Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Farm Tours for the kids.

Just a few pics of the kids that came to visit us last week untill I can get it all put together as a better post.

Tennessee Fainting goats and Nubian milk goats.

Bantam Cochin.
Baby rabbit.

Royal Palm Turkeys

Kids throwing corn to Guinea Hogs.

Silverfox Rabbits.

Appleyard Ducks.

Louie, our host Great Pyrenees.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Some pictures from my yard.

Spring is such an exciting time. A chance to try all the new ideas you've collected over the winter and see what worked well for you last season.
I'm very excited about this tree. Indian Red Peach. Last year the day it bloomed it also frosted so I didn't get any peaches. I did have two but but a bit of a grass fire killed the other.

My garden in February



In front of the house is where I've planted most of my flowers. It seems in January that Spring will never come.

But eventually the snow melts and all the pretty green things start to show their faces.

I call this my Iris Island. It's the inside of the circle drive and one of my favorite spots in the yard. I've been collecting the Iris' for years from the side of the road and from other people that will share. I think last year I counted 15 different colors and can't wait for them to bloom this year to see what I have added. When you dig them in the summer and there is no flower it's surprise for the next year.

There are wild strawberries and violets and last year I also planted some Chocolate Mint as a ground cover. Mint can be very invasive and if you let it get where you don't want it, it's very hard to get rid of. This is the perfect place for it since it can't escape because of the drive and the road. Of all the mints this is my favorite! It's wonderful in brownies, strawberries and later in hot chocolate.

Azaleas are blooming on the house side of the drive.

Here I'm expanding
my flower bed with Roses and Peonies.

I'm thinking that Creeping Thyme will be nice here. In the raised bed I have Hostas and Cabbages and will plant some more flowers.

I got a Bee Hive set up this week and have Bees ordered. They should be safe here in the corner of my garden. I have Borage and of course the garden plants. I added Jerusalim Artichoke and Rosa Rigosa on the outside of the fence for them a bit of a blind from the world.

And then there's these lil' fellas. Three Lemon tree sprouts. They will have to be grown in pots but I'm very pleased with them.

This week I expect to be spending in the garden planting. My Tomatoes and Peppers are ready to go out, I need to finish another bed for the beans and get some Strawberries to put out.

Monday, April 20, 2015

At home with Sweet Pea: Horseradish. Transplanted

At home with Sweet Pea: Horseradish. Transplanted: When I divided my horseradish last year I dumped some of the extra soil off to the side to use somewhere else. I thought I did  good job of...

Horseradish. Transplanted

When I divided my horseradish last year I dumped some of the extra soil off to the side to use somewhere else. I thought I did  good job of getting the roots out but it sprouted more anyway, so rather than fight it it's now my second bed.
When we moved 3 years ago I got to start my first horseradish.

We use it 
for sauces and sandwich spreads. Great in cheese dips for chips when your grilling. 

When I dig the roots to use I bring them in and wash them. 

This is where I dumped the extra soil.
All the green is volunteer horseradish from the tiny pieces that I missed. I would have laughed before if someone called it invasive but now I see. It does spread, but very slowly. The problem is, if your trying to move it or get rid of it (god forbid), every little clipping or piece that you miss can re-sprout.

I thought I had done a good job of getting it all, this is what I have a year later.

Since we love it anyway and I had set the soil aside in a place that wouldn't hurt anything I'm just replanting and keeping it. If you really want to get rid of it you'll have to dig and be careful what you do with and where you put the soil. DO NOT put it in you compost or you'll have it everywhere! The spot you dug it from will need to be left alone for a while to see what more sprouts. Do not till an area that you just dug out because you will only spread it. I turned the soil out and dug the roots, some to use and some to replant. By using the box corner I was able to put all the soil back right where I want it.

Cut about an inch or two off the tops to plant. Trim the leaves back and they can go directly back into the ground. In my case I'm trading mine for Jerusalim Artichokes so I set them aside. The largest roots I kept to prepare for us. All of the smaller pieces I cut into 2 inch pieces to plant.

After the soil is turned from digging the roots and softened up I spread the small root pieces across the top and covered with straw. This spot had compost on it before I moved the pile so the soil is soft. We have very wet springs so rather than digging a hole I decided to go this route. They will grow as they please which is fine with me and I don't have to worry about them drowning. The mulch on the top will allow extra water to run off and in the summer will help to hold moisture.

If your starting a new patch in hard soil you'll want to dig down and loosen the soil. Horseradish wants a spot that can be kept sorta moist but not soggy, with loose soil and no large rocks (rocks deform the roots when they try to grow around them). Dig down about 12-24 inches, mix with compost, it likes some nitrogen in the mix. Rabbit or goat manure would work or aged horse, pig or cow manure. I never add chicken manure to anything without mixing it because it is so high in nitrogen you can burn the roots. When your cutting your roots to plant cut straight across the top and at an angle on the lower end. Plant by poking down into the loose soil and then covering with another couple inches of soil and straw them in to help retain moisture. Remember as you water it will settle and you don't want them sitting in a puddle.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Expanding my garden.

This beautiful weather, mixed with plenty of rainy days, is a dream come true for me. I've been working on expanding my garden, and since I use mulching and lasagna gardening ideas, having a nice warm day to set things up and then the rain to soak things in is perfect. SE Illinois.
I divided and replanted my volunteer horseradish. When I divided my roots last year I piled some of the extra soil aside for later use. It took off on it's own so rather than fight with it (I want it anyway) I'm just going along. I'm working on another blog to go more into depth about that. You'll have to come back and see it. 

The rule of thumb here is that you plant your garlic when the kids start school and harvest it when they get out. Actually a bit later. The cool weather allows the garlic to root and during the spring, summer and fall the cloves develop. I did not get any planted last fall which is a tragedy because we use a lot of garlic. Luckily I can get what I need from some friends and a great farmers market.

I was talking to a nice lady in one of the groups that I'm in and she said she never replants. I have always pulled it all up when it's ready (the green tops start to turn brown) and replanted in the fall. By leaving it in the ground and allowing some of the flowers to go to seed it will continue to grow and spread. I love the idea! This tire had tomatoes planted in it last year. To refresh it I put down a layer of newspaper. A couple of sheets will deter weeds but decompose quickly to allow roots to go down and the worms to come up. Straw is fairly cheap right now so I packed the rest of it full. I broke each garlic bulb into separate cloves and nestled them down in the straw close to the paper layer. Later I will add some compost over top.

Keeping the grass under control around the fence is my only real nuisance factor. I put the fence up to help keep dogs and the neighbors occasional horses from just tromping through. Looking back I wish I had set the fence a couple of inches off the ground so I could weed eat under it easier. Some of it I will raise but for this part I decided it would make for a great bed of Rosa Rugosa. A very thorny thorny rose bush with pretty flowers and the best hips I've ever seen. The flowers will attract and feed the bees and then can be used in potpourri. The rose hips are huge, full of Vitamin C and great in teas, jellies, etc. 
I found a large box that
covered most of the space I wanted and was large enough to tuck under to the garden side. The cardboard will keep the grass from coming up. I covered it with leaves and straw. Cardboard takes longer to decompose so I shouldn't have to do much weeding for this season and hopefully the roses will have taken off and all I'll have to do is refresh the mulch from then on. Again, later I will probably put some compost around but for now this will keep the root moist and the straw and leaves will decompose to add nutrition. When I plant the roses I will pull back some of the mulch and cut holes in the card board for the plants, dig enough of a hole for the roots and then replace the mulch.

This year I'm bringing back the potato! One of the easiest ways to grow potatoes is in raised beds. In my opinion. I've had these straw bales sitting out in the weather for a while now (I plan to plant cherry tomatoes along the top of the bales). It takes some time to get them saturated. I put down a layer of cardboard, placed the bales around it (you can make this bed as large as you want or as small as a 4 bale square). I put several of inches of straw in the bottom. We get so much spring rain that it can drown all our work easily. Then comes the summer heat and we wish we had saved up some of the rain. By doing this the early rain can drain away after the straw is saturated and it hold the moisture for later.

These are Yukon Gold. I placed them about 12 inches apart and covered with about 6 inches of straw. When the green starts to come up I'll add a little compost and cover again with straw and/or leaves. Repeat to top. When I'm ready to dig them up all I have to do is tip a bale and lift them out. Fresh straw thrown over top and they can be stored for quite a while right in the bed. We eat a lot of potatoes so they have never lasted through the winter....

Extending this bed.

Newspaper to fill in any chinks.
Straw to cover.

These are slices of plastic barrels that I'm planting my red potatoes in. Again, by mulching underneath the excess water can drain off but the mulch will hold plenty of moisture.

A couple inches of straw, potatoes and then a couple more inches of straw.

More cardboard and leaves.

Next year I can plant directly into the mulch/soil. This year I'm still debating between more containers or a shallow rooting beneficial flower. I always set out several plans and then adjust by what I get done and how the weather co-operates. My budget plays a huge role in how my garden goes. This year, by trading/bartering, collecting, saving seeds and working with the rain I have only about $25 invested in my garden. I have tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, squash, herbs, etc started and just waiting to go into the garden. Based on our local grocery store prices, if just one thing I'm planting produces well and makes it to the table I will have come out ahead. lol  Seriously though, 1 #5 bag of potatoes, 1 cabbage and 6-8 tomatoes will nearly cover the cost. 

The rest of the story from the beginning...