18 May 2011

Spring / Summer Vegetable Garden

First Purple Majesty Potatoes
A few weeks ago I decided to pull up some of our potatoes that were dying back, and also get a salad out of the garden - something I've been neglecting to do all winter.  I pulled up one the purple potato plants and I was surprised at how small the tubers were - and how few.  I also pulled a couple of red potatoes and we didn't seem to be as many as last year.  After getting some lettuce from the garden and making a salad, I was disappointed in the taste - it was very bitter and "stemmy" (as opposed to "leafy"), if that's a word.  It was pretty late in the season - some of the lettuce was beginning to bolt - grow a stalk and flower.

I thought I was off to a less than great start this year when it came to harvesting our vegetables, but things have turned around a bit.  I have pulled more potatoes and they're looking better, and we're starting to have good luck with our summer garden - we're picking squash daily right now, tomatoes and peppers are coming and beans and corn are right behind them.  What I haven't had a lot of success with right now has been cucumbers and watermelon, but I think I know why, at least with the watermelon.  The seedlings have been shaded a lot by all of the potato plants, and it's been significantly cooler this spring that others - I think some of these summer vegetables need a little more heat to really get started.  I have noticed the watermelon starting to grow more, but I'm still waiting on the cucumbers.  I'm always experimenting with new ways of growing things and sometimes this is what happens.  You live and learn!

11 May 2011

Bamboo Revisited

More than a year ago I wrote about trying to kill bamboo behind our garage.  I decided to smother it with carpet, and I planned to leave the carpet there for a very long time.  I didn't know how long - I just wanted to make sure the bamboo was dead.  More than a year later I had to remove the carpet, because our Magnolia tree was being removed.  It wasn't  long enough, in my opinion, to kill the bamboo, and it looks like I was right.

Recently I've spent time back there removing wood chips, leveling the ground and building a chicken coop, and I've noticed the bamboo coming back with a vengeance.  I've pulled up some shoots, but I have a lot of work ahead of me.  I'm hoping the chickens will help when they arrive.

Removing Grass - Dig, Till or Smother?

This spring a neighbor was laying out his vegetable garden and debated how to remove the grass.  At the time I was laying out a shade garden and had been digging up the grass.  I recommended that idea, because it seemed like it got most of the grass without getting a lot of the soil.  I warned against tilling, remembering how tedious it was picking out all of the pieces of sod from the turned ground.  I was probably going to till after all the grass was up, but not until then.

After I did half the bed that way, I was ready to be done and I ended up tilling the rest of the bed instead of digging up the grass.  It went a lot faster, but I ran into the problem that I mentioned - all the small pieces of sod that needed to be pulled out.  I wasn't too upset, because this is the last time I plan to do this for a while.  I'm finding small pieces of grass growing in the shade garden now, but it's not nearly as bad as the first time I did something like this.

The first time I laid out beds, I decided to smother the grass.  I had a few months before I needed them, so this looked like a good idea.  It was for the most part, but it does take grass longer to die than you would think.  Even after a couple of months it wasn't dead.  On some parts I think I used black rubber pond liner which got the job done, but didn't look very good.  I've had moderate success with newspaper and mulch, but it's time consuming and not completely reliable - I'm having to go back this year and dig out grass that survived that method last year.  It seems the best method may be a combination - digging up the grass like I did with half the shade garden, combined with newspaper and mulch afterward.  I know - it sounds like a lot of work.

10 May 2011

Rattlesnake Master

I'm learning more about native plants lately, and I got one at the plant swap called Rattlesnake Master.  It's a prairie plant, native to North America, and it makes sense that my friend Joan brought it to the plant swap - her yard is almost entirely native.

After reading about it, it seemed the place for it was in the desert garden.  Being a prairie plant, I think it should be drought tolerant, once established.  And it has an interesting look to it - it should compliment the coneflowers nicely.  It's still small, but hopefully it will get bigger and bloom.  We'll be waiting for that!

06 May 2011

April Rainfall

This past month I started looking at my rain gauge and thought I might want to track rainfall at my house - create my own almanac, if you will.  This is by no means accurate, especially this month.  My rain gauge's measurements on the outside are coming off.  These are the numbers for April and I'll try to get a better rain gauge before May.

I know I said this is for April, but I have numbers for the last week of March as well:

1.25 inches on about 3/23
0.50 inches on 3/26-7
1.25 inches on 3/30

Total rainfall for late March - 3 inches

0.30 inches on 4/5
0.00 inches on 4/12 - it rained but only a few drops in the gauge
0.25 inches on 4/21 - it hailed, but not at the house
1.25 inches on 4/22
0.12 inches on 4/25 - scattered showers, maybe 1/8 inches
0.12 inches on 4/26 - scattered showers, maybe 1/8 inches