A Busy Week

Monday was spent taking care of household chores and running errands. I spent a little time researching jobs on-line and submitted a couple of applications, too. Laundry was finished, bread was baked, and may car got washed.

On Tuesday I cut our first harvest of comfrey leaves. Comfrey is the only foliar spray we plan to use in the garden. To make the tea the leaves were placed in a bucket, held down with a rock, covered with water, and then closed tightly with a snug lid. The bucket will sit outside for three weeks after which time 1 part comfrey juice will be mixed with 4 parts water to be put in a sprayer for feeding the plants. On this day I also started setting up planting beds by loosening soil and removing weeds. Lots of compost was sifted and moved in, fertilizer was spread, and old hay was piled on. Here is a link to our organic fertilizer recipe mix.

By Wednesday the beds were ready for planting. The tomatoes will get transplanted next week along with the peppers, marigolds, and sweet basil. I had to rig up a ‘hot house’ type setting in the middle of a pile of old hay to keep the peppers snug while we went through a frost. To do it I dug out a large hole in the middle of the pile just big enough to set the trays down into and then I laid an old glass door over the top. It worked! Everything else was set back indoors.

Sure enough, there was frost on Thursday morning with temps in the low 30′s. The peppers survived. New leaves on the fig tree turned brown and withered but everything else in the garden seems just fine. That was probably our last frost until early November. We almost got our new grand-daughter on this day, too. But after Daughter-in-Law was admitted, placed in a room, changed into a hospital gown, hooked to monitors, and in bed for three hours, the doctor decided nothing was progressing fast enough so he let her go home with a little pain medication and instructions to walk, walk, and walk some more. Sure enough, after being home for an hour or two, the contractions stopped. Little grand-daughter K could be here just any day.

On Friday I finished double digging bed number 8. Now we are up to 1996 square feet of double dug planting area. Whew! I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of space but it really is when planting in raised beds and utilizing close-space planting as John Jeavons describes in his book How to Grow More Vegetables. Next week we will break the 2000 square feet mark as I plan to dig another 64 feet if the weather allows. That may be all I get done this spring, though, as double digging gets too hard to do when the temps get up in the 80′s. On this day the onions, garlic, carrots, and horseradish were weeded and composted too. The corn was cultivated. Strawberry blooms were removed. Everything was watered really well. I still need to add a little compost to the comfrey bed.

Yesterday, on Saturday, we rearranged the dog’s houses in the back yard to get them under some shade. The ‘dog yard’ is a pretty good-sized fenced area that’ s just off the back of the house where last year we lost most of the shade when the tornado came through. We had to crowd the houses under a couple of small trees but I think the dogs like it. We were planning to build our new bird houses for the apple orchard once we finished with the dogs but instead we were called away to an emergency plumbing job at our son’s place.

We went to Son’s house and figured out where a couple of water leaks were coming from then rushed to Lowe’s for parts. We got back, put everything together, and turned the water on. Agh! There were new leaks everywhere. Needless to say, no one in our family is a plumber. Today we’ll spend most of the day at Son’s fixing the plumbing ~ again.

Some About Bugs

Our winter here was milder than usual with lots of rain and hardly any temps below freezing at all. Then, like flipping a light switch, it was summer! Temperatures soared to near 90° fahrenheit several days in March; these are temps we usually don’t see here until mid June. Now, completely out of its cycle, spring is coming. Next week’s predicted highs are only supposed to be in the low 60′s, frost is even predicted for Wednesday morning!

The cooler temps have made it possible for me to begin double digging again which is a task completely impossible to do when the temps start to reach 85° because of the strenuous physical labor involved. But anyway, another bed is started and should be finished by Tuesday and the field peas will be happy as this is where they will be planted later this month. We’ll also dig four 4′x4′ beds for next year’s apple trees. Field peas will be planted in them, too, and should help ‘fix’ the soil for the young fruit trees.

Our first market day is planned to be April 28th as this is the time when the loose leaf lettuce will reach its full maturity; however, we are expecting a new granddaughter on this day and it is also Roy’s birthday so we’ll just have to wait and see if we make it. The lettuce is beautiful, though, and it will surely like this cold snap we are about to go through as will the radish and sugar peas.

The flea beetles chose to devour the turnip greens instead of the lettuce. Since the beetles are only on the turnips perhaps they may only be planted as a catch crop in the spring or maybe they won’t be planted at all. Could the spring turnips be the only reason the flea beetles are here in the first place? Next spring no turnips will be planted and observations will be taken to determine this dilemma.

I found an Assassin Beetles and many Lady Bugs on apple leaves. I wish they would have gotten there sooner, though, because something has chewed away almost every single leaf from one of our Yellow Delicious apple trees. Agh! I never saw the culprit but am certain it was some type of tiny caterpillar. We are hanging 6 birdhouses around the apple orchard as soon as we get them built and we plan to put up many more later. The birds will be our only defense this early in the spring.

I found a white cabbage butterfly caterpillar eating away on a strawberry leaf. I squished him and haven’t had anymore damaged leaves. I found a strange worm crawling along the grass. It had a bright orange head, a one-inch long body (kind of grayish-green), and feathery feelers (two on the front end and one on the back end). I’ve identified it as a red-humped oakworm. It had several Braconid Wasp cocoons on its back so I let it go. I must remember to carry my camera to the garden. Lots of exciting things happen out there. Oh, just yesterday I saw a tiny parasitic wasp sitting on a lettuce leaf.

We spent the greatest part of yesterday straightening and replacing fence post along the north end of the field where last year’s tornado had wrecked so much havoc. These post protrude eight feet about the ground and are the ones closest to the apple orchard. This is where the new birdhouses will be mounted.

I still haven’t gone back to work but I am looking to do so. Health insurance costs have increased so much that it is up to me to look for work that offers a more affordable plan. The market garden will remain a priority and will continue to grow as quickly as time will allow. The plans are written and we are focused. We can only do what we can do, right?

Broconid Wasp

Red-humped Oakworm

Leaf-footed Assassin Beetle

Crimson Clover


Clover in January

Crimson clover was planted as a green manure in the corn and cucurbit beds last fall to add nitrogen to the soil for this spring’s plantings. I read somewhere that the clover should be turned under the soil at least 2-3 weeks prior to planting to allow plenty of time for it to decompose. I was concerned that the clover’s root system would be too tangled and hard to turn by shovel. But, I have been very happy to learn that the clover does in fact turn over quite easily by the shovel-full. However, after turning a bed of clover for the 2nd time today in preparation for radish sowing, I would most definitely suggest turning the clover under at least one month ahead of planting time. I was very surprised to find green clover under the soil in a bed that had initially been turned three weeks ago.  

We’ll stay on schedule and sow this particular bed with radish one day this week. I’m thinking that since the radish is grown for the root and not the green tops, the un-decomposed clover shouldn’t be too much of an issue. By the time radishes are harvested the clover will have broken down completely, just in time for summer squash planting.