The 1st week of Spring in Photos

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1st Asparagus harvest on the 1st day of Spring!

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The herb garden is ready to start harvest!

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The girls get dried herbs in their nest boxes to help keep pests away. And I think the lavender keeps them calm and happy while they lay their pretty eggs.

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The Sugar Snap Peas will soon reach the Pea Teepee!

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Baby Bright Lights Swiss Chard, soon to be in our bellies.

She finally conquered her fear of the "big chickens"!

She finally conquered her fear of the “big chickens”!

 

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The Crocus are always the first little blooms around the property.

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Dapple Dandy Pluot trees in full bloom.

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Overwintered Red Russian Kale is looking beautiful and yummy!

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Strawberries and Garlic Chives. Companion planting goes into every decision I make in the garden. Alliums are a great pest repellent for so many other crops.

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She is going to be good friends with this little Sizzle chicken!

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Baby braising greens.

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Hops vines and fluffy chicken butts.

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Burning our 4 acre hay field.

We've been harvesting this Red Kitten Spinach all winter!

We’ve been harvesting this Red Kitten Spinach all winter!

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I was going to get 15 new chickens this year. I got 42. I may not be trusted to enter a feed store alone in the Spring, I have no will power.

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Nothing says “Spring” better than these pretty little daffodils outside Penelope’s window. Happy Spring to you all!!!!

 

A week in photos

What a busy week we have had at Sweet Pea’s Garden!  This beautiful spring weather has made for some lovely days to be out working at the farm so we took full advantage and got oodles accomplished.

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The girls and Blackjack enjoying some sunshine

 

 

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Peas!

 

Planting in the garden

Planting in the garden

The new kids on the block getting checked out

The new kids on the block getting checked out

Baby plants just transplanted

Baby plants just transplanted

Our girls hard work

Our girls hard work

 

Beginning to construct the cold frame

Beginning to construct the cold frame

Finally finished Penelope’s new repurposed playground

 

 

Squash Bugs

There isn’t a gardener out there that hasn’t had a run-in with squash bugs.  It doesn’t matter what kind of squash you plant, it’s like a magnet for these vile little bugs.  They are so nasty that the chickens won’t even eat them!

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adult squash bugs making more squash bugs

squash bug eggs

squash bug eggs

 

teenage squash bugs

baby squash bugs

The squash bugs are starting to take a toll on my plants and I have had to rip out several plants in the last few days.  Controlling the numbers on squash bugs is easier when the plants are little.  Now that they are full grown and almost 4 feet tall it’s impossible to kill all the bugs. Hopefully we all get to enjoy lots of squash before the bugs get it all!

damage from squash bugs

damage from squash bugs

I get a lot of questions about how I control the squash bugs in my garden.  I have tried a lot of things but you can tell from the pictures above that they haven’t been super successful.  I was able to control the numbers for quite some time and have gotten 5 weeks of harvest off the squash so far so it wasn’t a complete failure!

The first thing I tried was planting one row with plastic mulch and the others without.  I was concerned that they squash bugs could hide under the plastic and be harder to control.  I was right.  The row with the plastic has more bugs and more damage from the bugs.

The second thing I did was companion planting.  There are several plants that help repel squash bugs when planted at the base of squash plants.  These are radishes, lemon balm, dill and nasturtiums.

The third thing I tried was an organic pyrethrin spray.  It has great results and yeah, it’s organic but it is still an insecticide.  I would only recommend using this when the plants are young and before they are in bloom.  Spray it mostly around the base of the plant where the squash bugs tend to hang out.  Bees love squash flowers so if you spray it when your squash is blooming you will kill bees too.

The fourth thing I tried was food grade diatomaceous earth.  I use this stuff in the chicken coop to help control flies, on ant hills, for caterpillar control and squash bug control.  It only works on the soft bodied baby squash bugs.  It is like crawling over glass for little soft bodied bugs.  It shreds them up and they die.  Brutal but effective.  Again getting it all over the base of the plant where the squash bugs hang out helps a lot.  Water washes it away so be prepared to reapply several times.

And finally I would walk through the squash everyday and squish as many bugs and eggs as I could find.  Unfortunately the squash is so big now I can barely fight my way through it.  A friend of mine thinks the only way to really control squash bugs is with an army of little children picking them off.  A nickel for every squash bug you catch!  Penelope could get rich off this!

I know when I plant squash that the bugs come with it so all these attempts to “get rid” of the bugs really just controls the numbers long enough to get a good harvest.

drinking beer, killing squash bugs

drinking beer, killing squash bugs

 

 

 

Using vinegar to kill weeds

I sprayed the weeds with vinegar today in the main pathway of the garden.  The bindweed is getting out of control and the bark I put down actually makes it harder to pull the weeds.  So I thought I would give the vinegar a try.

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And to my surprise it worked great!  Today was a hot, dry day which I think really helped. In the past when I’ve tried it in more humid environments it didn’t work as well.  Here is a picture of a weed right after I sprayed it with vinegar and then the same weed just 4 hours later!

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bindweed just sprayed with vinegar

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same bindweed 4 hours later

This is by far the best results I have ever seen with using vinegar as a weed killer.  I will always keep a few gallons around from now on!

To use vinegar in the garden you want to make sure you spray it when you don’t have to water for at least 24 hours.  The longer it can sit on the weed, the better chance the vinegar will kill the weed.  And remember it will kill what ever you spray it on so keep it away from all your veggies and flowers!

Asparagus is so worth the wait

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It’s the first vegetable ready for harvest in the spring.  And it is delicious!  Any way it’s prepared, I love it.  Me and asparagus go way back to when I was a little girl.  My mom took us for walks on theIMG_4177 ditch bank to cut wild asparagus in the spring.  I thought it was so cool and so much fun.  I still think it is so much fun finding wild patches of asparagus.  Penelope and I went for a walk around the property this year to hunt down any tasty spears that had poked up.  We found lots of patches that should be ready in just a day or two.  Once they poke their heads up they grow quick!

Although finding it here and there can be fun it’s not necessarily the most effective growing method if you want more than a couple of bunches each year.  So I thought this year was a good time to get serious about growing some asparagus in the garden.  I purchased “Purple Passion” bare roots from Pinetree Garden Seeds.

Asparagus is a long lived perennial that if established well will last a lifetime.  Pick your site thoughtfully and prepare your garden bed well so you don’t have to disturb the asparagus once it’s established.  Asparagus takes 3-4 years of growing before you want to start harvesting the spears.

After you’ve prepped your bed, dig a trench 6″-8″ deep and about 8″ wide.  I added a little more compost in the bottom of my trench.

Whenever I plant bare root plants I like to trim the roots up a little bit.  Cut about 25% off the bottom of the roots.  If there are any rotten roots you want to cut them out.

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To plant the asparagus spread out the roots in the trench with the crown of the plant facing up.  Plant them 12″-14″ apart.

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I have heard a few different ways to cover asparagus bare root plants.  You can put 1″-2″ of soil on top and repeat every week until completely filled in. IMG_4252 Or you can just cover the whole trench at once.  I went for filling it all in at one time.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  Always water in your plants well after planting.  Keep the soil moist so the roots don’t dry out but not soggy wet.  The plants will rot if kept too wet.

And then wait.  Wait 3 years.  Good thing we love asparagus.  It’s worth the wait!

 

 

 

 

Potatoes

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Mmmmm…. the potato.  I actually used to not like potatoes very much.  I really never thought about them when meal planning for the week.  I always loved mashed potatoes at holidays and would make an occasional potato salad in the summer.

Then I started to grow my own potatoes.  The first year I got a handful of fingerling seed potatoes from my friend Blaine to try out.  They were delicious!  The next year I picked out my own varieties and found even more awesome potatoes.  Who knew they could taste so differently and have such wonderful texture?  They beat any grocery store potato hands down.

I order my seed potatoes through The Potato Garden.  They sell a huge variety of seed potatoes and garlic and they are a local company.  Their catalog is full of everything you need to know about planting and growing potatoes.

While choosing what potatoes I would grow this year I had to use a lot of restraint. There are so many varieties and this is the stuff that gets me going.  Plant catalogs!!!!  I want one of everything!  After a lot of flipping, reading, debating, I chose 4 tasty varieties.

Purple Viking – This is not only the best tasting potato I have ever had it’s one of the prettiest I have seen.  It has a white creamy flesh with purple and pink skin.

Mountain Rose – This potato a red skinned with rose colored flesh.  It can be fried, baked, mashed, or used in potato salads.  And it’s high in antioxidants!

German Butterball – The creamy yellow flesh of this potato is excellent.  It won first place in Rodale’s Organic Gardening “Taste Off.”

Yukon Gold – A very popular variety, this potato can be prepared any way.  And it stores really well.

Here is a brief run down on how to plant potatoes.

You want to plant them about 2 weeks before your last spring frost.

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Cut the larger tubers in half or into 4th.  Small potatoes can be planted whole.  You want to make sure each piece has at least 2 eyes.

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I planted these potatoes in a bed 36″ wide. Dig a trench 6″-8″ deep. Plant potatoes about 12″ apart.  Rake soil over seed pieces immediately after planting.  Only cover about 4″ deep.  Leave the extra soil for hilling your potatoes later.

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When the plants have grown about 8″ high, gently hill with soil about 3″ leaving 4″-6″ of the plant exposed.  Another hilling of 2″ is beneficial 2-3 weeks later.

Hilling cools the soil and creates space for tuber development.  All tubers will form at the same depth of the seed piece and higher.

Planting information from The Potato Garden.

Garlic

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The weather has been pretty awesome this last week!  I looked through the garden today for some signs of spring and found the garlic poking up through the soil. 

I was late getting my seed garlic in the fall.  And when you are late people are sold out!  I got a small amount planted of 2 unnamed varieties, one softneck and one hardneck.  Glad to see what I did get in the ground is doing well!

Garlic!

Garlic!

Planting Garlic –

Garlic is planted in the fall ideally 3 weeks before the 1st hard frost.

When choosing your garlic here’s some things to keep in mind.  Your first choice is hardneck or softneck?  Hardnecks tend to be a little hardier than softneck varieties.  Softneck varieties store better and longer than hardneck varieties.  And within those two types of garlic there are many different varieties.  All with different taste, color and size attributes.  When choosing seed garlic you want to pick the largest bulbs available. 

Brake apart the bulbs keeping the papery covering intact and only plant the largest cloves.  Large cloves = large bulbs, small cloves = small bulbs.

Dig a furrow in your garden 3-4 inches deep.  Plant the cloves with root side down and pointy side up about 6 inches apart.

Water in your garlic.  You want the soil to be moist but make sure it is not too wet.  Excessive watering will rot your garlic cloves.  If your winter is very dry you will want to water your garlic once or twice over the winter.  Do not fertilize your garlic until the weather is warm and your garlic is actively growing.   

Here is a link to Organic Gardenings Garlic Guide for some more helpful hints! 

 

Compost, compost and more compost!

The garden expansion begins!  We need more space to grow more food at Sweet Pea’s so we are adding a new area to the garden.  It will be planted with several varieties of summer squash, winter squash and pumpkins. And I’m thinking we will grow the popcorn in the new space too.  Sweet Pea’s will also be putting in a children’s garden this year.  But more on that later!

We had 12 cubic yards of compost delivered today.  The weather is awesome this weekend and we are loving working outside. Spring couldn’t come fast enough!  Penelope loves the nice weather too.  We have all been cooped up this winter and can’t wait to spend our days out in the garden. 

 

Compost Pile

Saffron Crocus

 

It has been a bitter cold winter in Palisade this year.  I think we set a record for single digit days.  Needless to say we haven’t been able to enjoy being outside the last few months.

So on an above freezing day I took advantage of the Colorado sun and got out to the garden to day dream of spring and do some planning for this year’s expansion.  To my surprise, I found life!  My Saffron Crocus has poked up through the snow.  They are supposed to come up and bloom in the Fall.  When I didn’t see them earlier this Fall I thought I had lost them over the hot dry summer.  I am so excited they are alive!  They are a true gem in my garden.

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The Saffron Crocus’ Latin name is Crocus sativus.  They bear small purple flowers with vivid crimson stigmas.  These are the Saffron.  There are up to 4 flowers per plant and on each flower there are only three stigmas.  They must be  picked by hand, explaining why Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

Hopefully my little patch in the garden makes it through this freezing winter and I can start harvesting saffron.  At least enough to make curry one night!