Six on Saturday: This week in the garden

The weather is finally a little warmer, although the winds haven’t died down much, except for a day or two. That’s when the Black Flies started to descend upon me, enough so that Mark broke out our mosquito netted hoods and shirts. Mosquito netting is a necessary part of the gardening outfit this time of year, especially if you want to get anything done. Of course I was bitten a number of times before the netting came out. My right pinkie feels like a sausage right now due to a bite and I have two on my stomach.

I was determined to get things started in the garden this week. Our season is short up here, so I’m anxious to get things started. However I am always prepared to run out there and cover the beds up if there is a frost warning or god forbid snow.

1. Start the seed potato bags

My seed potatoes arrived a couple of weeks ago and I have been waiting to get the potato sacks started. I noticed a couple of weeks go that dandelions had cropped up in our lawn which to me is a clear sign that it was okay to start my potatoes.

2. Deal with Cold Frames

After loading up all the grow bags, I needed to turn my attention towards checking the progress of the plants that are under the cold frames. I felt that I could take off one of the frames since the plants were getting so big their leaves were hitting up against the frames. I was going to simply keep the door lifted but wanted to also throw in some compost and it’s easier if the frame is not in the way.

The spinach and lettuce has grown nicely. My daughter has been harvesting from that bed daily this week in making her spinach omelette breakfast and having fresh salads for lunch and dinner. Two broccoli starts – although it could be cauliflower starts that I threw in there a few weeks ago are beginning to take shape, as are the peas. I started them all from seed inside and put some in our indoor Tower Garden and the rest under the cold frames. We have been able to eat peas off the Tower Garden already and have been enjoying fresh salads for a a few weeks now. Which brings me to the third thing on this week’s garden list:

3. Start more Seeds

4.Plant Strawberry Starts

We love strawberries and I can’t have enough of them planted. Every year I have been adding in the ground in a tiered portion of our garden, this year I decided to plant some into a few grow back and planters that we have around the garden. That way when the groundhog does find his way in, he can have some and so can we.

5. Amend the Raised Beds

I plan on planting next week, weather permitting, so I decided it was a good time to start adding some compost to the raised garden beds. The 3′ x 6′ needed more compost for a number of reasons, one of which is my son’s goldendoodle, Kona kept breaking in to the garden and eating some of the compost I had put down a few weeks earlier. Thankfully the garlic I planted last fall hadn’t come up yet when she was doing all this, but I noticed it had sprung up this week.

6. Chickens

The latest news and addition to our homesteading is the arrival of our new chickens. Four Rhode Island Red pullets arrived on Mother’s Day and it’s been a week of new changes for all of us. Luckily I was already waking as early as 4:30 am thanks to our dogs who begin to whine around that time. Marley has done this since she was a puppy and is solely responsible for my waking up these last 6 years before the sun. Going to bed on the other hand, I have had to stay up a little later than my normal 7:300/8pm I am used to since they prefer to head into the hen house close to 8:00-8:30pm right now. They aren’t laying eggs yet as they are only about 18 weeks old but I am told that should start to happen in the next couple of weeks. We are new to chicken farming, so it’s an exciting new chapter for us.

I cleaned their roost area and reminded myself of how their poop would be a rich additive to our compost pile. I had build a dropping board which I saw was widely recommended by others and found it easy to clean, very similar to dealing with scooping out poop from the kitty litter box. I cut off some thyme from the garden and threw it into their food as well in their dust bath area since the herbs are good for repelling insects.

Right now I hear the wind hitting my windows and see the temperature is reading 50ºF, although somewhere in town, 1000 feet lower it’s 57ºF. Last night we had tornado warnings here in New Hampshire, not your usual weather warning for this area, but nothing has been usual this year.

Boomer checking out the chickens outdoor run

I find that I am anxious to get plants started and pray that we have a good season this summer. The last few months with the family together under quarantine, we have gone through much more of the canned tomato sauce and salsas I have made over the last two years much more so than I would have thought we would. I am thankful that I have been canning all these years as it has helped a great deal in these first few month of quarantine, I never considered ourselves preppers but now that I have less in inventory I am feeling slightly anxious. I will feel better when things have started in the garden and you can be sure I will be canning away as soon as I can. Happy Gardening Everyone!

Homegrown Harvest Photo Share: Kale

Kale is one of those easy to grow geens that is super good for you, a real nutritional powerhouse. Too bad, we don’t really like it especially since I have had such great success growing it. I let some kale go to seed so that I could collect the seeds once and I had kale coming up on its own for years afterwards in the pathways between my raised beds.

This week’s Homegrown Harvest Photo Share is kale! We love seeing other people’s gardens and their plants, so make your own post about kale, make a pingback and leave a link in the comments so we can see what’s in your garden. Remember to tag your posts – see more information and upcoming themes here.

Dwarf Siberian Kale

It’s May on the Mountain

Welcome to New England where if you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes. This morning I saw a meme that said “Now I know what it’s called May, because it may rain, it may snow, it may be 20ºF, it may be 70ºF.

We spent the day yesterday preparing for the four chickens we are receiving later today. It was a beautiful day to be outside and we are very happy that we took advantage of the good weather. I wrote a post for my Xine’s Pack blog about the day and all the work we did. It’s definitely a new chapter in our lives up here on the mountain.

We picked up 3 more inches of snow in the last 24 hours, making our snow total for the 2019/20 season 102 inches. Thirty inches less than last season. The winds are howling outside and it’s keeping me from going out and working on the chicken coop, aka the Poultry Palace. The sun is shining on my lawn but the skies over the lake look dark and nasty, like they aren’t done dumping something – snow? rain? I can’t make out Cardigan Mountain right now which faces my house, it’s so obscured by the clouds, and that view has changed a few times depending on when I look up. Same for the lake for that matter, sometimes it’s there and then it’s not! The constantly changing views is one of the thing I enjoy most about where I live.

I haven’t really started the outdoor garden, I know that as soon as I do, it will snow or frost – even if it’s the end of May. I always have had to go out and cover the tender crops at least once a season because some weird late frost or snow happens. We’ve been growing food indoors with our Tower Garden FLEX which I am an independent distributor and I have a few things already growing under our three cold frames in the outdoor garden. If it weren’t for the chickens coming I may have started to plant my potatoes but thankfully simply didn’t have the time yet to do it.

As I look up again from my computer and look out the window – Cardigan Mountain and Newfound Lake have reappeared. I even see a large patch of sky, what I refer to as The Simpson’s Blue since it reminds my of the blue sky and clouds in the opening of the Simpsons cartoon credits. Now that’s more inviting to go out into, not the wind needs to die down since it’s making already unseasonably cold temperatures, down right ridiculous for May. My weather station says it’s 32ºF but feels like 24ºF with the wind.

The funny thing is I don’t think twice about going out in this type of weather in the winter time. It’s just psychologically tough to go back to dealing with it when we were just getting the enjoy some nice, warm days after being cooped up in the house. The weather has been such that there have only been a handful of days where you could get outside and be comfortable for any given period of time.

It’s snowing again, I just looking up because the wind is hitting the windows so hard and it sounds like a freight train is roaring towards the house. Maybe I’ll wait a little while longer before venturing out there.

Homegrown Harvest Photo Share – Broccoli

We’ve been craving fresh delicious broccoli around here lately. We have plenty of broccoli plants started in our indoor Tower Garden FLEX, but it will be a while before we can harvest it. So in the meantime, let’s enjoy sharing some of our broccoli shots.

Container broccoli
Broccoli growing in the outdoor Tower Garden

We’d love to your photos of your broccoli plants and harvests! Join our Homegrown Harvest Photo Share. Create a HGHPC post and tag HGHPC or Homegrown Harvest Photo Challenge so it’s easy for people to find! Add a link to your blog in my comment box or Pingback and please follow our blog.

Cinco de Mayo Has Me Dreaming of the Salsa Garden

It’s Cinco de Mayo and since we’ve been in quarantine we’ve gone through a lot of the salsa that I made last fall. I’m just itching to get out in to the garden and start planting up this season’s tomatoes and peppers, but it is still way too cold right now for those tender crops, especially up here 1,500ft up in zone 5.

Amazingly, our hot peppers did better than our bell peppers last season. And the hot peppers I had on the patio in containers did better than the hot peppers and bell peppers I had in the raised beds in the garden. The sunlight is the same, but I think that the deck may heat up more than the garden, despite being more exposed to the wind at times, although last year I had a lot of the peppers in containers that were on our steps which shielded them from all but southerly winds which usually come in before storms up here.

When I plan out our garden I always keep in mind what I can use for canning. During the quarantine we’ve been going through lots of the tomato sauces and salsas I’ve canned over the years. This season, I plan to put a lot more peppers in the garden and on the deck again this summer and I’m so excited I just looked at the list of what I have planned. I love using a variety of peppers in my salsa and every level of heat from sweet to very hot. On the very hot side, I have coming Barbados peppers which is a type of habanero, very hot with a medium thick flesh that matures pale green to red. Our family vacationed in Barbados once and Mark loved the local hot sauce which was made with a type of scotch bonnet if I recall correctly. But when I saw the name, I knew I had to add it to our garden. Another name I was drawn to and just love and is also very hot – Mark loves hot stuff – is BIlly Goat. A very late season (90+ days) pepper from Brazil that’s prolific and has a hint of cherry aroma to it. Up here on the mountain I tend to shy away from late season, let alone very late season growers since our growing seasons are much shorter than when we lived down at 300ft in zone 6 in Connecticut.

Ring of Fire Peppers

Afghan and Aji Cacho de Cabra are two more hot peppers that are midseason and late season respectively. Both have thin flesh and mature from green to red. Afghan peppers are slightly smaller than Aji Cacho de Cabra peppers which grow to as long as 4 inches. Another great name and hot pepper on the way is Ring of Fire, a hot cayenne which is an early season pepper (60-70 days) with thin flesh that matures green to red a good selection for drying, making salsas and powders. Knocking down the heat a little we are also waiting for some Dragon’s Claws, a medium cayenne midseason (70-80 days) which grows as long as 10″ maturing green to deep red. Dragon’s Claws are good for drying and work well for crafts, as well as making fresh salsas or powders, and they are great for roasting!

On the sweet side we are looking forward to the Candy Cane Red Hybrid which matures from green with yellow stripes to red. It’s a midseason pepper which gets to be 1.5″ to 2.5″ with a medium thick flesh. Sigaretto Di Bergamo is a sweet peperoncini that gets to be as long as 4.5″ marturing from green to a brownish color before turning red. Originally from Italy, also known as the “Cigarette Pepper”, it’s a good choice for include pickling, or having it fried/stir-fried. And finally two other sweet peppers, Yummy Orange and Yummy Red. These peppers sweet grow to be 2 to 2.5 inches long pendant shaped pods with medium thick flesh. Yummy Orange matures from green to orange and Yummy Red from green to red. They are both mid season peppers (70-80 days). Perfect for making fresh salsas or for stuffing, despite their small size.This is the sweet pepper found in the grocery that everyone talks about. They are extra sweet and practically seedless which makes them great for snacking.

I wish I could go out to the garden right now, pick a bunch of peppers and make up some salsa. I’ll have to head out to the kitchen and eat some instead.

Six on Saturday 5•2•2020

Life on the mountain in Zone 5 at 1486ft, we currently have 20+ mph winds with 30+mph gusts with beautiful blue skies and sunshine. The winds make being outside a little unpleasant since I still have to wear a jacket and gloves since it drops the temperature from 45ºF down to 30ºF. Brrr. But you do what you must when you have the sun out, especially after 3 days of straight rain totally close to 2 inches. But there are things that we do every year, after the snows all finally melt away and you don’t think you are going to get hit with another storm. This time last year there was still plenty of snow in the garden, so in a way we seem to be a little ahead of schedule somehow.

1. REMOVE THE MULCH: To get the garden started for the season the first order of business was to remove all the sterile hay/straw we had mulched the beds with in the fall. I always remove the thick layer we put down to protect the beds during our harsh winters, so that the soil will be exposed to the sun and warm up faster.

2. COLLECT AND CLEAN UP ALL GARBAGE LEFT OVER FROM LAST SEASON: I try not to do this but it happens, leftover bags from soil amendments, old rockwool with old roots still streaming on them left piled on the garden cart still in the garden that should have been removed at the end of last season. Out it all goes.

carrots have started to show their tops

3. PUT THE MARKERS IN THE GARDEN – I have a really bad habit on not marking what I plant. I used to take care of some many other people’s gardens and had to mark all their stuff by the time I got to label my own stuff I was too tired or out of markers. I keep a garden journal and usually write down the seeds I used, so I have some general idea of what’s planted. Something I can do inside and put out in the garden later when I’ve compared my pictures of what’s come up to my garden journal.

Under the cold frame things are growing along nicely

4. SPREAD COMPOST: Earlier this week we scattered our compost that we have been making in our FoodCycler for the last year. It worked out so well for us being able to finally compost our food scrap during the winter months which we have never been able to do before successfully up here on the mountain. We love our FoodCycler, particularly since not only do we get great compost for our garden but it has reduced the amount of garbage that we have to take to the dump so much that we don’t have to make weekly trips like we used to which these days the less times off the mountain, the better. If you aren’t familiar with the FoodCycler, check out our post review.

fresh compost in the 3’x 6′

Since the compost has been worked into the beds, we only let the dogs in when we are around. Kona, the blonde standard goldendoodle managed to sneak in to the closed gated garden by somehow slithering her body under the fence. It seems impossible that she could do this, but one night this week she was found stuck under the fence trying to come back out and then next night she spend a rain soaked night stuck in the garden while everyone slept. I wake up early and discovered her at 4:30am – she was okay, wet but okay. We have put some boards up where she is crawling through and at night no longer letting any of the dogs use the dog door – quarantining them in for the nights now.

The dogs take a look around

5. SET UP THE TOWER GARDENS: We pulled the Tower Garden’s out and set them up. We still need to get fill the reservoirs, check the the pH and get things going which will happen in the next couple of weeks.

Tower Gardens Out of the Shed and Back in the Garden

6. START SOME MORE SEEDS FOR THE TOWER GARDEN – I have to germinate some seeds inside and get them growing before putting them into the Tower Gardens outside. I’ll try to a better job of labelling my seeds so I remember what I planted, that is if I remember- LOL!

Happy gardening everyone!

Homegrown Harvest Photo Share – Mint

Welcome to this week’s Homegrown Harvest Photo Share! This week we are sharing photos of our mint plants. If you are unfamiliar with our HHPS take a look a the link which explains things more in full, but basically we just love seeing people’s gardens and sharing our photos. So if you have any pictures of mint, make a post and share it with us and leave a link in the comments! We look forward to seeing everyone photos!

Mint is one of my favorite herbs to grow but I’ve learned the hard way just how invasive this herb can be when it’s planted in the garden. Mint is an easy herb to grow but you have to be able to rein it in by keeping it in a container.

peppermint
mint in container
Mint taking over one of the bed

The mint we planted in one of our 4′ x 4′ raised beds took over and then jumped the garden bed and came up in the gravel pathway outside the bed. It did this in one of our containers too. The way mint grows with underground runners diverting off is what makes mint so invasive.

Thanks for checking our this week’s Homegrown Harvest Photo Share of Mint, we hope to see your photos soon.