It’s Only Been A Week

It’s been just over a week since we planted our garden. We have had lots of growth and some death thus far.

IMG_5609Our strawberries are the only ones to have seen death. Out of all of the plants I put in, 2 have died. We specifically put so many in for this exact reason. It is still early, there may still be some loss, but as of now, the rest of them look like they are doing well. 

 

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IMG_5614Two of our 12 potatoes have busted through! There is evidence that at least 3 more will pop through in the coming days. This is the first year we are growing potatoes in this garden. I am excited to see how well they do.

IMG_5613Our mixed greens and leafy lettuce are flourishing. Fresh lettuce grows like weeds, and lasts FOREVER. We were giving it away last year because it lasts 3-4 weeks when stored properly. 

IMG_5612Our radish patch is doing quite well. We only planted in half of the area because we are going to rotate them out. So next week we will plant another 2 rows of radish, just in time for our first ones to be done in a few days time. They have a quick germination/maturity time. 
IMG_5611This is our singular bush cucumber plant. We planted 5 in the little plot. We’re hoping that by the end of the week we’ll have a few more. Mom wants to make pickles…even though she’s the only one that eats them.

IMG_5616I like to call this the “Mater Forest.” I feel like we have so much more than last year, and I know that once they really start growing up, it’s going to look like one as well. They haven’t had much vertical growth, but it’s still early. They’re more busy rooting that growing.

IMG_5610We planted about 8 sunflowers and 6 of them have already started popping! I took a shot of the two biggest ones. I will harvest the seeds in the fall and bake them! 

IMG_5608We are most excited for the green beans…ok….it might just be me. I LOVE green beans. I like them raw, I like them blanched, I like them sautéed in butter with garlic and onion, I like them fried. I haven’t met a green bean I didn’t like…except casserole. They are bursting forth in their little rows and I could not be more excited.

IMG_5618This little guy is not in our back garden, but I like it anyway. We planted 4 lavender plants in our front/side gardens this year. Lavender is not only pretty once it blooms, but it also smells good and is a natural bug repellent. It is also a perennial so we will not have to worry about having to replace it every year.

We are still waiting for the onion, peppers and carrots to pop. They should be showing up to the party in the very near future. The cosmos and zinnias that we planted around the vegetable garden are barely showing above the mulch. Our marigolds are thriving. Those 3 were planted as bee attractors and bug repellents.

From here out, I will post garden updates once the plants start producing or something super super exciting happens!

Happy planting!

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Spring Gardening

In March, in the midst of a snow storm I spent the day planning our garden. This weekend, the snow has been gone for a few weeks, the sun has been shining and we were finally able to get stuff in the ground!

I had come up with beautiful plans and a beautiful layout, created with tons of research, love and care. screen-shot-2015-03-05-at-5-18-30-pmThen we got out there and my dad decided things needed more space. The really pretty garden layout that looked like the above, ended up looking like the below in reality. Which, is ok. It doesn’t look near as pretty in a chart like this, but it works. Sunflowers and cucumbers were added to the garden. The “walking path,” kinda disappeared for the most part, but there is plenty of space between plants so we’ll be just fine.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 9.26.29 AMWe also have an adorable little strawberry patch, I have claimed it as my own.10689423_10206003822511341_2734209453159910876_nAround the garden we planted marigolds, cosmos, and zinnias. Marigolds are natural (bad) bug-repellants, cosmos and zinnias are natural bee attractors. When you have a garden this big, with this much stuff in it, you want as many bees as you can get! 11206100_10206003822071330_2141622102369986064_n

11204480_10206003822311336_9176184884080786480_nWe have 24 tomato plants of 3 varieties, Roma, Celebrity and Brandywine. We planted red potatoes because we think they are better to cook/bake with. Mom wants to make pickles this fall so the cucumbers are small bush cucumbers. There are 15 strawberry plants in the box. I’m not sure that they’ll all make it, and if I do…well…if anybody would like some strawberry plants, hit me up. The rest of the garden is seeds, so I guess we will see in a few weeks how many of each we have!

Stay tuned for update posts and recipes throughout the summer!

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Snow Day Garden Planning

It is a winter wonderland right now. Seriously. We have over a foot of snow in our yard, a combination of the approximately 8 inches we got today plus what was already laying on the ground. My dad used our snow blower to created a doggy path in our back yard since our critters are a bit vertically challenged.

10437617_10206255174127735_8793836284818350200_nI am desperately looking forward to the days when our yard looks more like this-

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Last year was the first garden my parents did. This little plot is 8×10. This year, we are more than doubling that to a whopping 32×10. Yes, 32×10. That is 320 square feet of prime food growin ground. When you decide to grow a garden that big, you can not haphazardly throw plant in the ground. There is an art to this, a serious science. I have spent at least 3 hours researching, drawing, erasing and going back to the garden boards to plan out our vegetable garden this year. An excel spread sheet, and 2 tables later, I think I’ve got it!

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This is an excel spread sheet of all different fruits and vegetables we will be growing, whether in the main 32×10 garden, in a separate box, like our strawberries, or in our side garden, like the cucumbers. It features how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant them, how many can be planted in a square foot, when to plant, companion planting info, soil info and sun preferences. Instead of having to search 18 different websites, I can simply pull this up and all of the info I need is right there in one spot!

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This is our 32×10 garden lay out. Below is the color key, black is walking space. It is a pain in the butt to harvest, weed and take care of a garden when you have no room to actually walk! What a travesty to have great plants and accidentally step and crush them! This helps aid this problem. Having it laid out also means no guessing when it comes to planting time. Each square will have 1-16 plants depending on what is being planted there. We LOVE canning homemade tomato sauce, and being able to harvest and freeze fresh green beans, carrots and peppers to use throughout the winter and spring. Nothing beats having fresh carrots and green beans in a good hearty pot of stew in the middle of December. We are also planting marigolds around the perimeter of the whole garden. There are numerous benefits of this, one of them being that they attract bees, which helps pollination, which in turn means lots of produce!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.33 PMRight now, the wind is blowing and the snow is still kinda falling. By the end of the week it is supposed to bounce back up to the 40s and Spring will quickly be approaching. I still have our front flower gardens to plan and a few weeks before we’ll be able to till the ground and get our (organic/natural) soil additives in preparation for planting time mid-April. Though it seems so far away, like the snow may never stop and the ice will never melt, I know that in just a few short weeks I will have my toes in the dirt and seeds in the ground!

Babies! And Not Just the Chickens!

We have lots of “little” things around the gardens this week! I can assure you I am NOT growing one myself. Just wanted to clarify so that my mother doesn’t have a heart attack. 🙂 We are hitting that point in the summer where everything is really starting to grow. We have more than just green beans and strawberries coming in! Though, let’s face it, nobody is complaining about either of those things!

First, we’ll check in with the strawberries! They are due for another shoot cut off and bury day in the very near future! They are producing like crazy and it’s wonderful! I love going outside to pick breakfast FRESH every morning!

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Next, the mater plants. It’s like a forest. We have beautiful baby green tomatoes! By the time I get back from my mission trip the first week in August they will be ripe and ready to turn into SAUCE! 😀

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Baby watermelons are the cutest. They’re just adorable. Our watermelon plants are monsters this year and I have a feeling we will have some monster melons to go with them!

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We trimmed the pumpkin back a TON so that the main plant, some choice leaves and the blooms have been left. This helps ensure that the good stuff can go towards making PUMPKINS! 😀

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We’ve got fuzzy little sprouts on a number of our corn plants. Whether or not we get some real ears this year will be the real question! They’re growing like weeds and looking good so we’re hoping we get SOMETHING from them!

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Last, but certainly not least- the ACTUAL babies! THE CHICKENS! I don’t think I can quite call them babies anymore being that they have all of their big girl feathers. They aren’t quite laying yet but we should be getting our first eggs by the end of August! They also, after well over a month, have figured out that they can roost all together in a row on the hockey stick, seen in the first photo in the top right corner. They have all turned gorgeous shades of red, mahogany and brown. Women pay big bucks to have their hair dyed the colors of these girls. Their combs are turning red and their beaks are getting darker. They have totally made friends with Miller, through the fence of course.

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The gardens are producing, growing, and taking over. There is something humbling, earthing, and beautiful about being able to go outside and get fresh fruit for breakfast and fresh green beans for dinner.

Jeremiah 29:5 “ Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;”

It’s all in the Dirt

It’s been a busy week for the dirt in the gardens! At Eric’s house I plucked our first onions. They’re a bit on the wee little side but they are packing a punch and delicious!

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The watermelon plants are budding! Last year we did sugar babies and weren’t very happy with the results. This year we chose a different kind and it is flourishing! There are buds EVERYWHERE! In the world of vine plants- BUDS=YUM! This goes for the pumpkins as well. As you can see in the first picture, the pumpkin is creeping in.

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Speaking of….he’s taking over our garden! Because our one watermelon plant is doing so well we are probably going to pull the smaller of the two that is struggling just a bit. And the rest of our onions will be out shortly. We have to get those guys out so our massive octopus of a pumpkin can roam more on the free side. The next step will be hefting the vines over the fence to let it free range in the yard! On the plus side, there are a number of beautiful blossoms! I’m hoping to ACTUALLY get a pumpkin this year! 😀

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What our pumpkin looked like on June 15th. I honestly can’t even get a picture with a wide enough view to show you how big the pumpkin plant is. Trust me, it’s become a monster. I’m hoping I get MONSTER pumpkins out of it too! The second picture is from June 26th. It’s much bigger than that even. Trust me.

I spent my afternoon walking through the sea of green beans. They are HUGE! And I still have one more row left to do! I set myself up a nice little system on the living room floor so I could watch TV and not be stuck standing in the kitchen. It’s amazing how quickly that colander fills up!

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First round- Row 1

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By the second round I got smart with a bowl for the tips, a bowl for the snapped and my colander in the middle. Rows 2 and 3

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I got to repeat the process with round 3, row 4. Yeah, there’s still another row left to do.

At my parent’s, my mom and I were investigating our carrots! They’re starting to show through the dirt but they’re just not ready yet! Hopefully by the end of the month they’ll be there.

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Each set of gardeners does different things to help their garden dirt. At my parents, my mom saves our coffee grounds, saves and crushes egg shells and sprinkles it all in the garden. They have been battling first year soil. In the fall they’ll be adding lime and peat moss. At Eric’s, he does lime in the fall and again about March a few weeks before we plant so that the lime doesn’t burn the baby plants. He also adds peat moss and sand. Now that we have the chickens and the gardens are so huge he has finally agreed/decided too…. COMPOST! YAY! We have the perfect spot for it behind our sheds at the back of the property. Egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, our garden clippings, coffee grounds, chicken poop, banana peals- it’s all going in! I’m sure I’ll be posting about THAT adventure by the end of the summer. 🙂

Early Harvest and Storage Prep

The last of the potatoes are in! I’ve gotten a number of inquires from friends asking what I do to the potatoes after  we pull them out of the ground. Really, what do I do to the fruits and veggies in general.

If they are a ground plant like potatoes I first collect them in a colander. Then I rinse the mud/dirt off.

Once this is done I put the plug in the sink and fill it with warm water and about 1 cup of vinegar. With the potatoes still in the colander I put the whole thing in the sink and kind of swish them around with my hands. I let them sit for 5-10 minutes, pull the plug, rinse with water and let dry.

I usually just put paper towels under the colander and let them air dry. Place in a cool, dry place until ready to use them!

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For green beans, the process is a bit different! I collect in a colander and rinse them with water just like the potatoes.

I then throw them in a pot of boiling water for a minute or so just to blanche them. This helps clean them and gives them a nice bright green color!

I strain, let dry and cool a bit, and throw them in a freezer bag or container. Then, they are ready to make at any time!

Strawberries are tricky. I have yet to find the best secret to having them keep. I still don’t quite get how you can buy them in the grocery store, stick them in the fridge and they last a week. After we pluck ours, it’s a race against the clock to eat them before they get mushy and shriveled. If anyone has any tips on that I would LOVE them! As of right now, if we are not going to eat them right away I simply rinse the dirt off of them, and throw them in a freezer container. This way I’ll at least have a shot to cook with them, add them to ice cream or something!

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On the flip side, out pumpkin has its first blossoms and our tomato plants are fervently popping new little maters every day! I will probably be making my first jars of sauce by the end of July! 😀

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Our watermelon plants are slowly starting to creep out as well!

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I love this time of the season when everything is really starting to take hold and burst with growth!

New Additions

Eric had a brilliant idea. Our girls love roosting together in a row and the balusters we set up aren’t too long. So he put an old hockey stick for them. GENIUS! Of course they weren’t hanging out on it when I went out to take pictures.

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Our gardens have some new additions as well! We have our first baby beans starting to burst through!

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Eric’s tomato plant was the first of them to have a mater bud.

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And the strawberries are coming in strong!

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I plucked a few before work. I meant to take pictures of them but uhhh oops! They were delicious!

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Fresh Strawberry Blueberry Lemonade

IT’S HAPPENING! The strawberries are coming in!

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All of that tender loving care popping buds, rearranging shoots, weeding, watering and loving has paid off! To read more about taking care of these precious plants check out Root and Shoot. The buds on the plants are everywhere! The strawberries are coming in so S L O W L Y right now that we are only getting a few at a time.  What is a girl to do!? Well, they’re not lemons but I make lemonade! Pink lemonade that is!

Ingredients-

Strawberries

Blueberries

Pink Lemonade mix

1. In a large pitcher muddle cleaned and sliced strawberries with blueberries.

2. Add in pink lemonade mix and fill pitcher. I usually start with some warm water to help dissolve the powder then switch to cool. Give a good stir.

Throw in some ice, and serve in a mason jar with a good book!

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For those of you who like to make homemade lemonade, I’ve got you covered.

4 cups of water

2-3 cups of sugar depending on how sweet you like it

3 cups of lemon juice- a lot of lemons

1. Juice as many lemons as it takes to get 3 cups of lemon juice. You may need to strain after to remove pulp if you have that problem.

2. In a medium sauce pan combine sugar and water on medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved

3. In a pitcher muddle strawberries and blueberries.

4. Pour the lemon juice and sugar water over the fruit

5. Stir well and refrigerate until cool.

As with the other recipe, throw in some ice cubes, serve in a mason jar and pair with a good book!

ENJOY!

Early Summer Harvest and Chicken Changes

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WE GOT POTATOES! We had a few plants that were ready to be dug up and by golly we did it! Our biggest ones were about the size of a small lemon all the way down to about a marble. Eric was so excited I made stew with them the other night. It got chilly up here with the rain, and so that was his request. We still have about half of our tater plants in the ground so hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll be pulling some more.

Some things we’ll do differently ned year-

SAND! We always add a bit of sand to the soil to help loosen it up, but being that potatoes grow underground, we’re pretty sure they only grew so much because the ground was a bit too hard. We will be cultivating a specific area with extra sand and till the ground a bit more in that specific area. Hopefully with these little changes we’ll have some bigger ones!

Not too shabby for our first time growing them!

The rest of the garden is in full bloom!

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We spent a good half hour weeding and working the strawberry patch. Eric covered shoots, transplanted whole plants and worked the whole patch. It’s suddenly gotten a bit out of hand! We had a good passing storm that uncovered half of them so we had to go back out and re-cover the shoots. Quite a few had finally taken root and were ready to be “cut off” from the mother plant. You can learn more about controlling a strawberry patch in my post Root and Shoot.

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Once again our pumpkin plant is kicking butt! Hopefully these big leaves will turn into big blooms and giant pumpkins this fall!

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We’ve got some friends hanging around the gardens too. We have little pencil toads EVERYWHERE! Hundreds of them. In the grass, around the pool, in the gardens, the chicken run- EVERYWHERE! We also have a mating pair of doves in close proximity. This pretty lady hung out in our green bean sea while we worked in the strawberry patch. She probably would have let me touch her I was able to get so close. Pandora, chatting, and walking around and through the gardens didn’t bother her one bit. It’s like she knew we wouldn’t bother or hurt her.

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AND the most exciting part of the weekend!? THE BABIES ARE OUT! They have finally been transported from their heat lamp, cozy little crate to the big outdoors! They spent the first 12 hours or so huddled in the coop in a corner. They hadn’t ever seen or been on grass before and didn’t quite know what to make of it. They sat and stared at their food and water dishes across the run for hours. By the next morning they were running around like they owned the place. One of them finally took the plunge to the great expanse of their new home. They thoroughly enjoy smooshing themselves all onto one roosting baluster and knock each other off. They are now LOVING the grass and are settling in quite nicely. It’s getting much harder to tell them apart now that their big girl feathers are all coming in! No more blondies in the group.

Perfect Weather For Gardens

Pennsylvania weather can be weird, especially in the summer. The only constant seems to be humidity. Some days we get 5-20 minute rain blurbs throughout the day. Other times we get hail the size of tennis balls like we did a few weeks ago. It hasn’t been to hot, overly rainy or dry the past few weeks and the plants have been loving it! Both the garden at Eric’s as well as my parent’s have been blossoming and blooming.

EVERYTHING is sprouting faster than we can keep up with them.

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Our sea of green bean plants! We’ll hopefully be getting beans a week or two from now.

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We might beat “Knee high by 4th of July” but the real mystery is whether or not we will get any ears from them this season.

Our potato plants that we planted with a prayer on a whim started budding mid-week last week. Fun fact- taters actually have really pretty purple and yellow flowers! I’d plant them even if I didn’t get food in the end. The white stuff is the natural pesticide Eric found.

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You are supposed to leave them go another week or so after that before digging them up to allow the taters time to finish really growing. Well, we’re little kids and couldn’t wait. We dug up one of the plants and got 2 itty bitty wittle red potatoes. We also planted generic yellows? Eric bought the other ones so I’m not quite sure what we’ll dig up along with the reds.

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I can’t wait to see how the rest of them turn out! They’re actually the perfect size to clean up and throw in a good stew or pot roast. Red potatoes have a thin, pretty skin that is usually left on so no worries about taking your finger tips off with a peeler!

We should start to get good strawberries coming in in the next few weeks and our green beans have buds all over!