Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Transplanting tomatoes

It has been difficult to post with all the activities around here.  We've been on the go repairing and maintaining equipment or structures, researching all things critter related, heading to town to pick up needed materials and working on getting the garden set up.  With all the planting and transplanting seedlings into the garden, we've also been starting some of the seeds that germinate very quickly inside.  Like cucumbers, squash, melons and pumpkins.

You really don't have to spend a lot of money to get seedlings started.  Especially the larger seeds like the ones mentioned above.  I have purchased some flats for seed starting but I have also saved those plastic clam-shell containers from store bought strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes or mushrooms.  My mom gave me some of those plastic egg containers a couple years ago and I still use them.  Just punch a hole in the bottom of each cup with a nail so the excess water can drain out otherwise you'll end up with soggy soil (which will rot your seeds). These plastic containers make wonderful seed starting trays, they are reusable and stack nicely when not in use.  If you need containers that are a little larger than your average vegetable can, look into purchasing grow bags.  They come collapsed and after use, you can reuse them.  A good rinse or wash in a diluted bleach solution and thoroughly dried before storing for the next season.  The yellow ones I've used for about 7 years but my parents had purchased them, well.... a long time ago. Probably 30 years ago when they had bought them to start eucalyptus seedlings for wind breaks.

But the most important thing in starting seeds in trays is the soil.  A good seed starting soil can really improve your success.

If the weather gets any cooler I'll have to put the seed starts on the seedling heat mat but it had been warm enough to set on the shelves in the sunshine in the greenhouse.  So far only the cucumbers are sprouting.  Tomorrow I may have to move the others to the heat mat since we are forecasted for several days of overcast and possibly rain.  We really could use some good rain showers so no complaints here!

I have had a couple of 'volunteers' that popped up in my existing potted plants in the greenhouse this spring.  A bean plant, some kind of squash or pumpkin, buckwheat and possibly an eggplant.  I really hate pulling them out and letting them die, so when I pulled the squash plant I damaged the roots pretty good.  I then put it in a jar of water.  It is rooting, bloomed and I'll transplant it here soon.  The buckwheat and the others were pulled an re-potted into cans.  You can plant just about anything into a can and transplant it later.  Just be sure to punch some holes in the bottom of the can, too.

Buckwheat in a can

So let's take a look at transplanting tomatoes.   They were getting leggy and starting to yellow so into the ground they go.  Chances of getting a frost are still possible but I can always cover them at this time of year.  The main problem for us is wind. We get winds in the late evenings/afternoons during the summer when the valleys cool off or when a good storm passes through.  With the lack of wind breaks it sure can cause some damage to your plants. 

So here's a tip for transplanting tomatoes in windy areas where you cannot put a cover over them that won't end up two counties over.  When you dig your hole for your plants, dig it at an angle.  Like you are going to let the plant lie on the ground instead of upright.  It will greatly reduce the chance of the wind twisting your tomato plant apart.  I will also cover the stem of the tomato plant so about 4"-6" of the foliage is exposed.  This will cause the stem to set out more roots.  (Cut a tomato stem, set it in water and you'll see it set out roots.... a good way to get more plants out of one!)  The additional roots will help keep your plants firmly rooted in the ground and keep the wind from uprooting them.

Please note that you would take the seedling to be planted out of the can or grow bag before you put it into the soil.  I left the can in place so you could see the angle of the planting better.  It looks like it is taking a nap but they are doing quite well and as the plant grows you'll never know that you put the root ball in at an angle.  If the wind wobbles the stems loose from their covering of dirt, just pack more dirt on top or add a small rock to hold it in place until roots can start to take hold.

Oh, and don't worry if you break off a piece of the leggy stems you can always put the broken piece into a jar of water and it will take root.  Then just transplant later.  Tomatoes are a rather forgiving plant to grow.

Hope your gardening adventures are going well!  Until next time.....

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hot off the press...

As of 5:30 this morning our herd has increased by one.

Calving season is now officially over (for us, that is).

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spring rush is on

Yikes!  It's been quite a while since my last post.  Time flies when you're having fun.  A lot has been happening and, well, with the warmer temps the gardening has been picking up.  Slowly, but surely, it is getting planted.  Seedlings transplanted into either larger containers or into the garden.  Seedlings such as cabbage that can handle the cooler overnight temperatures.

Wildflowers, daffodils, tulips and the fruit trees are all in bloom.  Even the sage brush is blooming.  The bees are busy at work and we split the remaining hive last week.  We took their candy away so hopefully they won't get mad and leave like they did last year.  So far we still have bees coming and going out of both hives.  We'll have to check the one hive in about a week to see if they have started to make a queen cell since the one hive has the original queen.  We split the 2 hives last year but the high temps we had last year greatly affected the success of those splits to make it through the winter.  Another learning experience.

One vegetable that I have had trouble with in the past growing are peas.  I just cannot get them to do well.  Sprouting generally is not a problem, just production.  So this year I used seed inoculant to see if it would improve their performance.  Legume inoculants contain a beneficial bacteria for peas and beans.  It will be interesting to see how the peas (and beans) perform this year.  I added it to the beans, too.

The second cow is due to calf so we are on 'calf watch'.  She looks like a hairy barrel with stubby legs.  Today may be the day, at least I'm sure she is hoping so!  The month-old calf is growing like crazy.  It will be nice for her to have another calf as a playmate instead of the chickens.

Speaking of chickens, the last of the Original 5 passed away a couple of weeks ago. Chick-A-Dee was 8 and the ol' gal still laid eggs up until last year.  She never really slowed down, just got old.  We had separated her from the rest of the flock so the young cockerels wouldn't pick on her but she showed that she could hold her own and beat the tar out of them.   She also would go out of her way to wallop the 6 year old Silver Wyandotte hen!  So for THEIR safety she became a yard bird and slept in the mud room in a cat carrier at night.  It was quite the sight to see the back door open and Chick-A-Dee come walking out or turn around while getting breakfast ready to see a grumpy hen standing in the doorway as if to say "WHERE'S MY COFFEE!"  If a boot wasn't set in front of the carrier door she'd push it open and wander out to see what was going on.  The mud room is too quiet now.  We miss her.

7 yr old Feathers
We have one of the 7 year old hens left but the majority of the old girls are around 6.  And still laying.  Just another reason to give your birds time off during the winter and not burn them out by giving them artificial light during the winter months to promote egg laying.  The flock is aging so it will be time to get some new hens.

While cleaning up the greenhouse and the surroundings I found this little fellow hiding under the board going into the greenhouse.  It is called a Long-Toed Salamander.  I'd much rather have the salamander hanging about than the mice that have been trying to make up residence in the greenhouse.  It has been so warm and dry that it will probably venture over to the irrigation ditch. 

Well, too much to get caught up on so I'll leave you with some of the sights in and around the greenhouse.  Hope you are getting your gardening together and keep an eye out for canning supplies.  Some of the local stores here already have them on sale.  Take advantage of those sales!

Citrus trees recovered well from the freeze

Old girls hard at work

Taking a well-deserved nap

And, finally, after all the hard work, tilling, weeding, planting and watering, some snacks are on the menu.....

Until next time.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Goat Hoof trimming

Well, this is on the list of things to do today....

OSU has some other great videos, too.  Check them out.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Busy work

It has been a while since my last post.  We are getting some much needed rain so with it being so boggy out, what better time to drop a quick post?  This season has been fairly dry in terms of snowfall and rain so I will keep my complaints of the mud at bay.  We sure need it... the rain, not so much the mud.  Unless you're a duck or goose, or even a chicken looking for some worms.

We've been a little busy around here these past few weeks with getting things ready for the growing season and several road trips, during which we have acquired a few more critters.  One is a little black cat we named Minnie.  She is a mini version of the other two black cats and she has the loudest purr I've ever heard.  She loves to play and has made a good friend with Liza also likes to play.
Minnie, Opal, Winky & Liza

The other addition was the purchase of 5 Hereford cattle, two that were bred.  We had not planned on purchasing cattle this year but we had the opportunity and it all worked out in the long run. Now we are getting a crash course education on what to expect or what we may experience.

The youngest cow calved early Tuesday morning.  A few logistical problems between mama and calf in the nursing department, but all has been settled out and the two of them are quite the pair.  

Nap time
All of the tomato seedlings and the jalapeƱo seedlings have been transplanted into grow bags.  There were a few that didn't make it but overall the transplanting has been a success.  Now to keep the damn mouse out of them.  They always nip the tops off the seedlings, sometimes killing the plant.  Greenhouse needs to be entirely cleaned out to see if the cats can flush out the culprit!

I did get more tomato seeds started as soon as the tray became available and the cabbage seeds I started have sprouted.  By the time they are ready to transplant it should have warmed a bit more outside and be safe to transplant. And I still have about 75 more pepper plant varieties to transplant into their grow bags.  The kids help put dirt into the bags and I move the seedlings into the bags. A team effort makes the job go much more quickly.

And I really like the temperature controller for the grow mat.  It does a great job in keeping me from cooking my seeds during the daylight hours and keeping the mat warm during the night.

Raspberry and gooseberry plants have been trimmed and the few strays have been transplanted back into their respective spots and the area mulched.  The flower patch have been weeded, mulched and ready to go.  I have some more raspberry plants to transplant, as well as some marionberry plants acquired from a dear, sweet neighbor lady.


The garden has been tilled and awaits another pass at a deeper depth.  It started to rain before I had a chance to go another round so it we don't get any more significant rain within the week I'll be able to give it another pass and get some more straw tossed into the mix.  I have a new plan to try this year that will involve more mulch in the garden and planting more companion plants together.  I am hoping it will improve the soil and help keep moisture in during those hot summer months.

Now all I need to do is to finish up my planning out the garden on paper while using my old plan from last year so as to not plant the same or similar plant families in the same spot.  GrowOrganic has a good list of plant family rotations that can be found here.   I can't wait to get into the garden, how about you?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Garden planning

Gardening will be in full swing soon so just a few reminders when you are planning your garden.

* Plant what you and your family members like to eat.  Don't waste garden space and water on something like rhubarb, or okra, if you and the family don't like it. 

* Make a list of what you want to grow.  This will help in your selection and in finding plants that will grow in your conditions.  And go to my past post here on how much to grow for your family:  Ball Blue Book of Canning The BLUE book has a chart of how much to grow of certain varieties to feed a family for a year.

* Know the number of growing days for your location.  Some locations you can grow year round, others may have (X) number of days. When is your first and last date of frost?  Go here for that.  What are the average high/low temperatures for your growing season?  Any of the weather channel type of sites have some graph of average past temperatures for your area. This information will also help in your plant/seed purchases.

* Plant selection.  What grows well in your area?  If you live in the desert look for varieties that can tolerate heat and possibly shade.  You may have to plant under shade screen or grow things in pots under a deck.  If you live in areas that have a short growing season then look for varieties that don't require a long time to come to full maturity.  You may have to start seedlings indoors - like peppers and tomatoes.  Don't have a lot of space?  Then you may have to grow in pots or raised beds.  There are several varieties that do well in containers.  Do you get lots of rain?  Well, you're getting my point.  Look for varieties that are adapted to those kind of conditions. Which leads us to my next point....

* Look at the location you are planning to start your garden in.  What kind of soil is it?  Clay?  Sandy?  A mix of both?  Rocky?  You may have to amend your soil with some good compost or straw.  Don't use pine shavings.  Those are best used around berry plants.  But do consider using mulch, be it straw, leaves or lawn clippings, since it greatly assists in retaining soil moisture and keeping weeds at bay.

* And if you are gardening in the same spot you did last year, don't plant the same variety in the same spot.  Like planting tomatoes where you planted tomatoes the year before or potatoes where tomatoes were planted.  They are susceptible to the same diseases or pests.

From Mother Earth News: Maintain Healthy Soils using Crop Rotation:

The 9 plant families they suggest to rotate
  • Onion family: onions, garlic, leeks and shallots
  • Carrot family: carrots, celery, parsley and parsnips
  • Sunflower family: lettuce, sunflowers and a few other leafy greens
  • Cabbage family: cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and many other leafy greens, as well as rutabagas and kohlrabi
  • Spinach family: beets and chard
  • Cucumber family: cucumbers, melons, squash and gourds
  • Pea family: peas and beans
  • Grass family: corn, wheat, oats and rye
  • Tomato family: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes
ie: onions one year, then carrots next, followed by sunflowers.....

So get out those gardening catalogs, get online (some companies are doing 'free' shipping) and get your seeds ordered!  (yes, I'm nagging you!) :-)  Even though you may have snow or frost on the ground now, it won't last forever.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Something's up ... update?

As a follow up on the last outing to pick up feed and some grub, I think I stumbled upon an explanation as to where all the 'shoppers' have gone.  They are staying home and paying for their healthcare extortion fees.