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Backyard Farm – December Notes on Christmas Morning

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My postings for the past couple of months have slowed a little but I have tended to some of the chores!
• Spreading compost from the bin on the right and turning the bin on the left.
• Son Ben did a fantastic job adding gravel around the edges. Looks great! An early and well appreciated Christmas gift.
• Turned ad prepped the bed for potato planting.
• Cut back the Asparagus ferns and added a layer of compost and leaf mulch. Gotta love Houston, two days ago I noticed several young shoots about 6 inches above the mulch…my reward for taking care of the bed. NOW GO TO SLEEP DANG NABBIT!
• Carrots and sugar snap peas have emerged from the late fall plantings.
• Planted 6 Blueberry plants and 8 replacement bare root blackberry plants – Ben was a little overzealous when he added a pvc irrigation line in the blackberry bed. We had a good laugh!
• Planted more Chard and Beet seeds yesterday as well as some red onion seeds in the front portion of the potato bed.

December 4th I ate my first ripe strawberry – way too early, it was kinda small and misshapen but it was sweet! Inspection yesterday showed numerous blossoms and a few dozen green berries trying to fill out. It may be another stellar strawberry year and maybe, just maybe a few more jars of jam to share.

One of several confused strawberries. This was the little one I ate! Yum

One of several confused strawberries. This was the little one I ate! Yum

TTFN & Merry Christmas – share something wonderful with those you love!

Bishop

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The Other Garden “Ato” – the Potato

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I seem to celebrate the tomato as if it the crown jewel of the backyard farmer as many gardeners do. Tomatoes do seem to be a central theme with many garden bloggers, “how to” sites, mail order companies and farmer’s markets. That said, I would like to share my growing fascination with potato growing. I have tried barrel or basket growing in the past. This year I have a mix of conventional trenched and hilled in ground method, a barrel and two tubs.

I planted some Yukon Gold taters in the ground and the barrel at the same time. They are doing very well. I had a few leftover and a couple of weeks later I planted them in the Rubbermaid tub I had been using to house my vermicomposting worms. I need to add lots of soil to it tomorrow!!!! I planted another tub a week ago and the shoots have yet to break the surface.

The barrel planted potato eyes were placed in the barrel with about six inches of soil. They took off. I think they benefitted from the warming effect of the barrel. The soil level is up to about 40 inches now and I won’t add any more. The in ground potatoes are also doing very well. The plants are 30+ inches above the hilled up mounds. I have high hopes for a good harvest.

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An old garbage barrel with  holes in the bottom. Potato eyes at the bottom, 30 + inches below support the lush green growth.

An old garbage barrel with holes in the bottom. Potato eyes at the bottom, 30 + inches below support the lush green growth.

The newest tub was planted with supermarket spuds that sprouted in the pantry. Supermarket spids are not the best choice as they are sometimes treated to inhibit sprouting. The Yukon Gold are actual seed potatoes purchased at Kingwood Garden Center. Helpful folks, lots of knowledge and support organic gardeners!

The tub as it appears when the potatoes are planted. About 6 inches in the bottom,

The tub as it appears when the potatoes are planted. About 6 inches in the bottom,

Soil in this one is up about 10 inches and needs quite a bit more this weekend.

Soil in this one is up about 10 inches and needs quite a bit more this weekend.

I am looking forward to filching a few “new” potatoes down a foot or so a little later in early summer. I will be watching closely….once they flower and the tops die back I will harvest. The nice thing about using the tubs and barrels is the no digging to harvest. Just dump the container and sort through bounty!

PS – lunch was tomatoes picked today used in a wilted spinach and fresh Chard salad with grilled chicken breast. Dressing was simply EVOO and a blackberry flavored aged Balsamic vinegar. A little fresh ground pepper and sea salt! Just perfect!

TTFN

Bishop

The Harvest is Ramping Up!

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Well the harvest is ramping up and it appears I may have some competition. My wife snapped a picture of a night raider hanging out by our backdoor. We have seen him, or a relative, making regular treks out from the garden area near the midnight hour on several occasions. I see the tracks but no evidence of thievery yet.

I have had some brussel sprouts off the crowns and now the side shoots are plumping up, yummy  beets and beet greens, asparagus for the first time, the strawberries are really producing and vey sweet and my dwarf Meyer lemon is blossoming and producing.

The green beans are really starting to crawl up the poles and the bush beans are 4-6 inches tall. My swiss chard is a little slow this year but 2 or 3 plants will overwhelm us (really just me… Kathy won’t eat it) Cucumbers are really slow this year…. may have to replant the armenian variety as well as the pickling variety. It is still pretty early in the season so I am not worried. My tomatoes are in the ground –  the Brandywine tomatoes are absolutley the best tasting but they do not seem to be responding well. Fed them some fish emulsion today to help them along.  The Roma, Creole, Mortgage Lifter and Juliet are doing well as are the peppers and eggplants.

I made a cold pasta salad with roasted beets, beet greens and penne pasta last week and it was pretty good. It was my made up  recipe but lacked a little for seasoning/complimentary flavors so I will experiment again. Just picked some very nice beets this morning while bringing in the morning’s strawberries and asparagus harvest. I will try again over the weekend if I just don’t eat the roasted beets as they come out of the oven.

Kathy took excellent care of my green babies while I slaved away in Dallas this week. She won’t pull weeds but she does a nice job of watering and picking….. even froze a bunch of berries so I can make jam a little late this springr. My blackerries are beginning to leaf out so the May harvest may be a very good one.

The worms were fed today and they said hi to all y’all!  ; )

TTFN

Bishop

Spring is Springing

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Had a week free from travel and got the spring work under way. Not much growing through our winter but I did manage to get a huge pile of leaves for mulch. I am trying something new to stay ahead of the Bermuda grass invasion of my beds. In one of the photos shown I have put down a heavy paper barrier. I covered it with my leaf mulch to hold it in place and to help conserve moisture. As I was prepping the soil I was amazed at how many earth worms I disturbed. I added a bunch a few years ago and added some vermipods (encapsulated worm eggs) a year ago. Looks like it is paying off. My composting worms, earthworms and vermipods are all from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. http://www.unclejimswormfarm.com/

I have planted my tomatoes in this bed….. just cut a small hole and dug down a little ways. I am trying Brandywine tomatoes again but I am placing them where they will get more sun this year. If this year is a bust with then I will look to find another heritage style that tastes as good and holds up in our Houston weather. I also planted a Mortgage lifter, a Celebrity and my prolific Juliet tomato. The pole beans are in the ground but have not broke through. Some chard is up and I just thinned a couple rows of carrots. The beets look healthy and adjacent to them is my Asparagus bed……. I am getting anxious to harvest this year. Also put out swweet banana peppers and a couple of eggplant plants – is that redundant????? or is it alliteration????
I harvested worm poop today. They are just as busy as ever and multiplying like crazy. I may need to make a convert and share my worms with some like-minded person. It looks so rich, no odor and is so good for the plants. While I was in the mood I rounded up a bunch of wayward strawberry plants that had escaped the bed. I may look to fill in some bare spots in my other beds or …… get some started in a friend’s yard.
I finally got a “round-to-it” and cut the wine barrel that my daughter Ashleigh brought home. I have it out on the patio and I planted a – go figure – a patio tomato surrounded by a couple of marigolds. Looks pretty good!

TTFN

Bishop

Tonight’s Fresh Salad in the Making

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Fresh picked today…. It doesn't get any fresher than that. Romaine, Red Leaf and Butter Crunch lettuce. I will add some store bought cucumbers, onion and bell peppers… as much as I would like to be perfect I will have to settle for close! I have also gathered in some Swiss Chard, Red and White(green) as well as some snap peas.

They are still a few weeks from really getting going. I have two varieties….. in non technical terms – the flat and the more robust meatier type. If I was better organized I would have a plot plan listing the variety by genus and species. But, alas, I am just a good ole boy that just enjoys seeing it grow and getting some real flavor from my little patch. I do keep most of the seed packs and could probably match them up from the "purty" little pictures.
The cucumber seeds are in the ground but yet to emerge as well as the pole beans. I am getting anxious but will be patient for another week before I reseed. I have some melon seeds but will hold off a little longer for them….

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Early March Gardening

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Back into the garden today… wet and sloppy but I put my poorboy topsy turvy style tomato planters together. I bought two determinate patio style plants, cheap two dollar buckets and a left over bag of potting soil. The plant hanger is a bit wobbly so I will need to stiffen it up or secure it better.

I will provide some updates as the season progresses. I shot a picture of one of my mixed beds. The Swiss Chard is doing well and the Romaine is really starting to get big. The garlic is looking good but I have never been able to get good bulbs here in the Houston area.

What isn't seen is a few spindly spears from the asparagus crowns I put in last fall. I have heard they can grow here and do fairly well. I see three of the 4 crowns have put a spear up. The new blueberry plants are leafing out now. The new June bearing strawberries are taking hold so it should be a good berry season. Some of the ever bearing plants already have berries. The buds are swelling on the blackberries so I will soon see if I managed the canes properly last summer and fall.

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