Getting Down and Dirty, or The First Garden Harvest

Finally. After a chilly spring, the first weekend of summer has already brought beautiful sun and perfect temperatures in the mid-70s. Now I remember why I moved back to Maine: the ocean breeze, the cool nights, and the hard-won bounty of one’s own patience and labor. Our gardens are flourishing. We eat something from them every day, and we have already had enough abundance to share with family. It’s so gratifying to eat all our hard work.

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Early on in the planting season, I experimented with several planting techniques from seedlings to starting from seed, using fertilizer or not, mulching or not, and planting in furrows or just flat. I have had mixed results. The cabbages and three varieties of kale starts I got from Winslow Farm are going for survival of the fittest right now. They are pretty happy, with the exception of a couple purple cabbage runts (as above), but there is some serious overcrowding going on (so below), so we’ll have to see who comes out on top.

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In the same bed as the cabbage and kale I planted my “broccoli” starts that I began in my bathroom in March. Broccoli is in quotes because as you can see from the photo below, two of these things are not like the other. All three of these plants started life in the same row of the same tray planted by … the preschooler. Anyone know what those other two broccoli poseurs are?

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We also have the bean fort, which, as you will remember from my previous post, is from the 51 Budget Backyard DIYs. Awesome idea, right? Yeah, not if you plant bush beans instead of pole beans. I actually still don’t know what these are going to turn into, but they are looking very bushy at this point, don’t you think?

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So as you can see, our gardens continue to surprise and delight us. Nothing is really ready yet except leafy greens, so I am starting to get creative with them. Here’s my attempt at multi-varietal kale chips.

Before.

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After.

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OK, well, they totally crumble in your mouth, but they’re tasty! Note to kale chip enthusiasts: Dinosaur and Red Russian kale do NOT make good chips.

We haven’t had a whole lot of rain over the past couple of weeks, so I water once a day in the evening just before I put the chickens to bed. It’s my favorite time of day. I think I was overwatering in the beginning, and some of the starts (cucumbers and basil mostly) are still recovering and not exactly thriving yet. I try to weed a few times a week, and I started using a liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks for good nutrition. I mix Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed blend with water in a two-gallon can and water top down. I noticed early on that the furrowed beds had much better drainage, so I dug furrows into all four, and it was the right choice. We have a very dry soil/compost mix that has lots of rocks and clay, so the more we can help the drainage along, the better.

That’s about it for regular maintenance right now. The beets, carrots, snap peas, and tomatoes are definitely getting close. I can’t wait to pop a cherry tomato from the vine straight into my mouth.

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Even though many of the plants are large enough to thin, I decided not to mulch around most of them. The mulched ends of the beds certainly retain the moisture better, but I haven’t seen a significant advantage in growth in those areas, so I have not yet mulched around the rest of the beds.

In the tried and true Singular Sensation gardening technique we developed in Texas, we have managed one each of our summer squash, zucchini, and okra planted from seed, so we’ll see how they do here. At least we’ll have more than one pea pod, right?

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Happy harvesting!

 

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Projects, Parties, and Pinterest-worthy Presentation

Well, it’s been a pretty insane few weeks. I feel like I have either been weeding or shopping for farm-themed kitsch every single day. No wait, I have been.

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After the upset of our backyard fauna by the exile of our dear roost ruler, Rosie, we briefly worried for the well being of our little flock, so Nate built them a mobile chicken run. It’s a chicken tractor! Now they can “free range” around the yard in the safety of their own enclosed space.

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OK, they’re good. So I turned my attention to the flora and became obsessed with this article: 51 Budget Backyard DIYs. Since Alistair’s fourth birthday party was a few weeks away, I decided to make my yard the coolest yard on the block. I did—just sayin’. Suddenly the neighborhood kids are over here every afternoon “helping” to feed the chickens and hunt for kindling for the fire pit. Once they actually went home and brought back s’mores makings. Awesome.

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I even tried phosphorescent paint on our tomato planters (actually they’re Home Depot buckets) and a fairy village. Those didn’t work out so well. However, we are growing a bean fort. So far it looks like this:

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I can only assume it will be totally amazing. Like this is:

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Then Alistair’s birthday starting getting close, so I decided we should definitely have a farm party. The kids could pet the chickens! Pick veggies! Muck around in their boots! I used the opportunity to try out a few more backyard projects, like this one, which only required twine, a few spring blooms, and copious, deliberate, and unabated wine consumption:

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I know. I know. Pin it for me, will you? No wait, it gets better.

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I am KILLING this farm party theme. Oh right. This is a kids’ party.

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So let’s pull it all together, shall we?

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This couldn’t possibly get any cuter.

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Wow. All I need now are some wild ducks to crash the party, and I will have totally outdone myself.

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How am I even doing this? Well, that’s just the farm life, I guess.