The Start of Another Year

looking aheadSo much to do this year, I don’t know if it will all get done, but I’m optimistic that at least some of it will. The table in the Pub seems to have become my planning table. The Pub catches the morning light and is very pleasant at this time of day; a nice spot to have a hot cup of tea or coffee, or just to watch the birds at the feeders in the back off the deck.

We brought the seed starter stand inside this past weekend, and I got the Brussel’s sprouts, the broccoli, and the cabbage planted in the starter trays on the 31st, or the 1st to all intents and purposes. Some weeks back I started a hardcopy gardening binder, something to refer to on the spur of the moment without having to go chasing down a gadget, or worrying about said gadget being harmed by potting soil, water, or just general mayhem as I go through the gardening process. One of the things I’ve put in it is an actual calendar of when I want to plant my various seeds so that I actually got something started when I wanted to this time! I just have to remember that it’s there for my instant reference.

seed_traysThe seed trays are on a heating mat as a source of bottom heat. I hope to upgrade to a “real” seedling mat at some future point, but this method has done me for a couple of years now. This was an inexpensive mat, one without an internal timer on it (it would hardly do for the heat to go off after a couple of hours,) and one marked as “water resistant”.  The lights are on for 14 hours give or take; they’re on a mechanical type timer which isn’t quite as accurate as an electronic one, but simpler to program and able to take more abuse in the long run. The seed starting medium this year is a bit different, an “organic” mix by Burpee’s that I picked up at Lowe’s. Rather than being peat based (a non-renewable resource,) it’s coir based. The only real difference that I’ve noticed so far is that it seems to dry out more quickly than the peat type. It’s also more expensive, I suspect because it is to all intents and purposes a by-product to the coconut industry and I can’t imagine that the the coconut industry is actually that large. Except for its tendency to dry out more quickly I like it overall; it has a nice texture.

Brand new baby broccoli, just peeking out.

Brand new baby broccoli, just peeking out.

The broccoli (Burpee’s variety ‘di Cicco’) is happy anyway, it’s already popping up after only a few days!  I was a bit careless sowing these seeds; normally I’ll only sow two, or at most three seeds per cell. It’s a bit persnickety when they’re so small, but it is doable and when they’re so expensive much more economical rather than flinging them hither and yon. If the seed is stored somewhere away from heat and moisture they will be viable for many years. That’s a lot better than spending $4 or $5 a packet every year which is what some of the hybrid varieties end up costing. The most I spent on any one variety this year was for the Brussel’s sprouts ‘Dimitri Hybrid‘ at $3.95 for 25 seeds. The only reason I opted for those is that it is advertised as “easy to grow” and the last time I tried to grow sprouts they didn’t perform.

On into the next season . . .

I had the best of intentions, that of regularly updating this garden blog, and you can see where that went. Well, here it is past the end of the season, and I’m hopefully getting back to it.

The garden’s been buttoned up for the season, I’m not going to try to deal with any fall/winter type veggies this year; I’m putting all of my energy into properly planning and laying out for next year. Which means that even though the garden looks a bit sad as there’s naught in it save for the last dregs of the summer’s peppers, there is much going on behind the scenes. I’ll have to finalize at least the early veggies really soon, since some of them should be started inside by the middle of December or so for a February planting. I’ve decided to try English peas this year, I’ll probably try both, direct sow and starting under lights; they’ll need to be in the ground by the middle of February, likewise the potatoes I’ll be planting. I planted potatoes this last season, not many,  and they were severely neglected. Even so they still managed to produce some potatoes , enough for a couple of meals which has inspired me to try again.

Tomatoes were very nice this year; I even managed to cook up some of the roma type (Burpee ‘Fresh Salsa’) into some tomato sauce and freeze it. That’t the ticket right there, growing enough to have extra to store. It gives a feeling of, well, independence, like we actually have at least some control over our food source. We probably could have done even better with our tomatoes, we’re still having problems with blight, but I don’t know that there’s anything we can really do about it. I’m going to try to get at least a couple of beds solarized next season and we’ll see if that helps the blight problem any.

The summer squash was disappointing. Nothing we’ve tried has kept the squash borers away except for a barrier method – keeping the plants under row cover and hand pollinating. While the pollinating chore really wasn’t a very big deal, the row covers kept in the moisture and stopped any airflow so that the plants eventually succumbed to mold and other similar disease. After discussing it, I think we might try to just boggle the little bugs’ minds with so many squash plants that they can’t possibly kill it all. In other words we’re going to plow up some ground outside of the garden proper and plant a LOT of squash and see if that works. The reasoning behind this is that apparently squash borer is not a problem in commercial fields. At least it’s something to try. This year’s squash only produced for about a month or so, and the best I can tell it should really last until frost. I’ve never had any plant to produce much longer than the aforementioned month.

So, I’ll be doing some serious planning in the next month or so, and doing some serious ordering after that. These are the things that I’m definite on, or at least considering:

  • Tomatoes (several varieties, beefsteak, roma, cherry, heirloom slicing)
  • Peppers (hot: Mariachi, Jalapeno; Sweet: California Wonder)
  • Corn
  • Okra
  • English Peas
  • Lettuce – leaf and semi-head
  • Broccoli (fall crop didn’t do well, so trying late winter, early spring)
  • Brussel’s Sprouts (ditto Broccoli)
  • Potatoes (the Red ones did best)
  • onions – globe and bunching
  • basil
  • thyme
  • Cucumbers – slicing and pickling
  • Carrots (did REALLY well, must have more!)
  • Beets (haven’t done well for me, but I think I know why)
  • Parsnips (a first, just an experiment)
  • Summer squash
  • Winter squash (the borers leave it alone as it has a solid stem)

This isn’t written in stone, I’m sure it’ll be tinkered with over the next month or so. I’d like to have the garden in continuous production, at least that’s my goal. There should always be something I can pick out of the garden, I would also very much like to have a surplus that can be put up.

The Bar Progresses

Work on the bar goes apace. I work on this thing almost every day, although not all day long. Piddle at it really. I will say one thing, I love, love, love, my Kreg pocket screw jig. I’ve made cabinets before, although a very long time ago, but those were traditional mortise and tenon. Not that I’m dissing that method you understand, but it’s more at home in fine woodworking rather than in a utilitarian cabinet. For that the pocket screw joinery is just fine, and about 110% faster. I can have the parts cut to fit and the frame put together in about an hour or less. It does wonders for my sanity.

This is the area that’s actually behind the bar. The little cabinet that will be below the “backbar” isn’t all that deep, and the shelves can’t be that far apart even being adjustable, but I think it’ll probably be enough room to store glasses perhaps. I’m sure I’ll find something to store there. The face frames haven’t been permanently attached here, I’m just trying them on for size, so to speak. There’s going to be a counter outlet above that, along with two outlets on the right side just under the bar itself.

 

I stained this bit to see what it’s going to look like. I’m pleased with it. That’s actually two cabinets, I’ve designed it so that the end cabinet can be detached and pulled out at some future time should someone (not me!) wish to. It’s sized so that an undercounter fridge or one of the smaller kegerators or wine fridges can fit the space.

 

Captain Carrot, I presume?

The winter vegetables were so-so. The Brussel’s sprouts were a distinct failure, got a couple of tiny broccoli, and likewise the cauliflower. Not sure if I’ll try again or not. Part of the problem has been a very warm winter, and a spring that’s more like June than March with temperatures in the 80’s. However the Romaine lettuce finally did well, and the carrots are a resounding success I’d say. Classic carrot shape, looks like something the Were Rabbit would be after. I may try another variety next year, these are ‘Danvers Half Long‘  which I’ve just discovered is an heirloom variety. I may try one of the long skinny carrots next time, like this hybrid from Burpee. I’ve tried growing carrots before when I lived in Cooks Springs, but never had any luck really. Of course these have been in the ground a long time, since last October/November if I remember correctly. Think I’ll try planting some in mid-late summer to mature after the frost hits. If there’s enough I may try canning or freezing the surplus.

The bunching onions are finally getting big enough to do something with, and the leeks are finally doing something as well. Most of this stuff was just kind of dormant through the “winter.” Except for the carrots apparently which were doing their thing underground. The leeks are in the upper left of the bed in the accompanying photo, the rest of those are the bunching onions. The beets have just done so-so. There might be one or two in there, but again I think it was too warm for them. I’ll probably pull them in the next week or so, likewise a good bit of the romaine which is, with the warmer weather, trying to bolt. Drat.

And of course, springtime in the south means azaleas. Lots and lots of azaleas.

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The Ongoing Bar

Original Sketchup Design

I am finally, finally getting started on the bar “for real”. I’ve gotten most of the pieces cut for the cabinetry carcases. I’m using birch veneer plywood for that since I want the interior to be a lighter color than the face frames and doors which will be oak stained the same color as the wainscoting. I think the lighter color will help the contents to show up better. I’m tentatively planning on making the countertop from black granite tile, “Black Galaxy” if it’s not too expensive. Another option is to simply use the grey and white marble I already have that’s been taking up space in my shop for the last 10 years. I had originally planned to use that on the fireplace before changing my mind and using tile instead. The main drawbacks of marble is that compared to granite it’s rather delicate and prone to staining. I could probably get away with it on the bar though, as I don’t suppose it will see as much use as the kitchen counters, and sealing it well and using a cutting board would probably take care of these issues.

"In the Beginning . . . "

 

It looks pretty pitiful at the moment. It’s been like this for some months, or really (insert redface here) a couple of years. I got sort of sidetracked with the bedroom project and just didn’t feel good about working on this while the bedroom was all torn up.

We’re cooking with gas now though!

Ides of March

Been tinkering a bit with the theme. Going to take a bit of tinkering to get it like I want it really, especially since it’s a “learn as you go” type of a situation. I think I actually liked Twenty Ten better than Twenty Eleven but just the basic theme will do for now.

It’s hard to believe these tomato babies are a whole six weeks old now. Or maybe not so hard, they’re certainly doing well. Had a brief scare when they started yellowing early on (and you can see a bit of that in the photo) but although at the time I thought I may have been overwatering them, now I’m more inclined to believe that they had simply outstripped their nutrients. Shortly after that I started watering about every other time with a half-strength fertilizer solution and saw no more yellow. Actually I’m to the point where I have to harden them off, they’ve gotten so tall that there’s quite a size difference between them and a lot of the other starts (basil, parsley, lettuce, etc.) and I’m having to put the shorter plants up on an upside down flat to raise them up closer to the lights.

There’s no cold weather in the forecast for at least the next week, maybe even to the end of the month. It’s very possible I’ll be planting these babies in the next few days.

 

All gone . . .

Six months worth of posts and garden records – pffffttttt!!! – just like that. I suppose if I had really buckled down to it, I might have figured out how to clean all the hack code out of the WordPress account, but I don’t have the patience, or the inclination, or the time really. So here we go, starting from the beginning again.

But this time you can be d*mned sure I’ll be doing frequent backups.