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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Real Life Gardening 001

I often don't take photos of my garden through the year, because, honestly, though it manages to provide us with lots of food, it looks like crap.

My main garden, for those of you readers who haven't been following, is approximately 100 foot square. Probably larger, though I haven't gotten a tape measure out there. Who has time for that.
I plant with VERY widely spaced rows, counter to my usual habit and preference, so that my other half will be able to help. Tractor Guy is officially disabled and cannot stand or walk for very long periods and so his help is from the seat of our current tractor... a Massey Ferguson we call Fergie. The tiller attachment we had for Fergie is in need of serious rebuilding, so our only cultivation tool at present is a spring tooth harrow.

This year I tried planting some of the rows closer together, with the idea that he could straddle them with Fergie and cultivate on each side. That sort of worked.

 I am going to write a series of articles with many, many pictures of the garden this year, regardless of how "pretty" -- or not so pretty -- it looks. Why? Because I got to thinking that all the pictures I see on the Internet of gardens, in the forums and groups that I frequent at least, show these beautiful, weed-free plots and I fear that folks who have not gardened may be scared off by the perfectness of it all and never even begin... or give up when their garden dissolves into weeds and never even try to look for a harvest.

My First Rule of Gardening is this: Plants WANT to grow. All plants. Yeah, the weeds are often the more successful competitors in the survival of the fittest, but that doesn't mean that the food plants give up. Quite to the contrary, they struggle on, in and under the weeds, trying their darnedest to do what all plants are driven to do... stay alive and make seed... and in the process make food for us. This was driven home to me very dramatically the first year here in Maine when I literally lost my row of carrots under the weeds all season long. When the frosts killed back the weeds, they revealed stunted but bright green fern like foliage that, when dug, provided us with a much larger harvest of carrots than I could have imagined existed under there even a couple of weeks earlier.

So here goes... My garden, early July 2014.

Starting at the west side of the garden and working west, here are the first two rows, the second planting of lettuce seedlings. The runner grass is coming along quickly after the rains, but hopefully a pass or two with the Banty Rooster tiller will fairly quickly define the rows and Tractor Guy will be able to work between them with Fergie.

 This is the onion and leek row. IN the row is fairly weed free, thanks to having planted them in my paper feed sack mulch. You can see that the general weed growth between the rows is nearly as tall as the onions, and will need to be knocked down somehow before I can even think about getting the Banty Rooster in there. It does not handle big weeds well.

 The first planting of lettuce is beginning to bolt, but many of them (as shown in the top photo) are happily still producing leaves for us and for market despite the weeds. Remember, plants WANT to grow! I have a "meet the lettuce" event happening here tomorrow and after that I will begin pulling some of the bolting plants for the poultry. I plan to let some of them go to seed and collect it, but probably from the LAST and not the first of the crop to bolt.

Bottom pic shows the abundant growth on the parsley that starts one of the two rows of first planting lettuce.

I have seedlings well along, ready to be put into the garden for the third planting as soon as I can figure out where they go.

 We have two full rows of peas this year, mostly English (or shelling) peas. The left picture shows a few feet of a snow pea (the tall ones) that is beginning to set pods; the remainder of that row, and the one in the bottom pic, are the shelling peas.

In the right hand pic, the variety that starts the row, up to where the sit-and-pick scooter is positioned, is producing food! The rest are well podded out and coming along nicely. I shall put the soaker hose on them today.

Most of the peas are climbing on the orange plastic snow fence, cut in half lengthwise. I ran out, though, and had some left over bird netting that was impossible to flatten and straighten out and used that for about 20 feet, but I will not do that again. Some of the plants have grown up into folds in the mesh, which is too small for them to grow through. they still keep trying to grow, though, and wad up into a useless mass of leaves.

Left pic shows a small section of the onion row that was planted to assorted brassica. the seeds got mixed but I planted them anyway and transplanted the seedlings into some of the feed sack mulch. There are cabbages, it appears, some broccoli and kohlrabi.

The right hand pic shows another section of a row (the head of one of the lettuce rows, actually) with some broccoli, also planted with the feed sack mulch.

 If you look VERY closely in the top pic you should be able to see the baby carrots fern-like leaves amongst the weeds. This is the row that I am currently first weeding, by hand, with a three tine cultivator and my mark one hands. this is what all the carrot rows looked like initially.

The bottom pic shows another carrot row in which I have completed the first weeding. You will note that it is not weed free, and likely will not ever be. My weeding goal is to remove most/enough of them to give the food plants a leg up in the fight for survival.

 Celery. Just a few feet of row which was rough weeded early on and needs to have the Banty Rooster run along side again and needs more manure and water. Soon. I promise.

 Can you tell what is in this row? Well, neither can I. LOL I could look back on my notes but most likely will begin weeding and see what I find. Most likely should be beets/chard in there somewhere.

Left hand photo shows my double row of potatoes. I am leaving the weeds to help confuse the potato bugs (yeah, that's my story and I am sticking to it!). It actually does need weeding and then hilling. IF I can find a source of cheap mulch hay, I shall mulch it. Know of anyone with spent or moldy hay in the Bangor area?

Right hand image shows the single row of potatoes. Tractor Guy has worked one side of the row, but the next row was planted too close for him to get in without damaging plants so I will need to weed that side.

 The single row of potatoes also includes a few sweet potato plants (lower photo) and a few feet of climbing beans (top photo.)

The sweet potatoes were nearly taken out by the tractor because I neglected to tell Tractor Guy that I had moved the glass cloches I had placed over them early on, but which were still sitting in the garden. He focused on the glass domes when cultivating and they were sitting next to, but not over, the growing plants. Oops.

Pole beans have some scrounged trellis material that I should get positioned for them soon!

 Poor bush beans! I am going to get some water on them today, I hope, and see how many survive. This was another case of "I planted too close together for Tractor Guy" and we need to work out a better and more accurate way of laying out rows.  I will be planting a second crop and crossing my fingers for a second harvest.

 Corn! Finally something we can see over the weeds!

 Tomatoes, with their cardboard mulch and fence section that will be raised and angled soon for support. And yes, I need to hand weed along the edges of the mulch, but that usually goes quickly once I get there because the adjacent tractor work really does loosen the soil around the weeds.

 Row left ... a sauce tomatoes at the far end with peppers. the fence sections with the sauce tomatoes will be raised but kept flat; on the peppers, they are just there to hold down the cardboard. That row ends with a section of feed sack mulch and a second planting of brassica.