Friday, November 14, 2008

Compost Bin

One of our goals since we bought the house was to enclose the compost bin. The other weekend, Eric decided to tackle that project once and for all.

The result? A Three-Bin Rotation System

All three bins are easily accessible from the front. It's an 8'x8' area, minus the back corner, so a 48 square foot area for compost.

The goal is to have two "short-term" compost bins - primarily garden waste - where the waste from one year goes in one while the other bin is used for the current year's compost. The third bin would be a long-term bin for woody-er items

It's not elegant, but it's a sight more orderly than the giant heaping pile that it used to be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vegetable Garden Recap

It's the end of harvest, so it's time for a recap of things I liked and things I didn't like about our garden this year.

Things I liked:
  • The tomato plants were very productive
  • The jalapeño plants were insane!
  • We got a good crop of peppers, too
  • I love, love, love our onions
Things I didn't like:
  • The broccoli was pointless. I think we got one head harvested before all of them bolted. And then became infested by cabbage worms
  • Way too much kale
  • Way too much chard
  • The beans had issues with beetles
  • I think I'd like a different eggplant variety next year
  • Losing all the acorn squash to worms
  • Cabbage worms suck
Overall, I'm not sure I'll plant anything that could be affected by cabbage worms next year. Even using an insecticidal soap they were too difficult to keep up with. I was able to keep the bean beetle under control with the soap, so that was fine.

Next year I want to plant more onions. They did SO well this year and they're so incredibly tasty. Much better than the ones at the store.

I think we had the right amount of tomato plants this year. We had a few end up with end blossom rot but, overall, the crop was just about perfect. I think next year we could do with 1 fewer jalapeño plants. We also only need ONE summer squash plant - two was overkill. Likewise, we went way overboard with the kale - 1 plant would be enough. Same with the chard - 1 plant is plenty.

I'm debating about planting the lettuce and spinach in pots next year and keeping them closer to the house. We didn't seem to eat as much of them as we could have. We also definitely don't need as much as we planted. Two of each, staggered in planting times, would more than suffice.

On the flip side, apparently tomatillo plants are sterile and you need TWO in order to get a crop. Whoops. Research FAIL.

As far as the companion planting attempt went it seems to have succeeded, save for the Brassica bed. In doing a bit more reading, it seems there we didn't have enough aromatic plants to keep the cabbage worm at bay... and once one was infested, they all fell victim. Research FAIL again.

Items I would like to add next year:
  • garlic
  • shallots
  • carrots
Overall we had a good year. Obviously improvements could be made and I have a bit of research to do about better pest control and non-vegetable companion plants (I hear marigolds are good). I'm going to spend the weekend harvesting the rest of the kale and collars and placing them in a heavy salt bath to see if I can't get any remaining worms off them (ew ew ew ew), harvest the remaining squash, beans, peppers and tomatoes and then prep them all for storage. We're going on vacation in a week, so the rest of the garden has to come down by then. Then we have to till in the compost and re-cover the beds for winter.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Really Cool Stuff!

The Autumn Blaze is BLAZING!

Also, we have a new "pet"

I've decided to name him Herman.

Also, I turned the compost pile and look at all this great, rich compost!

Unfortunately, this isn't cool. We're now infested with Asian Lady Beetles. Makes me want to napalm the back yard.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fall Clean Up Part 3 - Garden bed

So today I began the sad process of dismantling the garden bed. I removed the plants who had finished up - namely the broccoli, the stump of the tomatillo plant, one of the summer squash plants (the other one is still producing!).

I also potted the jalapeño plants because they still have quite a bit of peppers on them that still need some growing time. Plus, my brother mentioned smoking them and turning them into chipotles, which I think would be quite possibly the coolest thing ever. So the jalapeños are coming inside the house at night and going out on the deck in the morning.

I've been reading a book called "Wisconsin Garden Guide" by Jerry Minnich. It's very much a Wisconsin-specific version of the Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. The first chapter is all about soil, the second about composting and mulching. Both of them talk about how to build up proper soil and compost so that the plants roots dig down deep to anchor the plant and allow it to pull valuable nutrition in times of drought. Judging by the length of root on the plants I pulled up (that weren't dead but were done producing, like the broccoli), our soil rocks the house.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Random photos

Apparently it doesn't take a lot to grow romaine lettuce from seed!

Also, you would think that the squash plant was done producing but apparently not....

Last, the Autumn Blaze is starting to turn!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fall Clean Up Part 2

Today I focused on the back yard and re-planting/transplaning the bearded irises that I saved from the garden. So I marked out two spots on the north end of the bean bed where the irises would go and planted them there.

I also moved the Agastache from the south end to the north end near the Linden. It was growing too close to the smooth Aster and both needed room, so a transplant was in order. I think it looks much better now, actually. The Agastache is such a dramatic plant on its own and it was "buried" behind other plants. Now it's more prominently located and can really shine.

I also started taking down the last bed out front. I cut down all the Black-Eyed Susan heads (and gave about half to my sister for the prairie they're trying to seed) and the siberian irises.

Tomorrow the lawn needs to be mowed and I have to move the Coreopsis as well. Eric is planning to overseed the front yard and trim back the Juniper out front.

Here are some finished photos!

The re-organized bean bed

Lucky inspecting my work.

The coreopsis got moved to the other side of the aster

The Autumn Joy sedum bloomed.

The Agastache and one of the columbine got moved to the other side of the salvia.

The Smooth Aster bloomed as well.

A close-up of the Yarrow.

A close up of the Aster.

The honeybees love it!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall Clean Up

We spent 2 hours yesterday and I spent 5 hours today trimming bushes and generally cleaning up the front garden beds.

In one of the barberry bushes, though, I found this:

I'm pretty certain the nest wasn't there this past spring when we did our last trimming. I'm sure I would have seen it.

It's a very tiny nest. I don't know whether to leave it be or remove it. I have no problem, in theory, leaving it be, but it's right along the walkway and I can't see, with the bush trimmed back the way it is, a bird using it again.

Also, the zebra grass got its tufts.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bean Bed Updates - September

The thing that makes the bean bed difficult is that there were so many deep-rooted plants in it that keep cropping up. Like mint and chives. Those things are damn near impossible to kill. So, after having discovered that missing a couple of weekends of weeding the bed that it allowed it to turn into a jungle, I gave in and applied RoundUp to the half of the bed. Then we spent several hours removing the dead weeds. Nothing feels better than a weed-free bed:

Even better, some of our fall blooms have started to come in. I have to admit, even though our choices seem sporadic, the overall effect has been of having something blooming at all times. The staging has been great.

Neon Sedum

Bushy Aster

Bushy Aster - Close up

Monday, September 1, 2008


We've been seeing the usual garden variety moths in our butterfly garden but nothing spectacular. Until today.

That's an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. It was really enjoying the nectar from the gayfeather and neon sedum.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Clean up

I took a long weekend to catch up around the house. Vacuuming, dusting, organizing, yard work, etc. The end result is so satisfying.

First, the front walkway. About a week ago, I caved and sanctioned Eric to take some RoundUp to the weeds. We had tried managing them by hand but it's nearly impossible to get the root out when it's coming up between the bricks.



We also tackled removing the old grass reeds so that the new pretty growth could be seen better. The upside is it looks great!

The downside is the grass is sharp and my arms are all cut up.

And, one quick inside the house thing - we purchased shelves and Tupperware bins for the basement and organized that.

Last, but not least, a new bloom for you:

Monday, August 4, 2008

I wonder how one sells veggies at the Farmer's Market

I'm not kidding.

Last Thursday I went out to the garden and picked anything worth harvesting - some more squash, beans, peppers, jalapeños. I used some of them for dinner that evening. The rest I set aside to store.

Then we went out of town for the weekend. Today I walked out to the garden and immediately retreated to get a basket and my shears.

I ended up harvesting about 1 lb of beans, 3 peppers, a dozen red and white onions, 2 squash, and a dozen jalapeños.

Dinner anyone?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Perennial Photos

Buds on "Apricot Delight" Achillea

Blooms on the "Chocolate Chip" Ajuga

The starting blooms of the "Golden Jubilee" Hyssop

Tickseed and Gayfeather with Achillea in the background



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