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Archive for July, 2014

Meera, left, and Rajah.

Meera, left, and Rajah.

These two adorable creatures were the inspiration for adding more growing space to our garden. As you can probably imagine, having two cats means we go through quite a bit of cat litter.

When the containers were empty, they started to pile up in our laundry room. We planned to recycle them but kept forgetting to take them out. Now I’m glad we were so forgetful. These have come in pretty hand and allowed us to plant even more.

To start, we washed out each container and drilled a bunch of holes in the bottom. Then we filled it about 2/3 of the way with shredded leaves (which we never have a shortage of each year) and added topsoil and compost to each. The leaves help use less dirt and compact a bit to help provide some extra drainage.

They're not pretty, but they work.

They’re not pretty, but they work.

I admit, the bright yellow is tacky and next year I plan to paint them a more neutral color. They’re perfect for plants that need more space or a deep area to grow. We have tomato plants in two of them, squash and zucchini in two more, and two pepper plants in others. Another added benefit is you can move the plants around based on sun or shade needs.

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It was a good run. Sort of. This was the year we had to say goodbye to our blackberry bush for good.

Dead blackberry bush.

Dead blackberry bush.

We tried to keep it productive, but didn’t properly care for it. We never really figured out how to prune it, birds and bugs kept eating the berries and leaves, and it seemed like it had some kind of disease. The rough winter we was probably what really killed it (weather also claimed a rose bush we planted).

So finally this spring we caved and dug it up. But our quest for a productive fruit plant didn’t end, and we ended up planting two blueberry bushes. One produces early and the other produces later in the summer.

Newly planted blueberry bush.

Newly planted blueberry bush.

We’re not having the best of luck with these either. The birds, which we’ve noticed many more hanging out near the blueberry bushes, have eaten most of the berries. This year, we’re OK with it and just want the plants to establish a good root system. Next year we’ll worry about keeping them out and are looking forward to a fruitful harvest!

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It was something we decided on a whim, but planting garlic seems to be one of the best choices we’ve made for our garden.

Our first harvest of garlic from the garden.

Our first harvest of garlic from the garden.

Although a few either rotted in the ground or were dug up by squirrels, we ended up with almost two dozen bulbs. Four of those are elephant garlic, which are actually closer to a leek than garlic, and each bulc is about the size of a baseball.

The elephant garlic also had about a dozen little “thingies” growing on the bottom. They look like really hard, tiny cloves and a bit of research shows their often called “bulblets” or “korms.” We can replant them, but it will take two years for them to form into a full bulb. It’s worth a shot anyway.

I think the hardest part of growing garlic will be saving the nice cloves to make sure we have enough to plant next year. We’re not experts, but here’s the basic process of growing garlic:

 

1. Plant in the fall. One clove will produce a new bulb. Plant them pointy side up. We were probably a bit late by planting in early November, and this year we’ll aim for October.

2. In the spring, the plants emerge and leaves can get fairly tall. Our elephant garlic was probably about 3 feet.

3. Some varieties produce scapes, and you can cut those off (don’t let them flower) to use in cooking. We made a really good salad dressing from it. I’ll post that recipe later.

4. The garlic is ready when about half the leaves get brown/yellow and flop over. Don’t pull from the leaves, but rather dig up the bulbs with a trowel or small hoe.

5. You could use it right away, but if you want it to last all year it needs to cure. To do that, hang it in a cool place with decent air circulation for a couple weeks. It might take longer depending on humidity. Make sure to leave the leaves and roots intact.

6. After it has formed a papery skin, lightly rub off the dirt, trim the leaves to the top of the bulb (a little bit should stick up above the bulb) and trim the roots almost all the way down.

Our garlic hanging in the basement to cure.

Our garlic hanging in the basement to cure.

So far what we’ve used has been phenomenal. It tastes so much better than store-bought garlic and will definitely be a staple in our garden for years to come.

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We’re back! I had hoped to start writing again earlier, but life got in the way. We’ll have more specific posts again soon, and this one will provide a general overview of what’s been happening in the garden.

It seems like everything is a little late this year. We’re already heading toward the end of July and not much is producing yet. We’ve pulled a couple cucumbers, the tomatoes are starting to turn red and the beans are forming. Our pepper and eggplants are producing, but the plants seem a bit shorter than usual. The hot peppers, as usual, are doing way better than the bell peppers.

Garlic has been pulled and is curing in our basement to form the papery skin that will make it last for about a year (if we don’t use it all before then).┬áSome of our carrots are popping up, the kale seems to be getting better, and it looks like we might actually get some Brussels sprouts this year!

Finally, our zucchini and squash plants seem to be really healthy. We were diligent about checking for squash vine borer eggs and used Bt (a natural bacteria), which is supposed to stop those in their tracks.

Overall it looks promising, but we’ll see how it actually turns out!

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