Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Accidental Surface Irrigation

I lucked out when I dug the rows for my garden. They naturally slant downhill a touch with the high side closest to both my hose and the place where rain rolls off my roof. I have found with minimal effort I can lay the hose at the top of the row with just a trickle and 5 minutes later the entire row has been watered with no attention from me. This method has both increased the amount of water my soil soaks up and frees up my time to weed. I no longer water the garden twice a day!

Knowing this I plan to dig trenches from the rain runoff point to each row. In time my garden will be able to use rain water and will cut down on my water costs. For the moment I will use large rocks as "gates" or dams to control the flow of the runoff while I contemplate a better and more visually appealing way to achieve the same results.

With my goal of gardening on a budget mostly achieved my next goal is to make gardening nearly effortless. More updates to come soon.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Picture Post Update

Random Asparagus coming up. I didn't plant these. You can see the potato tower behind them.

Between an event I have coming up (Territory Days in Old Colorado City), gardening, watching my son, and just the general stream of house guests during warmer months I haven't found much time to blog. Just pictures today with a few captions. Everything is growing well, even things I didn't plant myself. 

Peas starting to sprout

Sweet Basil

The Flowers I thought would die. Dog waters them more than I do...

Radishes. 4 types started this year.

Red Bell Pepper Sprout

Grandma's Rhubarb - Growing despite being trampled, buried, and never watered.

Rosemary coming in nicely. Adds great flavor to my meals.

Supersteak Tomato after being transplanted

Tokyo Long White Onions finally peaking out.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

GoPro Garden

I recently got my hands on a GoPro Camera and have been playing with all the features. My hubby set it up to watch our progress on the garden this weekend. All my raking, fertilizing, watering, and digging was fun to see.

Short post today. Just felt like sharing.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Waiting for Tomatoes

There are only a few weeks left to prepare for Summer. Days are getting longer and warmer. I keep longing for the warmth of the sun on my shoulders and the beginnings of a farmers tan. My garlic is growing and multiplying. The rosemary is sprouting new branches. My seeds are showing no signs of life but I am not bothered. They are old and I pretty much expected this. I will try again.

I turned the compost again before I left for a weekend of family and snowboarding. The smell of fresh earth and the dark soil makes me smile. My efforts are working - I will soon be rewarded for all my heavy shoveling.

My kitchen window is full of cleaned out and cut up food containers ready to grow the best veges I can. It looks pretty trashy so I keep the blinds shut most of the time to hide the mess from my view. I keep reminding myself these will be the beginnings of my plants so I'm not tempted to throw it all out after meticulously saving and cleaning them.

And what thought plagues my mind most of the time? God I can't wait for Tomatoes!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Kitchen Window

Rosemary cuttings being rooted in simple recycled planter.

January 31st - Rooted Rosemary
     I had a bunch leftover in a pack I bought from the store so I dipped it in rooting hormone and stuck it in a recycled planter I made myself.

Garlic Cloves Sprouting in a Self Watering Planter.

 February 9th - Planted Garlic
     Some of my garlic cloves started sprouting. Instead of throwing them out I buried them 3/4 in soil. They are also in a recycled bottle planter.

February 13th - Started Stevia
     Stevia is a plant with sweet leaves. My seeds are really old (2001) but I thought I would give them a chance. They are in recycled Bowl of Noodles containers that I poked holes in the bottom of with a toothpick. I covered the top of the planters lightly with kitchen plastic wrap to keep moisture in but not tight enough to restrict air flow.

February 15th - Started Basil
     I had the hankering to plant something. I decided on Sweet Basil since pesto is so amazing.

Left to Right: Rosemary Garlic and Basil in the back, Stevia in front

Check back soon for a picture tutorial on how I made my self watering planters. If your bored check out the new post on the Tiny Tipis Blog.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Turning Soil - Day 1

 Composting: My Winter Workout

It can really hurt when a shovel breaks!
  I decided to completely turn my compost yesterday. It was a lovely 56 degrees out and I knew it needed to be done. I've gotten away with minimal work on it this winter but with Spring quickly approaching I wanted to make sure it was on track for starting my grass. I also knew I was overdue for some photos.

Above is the shovel I have been using since I moved into this house. It is old, heavily used, and has many memories. Since I've been lazy and only shifted my pile this winter (instead of fully turning) it was sort of packed down and heavy. This meant I got to use the pitch fork to loosen and the shovel to lever out the contents. In the process of using the shovel as a lever it snapped. My suggestion: don't put all your weight on an old shovel handle. My ribs took the punch like a champ but I still won't be doing that again soon.

Below is what I call Compost Corner. It's the spot I sunk my old plywood box (that would have otherwise been tossed out) into the ground. It is far enough away from my house that it won't offend my nose even if it gets kinda funky. So far so good - no crazy smells even close up. The box did have 4 sides but I got tired of trying to dig out the contents that were down deep. I went ninja on it. Now it has 3 sides and a detached lid!

I call this "compost corner" - as if my yard is big enough I could map locations on it.
You can see the pile I dug out in the upper left corner of the picture. Up close the darker color (and lovely earth smell) are more obvious as well as the large chunks of hard dirt from my yard. The white in the pile is all my shredded junk mail.

I learned a lot in the process of doing this.
    - My pile needs to be watered more often. It was just a bit dry to work at optimum levels.
    - I need less brown waste (the tan weeds you see piled in the lower left corner of the pic) and more kitchen scraps. The areas where kitchen scraps had been buried were better composted and had a richer looking soil leftover than areas where the weeds were. Also the weeds are taking way longer to break down than anything else. Part of me thinks I should call them weed trees since they were over 6 foot tall when we moved in.
    - I need to make myself flip this pile more often. The parts near the top that get shifted more frequently are already a useable dark compost. The bottom of the pile didn't get enough air circulation and almost nothing broke down at all.
    - I need to mulch the giant weed trees before I put them in. The smaller branches were decomposed but the thumb width and thicker trunks were hardly touched.

I largely consider my first attempt at true outdoor - in the winter - composting to be a success. Sure, I'll do even better from now on but at least I didn't fail!

More updates to come later. In the meantime if your bored hop on over to my other blog and see what it's all about!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

OCD Garden Planning

I pulled out a massive pile of seed envelopes today. They all came from Grandpa. Even at 80 he kept a garden. I'm spending the better part of this week planning my garden now. No more tossing seeds at some random dirt for this girl!

This year I have several goals for my garden:
  - Use more space since I have it.
  - Spend as little money as possible.
  - Over plan so I know exactly what to do each week.
  - Grow enough to serve several meals from my produce.
  - Teach my son about gardening.

My first goal will be the easiest to accomplish. I have nearly half an acre which is considered a lot in the city. Even though I am planning a large garden I should have a bunch of extra space.

The second goal will be accomplished by not buying seeds, soil, or pots. Since I have "inherited" seeds their quality is unknown but the price is right. I will be using my own compost to mix with soil I have on hand and recycling plastic containers again for seed starting pots. The only price I anticipate at this time is water.

My OCD planning is in progress. Once I finish the calendar I will upload it along with my scribbles and notes. Don't expect my notes to be organized - they aren't. The calendar will be color coded and take into account room for sudden changes in my busy schedule. It will cover Frost Dates, Planting Days, Transplanting, and Harvesting Times along with big picture events I have to work around.

Last year I was able to eat chives and garlic greens for all my effort. I blame factors such as lack of light, almost zero planning, and horrible care as I was in the middle of moving. This year I have a greenhouse on my side and a large unshaded yard. I'm also not planning on moving so I should face fewer problems in general.

I want my son to learn about the life cycle at an early age. He will be two and a half this summer - the perfect age to play in the dirt with mom. I will take this as a chance to educate him on growing, tending to, harvesting, cooking and eating, as well as composting the waste back into useable material.

What I am growing, you ask? A lot. Here is the outdoor list:
    ~ Tomatoes: 4 Types
    ~ Lettuce: 5 Types
    ~ Spinach: 2 Types
    ~ Radishes: 3 Types
    ~ Squash: 2 Types
    ~ Onions: 2-3 Types
    ~ Carrots
    ~ Corn
    ~ Cucumbers
    ~ Swiss Chard
    ~ Sweet Peas
    ~ Watermelons
    ~ Cantaloupe
    ~ Grapes from Concord Seeds
    ~ Loofah Gourds
As for inside:
    ~ Rosemary (already rooting extra from a "live herb" container bought at the grocery store)
    ~ Stevia
    ~ Marjoram
    ~ Savory
    ~ Thyme
    ~ Sweet Basil
    ~ Chamomile
    ~ Cilantro
    ~ Licorice

More details to come soon. I feel much more prepared this year. :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Cold Dead of Winter

It is the coldest part of the year in Colorado. Today I woke up to see 2" of snow on my porch. The fluffy white continues to fall as I contemplate projects for this summer. Composting, of course, is one of the items most prevalent in my thoughts.

I tended my outdoor compost yesterday. It was around 65 degrees in the middle of the day and knowing that a storm was fixing to blow in made me want to check on it. The plywood compost box is doing well. I noted the fresh soil smell as I turned it despite having small bits of food waste still in it. Even with below freezing temperatures occurring on and off for the past 2 months my efforts are being rewarded. I worried a bit when I was setting up the pile that it wouldn't hold enough heat to continue to compost after winter set in - I'm too lazy to try to cover it with a tarp to hold in heat. It has held up though and with VERY little attention.

Since the cold weather I have only been forcing myself to turn and add to the compost pile maybe twice a month. It has fallen into a nice routine when I do add to it though. I carry out my containers of green waste and dig out one of the four corners in the box to a depth of maybe 12 inches below the rest of the contents. I pour my composting matter into the hole and spread it around with the shovel. On top of that I add my most recent collection of shredded junk mail. I add a few inches of dirt (not soil - this is the crappy clay filled stuff that plagues my backyard) on top of the shredded paper until I think there is enough to keep the paper from blowing away. My last step is to half-way dig out the corner where I will put my next batch of compost by shifting everything counter-clockwise. I add to it in a clockwise fashion just sort of pushing everything out of the way. This makes my compost box have a perpetual slope to it.

I am worried about how it will work this summer though. Even in the cold dead of winter the plywood box keeps up with my family's vegetable waste production. This summer as it heats up I may have to start bumming compost from the neighbors (oh darn!) to keep up with it. My husband and I discussed adding a second box this summer too. That way we will have a box that is "in use" (being used to fertilize the grass we plan to start) and a box that is "in production" (being added to).

We plan to use our outdoor compost for the yard while my worm box will supply even richer fertilizer for our garden. The reason for this is that our outdoor compost MAY have traces of old chemicals in it from the weeds that got sprayed when we moved in. My worm box on the other hand has been kept pure and clean (if you can call worm poo clean) so I don't have to worry about chemicals getting into the food we grow.

Other projects I have been pondering include a private outdoor shower area, a root cellar, and automating my greenhouse with an arduino based setup. I blame Pinterest for most of these obsessions.

Things I noticed I really like in a luxury shower: outdoors, river rock drainage under the tub, a waterfall type shower head, plants that get watered as you bathe, simple colors, grey water collection abilities... it almost makes me weak in the knees! You can see some of the pictures I'm using as inspiration on my Pinterest board. It's still a dream in progress.

As for the automated greenhouse I've been reading up on nerd blogs for the best tips to do it with an Arduino board. I want it to measure temperature and humidity as well as being able to open/close windows to maintain the environment. Yes, it will take some hardware knowledge and a bit of programming... that's why I married a nerd! Really though, I imagine I can do it myself with minimal troubleshooting from the hubby. Programming, I learned the other day, is a lot simpler than people make it sound in most cases. For all you computer geeks that read this: my first program was nested If Then statements to light LEDs corresponding to distance read-outs from an ultrasonic sensor. Not bad for a newb!

Ok, end random rant.