Crazy is…

Planting peppers with a headlamp on at 9:30 p.m. just to get ’em in the ground!

So far I’ve managed to get planted: Red and yellow onions, broccoli, brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas, snow peas, green peas, purple podded pole beans, Kentucky Wonder pole beans, a gourmet mix of green and yellow bush beans, Swiss chard (twice!), spinach, an Italian mesclun lettuce mix, sweet potatoes, California Wonder bell peppers and Quadrato D’asti Rosso bell peppers.

Still need to plant: Anaheim pepper, jalapenos, cayenne peppers, roma tomatoes, Beefmaster tomatoes, Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, sweet 100 cherries, yellow cherries, Paul Robeson purple tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, Orangelo watermelon, a variety of fall squash, a variety of summer squash (scallop squash) canteloupe, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme and beets. It may be too late for the beets, but I’ll plant a few and see what happens. If it doesn’t do well, it will go in the ground again closer to fall along with turnips, garlic and more spinach, swiss chard, lettuces and broccoli.

I feel the summer coming upon me FAST and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time between working, school, stuff around the farm that needs done, spending time with my kid and riding the horses to get it all done!

Crazy, I tell ya, crazy! Crazy is as crazy does I suppose. I WILL get this garden done within the next two weeks, even if I have to plant by the pale moonlight.

In other news we’ve lost three meat birds over three consecutive nights. We believe the culprit may be a raccoon who has figured out how to open the little door from the coop to the chicken yard. It has swollen over time and doesn’t always want to close all the way so it can’t be locked any more, making it pretty easy for a resourceful (or determined) ‘coon to just shove it open and have his pick of the flock. The Man is hopefully working on a solution to get that fixed today so we don’t lose any more meat birds.

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Rice paddies, anyone?

The tomato plants are ready. The pepper plants are ready. So are the sweet potato babies, the sage, basil, oregano and rosemary.

Oh, and the pansies. They’re ready, too.

All are bursting out of their little grow pots, becoming root bound and eager to stretch their legs. If I don’t get them in the ground soon they will start dying.

Now, if I could only get the weather to cooperate! Rain rain rain (we got about 5 inches total last weekend) made the soil too soft and soggy to work in last weekend. So much rain our little country road was flooded for most of the week, forcing us to find alternative routes to get to work. I drove through it once with my truck. Probably shouldn’t have done that. The water was as high as the bottom of the door!

It dried nicely all week and I’ve been raring to get out there and get everything in the ground this weekend. Ready to get my hands and fingernails filthy and get my garden started.

But, wouldn’t you know it, Mother Nature isn’t playing nice.

Today, it’s raining. Again.

Spring hodgepodge

My wonderful seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I’m so excited to get them planted! I did start the tomatoes and am pleased to report EVERY SINGLE seed I planted germinated. No duds.

Lovely brown eggs from  my lovely free-range hens. The yolks are like little spots of golden sunshine.

Volunteer red leaf lettuce and spinach. Tell-tale signs that our winter was none too harsh at all.

Well, hello there little turkeys! Enjoy the sunshine.

I dunno what’s in that boot, but Nala is absolutely fascinated by it.

Tomato and peppers are lookin’ good!

Frost 0: Fruit WINS!

My fruit trees and baby fruit have successfully weathered our couple nights of frost. Yay! I wasn’t sure if they would, especially the biggest peach tree since we couldn’t get the sheets all the way over the top of it. It’s amazing how much they grow in three years! I remember bringing that tiny little tree home and tenderly, gently placing it into its  new home. Apparently it likes it here!

We have rain in the forecast for the entire weekend. Figures. The official last frost date for this area is April 14 and I planned to get the brussels sprouts, tomatoes and peppers in the ground and out of the basement. I’ve been hardening them off for about two weeks: Putting them outside during the day and bringing them in at night and they are all huge and healthy and starting to become root bound in their little starter pots. It’s time to get them out into the real world.

So far I have in the ground: Onions (red and yellow), Swiss chard, spinach, sugar snap peas, snow peas, regular peas and broccoli. Only about 300 more plantings to go!

Frost 0, Fruit 1

One frost warning night down, one frost warning night to go.

We covered the peach and cherry trees last night and when I pulled the sheets off this morning there was NO frost on the fruit! The outsides of the sheets were frosty, but the fruit seems to have weathered the chilly night just fine. Now, to do it all over again tonight and hope for the same results.

You know, you never really realize how TALL your fruit trees have become until you have to try to get a sheet over the top of one! The biggest peach tree didn’t get fully covered, just wrapped as best we could because without a ladder, there was no getting the sheet over the top.

I also got an up close and personal look at the forming fruit and will have to cull some of that fruit off the branches or risk losing limbs as the fruit grows and gets heavier and heavier. There is a LOT of fruit on those trees, the early warmth and large number of busy bees have been very friendly to the trees! Too many fruit, especially big fruit like peaches, pears and apples, can grow too heavy and split your tree. And too many fruit on one tree means all around smaller fruit.

So, I will be forced to commit baby fruiticide this weekend and probably end up halving the number of peaches on both trees. Which is sad, but better for the tree in the long run.

 

Preventing frosted fruit

There is a frost warning for tomorrow morning and the following morning. I knew Illinois had at least one more good frost up its sleeve before the month was done!

I am concerned about my fruit trees. I haven’t planted any veggies that can’t withstand a good frost (peas, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard and onions) so I’m not worried about the garden, but my fledgling orchard has me worried.

Because of our early and sustained warmth so far this season, my peach and cherry trees are in full fruit. I’d say, all total, my two peach trees have well over 150 peaches already set and growing. They are large marble-sized fruit at the moment, but a good heavy frost could wipe them all out. Same with the cherries. My two cherry trees are absolutely loaded with tiny fruit.

Large commercial orchards can take drastic measures to save their fruit crop, from burning huge bonfires in the orchards to hiring a helicopter to hover over the orchards to push warm air down or setting sprinklers up to keep above-freezing water hitting the trees in an effort to prevent frost from settling in and doing its damage.

I can’t take measures that drastic as I only have four trees to worry about. The pear trees haven’t started blossoming yet (they are later spring blossomers), so I don’t have to worry about them, and, the pear trees tend to do better in cooler weather than the hotter season fruits, like cherries, peaches and plums, do.

So, tonight the trees will get covered with sheets as well as they can be covered. Some gardeners say you could do more damage by covering the trees with cloth because you risk damaging the tree, but others say the damage you could do to a few limbs is far less than what the frost could do to your fruit. We’ll see what happens. If I can save half the fruit from being damaged/killed by frost, I’ll risk possibly damaging a few small limbs on the trees. Those can be pruned out in the fall any way when I do the annual pruning.

I’m far less worried about my roses, which are looking fabulous and putting on delightful flowers. They are right next to the house, out of the wind, and should be okay. I don’t think I have enough sheets hanging around the house to cover them AND the fruit trees any way.

So, fingers crossed that my efforts to save the fruit will do more good than harm!

Happy planting!