Saturday, June 29, 2013

Backyard Birds


Since I started to garden, I've become more interested in my backyard birds.  I've purchased several feeders to attract different varieties.  This platform feeder, filled with peanuts, was purchased to attract the blue jays.  I had it on the far side of my yard, but it was in the path that the squirrels took to get to the walnut trees, so I had to move it.  They traded the walnuts for the peanuts.  I decided to place it in the tree outside my bedroom window.  It ended up being the perfect place.  

Here's a few of my visitors.   The squirrels were the first to visit of course.  They will sit and eat until they're about to explode.  A peck on the window will send them away if they get too greedy.  The blue jays haven't found it yet.  In the second picture, they are feeding where I had the feeder originally.  A cardinal and his mate have found it as well.  What I find interesting is the male cardinal won't eat from the feeder, he waits for the female to get her fill and than they're off. 

I hope the blue jays find the feeder since I had them in mind when I purchased it.  They prefer platform feeders and they love peanuts.  I had two woodpeckers, but I couldn't get to the camera in time.  

I love this feeder.  The brand is Bird's Choice.  It's made of cedar, it's made well, and should last for years to come.  Do you feed the birds?  What backyard visitors do you get? 


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunflowers In The Vegetable Garden

My sunflowers are growing and growing.  I'm so excited since I had 0 germination last season.  I learned a few things during my endeavor this season:

  • They love lots of compost/manure.
  • They are heavy feeders.
  • They need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.
  • They grow well with Zinnia, Asters, bush beans, corn, cukes, squash, spinach and lettuce.
  • There's conflicting information on grouping them with tomatoes, which is exactly what I did.  I moved them with the squash and cukes after another gardener told me that they compete with tomatoes for nutrients.  Both are heavy feeders and shouldn't be planted together.  I wasn't sure if they would withstand the shock, but they survived.  To avoid the risk next season I'll plant them exactly where I want them.     
  • You can direct sow seeds through June starting two weeks after the last frost date. 

    Here's my babies weeks after I moved them.  The one with the beautiful face is Autumn Beauty, I believe.  I have no idea where I planted what, so I'll just have to wait for the others to show their pretty faces.  I may try directing sowing a few to see if my luck has changed this season.  What's happening in your garden? 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Selecting Tomatoe Cages

I purchased new tomato cages.  I increased the number of plants this season and needed new cages.  When I started my garden, I purchased my cages from Tractor Supply.  The price was reasonable and they were heavy.  Look at what I purchased for the same price three years later,  the light blue and lime green cages.   They were heavier than the regular tomato cages, but nowhere near the initial cages that I purchased.   

 Now that I have them in, I regret not waiting to see if Tractor Supply would get another shipment of the large green cages.   Most stores have sold their stock and don't plan to get additional shipments in, so I settled.  I was afraid that if I waited any longer, the only cages that would be left would be the small thin cages.  I didn't think they would hold the heirloom tomatoes once that started producing.  One thing that we must have as gardeners is patience!  I guess I wasn't carrying patience that day. 

I think they may work if I stake them the way I did last season (shown in the bottom pictures).  I tied the cages to t-posts last season and they held my bounty. Because the cages don't have the height of the larger cages, I'm going to put the t-post in the middle of the cages so the plant can continue to climb.  I think my heaviest tomatoes this season will be the Tiffen Mennonites.  I used one of the heavier cages for this plant.  I'm thinking they should all top out at 6-7 feet. 

I put in 14 tomato plants.  I didn't plant enough last season.  I was wishing I had more at the end of the season.  I don't want that to happen again.  I love eating home made salsa and chips during the winter months.  I also thought I'd plant enough to share.  I'm greedy when it comes to home grown tomatoes, I don't like to share.  Plus the local food banks have a shortage, I want to share a few with them.   

My tomato plants this season:

3 Cherokee Purple
2 Black Krim
2 Rutgers
1 Hillbilly
2 German Johnson
1 Red Beefsteak
1 Sweet 100
1 Black Cherry
1 Boxcar Willie

I was unsuccessful germinating Cherokee Purple seeds last year, but had success with Paul Robeson.  This season, I was unsuccessful with the Paul Robeson.  Oh, the life of a striving gardener.  What tomatoes did you plant?  I'm hoping to do a seed swap this fall.  If you see anything on my list that you would like to try, please leave me a comment.  I'll be saving seed from the heirloom tomatoes.  Hoping that you will do the same. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Germinating Dill

I love dill.  I use it in dips and my pickles and use it as a companion plant for my cukes.  I decided to germinate a few seeds inside and a few using the winter sowing method.  The dill in the top photo was germinated inside and the bottom outside.  Quite a difference wouldn't you say.  I was expecting the seeds sown under grow lights to be leggy.  As you can see the end result was the opposite.  I'll see how they perform in the garden. 

This is Mammoth, which is an heirloom variety.  One of my plants reseeded last season.  We'll see if I have another this season.  I used this variety in my pickles last year and dried some for my dip.  It performs wells and tastes great.  I'm hoping the winter sown dill will survive and become stronger.  I checked the garden this evening, and both plants seem to be doing well. 

Do you grow or use dill?  What variety do you grow?  I'm hoping to add more herbs to my garden next season.  I do plant basil as a companion to my tomatoes.  I planted Spicy Globe and Genovese this year.  What herbs do you have growing?  Do you companion plant?


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Building A TeePee Trellis for Kids


Last year I used a teepee for my pole beans and it worked well, but I decided to modify it to maximize my harvest.  I added several bars to the teepee so I could plant beans completely around the tee pee.  I left one side open so my grandchildren can have a seat inside while Mawmaw is gardening.   I have an adorable miniature chair that I can place inside the teepee for them to rest. 

It was quite simple and inexpensive to make.  I used the bamboo poles from last season and cuttings from my bamboo squash trellis from last year as well.  I found some string that I had laying around to tie the pieces to the teepee.  Lowes and Home Depot sell bamboo poles that won't break the bank if you can't found a resource locally.  My brother has a yard full of bamboo, so I lucked out.  The poles should be 7 - 8 feet tall and you need at least 4.  More can be used depending on how large and wide you want the teepee.   I used 4 7 foot poles and 5 bars across.  Be sure to secure the poles at the top tightly and get them deep into the ground before you tie on the horizontal poles. 

 I used Blue Lake pole beans, which I planted a week ago.  They have germinated already!  I was quite surprised when I went down to the garden this week-end and these sprouts were waiting for me.  Hopefully, they will continue to rise.  I did plant a few rows of Jade bush beans, which were recommended by a fellow gardener.  Can't wait to try them.  They have sprouted as well.  I need to take a picture a of them.  I used them a companion to my tomatoes and cukes.  Do you plant pole beans or are you a bush bean gardener.  What's your favorite green bean?