say this one tastes better than zucchini. The reviews as a winter squash are not as glowing, but if it can't compete with my candy roasters - I am always looking for more rabbit food. And if the rabbits don't like it (they can be picky eaters), well some experiments are bound to fail.
|Spinach starting to go to seed.|
I skipped pointing out a few of the tires, some have luffas, of course, and a couple have tomatoes as an 'experiment' because I ran out of large pots and I have never tried planting tomatoes in tires. I have one tire in which a monster resides. I have transplanted luffa plants into this tire several times and each time I came out the next day and at least one of the plants was completely gone. The ground was not disturbed, it was not dug up, there was no sign of a stem or leaves - it was completely gone. No sign it had ever been planted. If one remained, it disappeared without a trace by the next morning. After this happened three times, I decided to plant two tomatoes in that tire instead. As I planted them I did find the remains of a luffa stem just below ground level so something was breaking or chewing them off very cleanly just below the dirt and then either removing or devouring them. Anyway, the next morning I came out and one tomato plant was gone. To date, about a week has gone by and the other tomato is still there. I guess the monster decided it doesn't like tomatoes. I have now extended my experiments to include the monster and I have planted some luffa seeds in the tire to see if the monster will allow them to sprout.
Okay, if you're not tired of the gardens yet we can head to the other side of the house to the North Garden, it won't take long, I promise. We can stop and say Hi! to the bunnies on the way. We can grab some of that spinach and kale because they are always looking for greens if we go into the rabbitry.
View North Garden PDF
|East side of the North Garden|
The first thing you will probably notice is our Seven Dwarfs, the dwarf fruit trees we planted this spring. Six of them have leafed out and seem to be doing well. One, the bartlett pear, is still dormant and we are starting to fear it may not be viable. He has been dubbed Sleepy. Other than the trees, most of this garden is raised beds and here is a rundown of what is currently in them:
|West side of the North Garden|
Red Salad Bowl Lettuce
Red Russian Kale
Teddy Bear Sunflowers
Green Oakleaf Lettuce
Black Beauty Zucchini
There are also luffas in this garden and a new winter squash I am trying called 'Sweet Meat'. While I rave about my Candy Roaster Squash, I always like to have a second variety to fall back on in case one should have a bad year, another self-reliance contingency.
Well, that is where the gardens stand for now. I still have a few empty raised beds and smaller pots that are still available for planting. My plans are to add some marigolds and zinnias. The marigolds are critter inhibitors when I place the pots around the edges of the gardens and both types of flowers are treats for the rabbits. Come on back in a few weeks and I will let you know how we filled the rest of the beds and show you how everything else is doing.
I have certainly enjoyed this garden tour. It is the first time I have spent so much time in the gardens in April without a single tic, chigger or mosquito bite!