It is always disappointing to see crops do dismally after babying them along for some period of time. Amending soil is a sometimes tricky prospect when growing the way we do. Conventional growers simply throw down some fertilizer each year with each crop maybe even more than once per crop.
Philosophically we are opposed to the conventional route so amending our soil becomes somewhat of a game. Compost, organic matter (leaves and grass clippings), composted manure and cover crops are all in play and have been for a while. However, we are still getting some of those problem beds. This year we chose some more direct routes of amending soil nutrition that is on the low side. First I mixed up a combination of blood meal, ground rock phosphate and greensand (your typical NPK) and side dressed some of the plants not growing so well. The next step was to apply some pelleted sea bird guano. I am now moving into the latest thought........alfalfa pellets.
These are a nifty addition to the naturally grown arsenal of soil amendments in that not only do they decompose quickly providing quick nutrition to problem beds but they also contain a growth stimulator as it breaks down. This typically comes in a delayed response (about a month after application) and can come back to haunt a grower if applied at the wrong time of year (i.e. when approaching dormancy.
I have yet to apply the alfalfa but am intrigued about the prospect. We will surely let you know how it does and how it helps combat those few "problem beds."
This year is the year of the insects. It started off with the flea beetles......the early spring scourge. It doesn't matter where you grow in the country you will have flea beetles. Eventually they will disappear as the heat comes. Then the aphids moved in......I took care of those with some insecticidal soap.....easy enough. Then as spring progressed we got the invasion (early invasion) of Colorado potato beetles, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles. Keep in mind that what you are about to read is graphic. It is not suitable for young children or the faint of heart.
One of the most rewarding parts of growing using organic principles is the squishing of insects that have the potential to injure or sometimes kill your crops. SO I have declared war on potato beetles, squash bugs and cucumber beetles. Daily I peruse the beds where the crops they prefer are growing and squish away. Cucumber beetles are satisfying to squish. These little yellow bugs (with black dots or stripes) will eat absolutely anything.......and in a bad infestation they will kill germinating squash and curcurbit seedlings. But they aren't that juicy and they are hard to catch because they fly.
Then come the potato beetles. In their mature form the beetles only crunch......not squish......but when they are in their brown immature form (and demolishing your potatoes and eggplants) they are very juicy and squirt bug juice everywhere......you have to watch not to get in in your eye!!!
But by far the most satisfying squish is the squash bug........granted they are hard to find and if you drive by 47 Daisies you will probably see me down on all fours in the rows of squash searching for these evil creatures.
While this all may seem a little sick and demented I have squished on the order of 100,000 squash bugs between this season and last and it never gets old.......the constant battle between the bug and the squash harvest. Some people drop them in soapy water but I find that after the hard search for these secretive insects the best way to take care of them is to squish, squish, squish.........the downside is an orange stain on your fingers and an overpowering stench of squash bug that surrounds you like a cloud..........
So the ultimate solution.....get row covers......I am off to irrigation mart tomorrow to purchase some for mid-season squash..........
We have already broken numerous records this spring for record high heat. This is not such a bad thing in some cases but can really screw up the planning process. Heat early in the summer pushes crops to maturity much faster than they would normally mature. For instance, last growing season lettuce heads weren't ready until mid-May. This year lettuce heads were ready for harvest the second week of April. With the heat, cool weather crops start to go to seed. Believe it or not we have already tilled under beds that were seeded in February and replanted warm weather crops in their wake and more are slated to be tilled under this weekend.
While the cool weather crops don't much care for the heat, the warm weather crops love it. Although we will continue to have cool weather crops for at least another month, we already have squash, tomatoes, beans and peppers blooming! Won't be long until we see some harvests from a few warm weather crops as well. All is well as long as we keep getting some periodic rain showers.
Dylan and I get along really well, for the most part. We are both VERY stubborn, so this sometimes causes some issues...but we work things out pretty well. Our differences also make us a great team...although we definitely have our "moments"....
Yesterday was one of those "moments". It would probably been pretty comical to watch, but I'll tell you about it since you weren't there.
Dylan decided to make several narrow rows of garden beds on a slope...and I had some input in this as well....because the space was unusable. In these beds, he's going to build trellises and plant climbing plants like our Casabanana and beans, etc. He went out to till these strips of garden and the ground was so dry that it was impossible...so he decided to do it by hand (????). If you know Dylan, this wouldn't surprise you.
I went out to check on him yesterday afternoon with the kids and he was digging away....a little into the second strip. He was leaving huge clumps of dirt in his wake. His plan was to break the ground by hand and then go back with the tiller and till it. I mentioned I thought it would be much easier to till if the clumps were broken up a bit and his reply was..."the hoe's over there".
So.........I grabbed the hoe and started breaking up the clumps. After about a minute and a half...I decided this was ridiculous, and I told him so. I told him it was a horrible idea to do this by hand and it would take half a day. He kept digging. I hoed some more and then said there was no crop on earth that was worth this much work, and didn't he agree? No response. He just kept digging. I hoed about half the row...and it was hot...and horrible. I said a few more things that weren't very nice and I think he replied at one point that it WAS worth it...just wait until we were done and I'd agree. Hmmm. At this point I was wondering if we would ever "be done. Basil needed my attention (I was a little happy about this...considering the circumstances...), so Kade decided to take over the hoeing, and finished the row. I have to say he did a much better job than I did...and he didn't complain once. I was very impressed.
The row was finished....two in all. Dylan did one all by himself, much to my surprise. And it didn't even take half a day.
Later that night while making dinner, Dylan asked me if I thought it was worth it now that we finished. I just looked at him and smiled. Some things are better left unsaid. :)
We love garden structures......not buildings.......but structures. I think it adds character to the space and indeed each one is functional. We have added a few new garden structures to the farm this year including an entrance trellis (arbor) a pole bean tunnel in the kids garden and now the latest monstrosity to house the Casabanana. This is a new veggie/fruit that we are growing this year. It is from the tropics, originating in Brazil and the vines can grow up to 50 ft in length!!! Crazy!!
We have been struggling with what type of trellis to build for this thing (that I don't know will do well here). We decided to got with a trellis 11 ft. high constructed of concrete reinforcing wire and three trees which I cut while clearing a fence row this past winter. It looks interesting in the garden, and is clearly a much better choice than a few of our other ideas...which included letting it grow up the barn and/or over the woodshed.
We will keep you posted on the developments of the Casabanana. If it doesn't do well, we can always grow many of our other vine crops on this structure. Why not grow up and save garden space??
--Dylan (and Harmony....I had to get some credit on this one. I added the last tiny bit......) :)
When I met Dylan I told him I didn't like salad because I hated lettuce. I'm sure you can guess how this went over with him. He thought I was crazy. Then after many questions he decided that I'd really only had experience with iceberg lettuce, which I HATE. I seriously get ill in a restaurant when you see a salad with iceberg. I would rather not eat. Honestly.
So after our years together, and years of gardening, I actually love lettuce, IF it's the right kind. I enjoy the cut lettuce we grow and several of the lettuce heads (Grand Rapids is one of my favorites), but after dinner tonight I have a new favorite. I like it even better than the salad mixes (ovation and elegance), which is saying a lot, since I could live off of those. We had Romaine tonight from the garden, and even Kade was eating it straight out of the salad bowl. He opted for "more lettuce" instead of another slice of pizza. Amazing.
Can't wait to have more tomorrow!!!
Mushrooms are an interesting beast. The fruit of the mushroom is eaten, but actually the majority of the mushroom mass is in mycelium (the mushrooms version of roots). Mushrooms only fruit in order to produce spores (the mushrooms version of seeds).
I have never had the opportunity to watch a mushroom develop. Now that we have shitake logs started it is fascinating to see how mushrooms really work. We innoculated the logs back in January. We used plug spawn. This is simply a small piece of a dowel rod with mushroom mycelium growing on it. This is inserted into a hole drilled into the log and then this is covered in cheese wax to prevent dehydration. We have been soaking the logs every two weeks on the nose in order to keep the moisture content between 30 and 60%.
Each time I walk down the hill to soak I notice more mycelium filling the log. Eventually the entire end of the log will turn white with mycelium. I figure we have another couple of months before the log is completely colonized with shitake mycelium........at this point it is fruiting time.
Hopefully with the 4 different strains of shitake we have in we will be able to fruit this fall and then again in the spring.
I thought I would share with you a funny story that has been ongoing for the past 9 months or so here at 47 Daisies. I will avoid company names for fear of backlash but I am sure you can catch on :)
I was pleased as punch about a year ago to see that some large companies are now producing their products with a conscience. The latest trend is to "Go Green" and some companies large and small are trying to latch onto this trend regardless of the reason.
We have all indulged in the guilty pleasure of eating potato chips or corn chips at one point in our lives or another. They seem to be a staple of the American diet (for better or worse) but I think they are here to stay. I was very excited when commercials started airing that one brand of chips had produced a "compostable" chip bag. I immediately had to try it out and bought a bag. I proceeded to eat the chips inside and then took the bag out to the compost pile and threw it in! All my guilt associated with eating the chips melted away because at least I was now not contributing as much to our landfills.
The pile was turned about every two weeks and each time I would find the bag and see that it wasn't exactly composting????? This continued for a couple of months and eventually my compost pile was finished and was ready for the garden beds.......BUT I still had the bag (uncomposted??). I started to wonder......is their claim correct? Is this bag really compostable????
Well the compost got put on one of our garden beds last fall (and so went the bag) and then a cover crop was sowed. This spring the cover crop was tilled under and low and behold.......the bag appeared AGAIN!! I moved on to planting and forgot about the bag.....now incorporated into the soil. I thought for sure that all the beneficial microbes in the soil would take make quick work of the "compostable bag." This very bed got planted in tomatoes about a month after the cover crop was tilled under and there was the bag......poking up from the soil STILL! Tomatoes have been in for over a month now and the entire bed has now been mulched with 6 inches of hay........and the bag remains..........
Will the bag ever "compost?" This experiment may take a very, very, very long time........ so my immediate advice is.........Don't plan on making a compost pile solely of "compostable" chip bags and expect garden nutrients from them any time soon!!!!
Here is to hoping that the infamous chip bag will eventually feed some plant!!
Green garlic is yummy!!! So what is it? Green garlic is the immature garlic plant. Garlic is typically grown and harvested for the bulb once the cloves mature. However, it is becoming ever more popular among gourmet chefs and even home-grown cooks to use green garlic. Green garlic is used like a leek. The whole plant is edible with a much more mild garlic flavor than the mature cloves. Green garlic is a very versatile spring crop. Use green garlic in anything that you would use a green onion or leek in. You can also get creative and make green garlic pesto, green garlic soup, braised chicken with green garlic, green garlic omelets, or even make a salad dressing or sauce to flavor pasta!! We have added some recipes to to the recipe page!! Check it out and try this amazing spring delicacy!
--Happy garlicing :)
So Dylan's totally winning in the number of blogs lately...he's kicking my butt. So I thought I'd write a quick one about our new email list. If you're interested in being on the list and getting an email every time we update the website, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add you to the list!!
This list is for anyone who reads our website and is interested in what we do. Tell your friends to be added as well!! :)
(Hopefully my next blog will be a little better than this one......)
Dylan and Harmony, whichever of us have the time to sit down and write for a few minutes. : )