growing your own organic food, raising livestock, & country living
The turn of July means that our garden springs to life-- cucumbers start blooming flowers, the first tiny summer squash fruits start taking shape, and our potatoes, already hilled twice, are a.) starting to form little white flowers and b.) getting eaten by beetles. Oh well-- I guess any organic gardener will have to share produce with bugs of some kind. Our potato beetles have been nothing this year compared to the teeny tiny flea beetle that has been eating up our radish greens and arugula. Thankfully, we don't mind a few holes in our arugula, and we give our radish greens to the chickens anyway.
We have been fighting a losing battle with weeds though, particularly crabgrass and purslane. Apparently you can eat purslane, but I'm not about to start experimenting at the moment. For now, the purslane and crabgrass are quickly devoured by our chickens, who have yet to begin laying but should be in the next few months. As free-range chickens with about 1.5 acres to roam and hand-picked weeds, these are some spoiled chickens!
Hypothetically, the silkies were meant to go into the garden to help eat our potato beetles and flea beetles, but the one silkie I tested over the weekend ran straight over to my strawberry patch and ate a handful of them before I realized it! I suppose they'll need some strict supervision at first. We'll try again soon. :)
As for the weeds, I spent about two hours pulling weeds between the sunflowers and the north part of our garden, and successfully de-weeded the beets. Two days later-- and they are back. Eddie took a weed-whacker to the thick patches and it worked surprisingly well. I imagine it also scattered weed seeds everywhere, but, for now, the garden looks more like a veggie garden compared to a forest.
We have been a bit more intentional about continuing to harvest our veggies. Last year the garden got away a bit from us, and I think that it not only created an overabundance of food that eventually rotted but also slowed production down. Since we now harvest almost daily, we really have noticed how quickly our swiss chard, spinach, and lettuce will reproduce. We don't plan to plant any more radishes until August again, since we really only eat them in salad and have plenty, but otherwise are eating lots of salad. I'll be trying to pull together a spinach and ricotta crepe (see "The Home" blog in the next few weeks) with some of the spinach we got this morning.
Part of our de-weeding process meant that we mulched our plants as well, not only to help ease the stress of the weeding process but also to try and suppress further weed growth right next to the seedlings. We mulched our beets, tomato, and asparagus, along with hilling our potato. You can see the trench next to the potatoes!
The asparagus is new to us, but the growth this year is certainly stronger than last year's growth. Our second-year asparagus is much thicker and taller. In fact, we ended up gently stringing each of them to the fence so that they wouldn't fall over. The next two rows of asparagus, planted this year, will remain untouched next year, but we do plant to harvest our 3rd-year asparagus next year.
Some of our experimental crops are doing well (sunflowers, for instance) while others are growing but very slowly, like our sweet potato and melon.
Our peas are doing much better this year. Last year they grew really fast but then wilted and pretty much got scorched by the sun. This year, we trellised them earlier and planted them under a sapling, which provides afternoon shade. This has made our peas so much happier-- they are just now starting to bloom pretty white flowers, which means soon we'll be picking peas!
"Till" next time. :)