Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Recap and a Fresh Start

While I may have been bad at keeping up this digital garden log, I have not stopped gardening. 2013 proved to be a hot and dry year in the garden with a few amazing new successes. In the spring, I sold over $200 worth of volunteer seedlings from the garden (mint, purple basil, garlic chives, oregano, parsley) I grew 12 foot tall sunflowers with dinner plate sized flowers. The 2013 tomatoes were lackluster, but I learned a great quick preservation method that served me well. As random small handfuls of tomatoes would ripen, I'd rinse them and drop them onto a baking dish in the freezer, once the dish was full of frozen tomatoes, I dumped it all into a gallon zip top bag and stashed it for later. Later, when it was cool and lovely out those frozen tomatoes became spaghetti sauce and chili. It was easy to peel the frozen tomatoes after floating them for a few seconds in warm water. In this way, I was able to make great use of an otherwise slow and spotty harvest, and also took care of the icky thick skinned tomatoes of late summer. Some sort of weird rust attacked my beans and I ended up loosing the entire crop after just a few harvests. Bummer. I also grew luffa sponge gourds for the first time and got over 20 finished gourds. I gave luffas away as gifts and I have a stash of them in the house for personal use. The luffa vine was vigorous to say the least, it took over my arbor, ran along the fence and up into the neighbors trees. They loved the heat, and worried me that they did not flower until August and no fruit set was apparent until end of August. After that the squash grew incredibly fast, baby fruit in the morning had grown more than an inch in length by evening. Very impressive. They are edible, but not tasty in my opinion, kind of like a soapy flavored cucumber with the texture of overripe zucchini. Before the first freeze in November, Heidi and I harvested tons of Geonovese Basil from the garden and put up 4 pints of pesto. We love pesto, but the genovese basil had a bit of a harsh licorice taste to it. I don't mind it, but definitely prefer sweet basil. Winter 2013-14 started and ended with ice storms and snow days. On Dec 7th we got cold rain followed by ice followed by snow that shut down schools for both Friday and Monday. Icemageddon was the unofficial name of the weekend. In January 2014, I tried starting my own seeds for the first time. In typical Horton fashion, my wonderful hubby amped up this hobby for me by gifting me lights and a seed heating mat. I had SO much fun with my little seedling babies. Seed starting was a fantastic success and a real joy. Some of my lessons learned from seed starting, which I plan to do again and again. 1) good light bulbs, all the time. At first I was frugal with the light usage and used a timer to turn the lights on and off. By the third round of seedlings I started, the lights were on all the time and my baby plants were compact, deep green and just lovely. 2) As much as I wanted to love the handmade newspaper pots, they were just not that great. Perhaps it was technique, or materials (I used both newsprint and brown packing paper) but the pots did not hold up well, dried out too fast, and the seedlings did not flourish in the paper pots. 3) I liked the dehydrated peat pellets fairly well, they were the easiest and most fun to use. I had best luck with these by backfilling the rest of the container with vermiculite granules. 4) The best containers I used were styrofoam cups with holes poked in the bottom. 5) EACH and every plant needs a marker. I won't remember what I planted no matter how excited I am. The 2014 garden looks amazing, possibly my best year yet. My home started tomato seedlings are growing great, today, on May 8th they are taller than the garden fence and have good fruit set. I am trying two new trellis methods, and heavy pruning to encourage fruit more than just pretty foliage. The onions are bulbing nicely, the potatoes are growing great and blooming as of late April. The beans are late, but not yet affected by any rust or virus. This success in the garden is bitter sweet because I probably won't be able to enjoy the final harvests of this year's garden. On April 30th we closed on a new house, just a few miles away. It offers us much more space both inside the house and outside in the yard. The odd way that the contract period went on this purchase, we were never really sure if we would end up buying the house or not. So I planned and planted for both gardens, full steam. All of my early veggies and seedlings went into the garden on Mount Castle and then I started a whole new batch of heat loving veggies for the new house on Goodfellow. We will be keeping our old house as a rental property, so I have been visiting my old garden every few days. I am harvesting tons of kale (red russian, lacatino, and blue curled), mustard greens (5 varieties!), and herbs. Depending on when we get renters, I may or may not get to harvest the potatoes, beans and tomatoes, but that is okay. My hope is that we will find a renter who loves gardens, or at least is willing to learn. If not, it is all just annuals anyway. We have already started the fun at the new house.

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