The Dirt Witch Chronicles

Earth Based Forum for Personal Growth

Category: Plants and Herbs (page 1 of 2)

First Official Day in the Gardens!

2014 Gardens - Mid-season

2014 Gardens – Mid-season

Last year, I had three raised beds that I did my best to completely fill!  The bed on the left is mainly corn, carrots, beets, and tomatoes.  I planted a cucumber in there too, but it never really took off.

SunflowersThe middle bed I reserved for sunflowers, herbs, peppers, kohlrabi, and beans.  The sunflowers were my best performers in this one!

They ended up over 10 feet tall!  And as you can see from the picture, the huge heads bent them over and they were still over 8 feet!

I’m growing them again this year too.  Only this time, I’m planting more of them and I’m putting them along the fence.  Who wants to see the inside of a privacy fence anyway?

South_bed

South bed – Late season

The bed on the right is actually my most southern positioned bed.  I planted melon, corn, pumpkin, potatoes, tomatoes, and even some wildflowers in this bed.  The corn was a lot shorter than the corn in the north bed.  The melon didn’t grow well at all and only flowered a couple times.  There was one fruit that set and when we ate it, it was really bitter!

The tomatoes struggled.  I was able to harvest several, but they were late in the season and not very big.

The biggest producer in this lot was the pumpkin!  It took over the bed and then started escaping across the yard!  From now on, melons and pumpkins get their own area where they can spread all they want!

My biggest pest problem of the season was squash bugs!  They were all over the pumpkin vines and I think that’s what slowed down the tomatoes too.

The lessons I learned?

  1. I prefer to spread out my gardens!  Square foot gardening might work for some, but I tend to over do it!  Too many varieties of plants in one spot and I get lost.  I found myself pulling plants that I thought were weeds when actually I had planted them there myself!
  2. So many plants so close together encourages pests.  Take the squash bugs as an example.  They were all over the pumpkin plant and some were on the tomato plants.  They really didn’t do that much damage, at least from what I could see.  Some of the pumpkins were a bit scarred and a few were lost because the vine collapsed.  But for the most part, they were just really gross bugs to look at and made me not want to reach my hand into the vine to pick the fruit!
  3. It’s hard to keep track of what is planted where and when to harvest.
  4. I still don’t have companion planting down.  While some of the plants in the beds were beneficial, others weren’t.  I tried to keep them separated by at least a couple of feet, but I don’t think that’s good enough.

The bottom line is this, I need more beds.  Or at least more areas to plant in.

So today, being the first full day of spring, I have decided to get out and play in the yard.  I sent Bill to the hardware store for many, many bags of garden soil to add to our existing beds.  By the way, if you notice in the pictures, the beds are taller this year and they have a seat!  Thank you Bill for building them up and adding that seat!  Of course, that means that they need lots and lots of dirt added.  Which is why Bill was sent to get it.

 

All_three_beds_2015-03-21

2015 – Updated beds!

After several hours and 30 forty-pound bags later, this is now my blank slate!  I still have more beds to create.  Somewhere.  But for now, my main three are ready to be planted!

The middle bed, since it’s going to be my perennial bed, already has some sage coming back!

March 21, 2015

March 21, 2015

As you can see, there is some new growth intermixed with the dry and dead stuff from last year.

We added two new additions to the yard last fall as well!  We planted two small peach trees at the south end of the beds.  I will post pictures of them once they get all leafed out so you can actually see them instead of the scenery behind them!  But, as a teaser, this is how they are starting out!

Peach_buds

I think this has been a VERY productive first full day of Spring!  I just hope I’m still able to move on Monday!

 

 

Extra big harvest? Dry it with an Excalibur Food Dehydrator!

Excalibur Dehydrator

I just purchased an Excalibur food dehydrator!  I searched the internet looking for something that would dry a lot of items at once without taking up much space and this is what I found!  I can’t wait to use it!

You see, I am planning to expand my gardens this year.  Instead of just 3 jam packed 4 ft. by 8 ft. beds, I’m also going to have a strip along the fence on the north side of the yard.  It’s about 40 ft. long.  If I make the new garden 3 to 4 ft wide, I would end up with another 120 to 160 square feet!  That means I can plant more vegetables and hopefully get a great harvest!

The problem with all that food is storage.  How am I going to have time to harvest, prepare, and can all those veggies and still keep my job?  I’ll be able to do some canning.  As long as I don’t run out of jars!  And I can freeze a tiny bit because we only have the small freezer in our refrigerator.  That means we either eat a lot, or I give a lot away!  So the best solution I could think of was to buy a dehydrator!

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I had a Ronnoco dehydrator several years ago.  It was round and the trays stacked on top of each other.  I hated the thing!  The grids on the trays were fairly large and made of plastic.  The food would stick to the plastic as it dried making it difficult to remove them and almost impossible to clean!  And I couldn’t dry herbs because they would fall through and end up mixed in with whatever was on the trays below.

The Excalibur has square trays with a different type of plastic inserts that are supposed to be easier to clean and more non-stick.  You can also coat them with oil before loading to help the food not stick.

My next step is to go buy, (Yes I said “buy”!), some organic veggies and fruits to slice up and dry to start getting used to the new dryer!  I’m so excited!

When I’ve dried a few batches, I’ll post how it worked and any tips I come up with.  I might even have a few recipes to share!

Wish me luck!

P.S.  You can buy an Excalibur dehydrator at the Survivalist Store in Riverside, Missouri or you can order one directly from the manufacturer at: http://www.excaliburdehydrator.com/.  You can even find them by clicking on the Meat-Processing Products.com ad found anywhere on my site.  It never hurts to check out all the options before buying!

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The Thyme photo gallery is up!

I have just finished uploading the new picture gallery for next herb topic on my list, Thyme!  So far there are only 21 pictures out of over 300 possible varieties!

Lemon Thyme 'Doone Valley'

Lemon Thyme ‘Doone Valley’

Thyme can be used for so many things!  From cooking, and cleaning to medicinal uses!  In the garden, Thyme is not only an aromatic plant that smells good every time you brush past it, it’s also beautiful when it’s in bloom!  The colors of the flowers can be white, pink, maroon, fuchsia, and even a bluish-purple.  The leaves can be variegated with green, white, silver, and yellow.  Some varieties grow upright, but many also grow very low to the ground.  They create these beautiful dense mats of green that can even be walked on without damaging the plants!

So, go ahead and take a peek at the gallery to see just a small handful of the varieties available, and then come back in a few days to check out my full article about how to use Thyme in cooking, cleaning, and even some medicinal purposes!

Here is the link to the new gallery – Thymus (Thyme) (or you can click on the picture and it will take you there too!)

 

 

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Basil – How to Collect the Seeds

Cut the flower stalks off the plant and either hang them or lay them out to dry.

Dried basil flower with seeds

Dried basil flower with seeds

Once they are dry, squeeze each flower group to dislodge the seeds.

Tiny black seeds still seated in the flower.

Tiny black seeds still seated in the flower.

You will have to do this several times to completely dislodge all the seeds in the flower.

Seeds with dried flower petals

Seeds with dried flower petals

Try not to tear up the flower while you are squeezing to help keep the petals out of the seeds.  If you do end up with a few petals in your seeds, you can separate them by slightly blowing on the seeds as you pour them onto another plate or into a jar.  And by slightly I mean really slightly!  The seeds are very light weight too and you just might blow them all away if you aren’t careful.

Once each flower on each stalk has been emptied and the husks discarded, you should have lots of little black seeds.

Put them into a marked container and store in a cool, dark, dry place.

That is all there is to it!

Click here to learn more!
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How to Grow Garlic – Link

How to grow garlic, a q&a with filaree farm – A Way To Garden.

MY FIRST EXPLORATION INTO growing garlic was also my first encounter with Filaree Farm. I hate to confess how long it has been since I first read “Growing Great Garlic,” the popular book by Filaree’s founding farmer, Ron Engeland (hint: publication date, 1991). Today, it’s Alley Swiss who farms the venerable Filaree acreage in Okanogan, Washington, where organically grown seed garlic has been produced for 25 years. Click here to see the rest of the article!

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