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!

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Garden Growth

GREAT PUMPKIN! I don’t think anyone quite understands the joy of having not one, but MULTIPLE pumpkins growing right now. Last year, we had a giant plant and no pumpkins. I LOVE pumpkins. Pumpkin carving and pumpkin seeds are two of my most favorite things in the world. I have not ventured to pumpkin soup. That might change this fall though! They’re still little, and look more like our watermelons, BUT THEY’RE PUMPKINS! Yeah, I’m that excited. Like a kid in a candy store.

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Of course, the tomatoes. They are HUGE! And we have had a few start to turn red. I can’t believe how big they are this year. We must have done something right to the soil. We didn’t get very many even close to the size of these guys. By the time I get back from Antrim I will have a bajillion to make sauce with! Thank goodness I have already set a day aside to do it!

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And the chickens. They are still growing. Their combs are slowly but surly coming in. They LOVE eating strawberries and have begun to associate me with feeding them the delicious little treats. The other day I saw one of the girls “assume the position.” I had never seen a chicken lay an egg and didn’t realize it was different from when they just kind of sit down. Eric, who has a bit more experience informed me that that is how they sit when they are laying an egg! No eggs yet but hopefully that’s a sign that they are coming soon!!! 🙂 I love their fluffy little butts too!

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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. 🙂

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!

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!

Root and Shoot

We love our little strawberry patch. Thankfully it’s not so little anymore! How did we get our patch so big so quickly? The main thing is making sure the main plant is properly sunned, hydrated, and planted in good soil with the room to root and SHOOT! When your main plant does root and start budding, nip the flowers. Yes, the strawberries come from the flowers. I know this seems counter productive. Trust me. This ensures that the plant’s energy and nutrients are going to the plant itself. Last year we didn’t nip buds much and our patch didn’t expand as much as we had hoped. This year, their first few weeks of budding, we let very few berries actually come to fruition. We now have so many shoots we can’t keep up with getting them buried!

Let’s identify what a shoot looks like.

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All of those vine like things coming off of the plants are strawberry shoots! Sometimes the shoots get shoots before they are even fully established and producing. Cover them with soil leaving the tips where the buds are exposed. You can also clip the shoots and transplant them to control the patch or share them with friends. Once they are established, bigger and rooted, uncover some of the dirt and snip the “shoot.” This separates the new plant from the original one. This allows both plants to produce shoots, berries, roots and leaves without stealing energy and nutrients from each other.

Our berries are starting to come in a bit bigger with the warmer weather! Much sweeter as well. IMG_2635 IMG_2634

As you can see from the picture on the right we have a board running through our garden. It can also be seen in some of the pictures above. On the other side of the board is our green beans! This board helps contain the plants and keeps them from shooting over and taking over the garden. When left unattended and unconfined a strawberry patch could easily take over the entirety of a garden in a season or two!