It has begun.  🙂  The slightly warmer air temperatures combined with a taste of sunshine is starting to work and is bringing the plants slowly out of their dark winter beds.  The daffodils are peeking up through the pine needle mulch and some unknown flowers are also pushing up.

new flowers

New flowers struggling up through the leaf and pine-needle mulch

Last weekend we put up the deer fence we had taken down last fall and got my herbs protected.  Even though I had netting over the herb bed, the deer were trying to browse.  I found several stems ripped off my sage plant and unceremoniously spat out on the other side of the lane.  They must not have like them.  Rotten deer.  So we re-installed the fencing and removed the net which covered them up and now we can see what made it through the Montana winter.  The rosemary, sadly, has died.  But the chives are up and perky.  The orange thyme, the sage, the greek oregano, the regular thyme, the lavender, and the regular oregano are all looking pretty good.

chives and orange thyme

Chives and Orange Thyme

oregano

Oregano

lavender

Lavender

Oh!  And a little pot of rhubarb that I thought had died last year actually came back this year!  Amazing!  My husband hates rhubarb.  He is not as happy about this as I am.

rhubarb

The rhubarb survived!

We took a partial spring break from school this week and started planting early seeds.  On the 31 of March I got in snap peas, snow peas, radishes, beets, turnips, green onions, carrots, spinach, arugula, red leaf lettuce, and several herbs and early flowers in pots on the deck.  These are all things that I am not too worried about losing to a frost.  We are still getting frosts for sure.  Only cold weather crops right now.  Though I am risking it with some more sun-loving herbs on the deck in pots.  I will try and keep them under my mini greenhouse.

early spring planting

Flowers and herbs planted in a tray

This year one of my sons wants his own garden.  I offered him some planting space in mine, but he kind of wanted his own space, so we are building him a garden cover and letting him go for it in the space I tried to have an “out of fence” garden last year.  Last year I put things there that deer were not supposed to eat.  Apparently, they didn’t get the memo.  We lost all the onions and garlic that I planted.  We added some compost last fall, and the bulbs of the garlic survived without their green tops.  They are all coming back up and poking through the dirt.  We need to get them covered quickly so they don’t get munched down like last time.

Garlic shoots

Garlic poking through the mulch

The inside growing is not working as well this year.  Normally, I have just picked up a bag of potting soil at Costco when it comes in.  This year, I tried to be more organic.  Costco usually sells Miracle Gro brand, which is affiliated with Monsanto, so I decided to try something different.  I purchased some potting soil from a local nursery.  Even though the mix is supposed to be coir and organic amendments (a soil-less mixture), I am already seeing problems.  I may be buying my warm season plants this year at the local plant sale instead of growing them.  I think I saw a fungus gnat.  Ick.  And some signs of dampening off in a couple of the cells.  I sprinkled them well with cinnamon and will probably do a hydrogen treatment and see if it helps.  It is always hard to try new things when you only get one shot a year, but I think it is worth it.  Next year I will either use a regular grow medium or go back to my old standard which has done well for years for me, despite it’s origins.  This organic brand hasn’t done well.  Lucky for me, the plant starts you can buy here are soooooo much cheaper and bigger than the ones I used to buy occasionally in Idaho.  So it won’t be too awfully painful.

Oh, and my wonderful hubby bought me some beautiful flowers because I have been ill to brighten up our dining table.  Because he is the best.  The End.

Red and white roses

Beautiful roses!

Happy gardening all.  Get out there and stick some seeds in the ground!

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I came on the blog and realized that I hadn’t posted the wrap up for end of 2015.  So here it is, probably more for my records than anything else.  It is really important to keep a journal of sorts of what you did and how everything grew so you don’t repeat mistakes and so you remember what worked.  I absolutely need it written down.

Well, this year was not my favorite gardening year for sure. We were starting a new garden, in a colder place, with hot (not matured) cow manure compost. All new garden beds. We were fighting bad weather, late planting, no automatic watering (I am notoriously bad at remembering to water consistently), poor soil, unknown bugs, very low sun levels, and giant, brown pests with four legs that will eat ANYTHING – otherwise known as deer. They are the WORST. Comparable to gophers. Both are terrible to have to deal with.

Here is the garden report, such as it is.

Main Garden Space

The Main Garden Area with Deer Fencing

Garden Space Number 1: This is the report from the main garden, with dappled sun, and high walls. Building the walls resulted in later planting than I wanted, but kept out the deer. The garden was built to be narrow with 1 foot raised beds. The walls are about 7 feet high. The narrowness and taller beds gave the deer no room to jump in and land.

The peas: The peas did well here in the cold, Montana spring. They lasted far longer than they ever did in Idaho. Clear into August for a few, though they were pretty much done by the end of July. Always in Idaho they were drying up and browning by the 4th of July.

The tomatoes: The early girl tomatoes did pretty well. By far the biggest winner in my low sun garden were the cherry tomatoes. The sungold cherry tomatoes did very well. As did the Sweet 100.

The beets: I think that the root vegetables would have done better with the proper amount of compost, but I was hesitant to add too much, because it was hot compost. BIG mistake. The soil needed the compost. I have tiny beets. Nothing of substance.

The carrots: Same as the beets. Oh, but maybe worse because something – I still have no idea what – ate most of the tops, resulting in almost NO growth.

The green onions: Oh, did I plant green onions? I think I got 1. Same results as the beets, only worse.

The Zucchini and Summer Squash finally took off!

The Zucchini and Summer Squash finally took off!

The squash: I honestly did not think the squash was going to do ANYTHING. I waited. I got a couple of babies. Then a couple of babies rotted at the bottom. Then, unexpectedly, the squash took off. I have gotten several nice green zucchinis and yellow squashes just the last 2 weeks. Weird. The Rampicante squash did nothing.

The cucumbers: The cucumbers were pretty great, considering. It would have been nice to have planted them about 2 weeks earlier. If that had been the case, they would have time to get bigger. As it was, we had many baby cucumbers. This one was on me. The cucumbers tried really hard to do their job.

The beans: The bush beans did very well. The pole beans were pathetic. Eh. Foliage, flowers, never developed into beans. Perhaps they also should have been planted earlier. Maybe a few more weeks of hotter weather. I don’t know.

The peppers: The mini sweet peppers did okay. The small, hot peppers I planted (Grandpa’s Home Peppers) did okay.

Spicy Peppers

Baker Creek Seeds – Grandpa’s Home Peppers

The larger peppers not so much. I planted one pepper (I think it was Red Marconi) that grew beautifully and it is very big, but it has yet to turn red. I am honestly surprised that with the limited sunshine, I got any peppers at all. So, this one seems like a wash.

The herbs: The herbs were the most successful. Everything except the basil grew beautifully – the cilantro, the oregano, the greek oregano, the thyme, the orange thyme, the rosemary, the lavender, the thai basil, the chives. The Genovese basil didn’t do well- something kept eating it.

Herb Planter

The Herb Garden

Next year, I think earlier planting, now that the garden is already in place, and lots more compost with consistent watering will really improve the garden. So although this year was a bit of a bust and made me feel like a crappy gardener, I have high hopes for next year.

Garden Space #2: This is the report for the 4×8 garden bed that was left unprotected, based on the information I received from various people and internet searches that deer don’t eat onions or garlic. If I may be so bold: This is a complete lie. Deer in Montana are quite willing to eat almost everything. Hot, spicy, thorny, fuzzy leafed, etc. They also ate all the deer resistant flowers I planted nearby with the exception of the Lavender. The lavender was the ONLY thing planted outside the protected area that was left untouched by the crazy, giant, destroyers of beauty and order. Every bulb onion green that shot up, was quickly nibbled to nothing. The garlic disappeared. The green onions that managed to fight through the terrible, stony soil were snipped off summarily at the base as soon as they were visible. Every day there were hoof prints throughout the bed. The “garden bed” is now a bit of dirt bordered by the rustic fallen logs we placed on each side with hoof prints inside and some native forest foliage coming up in the center.

Unfenced garden = Buffet for Deer

Unfenced garden = Buffet for Deer

Garden Space #3: Not only did this garden get planted late, it didn’t have very much new soil added, a tree fell on it, and the deer got in. This was the garden we carved out of the forest. We were going for a more natural garden look. So that you might stumble upon it in the forest and feel surprised to see edible food crops growing there.

Forest Garden

Forest Garden

We did put in a nearly invisible fence. The deer basically laughed at us. Though in all fairness, they only started really jumping in as fall approached and food became more scarce. A tree also landed on our fence earlier in a windstorm and took out an entire section. Conveniently, this happened when my amazing husband and oldest son was out of town, resulting in my he-man of a middle child and myself dragging out the offending log and patching together the destroyed section of fencing. Thank goodness for that boy. 🙂 We got a few tomatoes, and the asparagus got established there this year. A couple of tiny yellow squash. A few mini peppers. A handful of beans. That’s it. Again. This was a total gamble of a garden. Definitely late and not totally thought out. Still disappointing.

Here is a lovely picture of one of my sons defending the garden against the deer. The children were pretty upset. The put up a defense all around the garden with spears that they carved.

Forest Garden - Deer

Defending the Garden against deer

Raspberry canes: 3 out of 6 of the raspberry canes grew. One grew out of it’s cage a bit and was promptly bitten back by a deer who didn’t seem to mind the thorns at all.

So – overall, not a great garden year. Sorry I didn’t report throughout the year. Super busy settling in to a new place. I am hoping that next year will be a much more productive gardening experience. We can fix the nutrient level in the soil, we can fix the late planting. We can not fix the lack of sunshine or the critter problems. Though we can try and plant more shade tolerant plants. I guess we will see. Here’s to the garden break. I know by January I will be ready to start my pepper seedlings again. And the tomatoes. And the flowers…yeah…the break won’t last long.

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Garden bounty is still trickling in.  Though we had a sparse year, we still got plenty of little gems like these beauties.

Garden Gems

Garden Gems

The beautiful purple cherry tomatoes are a favorite of mine for color and beauty, though they are quite tart.  This is probably due to lack of sunshine, though most people say they become quite sweet, normally.  Remember I am growing in a shady area.  They are called blue berries tomatoes.  Aren’t they beautiful?  Some of them in the picture still need to ripen up.  When they are ripe they are that deep purple/blue on top and quite reddish at the bottom.  You can get the seeds at Baker Creek seeds here.  There are also quite a few sungold tomatoes, a tiny mini chocolate bell pepper on the far left, lots of green tomatoes from a variety of plants (usually green tomatoes will ripen indoors if you need to pick them at the end of the season), a single purple bean (these are fun because they turn green when you cook them and the children think it’s like magic), a single green bean several hot peppers (Serrano and Grandpa’s Home peppers, I think).   We picked some of the main garden and everything that was left in the forest garden because the deer broke down the fence yet again in the forest garden.  Grrrrr.  The main garden still has more cherry tomatoes and a few other things.  A couple more yellow squash.  And one red marconi pepper that is huge and slowly ripening.  I really wanted to taste it and the plant only produced one.  I am hoping it can hold on and finish ripening before the frost gets it.

 

It is fall again and the basil has gone to seed. Though I am down for my surgery recovery, I can sit in one spot and separate basil seeds from the chaff. I am spending time today saving basil seeds and cilantro seeds. Easy to do…I have a previous article on this here. One thing to be aware of that I didn’t mention in the seed saving article is that both basil and cilantro will cross pollinate with other basils and cilantros.

Basil Seeds

Basil Seeds

Cross pollination is the spreading of pollen from one type of plant (say a Genovese basil) to another type of plant of the same family (like a Thai basil.) The seeds saved from plants that have been cross pollinated will not produce new plants that are true to type. So, if you have a happy little pot that contains both Thai bail and Genovese basil and you let them cross pollinate, they will both taste normal the year they are growing but any seeds you save from the Genovese basil to plant next year may grow and have characteristics of the Thai basil that was growing next to it last year. And visa versa. If you want to save seeds and keep the seeds true you will need to either only plant one variety (I have heard that you need to keep different varieties separated by 2 miles) or net your plants to keep the bees from spreading the love. I have purchased little organza craft bags like these for this purpose, though I have yet to use them – they are still in storage somewhere since the move.

In the past I have only grown sweet basil and haven’t had to concern myself with cross pollination. That holds true this year for the cilantro. I only grew one type of cilantro so I am saving seeds without any concern that my cilantro will not be exactly what I expect it to be next year. That being said…I am expecting some exciting possibilities from my basil next year. This past summer, I put Genovese, Pistou, Purple Petra, and Thai basil all together in the same area. So I could have some pretty weird combinations from the seeds that I save this year. The Genovese was a sweet basil with broad leaves. The Pistou was a bushy, tiny leafed basil. The Purple Petra was, obviously, purple – but very good. The Thai basil was very anise flavored (like licorice) and not my favorite, though the blooms were gorgeous with tall, purple spikes.

So next year’s planting I will use some older seed packets of known varieties, but I am planning a surprise basil pot to see what I get. I am only saving the Genovese and Pistou seeds, but I won’t know until next year what genetic combinations are stored in those tiny little seeds. It’s fascinating really. I can’t wait! Happy seed saving!

– Kate

 

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So….yeah. I had to have surgery three weeks ago today and I have had to spend the last three weeks just sitting around, not able to do anything (including chasing my children about). Can I just tell you, I am TIRED of sitting in the recliner. ARGH. It is hard to not do anything. Especially since I hate being told what to do and the doctor told me I have to rest and recover so my recovery will go more smoothly. The kids seem to know that I am unable to discipline very well. The noise level is crazy sauce in here. They run downstairs and I can’t go down and tell them to use their indoor voices. Wait – what’s an indoor voice? We don’t really know what that is. At least the children don’t. Our volume level goes from no talking to light yelling (because someone in another room might not hear you) to full blast yelling (because all the neighbors might not hear you). The two younger ones have decided that the coffee table is a race track and “come here” means “Run quickly! Faster! Maybe you can act like you didn’t hear her!”

On the positive side, Elise just informed me that she loves me to the Caribbean and back. Which sounds pretty magical, if you asked me. So there’s that. The children have been watching far too much television, and eating meals at completely random times. (i.e. We have football at 5:00, and scouts at 7:00, so we better eat at 4:00. Who cares, really, if we just finished our lunch at 3:00?) My poor husband is trying to work, parent, be a caregiver, taxi driver, and activities director. Luckily, my parents were here to help post surgery manage the house and the children. We would have been lost without their help. The laundry alone would have buried us. Mountains, I tell you. But they are gone now and we are alone. Alone with stir crazy children and a super stir crazy momma

I can direct much of our homeschool from my recliner, much to the childrens’ disappointment. 🙂

I am not supposed to feel a lot better until around the 4-6 week mark. My e-mail accounts, normally overflowing, are the smallest they have been in years. My fingernails are well trimmed. I am current on all major news stories. I have read more (both fiction and non) in the last three weeks than I had for the entire year so far, researching jewelry making, homeschooling issues, cooking, gardening, homesteading, real estate options, and a host of other fun rabbit trails starting at Pinterest. I have completed art projects. I have binge watched enough television shows on Netflix to last a very long time. Let’s see…what now? Just 2-3 more weeks to go.

 

Once again, my favorite little farm in Boise, Idaho has done something amazing for the community. I love the idea of being able to give something back like this and help kids in your area. What a neat project. Well done.

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For all you in Boise/Meridian/Nampa, Idaho…this is my very favorite place to buy heirloom tomato starts.  They are awesome and I love their culture.  The video I am posting is last years, but my absolute favorite.  The plant sale this year will be starting May 9 and 10 and continuing on the 16th and 17th!  They have 160 varieties of peppers and 170 varieties of tomatoes, plus cucumbers, squash, etc.  Don’t miss it!

 

 

 

Cat with Big Eyes

It’s no secret that I am not a huge fan of cats.  It’s not that I don’t think they are cute and cuddly, it’s just that I HATE them using my veggie garden as their own personal toilet.  I have tried various methods to keep the cats away (orange peels, cayenne pepper, etc., etc.) and the one that has worked the best is to use cattle panel or some other wire structure (like chicken wire) that you can lay across the tops of your beds and the plants can come up around or through.  I have also just set wire tomato cages or wire trellises (lying down) around your planting beds.  Once the plants start to come up, they don’t seem as interested in the garden and I am able to remove most of the wire/cages.  If needed, the wire panels can be left on the ground and the plants will just grow around them (assuming you used a wide panel wire, like cattle panel).

Short of this working as a deterrent, I have actually considered getting my own outdoor cat – sort of an “If you can’t beat them, join them” approach.  I have heard that having your own cat keeps other cats away because they establish their territory, which includes your garden/yard and other cats will mostly stay out.  I have also heard that they won’t go in your garden because it is their territory.  Additionally my son really wants one.  I am betting though, that my cat would make friends with all the neighbor cats and then have smashing good parties in my yard at night with them all using the garden as their toilet.  Just my luck.  Have fun defending your garden!

 

Photo Credit:  Tambako the Jaguar

 

Here is a planting record sheet for your own personal use.  I made it today to help with my own garden record keeping.  Hope that you find it helps you keep an idea of what you have done and what worked for you!  I know I just can’t seem to remember what I have done throughout the planting time and it is a great idea to make notes of what works in your particular area and what you liked.  Click on the link below and enjoy!  Happy planting!

 

Screenshot section of Planting Record

Screenshot section of Planting Record

 

Planting Record

 

I haven’t posted in almost a year.  It has been a rough year for planting.  Last winter, on the 24th day of January, I started onion starts, lettuces, artichokes, and kohlrabi.  On the first day of February, I started about 50 tomato plants.  On February 16, I started about 50 more.  Early February I also started peppers and a few flowers.  By February 23, 2004, I had planted radishes and snap peas outside in the garden because it was so nice and warm so early last year.  Everything thrived and grew beautifully, with only a few minor setbacks.  I had started my tomatoes a bit early for our area, southwestern Idaho, so I could do an experiment with trench planting my tomatoes.

A Beautiful Tomato Start

A Beautiful Tomato Start

Plant Starts

Lots of Tomato Starts!

Then we put our house on the market.  I planted my garden anyway.  I planted at the church.  I gave some of the plants to my friends and family.  Then we sold our house.  And moved.  And I lost my entire garden.  I have no idea how the second year with the bark mulch (a.k.a. Back to Eden method) worked amended with chicken compost.  I have no idea how the tomatoes did trench planted.  I know that the tomato plants I gave to friends did fairly well.  But I don’t know which of the new varieties were the best, or how they grew.  I feel like I lost a year of knowledge.  More, really, because I was in the middle of multiple year long experiments and will have to start those from scratch.  But the good news is that I am getting settled in my new (colder) climate.  This year, I will begin learning all over.  I will try to share what I learn here and we can learn together.  I have been reading up on Permaculture and SPIN farming (among other things) and will be sharing that information soon. 🙂

King of the North Pepper - www.highmowingseeds.com

King of the North Pepper – www.highmowingseeds.com

 

That being said, if you live in southwestern Idaho, now is the time to get cracking.  If you want big, beautiful peppers by the time you are ready to plant them out, I would start your pepper starts as soon as possible (By the way for colder planting zones you either want to start more cold tolerant varieties like King of the North pepper or any of the small peppers – most bell peppers don’t grow as well in colder zones as the smaller sweet or spicy ones).

Also start your onions (if you haven’t already) and cold things you want to get a jump on – lettuces, artichokes, cabbages, broccoli, etc.  The tomatoes can be started now if you want to trench plant them, or you can wait and start them more mid to late March, depending on how early you want to plant them out.  Last frost date for the Boise/Meridian area is May 10 according to the Farmer’s almanac.  I like to give my plants a pretty decent head start, and I also plant them out early because I use walls-of-water around them to protect them from late frosts.  So I would probably start my tomatoes mid March.  Trench planting might be something I will try again another time, but for regular planting, mid to late March is a good time to get things going.

In my new planting zone (4b-5a depending on the exact location in the valley), the planting season starts a bit later, but not too much, so I need to get busy here too.  Although I am pretty sure looking out and seeing the snow still more than a foot deep in places, that I won’t be out there planting radishes and snap peas next weekend. 🙂  Happy planting!  If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will try to address them asap.  Thanks!

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