Monday, June 30, 2014

Planting Day #8

Another evening after work spent down planting dahlias. This time we went down right after I arrived home, before dinner. It was the first evening this whole Summer that I got hot and sweaty working. But we did hit 85 degrees today. We got another 16 dahlias planted tonight for a total of 147 in the ground. I have a little more than 6 rows left to plant. Pictured above, "Ginger Willo", an orange pom.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Planting Day #7

A nice day to work outside. The sun kept breaking though the clouds but we only hit a high of 75 degrees. I started my morning in the kitchen garden. The first thing that I noticed was this pretty "Delicata" blossom. It's my first Winter Squash blossom on any of the three varieties. Unfortunately, I never saw a bee working around it. The lack of bees this year continues to be a deep concern.

Since I harvested all of the "Nicola" potatoes last night, I now had a nice open area where the two grow bags used to sit. I knew just what to put there! I still haven't planted the 12 "Minnesota Migit" cantaloupe that I started from seed in May.

I was planning on planting them all down in the big garden but thought it would be a fun experiment to plant four of them in the kitchen garden. The kitchen garden receives much more sun than the big garden does, so I would expect that they might do better up here. I have never successfully grown a cantaloupe before, so I am pretty excited to see how this variety performs.

After dinner we went down to the big garden to see if it had finally dried out enough to start planting once again. Yesterday we tried to plant but the wet clay built up so fast on the wheel of the wheelbarrow that it made it impossible to push. Thankfully today's sunbursts were enough to do the trick, so we were able to get 19 dahlias planted tonight for a total of 131. Pictured below, "Porcelain" a white waterlily.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Garlic Scape & Potato Harvest

Another grey, overcast day but it was very mild out. Since I was concerned that the big garden would still be too wet to work in, I decided to turn my focus on the kitchen garden next to the house. After I gave the whole garden a quick weeding, I removed the remay tunnels that were covering my 3 varieties of Winter Squash. It certainly wasn't any too soon. All of the varieties were pushing against the fabric and starting to crawl. Pictured above, my one huge and one small "Delicata".

Here are my two plants of "Queensland Blue".

And here are my two "Butternut" squash.


Later in the day I harvested all of the scapes from my "Chesnook Red" garlic and 3 scapes from the "Russian Red" garlic.

Then I set about trying my hand at pickling the garlic scapes. Since this was my first attempt I turned to the book Preserving by the Pint by Marissa McClellan. She has a nice small batch recipe that filled just 2 half pint jars. The scapes are quickly boiled in a brine of cider vinegar, water and pickling salt. Then red pepper flakes, dill seeds and black peppercorns are added to the jars. I made a note that 4.7 oz of cut garlic scapes nicely filled two jars. That's a little less than 5 scapes per jar.

I made two batches today so I have 4 half pint jars that will now need to sit for at least a week before I get to taste my pickled scapes for the first time.

After dinner, I harvested my two grow bags of "Nicola" potatoes. These potatoes have an interesting "history". I originally planted the grow bags on May 9th of 2013. I planted one bag with two seed potatoes and the other bag with three. Due to a very busy Fall I never got around to harvesting any of them. Our Winter was very extreme, with two snow episodes and temperatures that hit below zero. I figured that everything in the grow bags was frozen and lost. But this early Spring fat potato sprouts appeared. Somehow some of the potatoes had survived! Since they got such an early start this year, the potato plants had already turned brown and were dying back by this past week. It was time to harvest...before 4th of July!

The "Nicola" potatoes are a really nice golden yellow. Interestingly enough, the grow bag that was planted with only two seed potatoes not only produced bigger potatoes but it produced more potatoes. I harvested 5 lbs. 2.8 oz  from that bag but only 4 lbs. 6.8 oz  from the bag that was planted with 3 seed potatoes. My findings aren't 100% foolproof, since I don't know if each bag experienced the same loss of parent potatoes over the Winter. Now I have the fun task ahead of finding creative ways of cooking 9 lbs. 9.6 oz of freshly harvested new potatoes.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Coneflowers

Our cone flowers in the mudroom flowerbed are coming into peak bloom. This year, all of the cone flower plants have doubled in size from last year and are extremely vigorous and healthy. Since cone flowers grow so well in the Midwest region, with its long hard Winters, we are wondering if our plants are responding to the extreme Winter we had this year. Maybe they actually benefit from a period of low temperature to perform at their best.

Whatever the reason, its nice to finally have our different varieties all growing so well. Pictured above, "Double Scoop Raspberry".

Unfortunately, the tag has been lost for this pretty white cone flower.

The white cone flower plants have especially struggled in past years, so it's extra gratifying to see such a nice display this year from this variety.

We have two clumps of echinacea "Aloha". It's a really pretty shade of golden yellow. "Aloha" is a really useful plant because it pairs well with red and orange blooming plants but also looks terrific growing next shades of pinks and purples as well.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rained Out Again

We received at least another 2/10" of rain today. I keep reminding myself how badly we do need the rain but today marks the 4th day in a row that I haven't been able to plant any more dahlia.

Since gardening was out of the question tonight, I instead took a walk around the property. I noticed that the wild filberts had nuts developing in the young husks found hanging from the branches. Some of the husks are solo on the branches, and it is fairly easy to find a set of two developing together. My big find of the night was this cluster of 4 nuts. Once mature, it is going to make a squirrel or Stellar's Jay very happy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Misty Afternoon and Rainy Evening

As promised the rain returned today. What started as showers in the afternoon switched over to a downpour by 8:00 PM. It certainly wasn't a day to work in the garden. But we still had a 20' gap in our rabbit fence to fix so after dinner Dad and I grabbed raincoats and headed down to the garden. It look one full roll of fencing plus 4' of another to close our gap. Thankfully it appears as if none of the bunnies found the opening in the fence last night so there was no further damage to the dahlias or other cut flowers. Now I just need the garden to dry out so we can begin planting once again. *Note- we received 9/10 of an inch of total rainfall today. That will certainly help green up the fields and fill up the creek once again.

Here is one of the dozens of rabbits that are roaming our property this year. We seem to be in a "peak" year, with bunny numbers like we had back in 2010. Everywhere you travel, there are rabbits large and small hopping out of the way.

Before we headed down to the big garden, I did take a quick moment to plant three more "Poletschka" pole beans in the kitchen garden. These were some of the plants that I started in 1" pots after the voles ate most of the seed that I planted in the ground.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Under Attack

Tonight started like so many other nights down in the big garden. Dad had picked up another 2 scoops of Nature's Best today, so we began the evening by driving down the pickup and off loading all of the new soil. So far so good. But then, as we started to water all of the dahlias, I noticed something. Someone - a rabbit I am sure - had eaten a good bit of one of the dahlias. Then I really began to look around. Yikes! I found a total of 9 dahlias that has been munched sometime in the last two days, 4 of them pretty badly. Even the growing tips had been eaten on a few of them, like both of my "Tahoma Alicia" plants, pictured above. My garden was under attack! There was no point in planting anymore dahlias until the garden was protected from the rabbits. So it was time for a big change of plans. We gathered all of the metal poles and fencing that I had purchased 4 years ago when the rabbits had been a big problem. We brought everything down to the garden and then around 8:00 PM began to work as fast as we could setting it all up.Thank goodness it's June 24th and there is daylight until 9:30. We were able to get everything fenced except for a 20' section in the back. My fingers are crossed the rabbits won't find the gap tonight.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Planting Day #6

Another busy planting day down in the big garden. I started the morning by planting 16 more dahlias. Then in the evening we came back and got another 16 in the ground, for a daily total of 32 . That makes the total number of dahlias planted so far at 112. I am really close to being 1/2 way done.

Here are two newly planted "Tahoma Alicia". It is always one of the first dahlias to bloom in my garden each year.

In the afternoon, between dahlia planting sessions, I brought down my tray of cosmos and zinnia starts and got them all planted in the two rows that I had earlier prepared. In the first row I set in 21 plants of cosmos "Mixed Seashell".

In the row right next to that one I planted 12 starts of cosmos "Kneehigh Sonata Mix" and 5 starts of the zinnia "Raspberry Sorbet". All of those little plants are going to be so much happier now, out of their cramped cells and settled into the ground. I know that within just a few days they will take off growing.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Summer Solstice & a Busy Day in the Garden

I had an epic day down in the big garden today. I started the day by planting 13 dahlias by myself. Once Dad returned home, we got out the lawn mowers and mowed the entire garden, inside and out. Then, in the evening, we took another small load of dahlia plants down. I watered everything already planted in the ground and all of the dahlias still in pots and then we began planting again. We planted until just past 9 o'clock and got another 16 dahlias in the ground, for a total of 80 planted. Once we got back to the house, I sat outside with the cats until 9:30. It was still light enough out that you could see everything clearly. I tried to capture the feeling and sights of the day in my mind, to play back on those short, dark days of December & January. Happy Summer Solstice!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Planting Day #4

A pleasant evening to work in the garden, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to garden tonight. The morning started grey and overcast. Throughout the early afternoon, we had a heavy mist/showers that come down and actually created some puddles in the streets. But the ground is already so dry that it absorbed all of the moisture and it was perfectly fine to work in the garden tonight. We got another 15 dahlias planted for a grand total of 51. Pictured below, "Ms Kennedy".

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sweet Pea Update

I am so pleased with the tower of sweet peas this year. After having such a difficult time for so many  years with aphids, it is such a shock and joy to be growing them easily and successfully this year.

The tower is an amazing mass of lavender and a bit of accidental red!



And the bonus red

The smell is just heavenly. The fragrance released by sweet peas is like no other. When the wind is blowing just right, we can even smell them half way around the house.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Planting Day #2

A very nice evening to work down in the big garden. After work we were able to get serious and planted 16 dahlias in the garden, for a total of 20 now planted. I finally have my first row completely finished. It's a start! Pictured below, two healthy plants of "Crazy 4 Jessie".

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Planting Day #1

After getting 02/10" of rainfall overnight and into this morning, I wasn't sure if I would be able to work in the garden tonight. But the ground is already so dry, that it easily absorbed all of the moisture. So tonight after work, Dad and I brought down the first 42 dahlias to be planted!

Then I put up variety labels on the first 4 rows of stakes.

And then, drum roll.....I was able to plant the first dahlias of the year! I put in 4 "Harvey Koop" a FD "A" sized dahlia. Last year I was able to start planting on June 15th, so I am only 2 days later this year.

Once I got the satisfaction of having at least 4 dahlias planted, I turned my attention to my cut flower rows. I brought down the tray of marigolds that I started in May. I set in 5 starts of "Francis' Choice" pictured above and then planted 14 starts of "Red Metamorph" pictured below.