October To-Do List

Broadfork -- 8-15-2014Berries

  • Plant more strawberries.
  • Spread compost around blueberries.
  • Mulch blueberries with fallen leaves.

Flower Garden

Annuals:

  • Nothing this month.

Bulbs:

  • Spread compost on the Spring bulbs.

Native Plants:

  • Mulch Indian plum with leaves.
  • Uproot/dig up as many poplars as I can once rain starts.

Perennials:

  • Transplant the hostas.
  • Transplant the fuchsia.

Roses:

  • Tie climbing roses to trellis.
  • Mulch roses with fallen leaves — after the first freeze.
  • Trim back long canes.
  • Remove rose leaves after the first freeze.

Shrubs:

  • Fertilize the shrubs.

Herb Garden

Houseplants

  • Nothing this month.

Lawn

  • Aerate, thatch, and reseed the front lawn.
  • Rake leaves as needed.

Maintenance

  • Sharpen the mower blades.
  • Edge the beds.
  • Conquer the front bed.
  • Clean the birdbath.
  • Set out the birdfeeders for the winter.

Trees

  • Call an arborist to cut down the pine tree.
  • Mulch around the fruit and nut trees.
  • Cut down the Japanese maple after the leaves have dropped.

Vegetable Garden

  • Sow cover crops as plots get emptied.
  • Plant the garlic.
  • Harvest potatoes and turnips.

 

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September Wrap-Up

Wheelbarrow of Poplar Roots -- 8-3-2014Not much got done this month.  I harvested some of my potatoes and turnips, but that was about it.  Fortunately, more is already getting accomplished in October.

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Turnip Harvest

When I harvested my potatoes the other day, I also harvested some turnips.

Basket of Turnips

Basket of Turnips

These took a bit more work to store away than the potatoes did, though.

First, I had to dump them in a sink for a quick rinse.

First Rinse

First Rinse

This time around, I did not scrub them, but let them soak as I quickly separated the greens and the roots into two separate bowls.

Not very many roots for such a big sinkful of plants.

Not very many roots for such a big sinkful of plants.

The True Harvest

The True Harvest

After separating the roots from the greens (and cleaning the sink) I put the roots back in the water.  This time, they got a true scrubbing before getting trimmed.

Trimmed Turnip Roots

Trimmed Turnip Roots

You will notice that the bugs got to one of the turnips.  However, no rot had set in, and the root was sound, so I kept it anyway.  Our turnip patch is not big, and we only grow enough to keep in the fridge, so I did not need to worry about long-term storage.  Some of the roots, however, were too bug-eaten to keep.

This is why we can't let our turnips grow too big.

This one is too bug-eaten to keep.

As the turnips were drying on the towel, I washed and trimmed the greens.

Trimmed Turnip Greens

Trimmed Turnip Greens

Now, I was ready to store everything in the fridge.  The turnips were easy.  All I had to do was put them in a zip-lock bag.  The greens, on the other hand, needed a little more care.  I have found that the best way to store them is wrapped in a damp paper towel.  By doing this, they will last several months in the refrigerator.

Packaged Turnip Greens

Packaged Turnip Greens

Normally, we just throw a bundle of turnip greens in a pot of soup about five minutes before serving it.  Since we have so much right now, though, I thought I should look up some recipes where the greens are the main focus instead of an added ingredient.

Here are the recipes that looked the most promising.  Who wants to try them out with me?

Spicy Skillet Turnip Greens

Southern Turnip Greens with Salt Pork

Country Turnip Greens

Turnip Green Soup

 

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First Harvest of the Year

It may not look like much, but I gathered in the first harvest of the year.

Basket of Fingerlings

This is just the start, though.  Since the potatoes that volunteered in the compost pile (denying me use of half of said pile) sprouted first, they were also ready to harvest first.  I still have two more potato beds to go, which should yield many more potatoes, but the first harvest is always exciting, no matter how little it produces.

There is more to harvesting potatoes, though, than digging them up out of the ground.  Unless they are destined for that night’s dinner table, potatoes need to cure, and toughen up their skins.  To do that, I spread them out on our deck table.

Curing in the Shade

Curing in the Shade

This lets the dirt dry enough that it can be brushed off the potatoes without bruising them.  Washing them is a bad idea, because it can let rot set in.

After the dirt has fallen off, usually a full afternoon, it is time to sort the potatoes.  No matter how careful I am, some of the potatoes end up being scarred by the potato fork.

Scarred Potatoes

Scarred Potatoes

These fingerlings are still perfectly fine to eat, but if they are put in storage with the rest, rot will eventually set in.  Instead, I put them in the bin of potatoes to be eaten soon, while the rest of the harvest gets set in our pantry.

Over the course of the winter, most of the potato harvest will be eaten, but some is usually left to seed next year’s crop.

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September To Do List

Broadfork -- 8-15-2014There is always a lot to do in the garden, and every month I faithfully post my list.  Some of it will get done and some will not, but it helps to keep me on-track.  For those of you who want to make a similar list, my garden is in zone 6b.

Berries

  • Plant more wild strawberries to fill in the plot.
  • Spread compost on the blueberries.
  • Spread mulch on both the blueberries and the strawberries.

Flower Gardens

  • Photograph all the beds.

Bulbs:

  • Spread compost on the Spring bulbs.

Native Plants:

  • Mulch the Indian plum with leaves when they start to fall.

Shrubs:

  • Spread compost around their drip lines.

Herb Garden

  • Transplant the lavender and thyme.

Houseplants

  • Fertilize them once this month.  I usually use coffee grounds, since they are readily available.

Lawn

  • Aerate, thatch, and reseed the lawn.

Maintenance

  • Sharpen the lawn mower blades.
  • Edge the flower beds.

Trees

  • Call an arborist to cut down the pine tree.
  • Spread mulch around the fruit trees and the young hazelnuts.
  • Spread compost around the drip lines.
  • Cut down the Japanese maple after its leaves drop.

Vegetable Garden

  • Harvest the potatoes.
  • Sow cover crops.
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August Wrap Up

One of many wheelbarrow loads of roots.

Like most gardeners, my to-do list tends to be bigger than I can actually accomplish each month.  However, some of it still manages to be crossed off the list.  Here is the wrap up of what I did get done in August.

Maintenance

Vegetable  Garden

  • Thinned the radishes and turnips
  • Harvested radishes and turnip greens
  • Planted lettuce
  • Ordered garlic

Herb Garden

Flower Garden

– Shrubs

Houseplants

  • Transferred them to my classroom

Trees

What have you been doing in your garden?

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My Trees

For living on such a small plot of land, I actually have quite a few trees.  Some of them I like, some I hate, and some I just do not know what to think.  Here is the rundown.

Poplars

Mowing just keeps them short.

Mowing just keeps them short.

By now, everybody knows I hate the poplars.  If I know how to get rid of them without poisoning my yard or damaging other trees I would.

Honeycrisp

The thimbleberries make it seem like a midget tree.

If you look closely, it is there.

This tiny tree actually had a few apples last year, although I only let one grow, since it was close to the trunk.  Then it got pruned by deer and did not even blossom this year.

The Big Hazelnut

My Lopsided Hazelnut

My Lopsided Hazelnut

This tree is the reason I have not just rototilled the poplars out.  I am too afraid of damaging its roots as well.  Even though all the nuts seem to be hollow, it is a nice shade tree and the kids love to climb in it.

Belmac

Belmac

Belmac

This apple tree is growing a lot faster than the Honeycrisp, but I have not seen any blooms yet.  And yes, a good weeding would definitely make it happier.  At least we pruned out the blackberries and poplars!

Pine Tree

What killed this pine?

What killed this pine?

This tree was happy, and then suddenly died last summer.  I suspect the herbicide my neighbors sprayed along the property line had something to do with it, but have no proof.  It must be removed before this year’s storm season.  Unfortunately, it is too close to several buildings for us to do ourselves, though, so calling an arborist is a must.

Mystery Ivy Tree

What is this thing?

What is this thing?

We do not know what is actually under all that ivy.  Once we clear out the brush pile, though, it is coming down so we can build a bike shed.

Small Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

After several years, they are finally happy.  Next Spring we will pot one up and give it to my parents so the other one has room to grow.

Big Mystery Tree

Yes, it is alive -- sort of.

Yes, it is alive — sort of.

This tree is half-dead, and I have been wanting to cut it down for years.  The birds absolutely love it, though, so my husband will not let me.  Fortunately, there is a sapling ready to take its place soon.

Replacement Tree

Replacement Tree

Indian Plum

Pruned Indian Plum

Pruned Indian Plum

This is a transplant that somehow survived, even though I did it at the wrong time of year.  I have to fight with it each year to keep it in a tree form instead of becoming a shrub, but I love it.

Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

Along with having gorgeous flowers every year, it is a good climbing tree.  I just wish it was not so close to the road and to the property line.

Japanese Maple

Pretty Tree in a Bad Place

Pretty Tree in a Bad Place

I absolutely love Japanese maples, but this one has to go.  It is just too close to the house and it is starting to interfere with the power lines.  As soon as the leaves drop, it is gone.

So those are my trees.  What trees do you have?  Are there any you regret?

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Completing the Herb Garden

After digging out all the poplars and removing the cinder blocks, I was finally ready to move onto the more normal aspects of prepping my herb garden.  First, I had to loosen the soil.  Since it was so heavily compacted from the cinder blocks, this took a couple of days.  On the first day, I whacked at the ground with a long-handled claw to loosen the soil as much as I could before putting the sprinkler on it.  Once the water had a chance to soak in, it was easier to break through the clumps on the second day.

After the soil had been loosened enough that it looked like a garden bed instead of a garden path, I spread compost over it.  Normally, I just put a strip of compost in the middle of a bed and spread it out evenly.  Since the soil had been so maltreated here, though, I poured it out at about 2″deep throughout the entire bed.  Then I went over it with the claw again.  (I repeat this step a lot.)

Now I was ready for my secret weapon: my broadfork.

My Broadfork

My Broadfork

By using a broadfork, I was able to penetrate far into the soil without destroying the worm tunnels that are also working to loosen the soil.

The dimples are all that show after the broadfork has done its work.

The dimples are all that show after the broadfork has done its work.

Finally, I went over it with the claw one last time to smooth everything out.

A Well-Prepped Herb Garden

A Well-Prepped Herb Garden

When I began creating this herb garden, it was to get my lavender out of its pot.  However, transplanting it will have to wait until next month.  I will probably also transplant some of my lemon thyme as well, since it is beginning to crowd one of my rose bushes.

Lemon Thyme

Lemon Thyme

In the meantime, I scattered dill seed, hoping that it will take off faster than the weeds will.

Hopefully this is dill and not an army of weeds.

Hopefully this is dill and not an army of weeds.

As all gardeners know, that is a war that is never won.

 

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Battle of the Cinder Blocks

As I mentioned in my previous post, after finally clearing most of the poplar roots from my new herb bed, I discovered that cinder blocks were buried under the dirt — a good five to six inches deep — in about a third of the bed.  Thus the next battle began.

The ruler is sitting in a semi-cleared spot, but is resting next to the regular level of the garden bed.

The ruler is sitting in a semi-cleared spot, but is resting next to the regular level of the garden bed.

The first thing I had to do was uncover the cinder blocks.  To do this, I discovered that a snow shovel worked best, because it had a flat blade and could scrape most of the dirt off with ease.  Then I went over the blocks with an old broom to get as much dirt off as possible.

Freshly Swept Cinder Blocks

Freshly Swept Cinder Blocks

Now it was time for the pry bar.  Fortunately for me, the previous owners had not mortared the blocks together, so this chore was not as onerous as it could have been.  When I was done, I had a decently-sized stack of cinder blocks, a lot of very compressed dirt, and an exposed ant farm.

 

Stacks of Cinder Blocks

Stacks of Cinder Blocks

No More Cinder Blocks 2 -- 8-5-2014

Very Compressed Dirt

Ant Farm

Ant Farm

Finally, the end was in sight.

To be continued . . .

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Attack of the Poplars

For years I have been trying to get an herb garden established. Unfortunately for me, though, a good portion of our yard floods every winter.  Each time I thought I had found a good spot, the floods would destroy the plants.  Sometimes they would struggle on for a few years, but the results would always be the same.  Finally, I started looking in other areas of my yard — even in places where I had not planned on planting anything in the near future.  As I did this, I noticed that there was a promising site next to my deck.  Originally, it would not have worked.  Our old apple tree had to be cut down, though, so this area was no longer in the shade.  Eventually, the new tree, planted a little further down the fence line, might force some of the herbs to be relocated, but that should not be an issue for several years.  For right now, this seems to be the ideal spot, except for one thing.  Establishing my herb garden next to the deck meant waging war upon the poplars.

Until I had moved to this house, I had always loved poplars.  They looked very stately lining roadways and I could understand why so many people planted them.

That was before I met my arch enemy.

Doesn't she look all innocent and peaceful?

Doesn’t she look all innocent and peaceful?

My neighbors have a gorgeous poplar growing in their yard.  Unfortunately, she is not content with merely looking gorgeous.  She intends to conquer the world.

This is the army she is building in her own yard.

This used to be a backyard.

This used to be a backyard.

We weed-eat/prune our “wild” areas at least once a year, so this is the worst it has gotten in our yard.

They grow faster than the apple tree that they surround.

They grow faster than the apple tree that they surround.

Even our lawn is not immune.

Mowing just keeps them short.

Mowing just keeps the poplars short.

Despite this unrelenting attack, I decided to go to war.  First, I used my heavy-duty pruners and cut down all the saplings.  Then I loosened the soil as well as I could with a shovel.  After all that, I went to work with a long-handled claw.  Whenever I encountered a poplar root, I pruned it out if I could.  Usually, though, it meant digging around the root, pruning off all its runners, and sawing through the taproot.  Despite being a relatively small space, several wheelbarrows of roots were hauled off to our brush pile before I was done.

One of many wheelbarrow loads of roots.

One of many wheelbarrow loads.

Eventually, I had cleared out the worst of the roots, and the bed was at the stage where I would normally prep it for planting.  Unfortunately, during my battle with the poplar roots, I had discovered that this was just the beginning of the war.  Buried well under the dirt, there were cement bricks throughout a third of the bed.

Mostly root free, but hiding even more obstacles.

Mostly root free, but hiding even more obstacles.

To be Continued . . .

The End Result

 

 

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