Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Home and Garden

December 29, 2009

I have been working on a 200 foot walkway that will wind it's way through the middle of the orchard. So far I have removed two tree stumps, laid out the shape of the walkway, and started on the brick edging. I have also tilled up a two foot wide garden bed on either side and planted 200 tulips.
Meanwhile, I have started seeds in my portable greenhouse that will hopefully grow into beautiful herbs that will fill up the sides of the walkway.

Now, I know what you are saying. "You crazy wanna-be farmer...it is too early to start seeds, it won't work. It is the end of December for heavens sake!" Well, that is true for many plants but not for herbs. They can be started at any time of the year and transplanted as soon as hardened off. So, my hope is to have many plants of basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, bee balm, sage and chives to transplant in the spring. I have ordered a beautiful wildflower mix that will be sown in the spring as well. I hope between the herbs, wildflowers and tulips I will get a good head start on filling up the space along the walkway.

I have also purchased 4 more fruit trees for the orchard. Two peach and two pear trees. That brings me up to 20 fruit trees.

I've rescued about 20 5 gallon pots worth of honeysuckle from behind the house to transplant in the orchard area. We are going to clear out the area behind the house and I did not want all the honeysuckle to go to waste. I will make topiaries out of many of them and maybe some arches to go over the walkway.

I am going to continue to attack as many stumps as I can to get them out of the way until we can rent a backhoe to dig up the rest. I hope that by spring the orchard will look more like an orchard and less like a barren wasteland.

I better stock up on Aleave.

November 17

I found these images while googling information about moss. I think this is just so neat. I would love to something like this around my flower gardens. Not a face or a an ogre looking weirdo but something ornate and beautiful. I am thinking of combining stained glass, flowers, grass and moss to create something amazing. I just don't know what it is yet. Sounds goofy and crazy but most of my projects start out that way. Usually, creativity and OCD take over and I end up loving the results. Here is where you come in, I need ideas of what to do. Should I create an abstract mosaic-like patterned design? Should I make a hedge-like wall framing the path out to the orchard? Should I create subtle animals tucked in here and there like frogs, snakes or butterflies hidden amongst the flowers? Sitting areas? Hmmmm..... What would you do? Scroll to the bottom of this section (I know, it's a long way down but I need help) leave me your ideas and I will have a goody for one lucky person with a cool idea.


The Garden or Lack Thereof.

It is the end of the season. I have harvested pretty much everything I can. I still have a few plants that are producing here and there. The okra is still going. Okra flowers are so beautiful. I have considered planting them in the flower garden just because I like them so much.
Also, my cayenne and jalapeno peppers are still producing as well as the brussels sprouts.

All in all I had a pretty good harvest this year. I was able to put up quite a bit of food and I learned a lot about Alabama gardening.

I wanted to plant a fall and winter garden as well but reality has kicked in and it is just not a feasible option at this point. Homeschooling, working around the property, farm animals and and daily life just is not going to allow that be possible.

Instead, I will record my results from this year, learn from the many mistakes I have made and start to plan my spring garden. I think I will be much more realistic and not quite so ambitious next year. We are going to fence off the garden and let the pigs in to clean up. They will eat the scraps, fertilize and naturally till up the garden for me so it will be ready to plant in the spring.

Plus, save my back from all the work.
Hey, I need all the help I can get.

I. Love. Polyurethane.

I went a little nuts with the poly the last few weeks. Maybe it was the fumes. Or maybe it was the pretty shine and bright colors that put me in a OCD poly painting trance.

Above is what my living room floor looked like before. Nice but it bothered me that it always looked like there was a layer of dust on the floor. I also did not like knowing that there were all these beautiful colors hiding and just waiting to be discovered. They were just waiting for their chance to shine.

This is after. Just look at all the beautiful hues. The floor looks clean and shiny. I like shiny. A floor can be shiny and not be clean but it looks like it is. Such a brilliant deception. I need all the help I can get.

Here is another way to compare. The top row of tiles have not been poly'd. The bottom row has been. Do you see why I am in love with my floors now? Polyurethane is a good thing.

The bathroom was not even spared. Closets too. I think I have a real problem. Someone should come and take my poly away before I start on the walls.

I found these wildflowers on the property this weekend. They look exactly like snapdragons but 1,000 times bigger. Aren't they just beautiful? Well, I dug them up and transplanted them in the garden on the North side of the house.

The only thing I like better than flowers is free flowers.

Oh, and pay no attention to the tall grass. My weed eater is on strike at the moment.

August 8, 2009

Today, I took the kids to a local garden center that has a walk through garden. They have beautiful trees and flowers there and I was hoping to get some good pictures of the kiddos. Well, that idea fell flat fast so I just took pictures of the garden. I also took note of what I liked and was inspired to do some of the same things for the shade gardens I would like to create.

The first thing we saw upon entering the garden was this heron. I love herons. They are elegant, beautiful and graceful. Everything I'm not. lol.
There is a ton of Spanish moss on a lot of the trees. I think it is beautiful. Lots of people don't though.

The boys found an earthworm under a rock. They wanted to throw it in the pond. Lexie did her best to protect it but the worm ended up severed and thrown in the flowers. Boys......sigh...

We found this beautiful spider and its enormous web. I have one of these in my garden at home as well. Is it an orb spider? I will have to look it up.

We had a nice time but the children became hot and sweaty quickly. Not the best conditions for pictures. I'll have to do it in early morning when the sweat won't ruin the shot.

July 20, 2009


So, I have been neglecting my compost.
My to do list has been long and the compost has been at the bottom of it.
I have been doing drive- bys. I admit it. Dumping and running.

I have not mixed the compost in over a month. Okay, that is a lie, almost two months.
I am hanging my head in shame at this very moment.
Things are growing in the compost and out.

This vine started growing a while back. I noticed it but could not be bothered to take care of it. I was not so sure what it was at first. Well, now it has grown all around the compost bin.

I investigated a little further yesterday and this is what I found.
Do you see it? Right there in the middle?Now can you see it? Right by my big ol' foot? Yes, my friends, it is a cantaloupe. It would seem this lush, bushy, very long vine is just plum full of cantaloupes. I grew a melon patch without even trying to. Sometimes neglect is good.

July 12, 2009

Monster Cuke...

This year, just for fun, I thought I would grow yard long cucumbers. These really do grow to 3 feet. I have not been letting most of them get that big because I want to pickle them. The skin does get a little tough when they are really big but the flesh is exactly the same as a small cucumber. I have a lot of these growing. I really need some good cucumber recipes. Anyone? Anyone?

The kids thought this cuke was amazing and I should enter it in the fair. That's okay. I think we'll just eat it. I think we will definitely have a years supply of pickles with these guys.

June 26, 2009

Garden Confessions
My corn had ear worms...and ants
(my home-made spray got rid of them)
I left my beans on the plant way too long.
(Had to cook them extra long and can them)

I have been battling grasshoppers and some weird beetle
things that mate a lot.
(I stomp on them and squish them in my hands)
I know....gross.

I did not thin out my radishes.
(Radishes? I planted radishes?)

I have weeds.
(But, they are under control. I think.)

I feel better now.

June 26, 2009

Cucumber Supports

While my friend Ann was here, she told me about some cucumber supports she made for her garden. It was such a good idea, I stole it and thought I would share it with you as well.

She took some shelves from a portable greenhouse and made a trellis out of them. The shelves are made of wire and have about a 4 inch or so wide space between each wire. The spaces allow the cucumber to fall through so it hangs while it grows. This is supposed to help with getting the right shape out of the cucumber and makes them easier to care for and weed around.

She put one end on the ground next to the plant then supported the other with two garden stakes. The cucumber plant is then put on the trellis (If they are already good and growing like mine) or the newly sprouted plant will climb up the trellis with a little coaxing if necessary. If you have mature plants just be careful to gently move and trellis them so you don't damage the plant. Also, water really well after to help them recover. Ann suggested growing lettuce or some other shade loving plant underneath the cucumbers. Great idea!

Well, I had a few of those shelves myself, so I did use those but I needed many more. I have a lot of cucumber plants. So, I improvised. I used chicken wire, garden stakes, and beanpoles. I cut the chicken wire to the height of the stakes. I threaded the poles through each end and through the middle. Then, like Ann, I put one end on the ground by the plant and supported the other end with stakes so the trellis is at an angle. Last, I tied the supports to the stakes. Yep, looks kind of ghetto but that's okay. I really like how it supports the plant, gets it off the ground and creates more space to grow something else.

Thanks Ann!

June 11, 2009

Quick Garden update....

Everything is growing like crazy. I am picking summer squash every few days. Peas/beans every day. Cucumbers a few times a week. The tomatoes are plentiful and growing really well.
The corn is growing fast and is trying to pollinate right now.
It is also putting out silk. So pretty.

I am still working on planting herbs and flowers. I have had the hardest time finishing planting these. There are just so many hours in the day. I just do what I can, when I can. I really need to get this done to help with pests in the garden. I have a lot of grasshoppers in there. I am making an organic spray to repel these pests and I step on every on I see with seething vengeance. Even the baby ones. No mercy.

Remember these tiny sunflower seedlings my daughter and her friend
They are taller than her now.

The grasshoppers are getting my cauliflower and broccoli. I am not a happy camper. I hope to decrease their numbers dramatically. I have a great organic recipe for bug destruction. Recipe to follow....
See the holes in my leaves? I hate grasshoppers.

The following recipe makes a CONCENTRATED mix.

First, you'll need:

3 ounces minced garlic

2 teaspoons mineral oil
(The only kind I could find was with the laxatives. I was embarrassed to buy this because it says NATURAL LAXATIVE in huge letters all across the bottle. I could only imagine what the sales clerk thought as I was purchasing two big bottles of the stuff)

Soak the garlic in the mineral oil for at least 24 hours.

Sing the Jeopardy theme song while you wait.


Mix in a glass jar:
Garlic and mineral oil mixture
1 ounce of dish washing liquid
1 pint of water

Store this in the glass jar until ready to use.

When ready to use, mix 2 Tablespoons of concentrated garlic mix to 1 pint of water
in a spray bottle.

Test on leaf of one plant first. Spray and check in a day or two to make sure the mixture does not burn the leaves. If it does not, proceed to spray the rest of the garden and annihilate your pests. Just remember this will kill beneficial insects too, so try to spray when the bad ones are present and on the plants you know they are feeding on.

In a pinch, you can sprinkle garlic powder around the plants to keep the pests at bay until your concentrate is ready.

I have been planning the layout of my orchard this morning. I am so excited to plant the trees and get started on it. I'll upload my sketch and post about that later.

May 19, 2009

I love it even more when you can see all the beautiful colors and textures better. Slate is pretty all on its own but have you seen it wet? When wet, it amplifies the colors and really brings out the beauty in the rock. I had been wanting to put polyurethane on my slate floors in my house but wanted to test it out first to see how I liked it. So, I painted a layer of high gloss poly on the slate in my walkway in front of the house. I can not stop looking at it. It turned out beautiful and I can't wait to tackle my floors. This does need to be done annually but it is so worth it. My floors will always look freshly mopped and clean. An illusion that works to my advantage.
This is what the slate looked like before. Very pretty but...

This just looks so much more beautiful. Look at all the hues and marbling of different colors. You can see the texture better. The poly just brought everything out so nicely.

If you don't like the high gloss look, you can try a matt, or a gloss that is not so shiny. Test out some different kinds of poly on some scrap slate and see what you like best. You won't regret it!

May 10, 2009
This is where I am going to attempt to keep track of all things garden related. Vegetables, flowers, and fruit. Hopefully it will keep me motivated and may provide some ideas to others. Please keep in mind the advice here is just my opinion. There are as many ways to garden as there are people. Pick a method that suits you best.

This year, I have a companion garden. If you have not read my post about companion gardening you can click here Companion Gardening to get up to speed.

So far, I have done a pretty good job keeping on top
of everything. To see the progress of the garden so far you can click here Sprouted
There are also many pictures below.

Usually, I get really motivated in the Spring and then my motivation slides. So, we'll see how it goes.

I started planning the layout of my garden in January. Grouping plants together and drawing the layout several times until I came up with one I liked. I plotted out a 50ft x 50ft square which would have had 20 rows. Until I realized when I started working that I forgot to
account for the spacing between the rows and the actual width of the raised beds. So, I had to change plans a little bit. It did not effect what I wanted to plant or how much, so I was okay with that. I ended up having 16 rows that were 2 feet wide with a foot 1/2 spacing between the rows. That is enough space for me to work and also maximized the amount of "growing" space. I also had to reduce the actual size of the garden because there were several stumps nearby and their roots were just too much to contend with. So, the garden is actually more like 50 ft x 40 ft.

This is what the space looked like before I started.

Talk about no motivation. Moving everything out of the area and tilling was a lot of hard work.
I also had to level the ground out a little because it dipped in the middle.

I did a soil test and amended the soil with lime. The soil was slightly acidic but neutral in all the other areas. The soil is very sandy. That is unusual because most of the soil in the area is hard, unusable clay. I feel blessed that I can work the ground at all.
I used stakes and twine to mark the perimeter of the garden and tilled the whole thing. You won't believe the amount of tree roots and ant hills that were in that were there. The roots came up easily but I ran into them every 6 feet or so. Most of the ants moved on after I tilled.

I tilled the rows so that they were running East to West. This is important because when you plant vegetables, you need to make sure they get enough sunlight. You should plant your tallest plants like corn, beans, artichokes and tomatoes on the north side of the garden. This way, as the sun goes about it's normal path, the tall plants will not block out the sun from the other plants in the garden. Planting on rows that face east to west helps to ensure proper sun exposure to the rest of the garden.

Lex and her friend M. helping me plant. I love M. like she is my own. What a sweetie!

I would really encourage you to draw out your garden plan on paper. It will save you so much time later on. Also, keep a record of what you planted and where. It will help you make changes and learn what works and what does not.

I started a lot of my seeds in February. Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, broccoli, artichoke, peppers & herbs. The rest I started in March. I do buy some vegetables from the nursery but not many. I enjoy growing from seed. Mostly because it helps me to get through the winter and it is so much more economical.

Some tips when your planting:

Use wooden craft sticks as plant markers.
It is so much cheaper than the markers at the garden center and they hold up just as well.

Use toilet paper for planting small seeds.
Lay the square down, put dirt around the perimeter, put seeds in the middle and cover with dirt. The TP helps the seeds to stay in place, wastes less, roots better, and it decomposes back into the soil.

Use compost or a Miracle grow type soil when planting seeds or seedlings.
The nutrient rich amendments will give your plants a better start and keep them healthy. I only put it in the hole and around the plants so there is less waste.

Make sure you follow plant spacing recommendations.
Your plants will be healthy and produce more fruit. It is tempting to plant a lot but this will actually decrease your yield. There is too much competition for nutrients and water.

Fertilize when the seedlings true leaves appear
Fertilizing at this time gives the plants a wonderful boost and will help them be healthier when full grown. I would encourage you to use a fertilizer that is 100% organic or use Compost. It is so much better for you and your plants. Remember that whatever you put in your garden, you are putting in your mouth. You would not drink chemicals, so don't put them in your garden.

I started seeding and transplanting in the garden toward the end of March. Due to my schedule, I could only do a few rows at a time until April. That is when I got most of it done. I have three rows left to plant. All the plants going in there are big and just need to be transplanted.

The pictures below were taken the first week of March.
After I planted, I mulched with pine straw. We have a ton of pine around the property so it was nice to make use of a natural resource that I did not have to pay a penny for. It holds in moisture, helps block out weeds and just makes the garden pretty. I love the way it looks when it is wet.

Below are pictures of the garden taken the second week of March. Everything is really growing well. Especially since I fertilized a few weeks ago. The plentiful rains have helped as well.

Don't ask me why there is a spoon in my garden. There seems to be a running theme of playing with spoons with one of my children. I'm not sure which one it is yet........

Happy Gardening!


Dart Budgie said...

Beyond beautiful!

I cannot believe how nice and full the garden looks already! The birch leaves have JUST come out here, and are still tiny, about the size of quarters maybe. Yest was a cool day with lots of clouds and I spent the day watching the therm go up with the sun, then drop 5-10 degrees with the clouds, then go back up...and then down...and then up...

Little Ducks said...

I miss Alaska so so so so much!
I miss the birch trees and the moose and especially the northern lights.

However, It is very nice being able to plant and have a mild winter. I am REALLY dreading the heat come August!