Monday, May 28, 2018

Potatoes - And a Ton of Dirt.,,

 So I decided to try growing potatoes.  Decided to do it in burlap sacks.  Over the last few months I ended up with too many potatoes that started sprouting before I got them cooked, so mostly the seed potatoes were just potatoes saved from the compost pile, although I did get some seed potatoes from the Resource Center over at the Garden Project as well.  I had  total of 4 types of tatties, and I also got the burlap sacks from the Garden Project (leftovers from Coffee roasters. 
So, I pulled the trailer full of dirt up to the area of the driveway nearest the spot I was planning to use, put down some landscape fabric, and tucked in.  As you can see in the pictures I used a cardboard box with the bottom flaps cut open to keep the burlap bags standing up while shoveling dirt into them.  I put in about 4 inches of dirt in each of the 12 bags, planted potatoes about 8 to 10 inches apart in the bags (4 in each bag, the bags are 24x36 inches when flat so about 1.5 feet across when full), then covered with another 4-5 inches of dirt.  And as I was getting to the end I was hoping I had enough dirt.  Eventually poured the last dirt off the tarp into a bucket to finish filling the last bag, and had to steal a little dirt from a couple of the more full bags to make sure the least filled bag was full enough, but that did it.  So I have used the first trailer full of dirt.  My trailer can only officially handle 900 pounds, but I had bought a half-yard of dirt, which depending on moisture content can weigh half a ton plus or minus a bit of water.  Luckily it was pretty dry when I bought it, but I have now shoveled over a half ton of dirt this year, as this isn't the only shoveling I've done.  I was just saying this winter that I needed to add Strength Training to my walking workouts, and I think Gardening is adding that strength training in the form of shoveling and, well, I've also poured a full bag of Perlite and fifteen 2 cubic foot bags of Potting Soil.  Well, 30 cubic feet is more than a cubic yard, so I guess I've moved 1.5 tons of dirt this year, some of it more than once (container gardening means you can change your mind on what goes where).

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Successes and Less Successful stuffs.

Today's conundrum: 

My first strawberry is blooming.  The gardening wisdom is that if you plant in springtime you should remove all of the flowers the first year so that you get much healthier plants and much more and bigger and healthier berries in following years.  I did not, however, realize how hard it would be emotionally to actually cut the flowers.  I went back and researched, and apparently everyone from gardening web sites to University Extension services to people who sell strawberries say that yep, you need to snip the flowers.  They say that maybe day-neutral or everbearing plants you could stop snipping  after June.  I knew that going in, and I planted June-Bearing berries in this planter.  So... I decided that I will let them bloom, but snip the flowers when they start to wilt so they don't put a lot of energy into the berry/seed production.

If the strawberry seeds I sowed in the other two planters don't germinate and grow, I will get more seed and try germinating in a controlled environment, then planting this fall, since they say that you don't have to snip fall-planted strawberries.

I knew going in that not everything in the garden would be a resounding success...  and so far the greatest failures have been garlic chives not growing yet, one of the lettuce varieties not surviving the frost/freeze cycles we had, a parsley plant that the squirrels stole, and spinach that started bolting before we got a real good harvest.  As far as the spinach goes, we will replant that for fall and hope it doesn't bolt, then try different varieties next year.  We have new parsley plants that have real root systems (the missing plant was an accidental "grew some small roots while we were keeping it alive in a bowl" plant, so didn't have the ability to stay planted when they tugged on it).  We can replant garlic chives and if that variety doesn't take get some other seeds... and the regular chives are taking off.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Cornucopia of Greens

This morning we HAD to thin the lettuce towers, along with some radishes, turnips, peppercress, and possibly other items.  The Spinach in the towers had finally fully Bolted so it was weeded out.  We may have a little spinach from the second container before it bolts, as I read on one article that the later you plant it the longer it takes to bolt.

Anyway, we didn't actually harvest any full plants...  well, there were maybe a half dozen that were growing in the wrong place, like a Tango growing in the Bronze Beauty section or something, and there were a few places where the plants were so thick that a couple got pulled entirely to leave room for the others, but overall this was just thinning a few leaves off of each lettuce plant, cutting some peppercress, and thinning some radish and turnip beds.  I put the gallon jug there for size context.  We will be sharing with family and friends, as we already got a head of lettuce from our CSA on Thursday, so we currently have a bounty!

We were somewhat disappointed in the spinach.  If anyone in the north here has suggestions for a spinach variety that produces greens for a month or more instead of a few weeks we would be interested to hear about it.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What I've Been Doing This Year

Oscar has done a wonderful job keeping the blog updated on our gardening adventures. What I've been up to mostly takes place indoors. I've started painting professionally. My favorite medium is Alcohol Inks, and I paint almost every day (or I get grumpy about it LOL) I've included just a few photos of my 8 x 10 paintings in this post, but today I finished uploading 87 (eighty-seven) images of my 5 x 7 inch paintings to my Otterwise Designs Facebook page.
I struggled with depression the past few years, and it was much worse than I thought. In January, I turned to making art after a friend introduced me to Alcohol Inks. That lessened the darkness enough that I sought help, and now am doing very well. I never thought I would be an artist, but I feel very much at home in my niche :-}.

To celebrate officially opening my Otterwise Designs Facebook page, I am having a sale on those 5 x 7 paintings. If you wish to purchase 3 paintings, email me at with the painting numbers (at the bottom of the description) and mention the code HEREATLAST and you will get $10 off. :-} 

I will also be creating an Otterwise Designs web page, but that will happen later on this summer.

In the mean time, I hope you browse the paintings I put up today. I have loads of 8 x 10s to upload later this week!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Forsythia, Ajuga, and realizing I can't do it all

Diana bought us two Forsythia shrubs.  Forsythia is a bush that my father grew, and in fact he planted two of them, telling my sister and I that the second bush was "Firesythia", because Fire (pronounced Feer-Ah) is the number 4 in Norwegian.  As a kid I heard it as "Feedasythia" but whatever the pronunciation the point is that he made up a name for it and so the bush took on a special meaning for me after we lost Daddy.

Because we have such a small yard Diana bought a dwarf variety, and to keep it affordable she bought small plants, but the shrub, over time, will get to be nearly 3 feet across.  I don't want to crowd my neighbor, and his driveway runs exactly down the property line, so I cleared a little plot that is along the driveway, sidewalk, and the arc that is 4 feet from the corner of the sidewalk/driveway.  Planting the shrub 2 feet from the sidewalk and 2 feet from the driveway should keep it from sticking out over either.  To keep the slope from eroding, help with the pollinator factor, and also a nod to Daddy I will also be planting Bronze Leaf Ajuga (Bronze Beauty Carpet Bugle).

It took me 2 days to dig out the sod/weeds/roots/stones and bricks for ONE side.  Yep, 10 bricks were buried in that little plot!  Also, the ground was quite wet from the weekend rain, so the clay in the soil stuck to the roots of the sod... I don't want to give the weeds dirt to grow in, and I don't want all of the good soil to go away (there is clay, sand, and humus/compost in the soil, not just clay).

We have so much to do and these new garden beds are taking me so long that I decided to hire some local college students ("Rent-a-Rower" from the Michigan State University Crew team) to help with some of the additional garden digging - they should be here next week.  Meanwhile, I can move on to other gardening tasks!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Monarch Garden

Even though it was raining a lot today, I had decided that I needed to make today the day I got the Monarch garden in, or at least the Milkweed plants that were so kindly given to me.  Last night I finished digging out the sod and roots and bits of metal and rocks that were in the spot.

This morning I raked the dirt, and it was clear that all of the bulk removed when I removed the sod had dropped the level of the dirt an inch below the lawn, so I filled the wheelbarrow halfway or so with some of my recently purchased dirt and dumped it on the patch, then raked it smooth.

Once I had the garden ready, I put some stakes in to give me a rough guide for where to plant which flowers.  I started with a row of Cypress Vine (think Scarlet Morning Glories) against the fence, then planned for a staggered row of milkweed (two of the stakes in each set), then Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), Daisies, and Dwarf Blue Sage. 

In order to make the plants even, I made myself a measuring stick.  Using a measuring tape when actually crawling around on the ground has too many issues, so I made one out of scrap wood.  I made a full line every 12 inches, and along one edge I made half-lines every 4 inches, while on the other edge I made half-lines every 6 inches.  I can use this to plant at any multiple of 4 or 6 inches (some of my plans were for 8 inches, for example).  Since the stick is heavy and rigid I don't have to worry about wind.

So, I used the stakes and the stick, and to make sure I didn't sink too far into the fresh dirt I used a scrap piece of plywood shelving to kneel on, and planted the Cypress Vine and the Milkweed.  The Rudbeckia, Daisies, and Sage will have to wait, because the important thing for me this weekend is planting live plants (I did the Cypress Vine because it is behind the Milkweed), and I have Forsythia bushes and Ajuga plants, plus my Tomato and Pepper plants to get in the ground.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

So the squirrel(s) have visited the garden again.  I don't think they even ate anything... the first picture shows that they dug a hole between the only two plants that are planted there (they already stole the parsley that had originally been the third plant - maybe they were looking for it again?), and the plants in the other two containers are small enough that the holes they dug wouldn't have been needed.  Either they just like doing damage or they buried something of their own in my dirt because it was easier than digging in the yard.

Oh well, the lettuce is doing well enough that tomorrow will be another salad day!

And I finished digging the garden bed for the first section of pollinator garden - so in the morning I can plant my milkweed and a couple of other native (wild)flowers in an 8 foot wide bed.