Celebrating a milestone

This post marks the 300th post to Matt’s Garden Blog!

Who would have thought all those many years ago that I’d still be writing posts about that small patch of ground in the back corner of the yard.  My first post was all the way back in early April 2010.  The posts were not as detailed or consistent back then (that hasn’t really changed) and the images were not quite as clear.  The first image posted was a couple weeks after the blog was established using a now old and retired iPhone 3G.

First garden image posted to the blog.

First garden image posted to the blog.

The gardens have certainly grown and evolved since then. Most notable expansions are the two new garden beds and the perimeter fencing.

Installing the two new expansion beds

Installing the two new expansion beds

Garden with new perimeter fence

Garden with new perimeter fence

I’ve tried to grow a few different vegetables over the years.  I tired Broccoli a couple times, Brussels Sprouts a few years, Carrots most years, Lima Beans a couple, Onions most of the time recently, Yukon Potatoes once, Spinach quite a few times, Sunflowers, Sweet Corn for the second year, Sweet Potatoes quite a bit recently and Yellow Squash pretty consistently now that I started.

The permanent fixtures of the garden have been the Cucumbers, Green Beans, Lettuce,  RadishTomatoes,  Snap Peas and Zucchini.

I have to admit, if someone asked be how long I have been updating this garden blog, I would not have believed that this is now the start of the seventh year.  Will I make another 300 posts and/or seven years?  I guess you’ll have to stay tuned/subscribed and find out.

Happy gardening!

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Time to order some seeds

First off, Happy New Year and welcome to the 2017 season of the garden blog!  I hope to do a better job keeping the blog updated this year, but a lot of that will depend on how busy I get with work and life.

The last couple years, I have been using some of the seeds I had purchased from past years.  While it did same me some money, last year I noticed some issues with germination and overall yields.  Irregardless, it was time to replenish the seed cache as I have used up most of the stock.

The order this year isn’t too much different than in years past but there are a few new comers and variety changes.  Most notably new this year is Kale.  We’re a bit late to the Kale bandwagon but have started adding it into the salad mixes and I must say I am liking the color and texture it brings.  It tastes decent and at least makes the salad look healthy right up until I dump too much dressing on it.

Other notables, while not entirely new, in the second year of growing sweet corn, I am going to a childhood favorite variety.  This year I am going to give ‘Kandy Korn’ a try.  I promise to not over plant the garden this year.

I’m also going to mix up the tomato varieties again this year.  ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘Cherry Baby’ will join the favorite of the past few years ‘Brandy Boy’.

Finally a new variety of cucumber will be tried. I was not happy with the cucumbers last year as they just really never did much.  This time around I am going to give ‘Burpee Hybrid II’ a chance.  The claim of being disease resistant sounds very appealing to me as I seem to constantly have some mildew or fungus killing off my plants before they get to the end of the season.

Below is the full list of seeds and plants ordered.  I’ll pick up Sweet Potatoes locally closer to planting time.

Item Number: 55610A1 Pkt. (200 seeds)
Item Number: 51474A1 Pkt. (2 oz.)
Item Number: 69501C3 Pkts (1 of Each)
Item Number: 68072A1 Pkt. (100 seeds)
Item Number: 53595A1 Pkt. (30 seeds)
Item Number: 13789C75 plants each variety (225 plants total)
Item Number: 53512A1 Pkt. (300 seeds)
Item Number: 60855A1 Pkt. (1000 seeds)
Item Number: 62450A1 Pkt. (25 Seeds)
Item Number: 61101A1 Pkt. (35 seeds)
Item Number: 51205A1 Pkt. (25 seeds)
Item Number: 54310A1 Pkt. (25 seeds)
Item Number: 63480A1 Pkt. (20 seeds)
Item Number: 61861A1 Pkt. (3000 seeds)

Annual family carrot harvest!

Well, except the annual part as we didn’t grow carrots last year. And minus two of the five family members. Other than that, the headline is accurate. 🙂

This weekend, I decided to dig under all the bushy green carrot tops to see what was hiding underneath and had two excited helpers.  Turned out, there were a few carrots hiding under there.

Gabrielle with her first pick

Gabrielle with her first pick

Julia showing off the first two carrots she excavated. One looked okay, the other... a little deformed.

Julia showing off the first two carrots she excavated. One looked okay, the other… a little deformed.

Quite the handful of carrots

Quite the handful of carrots

Three handfuls of carrots this year

Three handfuls of carrots this year

Time to clean up the carrots before bringing them inside.

Time to clean up the carrots before bringing them inside.

Tasting the tiny carrot

Tasting the tiny carrot

This was carrot number THREE. I think she is part rabbit.

This was carrot number THREE. I think she is part rabbit.

Turbo-jet washed carrots

Turbo-jet washed carrots

Final view of the harvest. Looked a lot more impressive with all the greens on top.

Final view of the harvest. Looked a lot more impressive with all the greens on top.

 

Catch up post

I’ve been neglecting the blog lately and hopefully this catch up post will get me back into the swing of things.  I took a family trip up to Chicago last weekend to check out my sister and her husband’s new house as well as give the kids a taste of a big city.  Before leaving, I took some pictures of the garden with the intention of writing a status update for the blog.  Well, that was a week ago and I am just now getting the post written.  Last week was the time in the garden where everything looks nice and neat.  Not overgrown, not overcrowded.  No troubles with insects or disease yet, just a happy time.  By the end of this month, that carefree time will be over.  Below are some pictures showing the state of the garden before we left for our long weekend.

Here we have the Bush Green Beans, Zucchini and two tomato plants anchoring the far end of the bed.

Here we have the Bush Green Beans, Zucchini and two tomato plants anchoring the far end of the bed.

Next up are the sweet potato plants.  I'm waiting for them to start vining out so I can bury them deeper with the mounds of soil.

Next up are the sweet potato plants. I’m waiting for them to start vining out so I can bury them deeper with the mounds of soil.

Sunflowers are starting to stretch their legs

Sunflowers are starting to stretch their legs

Brussels Sprouts.  Two good, one sick and one already gone.

Brussels Sprouts. Two good, one sick and one already gone.

Four Golden Egg yellow squash

Four Golden Egg yellow squash

Sugar Snap Peas all in bloom

Sugar Snap Peas all in bloom

Mess of onions

Mess of onions

Four more tomato plants

Four more tomato plants

Basil and Lettuce

Basil and Lettuce

Cucumbers with some lettuce and radish growing in the shade of the trellis

Cucumbers with some lettuce and radish growing in the shade of the trellis

Pole beans just starting to climb

Pole beans just starting to climb

Two rows of carrots

Two rows of carrots

Closeup of the blooming tomotoes

Closeup of the blooming tomotoes

Since the above pictures were taken last week, I have managed to harvest a couple more vegetables. First up was some peas which I finally had a chance to steam up tonight. Very tasty. I also thinned some of the onions and chopped them up for a salad and tacos.

First harvest of peas

First harvest of peas

A couple green onions to be chopped up for a salad

A couple green onions to be chopped up for a salad

 

Rolling the dice

I decided to take a chance on the garden today.  In the end, I think the risk will be pretty light. Today I planted about 85% of the garden.  What made me decide to take the chance?  With a 10-day forecast like looks like this?  How could I not take advantage and get the garden going.

A great forecast to start off the month of May

A great forecast to start off the month of May

(I couldn’t get the rest of the 10 days in the screen capture, but the remaining 3 days currently look just as warm.)

In the end, I managed to plant all but tomatoes, sweet potatoes and a basil plant.  The only reason I skipped those three was that I don’t have any sweet potato or basil plants yet and I still need to get some landscape fabric to put down before planting the tomatoes.

Armed with garden tools, seeds and the following planting plan I headed to the garden this morning.  Here is my original plan as designed back in March.

Original 2015 Planting Plan

Original 2015 Planting Plan

As many of you also know, plans have a way of falling apart as soon as they hit reality.  Apparently, I do not have the best spacial mental map of the vegetable plants and how much space they require.  I would think that after all these years in this garden, I would have it down by now and could work from memory, but guess not.  Working with the original plan and going from bed to bed, I was able to re-work and re-orient the plan to the following design. We’ll see how well it works as the plants grow.

Updated Planting Plan for 2015

Updated Planting Plan for 2015

Let’s get to planting this garden! First up green beans. This year I am actually planting both pole beans and bush beans. I’ve got big plans for canning green beans this summer and having a harvest of both kinds should well… I guess give me more green beans.

Ring of green bean seeds

Ring of green bean seeds

In addition to the new plants, I am also getting an second planting of some of the cool weather vegetables. Another round of spinach, lettuce and radish.

Shaking out some spinach seeds

Shaking out some spinach seeds

Time to get some of these plants out of the basement and into the garden. First up to escape the artificial light is the Brussels sprouts.

Basement Brussels Sprouts get liberated

Basement Brussels Sprouts get liberated

After planting Brussels sprouts, Sunflowers, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Bush Green Beans, Pole Green Beans, Cucumbers, Carrots, Lettuce, Radish and Spinach… I was tired. Oh wait, that wasn’t where I was going, after getting all those planted, the garden is about ready to explode with vegetables.

End result

End result

End result from a different angle

End result from a different angle

Now that all the new seeds are in the ground, I also took the time to check in on the other plants that already blazed the 2015 garden trail.

Radish with some lettuce and spinach in the background

Radish with some lettuce and spinach in the background

Peas are now starting to climb

Peas are now starting to climb

This years onion forest

This years onion forest

In the hopes to improve the pollinators in the neighborhood, I got this swanky Mason Bee house for Christmas. I placed it right back by the vegetable garden. If all goes well, I’ll hope to report later this summer of the new tenets.

An extra band to keep the house secure to the tree

An extra band to keep the house secure to the tree

And finally, I also updated the 2015 Planting Calendar.

Rain, sunflowers and carrots

We got back from our third trip this summer. Like the previous one, it was just a few days but that is still enough for me to get behind in the garden. This post will cover three things, first up is rain.

While away, a pretty big rain storm came through. This made for a good test of my rain sensor accuracy experiment. At the end of July, I bought a cheap ($4) rain gauge while at Home Depot. I’m interested in getting some additional data points from which to compare the the weather station. While I know I cannot use either as ‘truth’ data, it still should be useful to gather and review the data. So, how did they compare in the big rain?

The Ambient Weather WS-2080 Rain Sensor recorded rain so far this month at 2.93 inches.  With the bulk of that coming Aug 8th (2.28 in).  As for the manual rain gauge, you can see what it recorded during the same time period in the image below.  To me, I say that looks like just about 3.4 inches of rain.  At this point, all I know is that they do not agree.  Perhaps one is more accurate than the other.  Perhaps one works better in hard downpours (which it looks like we had) and the other may be better at recording the steady or intermittent rains.  who knows.  I’ll keep both out there for a while longer and see if more data can clear up the discrepancy.

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Rain amount recorded from ‘cheap’ rain gauge

Before leaving on our trip, I posted that the sunflowers were just about ready to bloom.  I am happy to report that in the three days of being away, they have indeed bloomed.  I am still waiting on the alpha (tallest and biggest) plant to bloom.  Once the they have all emerged, I’ll get the measuring tape out again (and maybe the step ladder too) and see how large the heads are.

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Sunflower bloom

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Two of the sunflowers

As a result of the heavy rains, the soil around the carrots was very loose.  So much so that we could just pull the carrots out without the need to dig around them first.  So, the great Burns Carrot Harvest of 2013 was held.  This year I got help from a number of neighborhood girls (and one boy) to join in the festivities.

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Gabrielle pulling a carrot

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A community event

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Sampling the harvest

She could barely wait for me to get one washed before picking her favorite for a quick snack.  After her sample, she gave the thumbs up for this years crop.

What a difference a week makes.

I was away with the family for a week on a nice vacation to Canada. We spent a few days at Niagara Falls and then a few more in Toronto before heading home.  Since this is a garden blog and not a vacation blog, I should get on with talking about the garden.  It was amazing how much everything grew over the past week.  I tried to do a repeat photo capture of the garden like I did just before I left for vacation.  Below are the shots with some comments if I have something to say.

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Sweet potatoes – 1 week later

Glad to see they are still alive and green, not sure how much the plants are supposed to grow by this point though.

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Spill over tomatoes – 1 week later

The Brandy Boy tomato in the foreground is actually liking this location here in the back of the garden.  Maybe it was a good idea to put him back here after all.  Then again, it is getting pretty crowded with the yellow squash right next door.

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Yellow squash – 1 week later

Speaking of the squash, the plants are certainly getting bigger now.  I’m thinking four in this area is probably too much.

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Squash fruit is getting bigger – 1 week later

It is nice to see some fruit growing and I plan to be eating one of these very soon.

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Pea tower is still leaning – 1 week later

Even though I picked all the peas I could before leaving last week, the plant is loaded again.  Hope the family likes peas for the next few meals this week.

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Onions are still a mess – 1 week later

A couple recipes on the menu for this week call for an onion.  I’m going to give one of these from the garden a go and see how they are doing.  They could probably use some space as the year goes on, so getting some out now won’t hurt.

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Cucumbers have started to climb and bloom – 1 week later

I was very happy to see how much the cucumbers have grown.  There are flowers and even a few tiny cucumbers now.

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Pole beans are finally looking better – 1 week later

The green beans are finally starting to really take off.  The leader of the group has out stretched the top of the tower as can be seen below:

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Reach for the stars – 1 week later

This bean has high aspirations.

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Bushy carrots – 1 week later

Not much to say about the carrots.

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Sunflowers – 1 week later

The sunflowers have added a few inches.  I should put a yard stick in the picture to get an idea of how tall they are getting.

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Zucchini – 1 week later

Sure glad I thinned these guys back to just two.

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Baby zukes – 1 week later

I have a skillet with melted butter in this ones future.

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Super Sweet 100 – 1 week later

No huge changes with these.  They are taller and have blooms.

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Romaine Lettuce – 1 week later

I think the romaine is nearing its end.  Looking a little weedy.

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Brandy Boy – 1 week later

Growing well with fruit to boot.  See blurry photo below.

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Tiny Brandy-Boy tomatoes

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Baby Forth of July tomatoes

Not to be outdone, the Forth of July plants also have some small tomatoes.

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Forth of July plants – 1 week later

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Crazy tangle of Lima Beans – 1 week later

I’m afraid of what this will look like in a couple more weeks.

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Zinnias – 1 week later

This on the other hand should start to look wonderful in another couple weeks.  A number of blooms are present and should be full of colors soon.

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Zinnia bud

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Brussels sprouts – 1 week later

Not much to say about the Brussels.  Still growing.