Photos by Nate: 4

Potato Up Close

Potato Up Close

When I was younger and played around with computers I was often jokingly compared to Bill Gates, and I think I’ve managed to coerce another family member into pushing the boundries of IT knowledge. You see my nephew Nate wouldn’t quite be compared to Gates, but rather Jobs, Steve Jobs. He’s more of an Apple guru, whereas I’m a firm PC and Linux guy. The whole point I’m hitting at is what my nephew can accomplish with his multitude of iGadgets, this time his iPhone. His mastery of this camera has surpassed my own photography skills with a much bulkier piece of equipment. This all before graduation, a fairly impressive accomplishment if you ask me.

Yukon Gold

Yukon Gold

So when Nate offered to help in the garden, I choose to use his skill set to the best of it’s ability. Sure, Nate could plant potatoes, but what he is far more effective at is taking good pictures.

We planted 50 lbs of Yukon Gold Potatoes as Nate documented and helped kick dirt around.

Eggplant

Eggplant

As I was finishing up the planting by soaking the spuds, Nate found more interesting work taking close up shots of veggies.

This years Eggplant is about as large as my pathetic plants were at the end of last year. I’ll take this improvement as a sure sign that I’m really starting to learn gardening in depth.

Pepper Up Close

Pepper Up Close

I’m also proud to report pepper flowers already, and at least one tomato that is about 1/2 inch in diameter.

Planting Tomatoes

Planting Tomatoes

I’ve also included this picture of George helping plant a long row of assorted tomatoes, taken by me on the second day of my vacation time. I’ll soon be going back to work, and the vast majority of planting is done.

Eggplant, Peppers, Potatoes, Potatoes - Yukon Gold, Red Pontiac , , ,

Half Way There !

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

I’ve got about 40 cucumber plants in the first row, with weed blocking fabric to save me lots of time.

Winter Squashes

Winter Squashes

The second row contains a mix of winter squashes, such as Butternut and Table Ace squash.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

The third row contains a mix of tomatoes, some of which were started very early. The last half of the row contains about 20 Cherokee Purple tomato plants, one of my favorites.

Peppers

Peppers

Forth row is peppers, with red, yellow and green bell pepper plants. Our season is usually too short to allow the peppers enough time to mature into their full grown colors, so most of the peppers will be green at harvest time.

Lots of Work Left

Lots of Work Left

There’s a lot more work to be done in the next few days, as the greenhouse still contains hundreds of tomato and pepper plants, as well as dozens of eggplant, lettuce, cucumber and mesclun plants.

I’ve got 9 days scheduled off starting with June 2nd, which should give me plenty of time to finish planting and maybe a few days at the river.

Cucumbers, Peppers, Tomatoes, Waltham Butternut - Winter Squash , ,

My Sea of Green has Arrived

Fierce Competition for Sunlight - Tomato Plants
Fierce Competition for Sunlight – Tomato Plants

Things have been pretty busy on the farm, but there is one truth that is self evident: The shelves in the greenhouse are covered in a healthy green mass of plants yearning for the sun. All of the hard work invested in constructing this gem of a building, starting with diging the foundation by hand all the way through attaching the clear panels with help from Nate, is paying off once again. The planning is detailed, the outcome is not always assured, but with a little faith, lots of help, and some good dirt, it’s all working out exceptionally.

The tomatoes shown on this shelf are a variety of hybrids and heritage, with the most ambititious of the bunch; Nugget Hybrid growing the fastest. The other plants can sense the lack of light caused by tall neighbors, so they grow faster to compete. This competition leads to a gentle slope of tomato leaves.

Overflowing With Growth - Squash

Overflowing With Growth - Squash

With the help of my new planting cells, I’ve found room to start zucchini indoors, and the plants are very eager to break out. I was hoping to wait till June 4 to plant the garden, but these zuchs need to be freed now.

Squash - With Blue Skies Above

Squash - With Blue Skies Above

I captured this very interesting shot from the under side of the leaves. The blue sunlight above gives us an idea of what the plants are exposed to all day.

More Cucumbers and Lettuce

More Cucumbers and Lettuce

The third shelf is loaded with cucks and lettuce, planted after the cool weather crops were moved out a few weeks ago. At the very end of the table, watermelon seeds are germinating.

Younger Tomato Seedlings - Center Shelf

Younger Tomato Seedlings - Center Shelf

The center shelf contains the tomatoes that were set a bit late, and will need to planted last so they have more time in the hot house. In a week or two, they will look just like the first photo above.

Zucchinni Planted

Zucchinni Planted

The big news though, is that the garden has been tilled twice, three times in some places. The soil is ready, and finally so am I. You see, I’ve been gardening for quite some time to hedge against financial uncertainty fused in my mind by the mortgague mess. I’ve regained a great bit of confidence in the markets, and I realize I no longer need to plant enough to sustain myself.  My siblings are starting their own gardens, so I will only need enough veggies for two, plus my co-workers, so I was really lacking in motivation.

I’ve found it once again, you see this work is my life goal, something I hope to do for a living. I enjoy planting more so then just about anything else. The smell of the dirt, the rewards of watching your work grow, and the yearly overwhelming return are things that drive me. I like sharing good healthy food, and I’m not going to let a problem of demand cure my drive to overgrow. I’m sure something good will happen to all of this food, I just don’t know what.

Cucumbers, Greenhouse, Seedlings, Squash, Tomatoes , , , ,

Up Close

Zucchinni Up Close

Zucchinni Up Close

I often struggle to document all of the detail I see with my eyes. I have a pretty good camera, but I can’t always get this amazing device to show the world what I’m looking at. Every once in a while I get lucky enough with some tricks my nephew taught me to get the focus just right. The trick is to focus the camera on a nearby object, then once it’s locked into focus, point the camera at it’s intended target. The method takes some time to master, but the payoff is pretty amazing.

Zuke Zoomed Out

Zuke Zoomed Out

The first photo was a zoomed in shot of these zuccihini plants. The little bumps on these seedling are it’s first attempts at growing flowers which will turn into edible zucchini. There are definetly too small to pick now, but I’d guess they will be the first of the season.

Goji Berry Plants

Goji Berry Plants

I tend to take a look at everything with as much detail as possible. A few weeks ago I was just starting to see the green leaves on this goji berry plant emerge. I was pretty amazed when I looked again over the weekend and there were now full leaves. The growth on this little guy truely made my day, as I was about to give up on them after a difficult summer last year.

Tomato Leaves - No Purple Here

Tomato Leaves - No Purple Here

Sometimes it helps to look at things from odd angles. Tomatoes can get a purple coloring to the bottoms of their leaves. This could be due to cool temps or over watering. Purple leaves aren’t terrible for a plant, and most will grow out of it, but it generally signals a phosphorus intake deficiency. I’m quite happy to note my leaves are as green as can be, and are doing very well this year.

New Archway

New Archway

In addition to planting seeds, I recently decided to eliminate a spare bedroom and combine it with my living room to make a much larger man cave. I started by carefully removing all the old seedling shelves, taking down the paneling, then removing the studs that formed the wall.

I then used a number of 2 x 4′s to build an archway with a two supports seperated by 2 x 3′s. I ran new electrical wires down through the hollow center, and installed new plugs at the base.  The 2 x 4′s were then covered with the original paneling that I removed from the walls, then covered in some recycled trim.  I used some special “Polyshades” stain from Home Depot to stain all of the boards a more uniform color.

I’m pretty proud of myself for working so hard on this archway even on days when I had little spare energy to work, but it was worth it, as all of this was accomplished with about $30 worth of materials !

In conclusion, it all reminds me of how my father used to tell me constantly “Open Your Eyes”. One day I did, and I haven’t stopped being impressed.

Afflictions, Goji Berries, Phosphorus, Tomatoes, Zucchini , ,

Waiting for the Green

Assorted Tomatoes and Peppers

Assorted Tomatoes and Peppers

The greenhouse is full, and not just to it’s intended maximum capacity; There are plants on the floor, and plants on new shelves. I’ve so crowded this clear shed with seedlings that I intend to redesign it’s shelving system to hold at least twice as many plants by next year.

The thousand or so seedlings which have emerged from the soil are starting to relieve the stress of knowning whether they will germinate or not. Each year as this miracle is underway, I find myself stressed just a bit while the trays sit empty and the seeds work their magic under the soil. Once they poke through the top, I can monitor them, and properly care for them, and that stress turns to accomplishment. Very few seedlings that emerge from the soil perish on their way to the garden, so once I see green, I know I’ve made it about half way.

In the photo at top, I’ve planted cherry tomatoes about a week or two early, and they are stretching skyward as they compete for the catalyst of growth provided by the photons from the sun.

Ready for Takeoff

Ready for Takeoff

The table towards the bottom of the photo holds tomatoes and peppers. The second table in the background is covered with cucumbers, zucchinni, winter squash, egg plant and celery, as well as some over sized tomato plants.

Table of Misfit Plants

Table of Misfit Plants

The center table in the greenhouse contains quite a mix of bio-diversity, including chives, sage, cilantro, parsley, peppers, collards, onions, and a second planting of lettuce. A few more large tomato plants round out the second shelf.

Cucumbrits are Taking Over

Cucumbrits are Taking Over

The fourth and final table contains mostly cucumbrits including melons and several varieties of cucumbers. This entire table was full of cool season crops which have since been planted out into the garden.

While I may rebuild the entire shelf system in the greenhouse next year, I will also be implimenting a staged growth system. Just as the cool weather crops were being planted out, the warm season cucumbrits should be planted indoors. Next year, I can plant far more cool season crops, without worring about saving room for cucumbers.

Greenhouse, Seedlings, Spring , , , , ,

Timing is Everything

Cauliflower, Lettuce & Pak Choi

Cauliflower, Lettuce & Pak Choi

With the help of my new planting cells, I’ve managed to plant more cool weather crops and in greater quantities than last year… and it really shows ! My plants this year are nearly three weeks ahead. The difference is pretty clear when looking at the broccolli that I planted out on May 24 of last year, which you can see here: http://itfarmersblog.com/?p=1613

Not only have I been freed from poking numerous holes in styrofoam cups, I’ve also found these cells are a cinch to fill with soil: Just plop a hand full of dirt in the center and spread it around. Then poke holes and add some seeds.

Pak Choi

Pak Choi

My indoor planted pak choi is really doing well. Last year I planted it after my warm weather crops, and it didn’t grow well, so I decided to read the seed packets planting instructions, and try again. This time I planted pak choi right after planting celery, and the little green leaves are doing great. I am still a bit unsure what I will do with all of these plants, but then again, I have no idea to do with all of the tomatoes I’m growing either.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Since I was able to plant so fast with my new cells, I found time to plant lots of cherry tomatoes. These little tomatoes will be perfect for salads while we wait for their full size cousins to ripen. To the right you can see pepper plants poking out of the soil. They are a week or two late, but I think a little green water will do miracles.

 

Asian Vegetables, Cauliflower, Greenhouse, Growing Season, Lettuce, Pak Choi, Seedlings, Spring , , , ,

Cool Weather Catch Up

New Planting Cells

New Planting Cells

I’ve finally gotten started planting my cool weather crops in the greenhouse. I’m a few days behind schedule, as I was waiting for my new planting cells to arrive. The cells cost a very pretty penny, and nearly broke the bank, but I do believe they will be worth the sacrifice.

In total there are 40 flats with 36 cells in a flat. That’s enough for 1440 plants and the cells can be reused for years to come.  They will be replacing my method of using styrofoam cups as planters, which will save me endless hours of poking holes in the cups and filling them with dirt.

Cool Weather Crops Planted

Cool Weather Crops Planted

After George, Davey and I filled the cells with dirt, I got started planting some seeds. I was able to plant Broccoli, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Spinach, and Cauliflower before running out of cool season vegetables seeds for indoor planting.

I had just replaced the yellow liner in the water table shown, and when I filled it with water I quickly remembered the step I missed when I put the drain in the base. Somehow I forgot to use aquarium glue to keep the water from leaking around the drain, and since there was nothing stoping the water from leaking, I quickly had a mess on my hands. I moved all of the flats to another table, and began mopping my the water.

Frostable Plants Indoors

Frostable Plants Indoors

After cleaning up my greenhouse mess, I began working on another. I moved my kitchen table out onto the porch, and constructed another water table in it’s place. I created this tray to hold my warm weather seedlings, which need to be started now, but cannot be exposed to frost or freeze tempuratures. It’s still too early to heat the greenhouse effectively enought to keep off the cold, so the plants had to go indoors and use even more of my limited indoor space. I now have about 40 trees, 100 grape vines, and 288 seeds ready to sprout, all in my home. With all of this potting soil inside, I must have the dirtiest house on the planet…  = )

Soil Worked by Hand

Soil Worked by Hand

Once I ran out of potting soil to plant in, I began working a few rows of soil by hand to plant kohlrabi, peas, endive and cool season lettuce. The ground is fertile, but has a good deal of clay soil in it, making it fairly difficult to dig in. The two rows shown took a few hours to dig up and smash the soil. The work was difficult, but I soon had an idea that would save my back.

Eureka Moment

Eureka Moment

I use the backblade on the tractor to dig and level dirt all the time, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I decided that it was worth a try to see how the blade would work the soil, and I was very suprised to see how effortlessly the blade ripped and pulverized the soil. This method required a bit more skill and certainly more time then a normal plow, but 15 minutes on a tractor far outways 50 minutes with a shovel !

Big Garden Cool Section Tilled

Big Garden Cool Section Tilled

Once I saw that the blade would work well, I tilled up a 1/6 of the garden where I will continue planting cool season crops. One down side of the tractor is how it compresses the soil where the wheels roll, so I still have some shovel work to do.

For those of you reading for the first time, I should mention that the garden runs from the spot where I took this picture to the row of trees in the background. I really should call it a field, rather then a garden.

Little Garden Tilled

Little Garden Tilled

I soon moved onto the smaller garden, and made quick work of the soil there. This dark earth is the product of massive amounts of manure rotting for years, and it’s the easiest soil to work with on the farm.

Having two gardens may seem a bit off, but the varied soil, lighting and water conditions in each garden allow different crops to thrive. For example, cucumbers grew very poorly in the large garden but very well in the smaller one last year.

 

 

Broccolli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Dirt, Endive, Greenhouse, Growing Season, New Ideas, Peas, Spring, Uncategorized

No Room to Move !

Bareroot Apple Seedlings in My Hallway
Bareroot Apple Seedlings in My Hallway

Last Thursday I finally received the fruit tree seedlings that I’ve been waiting months for. The order contained 75 apple, 25 wild plum and 25 red elderberry plants which all arrived in a single box as bare-root seedlings. I had the trees shipped to my mother’s house where they could be protected from cold or rain as I would be at work when the mail arrived, and I didn’t want to come home to a package of cooked or frozen plants.

My sister Sandy and my mother decided to plant most of the trees for me, since they had the black planters and some good dirt. I was still feeling a bit under the weather after having a cold or flu in the beginning of the week, so I was pretty happy to be off the hook, and I was able to finish planting the rest of the trees in an hour or so.

Bareroot Apple Seedlings First Leaves

Bareroot Apple Seedlings First Leaves

The seedlings were left on my mothers porch for a few days so they could soak up the sun. After a few very nice and totally unseasonable warm days, I caught news that a freeze or frost advisory was in affect. All of the trees would need to be protected from the cold, so I borrowed my brothers truck and moved them all inside my home. Even after giving some of the trees away, I was still left with about 40 trees in little buckets, and 20 trees in large buckets, and they really take up a lot of room in my home.

Table Grape Leaf

Table Grape Leaf

On top of the trees, I have a few table grape clones which I planted a bit early this year, I also have 100 wine grape clones which really seem to be doing well.

Wine Grape Leaf

Wine Grape Leaf

The leaves on the new grapes are suprisingly different then those on table grapes.  I’m quite familiar with the table grape leaves as I’ve got about 10 varieties already growing, so I was pretty surprised when I saw the shiny and jagged grape leaves.

The grape clones have all but filled my normal seedling room, and combined with some experimental fruit tree seeds, and an incubator housing chicken eggs, the room has only enought standing area to water all of the plants.

Apache Blackberry Clone Trail

Apache Blackberry Clone Trail

On top of the grapes, fruit trees and seed experiments, my brother decided to try his own hand at cloning, and so I have some apache blackberry experimental clones in my kitchen.

Baby Parakeet

Baby Parakeet

In the living room, I have five parakeets, and one nest of three baby parakeets. They really have nothing to do with farming, but I guess this post is about useable space at home, and these birds use a lot of it. They’re awefully cute too, so I figured a picture wouldn’t hurt.

My goal with these creatures is to make them super friendly birds which can be held, or set on my shoulder for halloween to make me look like a pirate…. Rrr…

Chicken Eggs

Chicken Eggs

The chicken eggs round off the list of progress, with a small footprint but a good amount of care needed. They should hatch in a few days, and hopefully not long after that find new homes as I’m only incubating them for my sister. She assures me they will all be out of my hands by the time I can safely stop feeding them chick feed.

All in all, I might not have much space now, but I do have something far more valueable: Potential. Imagine what could be done with the grapes from a 100 vines, or apples from dozens of full size apple trees. I guess only time will tell, but for now, I’m more then happy to share some of my space for progress.

Apples, Chickens, Grapes, Pets, Trees, Uncategorized , , , , ,

Spring has Sprung

Apple Buds
Apple Buds

Spring has sprung and with it comes a new period of growth to replace “the winter that never came”.  On the first days of spring the tempurature is nearly 35 degrees F. warmer then the average, and all of the plants and trees are responding as such.  This warming trend could be a problem if there is a frost or freeze in the next few months, all of the buds and leaves could be damaged due to the cold.

Pear Buds

Pear Buds

I remain hopefull that the trees and bushes will be spared a late freeze, and even thought the year has started out fairly warm, I’m making no bets about the possiblity of a late frost, so my target date to plant the garden is still June 1.

Chives

Chives

While investigating all of the new spring growth, I noticed that the chives in my rock garden have regrown from last year. They must have gone to seed last year, or regrown from their roots. The sage plants in the same garden are also growing again.

Garlic

Garlic

The fall planted garlic is growing great, and best of all, I haven’t had to weed the bed due to the thick layer of hay. I used the hay in the hopes of protecting the roots from a cold winter, but I’m quite happy it’s useful even when the weather is warm.

Gooseberries

Gooseberries

Gooseberries are even getting in the action, and growing fast.

Celery and Onions Seeds

Celery and Onions Seeds

And last but not least it seems the farmer himself is getting caugh up with the season. I’m about 4 days behind schedule since I somehow forgot to order celery seeds.  Once I had the seeds in hand, this project was finished quicker then I could say global warming.

 

Celery, Onions, Spring, Trees, Uncategorized, Weather , , ,

Starting Early

Peach Pits

Peach Pits

I’ve been waiting for several months to experiment with fruit tree seeds, and the time is about right to thaw them out and give them a shot. The seeds have been stratifying in my freezer for several months, which simulates the cold winter conditions the pits would be exposed to in the wild. This process tricks the seed into thinking it has survived winter, and must now grow.

Peach, Cherry and Assorted Nut Seeds Planted

Peach, Cherry and Assorted Nut Seeds Planted

I used some tiny plastic cups to hold the potting soil and seeds. If the seeds are successful, I move them to large pots as needed. Each cup has multiple holes in the base for proper drainage, and I’ve soaked the potting soil to simulate spring ground conditions.  Now it’s just a matter of time till I see which seeds (if any) will grow. I’ve planted a miss-matched collection of cherry, peach, nectarines, and even some nuts in an attempt to learn which will “grow true” and which will not. The “peach” pits should definitely offer some surprises, as I left out some critical information when storing the seeds, and I’m not even sure if they are peach pits.

Crimson Seedless Clone

Crimson Seedless Clone

While I missed the boat on labeling the peach pits, I was very diligent when it came to preserving the information about the grapes I’m cloning. So far, I’ve got seven plants from four different varieties showing top growth. These canes are a few weeks ahead of schedule, but a welcome sign of spring, and an escape from this brown toned rainy winter.

Syrah Noir Clone

Syrah Noir Clone

Alicante Bouschet Clone

Alicante Bouschet Clone

Pinot Noir Clone

Pinot Noir Clone

In about four weeks, I’ll be receiving over 100 fruit trees, which will need to be planted into soil in much the same way the grapes are. Next, I need to locate some room to start early celery, pepper and tomato seeds, as the seedling room will be full by after all of the trees are added to the collection.

Cloning / Propogating, Fruit Trees, Grapes, Seeds, Uncategorized ,