Grit Blogs > Growing Possibilities

Garden and Chicken Update: A Busy Couple of Months

By Paul Gardener

Tags: Paul Gardener, Chickens, Greenhouse, Garden, Solar,

A photo of Paul GardenerDespite a back that makes me feel like I'm 20 years older than I am, having had two May birthdays in our home plus mothers day, weather that just will not cooperate, a last minute visit from my parents on the one decent weekend we had and a firm deadline at work that kept me working weekends three weeks in a row,  we've managed to get quite a bit done in the last month (little over actually) that it's been since I last added my two cents around here. Shall we catch up?

In early April, we decided it was time to start the process of beginning a new flock of chickens for the backyard. They were indoors in one of my "Chicken Condo's" as I like to call them and reminded us all how darn cute the little guys really can be.

Chicks in cardboard brooder

We decided on a few new varieties this time around. In addition to the prolific white egg layer breeds that we already have experience with, the White and Brown Leghorns, we also decided to try out a couple of Buff Orpingtons and some Rhode Island Reds. Both are brown egg layers and are supposed to be a little less flighty. So far it seems to hold true.

Gangly teenage chickens -- Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds

Just like all teenagers, they have to go through that gangly, "don't look at me, I'm having a bad feather day" period. Not as cute, but still fun to watch as they sort out their pecking order.

And speaking of cute teenagers, my wife and I spent a great Earth Day at a local educational nature center with our own "flock." We were appreciating the fine solar array here and thinking of the day we'll have our own. Don't yet know when that'll be, but it will be. My little alternative energy engineer in the green shirt there, already has his own small solar array in the backyard that he's using to charge an old car battery. He and I have plans to get my greenhouse "off the grid" this summer. We won't be able to heat it with this, but I will be able to handle small-scale lighting and air circulation. It will be fun to work on together.

Admiring the solar array

And speaking of that greenhouse, it's been chock full! I did some major transplanting in mid April and was actually able to take the thinnings from the seedlings that I had and propagate them into fresh cell packs to have entirely new plants. I think all told I ended up with nearly 110 tomato starts for this year. Those extra propagated starts will be getting donated to a community garden that I'm going to be helping out with, but that is fodder for an entirely different post.

I should also mention that I started a YouTube Channel in April. A demo on how I went about thinning and propagating my tomatoes was one of the first things I added. I plan to add many more as the season progresses.

Tomatoes and other plants in the greenhouse

Tomatoes and peppers aren't the only things growing in there though. Because of my shorter growing season, I've started cantalopes, watermelons, cucumbers, zucchini and these pumpkin plants that are loving the heat among other things.

Pumpkins in the greenhouse

I mentioned the two birthdays in the house ... well, I guess I can admit one of them was mine. I slid into 39 this year and treated myself to one of the things that I've been really wanting for some time: a Meyer Lemon tree.

A Meyer Lemon Tree

And that weather I complained about earlier. Well, this was what I got the other day, May 14th actually, as a warning that spring is still here and Mom Nature will do as she likes! One minute the day was beautiful with a few clouds over the mountains, the next I noticed them getting darker and it looked like rain. I had barely put the plants I had out of the greenhouse hardening off back inside before these started falling from the sky. Wacky!

Hail stone

All in all, I'd have to say things are going pretty well though. The garden beds are filling up, the days are longer, and even if the weather does leave a little bit of predictability to be desired, it's still been a pretty darn nice spring.

How's everything going in your necks of the woods? Hopefully Springing up nicely!

You can reach Paul Gardener by email, or learn more about his garden at A posse ad esse.

nebraska dave
5/27/2010 9:02:05 AM

Paul, My greenhouse this year was a PCV structure built to fit a clear trash bag. It worked wonderfully well to protect the precious tomato and pepper plants I bought from the nursery while in transition from warm cuddly indoors to chilly windy outdoors. Those plants are now doing great in their in ground garden spots. It’s been a relatively cool Spring here. Not freezing but cool enough to have to wait for the ground to warm up for the summer plants. The weather has popped here too with temperatures in the 80s climbing ever so close to the 90s. I think we have already had a couple 90 degree days and I hear the air conditioners humming all across the neighborhood. Yesterday was a 16 kilowatt day which was down from a 25 kilowatt day the day before. I’m getting closer to a functional gravity feed watering system, but I’m not quite there yet. I have to patch a hole in the main tank and haven’t had time to get that done yet. It will require pop riveting sheet metal over the bad area and using a torch to solder in the seams and maybe silicone sealer to make sure it doesn’t leak. The base is completed and the tank amazingly sits pretty level. Thanks for sharing all you wisdom on growing.

cindy murphy
5/27/2010 8:07:18 AM

I am envious, Paul....maybe just a teeny bit of your 39 years (happy belated birthday!), but mostly of your veggies. Everything looks so lush and beautiful. We've been waiting, waiting not-so-patiently to plant. We've had frost throughout April and May, but just two weeks ago, were hit not just with frost, but with a string of nights well below freezing. The mustard greens and spinach were fine, and we were just starting to enjoy it, when BAM! The weather changed from sixty-some degree days to nearly ninety overnight this past week, causing the greens to bolt early. I'm not quite ready to give up on them yet though, and hopefully will get a couple more pickings. Hubs planted beans after the freeze and they were just starting to come up, when the expletive rabbits bit off every single shoot immediately as it popped out of the ground; it's as if they were laying in wait. The rest of the garden went in yesterday, except for more beans to replace the rabbit-bitten ones; waiting until I get some red or cayenne pepper to use as a deterrent; and squash to replace the greens. Hope your gardening season progresses as well as your spring did.

paul gardener
5/26/2010 2:25:32 PM

Thanks Shannon. Yeah we've been really happy that the greenhouse was there. It's been a wild and whack Spring here so the time I can keep them indoors really helps. Will hopefully move more out this weekend. permitting :) Paul~

s.m.r. saia
5/26/2010 2:20:53 PM

Everything looks great. I envy that lemon tree (and the greenhouse for that matter)! We are commmitted to moving in that direction this fall for sure. That's great that with a short growing season in the greenhouse your squash etc. looks as far along as mine and mine have been outside for almost a month. Happy Birthday!