Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

Weeds, Weeds, and More Weeds

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveAs fall fast approaches, garden cleanup has begun. Tall weeds have crept into my garden — those nasty grasses with the fox-tail-looking top that seem to have Velcro super-weed abilities. The clinging top of the grass stem are partial to shoelaces, and are never willing to give up their spot on the shoe. I guess there's something to be said about shoes with no laces ... or maybe just better weed control.

The summer has flown by, and as the harvesting diminishes I'm almost glad to see it go. The rest, planning and seed-ordering during the winter months, is a welcome change from the hectic gardening season.

The work on the brick path goes on. It's slow work, but it will be great when it's finished. The spaces that are next to the raised bedrocks will be first filled with pea gravel, then sand. Hopefully it will lock the brick patio blocks together nice and tight.

brick path

The tomatoes have now grown up out of the towers that I talked about in the last post. With the nights down in the 60s and some times 50s, the harvesting has diminished to just a handful of tomatoes a day, whereas during August it was a five-gallon bucketful every other day. A makeshift roadside stand was set up in front of Terra Nova Gardens; all the extra tomatoes were set on the stand and would disappear by the next day. It's my way of letting the neighborhood know that I appreciate them putting up with my garden in their space. It's a great concept and will be expanded next year.

The neighborhood is very tight-knit. I have an idea that not just anyone would be accepted into it. When this old, gray-haired guy came and started cleaning up a weed-infested part of the neighborhood that was used for a dumping ground, curiosity set in. Then it turned into fascination with the unorthodox, rock-lined, raised beds, the tomato towers over your head, the sweet-corn fortress, and the mini water tower. Then a strange thing happened. Since this garden is part of the inner city, kids and adults wander past on a regular basis. The neighborhood took over the task of watching my garden and running off anyone who wasn't supposed to be there. And it all started just by waving at passing cars while working in the garden. Soon people stopped to ask questions about what I was doing. Then it became conversations about my life and theirs. I don't live in the neighborhood, so I've learned that being a part of a neighborhood doesn't just mean living there. It takes a contribution to the neighborhood, and meaningful conversations with those that live there.

The next project for the fall is to clean up an area next to my house that has become an eyesore.

Overgrown yard

It's become a catchall for anything not used over the last couple years. A pickup-load of brush and chunks of an old tree stump were hauled to the brush dump, where they make mulch out of it. This whole area will be a private sitting area when I'm finished. It will take some work, but it will be worth it. The neighbor next to me has never said anything, but it had to be an irritation because his yard is neat and clean. Much of what you see here was taken to Terra Nova Gardens and hidden behind the fences or trees. The rest will go to the dump. The dump load is in progress but has been hindered by rainstorms that put a damper on any outside work. Hopefully by the end of the week a full load will find its way to the landfill.

Because most of my time was spent with Terra Nova Projects this summer, the Urban Ranch (where I live) backyard garden has suffered.

Weeding

Bind weed will bury a garden if given half a chance. Contending with bind weed has been my garden curse, and ranks right up there with the aforementioned Velcro weed. Given the slightest bit of dirt, bind weed will take over a large section of garden. There has to be no mercy when it comes to bind weed.

Then there's what I've nicknamed the "sequoia weed," named after the monster tree in California. It's taken over the raised bed in the background of the above picture. It will grow over six feet tall, with a root stump that rivals a small tree. Yes, as you can see, I've not been too attentive to my backyard garden. But there's hope, as Jack Frost is still a month away. Then the gardening will move into the basement for the winter.

That's for another post.

That's it for this time. Happy Fall Garden Cleanup everyone!

Summer Sucesses

Summer is waning and the sounds of the locusts can be clearly heard in the cool of the evening. Because of the rains in August, the foliage is still green and lush; weeds are still fighting for control in the gardens; and garden/yard cleanup has begun. Two loads of fence line trees have been hauled away to the company that take brush and makes mulch out of it. It costs $10 a pickup load to dump, and $20 a pickup load for hardwood mulch.

July was a great month. The sweet corn fortress was a great success.

Nebraska Dave eating corn

One-hundred and sixty prime ears of corn and forty-five second ears were harvested. I ate corn, corn, and more corn. After four years of total devastation by the raccoons, it was sweet  to be able to eat as much as I wanted and even give some away. I thought about throwing the cobs over the fence just to say, "In your face, Rocky Raccoon." Instead, I threw some of the second ears over the fence for them to eat. I just couldn't be that mean to them. After all, I did invade their land.

July was a month of more construction.

Garden entrance

It seems that I can't be without a garden project in progress. This is the entrance of Terra Nova Gardens. Over the course of the next two years, the pathways of the formal part of the garden will be bricked, and the beds will be outlined in limestone rocks.

My green peppers were a bust. They had wrinkly leaves and never put on any peppers. The cucumbers had about five cukes, then the vines dried up and died.

The tomatoes were slow starting.

Tomato Towers

What started as a tiny seed oh-so-long ago has filled up the tower and is still climbing. Since this picture, the first two tomatoes have grown out the top of the tower. I'm harvesting about a five-gallon bucket of tomatoes every couple days from these seven tomato plants. I eat a few and put the rest on a pallet by the road in front of the garden with a sign that says "free." They always disappear overnight. It's the start of something good. Next year I'll be doing the free vegetable stand again. It's my way of giving to the neighborhood. I'm not much into preserving anyway. I just like growing veggies and designing and building garden structures. So I have another three months to play in the garden before the snow shuts down all garden activities.

How did your garden do this summer?

Spring Was Busy

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveThis spring has been a busy one with great accomplishments. March was the beginning of the outside gardening with working on the spring platform. That effort has since been transferred over to the issue of watering the plants and keeping them alive. We are now in the throes of a hot dry spell. We have had very little rain in the month of June. Barely 2 inches of the over 4 that we normally average. The temperatures are in the 90s and approaching 100 degrees more days then not. I like to be in Terra Nova Gardens, a 20 minute drive from where I live, by 5:45 a.m. just as the sun is rising up over the trees. Terra Nova Gardens has clear sunshine from sunrise to about 2:30 in the afternoon. Then the shadow from the steep hill to the west of the garden begins to creep across the the garden. By 4:00 p.m. the garden is in full shadow mode. I've always considered that shaded afternoon a plus especially this year with the extreme heat.

I'm one step closer to irrigation for Terra Nova Gardens.

Barrel in Spring

The natural spring on Terra Nova Gardens property is a mucky sticky silt that is difficult to dig out. I have a source of free barrels of practically any size. This is a 55 gallon barrel that I cut the bottom out and set in the spring. Then a post hole digger was used to remove the muck from inside the barrel. As the muck is removed the barrel was pushed deeper and deeper into the spring. Here you can see that it's set about 2/3 of the way down in the spring. Since this picture a few more inches have been removed and the barrel is set lower. The hope is to get the full barrel down into the spring. Right now I can remove about 40 gallons of water with a pump into a mini water tower in the middle of the garden. Hopefully, by summer's end, two more barrels will be sunk into the spring giving me a total of about 150 gallons of water ready to fill the mini tower.

Water tower Base

This is the base of the mini water tower. The supports need to hold about 1500 pounds of weight. As you can see they are not evenly spaced. A pallet has been used for the platform and the 2X4 supports didn't have one in the middle. I suspect that these six supports will be quite sufficient even though the weight isn't quite evenly distributed. I have a tendency to over engineer things anyway.

Barrels on Water Tower

Well, here's the finished tower. It was finished just in time for the heat wave. I've been watering daily and using about 40 gallons a day to keep the tomatoes, green peppers, pumpkins, and watermelons happy. All the logistics are in place, but it does need a bit of tidying up. For now I'm just glad not to have to haul water to the garden.

The raccoons are messing around in the corn already so the sweet corn fortress is fully active. The electric fence is pulsing away to zap anything the comes near. I set the live trap and lost my first two fruit pies without catching anything. The little buggers were reaching through the sides and pulling the delight out without going inside the trap. So the next time the trap is set, the sides where the yummy delight is placed will be built up with rocks so they can't reach through. I suspect I'll have to cover the top and the back as well. They are devious little rascals. I'm in full battle mode against the raccoons.

First tomato

Last year my first tomato was July 5th. I thought it was a date that would not be beat for some time. June 22nd was the first tomato with two more turning. I expect to harvest them in a couple more days. These two tomatoes are coming from a plant that was devastated by hail the last week of May. Not only did the four hail plants survive but came back stronger than ever. It was an amazing thing to witness. So, yeah, a little bacon, some lettuce, first tomato of the season, and mayo and nothing says summer like the first garden-fresh BLT of the year.

Potatoes are in bloom, beans are in bloom, tomatoes are in bloom, pumpkins are in bloom, ah, it's a wonderful time to be a gardener, don't you think?

What are you harvesting?

Sweet Corn Fortress and Weeds

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveApril is here with blooming trees, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips. I love April. The temperatures are starting to consistently get up to the 50s and freezing temperatures at night are less frequent. It's time to start planting. Cabbage, onions, radishes, lettuce, and potatoes can now be planted in my area. It's a wonderful time of the year.

In this post I'd like to talk about what I have done to defeat the infestation of serious weed problems and progress on the Sweet Corn Fortress to defeat the raccoons.

Bind Weed Invasion

Last year was a year of trying to recover from the year before.  The 2014 year was a year of medical issues so not much was done in the garden which as you can see resulted in bind weed infestation. Cleaning out this nest of vines might seem daunting but actually it rolled up in a big ball rather easily.  That was about the extent of what I got accomplished last year.

Building Sweet Corn Fortress

This March the weather broke and garden construction could begin. A layer of old carpet was laid down over the complete area where the fortress would be. The carpet was acquired over the winter by dumpster diving around apartment buildings. A neighbor renovated his rock wall with new retaining wall blocks. The three corn beds were lined with the rocks. The carpet was cut from the center of the beds and the pathways were mulched with hard wood mulch.

Inner fence for Sweet Corn Fortress

By the end of March the inner fence was completed with used chain link fence and spare chicken wire fencing I had laying around. The next step in building the sweet corn fortress is to string three electric wire strands around the outside of the inner fence. Once will be at six inches, another will be at twelve inches, and another at twenty four inches. The fence will be powered by a battery powered electric fencer. The final defense will be live traps baited with marshmallows. I've heard that raccoons are attracted to marshmallows. So that's it. The sweet corn fortress is coming together. Perhaps I'll be munching on tasty sweet corn by August.

How do you deal with raccoons? Have a great day in the April garden.

2016 Gardening has Definitely Begun

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveGoodness, where did February go? The weather here has been unusually mild and all the snow is gone. The ground is totally thawed out and ... (big sigh) weeds are starting to grow in the garden. Terra Nova Gardens is a ferocious seed bed for weeds. After being wild so long, I'm guessing there's enough seeds that have been planted for a life time of gardening. If left unchecked, they will grow into monster weeds that revel the height of a small tree. Those tough old wild grape vines keep trying to make an appearance. Nature is certainly wild and can't be tamed. Some day in the future when I'm gone, the land will once again return back to the wild. Old Nebraska Gardener Dave is just a blip on the grand scheme of time. Nature is patient and always wins. But in the mean time I can enjoy attempting to make the garden look better than the wild.

Supports

I got to spend some time at Terra Nova Gardens and worked on leveling up the supports for the natural spring platform. Every time I go to Terra Nova Gardens to work I find evidence that other two legged life forms have been there. This time some one left me a Nebraska hat to cover the stand pipe in the spring. I'm planning on putting a couple extra joists to help support the platform. All these railroad ties and bridge supports were free on Craig's List. Each year things come together a little more. Since this is under the shade of a big tall cottonwood tree, it just might become a place to sit while resting from gardening and sip a nice cool refreshing drink. What do you think?

Basement salads

The basement salad growing experiments was a huge success. I have a tendency to loose interest when I have determined that the experiment is a success so the reason these plants look a little ragged is I just watered them after almost a week of neglect. Lettuce and radishes were indeed successfully grown in the basement during the cold winter months. It's definitely some thing I will do again next year. All these plants were planted about six weeks ago in the middle of January.

onions 2016

My Google calendar told me that the onions should be sprouted. This is two weeks after I planted them. I had to quickly get them under some grow lights. I'm always amazed at how fast slow sprouting seeds come up in my seed starting area. These are Wala Wala onions. I'll be setting out onions sets again this year. I haven't really grown enough onions to store yet but maybe this will be the year to do that. My storage area is about 55 degrees during the Winter months so I'll have to find an area to store them in the garage which never freezes but stays in the upper 30s and 40s during the coldest part of the Winter. I have thought about putting in an access to outside air to keep the storage room cooler but just haven't done it.

Cabbage 2016

Yup, spindly looking cabbage. It's time to transplant them into their own spaces. Like tomatoes, they can be planted up to just below the leaves and get a good root started. Mmmmm, I see some good sauerkraut in my future. It's another thing that I just haven't quite done yet. I have the gallon glass jars saved for just such a project. I've always wanted to pickle vegetables. Maybe this year will be the first for many things.

Garden Quote 2016

This is definitely my gardening quote. Have a great day in the garden my GRIT friends.

Spring is Here

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveYes, I would like to think that Spring is here. I've seen Spring flowering bulbs sprouting. If you want to read more about sprouting bulbs then click here. It's always a mystery of nature to me that those bulbs know just when to start growing in the Spring time. I've seen flocks of robins hanging out in trees. I guess they are waiting for the ground to thaw out so they can start the harvesting of worms. There's not much worm food with the ground mostly still frozen and patches of snow lingering in shaded areas. We here are hopeful that the worst of Winter is over and the next three 60 degree days will help Spring to pop. There's always that chance that Winter will return but at this time of the year we know it won't last long.

Supports for Spring platform

Well, yeah, I can't actually do any gardening just yet but working around the garden with other projects can be done. This is a natural spring at Terra Nova Gardens. I've wanted to develop it into a irrigation system but just never had the time to pursue it. I'm really going to make an effort to get stage one finished this year. This is a basic support structure for the platform that will be over the spring. There are two bridge supports and two railroad ties. This just a rough lay out of the design. All these supports will be leveled up and two additional 2 X 12s set in joist hangers will be spaced evenly between the bridge supports. The ground is still pretty frozen but I suspect after a couple of predicted 60 degree days the ground will be soft enough to start leveling up the supports.

Spring Platform

This is rough idea of what it will look like when the platform is on the supports. The pipe you see is a 6-inch pipe that a neighborhood friend helped me bury about 6 feet below the spring water table. It fills up with about 35 gallons of water that can be pumped out before a time of recovery is needed. The Spring platform will be in two sections. This is the first section. A hole will be cut through this section for the stand pipe to fit through. As you can see the platform is made from remodeled heavy duty oak pallets. Another section this same size will be placed behind this section making the total size of the platform about 6 feet wide and approximately 8 feet deep. When the platform is in place a structure will be built around the buried pipe to support a hand pump to bring the water up out of the pipe. I'm hoping to be able to get this all done some time this year. As I said this is only stage one of Spring development. Stage 2 and 3 are way more complicated and will require way more time. I'm hoping to get all the garden structure building done before I'm too old to do it. Then in my old age I can just enjoy gardening. Yeah, right.

Have a great Spring day and I'll be giving more updates as they come.

Terra Nova Garden Plans for the New Year

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveWell, here we are already into February of the new year. My mind is roaring with garden thoughts and ideas for this garden year. Some are a continuation of projects from last year and others are new ideas. Regardless, there are always more ideas, desires, and wishes than time to make them happen. Many things will be put into practice this year from what I learned last year.

The first couple weeks of January were actually relatively mild with temperatures above freezing almost every day. Alas, it was not be for very long. Storm Jonas came along and brought about eight inches of snow but it was slow enough not to cause too much slow down of the city where I live. Two weeks later, however, along came Kayla. That snow was heavy, wet, and crippled the city even though it was only five inches. School was cancelled for two days. I never had that luxury when I was in school. Yeah, we aren't going there. Of course the grandson living with me hooted, hollered, and did a funky dance when he heard the good news especially on the second day. Life is now back to normal. The groundhog didn't see his shadow so Winter is supposed to be over but old Phil's record has not been the best for predicting the end of Winter so I guess we will just wait and see. Well enough of that. Let's get on with gardening.

Basement greens 1

I planted these buckets about a month ago just to see if I could grow some greens during the Winter months. On the left are radishes and on the right are lettuce plants. I did a dumb thing and planted an entire package of seeds in each bucket. I think each seed germinated twice. I've thinned out the plants several times and still they are continuing to fill up the buckets. A long time blogger friend just promoted a book on growing Winter greens. I was doing just that and didn't even know it. It's not about growing plants to maturity but just sprouting greens in soil instead of in a jar. These that you see here are ready for harvest. Nice. I'll be starting the onions and cabbage seeds next week.

I have big plans for Terra Nova Gardens this year. With multiple protection layers around the sweet corn area, I just might be sinking my teeth into a juicy ear of sweet by August. The last four years the deer and raccoons have devastated the corn patch down to the last kernel. I just have a few holes to plug in the finished fence and it should be relatively secure. If nothing else gets completed this year the sweet corn fortress will. I've worked on the big fence for three years and finally finished it this last year. I talked about the sweet corn fortress in the last post. If you missed it click here to see it.

I have been scanning the apartment dumpsters this Winter to acquire more tear out carpet for weed control. I've found enough to cover another 32 X 32 foot area which will become the vine plants this year. The carpet will be laid out with two foot planting strips uncovered every 10 feet. I suspect there will be about three of those that are 28 feet long. As the vines grow, the carpet will be rolled up exposing more soil surface. Vines need soil to root their nodules along the vine length. Hopefully, I can keep the vine borers at bay and perhaps get some pumpkins, watermelons, and squash for harvest.

The fourth section of the garden will just be covered by carpet to keep the weeds down this year. Future plans for three more raised beds, an 8 X 8 foot storage shed, and a cold frame are for this area but that will have to be for another year.

Happy Valentine's Day

For all you folks that have sweethearts, I wish the best Valentines Day for you. There's no sweethearts in Nebraska Dave's life. The celebration for me is to consume the bargain bin Reese's peanut-butter-filled chocolate hearts that my daughter brings home after Valentine's Day from where she works. Yes, I am a Reese's addict. I fully admit I have no control if anything Reese's is in the house and don't intend to change. Nebraska Phil, the distant cousin to Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, was nowhere to be seen. In fact, I haven't seen him in a couple years but I know he's still around. Occasionally, I cover up his den entrance and find that the next day it's uncovered so he's been in the stealth mode the last couple years. Anyway, he would have predicted an early spring because he wouldn't have seen his shadow because it was snowing all day.

The weather here has been up and down all Winter. Sometimes it's bitter cold, sometimes it's fairly warm. We've had snow, rain, sleet, ice balls, and all other sorts of weather conditions. Yeah, it's been pretty much a normal Winter for Nebraska. I suppose we have received close to 20 inches of total snowfall this Winter with perhaps about five inches still on the ground. Temperatures in the 40s will melt that rather quickly over the next couple days. I like seeing snow. It's the best thing for the garden this time of the year. When it melts the nitrogen rich moisture soaks slowly into the soil to water and fertilize the soil.

For those that start seeds, happy seed starting and for those that don't, happy garden planning.

Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the Spring and ends in the Fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January in a dream. —Josephine Nuese