Monday, October 26, 2015

waiting for spring (already)

It may only be October, but I’m already waiting for spring!  Partly because this big box (all 47 pounds of it!) came in the mail on Monday…


Tucked inside are bags of bulbs (around 500 to be exact). 



and crocus.

I’ve never ordered bulbs before so this was a new experience, but certainly a good one!  I ordered from Van Engelen (this post is not sponsored by them in any way, they don’t know who I am except for the name on the order form when I ordered!) as they had good prices on larger amounts of bulbs and mostly good reviews on Dave’s Garden Watchdog.  (As a side note, I always check on the Watchdog before ordering from any new-to-me garden company.  I’ve found some really good companies this way.)

I ordered a lot of “California” landscape daffodils:

some “Thalia” daffodils
some Hyacinthoides (or Spanish Bluebells) “Excelsior”

a lavender mix of crocus

and a few “Black Beauty” lilies.
I had to exercise extreme restraint as I wanted to order almost every kind of flower they had but thankfully the budget got in the way or I’d be in big trouble finding the time to plant everything.  As it is, I’m really glad my husband got me this for my birthday last week as I still have a LOT of bulb planting to do!!

I’ll update in the spring as things come up and bloom, but all the bulbs look really good so I have high hopes for a very colorful spring display next year! 

Are any of you planting spring bulbs this fall?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

getting in the garden harvest, 2015

With the first frost fast approaching (already past by the time I got to writing about this), it is time to get everything out of the vegetable garden!  This year the first frost has been unusually late, so everything had lots of time to fully ripen…as evidenced by this giant rutabaga!


In case you are wondering, I am not a stylish gardener (see earwarmers above) and I just want you to know I am not as scary as I look here…hah!

About a week ago I spent a day out in the garden getting all the last stuff out (except for the potatoes and carrots which are underground and safe from the light frosts we’re getting so far) and it was great to see all the work of the summer come to fruition! 

I got a lot of cabbages this year--


and little baby cabbages which will be yummy sauteed in butter (they grew from where I cut a cabbage in late summer).


Closer here:


The leek crop turned out great, and I can’t wait for leek soup!


The cover crop (oats) planted around the leeks are doing well.  I noticed that where I had spread aged manure earlier in the year, the oats are growing so much taller and are a healthier green than the areas without.  I took a picture but I’m afraid the contrast doesn’t show up as well as it does in real life. 


The winter rye cover crop is slowly coming up.  It emerges as a really pretty purplish-red shoot. 


Sure signs that frost is coming…sheets covering plants (in this case, swiss chard) in the background:


I always cut my brussels sprout stalks with loppers, after removing the foliage.  They’ll keep for a while in a cool place so I’m sure we’ll be enjoying the sprouts (well, the ones the kids didn’t already pick off and eat) well into November. 


The flowers seem especially pretty right before a frost, sadly these were wilted the next day (and I didn’t think to pick them as I had already picked all my dahlias and other tender flowers).  This is a cockscomb.


I started with rutabagas, and I’ll finish with them too.  We really like raw rutabagas (cut up like carrots), though the huge one in the embarrassing photo of me will likely become chicken food as it will probably be woody and tough. 


Speaking of chickens, here they are waiting to find a good route into the garden so they can gobble up my winter rye seeds!


The garden had it’s share of failures this year, like my pitiful tomato harvest, but it is always fun and much more picturesque to celebrate the successes!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

using cover crops to improve our garden’s soil

When we first moved to our current home we were SO excited.  So much more space, inside and out!  So many possibilities!  We set to work making our house a home, and outside—tilling a veggie garden and making new flowerbeds.  It wasn’t until the following summer that I noticed some plants in the vegetable garden just weren’t as robust as they should be and some were downright awful.  I decided it was just because of the weather that year and moved on.  This year, same story—different weather.  Hmmm. 

I realized it must be something else.  I knew from the get-go that we had very sandy soil with some very tough soil underneath.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but it appears it is.  It doesn’t seem to have a lot of organic matter in it, at least where the veggie garden is.  I decided to put as much compost as I could on the garden, but my compost heap, although big, can’t churn out enough compost fast enough to make much of a quick impact.  I really want our soil better for next year, not just 10 years from now!

Enter my friend the oat:


(Oats, not just for fiber anymore!)

This is just a bag of oats I got from our local feed co-op.  I think it cost $7.00 for 40lbs.  It may not look like much, but after planting it in the garden over areas that were already “done” (like our sweet corn patch), in a few weeks it looks like this:



And then this (the grassy looking stuff in the lower half of the picture):


Now, that is just oats.  They are not hardy here so they will die when we get a hard frost, but the crop residue they leave behind will be great organic matter when I till the garden next spring.

I later bought winter rye from the same co-op and I have planted some of that as well.  That IS hardy so it will freeze but then re-grow in the spring and will provide some quick nutrients for growing vegetables after I till it under in the spring.  Not to mention the roots will improve the soil structure (or so I have read). 

I will update in the spring on whether it made a noticeable difference to the soil or not—but already it is providing the benefit of keeping weeds out of the areas where I have planted it as it does grow quite thickly.  And it is nice to see lush green blades rather than dried out vegetable plants at this time of the year. 

If you want to do the same now is a great time for doing this!  If you are in a much warmer zone you may still be able to plant oats (I’m in zone 4 and I planted them a few weeks ago in early September) but winter rye will be perfect to plant right now if you are in a cooler area like I am.  All I did was rake the soil with a garden rake, seed by throwing handfuls of seed back and forth on the raked ground, and rake again.  If you water or get a rain right away you’ll see growth within 3-5 days or so, depending on how warm it is. 

There are lots of other cover crops out there (I really want to try oilseed radishes next year!) but I wanted to start with some that are easily accessible and cheap.  My dad, who is an organic farmer, uses a winter wheat/rye called Triticale every year. 

Let me know if you’ve had success with cover crops improving your soil! 

Monday, October 5, 2015

What is this Creating Loveliness?

I am a mom of 3 little-ish ones, two of whom are boys (and all a tad on the destructive side).  I think we all crave beauty in our lives, but it is not always easy to create (see destructive mention above) or obvious like a beautiful painting—especially when your time is very limited.  This blog is not a brag page about what lovely things I have created (hah!), but about the journey we all are on to create beauty in the world inside and out.  If I am able to create or capture loveliness along the way, so much the better.  Perhaps a better title of this blog would be Crazy Woman Thinks She Can Beautify World, LOL!!!

I dabble in home DIY and decorating, obsess over our zone 4 gardens, and spend most of my time taking care of our family, including homeschooling.  Our chickens are our pets and you will see them often on the blog.  We are in the midst of naming them ridiculous names (Brunhilda anyone???) and it is a fun diversion.  I don’t really share identifiable pictures of our kids for privacy reasons and I hope you understand.  They do exist!  :) 

I love comments and will try to get back to you as soon as I can!