Sunday, March 25, 2012

So here are some updates on my farm. The raised garden bed has now been completed. I have filled in the 36 holes to use them as planters, and I have 4 caps on the remaining 8 holes, so they can be used both as seats and as covered storage.

I also had some fireants decide to bed up in the upper left (from this perspective) corner. Tossed some Ortho Fireant Killer on them, it took three times as long to kill them as the bag claimed, but they did finally die (or leave, not sure which lol - when I used Spectrum Fireant Killer, I always found thousands of bodies on and around the mounds, but so far haven't found bodies with Ortho). We had a storm blow through here last week, so I had to move my zinnia peat pot trays that were on my potting table. I'd lost one of the trays just before the storm to some high winds that blew it off and spilled the seedlings into the lawn, but the other 3 are now on my porch, and the seedlings so far are growing:

As to my corn patch, it's looking good too. I have sprouts in the patch - at the point the following pictures were taken, about a quarter of the seeds had sprouted, but as of today, I think almost all of the 45 seeds I planted have sprouted.

The corn patch in its entirety. Definitely not a huge garden spot. :)

A single sprout.

A trio of corn sprouts in triangular formation.

Closeup of a very strong sprout!

A row of three sprouts.

Definitely looking forward to my first ears of Silver Queen sweet corn from this patch! The sprouts, at least at this stage, are growing actively and aggressively; I fully expect them to be a foot high by the beginning of April! Although I've never raised corn before, so reality just may fall short of my expectations!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Corn Patch, Potting Table, and Raised Bed Garden Update!

A few little changes have been afoot out here at Booth's Little Farm! Among those changes are a new patch for my sweet corn, a potting table, and caps for some of the blocks in my raised bed. Another change that I have yet to photograph is that I finished up the raised bed by filling 36 of the 44 holes in the blocks with earth so that I can use them as planters - and also to add stability to the wall of the bed.

For starters, I dug out an area roughly 12' x 8' (I have yet to measure it to see exactly what the size is lol) for my corn patch. I dug out the sod initially and placed it around the perimeter of the patch so I could work out the soil from the sod later. During the digging, I came across much buried "treasure" - mostly broken glass and the rusted remains of tin cans. At one point, a large Victorian house graced the corner to the south of me (before my house was built), and my friend speculated that they probably threw their trash out in the back yard, far from the house yet within a short walking distance. So my land was most likely their backyard dump! That certainly explains all the trash I've dug up! I collected most of it in a plastic bin for disposal:

The noise a shovel makes when encounter subterranean glass is almost up there with fingernails on a chalkboard! A most unpleasant sound. :) Anyway, I started out with the basics for the patch:

Once I had it roughly the size I wanted, I then set to taking each chunk of sod and painstakingly working the soil out of them and back into the patch.

My tools for working this patch are rather primitive, I suppose. Or, more to the point, the tools aren't so much primitive as just requiring everything to be done by hand:

No tiller, no sod buster, just a generic shovel and garden rake! And, of course, the most basic of all tools: my bare hands. At one point when I was breaking up the sods by hand, the neighbor's daughter-in-law - "once-removed", whatever that means - came over to meet Max (my dog) and was gushing over how pretty he is, then looked at me and said, "You, however...." LOL. I was pretty filthy from head to toe. Took a lot of scrubbing in the shower later to get clean again! But, I've been enjoying living up to my name these days! ("George" means "Farmer". My full name means "The noble farmer who lives by the castle".)

So, once the sods were broken up and the soil ready, I used the handle of my rake to make 5 rows, and dropped 9 sweet corn seeds per row for a total of 45. It may still be too early for corn; I've heard you're not supposed to plant it until after Easter, but I used roughly half of what was in the packet; if this doesn't come up, I can replant in April. So now the patch looks like this:

The sticks, actually roots I dug up while prepping the patch, mark the rows, since when I watered the patch, those rows virtually disappeared. My biggest concern now is the neighborhood dogs walking all over it and scattering the seeds when they do. But, since I finished yesterday, so far only a couple of tracks have been in it, and I smoothed those back over. Hopefully no seeds were scattered about from that one. Who knows what tonight will bring though? I may just have to invest in a short fence to put around it, as well as around the ones I'll be doing shortly for my sugar baby watermelons and my Hale's jumbo cantaloupes!

The caps on the raised bed add a certain flare to the whole thing, as does the filled-in holes made into planters. Unfortunately, I've yet to photograph the bed with the holes filled (just finished that today), but I'll get that image on the blog before too long. For now, here's a picture of the bed with the caps and the 2 solar lights I have burning on each end.

I also added 4 more tomatoes to the bed yesterday; smaller specimens picked up from Home Depot, a variety called "Early Girl". Supposed to start producing fruit 50 days after planting and continue producing until the first frost. We shall see if the 4 early girls live up with their descriptions or not!

In addition, I also built myself a potting table. Talk about primitive! But it's functional and gets the job done lol. I built it by picking up the springs from a baby crib someone down the street had put out by the road. My idea what that a good potting table is made from hardware cloth, fencing, or something of the sort to allow soil to fall through and to allow for air circulation from top to bottom, so why not make a table out of the crib springs? So after dragging it back home, I took the leftover wood from the pallet I had pulled apart to make the compost bin, and used that as the legs. There were 3 long studs in the pallet, roughly 86" long, so I used a circular saw to cut 2 of the pieces in half. Which sort of worked; I actually managed to get the pieces uneven on my first try, so I had to shorten one of the legs, making the 43" legs I'd planned to use as 42.5" (half an inch makes a HUGE difference when trying to balance something like those springs on the legs!). I then, once the legs were a proper length, took the third stud and cut out 3 support beams for the legs. I then had to go buy a stud at Home Depot, because I was one stud too few lol. So, my very primitive potting table ends up looking like this:

Primitive, but functional! It'll do for my needs at this time lol. I'm debating whether to paint it, or just leave it as is (although that purple/pink of the stud I bought it rather nauseating lol). You may also notice there are peat pots already laid out on the potting table. Two are shown; I added two more after these pictures were taken. The peat pots contain some very pretty purple zinnias that I want to put in my flower beds in the front yard. And maybe a few in the back as well.

If these sprout and grow, I plan to go back and get some more flower seeds that I'd like to have. It's one thing to purchase a growing plant from a nursery (which is fine in and of itself), but it's quite another to have 40 flowers you grew from seed yourself!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Compost Bin and Raised Bed Garden!

Well, it's been a while since an update here on Booth's Little Farm. But today is a good update! Earlier this week, I worked on a compost bin, mostly made from the wood taken from a wooden pallet that had been thrown out. It was what I considered to be Step 1 in getting some plants in the ground. It's stationed out by my storage shed, so it's not too close to the house, but yet not so far that I am discouraged from taking scraps (egg shells, fruit and vegetable scraps, etc) out to it. It's fairly good-sized, at 49" long and 24" wide.

I'm quite proud of that simple little compost bin lol. And I managed to use the circular saw without losing any fingers!

So now that the compost bin is complete, I needed something to use the composted materials for. And that brings me to today's project: The raised bed garden! I started out by going to Home Depot for the cinder blocks I wanted to use as the building material for the garden bed, but they didn't have any that were squared on both sides, so I ended up going to Lowe's instead. And Lowe's had exactly what I needed! So I purchased 45 cinder blocks (my truck felt so HEAVY driving home on the interstate, and it did not seem to want to stop!), took them home, and went ahead and arranged them in the bed pattern.

Above, you can see them loaded into the bed of my truck. The next picture shows where I planned to put the bed:

One thing I realized when I started laying out the blocks is that the ground was not exactly even and level. I ended up having to put about 3 wheelbarrow loads of dirt to try and even out the ground. Even then, I was not entirely successful, as you will be able to see when the second layer of blocks is added lol, although I did eventually fix the biggest problem in the near side.

And now that the structure of the bed was complete, it was time to haul in some dirt! So I paid a visit over to Sunrise Garden Center, where last week I had spoken to one of the owners about what I needed to use to fill the bed. So this afternoon, I took him the inside dimensions of my bed (128" long x 32" wide x 16" deep) and he estimated exactly how much fill-dirt I would need. So I backed my truck up to the pile, and he and Brad Ward, a friend and former co-worker of mine, who works at the garden center as well, filled the bed of my truck up with dirt while I shopped for plants. I selected 4 different types of tomatoes, a Romaine lettuce, and 2 pots of marigolds (2 marigolds in each pot) to assist with bug protection. So once I was loaded up and purchased the dirt and plants (the dirt was $42, which isn't bad for an entire truck load), I headed back home, once again driving a truck that felt twice as heavy as normal lol.

My poor truck lol. It'll take forever to get it clean again! So anyway, with the truck backed up to the structure, I used a garden rake to pull the dirt out of the truck and into the bed. And as I said, I had exactly the right amount of dirt for the bed. However, I didn't have enough dirt to fill in the holes along the rim as I had intended, so I'll just have to get more dirt later on to do that. Not only will having dirt in the holes add stability to the structure, it'll also give me 44 stationary "pots" to put plants in!

The big mess in front of the bed is from where I washed the bed of the truck out. I decided I'd wash it right there so that most of the dirt would wash into the bed, but quite a bit washed out on the ground in front of the bed instead lol. I later scooped most of it back into the bed. And then it was time to set out my plants! So I carefully put them into the bed.

The four sticks on one end mark the 2 rows of carrot seeds I planted. They're multicolored, and will produce carrots that have roots of orange, red, yellow, purple, and white. I still have room in the bed for a few other plants; I just need to decide what I want to plant! And here are the closeups of the tomato and lettuce information cards:

Updating this blog tonight has been very difficult; Blogspot has been having multiple user difficulties and I've had to jump around on 2 different browsers and almost start over dozens of times just to get this far. The text entry has been fine, but the image uploading and inserting has nearly driven me mad. It's literally taken 5 times longer than it should have to update this thing.

But in any case, grand total of my green thumb desires today:

45 cinder blocks at $1.34 each: $65 total.
1 pickup truck bedload of dirt: $42 total.
4 tomato and 1 lettuce plants at $1.50 each: $7.50 total.
2 marigolds at $1.99 each; $3.98 total.
All of the above: $118.48.
My joy in raising some of my own food: priceless!