Friday, July 31, 2015

Tomato cages and broad forks

The tomato cages in the photo are 6 1/2' tall with the ends cut almost to a point for ease of pounding into the ground. All the boards are 2"x 4" boards split lengthwise. The cross pieces are 24" long. When making additional ones next year we'll put the top rung of cross pieces an inch of so below the top for a little buffer when pounding them into the ground.
Why so tall?  To accommodate the tall heirloom varieties, and for when the bottom ends rot after years of use, they can be cut back to sound wood  and we'll be able to get a few more years out of them. Thank you neighbor Jen for the idea!
In the foreground is a broad fork from 'Meadow Creature', my new favorite tool. For loosening up the soil in new areas we want to plant, as well as the garden sections that sometimes get compacted when an area is left to long without mulch. There is less damage to all the organisms living in the soil than when a tiller is used, along with being much more user friendly inside the garden sections. This is the tall broad fork. I like the longer handles for leverage, and 14" tines for deeper cultivation. Moving it a few inches  to the right and left each time works very nicely. This size is a better fit for the taller members of the family, and at 5'6", 125 pounds, it works well for me too. 
My other favorite tool is the Wilcox trowel. In my estimation the only one to ever buy. I have destroyed all other trowels, usually in a short period of time. I was given a Wilcox trowel many years ago, and it's in perfect condition still, even the rubber handle.  I found them online a year or so ago and bought three more  for a spare and as presents, hoping they were of the same quality, which thankfully, they still are!
In case you are wondering, the little metal cages in the photo are for keeping the chipmunks and woodchucks from eating the young plants.  They seem to think it's their garden!
Have a joyous and blessed day 🌻

Thursday, July 30, 2015

New veggie garden layout

The sections of the veggie garden were originally about 4- 4 1/2' squares. After 15-20 years of struggling to reach the center of those to weed and plant, an opportunity presented itself to start ftom scratch. The old black raspberry patch had stopped producing, so in the fall of 2013 the area was tilled up and the garlic was planted there, leaving the entire veggie garden open to till up in the spring of 2014.  First the majority of the weeds left from the rather hectic fall were removed and put in the compost pile. This step was not really needed, but wanted to reduce the chance of weeds the tiller might miss. Before tilling was also a good time to add composted material if available. (Till the soil down 10-12" if possible).  Next came raking it out evenly, stringing line, setting boards in place, (boards 12" wide or more if possible), put down regular thin corrugated cardboard, (or 10 layers black and white newspaper) and cover with a 3-4" layer of grass clippings. If there aren't enough of those available, old straw stays in place fairly well too, or partially decomposed leaves from the previous fall as a last resort. (They tend to blow over seedlings trying to grow. Placing the leaves where the tomato plants will be is a good spot). The new sections are roughly 3 1/2' x 8', which has worked out very nicely. Even though the garden was not ready for planting until the very end if June, it still came along quite well!
Next time there will be photos showing the new tomato cages that are really working out well. 
Have a joyous and blessed day!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fresh Chamomile Tea

Chamomile makes a wonderfully relaxing tea that is easy to grow and dry. This May, two tiny Chamomile plants were planted in full sun 18" apart with a couple tablespoons of worm castings nestled alongside the roots.  As of today the flower heads (shown above) have already been harvested for tea twice. The flower heads were dried at 105 degrees for 6-8 hours. They are pretty dry naturally, so they dehydrate surprisingly quick.  Once they are dry and at room temperature, they are sealed tightly in pint mason jars and stored in a cool, dry, dark spot in the cellar for the time when fresh chamomile is not available. 
Have a joyous and blessed day!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Garlic Harvest 2015


The first couple weeks of July in western New York is garlic harvesting time. 
The first photo is of our usual German white (best guess on what was purchased 30 plus years ago) and a small unknown red variety a kind friend gave us to try. The next photo shows all 300 bulbs stapled to 2"x4"x 9' boards hanging in the garage out of the sun, with the windows and doors open for ventilation for proper drying. (1/2" or longer staples for the staple gun work well). This is a convenient spot out of the way and affords us easy access to it.  The first couple weeks of October, it's time to plant the biggest and nicest garlic cloves, then before the first frost the remaining garlic is staggered in clumps of about 14, tied securely and hung on the front of the  storage shelves in the cellar where it is cool and dry.  The third photo shows the difference in size of one bulb that had the garlic scape (flower head) removed when it was about 6" long, and one that didn't have the scape removed. Clearly it's worth removing them soon after they appear for larger bulbs to develop, and they taste great too. 
Have a joyous and blessed day!