My Edible Garden

I've been gardening for most of my life and have been a devoted fan of organic gardening the whole time. It just makes so much more sense to work in harmony with Mother Nature than to fight her. Besides which it is better for the planet and better for our bodies. Here you can see what I'm planting and harvesting, with gardening hints and resources thrown in for good measure.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Farmer Friday

BOxBR hen about 4 years old
My oldest hen is about 4 years old. Poor thing is about half naked from molting. So are most of the other hens. Egg production has dropped to zilch. The compost chickens haven't laid in a week or more and even the younger hens in the barn dropped from 8 eggs a day to 3.

I tried to get lots of chicks hatched in January so they would start laying by July and August to take up the slack but luck wasn't with me.

hello baby tarantula

I disturbed a baby tarantula hiding in the manure pile when I was getting some for the garden.

Some people pick them up but not me, scooped it out with a stick and let it go.

pretty pink Four O'Clock flower


I didn't think that sunflower was going to make it. It was real puny for a long time. Even now it's only a couple of feet tall. Just tells you how bad the soil is.

tomato jungle, that's my shirt!

Some of the tomato plants are really getting their second wind with cooler weather and a little rain. Even a bit jungly out there. That's my shirt, looking towards my feet in the lower right corner of the picture.

cherry tomatoes and mini bell peppers

I picked produce in a drizzle this morning, getting ready for the farmer's market tomorrow.

rainbow carrots

The carrots that I planted a bit later are doing much better than the first batch. They got some potash fertilizer along with more water.I also redug those beds and sunk them into the ground.The carrots are growing a lot faster than in the older raised bed.

rainbow beets
I pulled the last of the rainbow beets from this bed. But I forgot to take a picture of them. They are so pretty, yellow, orange, red, pink! Just like the Rainbow Carrots. Next week this bed will be redug and sunk into the ground and planted to carrots.

hello Tinkerbelle

Tinkerbelle is a really sweet cat. She's funny, Lil' Bit is loud and noisy but Tink doesn't really meow, she just makes funny little squeaky sounds.

The back garden

The back garden, you can see all the weeds trees around the patio and invading it. The will be a winter job, getting the cut and dug out of the way.

You can't see the house because of all the squash vines. It is very dark and shady under there!

Then some beds of rainbow carrots. They have been a lot of fun to grow, with all the different colors.

back garden another view

beet seedlings

The beets seedlings I transplanted are doing well. They are covered with fine netting to keep bugs and birds out of them.

radish seedlings

The kale transplants are doing well and the French Breakfast radishes have sprouted.

These are under an old screen door and a really old piece of shade cloth. Soon to be replaced by fine netting.

luffa and pumpkin vines

At Mom's house the Luffa and Jack Be Little pumpkin vines are really taking off. By the end of summer they will probably completely cover the front of the barn. I love the cheery look of the lemon yellow luffa blossoms.

bumble bee in a luffa blossom

The bumble bees like them too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Compost, Eggs and More Digging

compost heating up
Well compost pile #2 is heating up pretty well, just need to get it to kick on up to 131 degrees F or higher to make sure that all pathogens are killed. But 120 is a good start!

This pile is taking a little longer to get built than the first one, so that might be the problem. Hopefully I'll get it finished off in the next couple of days.

burn pile buried in the garden
Remember that bed of beans I'm digging up? Well I got down to the area where none of them lived and what do I find? There was a burn pile buried in there. Pure ashes along with broken glass, rusty metal and a lot of rocks. No wonder those bean plants croaked!

about done

This was several days hard labor, a lot of pick and shovel work. Fortunately the weather has cooled off a tad. I piled up a lot of sand and gravel from the bed into the path. But after about 8 inches of build up it was started to slide into the next bed. So I started throwing it over the fence into the driveway. Harder work, but faster than using a bucket.

dirt and rocks in the driveway

adding and wetting organic matter

Now for a special trick to really make this bed super abundant. Adding chicken litter mixed with wood shavings and old horse manure to the bottom of it. This organic matter will act as a giant sponge and help catch and retain water for the plants. The material is really dry and so is the ground so I'm wetting it down as I go.

actually not wet yet!

Even though there is water puddling in the bottom of the trench, the chicken litter is not really wet yet. I have to stir it up and keep wetting it until it is all saturated.

Then toss a few shovel fulls of the top soil onto it and add some more litter. This will take a few days to complete. Then I will add some fresh compost to the top soil, set up the new drip irrigation lines and start planting.

Purebred Blue Ameraucana

The last chicks hatched in June are getting big now.

purebred Black Ameraucana

BCM pullet eggs with egg color chart

My oldest Black Copper Marans pullet began laying this week. But her egg color so far is disappointing.  Both of her parents hatched from a #7 egg (that would be the lower right side of the color chart). So far she's just laying about a #4 which is the lightest that Marans should ever be. My fingers are crossed they darken up some as she gets going.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sometimes You Gotta Know When to Fold 'Em

sad looking row of beans
Everything in the garden is an experiment. I know something will always make food and there will be an abundance of many things. But some years things just don't work out. In that case you have to know when to fold 'em and start over.

This double row of bush beans has not done well all summer. It sprouted up pretty well then whole stretches of seedlings died off for no apparent reason.

No matter how much I run the soaker hose the beans always looked like they weren't getting enough water.

That double row is almost 25 feet long. I should have picked 10-15 pounds of beans already  with more coming on. I haven't gotten a single bean. Time to cut my losses, rip it out, dig it up and start over.

This garden is on the creekside and part of it was filled in about 20 years ago when a flash flood took out the bank. It was a chicken pen for a few years before I turned it into a garden. I loosened up the beds as well as I could and piled compost on top. Every season saw more compost, but I have never actually double dug the beds like I usually do in a garden. So time to get busy.

shallow soil
It's hard to see I know, but the roots on the left side are bean roots and those on the right are weeds. Our perennial horse nettle has thick roots and can grow through anything. In other areas I could see a clear line between the topsoil and the subsoil. The topsoil was only about 6 inches deep. I also noted that the soaker hose only seemed to be wetting an area about 4 inches on each side of it and only about 6 inches deep. The rest of the 2 foot wide bed was very dry. No wonder those poor bean plants always looked thirsty!

metal junk

Besides tons of rock of all sizes I have been digging out strange metal bits.

sand and gravel subsoil

The biggest issue is probably that the subsoil is pure sand and gravel, so what ever water gets down there just keeps on going. For that reason I'm digging this bed deeper that I normally would.

digging deep
about half way done

The subsoil I'm digging out is going into the path way. The final level of the bed will be below the path to help conserve water.

blow out

I have 300 feet of hose that goes up to the chicken pens. It is several years old and has been doing great. But today there was a blow out. Fortunately I had what I needed to fix  it.

I have not been so lucky fixing broken soaker hoses however. Once they have a blow out they just seem to keep on going. My cucumber row also had a blow out today. That is the 3rd soaker hose this year. In the future I will do strictly drip tape. If a drip hole clogs up I can unclog it with the point of a nail. It is easy to work with and hook up and seems to last forever, as long as the rats and rabbits don't chew on it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Time to Plant for Fall Crops!

sifting compost

Yes, I know it's still really stinking hot, but it's time to get our fall planting on! So time to sift up some compost and make some potting soil. First I sift some compost through 1/2 inch hardware cloth. Then I mix about 1/2 a bucket of perlite to 4 buckets of sifted compost. The perlite helps allow some oxygen into the soil so that it won't get waterlogged. It keeps the soil free draining, sometimes the compost is very fine and packs tightly, excluding oxygen,

adding perlite

finished potting soil

When I have a lot of worm castings I will had some to the mixture, otherwise just moisten it a bit and mix together thoroughly.

ready to pot up cauliflower seedlings

I potted up broccoli and cauliflower seedlings into some pots. They will be ready to go into the ground in about 4 weeks. There should be room in the garden by then.

cauliflower ready to pot up

netting helps keep birds and bugs out

I set up some shelves in the garden to put the seedlings on, and covered them with fine netting to keep birds and bugs out.


Woot! My first box from Peaceful Valley came! (there will be a couple more over the next couple of months)

seeds seeds seeds!

This box contains about 20+ pounds of cover crop seeds. I ordered a variety for different areas. For the top of the hill erosion control I got Dryland Fire Recovery mix along with Dryland Clovers. I also got some perennial clover mix to plant under all the trees I'm planting. I ordered a compost thermometer so I can track the temperature of the compost piles. And lucky me Peaceful Valley gives you free seed packets when you order so much merchandise.

And I love their shredded cardboard packing material so I can toss it on the mulch or the compost pile.

fig tree roots!

Oh wow! My little fig trees are growing roots out the drain holes of their pots!  I'm hoping the weather will cool off a bit soon so I can just go ahead and plant them in the ground in a couple of weeks.

Get Ready for Market

Rainbow Chard
Friday was harvest and get ready for farmer's market day. I picked a couple of bunches of swiss chard and harvested some buggy and wilty leaves for the chickens.

Benning's Green Tint pattypan

Some nice patty pan squash, both green and yellow.

Gold Rush Zucchini

Some Gold Rush yellow Zucchini along with some green ones.

trapped by the zucchini plants!

Rainbow Carrots

Rainbow Beets

I pulled some rainbow carrots and beets. They are as much fun to look at as they are to eat.
when you can't find the muffin tin

Last week was National Farmer's Market week and our market always chooses that Saturday as Customer Appreciation Day. We have a free cupcake bar where you can frost and decorate your own cupcake. So I made a batch to take. A friend told me next time to put the papers inside a canning jar ring.

mixed tomatoes

I had ladies lined up waiting to snag the nicest tomatoes in the box as soon as the bell rang!  (at our market we are only allowed to sell during the set hours, marked off by the vigorous ringing of a cowbell by the market manager)

eggs from the Compost Chickens!

The Compost Chickens outdid themselves this week with 13 eggs!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

New Potatoes

New Potatoes
Oh how I dearly love little new potatoes! I planted these in June and dug the bed today. They were getting a little sorry looking and the yield was not that great, but they will taste wonderful boiled up with garlic and smashed with some butter.

This bed just didn't get enough good compost put on it. There were signs of Texas root rot, a really nasty fungus that kills plants. While most of the plants lived, they were sad looking and didn't live up to their full potential. So, note to self, next potato beds get priority for good compost! Really good thermophilic (it got real hot) compost is full of good bacteria and fungi that keep the baddies at bay. And all those billions of little organisms help feed your plants too.

Spinx Moth Pupae

The potato bed also had a lot of insects hiding in and under the shredded paper mulch, including this weirdo chrysalis of some sort. (I googled it; a Spinx Moth pupae). Well, whatever, the chickens thought it was a delicious treat and one hen got it away from the others and slurped it right down.

I cleaned up the mulch and some of the bugs as I dug the potatoes and delivered it to the compost chickens who energetically hunted down every little bug they could find.  They even found a giant green caterpillar that I hadn't noticed.

former potato bed

I raked up the bed and added some compost. It's all ready to plant again. Maybe tomorrow I'll have time to finish setting out the beet starts.

We save all the paper and cardboard and when the box is full I bring it over and use it for mulch. Right now it's going around an apple tree, with a bit of composted manure to help weight it down.

tomato garden

The main tomato garden really needed a drink today. I'd skipped a watering because for 2 or 3 days now I woke up to huge black clouds which were really promising, but never amounted to anything. Hopefully the plants didn't get too dry.