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Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

Garden summary

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave 

The end of September and beginning of October was a busy time.  The garden kicked in and was producing an abundance even though it was neglected big time.

Victoria Dinner 1

Harvey came with devastating destruction. It's been a few years since I've gone on a crew to hurricane-damaged areas of the country. I couldn't pass up a chance to go to the Houston area with a chainsaw crew. This group is from the Southern Baptist Convention. On any given day, there was 80 to 90 men and women from all across the country. Crews were sent out each morning with work orders to complete. The orders might include covering a roof with a tarp, or cleaning out moldy, wet drywall, or cutting up fallen trees. There is still so much to clean up and repair even after a month has passed. As with any hurricane, the mosquito population booms and clouds of them roam the land looking for anything to provide their dinner. Fortunately, I'm not one that they seem to like much, but some on the team had to not go out because of being bitten all over their bodies. Mosquito repellent didn't seem to work too well.

It's always good to get together with like-minded folks and help those in need.

Potato Harvest 1

Potato harvest was great this year. I netted probably about 50 pounds of potatoes from a bed that was 4-by-28 feet. Most went right into the basement storage area and some were peeled and canned for soup-making during the dark winter months. The canned ones were ones that were stuck by the fork while digging. That amounted to about 11 quarts. 

Overall the garden did well this year. The tomatoes were a bust because of the mislabeled package. Rutgers tomatoes do not grow the size of a cherry and come in clusters. So I had 12 cherry tomato plants and no Rutgers. I was so disappointed. It's a good thing I have tomatoes from last year that will carry me over to next year. Never will I buy seeds from a big box store again. I learned that lesson the hard way.

As the garden winds down for this year, it's a sad but invigorating time. I'm sad that this year is almost over, but invigorated that the winter resting and planning season is about to begin. This year will be a year of growing microgreens in my seed-starting station. I have found that it's relatively easy to do. So even with the weather outside being frightful, I can still have a hand or two in the dirt.

In some ways it's been a long season, but it seemed to fly by fast. Always at the end of the year, I reflect on the year and surprise myself with how much was accomplished. This year was the same. Next year will be a year with more gardening and less building. All the garden beds are in place and all the fences have been secured, so most concentration can be given to just gardening. Garden projects are by no means finished, but the beds are done for now.  The automatic irrigation system will continue to be perfected both at Terra Nova Gardens and at Urban Ranch.

I hope all your garden experiences for this year were productive as well. Have a great fall season.

Harvesting, Cleaning up, and Watering

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave 

Fall is definitely in the air. With the ending of summer activities and the start of school year, Terra Nova Gardens has been a bit neglected. It seems that always happens this time of the year. The harvest is past its peak and the plants are starting to become a little tired and worn down. The weeds, however, are not so ready to give up.

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This is what happens at my Terra Nova Gardens when I'm away for a couple weeks. OK, maybe a little longer.  It doesn't take long for nature to take over. I often wonder how long it would take for nature to completely undo what I've done and it seems to not be very long.

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A little work and a lot grunting and groaning with massive rest periods and large amounts of water consumption and it's finished. The carpet was actually under all those weeds. Carpet slows down the weed growth considerably but doesn't totally eliminate it. So, my method, as I've explained before, is to just turn the carpet over. It is a good way to smother the weeds and kill the roots. The carpet seems to last forever. The carpet you see here is probably three years old and still looks good. It was a good day's work. 

September harvest 2017b

This day's harvest was a wheelbarrow of green peppers, eggplant and zucchini.

Stuffed Peppers 2017

So, 22 stuffed peppers are now in the freezer with the rest of the peppers chopped, blanched, and frozen for adding to soups, scrambled eggs, or other tasty winter delights.

Watering 2017a

My search continues to find a better way to automatically water my bucket tomatoes. This the latest, but not the final, in a long line of summer experiments. It's a 2.5 gallon water dispenser that has the spout extended into the gutter. The dispenser is airtight so water will only drain out when the water level is low enough to allow a gulp of air to travel up the spout. The concept works great but the vacuum from the water flow has enough power to almost crush the water dispenser. I even tried a heavy-duty water dispenser but it was crushed as well. My next thought is to use the actual 5-gallon water cooler jugs designed for such pressure and fabricate a stand for them to set on. I'd like to have two of them per gutter and one less tomato bucket. The weight would be right around 90 pounds when two jugs are full of water, so a support under the gutter would need to be built. So the hunt for a semi-automated watering system continues. I'll let you know how it works out.

One Way to Rejuvinate a Garden Bed

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave 

The official start of fall cleanup has begun at Terra Nova Gardens. Bed number 12 has been rejuvenated for winter rest. Bed 12 had the first harvest of sweet corn. Now it's on to beds number 10 and 11. They contain more spent corn stalks as well as cucumbers and squash. They are still producing abundantly, but I've got so much squash, eggplant, and cucumbers that I don't need any more.  No one really wants squash and eggplant. Next year I'm cutting back on those plants and planting just enough for my use.

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The first thing to do is remove all the corn stalks and other plant debris. I just threw it over the fence for now. When the time is right, I'll pile it all up in a compost pile for the winter. 

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Then I dig out a trench that's a spade's width wide and a spade's length deep. The dirt from this trench is put into a wheelbarrow for use on the last trench.

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Grass clippings are piled in the trench. These grass clippings come from my yard and my vacant lot, so I know there's been no chemicals used on them. The clippings are about as chemical free as they can be within a suburban and inner city environment.

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The second trench is dug right next to the first and the dirt is piled on top of the grass clippings in the first trench. More grass clippings are piled in the second trench and more dirt piled on top.  Then repeat, repeat, repeat, the process.

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When the last trench is dug and the grass clippings are piled in the trench, the dirt from the first trench, which is still in the wheelbarrow, is dumped into the trench. A light raking to smooth out the humps and bumps and the bed is completed. Only five more to go in this section of the garden.

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These are my next two beds to clean up and put to rest for the winter.  The cucumbers, squash, and sweet corn intermingled just as I wanted them to.  It must have totally confused the dreaded vine borer because I didn't see any damage from them. The victory over vine borer was a inundation of squash, cucumbers, and sweet corn. I have so much I don't know what to do with it all. I guess that's a great problem to have. I hope your garden is producing just as wonderful as mine. Next post will be about a new watering experiment. See you then.

Harvesting and Preserving

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveOops, July is gone. I blinked a couple of times, and poof! It was over.

August is for harvesting. Cucumbers, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, green beans, green peppers, and eggplant — the abundance is overwhelming. This is the time gardeners have worked for. Starting seeds, repotting, planting out, weeding, watering, and pruning was all for this time. Let the harvesting begin.

There's no other month like August. The fall sounds are becoming loud during the evening and night. Crickets chirping, locusts buzzing, and all the other night sounds are telling the gardener that it's time to start thinking about fall. Even the temperatures are entertaining fall. The nighttime temps here in Nebraska are in the upper 50s and 60s, while the daytime temps are in the 70s and lower 80s. It's quite a relief from the heated temperatures of July. Light rain showers have only caused the humidity to stay above 80 percent and have not really benefited the soil moisture much.

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As you can see, the cabbage has grown really well this year. It's now time to make some kraut, don't you think? Based on the articles I've read and the Mother Earth News sessions I've attended, making sauerkraut is relatively easy and it stores well. So, I'll be eating a lot of kraut this winter. I have some gallon glass jars I'll be using to make and store the kraut. It's not exactly the traditional crock method, but I'm sure it will be OK. 

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Well, it's amazing how much processed cabbage can be packed into a 2/3 gallon jar. I used three heads of cabbage to make this jar of kraut. Making sauerkraut is about as easy as it can get for preservation of a garden vegetable. The ingredients are cabbage and salt. The cabbage is just chopped up and sprinkled with salt, then packed into a non-plastic container. I use a zip-close bag filled with water to weight down the cabbage while it's fermenting. In about three weeks it will be kraut, but the longer I can wait before eating, the better it will be. Gardening and preserving require patience sometimes.

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This is one of many harvests to come. The dreaded vine borer didn't happen this year for some reason. I planted squash, cucumbers, and sweet corn all together. It became a tangled mess, but perhaps the vine borer was confused about which plant to attack and just gave up. The tangled web method seemed to benefit all three crops and production of all three was abundant. I have such a big harvest that I'm not sure what exactly to do with it. I will most likely give much of it away.

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There's the first of the preservation. Five quarts of pickles and seven quarts of green beans. I left the rest of the green beans to mature and dry out on the vines for dry beans to store for winter soups and such. The cucumbers were soaked in a salt brine for a week and then processed using Mrs. Wages Dill Pickle mix. The three week waiting period is just about up to sample the pickles to see if I want to make more. It's my second attempt at making pickles. The first attempt last year was OK, but I like crisp pickles and they were wimpy. The brine solution is supposed to make them crisp, so we will see. I might have to resort to the alum method if the brine method doesn't work. 

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Can you guess what's happening here? Every year a block party is planned for my neighborhood. Four years ago I made ice cream for my contribution. One taste of the real thing and everyone requested that I make it every year. I always tell them there is nothing in the ice cream that's good for you. It's filled with whole milk, sugar, condensed milk, and all real ingredients. It doesn't seem to matter, they eat it up just the same. My grandson made the comment, "Grandpa, it melts really fast." I responded, "It's supposed to melt like that. Store ice cream isn't real ice cream." The kid is getting a real education about food while living with old Grandpa. I haven't been able to get him interested in helping with gardening just yet. But, neither was I until I was in my 20s.

It's time to get back in the garden and find something else to preserve.

 See ya next time.

 

July Garden Update

 

Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

This summer, time has just gotten away from me. Here it is July already with 100 days of frost-free gardening left for my area. Everything looks good except for the tomatoes. The plants are looking good, but the tomatoes are only the size of a golf ball. These are supposed to be regular-sized tomatoes. The first ripe tomato was today and it had a bad spot where I suspect a hail stone hit. We've had three hail storms since the first of May and high winds up to 100 mph in some parts of the city. Tree cleanup is still in progress a week after the event. The spring here was cold and wet so the warm weather plants are weeks behind where they are supposed to be.

Weeds

This is what happens when a gardener goes away for 10 days. My granddaughter in Las Vegas graduated high school, so a 10 day trip was in order to enjoy the celebration of graduation and visit my family there. My parents made the first move 20 some years ago. Then my sister followed a couple years later, and when my kids graduated from high school they moved there as well. So the pressure is on for me to move there. I moved away once to St. Louis for seven years and vowed never to move away from Nebraska again when I returned. Yes the weather is hot and muggy in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, but I just like the different seasons. There's very distinct seasons here with each being just what the season should be. When one season gets tiring, the next is right there to take its place. No, this is where I'll stay until my dying day.  Besides, gardens don't grow in Las Vegas. The soil is nothing but rocks, gravel, spiders, and snakes. And lets not forget the sun that gets so hot that anything plastic melts and milk from the store sours on the way home if not put in an ice chest. It's just not for me to live there.

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Less than an hour's work and the pathway is cleared of the nasty weeds. This grass will mature with the Velcro seed head that sticks to anything cloth, especially shoe laces. Not only that but it re-seeds itself with thousands of seeds.

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The fences are all in place and the corn is tasseling in the first bed. This year I have four beds of corn planted two weeks apart. This is the first bed and I'll be eating corn before the end of July. Last year I had two beds of sweet corn, so I'll be munching twice as long as last year. I may even freeze some for winter eating.  

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This is the squash planted from store-bought squash. A friend of mine gave me the seeds to plant from a squash she bought from the grocery store. My plan was to let them cross over the path of one bed and into the sweet corn bed next to it. So far that plan seems to be working. From watching how the vine plants grew the last five years, I discovered that because the full sun was from 6 a.m. to about 4 p.m., most of the sun came from the east and the vines would crawl toward the east and not so much to the west. I did have to clip a couple of rogue vines but, as expected, the vines crawled to the east. Observation in a garden can make life much easier sometimes. A line of cucumbers were planted along the backside of the squash and a leaning fence was provided for them to crawl up over the squash plants. When I was gone, the cucumber growth was prolific and they should have been trained up on the fence grid, but instead started growing in with the squash. I did get a few cucumbers to climb the leaning fence, but I'm not certain that I succeeded with them all. So far I haven't seen any damage from the dreaded vine borer, but the damage comes in about another couple of weeks if it's going to happen. I'm hoping the cucumber and squash mix will confuse the little white fly and the squash and cukes will be safe from the nasty killer worm.

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The tomato plants are looking good, but don't have many blooms and the tomatoes that are ripening are very small. They have had a rough go of it this year by surviving three hail storms and a severe wind storm. The spring was a cold, wet one and not favorable for warm weather plants.

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Potatoes are just past the flowering stage. Some folks pick off the flowers, but I usually don't. I tried that a couple years ago and couldn't really tell a difference in the harvest. The vines are starting to dry up, so the potatoes will be harvested toward the end of July. I so like the early potatoes. The taste buds will be enjoying sweet corn and potatoes before long.

What all are you enjoying from your garden? I hope everyone is having a great garden year.  Be well, drink lots of fluids, and get ready for an abundant harvest.

 

Raised Beds, the Hard Way

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveIt seems that every time a project comes up, it's always done the hard way. Over-engineering takes much longer than needed, and so it is with my garden, but when it's done it's built to last a lifetime. These rocks that I have found for my raised beds come from my neighborhood. Many walls have been built with these rocks, and — as they replace them with the new, modern, retaining wall blocks — it gives me a ready supply of rocks to use for raised beds.

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I have hauled away several walls of rocks and used them for outlining the raised beds that have been built in Terra Nova Gardens.

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A layer of weed barrier laid down will keep the weeds from growing. My favorite barrier is old dumpster carpet from apartment buildings. An overlapping layer does the trick. I've had some carpet in the garden for five years without any sign of deterioration. Four corner stones are placed in position to anchor the corners and to use as a guide for the sides and ends.

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A rope is stretched from one corner to the other on the same side. A good, sharp, carpet knife cuts through the carpet about three or four inches inside of the rope.

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For the other side of the raised bed, the carpet is dragged into place under the stretched rope. Then rocks can be laid along the rope with the flat side out against the inside of the rope line. The two-to-three-inch lip of carpet will be under the rock line, and the jagged edge will be facing the growing medium of the bed.

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Once the rocks are all in position, a good cleanup of the debris will make the bed ready for the digging. I turn to beds when, in the spring, the soil dries out enough for a good, smooth bed result. Since this one is a virgin bed, it doesn't have the fall grass/leaf mulch cover that the others have. When the soil has been turned, the first thing to sprout is the early spring weeds that are sliced off below the surface with a hula/strip hoe and the weed debris removed. About three weeks later, the grass sprouts, and the same method is used to clean up the beds. After that the bindweed and other vines grow up, so hula hoe and rake for the final time.

By this time the last frost date has passed, and it's time to plant. The three eradication processes of weeds and a layer of mulch after planting do a good job of keeping the weeds at a minimum. It's been too wet to do any digging just yet, and the soil temperature is still under 45 degrees. Hopefully the rain will end soon and the digging will begin.

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This completes half of the garden area with a total of seven beds. I already have another five beds that I use for the main garden area, bringing the total to twelve. All the pathways between the beds will have hard wood mulch over the carpet at a depth of two inches. The seven seen in the above picture will have an additional fence around the area, with an electric fence to protect the area from garden predators. It's an extension of the the sweet corn fortress from last year.

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As you can see, plants are busting to get out in the ground. They are getting familiar with the outside weather. Today was a good day for them to be outside; the temperature was in the upper 50s with very little sun. So garden life is good on the Urban Backyard Ranch and Terra Nova Gardens.

What's been happening in your garden?

Raised Beds and Indoor Seedlings

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveThe threat of winter came and went over the weekend with no really bad weather. The forecast was for snow, rain, and cold. We got the cold but no snow or rain, which was fine by me.

The week was filled with home, neighbor, and friend responsibilities, so only one garden workday was on the schedule.

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I did manage to get one more raised bed finished and another started this week. The rock pile is dwindling, and more will be needed soon. I have planned one more bed in this area before the mulch is laid down and the fence around the area is built. The big wooden fence continues to keep out the deer, but a wire and electric fence is still needed to keep the raccoons and groundhogs from munching on what they believe is their buffet. It's all starting to come together for this year.

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This is lettuce planted three weeks ago. I'm not sure it's going to make it to outside. The soil temperature was a chilly 35 degrees F under a frozen crust. Unless we get some really warm weather, soon this tray will end up being micro greens in a salad, which wouldn't be all that bad. The heat mat is looking for another tray of something to start — it just could be lettuce.

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The marigolds are looking great. It will be time to transplant them soon. So far, the heat mat and grow lights are producing a good amount of plants for the garden. It all seems to be better than in years past. I'm not sure what's different, but I like it!

I'm hoping for better weather to get these plants out in the garden and start some real gardening. How about you? Any exciting things happening in the garden yet?


Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer