Ducklings in the bathtub!

Here is a fun video we wanted to share of our baby ducklings taking one of their first baths in our bathtub.

They have grown up so much since then already – they live outside now and have their own little pool. I will post some images/videos of their new habitat as soon as it stops raining outside.

Garden Map

When planning your garden out, i find, it is incredibly helpful to have two things: garden map and planting schedule to go with the map.
When approaching the task of garden mapping, a few things must be considered:

1. Crop rotation. Never plant the same type of plant in the same location consecutively – always allow for at least two grow seasons between repeated plantings – this is the first and vital step to preventing repeated disease and pest problems.

2. Bio-diversity. Mixing up your plants ensures less pest and disease problems, as well as provides a richer soil makeup, as differet plants work the soil differently. Patches work better for this purpose than rows. This also makes your garden look more natural!

3. Compatibility planting. When going for the bio-diversity, it’s a great idea to take compatibly planting into account and ensure that plants that grow best together are planted next to each other and plants that do not – far away (3 feet at least). There are many charts available for usage and reference.

4. Light/Drainage preferences. Make sure you know the best location for your plants in the garden, in regards to the amount of light and amount of drainage they prefer. Consider hills and raised beds for plants that require better drainage, planting behind taller plants for plants that need shadowing and/or row covers, etc.

5. Layering and space utilization. It is also a great idea to grow plants that can provide layered structure on the root, as well as, above ground level – alternating deep and shallow rooted plants – as well as taller and shorter –  this utilizes the READ MORE… >

2 weeks before last frost

At two weeks before last frost we should be doing second plantings of lettuce and spinach, yet, with the colder weather and lack of rain we have been having, we have seen no sprouting as of yet, so we have postponed second plantings for another week.

The only seed planting we will be doing this weekend is the first sunflowers. They can be staggered every 5-6 weeks to ensure maximum resiliency to pests and continuos bloom and yield. We will planting Renee’d Garden Heirloom Titan this year. Also, we are planning to cover crop the area of the garden that will not be getting used for the next 1-2 months.

We will be cutting up potatoes, dividing up the eyes  – to let them dry up  for about a week before planting (this is ton ensure that the cut heals and there is less chance of rotting int he ground). Cutting into pieces containing 2-3 eyes, about 1-2 ounces each, and storing them in a dark, cool place until the time is right – currently planning to plant them in 17/18th of April.

You can also “green” the potatoes by placing them at room temperature and indirect sunlight for the eyes to sprout. However, if the sprouts get too long (more than 1-2″) they might be difficult to handle and break off during planting.

We got 7 lb Organic Yukon Gold and 3 lb Organic Red Desiree potatoes from Peaceful Valley . In good conditions, 1 lb of potatoes shoud yield 10 lbs, so the plan is to get 100 lbs out of our 10 lb planted. Desiree would have to be eaten first, and Yukon Gold, being a great winter keeper, kept over winter.

We also have plans to transplant our berry bushes into their outdoor containers, since they have had adequate time to adjust after shipping and can be moved outside, given the weather stays mild and does not revert to freezing.

3 weeks before last frost

It is 3 weeks before last frost here and, once again, we were fortunate to have 2 days of wonderful weather, followed by a rainy day, which was perfect for planting all our cold season veggies outside.

What went into the garden:
Heirloom Rohrer Seed Brand: Little Marvel Peas, Romaine Lettuce, Butterhead Lettuce, Kohlrabi, Dwarf Kale, Beets, Arugula and Endive.
Also: Burpee Short ‘N’Sweet Carrots, Botanical Interested Speckled Lettuce , Peaceful Valley Organic Cortland Onions and Renee’s Garden Spinach.
Poppies, Borage, Yarrow and Butterfly Bush were put in also for beauty and to attract beneficial pollinators, such as butterflies and bees, to the garden when the time comes.

Peas were paired with carrots and endive, kale – with spinach and some mustard greens, kohlrabi – with chamomile (cabbage family members LOVE aromatic herbs) and lettuces with arugula were planted next to onions to protect them from caterpillars and cutworms.

We have been hand digging the ground with a shovel, to ensure maximum survival of the worms, least disturbance, yet maximum efficiency and hands-on approach to gardening. All the seeds are hand placed in the ground and covered with soil and straw.

We have tested our soil this year at Penn State and got positive results, stating we were not lacking anything in the soil. Which is great news!  The testing process was very easy and cheap – only $9 – i would highly recommend everyone to test their garden soil and get recommendations from them.

Indoor, the sprouts are looking great. Cucumbers have germinated under the warm lights and the rest of the baby plants are looking good too.

We have received our organic planting potatoes from Peaceful Valley and our organic berry bushes from Rolling River Nursery – now they are waiting warmer weather to go to live outside!

I am happy with the garden progress so far! And looking forward to seeing sprouts in the garden soon, making the garden come to life!

 

4 weeks before last frost

As we cross the 4 week mark, snow flurries are flying past our window. Yet, hopeful and patient for Spring weather, we start cucumber and melon seeds indoors. They go directly under the heat lamp to maintain the necessary warm soil germination temperature, and will be monitoring them closely to make sure the soil stays moist.

We have planted Organic Heirloom Straight Eight Cucumbers and Homemade Pickle from Peaceful Valley. The former – to eat, the latter – to pickle. We are also trying out the fun looking Lemon Cucumbers this year 🙂

We have also received and planted a set of Fort Laramie ever-bearing strawberries from Peaceful Valley as well. 25 organic plants for $4.99 – great value! They went into our self-made cedar planter for indoor and outdoor use.

A word on the strawberry container – we have contemplated making the fancy multi-level strawberry container that look fun and seem to be so popular, yet after numerous calculations, we have come to the conclusion that they do not add sufficient space for the amount of effort and material they require, so we went with a basic, rectangle shape. The strawberries from last year seem to be doing very well in them.

 

5 weeks before last frost

At this time, most of the first round of planting seeds have been started in their containers.

The latest additions were the Rohrer Seeds Heirloom Long Island Brussel Sprouts and Tall Utah Celery, both of which are new plants for us, so we are yet to find out how we like growing and eating them!

Most of the plants from a couple of weeks ago are doing well and have nice looking sprouts. I will be thinning them out in the next few weeks to select the strongest seedlings.

Also, since we had a few days of lovely spring weather, i have managed to squeeze in a few first garden plantings: first round of peas, mixed with their complimentary carrots and some stuttgarter onion seeds (in a different location, as peas do not like onions and garlic). Stuttgarter onions are some of the best keepers and i am planning to save them over winter. I have planted two rows, about 100 onions so far and am planning to add another 50-100 more, estimating 2-3 onions usage per week throughout the year. I am planning to add some onion sets (baby onion bulbs from the previous year) to the planted seeds, they need to be planted in April and will provide a nice back up to the planted seeds. They have a faster turnaround, but less likely to keep well, so they will need to be used first.

Onion seeds are better started in the fall, which we had not done, so we will see how this turns out. Garlic, on the other hand, that we DID plant last fall is coming up beautifully. It is also our own heirloom garlic we have saved form the previous year – it was pretty much the only vegetable we managed to grow enough to last us the whole year, along with frozen green beans. I am planning to improve the quantity of stored veggies dramatically this year.

 

 

Garden Goals 2013

When planning and planting the garden, it is always useful to outline the goals you wish to achieve with your planting for the the year and the benefits you wish to reap in the end. This helps to plan the types of crops you would like to plant, as well as their quantities. Things to consider: over-winter storage, canning, drying, freezing potential etc.

Here are our goals for this year:

1. Plant organic/untreated seeds when possible.

2. Plant heirloom/open pollinated seeds in order to gather seeds for next year.

3. Practice crop rotation, complimentary planting, circular batch framework and, as always, organic gardening.

4.  Supply enough to last all year:

To keep: potatoes, onions, garlic, beets, carrots and a few types of beans (kidney, black)

To freeze: peas, green beans, spinach, broccoli, lima beans, basil, parsley pesto.

To dry: chamomile, thyme, oregano, mint, sage, rosemary, nettles and many other herbs.

To can: pickles, tomatoes, strawberries.

To compost: stinging nettles.

5. Start an edible flower garden: poppies, borage, solomon’s seal, nasturtium, lavender, calendula and others.

6. Start berry bushes for future harvests: black and red currants, goji berries, blueberries, elderberries, raspberries, high-bush cranberry, blackberry.

 

What are the goals for your garden?

6-8 weeks before last frost

This weekend marks the long awaited deadline for starting the new garden – 6 weeks before the last frost, which in this PA area is set to be on April 21.

This means most of the plants will be started this weekend in their transplant containers, and, with good weather, a few cold weather crops will go into the garden as well, such as peas, onions and kale.  I had the opportunity to start most of our plants early, at 8 weeks (2 weeks ago) but need to finish our list and also duplicate a couple plants (to stagger them though the season).

Plants that went in two weeks ago:

Veggies

Seeds of Change Organic Cherry tomatoes
Burpee Organic Beefsteak Tomato
High Moon Organic Cosmonaut  Volkov Slicing Tomato
Botanical Interestes Organic Heirloom Italian Roma Tomato
Seeds fo Change Organic Early Green Broccoli
Rohrer Seeds Calabrese Heirloom Broccoli
Rohrer Seeds Heirloom Chives
High Moon Organic Corno di Toro Sweet Pepper
Lake Valley Anaheim Pepper Mil Chili

Herbs

Burpee Thyme
Seeds of Change Organic Dill
Horizon Herbs Organic Witch Hazel
Horizon Herbs Organic Lavender
Horizon Herbs Organic Viola
Botanical Interests Heirloom Butterfly Bush (to attract Monarch and other butterflies)

A few things that were started earlier in the winter:

Rohrer Seeds Heirloom Italian Parsley
Rohrer Seeds Heirloom Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion

We had also so things growing under lights through the winter: green onions, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, spinach, valerian root, wormwood, strawberries, stinging nettles. Those will go outside when it warms up either in containers or directly into the garden.

I will record our plantings this weekend as all of the seeds go into their sprouting containers.

Plants: Parsley

Name: Parsley

Plant Type: Herb/Vegetable

Types: Flat Leaf (Italian), Curly Leaf, Hamburg Root Parsley

Size: 9-18″

Hardiness Zones: 3-9

Family: Apiaceae

Relatives: Angelica, Anise, Caraway, Carrot, Celery, Chevil, Coriander, Cilantro, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, Lovage, Parsnip, Sea Holly

Native Region: Mediterranean

Growth Cycle: Biennial in temperate climates and annual in tropical climates. Is usually grown as an annual herb.

Rich in: Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Iron, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc

Health Benefits: Parsley is rich in anti-oxidants and has anti-inflamatory, anti-bacterial, immune strengthening, properties.

When consumed as a tea, parsley helps to restore the body’s natural acid/alkaline balance and reduce inflammation.

Parsley herb is found to be diuretic in nature which promotes healthy workings of the kidneys and elimination of gall bladder and kidney stones.

In women, parsley  nourishes and restores the blood of the uterus, as well as helps restore hormonal balance by the presence of apiol which is a constituent of the female sex hormone estrogen.

Inhibits tumor formation, decreases risks of heart disease and is a great digestive tonic, helping with diarrhea, flatulence and digestive problems.

Parsley also relives pain due to joint stiffness, arthritis and rheumatism .

*Parsley can have a few side effects. Pregnant women should avoid parsley juice because it is a uterotonic, which may cause contractions.

Planting Companions: Tomatoes, corn, asparagus, roses. Great companion plant because the flowers attract predatory insects with nectar, which do not reproduce, but prey on pest insects.

Uses:  Raw on salads and sandwiches, garnish on all foods, pesto, soups, sauces, stuffing, soups base, butter and more!

Interesting facts: Parsley is one f the host plants for Swallow Tail Butterfly.  Parsley was thought to symbolize death in ancient Rome.

Planting: Parsley

It seems strange to think about planting while the scenery outside the window is still quite prevalent with sparkling shimmers of snow, yet there is one plant that needs a very early start on things – parsley. Parsley is notoriously long germinator, even though otherwise is a very hearty plant.

I personally prefer flat leaf (italian) parsley – it is easier to handle and has a richer flavor, but the curly leaf is great for decoration. I also will experiment with root parsley, which is a rarer kind in the USA, but very popular in Easter Europe, where i have my roots.

Germination may take 3-6 weeks and many methods are out there to help speed up the process, usually including pre-soaking the seeds overnight. Personally, last year we had no problems with sprouting, even though the parsley did take a bit longer than other seeds to come up.

The soil temperature ideal for parsley is around 70 degrees and it is quite tolerant of the cold. Seeds should be started indoors 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost, which here is around April 21-30. Seeds need to be kept moist before sprouting and sufficient water after as well. Final spacing of plants: 6-8″ apart and best planted near asparagus, corn and tomatoes in the garden.

So to plant in a container, i sprinkle the seeds on top, cover gently with soil (i mix organic natural soil with peat moss and some sand) and keep moist. The seeds went in a couple of days ago, looking forward to seeing the sprouts!

The image above is from our parsley overwintering in our in-door garden under lights. The flavor of it has gotten stronger as it matures, so i am mainly keeping it to experience the blooms of the second year and try to collect some seeds, planning to plant it back outside in the spring.

Last year we had a lovely experience with our parsley and dill plants, as they are hosts and food for the Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars, many of which we have grown and saw transform into lovely butterflies last year! We still have a few cocoons overwintering in the garage. I am planning to grow extra plants to ensure a sufficient habitat for the the caterpillars and enough for us to eat and dry!