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Garden Update #1 – 2021

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Happy belated Earth Day! I thought it would be a good time to share an update on my garden.

This post is quite lengthy, so I have made the section titles headings for easier navigation. If you are just interested in the tomatoes, scroll to the tomato section. Wanna know how the potato towers are doing? Scroll on down to the potato section.
A lot of the garden this year is experimental – as I’ve told you about my potato tower. I am also using the Ruth Stout method of growing things (basically just covering your crops with straw/hay). I have read some blog posts and watched some videos about using this method to grow potatoes, garlic and carrots; however, I discovered that the pesky squirrels left those things covered with straw alone…no digging to bury/plant other things or just digging holes in my planters to mess with me – the squirrels and I are rarely on good terms.
After seeing the effect on the squirrels I added a layer of straw to almost all of my above ground garden beds, with the exception of my greens – mainly because they are in fairly tight proximity and I did not want to risk causing stress or injury by trying to add the straw after the fact.

TOMATOES

My tomato plants are looking great!
I pruned them up and removed the suckers last weekend. (Suckers are branches that come out of the middle of two branches that fork.)

Two tomato plants in cages, with onions planted between, and a sunflower behind.

About three weeks after getting the in-ground plants situated I found someone in my neighborhood had set their hay bales (from Autumn decorations) out at the curb for bulk pick up… I hate to see useful stuff go to waste.
I mentioned in my Planting Weekend post that I bike around my neighborhood and that I collect things people have set out for the garbage men to haul off. Truly not as weird as it sounds… I mean cargo carriers I can fill with dirt and plant in, good wooden dresser drawers I can plant in… stuff like that. Anyway, I came back with a car and loaded those free hay bales up and took them home. The final destination for them was around the tomatoes and onions in the garden. (P.S. I also picked up a good dining chair – now just a plain sitting chair – that morning…it has a busted leg but that was easy enough to fix.)

I already have a silver dollar sized celebrity tomato growing, and it has two baby cousins! Baby tomatoes are hard to spot sometimes, so I get really excited when I see a new one.

I also have the seedlings I had started (before the “Texas Winter Storm”)… They got off to a bit of a slow start, hence the ones in the ground being bought from Home Depot. We usually have a long enough season, here in North Texas, for a fall garden so I am planning to plant these babies after the ones in the ground have done all they can and have succumb to the late summer heat. If they get big enough before that time comes, I am planning to try out five-gallon buckets of tomatoes.    

ONIONS AND GARLIC

The onions and garlic are looking great. I am trying long and short day onions (in terms of daylight). I also planted onions between my tomato plants as companion plants. The onions in the above ground containers seem to be doing better, but all are doing well. The garlic is coming up well too; they have reached about a foot tall!

CARROTS

So first up are the carrots I planted last August. They seemed happy at first making cute little tufts of greens…then they kind of stalled out. So I planted some more seeds in a different container in October, hoping for a fall harvest. Those really took off and seemed like they were going to be ready for plucking in the spring…until “the storm” hit. They basically liquified. It wasn’t pretty. So during my planting weekend I pulled all of that mess up and threw it into the compost. Except I discovered a small nest of carrots from the first planting I mentioned (in August) that appeared to be thriving! I left them to see what they would do, and I planted more carrots in their container, and others. (Then covered them with straw…)

Over all the new ones seem hit or miss, however, the originals seemed greatly encouraged by the addition of the straw.

HERBS

One of the Basil cuttings I had nursed over the winter in bottles of water (that had long Rapunzel-esque roots that I planted on planting weekend) has officially been declared DEAD. The other one seems to be on life support. Their cousins I bought along with the other seedlings for this garden are very pleased on their new abode.

My Sage also seems content. Sage likes dryer dirt so I have been watering it once a week. This is great restraint on my part…I have the unfortunate habit of showing my love with water – drowning plants unintentionally.

The Chamomile has gone to live in the compost heap, but the Lavender seems happy enough.

The Oreganos (Greek and Italian) seem very happy! They are very green and growing well.

GREENS

I saw the first baby crown on one of my broccolis on April 3rd. I was so excited, but then it bolted overnight in mid-April. I cut out the flowered broccoli crown – then I noticed the two tiny baby crowns lower on the stalk. I have five broccoli plants and two baby broccoli sprouts. They are all green, but only the one that bolted has broccoli crowns.

The cabbages I bought are content as well, and the Napa cabbage I am regrowing from the end (I bought the cabbage at the grocery store, made slaw…lots of slaw…and then put the butt in water until it had some roots) had really perked up; then it bolted. It has pretty little yellow flowers. I hope to be able to harvest some seeds from the flowers. Once it bolted the greens became very bitter.

In this same area I have three containers of beets that I planted as seeds. Five have poked their little sprout heads up and are seemingly content but seem extra prone to weeds.

These are the only containers in the garden that do not have a layer of straw/hay on top. Well, them, the herbs and the wildflowers. They seemed too leafed out and or fragile to put straw on them at the time I was spreading out the straw.

BEANS

Beans, beans the magical fruit… (My uncle used to sing that catchy little diddy.)

Green Beans – almost all the beans I planted have sprouted. They have grown giant leaves and little buds are starting to appear. I ought to have tiny green beans before long.

Black Beans – I have about 17 black bean plants growing in a recycled dresser drawer. They seemed a little slow to get going, but now about half the beans I planted have happy leafy plants.

Lima Beans – the limas had the most trouble, I have 6 total lima bean plants. In my research I discovered some lima bean plants climb, and others don’t…I don’t know which I have, but I have inherited a collapsible clothes drying rack/line thing that I plan to use as a trellis if it turns out I have climbing beans and need one.

BERRIES

I was given a blackberry bush by a family friend last fall, but it didn’t make it through the freezing storm. I bought two blackberry bushes and two blueberry bushes. One of each had blooms last week, and the blackberry bush that bloomed now has visible little green blackberries.

By the way my berries are named: Manilow, Chuck, Halle, and Mary.   😉

POTATOES (THREE WAYS)

I’m really excited about this part of the garden experiment! A couple of weeks after I got the potato towers put together (which involved a significant investment in dirt), I found a whole nest of sprouted potatoes in the back of the pantry. I hate to waste good sprouts so…I now have a mega potato experiment going on.

I have the two towers, and I now have four of the green bags I used last year (that yielded Barbie size potatoes –

though in fairness, I did get them started a lot later than I should have), and I have a section of tilled up ground where I have dropped some of the sprouted potatoes and covered them with straw. In towers, in bags, in/on the ground.

So far, I am happy to share that my towers have over 50 happy verdant leafy potato plants poking out the straw at the sides! For a while, it seemed like they were adding a new plant each day…It was really exciting to go check on them each morning.

The ones in the bags (which I also topped with some straw) are showing good progress. I counted 11 visible plants this morning.

The in/on the ground section of this experiment are also looking good. I saw 6 this morning.

Overall I would say the towers seem to be the most promising at the moment, but time will tell. I can’t wait to see the results of each group’s harvest. (Sorry if that makes me a bit of a geek.)   😉

FLOWERS (WILD AND TAMED)

Wanting to do my part to help save the bees, help other pollinators, and add color to the garden, I planted a variety of flower seeds (daisies, bluebonnets, sunflowers, marigolds, and maroon bluebonnets to name a few). My wildflowers are showing potential.

I tried out these Seedles (from growtherainbow.com), planting them in a large empty spot…I think they are starting to come up. I say ‘I think’, because there are also some weeds coming up in that area. I don’t want to weed it until I know for sure which is friend and which is foe.

The sunflowers seem to be the most eager to grow. I have several in a small patch on either side of what used to be (and fingers crossed will be) my rosemary plant. I also have four that have come up behind my row of tomato plants.

I bought a pot of delphiniums while I was picking up some (more) potting soil last week. I planted them on Monday and they have already started blooming – beautifully.

Other Experiments

I also have a whole orchard of avocado trees growing. It became something of a hobby in 2020, and I just can’t kick the habit! I currently have five that have grown big enough to be planted, two in the in-between stage, and an embarrassing number in the waiting to sprout phase.
I have discovered that wrapping an avocado pit in a damp paper towel, then putting it in a plastic bag, then putting the bag in a dark (kitchen) drawer for a few weeks seems more effective than putting toothpicks in the pit and suspending it over water. Plus, there is less clutter on the kitchen counter that way. And it is like Christmas morning every time you open the bags and paper towels. Keep the paper towels moist and check on the pits every week or so.

I also have baby apple trees coming up! I planted these seeds from a delicious honeycrisp apple from Imperfect Foods. I don’t know, and won’t know for years, whether or not these apple seeds (or avocado trees) will produce fruit, but either way it is exciting to watch them grow.

Well, I guess that’s a wrap on the first garden update. Sorry if it was too long, but I wanted to be thorough.

Did you plant a garden? If so, what is the happiest plant in your garden?

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