Home, Home on the Homestead (July Garden Update)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Linking up with {pretty, happy, funny, real} today.

I was headed to the chicken coop a couple days ago to toss some herbs in their nesting boxes (actually old vanities that came with the house), when I saw something that didn't quite belong...

Look! An egg! We got our chickens at the beginning of March, so we weren't expecting eggs until August or September, and were quite surprised! We found another one the next morning, but nothing since then - I don't think it'll be a steady output for a while (we have 12 hens, 8 pullets a couple months younger, although some may well be roosters and we don't know yet). But so exciting!!!

The garden is coming along, although the weeds are doing their best to take over... I have to admit, in some areas it's nice because we have a thriving dandelion harvest that I can pick for the bunnies every morning, and they're quite pleased by the steady supply of greens!

In the above picture you can see sweet corn at the far right, then pole beans, sunflowers (which apparently don't play well with pole beans but whoops, oh well), and a few potato plants. Most of our potatoes rotted in the ground after something like 19 straight days of rain... Way to go, Virginia clay!

Then in the back of this part there are tomatoes, peppers, basil, those giant bushes are lambs quarters trying to overtake everything, and there are also some melons, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, onions, eggplant, and okra in there. And a bean teepee!

Everyone was suitably excited when they noticed the corn stalks were actually starting to bear ears! It's our first year planting corn, and with the cold spring temperatures and our poor soil, I feel like we're probably behind, but many of the stalks are taller than I am so I think we'll end up with a decent amount, considering the low cost of a seed packet!

We planted Purple Queen Bush Beans, at the girls' request, and while they're not *quite* big enough to harvest, the blossoms and actual beans are so beautiful that I think we'll plant them every year! I don't like the amount of space that bush beans take up and the fact that I have to bend down to harvest them, but these are so pretty I suppose I can make an exception.

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The flea beetles have been doing their best to eat up the eggplant entirely, but a few of the hardier plants are starting to bear. I don't particularly love eggplant, but they're such pretty fruits and the flowers are lovely! The kids really love eggplant if I slice it super-thin, spray it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake it in chip form. It's rather a lot of work for not much of a final product, but I can't deprive them of their eggplant when they're asking for it! A friend recommended this book on companion planting and it's been a really valuable resource - the information you find on the internet can be rather unhelpful when it comes to companion planting, so I'm hoping to use this book more when we plan the garden for next year. It's definitely coming in handy as I slowly get late-season crops in!

I finally let the kids stop pinching the flowers off our strawberry plants - the robust ones, it turns out, are the everbearing variety I purchased! I ordered two types, one June bearing and one everbearing. In the past our everbearing plants were on the scrawny side, so I assumed the wimpy plants that we had must be the everbearing ones, but no! So we may well end up with some strawberries this season, although only a few I'm sure.

The tomatoes are coming along, but seem to be succumbing to the same disease we dealt with at the old house... And it's impossible to keep them weeded because the cages take up so much room I can't *get* to the weeds! Not to mention the lack of time for weeding... Next year I think we're going to have to go the black mulch route, just to cut down on weeding time.

The roma plants are bearing better than mine ever have, which I'm pleased about. Maybe we'll end up with enough for one batch of sauce? Thankfully pests mostly haven't been an issue, although I *did* find a hornworm attempting to decimate one plant, but thankfully caught it before it could eat more than a couple.

And I'm trying sweet peppers yet again, after several years of failure. We'll get a few, I'm sure, but not enough to be really worthwhile. But the kids wanted to, so whatever. It's not really that much extra work, after all!

John Paul and Andrew picked out some hot pepper seedlings on a whim, and they're doing pretty well! I was annoyed that I was going to have to find something to *do* with hot peppers, but they've been adding a nice kick to the Mexican/Spanish-inspired foods I make. I think they'll make it into the permanent garden rotation!

We grabbed a few melon seedlings at the garden center a couple months ago as well, and noticed some baby melons the other day! 

They're absolutely adorable, and growing so quickly!

My mom planted some pumpkin seeds with the kids the other day, and we're hoping we have some by Halloween, certainly by Thanksgiving. The kids are ecstatic to have their "own" pumpkins that they're growing with Grandma.

Most of my cucumber, zucchini, and squash seedlings died after I neglected them once I got pregnant, so I had to direct sow the seeds and it took foreeeeever for them to sprout. We're finally on our way to getting our first cucumber!

And the watermelon seedlings I bought on a whim are going nuts, but did you know that seedless watermelons can't pollinate each other??? I certainly didn't, and after reading it somewhere I realized I needed to plant some with seeds so I could actually get some fruit! Thankfully the dollar store had seed packets for 10 cents, and they've sprouted and will hopefully save the watermelon crop.

We're planting okra for the first time, and you can see pretty obviously which of the plants are in the soil that actually had time to kill the grass below, and which are in the "new" soil that was just a thin layer over cardboard. It'll be interesting to see what kind of crop we get - we ended up planting quite a lot, because John Paul "helped" me with my seed order and ended up multiplying the okra seed packets to a level that I will never possibly use! Let's hope the kids like pickled okra.

One of our elderberry bushes decided to flower this year and is producing a few berries! It'll be a few years before we have a usable amount, but the smell of the flowers is wonderful :)

And that's all I had time to take pictures of - in the raised beds the perennial herbs are doing nicely, the kids have planted flowers with my mom, and I've done a second sowing of basil & carrots and also zinnias, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and leeks. We'll see what produces well... I don't think anything will beat our garlic! And now that I'm looking at prices for seed garlic ($13 for THREE HEADS??? $10 for THREE CLOVES of elephant garlic???) I'm really really glad that we can just use our own seed from here on out.

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