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Springtime Garden Happenings

June 11, 2010

May was not the best month for gardening here in Northern Nevada.   Frequent storms and foul weather kept me out of the garden most of the month, and I spent most of the time just hoping everything would survive the snow and cold.   Things are finally starting to get warmer here in June though, and the garden has suddenly pepped up.  As have I!  Here’s a look at what’s going on in the garden.

Garden
Front Yard Garden

FRONT YARD GARDEN

Most of my time has been spent in the Front Yard Garden. It gets a lot more full sun this time of year compared to the back yard, and is ideal for most of the stuff I have been planting. It’s been a lot of work though, separating and moving rock, and loosening up the compacted lifeless dirt. Lots of compost and soil amendment were added to make the soil something a vegetable would flourish in. Weeds don’t seem to mind compacted dirt, but healthy vegetables needs lots of well draining, nutrient rich soil.

So far I have two 3′ x 20′ beds and one 4′ x 13′ planted.  The final 4′ bed was prepped last night, and will be planted with potatoes this weekend.  The first bed in the photo above is planted with beets, radishes, peas, beans, spinach, and sun flowers.  The second bed has green and yellow squash, and one mound of cucumbers.  The third bed is full of tomato and pepper starters from the Greenhouse Garden center.  I also threw some cilantro seeds into an open space to see how they do out in the full sun.  I still have a final mound of rock to sift and move in the northwest corner of the garden, but it’s such a relief to have made it this far!

Many people ask me if I’m afraid to plant a garden out front.  It does make me a little nervous, but so far it has been ok.  Many people want to stop and talk about the garden, and I even overheard some teens walking by remarking that the garden was cool!  So far the biggest threat to the front yard garden has been the neighbor kid’s soccer ball. Hopefully the garden will be good advertising and encourage others to start their own.

Garden Journal
Garden Journal

GARDEN JOURNAL

I’ve read of other gardeners keeping a journal, so I thought I’d give it a try this year. Every time I do something significant in the garden, I just make a quick entry with the date and what I did. Time goes by so quickly, and I tend to forget what I did when. So far the journal has been pretty helpful. When I’m waiting for new seedlings to emerge, I can look back in the journal to see when I planted and check if I’m on track or if something may be wrong. If I have some great successes or failures, the methods will be documented.

Radishes
Radishes

EARLY HARVEST

Work in the garden has already begun to pay off. We’ve already been eating radishes and Swiss chard, and I’ve been throwing the thinnings from the spinach and lettuce into the salad bowl too. As I pick the radishes, I’ve been putting new seeds in to replace what I’ve taken. It looks like I’ll have some peas to eat soon too, although I’ve had to replant most of them. They didn’t seem to survive the snow storms too well.

Peas
Peas

BACKYARD GARDEN

The backyard raised beds receive partial sun, and have been good for planting lettuce and Swiss Chard. Strange things are happening with the chard this year. Two of the three plants that survived the winter are doing great, but one plant seems to be withering and dying. I plan to pull it out this weekend in case it’s diseased. Thankfully the new chard I planted is starting to come in, and I will have replacements for the dying plant.

Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard

I also have a big bush of parsley in one of the beds. When I got the seeds, I remember the lady saying, “You don’t need a lot of parsley…”. And now I know why. From just a few seeds, we have way more than we can eat!

Spring Snow

April 24, 2010

Spring Garden
Spring Snow

I recently read that the average last frost date for northern Nevada is May 15th. We got a decent snow storm on April 22nd to remind us of this fact. Remember to plant only frost tolerant plants this time of year, or be prepared to closely monitor the weather and cover your plants.

Planting Lettuce

April 19, 2010

Spring is a great time to plant your lettuce, as it is frost tolerant and enjoys the cooler weather. The most difficult part of growing lettuce is sewing the seeds. Lettuce seeds are tiny and must be planted only an 1/8″ deep. I picked up a great tip from Steve Solomon’s book, Gardening When it Counts, that has made planting the tiny lettuce seeds easier.

Planting Lettuce
Making a furrow with a hoe handle

After turning in fresh compost and organic fertilizer into my garden bed, I raked it smooth. Next I took the handle of my hoe and slightly pressed it into the soil to make a uniform, shallow furrow. Gently pressing the soil down helps restore the capillary action directly beneath the seed bed too, helping to keep the seeds moist.

Planting Lettuce
Tape measure to assist with seed spacing

Next I laid down a tape measure to help me keep track of the seed spacing. I overseeded, one seed every 2″, and will thin as the plants become larger. In addition to keeping the seeds spaced correctly, the tape measure helps you keep track of where you left off. When you take your eyes off the furrow, it’s hard to see the little brown seeds in the dirt and figure out where you last dropped a seed if there is no reference point.

Planting Lettuce
Furrow covered with fine compost

I finished off by sprinkling a thin layer of fine compost over the furrow, and patted it down gently. The fine compost makes it easier for those little plants to break through the soil.

And now for the hardest part…waiting! What are your tips for planting small seeds?

Cheap Garden Stakes

April 13, 2010

As I’ve been doing yard maintenance and clearing old landscaping for new garden beds, I’ve accumulated a lot of tree limbs and branches. I was getting ready to throw them all away, when Kristy suggested I cut them up and use them in the garden. This was a great idea! Especially when they take up so much room in the trash. This also saves a trip to the hardware store, and the expense of buying a bunch of plastic stakes. All the little things will nickel and dime you, and part of the reason we like to garden is to save some money, right?

Garden 2010
Recycled tree branches trimmed up into garden stakes

Using a pair of loppers for the bigger branches, and hand trimmers for the smaller branches, I trimmed down the branches into various size stakes. With just a few minutes of work, I had more stakes than I would have had if I had purchased them.

Garden 2010
You can make quick fences with Garden Stakes and Natural Fiber Twine

I got my first garden bed planted in the front yard last weekend. One of the biggest challenges of a front yard garden is to keep people from walking on it. Until the plants are established, the garden looks like just another pile of dirt to playing kids. I used my new stakes and some natural fiber twine to quickly make a little fence around my newly planted garden. It’s not strong and wouldn’t prevent vandalism by any means, but it does create a very visible border that even a running kid would notice and go around.

I’m still experimenting with ways to keep the night time meandering cats from passing through. I’ve had foot prints in the garden bed the last two days…

A Guide to Growing Your Own

April 13, 2010

Garden 2010I was over reading the Ramblings from Rabbitbrush Ranch blog, and came across a great resource for getting your garden started.  The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has a six part series on how to Grow Your Own:

Grow Your Own – Weekly Steps to a Great Vegetable Garden

  • Part 1: Getting Started
  • Part 2: Location, location, location
  • Part 3: Seed Secrets
  • Part 4: The Dirt on Dirt
  • Part 5: Starting From Seed
  • Part 6: Cool Season Crops

Looks like a great resource for getting your garden started!

Garden Sieve

April 11, 2010

The wintry weather is just about over here in Carson City, and it’s time to start getting the garden ready and planted for Spring! One of the projects I’m working on is the expansion of my front yard garden. When I moved into my house, the front yard was full of bushes and rock, landscaping that was meant to be laid down and forgotten. Under all that heavy cover though was nearly 400 square feet of prime gardening area.

Garden 2010
Garden Sieve

Last year I yanked out bushes and raked rock away from the center of the yard, and made a reasonably sized garden with 3 rows. It wasn’t pretty, but I was able to get a vegetable garden growing quickly. This year I’m finishing the job, and relocating the remainder of the rock.  When completed I’ll have four 20′ rows for growing veggies.

To get this job done easier, I built a garden sieve to separate all the dirt and rock. I have been surprised at how much time and effort it has saved me, and I’m rapidly acquiring new area to build my garden beds. Here’s a summary of how it was put together.

Materials:

  • Two 8′ long 1″x4″ boards
  • A 5′x2′ roll of 1/2″ Hardware Cloth (metal mesh)
  • Nails, U shaped nails, and wood screws

Each board was cut into two 36″ sections and one 24″ section.  The frame was built with two 24″ sections and two 36″ sections nailed together.  The hardware cloth was tacked to one side of the frame using the U shaped nails, and the excess was trimmed with wire cutters on one end.  The remaining two 36″ boards were screwed to one side of the frame to elevate it.  Using nails and screws I already had in the garage, the whole thing cost less than $15 to build, and has proved to be a very valuable garden tool.

Squash Bugs

August 4, 2009

I was recently watering my squash when I came across this ugly bug. I had a bad feeling about it, so I did a Google image search on Squash Bug. Sure enough, I have squash bugs!

Squash Bug - Acanthocephala terminalis
Adult Squash Bug – Acanthocephala terminalis

I don’t have too many plants, so I’ve just been killing the bugs I find rather than spraying. I thought I had it under control, but I recently found a hundred or so eggs and many nymphs on the underside of the leaves. My son and I scraped them all off into a jar and disposed of them.

Squash Bug eggs
Squash Bug eggs

We’ll see if this method keeps them under control. So far, the plants still seem very healthy. They have left the cantaloupe and pumpkin alone at this point. Does anyone have any suggestions for keeping these pests under control without harmful chemicals? Someone suggested spraying a little soapy water on the plants…

Squash Bug babies
Squash Bug nymphs

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