Thursday, May 28, 2009

Robin Update

On Wednesday, I went out and the "extra" strings I tied in the yard were gone and the string in the garden was left alone. Today, the garden string was also left alone! Apparently the robin's are like the mob and just needed a tribute. Putting this in Mob terms makes sence since my mother in-law, who lives in a neighborhood like that of the Soprano's in northern NJ, knew exactly how to deal with this situation. Go figure.

I am not sure how often I need to put out this string to keep the bird's happy, but I am thrilled that it worked. So to sum up, $20 owl did not work, but free extra pieces of string worked fine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Ineffective Owl and The Mischievous Robins

I purchased the plastic owl above hoping it would dissuade the robins from trying to steal the string from the garden. Alas, it did not. The robins pulled up several pieces of string, clipped one end of my bean brace and removed the string from my row of beets. Their knot tying is impressive, even though it is very annoying.

Trying a tact suggested by my mother-in-law, I have tied a couple of strings in the yard outside the garden. Perhaps this will draw the robins away from my beans and gives them their string "fix".

On a positive note, I did some light hilling of potatoes and added some purchased Brussels sprouts to the garden. The garden is looking pretty packed right now and with another month of TLC, the vegetables should be rolling in!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bean Brace

Yesterday I built and today I installed a Bean Brace (instruction were in "Woodworking Projects for the Garden" by Richard Freudenberger.

I do not have 100% confidence that the brace will withstand strong winds, but I have anchored it down as much as I could. I hope it lasts long enough to support the Neapolitan beans that have begun to come up.

A bigger issue that I am having is that there is a robin trying to steal the string out of the garden. Each of the last couple of days I have seen it tugging at string and trying to fly away with the thread. All it ends up doing is tying things in knots and breaking one of my bean plants. I may need to come up with a strategy to stop this behavior.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

I spent time in the garden yesterday morning replacing plants that were not making it. In the tomato section of the garden I replaced 3 Roma's, 3 Sweet 100s, 1 4th of July, and 2 Red Lightnings (one of which was replaced with a 4th of July since I only started with 4 seedlings of that type). I planted a new row of lettuce, and replanted where I had initially put beets and nantes carrots. The "little fingers" (3" carrot variety) look like there are still s few seedlings there so I left them alone. The last area I replaced was the squash. I replaced 3 of the 4 Butternut squash and 2 of the 4 zucchini. The difference in the 2 groups of zucchini is amazing:

On the left is one of the healthier zucchini that I put in on May 9th that I didn't feel needed replacing yesterday. On the right is one of the zucchini I kept growing indoors until this week. I still have a small group of zucchini in the cold-frame so I may end up replacing the smaller zucchini if they don't start looking better. The lesson I learned from this year's plantings is that I can grow some very large healthy seedlings until Memorial Day. Putting out the Tomatoes and Squash early was a mistake this year.

In garden experiment news, I have begun a bit of a hanging Tomato experiment. Back in April, I read about a homemade version of the hanging planters at The Cheap Vegetable Gardener so I decided to try it out. I am trying to grow Roma's and Sweet 100's in 2-liter soda bottles:

and in 1 gallon milk bottles:

(I am not sure if there is actually enough soil in the soda bottles to get adequate fruit).

In the next few weeks I need to: come up with a container for my herbs and set up my deck herb garden, transfer peppers and celeriac to the garden (both of which are too small to transfer at this point), and do a whole lot of weeding, which I have been fairly lax about so far this year.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Heatwave and Temptation

We have gone from a frost advisory to temps in the 90's in just a few short days. Many of my plants are struggling in the sweltering heat, but I am hopeful that I will have squash and tomatoes that are hardened up to replace what I lost earlier in the week. Upon further reflection, I am curious if it was the plant covering or the fish emulsion spray that hurt my weaker plants. Two variables in a short window has me wondering which one caused the damage. I also tore out the dead row of lettuce so I will also plant a replacement row of salad greens this weekend.

With the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend I realized that I did not have enough burgers in the freezer to have an adequate holiday cookout. My solution, go back to Blood Farm! Of course, when I was there, the duck eggs were taunting me. For only $2, how could I pass up such an opportunity to sample these local curiosity? (They come from Golden Egg Farm in Hartwick). I couldn't resist the temptation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Frost Advisory Aftermath

In spite of the warning, there was no actual frost here last night, though we were close since there was a frost about 10 miles north of here. I do not regret covering my plants, but I do regret not removing the cover until this afternoon. The covering coupled with the mid-70's temperature lead to a lot of wilted (borderline dried out) plants. My weaker tomato plants (Roma's and sweet 100's), most of my squash, and surprisingly one row of lettuce look near death. Fortunately, I have plenty of extras seedlings so I spent some time today sorting out my strongest indoor seedlings and moving some of them into larger pots. Tomorrow I will put out replacement seedlings on the deck, cold-frame them overnight, and replace the damaged plants this weekend.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Tonight, according to the national weather service: "A FROST ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 3 AM TO 7 AM EDT TUESDAY." So I put together an impromptu garden covering to hopefully reduce the number of plants I need to replace this week. This officially confirms that I moved the tomatoes and squash out too early. Fortunately, I have extras of everything so it will not end up being a tragic mistake, even if my covering doesn't work.

After tonight, the weather is supposed to go into the 70's for the rest of the week. If my plants survive the night, this should be a great week for growing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

First Harvest and Weekend Garden Work

On Friday I thinned my lettuce rows and harvested my first bowlful of salad greens. It wasn't much, but it was enough for a lunch side salad on Saturday and lettuce for a couple of sandwiches. I need to thin at least once more so I may be able to get another meal from these greens later this week. The peas and lettuce continue to look fantastic and I expect that in a week or so I will be eating a big bowl of salad everyday.

As for the planting, I completed a second planting of the 2 bean varieties and my third planting of beets and the 2 varieties of carrots. My first planting of all of them are poking through the soil I am happy about the progress of these so far. On the negative side, a couple of the tomato seedlings and nearly all of the squash I transferred last week look pretty rough after one week in the soil. Today I sprayed them all with fish emulsion so I will see how they respond. If they do not improve by weeks end I will replace with my reserve seedling over Memorial Day Weekend.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Local Food Field Trip: Farmer's Market

Today I made my first visit to our town's Tuesday Evening Farmer's Market (apparently it started last week). Even in the summer, it is a small market with only a few vendors, but in mid-May, it is very tiny. I might be forgetting one or two, but there were only about 8 vendors. There was one selling seedlings and flowers, two dairies (one goat, one cow's milk), two bakery's (one bread, the other cookies, brownies plus jams), a coffee roaster, a guy selling fancy planters, and a person who sells natural soaps and other such stuff (I think of Fight Club every time I see this booth). I was hopeful that there might be some salad green, asparagus, or even some ramps available, but no luck. I did buy a small tub of Blueberry Chevre, but honestly the pickings were pretty slim.

I'll check back in a few weeks and hopefully some vegetable farms will join in. I would be happy to by some local vegetables before our garden starts yielding food and the CSA starts.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Big Day in the Garden

Today I planted a lot of stuff in the garden. I transplanted 15 tomato plants (3 each of Roma's, Sweet 100's, Red Lightnings, 4th of July's, and Big Boys), 4 Zucchini, and 4 Butternut Squash. I also planted 3 hills of pickling cucumbers and thinned my first planting of carrots and beets. The garden is now packed with stuff, I just hope that I am not planting too many things too early.

According to my Better Homes and Gardens New Complete Guide to Gardening, I should be OK for all of these plants, but I am on the early side for the squash and cucumbers. Honestly, I expect everything to do just fine, with the possible exception of the Roma's. I got the seeds late so they are much smaller than the other tomato varieties. I have back-ups for everything (except the red lightning, so if the weather takes a turn for the worse, we'll be fine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Local Food Field Trip: Blood Farm

Today I made a trip to my favorite place to buy meat: Blood Farm. It is a little out of the way for me to get to, but I feel it is totally worth the trip. All of the meat is locally raised and slaughtered on site. While they are not certified organic nor do they make promises about exclusively raising grass-fed beef, the freshness and quality are both excellent. If you have concerns about CAFOs (and everyone should, even without the current swine flu issues or connections), Blood Farm is definitely a great alternative. The place is basically a small scale local slaughter house with a couple of freezers stocked with meat. You can actually see the hanging meat while they are weighing your purchases and can get very fresh cuts of meat if they happen to have what you are looking for available. I have been told that they do special orders if you call ahead.

I tend to buy 2 - 3 months worth of food when I go there, so now our freezer is stocked up with all manner of local chicken, beef, and pork. (Mark Bittman's latest Minimalist column espouses the joy of a full freezer, and I must concur.)

The one new thing I came across on today's trip was local eggs:

These very cool looking and their diverse color reflects the free range nature of the chickens that produced them. Blood farm is not close enough for this to be regular "local egg" supplier, but I am definitely going to buy the eggs when I go there. They also had duck eggs which I have never had, but the fact that they sell them has me very intrigued...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Seedlings: Zucchini and Butternut Squash

Today, I moved the zucchini and butternut seedlings into larger containers. The initial plantings have been great, and I am eager to move these into the garden in a few weeks. The nighttime temperatures still drop down into the 40's so I think it is too soon to move them outside yet, but next week I will take them out from under the 24-hour lamps and prep them for the move. I have had some good zucchini in the past, but I have never been successful with winter squash. Hopefully the strong seedling are a signal that this will be a great year for both types of squash!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Quick Update: In the Garden Today

Today, I planted the potatoes in the garden along with the first planting of the Beans. I have planted Livingston Earliserve Bush Beans (that claim to be ready in 45 days) and BurpeeNeapolitan Pole Beans, that take 60 days and I will need to trellis.

If the rain holds off tomorrow, I will do a second planting of Beets and Carrots.