May 2 = Rare Frost Advisory Warning

Really??? May 2nd in zone 7a?? Seriously?? As goes the weather in Oklahoma, I got a massive sunburn on Saturday assembling a new swing set for our girls, made a trip to the hardware store Saturday evening to purchase supplies for a new project around the new swings and gardens – and of course Sunday we get roughly a 1/2″ of much-needed rain. I wasn’t complaining about the rain because heave knows we need it! The projects can wait for later in the week as we go from a freeze warning tonight to a balmy 90 degrees by the end of the week. It’s no wonder my kiddos are sick! Ha!

Well, tonight’s project, cover up the eggplant, corn and green beans!! Who would’ve thought!

Happy Gardening!

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A planting weekend

One thing as I am getting into the world of gardening is that I find myself LOVING looking through heirloom garden seed sites. I have found one where I’ve ordered the bulk of my seed this year – rareseeds.com – I like them because all of my orders seem to show up nearly overnight! I know that’s partly due to the fact that they’re only a state away in Missouri but it does lend itself for me to order more because they’re relatively close. I’ve found several others that I’ve added to my ‘favorites’ list on my computer.

This week I ordered a couple of packets of okra seeds. I have searched high and low around town for okra seeds and come up empty-handed. I had found transplants, but those that I planted a few weeks ago just didn’t survive a few nights we had last week that dipped down into the mid/high thirties. I say that and I did spot two tiny stems remaining, but I’m not going to hold out hope.

I’ve checked the forecast for the weekend and while today is a blustery 100mph winds (not really but it certainly feels that way), tomorrow looks great with even a 50% chance of rain on Sunday!!! That means in a perfect world, I can get out tomorrow, get all my seeds planted and let mother nature give my garden a really, really good, FREE drink! (Crossing my fingers)

On my agenda, planting my cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe and some more squash. Now that my corn has sprouted and is 1-2″
 tall, I’ll go back in between the seedlings and plant my squash and cukes so that I can maximize my growing space and let the corn stalks serve as the trellis. I’ve never seen or personally tried this method but I am quite curious as to see how it works out! If you’ve tried it – I’d love to hear what you say about this ‘living’ trellis method. Last night as I was meandering through the yard, I also noticed I had some blank space near my dog pen that I may try using as a trellis next to my summer canas!

On my lunch break, I also purchased a couple of red wood trellis’ that I’ll add to my raised bed specifically for my peas. Those little guys are now a good 6-8″ tall so their climbing days are quickly approaching! I chose a trellis that had foot long stakes that would go deep into the ground. Out where I live the wind you get in town seems to be magnified by 100 out in the country. I certainly don’t want these to take flight like my recently purchased compost bin did a few weeks ago. Not sure where it ended up, but I’d like to think some field of cattle nearby will be putting it to great use!

Happy Gardening!!

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Thorn in my side

As we were building our new house last fall, we knew that there were a few cactus on the property. One evening while still in the framing stage, my husband went out and sprayed them all with Round Up thinking that Round Up will kill anything, right? We were either wrong or these cactus are related somehow to me and are seriously hard-headed! They came back!!!

We finally got a few drops of rain this week and you would’ve thought we’d gone out and planted little baby cactus EVERYWHERE! We have two little girls that find themselves outside every chance they get, so we have to keep a wary, watchful eye on these thorny suckers. Last night, my husband, father-in-law and myself spent the better part of two hours spraying, chopping and pulling these things from both our property and the soon-to-be property of my in-laws. (their property is MUCH worse).

I had read on Google that simply chopping these things up would  not work as they would re-root if there were enough moisture in the little ‘pods’ for lack of a more scientific word. That must have been the case because I know two months ago I did some chopping down to the root but left them and now they’re BACK!

We had a very calm night last night and on the other property, the guys sprayed 2-D-40 in hopes that would work. Since our girls have a tendency to forget their shoes when they go outside, we took the approach of digging and discarding these things to the compost pile. I was amazed at how many we found as we were on cactus patrol around the house!!

I’ve done some more on-line research and read that Boric Acid would kill these things. Along with setting them on fire (which isn’t an option while your county is in a burn ban). Does anyone else have any other options to keep the ground around our house free from cactus?? I’m getting desperate. This morning I was still pulling out tiny, miniscule thorns from the tops of my fingers where they’d gone through my garden gloves. I may have to invest in a new pair of gloves now!!

I’m anxious to hear any suggestions!!

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Blessed moisture

 After an all too long drought, over the weekend we FINALLY received rain!! While we still need much more, I am fully prepared to deal with the dark, dreary, damp conditions as long as it gives our earth a good drink. (I can do without the hail and tornadoes however).

potatoes are flourishing!

After returning from an Easter visit to my parents where I ooed and awed over my mother’s garden and some of her innovative tomato growing techniques, I came home to admire the growth in my own garden. I will give credit to my husband who as we were opening up the blinds and curtains in the house looked in the backyard and yelled across the house ‘have you seen your garden lately, its HUGE!’. That of course was an open-ended invitation to drop everything I was doing at the very moment and run out to the back of the lot.

Our potatoes have small flowers that look as if they will bud out just any day now. My eggplant is thriving and the winds have not seemed to take their toll as of yet. The peas are now as tall as my hand is long. Green beans that I re-sowed a few weeks ago have made their shiny debut. Zucchini has made its own appearance in the garden and the corn as well.

My oldest daughter was so excited to go out with me and discover the broccoli with its heads that are larger (or nearly as large depending on which plant) than the palm of my hand. Even the carrots seemed to have enjoyed the cooler damp weather. Now our okra however, doesn’t seem to be as happy. I think our crazy winds last week had something to do with that.

Small snippets of corn have made their way up!

I even have hope now with the corn coming up that the new garden bed will flourish if given the right amount of TLC over the next few months. I will continue to add some compost and natural fertilizer to help improve the soil as soon as the weather stabilizes a bit more.

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65mph of hell and prayerful blessings

I love the saying ‘you never really know until it happens to you’. I think I’ve heard poor folks on tv with all of their belongings torched or shredded by mother nature in the background, but this morning, I wake up with a new appreciation for that phrase and for the people I’ve heard speak them.

Yesterday, a sweet friend sent me a text message at work wondering where a particular county road was in relation to our new country home. I replied “1 mile west, why”…I waited for her next message which was “big fire”. I promptly got up from my desk at work and moved to the front window and looked west. All I could see was large billows of white plume smoke. My heart skipped a beat as I ran to my office to grab my purse and keys. Once in my car I desperately tried to call my husband whom I was sure was oblivious to the urgency near our house. He didn’t answer. I panicked more. I called my next door neighbor who is usually home on Friday afternoons. She answered but was unaware. That was of little ease to me. My friend texted me again a ‘tweet’ which she had received of road closings…I could’t go home my normal way, I’d have to trek down back roads. Another friend called, I could hear the panic in her voice – she lives just a few miles south of me but the fire was near her son’s school. I told her I was nearly to the house but smoke was thick and cattle had busted through their fences and were everywhere. We promised to keep each other posted. I rushed home, fought fierce winds to make a semblance of an effort to put out garden sprinklers around the house. Who cares that our rural water is the most expensive in the area – I could not, WOULD NOT move a third time in as many years. My cell phone was going crazy with calls and text messages. Some I chose to ignore, others, like when your mother calls, you answer – assure her you’re okay but need to go. You know that will never work – she calls back every few minutes.

My neighbor came home and helped to keep me calm. I couldn’t let him see how freaked out I was. My father in law showed up to help me as we watched hell unfurl in front of our eyes. We all prayed. I went inside the house to pray again. My husband hearing my phone calls from me and his mother decided to leave school early and came home. I was so thankful to see his pick up coming down the road. The guys decided to lay the swing set that was teetering on blowing away down. I rescued what I could from my garden (peat pots, decorations, etc. I was grateful my children weren’t home and were safe at that particular second. We got repeated updates on tv and by phone from friends on the fire’s movement. Then we lost power. I panicked again internally. Called my mother once again to tell her first hand updates and she shared with me what the news was reporting. We prayed for the wind to die down or at the very least not shift. If it shifted, all would certainly be lost.

My husband, trying not to let me know he was also panicked, came inside and suggested we pack a few things just in case. I was so impressed with him – he didn’t grab the big screen tvs or computers, not the video games or his golf clubs, but rather I turned to look and he had a bag of all of our wedding pictures and pictures of our children “get all the pictures” was his immediate but calm order. I did so diligently and then started searching for any other ‘irreplaceables’ you hear about people losing on tv. I had a big pile of stuff that could quickly fit into both cars when the time came. If it came. Our old neighborhood where we had just moved from 4 months ago was being forced to evacuate. I was thankful once again. We prayed for friends.

I received news by phone my daughters bus would not be running. I called the school and made the mad dash to get her and return home. I tried to explain what was going on so she too wouldn’t panic. She came home and I urged her to get a few things in case we had to spend the night at Neenee’s house. My seven-year old shocked me – seeing the bag of pictures her dad had packed, ran into her room and grabbed all of her own valuable pictures. Then gave me  a rundown on her own ‘can’t live withouts’. She didn’t grab her shoe collection or barbies – but rather a babydoll given to her on her first birthday, a doll my mother had given to her for Christmas and a teddybear she had made for her babysister before she was born. I held back my tears and urged her to grab a few sets of clothes.  She packed for herself and her sister. I love that girl!

By now I knew we couldn’t get back into town where my youngest was. I called family in town to go get her. At least I could breathe a little easier knowing where all my babies were and that they were safe. I packed my car – we were in the evacuation area now. We waited and prayed some more.

A few hours later, we were driving several miles out-of-the-way to pick up our 20 month old. We passed by neighbors whose home had been saved by both the grace of God and firemen. One of my dearest friends is a firemen. I thought of him on this day and prayed for his safety. The fires had spread to his jurisdiction. I have a new-found appreciation for the men and women who do this type of job – especially those who simply volunteer. At the end of the evening, we returned home. We had a home. We even had a yard. Our neighbors had also survived, not as successfully, barns and out structures were gone, but they and their homes were safe.

I prayed again before I went to bed to keep the fires at bay as we slept. Instead of getting up early this morning and working on my garden like I had planned all week, I have gone out to clean up. I’ve refitted my tepee’s I installed a few weeks ago. I pulled up a few plants that all that was left were the roots. I’m still searching for my compost bin. I have spent the better part of the morning putting pictures back up and unpacking bags and dusting the house. And I am grateful, thankful and blessed. The fire even relocated a few butterflies this morning. A welcomed site after a fearful day.

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New Beginnings

I’ve been wanting and had on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time to plow up a small section of our concrete yard for the larger more traditional style veggie garden. Last evening, despite 50mph winds and no rain, I had finished cooking dinner, kids were fed, homework was done, dishes were at least in the sink…and I sauntered outside to grab my hubbys new roto-tiller toy. I diligently plowed to and fro covered in a cloud of dust but I managed to till myself a 13×23 garden.

The Before of the new garden

Since the ground hasn’t been worked in many decades, I added water the last few days. Although you’d never know it by the dust storm I created while tilling. Otimally when you start a new garden, you want the soil tilled nicely about 6-8″, but since we’ve had zeor moisture in the last few months other than what I’ve added, I couldn’t ask for much beyond the 6″. After adding some soil amendments I will try and get the soil tilled down to about 8-10″ deep and work in more organic matter. I will also work in some 10-10-10 fertilizer seeing as how both the corn and okra can be some heavy feeders.

Newly plowed garden...needs lots of water and TLC!

The new garden is at least formed. I purchased several bags of compost with manure added to it that I will till in during the next day or so. I will also give it lots of H20 attention as well.

I love going out to the garden in the mornings while the sun is still coming up

This morning while I had a few extra minutes, I took the time to sketch out the garden plans. On the far east side (top of the picture) will be four, 13′ rows to sweet corn. I will also plant cucumbers and summer squash next to them and the corn stalks will serve as a trellis for them. I am hoping this form of vertical gardening will be a success. I will have four east-west running rows of okra, then the front portion will be primarily for cantaloupe, watermelon and zucchini. I have opted to plant my newly purchased eggplant transplants in the raised beds where the radishes had been and run the tomatoes in the on-ground bed I made a few weeks ago.

Posted in Companion Gardening, General Gardening, Soil Amendments, Starting a New Garden Bed, Vertical Gardening | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

2nd Harvet Surprise

Yesterday evening after my 7-year-old was home from school, I took her out to the garden to help pick radishes. I wanted her to have the opportunity to see the efforts of her labor from start to finish. We picked every remaining little radish and brought them in the house to gently scrub them clean. Kal had already prepared herself a salad, yes my 7-year-old LOVES salads and most things veggie, and she (with my help) carefully sliced radishes into thin little slices.

Now mind you – my daughter and I differ greatly on one very major level – she did NOT learn her veggie eating habits from me. I’m a horrible vegetable eater and at least have taught her better. In a celebrated effort to eat radishes with her (she’s made just enough salad for herself) I popped a big ‘ole chunk of radish in my mouth. Expecting a mild, earthy flavor my tounge was in for a giant surprise when this crazy spicy peppery taste exploded in my mouth. Now I might add here that spicy food has never agreed with my stomach so something beyond a few sparsely placed sprinkles of pepper here and there – that’s all my poor little mouth has ever encountered. I tried to mask my surprise so Kal would WANT to eat the salad covered in radishes that she’d just made…but WOW. They were good, but NOT expecting the peppery flavor. Later that evening when my darling husband came home, I of course got the ‘you didn’t know they were spicy? I could have told you that.” remark. Yes, not so helpful AFTER I had eaten it.

But never fear – I think I will try them again, in smaller chunks and perhaps a bit of salad dressing. Kallie said that her Italian dressing seemed to dial down the spicy – but then again, I’m taking the word of a 7 year old ha ha ha!!! We can’t wait for our next harvest round to begin!!!

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Harvest Day…early

Well, let this be my very first lesson – that like human babies, garden babies have a mind and time frame all on their own. Sunday I was thinking I would need to wait until later in the week to harvest my first radishes, and then BAM! went out before work to find I had an entire bowl full ready to be plucked from the ground.

I dusted a little dirt carefully away from their tops (for those that I could see the little red bulb and whose leaves had started to turn a bit purple) and grabbed the entire leaf stalk and gentle wiggled them from their cozy beds. I still have several that aren’t quite there yet, but at least for tonight – we’ll have some fresh garden salads. I’ll pick a little lettuce and spinach tonight before dinner to really round out our meal.

Our first radish harvest!! A great first time gardener ego boost!!!

One thing I noticed – there were a few that suffered from over crowding (thus the not so round feature). While I’ve been doing a diligent job of thinning, there were still a few that were simply missed. I’ve already made my documentation in my garden journal regarding planting my next batch so this can be avoided.

If I work quickly enough in the next few nights, I just might be able to get in one last planting of radishes. According to Oklahoma State Univeristy’s Co-Op Extension Service, April 15 should be the very latest that they’re planted…we’ll try for one last experiment and better spacing. I have an empty 2×2 space where I could plant them!! So excited to try one more round.

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Time & Babies

Sometimes you have to just take a moment and enjoy life when you realize it’s flying by right in front of your eyes. I took my daughters to visit their great-grandmother this past Saturday. I treasure the memories as a child I have of all of my great grandparents and how lucky I am to have those memories!

My girls with their Great Grandmother, Nana!

It wasn’t until I saw these pictures that i realized how much my own babies are growing! We enjoyed our weekend with family and came home Sunday to admire how time had been flying in our garden – my garden babies are growing like crazy too!

I was going to thin a few radishes being overtaken by potatoes, little too small still yet

I had to pull a few radishes to thin them out because the potatoes had gone on a weekend growth spurt. It was after I pulled a small baby radish with a tiny red bulb going that I discovered that all my other little radish babies are nearly ready to harvest.

But the growth spurt didn’t stop on the radishes…

Peas are growing and tendrils forming - need a trellis soon

My peas are growing well and have even started to form their little tendrils that will attach to a trellis. I’ll have to start figuring out what type of trellis I want by this weekend!

We have baby broccoli!

Our broccoli has starting forming its first little florets. All eight plants have the same type growth going on. Hopefully our 110 April weather will hold off for just a wee bit longer.

Potatoes are growing like crazy!

Just this past Thursday, a mere four days ago, there was only one good size potato plant – I came home from our weekend visit to see that every plant looked like it had been touched by Miracle Grow (which they haven’t) but still…I’ve never seen this type of plant growth but it does excite me!

I planted a second generation of bush beans yesterday and even started some squash on the ground in my new garden bed. I can’t wait to see how those all turn out too!

I’ll hold off harvesting my radish babies until later this week – most just needed a few more days. Then once that harvest is over, I’ll plant me some sort of Vining zukes/cukes or squash that will summer in that same location! I’ll get my vertical growing started this next weekend if the weather’s nice! Still praying for rain!

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Houston…We have a problem

When the wind comes sweeping down the plains in our area – it comes in the form of 50mph GUSTS…not the gentle breeze you’d hope for. Over the weekend, our lovely wind successfully managed to topple over the big swing set (snapping the chains on the swings), ripping our newspaper box – BOLTS AND ALL – and I’m sure someone in Texas is reading our paper today – or at least parts of it! So what can you do around the yard in weather like this??? Well, pick one day and completely overhaul your garage from top to bottom with a good spring cleaning and get organized!!! Did that! Yay!

Secondly, do some soil testing if you’re planning on starting a new garden bed. While the weather was still ‘calm enough ‘ (aka 20mph wind) my hubby and I were admiring the growth of the raised garden beds and he put in his ‘order’ for summer fruits and veggies. Of course his list didn’t quite match up with mine so adjustments are in the works. He wanted some sweet corn (which I personally think would grow better in a traditional, larger garden; he asked for lots of cantaloupe and watermelons – both of which will require more room than what I had alloted in the raised beds. So, he mapped out about a 200 sf area for a new garden. The bed of course is made of pure concrete like dirt.

The proposed new area for the traditional garden. Watering has already started just to soften the ground enough to till it!

I took the roto-tiller to the first section – which will serve as where I plant things like our additional cucumbers and maybe a few melons. Since we’ve had next to zero precipitation in going on 5 months – I tilled up lots of dust – which you don’t really want to do, but I wanted to get a good feel for what I was going to be working with. I sprayed the area pretty well with the hose first so that we didn’t knock up too much dirt, but that stuff is DRY, DRY, DRY!

While you can get yourself a good sample of your dirt and take it to your local county extension office and get a detailed health report of your soil – I know mine is bad. I went to a local store and purchased a couple of soil test kits for under $4 that will give me a ‘summary’ type report.

You know you have terrible soil when the color strips don’t even come CLOSE to registering on the scale…so that means lots and lots of work for Wendy in the next few weeks. amending and fixing your soil will take a lot of time and immediate results are not forthcoming; but the best thing you can start adding – compost, compost, compost! Then depending on the pH level – gypsum or lime, look at the nutrient content of your soil – mine scored next to nothing. Had it been in my husband’s history class – it would have flunked miserably.

No matter what your soil nutrient content, you’ll want to add amendments whether organic or chemical according to the package directions. Also – don’t try to do ANY of the amending in 50mph wind. Use this as the time to figure out what you need and how much of it you need – then wait a few minutes if you’re in good ‘ole Oklahoma – then start your project!

Posted in Soil Amendments, Starting a New Garden Bed | 2 Comments