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July 18th, 2011

Garden in July

On Saturday, my daughter and I were out in our garden, milling around, checking stuff out, they way we often do, when we saw our dog Chester over at the base of the apple tree. He was barking and acting funny. I thought maybe he treed something. Maybe the neighbor’s cat, maybe even a groundhog. For a second I was full of dread that maybe he had treed a raccoon in the middle of the day.

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Upon further inspection we found that he hadn’t treed anything at all, but instead he was just alerting us to the presence of a strange visitor—some kind of carrier pigeon, taking a break from its journey from who-knows-where to who-knows-where. So of course I ran to get the camera. My daughter decided his name was Morry.

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Our garden is looking pretty good these days. Raised beds, deep straw mulch, and trellises have made such a difference in the amount of work I have to do out there. In the past, this time of the year was make-or-break time. One false move, one slight hesitation, and the garden would be completely over run by weeds, crippled by under-watering, or overgrown by runaway cucumbers of squash plants. But this year, everything seems to be under control. The deep mulch takes care of the weeds; the raised beds with drip hoses and mechanical timer take care of my watering problems; and that trellis gives the cucumbers something constructive to do with their time.

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We made our first jar of pickles yesterday. We’ve blanched and frozen 11 family-sized servings of beans. I planted potatoes in straw mulch which makes it really easy to just reach in a grab a few when you need them without disturbing the whole plant or digging up the soil. And the zucchinis are basically relentless. But what my family waits all year for are the tomatoes. Any day now.

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The bean teepee is also a big hit at our house. It provides nice shady place to escape the summer sun. And as an added bonus, volunteer pumpkins are making their way to the top.

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July 5th, 2011

Stupid Deer, New Fence

Those stupid deer had to go and prove me wrong. For a while now, when people ask me if I have trouble with the deer eating my crops, I say no, they generally leave my garden alone. I have a fence, a dog, and some wind chimes. Plus there is enough other good stuff nearby (4 acres of alfalfa, 4 acres of feed corn, etc.) that a deer shouldn’t have to pilfer from my humble little organic garden. Maybe the deer appreciate that my corn doesn’t have that chemical aftertaste that the feed corn has.

Anyway, I went out to the garden Saturday morning to find most of my newly forming ears of corn neatly nibbled down to the stalk. Stupid deer. It’s my own dumb fault because my corn patch wasn’t fenced in. But it is now. I spent all day Sunday doing reconstructive surgery on my fence. I had to relocate one of my compost piles, to open up a path to the newly fenced in area. My next step is to mulch all the new inside territory with straw.

Otherwise my garden is doing very well. The bean teepee is growing according to plan. My peas are almost finished. I took out half of theme and will be planting another tomato or tow and some delicata squash on the trellis. I’m definitely a convert to vertical gardening.

We’ve been eating tons of zucchini. I’ve been harvesting onions and garlic as we need them. My lettuce still looks good. The basil and parsley look and taste great too. My self-seeding calendula look amazing. And the volunteer cilantro looks good too. My pop-corn is well on its way, and I decided to plant some more sweet corn in the bed where my turnips were.

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And the corn that the deer ate seems to be recovering OK. It’s starting to grow silk. I think I might get some good corn this year after all.

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May 26th, 2011

Delinquent blogger, busy gardener

Hello. It’s been as while. Please forgive my absence from this blog. I’ve had a lot going on lately. We had a baby last month and I was home for a few weeks helping around the house. I am extremely thankful for the generous paternity leave Rodale gave me. It made such a huge difference to my family and me. Besides being around to help with the new baby, I was also lucky enough to get to spend an unprecedented amount of time with my almost-3 year old daughter. Together, we spent a lot of time working and playing in the garden.

I’ll give you a quick tour:

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You can see the pea trellis in the foreground and the bean teepee in the background. In a few months that teepee will be a cool and shady hideout for my daughter.

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The zucchini we started indoors finally made it’s way to the garden. This is our first blossom. Fresh zucchini is right around the corner.

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And our potatoes are starting to push through the straw mulch.

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This is what I call strategic volunteer cilantro. After last year’s plants went to seed, I broadcast the seeds along the fence on the southwest corner of the garden. It should make a nice herb border that attracts lots of beneficial insects.

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We also planted four rows of corn and two rows of bush beans on the east side of the garden. I tried the three sisters here last year, but the squash bugs were terrible and they seemed to have their way with my corn too. So I’m not planting any winter squash this year.

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And finally, here are the turnips I planted last September, gone to seed. The turnip roots were awesome in the late fall, and the turnip greens were tasty in early spring. It’s amazing what will survive over the winter with a good layer of mulch.

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