Corn & Fall Seedlings

The corn was ripe and ready to pick, so that was the chore for today. I have found it easier to pick the patch if I pull up or break off the stalks as I pick. It clears the ground and helps get it ready for the next crop.

 

I plan to use the corn stalks as a heavy mulch in a new area we want to turn into another herb bed. In years past, I have pulled up the corn stalks and piled them right outside the garden. This time, instead of stacking them on the ground, then loading them up to go somewhere else, I decided to load them directly into the back of the pickup. When I finish mowing the grass and weeds down in the area for the new bed, I can just drive by and unload these directly onto the bed. Well, that is the plan anyway.

Here is our corn harvest for the year, minus the half dozen ears we have already eaten. There are quite a few small, irregular ears that I will give to the chickens. Our young hens that are about five weeks old, have really taken to eating the scraps and comfrey leaves I bring them, so I hope they enjoy these small ears of corn. My plan is to cut the corn from the cob and can it. We tend to eat more corn from the can than from the cob, and this will also give us another learning experience since we haven’t canned corn before.

I have almost finished digging the potatoes. Once the potatoes are out this area, I will till this space, along with the adjoining old beet and onion beds for some of our fall crops. The area the corn was growing in will be used as well. With that in mind, and the time growing short, at Frank’s recommendation, I planted most of my fall crops in tubs on the porch a couple of days ago. The only thing I didn’t plant like this are the turnips, which are Purple Top White Globes. I will direct seed them.

The things I have planted in the tubs are:

  • Dr. Jaeger’s Cantaloupe – 85 days

  • Autumn King Carrots – 70 days
  • Earliana Cabbage – 57 days
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach – 45-50 days
  • Long Island Improved Brussel Sprouts – 100 days
  • Cushaw Green Striped Winter Squash – 110 days

  • Bucklunch Sugar Beet – 110 days
  • Mammoth Long Red Mangel Beets – 110 days

Our first average frost date here is October 31st which is 102 days from the time I planted these seeds. The cantaloupe and winter squash vines cannot tolerate a frost.

If we have an early frost I may be able to save some of these plants with frost cloth, so I will plant them in the same area. The beets, carrots and spinach can tolerate a mild frost, so they should be fine.

The cabbage and brussel sprouts will be happier once it cools off and can take a hard frost, so I’m curious how they will do.

Gardening is an ever changing outdoor ‘school house’ where I never quit learning. The possibilities are endless and can reach as far as your knowledge and imagination can take you. Grow something. Anything. It never ceases to amaze me that I can take one small, tiny seed and watch it grow into something truly amazing. Something that can feed and sustain me. I am in awe.

Until next time – Fern

Lessons I’ve Learned From My Garden

These lessons work here in Zone 7 where we live in southeastern Oklahoma. The techniques we use may need to be tweaked to work in your neck of the woods. There are several things I have learned this year in the garden that I would like to share. It teaches me something every year with every crop. We have also learned a lot from the comments and interaction we receive here on the blog. I have grown rather fond of this small piece of dirt…and weeds…..and grass….

Don’t plant onions too deep or they will not make a nice onion bulb. I have never grown a decent sized onion until this year. When I mentioned this on one of the gardening articles, one of the comments indicated that an onion should basically have only the roots in the ground.

I have always planted them much deeper than that. Then the next day or so, we stopped by Grace’s house and she had a beautiful onion in a tub that barely had it’s roots in the ground, but looked great.

So, I uncovered the base of some of my onions, and guess what? They grew bulbs! Real, live onions! I was very happy and thankful I finally figured out what I had been doing wrong.

We are having the best corn crop this year we have ever had, but I can’t really tell you why. I planted a new variety, Stowell’s Evergreen, an open pollinated, white, sweet corn variety. One difference this year was my planting technique. I tend to plant corn way too close together trying to utilize all of our space. Corn doesn’t particularly

like to be crowded. This year Frank recommended I poke a hole in the ground with the handle end of my hoe, drop in a couple of seeds, then step on them. This worked very well and kept me from planting so close together. The result? Nice full, large ears of corn. And it tastes good to boot!

I planted the green beans in the new part of the garden that hadn’t been fertilized much. In some years past, I didn’t have a very good green bean crop and the only thing I could figure out was the soil was too rich. Because of that  
experience I thought this would be an okay place for the beans this year. They are growing well, just not producing any beans. I ‘watered’ them with some old milk a few times for the calcium. Next, I was thinking of putting on some wood ashes for the potassium. I’m glad we still have plenty of green beans we canned last summer. We’ll just have to wait and see how they do.

 For some reason, I have not figured out why, we also have the best potato crop ever this year. There are many more potatoes, and they are much larger. The only difference I can think of is that we set the tiller a little lower and got the soil loosened up a little deeper. I was able to hill them up twice before Frank’s surgery and the weeds took over. Now that I have mowed down the grass, I am getting them dug up to make room for the fall crops.

 What makes a carrot go to seed? From my reading, if a carrot goes to seed the first year it will not make good seed. Carrots are biennial, which means they need a ‘winter’ or a spell of cold weather to produce viable seed the second year. I am really surprised at the size of the seed stalk this carrot is producing, compared to the regular carrot greens, it is huge. I will still try to harvest the seeds from this plant and see how they do. I will plant them separately in seedling pots and see if they germinate just to learn something new.

 

I have a tomato jungle growing. Since this year in the garden has been hit and miss, I have not been keeping up with the tomato suckers. In years past, I have been pretty vigilant in removing them, but not this year, and it has turned out to be a good

thing. I was taught to remove the suckers to allow the energy to be focused into the main plant. But, this year, with many, many suckers, I am finding I have a lot more tomatoes coming on. Now I need to learn a happy medium between removal and encouragement. Interesting.

The purple hull peas seem to have vined out more this year. I almost think it would be beneficial to plant them along a stock panel trellis the way we do tomatoes. It would make them easier to pick and I would walk on them less. That would be a lot more panels to dedicate to the garden, though, so I will have to ponder that one. Maybe it would do just to plant my rows a little farther apart. They are such a hardy plant and will keep on producing as long as you keep picking. They don’t require near the moisture of other plants, such as corn or squash.

We don’t eat fresh cucumbers, but I do like pickles. Last year I planted too many cucumbers, this year I planted too few. If I want enough cucumbers to make pickles, I need more plants than this. Next year, I will go back to more plants and pull them up when I am finished making pickles.

There is always so much to learn in the garden. No two years are exactly the same. The weather is different, the time I can spend is different, the bug population is different, there are just untold differences to learn about and deal with each and every year. If you believe that extremely hard times are coming to our country and world, and you want to be able to grow your own food, don’t wait until that event happens. It will be too late to learn the lessons of gardening in your location, or the location you plan to go to. Even folks that have gardened all of their lives come up against something new that requires a change in plans when it comes to growing food. Grow what you can. Can what you grow. Enjoy the blessings of the harvest.

Until next time – Fern

How Green is the Garden

The garden is lush and green this year. We have been getting plenty of rain, which is great. In years past, we would be watering a lot by now, but not this year. We have only had to water two times so far. One of the differences this year is the addition of a lot of grass and weeds. Plans don’t always work out the way you think they might and the weeding has been put on the back burner more often than not this year. Nevertheless, we have many things producing, in spite of the neglect.

I want to share another garden with you. Our friends, Grace and Moe Joe, have planted a garden for the second year. They have figured out how to maximize some small spaces, a 10′ by 24′ garden plot, and a ‘flower bed’ by the house, as well as some container gardening. They have grown enough to preserve a variety of items, as well as cook fresh food everyday, and give away the surplus. There are so many different ways to grow food, I wanted to share their examples. 

I am sorry for the brevity of the last two posts, I am publishing this one from the hospital. Frank has decided to invest in a small amount of titanium as a precious metal. So far, everything is going well. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

So…..Happy gardening everyone! I hope your harvest is abundant.

Until next time – Fern
 

Growin’ and Pickin’ the Garden

The garden season is well under way here. I picked a bucket full of squash a couple of days ago. Soon we will be into the canning season again. We have canned up one batch of beets, which I will be sharing with you before long. The cucumbers are beginning to bear, the green beans are blooming, and it won’t be long until the potatoes are ready to dig. We have been getting, and will probably get rain just about everyday for a while. I just hope there aren’t anymore high winds or hail to damage the garden. Here is a tour of what is happening so far.

The green beans are blooming.

I planted two small rows of sunflowers by the green beans.

 

The potatoes are doing well this year, at least on the surface. Some of them are starting to die off, so it won’t be long before we are able to start digging them up.

We have canned a batch of beets, and the ones that we left growing are still increasing in size. They will need to be harvested before long.

I think I have figured out why my onions never make bulbs. I plant them too deep. I really hope next year I can grow some real live onions. I wonder if I can grow a fall crop? I have never heard of anyone doing that. It’s pretty hot here until about the end of September. I may just have to try that.

 The cucumbers are blooming and have some tiny little cucumbers to show.

The sunflowers are doing great. They are strong, healthy plants.

A storm semi blew over about half of the corn yesterday. I got most of it standing kind of upright again. Around here folks say it needs to be knee high by the 4th of July. Well, it’s way past my knees, almost to my shoulder.

The purple hull peas have plenty of competition from the grass and weeds, but they are growing well. They should be blooming before long. I hope to get them some relief sometime soon.

The squash is growing very well. We are having to battle a few squash vine borers, so I put some wood ashes around the base of each plant. Surprisingly, we have seen very few squash bugs this year. Last year I was picking leaves with bug eggs on them everyday and feeding them to the chickens, along with squishing many bugs. This year I have squished about five or six bugs and haven’t found any eggs at all. Weird. We have seen quite a few assassin bug nymphs around, and that is good.

The okra didn’t germinate or grow well this spring. We had some late frosts and some cool weather, plus a lot of grass and weeds, but the okra is just now starting to grow. It hasn’t filled in all of the rows and I’m not sure if I will replant the bare spots or not.

The peas are just about finished. It has gotten to hot for them, so we are waiting to pick the last few peas. I haven’t figured out how to get enough peas to freeze a few quarts or can a few jars. Each year so far, we have only had enough peas for about five or six meals. I may not grow any next year and spend the time and effort on something else. It is nice to have something to eat out of the garden early in the spring, though. The tomatoes are doing very well. They are nice strong plants and have started to bloom as they take over the pea trellis.

The carrots are growing, but don’t seem to like this end of the garden as well as the other end, where they grew last summer. The peppers seemed to have grown about six inches overnight. They are very happy with the hot weather we have been having. They are starting to bloom.

Overall, the garden is doing well, despite of all of the weed competition. Lately, we have had other priorities. You see, Frank is getting ready to have back surgery, so we have been somewhat otherwise occupied for some time. For instance, this evening we actually drove 30 miles to town to get some Kentucky Fried Chicken. We haven’t done that for over five years. And, you know what? It wasn’t any good. We talked about it for a while then realized that the chicken probably tastes just like it always has. It’s our tastes that have changed.

It reminds me of when we first moved to Alaska. Before our move we were consuming our own meat, milk and eggs, just like now. After we had been gone for about six months we came back to our family doctor for a regular checkup and blood work. A few days later at our appointment, the doctor asked us what we were doing different because our protein levels were low, which had never happened before. The only answer we could come up with was that we had changed to all store bought meat, milk and eggs. It’s something to ponder, huh?

2013

The time may come, sooner than we would like, when there are no more rides to town so someone else can cook for us and feed us. There may come a time that what we can grow or raise is all there is. There may come a time that the only medical attention we can get is what we can provide for ourselves. I can only say that I am glad that day is not yet upon us. But I feel it coming a little closer everyday. Don’t wait until it is upon us. Get what you need while the gettin’ is still good.

Until next time – Fern

Mid-May Garden Tour

Whew! School is out as of yesterday and the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. In the meantime, the weeds and grass have been growing happily along with the vegetables we planted. Now it’s time to get ahead of them again.

The potatoes had suffered from weed encroachment more than anything else, so they were first on the list this morning. The ground is still pretty moist from the last rain, but the Mantis tiller was able to work the ground pretty well. So now the potatoes are at least partially weeded and have been hilled up again.

 

The beets are doing very well this year. This is only our second year to grow beets, so I’m not real sure why they are doing great. There are several that look like they will be ready to eat before long. About every other evening I pick some beet greens and take them to the chickens and goats. We have also added some small, tender greens to a salad recently.
 

 

The onions are doing their thing, I think. I have yet to grow a good crop of onions, and the verdict is still out on this batch.

 

The sunflowers are coming up thick and look great. I planted seeds we harvested last summer and didn’t know how viable they would be, so I planted them pretty thick. Guess what? They are doing great. Now to plant some more of them here and there to increase the harvest. We are intending this entire harvest, minus some seed saving for next year, to be animal feed. It will be quite amazing to see these rows full of big, beautiful sunflowers.

 
The corn looks great and is coming right along. It’s also lucky, because a few weeks ago, I worked over the grass and weeds in between the rows.

 

The purple hull peas, or cow peas, are also growing well. They have more competition from the grass and weeds, so they will need attention in the next few days.
 

 

The squash looks great. I am hoping that the late tilling and frosts have impacted the squash bug and squash vine borer population. So far I haven’t seen any at all, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m sure they will make an appearance before long.

The okra doesn’t like the cool weather we’ve been having lately, so it’s growing, just not very fast. This is also the worst patch of weeds, now that the potatoes have been taken care of. That makes them next on the list for some serious weeding and mulching.

The tomatoes are growing and look very healthy despite the cool weather we’ve been having. We did have a few very warm, humid days before the last rain and the cool north winds today. I found a volunteer tomato coming up in the okra patch as well. There were Roma tomatoes growing close to this area last year. There are also a few volunteer potatoes.

The snap peas are looking great. They have finally started really growing, blooming and producing. I will need to pick our first batch of peas in a few days.

 

The carrots are growing. It seems they should be farther along, but they look healthy and happy. Another volunteer potato has come up over here as well.

The peppers are still pretty small. I think they have joined the okra in protesting the cool weather. Most of them look healthy, they’re just not growing a whole lot.

We had a big handful of potatoes left from last fall that had sprouted and grown these long, spindly sprouts in the house. I was just going to toss them out when I decided to pile them up in the corner of the garden and scoop some dirt on top. Well, now we have this huge potato bush growing there. We’ve learned another lesson. Don’t give up when things don’t appear to be doing very well. This is a great lesson that can be applied to many things besides potatoes. Don’t ever give up. 

Clematis


 Until next time – Fern
 

Late Frosts & Working In The Garden

At this stage in the garden, I always want everything to be a little farther along, but it’s not. We had two very late frosts this year on the nights of April 30th and May 1st. Neither one was a hard frost, but it was cold enough to put frost on the windshield of the car, so we wanted to protect the tender garden plants. As the dusk was falling, I got the last of the plants covered with a layer of hay for protection. This was at the end of a long busy day, so there were no pictures of this project. 

I left the hay over the plants for two nights. Now it’s time to uncover everything and see how they fared in the cold weather. I wanted to find a way to do this without a great deal of stooping over, so I decided to try out a new tool that we have had for a while, but I have never used. I thought maybe I could use this three tine cultivator to gently lift the hay off of the plants without damaging them. It worked great and saved my back a lot of bending and stooping.

 I had kind of built a tent of hay over the green beans since they were getting fairly tall. I accidentally bent several of them over too far, but most of them look great. While I was uncovering them I realized that all of this hay I had put out could be moved just to the side of the plants and used for mulch. That wasn’t my plan originally, but now using the hay to protect from frost is turning into the added benefit of mulch, which is an unplanned bonus.

 The cow peas, which are purple hulls, were just starting to come up good when the cold weather was forecast. They didn’t mind being covered at all and are looking nice and healthy. We planted more than twice the amount we had last year to provide food for us, and to supplement the feed for the goats and the chickens.

 The squash is growing very well and a few of the leaves had already started poking through the hay by the time I got them uncovered.

The okra was just barely breaking through the soil when I covered them. Some of them look pretty pale and others already have two nice green leaves.

  

The tomatoes were about the same. Some looked a little pale, and none of them are really showing signs of growth yet. I know they didn’t appreciate the cold weather.

The peppers are sharing the same sentiments as the tomatoes. They’re all alive, but are still pretty small.

The peas are finally growing quite a bit, but still haven’t started blooming. I’m beginning to wonder if they will bloom at all.
 

The carrots are happy and growing right along. This trellis is home to the peas on one side and the tomatoes on the other. I planted the carrots on the east side so they would get morning sun, but be shaded from the hotter western sun in the afternoon. I also tucked the pepper in to the east of this trellis. I’m not sure how well they will like this location, so we will see.

 

The corn is just beginning to come up and is still quite small. I used my cultivator to get rid of some of the grass coming up between the rows. I will let it get about six inches tall, then mulch between the rows to keep the weeds down. That should take care of it for the rest of the summer.

The cucumbers are growing very well on the east side of this building.

  

The cabbage, broccoli, beets and onions are doing very well. I need to do some more weeding and then they will all get mulched.

The potatoes are growing great again after the foliage was killed by a harder frost a few weeks ago. The grass and weeds are giving them a lot of competition, so they are in need of some attention. Hopefully, I can get to that sometime this week, then I will hill them up again.

There are two spinach plants doing well in the strawberry bed. The others didn’t make it. I don’t know if they were eaten or just died, but I am glad to have a few plants we will be able to harvest.

Our new food crops are hopefully on the way to producing this year’s harvest for us. There are always different challenges each year that give us the opportunity to learn and develop new skills. We know you can never learn too much and will continue learning every day as if our lives depend upon it. Because it does. 

Until next time – Fern

Researching a New Feed Ration

The more I read about and learn about GMO corn, the more I wish we could totally eliminate it from our diet, even though I know that’s close to impossible. We do have a few cans of store bought corn in the pantry, which I don’t even like to eat anymore. But, for me, the biggest stumbling block we have is the feed we give our animals. So, more research and more reading.

We used to have our goat and chicken feed mixed according to our own recipe at a small, family owned feed mill. This location does not have that option, so we have been mixing our own. Wheat was one of the ingredients we used to include that has not been available here. A few days ago when we were at the feed store, I noticed a bag of wheat bran that I didn’t remember seeing before. I didn’t know what the nutritional value of wheat bran would be for goats, so I came home and looked it up. According to Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, wheat bran has 13.3% digestible protein and rolled oats have 10% . Hmmm….okay. The alfalfa pellets we use have 17% protein and the sweet feed has 10%. 

Summer 2013

The ideal protein ratio for milking does is around 12%. So, what I am trying to figure out is a mix of these grains, minus the GMO corn chops we are currently feeding, that would give me about a 12% feed combination. Another thought I have had is sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds are very nutritious for both goats and chickens. We grew our first ever sunflowers last summer and actually had seeds to harvest. This summer I hope to grow hundreds of sunflowers all around our place with the plan to harvest them for animal feed.


So, the new feed ration we are going to try is:

  • 6 parts rolled oats
  • 4 parts sweet feed
  • 1 part alfalfa pellets
  • 1 part wheat bran
  • 1 part sunflower seeds

For now, all of these ingredients will come from the feed store. This combination will give me a feed ration of about 11.5% protein. Of course, the protein content is always dependent upon growing conditions.

Summer 2013

I am also going to start several patches of comfrey this summer. Right now I have one plant in my herb bed. I have ordered and received 5 more roots which will begin bed number two. Then the next step will be to start comfrey seedlings. 

Once I have them up and established, I will plant bed number three. Comfrey, also called knitbone, has long been used as a medicinal herb and as a supplement for livestock feed. It is very high in protein and vitamin B12.

Another crop I am going to try to get established for supplemental livestock feed is plantain. I have read about it for a number of years, but didn’t really pay much attention to it. When I was ordering some more herb plants from Crimson Sage, I ran across plantain again, right after I had read another article about feeding it to chickens. I have been wondering what I could grow that would supplement our chicken’s diet more naturally than grains. It would have to be something that is easy to grow, pick and dry for winter use. So I ordered some. I will let you know how it grows and how the animals like it.

Fall 2013

The third thing I am going to grow more of this summer is kale. I have a few rather sad looking plants that made it through our cold winter. After reading this article, I started picking off some of the bottom leaves and feeding them to the chickens. They took to them right away, but the goats didn’t seem to care for them. I will try feeding them to the goats again after they have started producing newer leaves.

Summer 2013

We will try our hand once again at growing carrots, sugar beets and turnips for the animals. Last summer, our fall garden didn’t produce much of anything. I got started late and the weather didn’t cooperate very well either. If we are really going into another Maunder Minimum, we will see how that affects our ability to produce plentiful gardens like we have in the past.

We may all be learning to garden a little differently if the quality of our sunlight and warmth are affected by decreasing solar activity. Another thing to learn more about so that I can adjust our growing habits to match what nature is providing.

 

There are many things to take into account when pondering feed rations for both animals and humans. Learn all you can, put it to good use, and hold your family close. They are the most important thing there is in your life. Don’t let anyone, or anything, convince you otherwise.


Until next time – Fern