Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Onion harvest 2015
Onions and shallots (hanging) curing on front porch

Mature Zebrune shallots from Seed Savers Exchange
Small onions will be saved for next year's planting

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Herbal Oils

My plan is to make some salves from my beeswax and herbal oils made from garden herbs.  The first batch of oils seems to have come out well.  I covered dried herbs in mason jars with olive oil and then kept in a warm windowsill for a month, with a night spent in the dehydrator set to 100 degrees.  

L to R: calendula, chamomile, yarrow, and comfrey oils

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Lettuce

We love lettuce.... especially a crisp romaine.  The fancier salad mixes turn up their noses at humble little romaine, telling her to go play with iceberg.  But on a hot summer day, nothing is as refreshing as that crisp crunch.   Romaine can take the heat, when those dainty salad mixes just wilt into lettuce mush.

Jericho has proven itself as a great summer lettuce with good heat resistance.  It hasn't gotten bitter or shot up a flower stalk.  Ideally, I'd plant patches of it once a month for continuous lettuce in quantities that we could manage eating.  In reality, I have gotten 2 successions planted (one in April, one in late June from transplants) so that's pretty good.  I harvest it as a young head and let it regrow.  It also grows well in the cool spring or fall.

Jericho romaine

Gazing out at the summer lettuce patch

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chicken Garden Pen

Inspired by the chicken tractor we built at work to use chickens to clean out beds that had been harvested, I used some leftover fencing to wrap around hoops that were still in the ground from our low tunnels to make a temporary chicken pen.  The area was overwintered lettuce, spinach, and salad greens that had bolted and were done for the year.

There was about a 3 minute period from the hens of "I'm not sure about this" when I put the girls in.  Then I pulled up a few lettuce plants, and they got the idea pretty quick.

I put in four hens.  This is only good for an overcast, cool day because there is no shade cover for them.  A waterer is also a must if they are in the pen for any extended amount of time.

Salad bar
I think I'll still pull out a lot of the largest plants and throw them in the real chicken run for them to turn into compost, but I think a few days of putting some hens in here for an hour or two while I weed the garden will work out well.  I'll also add some sort of "guard" around the bottom (maybe cardboard) so they don't kick all the soil out of the bed with their vigorous scratching.

Going to town
Clearing out the bed
Below is the chicken tractor we built at Garden Dreams.

Chicken tractor

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What's Happening in the Garden This Week

Bee Balm in full bloom
Streetside flower garden
an unknown red lettuce variety I want to save seed from
Experimental squash patch planted in chicken bedding doing well
"hot sauce" pepper patch
experimental tomato bed grown on woodchips doing pretty well
the vegetable and herb garden gone wild
Blue Boy bachelor button and overwintered carrots flowering
the garden
brown marmorated stink bug eggs and nymphs

hoppy chickens
garlic curing
harvested garlic early this year due to weeks of heavy rain and concerns of rot if we left it in the ground any longer
golden raspberry standoff:  Fall Gold on left has acidity, unknown sweet variety on right
Boyne red raspberry has been very productive with good flavor.  We froze a couple quarts of berries to make jam with later

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Strawberries are Finished, Raspberries in Full Swing

golden raspberry, unknown variety
wild blackberries, Fall Gold raspberries, Boyne raspberries, Jewel strawberries

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bumblebee Impersonators and Meadow Thoughts

I'd love to have a large area that was meadow.  However, until then, I have planted a couple small swathes of meadow flowers, and plan to learn on them...in terms of weed management, annual mowing, and all that.  I have an area in the vacant lot next door that we are slowly renovating, that is seeded with native wildflowers and grasses, crimson clover, and oats, and I am having to hand weed the knotweed seedlings that are popping up in a carpet amidst my wildflowers.  

We decided to weed wack all other areas of the lot, because a carpet of knotweed was coming up, and we will cardboard and then lay wood chips on top to kill the knotweed seedlings.  We have learned from experimenting that it seems knotweed coming up from seed can be killed this way because it is not established.  Knotweed that is spreading underground from a mother plant will just laugh at this technique and come on up, even if it has to grow around cardboard and up through a foot of woodchips.  This plant can grow through concrete.  And before we can really do anything with the lot, we have to get the knotweed a little under control.  Total control is futile, however.     

Wildflower and grass patch in the vacant lot
crimson clover in the vacant lot
So, areas of the lot look barren, as they are freshly weed wacked and waiting for a deep mulch to kill any knotweed seedlings waiting to pop up.  The grass patch in the back near the shed is my little wild flower patch.  There is no real soil in this lot, its pretty much just yellow clay subsoil.  It's kind of fun to start from scratch though, and see how resilient some plants are.  

little meadow patch in our vacant lot
bee on crimson clover
hunting praying mantis
In the home garden, lots of flowers are blooming to feed and host insect life.  

dill flowering
small bee on an onion flower
small bee on bachelor button
visitor on a carrot bloom
This is very cool.   The internet says this is the syrphid fly Mallota bautias that mimics a bumble bee for protection from bird predation.  This sucker was huge, but with fly eyes and little fly legs and fly mouthparts.  Aside from all those differences, the dead giveaway is that flies only have two wings and bees have four.  But birds can't tell that from the air when they are looking for a snack I suppose. 

bumblebee mimic Mallota bautias
bumblebee mimic Mallota bautias
Another small meadow patch I have is along a fenceline, and it is starting to bloom and buzz with life.  
fenceline meadow patch
fence meadow patch blooming
bumblebee on butterfly weed
bumblebee on butterfly weed
I ordered some reed and cardboard tubes for mason and leafcutter bee nests from Crown Bees months ago and have finally put a house together with them.  Though it would have been better to get this nest up earlier this year, it is now finally up.  You can house the tubes in an old coffee can, pipe, or bucket, and face the house south or southeast in full sun.  Lots of different size holes are good so individual females can pick their favorite fit.  

mason and leafcutter bee house
mason and leafcutter bee house
Next up, finding a good location for my bat house!