It’s Alive!

This artichoke plant is taking over the whole bed in which it was planted.

This artichoke plant is taking over the whole bed in which it was planted.

I planted a tiny artichoke plant last fall and now I’m starting to wish I had planted it somewhere else. It’s only mid March and the plant is already huge. Shooting this plant from above led to some fun working with the shadows.

Cabbage, cabbage where's my cabbage?

Cabbage, cabbage where’s my cabbage?

Can you find the tiny cabbage in the shadow of the out of bounds artichoke? This plant might be shading the whole house by the time summer rolls around.

Who dares to venture into the ancient dark forest of artichoke?

Who dares to venture into the ancient dark forest of artichoke?

Up close it makes me think of some kind of prehistoric plant.

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Spring Garden Update (2015 – Part One)

Home Garden

I started my second round of spring planting this weekend. It began on what was a beautiful afternoon at the nursery and the place was hopping with what I’m sure were many like minded gardeners. We all hovered back and forth around the large selection of available tomato and pepper plants (many other plants also) looking for our favorite varieties. I ended up coming home with nine tomato plants and seven pepper plants, along with a couple of new items for my herb bed. That’s a slightly larger number than I usually plant but I have a good feeling about this spring. I managed to get seven of the tomatoes planted that afternoon – six in one of my 4×4 foot raised beds and one in a large pot. I’m still not sure where to put the other two. I added fresh compost and a little bit of guano and dried molasses to the soil and fed then all with some seaweed and liquid molasses afterwards. That night we got a little rain and I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve managed to get rain right after planting.

Community Garden

In our community garden at work we have twice as many plots in use as we did this last year. Although we have some way to go before we reach full capacity, for now I think I’ll manage to live with one hundred percent growth. We are waiting to hear about a matching funds grant that we applied for which will enable us to set up 17 more plots to have available for anyone who wants to join. Up until now, we gardeners have all been building our own raised beds at our expense. Last year I had  one bed and this year I have two. I’m using one of them just for corn. After my success last year with just a few plants (and planted on a whim, at that), I’ve decided to give it a more serious try this time around to see if I can raise enough to give away to those in need.

Boxes Briefly

4x4 Garden Box

4x4 Garden

These beds were made as an experimental prototype with 1×6 cedar boards. This makes them about 11.5 inches tall. They are held together and supported by 2×2 boards that were all cut with one straight cut and one 45º cut so that they could be driven into the ground for stability. They are going into their 6th Spring planting season so I have no regrets about the $17 investment I made in materials.

The surprise came when I started trying to fill them with soil. Now, I can look at them and visualize bags of soil piled inside and imagine how much it would take to completely fill them. I no longer think they need to be built so high. When first installed, they ended up being about half full. Now after seasons of freshening them up with compost and organic nutrients they are almost full and look great!

The next ones I build will be constructed of 2×6 rough cut cedar which is a very substantial and naturally long lasting piece of lumber. I’m going to use metal brackets in the corners to hold them together along with a couple of long screws directly in the boards.

Too good not to try again

It was just a whim. It was early Saturday morning and I was trying to get to the community garden on time — sounds like a silly idea now, probably don’t need to be too precise, not like anyone was waiting for me (although I’m sure the weeds were busy growing). I stopped off to buy a few pepper plants and I was about a half cup low on coffee, so not up to my usual questionable level of mental capacity. I’m someone who can never pass a seed rack so I stopped at one for a quick peruse. There they were, a nice big pack of heirloom variety seed corn and it just seemed like a fun thing to try. I had no serious expectations about production but thought that even if the plants got to a decent size it would be fun to show the local kids.

I planted six kernels, three each on opposite ends of my plot and they all came up. These plants produced eight ears of the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious corn that I had eaten in years. It was so good that I could have just pulled it off the stalks and eaten it uncooked right on the spot. Of course, it probably wouldn’t have turned out as well if it was all part of some big master gardening plan…but being the stubborn gardener I am, it’s not going to stop me from giving it another try this year.

So this year I’m renting an extra 4’x8′ plot just for planting corn. Last time I planted in early March and harvested in mid June and plan to stick with the same schedule this year. As usual, I’ll try not to get over confident — but I’m hopeful. Stay tuned.

My few stalks of corn did surprisingly well in the community garden last year.

My few stalks of corn did surprisingly well in the community garden last year.

Time to plan(t)

Not one to rely on long term weather predictions from even the most reliable sources, I nonetheless have a strong feeling that this winter is not going to be too harsh at my locale. There’s something about the trend in temperatures that makes my middle age backyard farmer’s bones feel there won’t be any very late freezes this year. Of course, this could just be a way to make sure everyone keeps following my blog so that, in six weeks time,  you can all smugly comment on what an idiot I am.

Whenever we have an early spring, I like to take advantage of it by planting tomatoes as soon as possible. The best tomato crops that I’ve ever had here in our sunny dry clime are the ones that have been started no later than the middle of March. If I don’t have an opportunity to plant them early, I usually skip them all together. Also, I always plant a mid-size variety that will grow and ripen sooner. We don’t eat many cherry or grape tomatoes so roma tomatoes are usually the smallest ones that I grow. These are just my personal preferences and a plan that I have developed over the years based on how I like to garden and where I live.

I have a place in one of my 4’x4′ raised beds that gets a great dose of morning sunlight and then is protected from the long, hot, scorching, drying, burning afternoon sun that we always seem to have in such wonderful abundance around here. This has been working very well and the spot also offers protection on the north side in case of any late blasts of cold air when the plants are young and vulnerable. If anything too cold is expected, it’s easy to just cover them up for protection. In case anyone is wondering if this is some error talking about burning and freezing in the same paragraph, the standard response is, “welcome to Texas!”

The sun is coming up now as I write this and the clear blue sky out my attic window is giving me hope for a good crop this year. That’s a good thing because even looking at a picture of home grown tomatoes makes me not want to eat a store bought one!

tomatoes

Picked in late May from plants planted at the beginning of March

First plants are in

Today I put my first plants in the 2 4×4 beds in the backyard.

In one I put red onions and broccoli and there was still a chive that made it through the winter. There was also the first Bluebonnet that I’ve seen in the yard this year. Always pleasant to spot those familiar leaves. I plan to add one tomato plant to this bed in the upcoming weeks and I’m going to find something tall to grow in the back of this bed.

In the other bed I planted another broccoli plant and some white onions. I also put in a strategically placed dill plant to start my annual attractions of swallowtails. I’m saving room in this bed for my cucumbers in a few weeks.

It was a beautiful morning with mild temperature and blue sky and a red-bellied woodpecker pecking and singing nearby the whole time.