Monthly Archives: May 2012

Life is Abundant this Week!

We know summer is well on its way when our temperatures are in the 100’s. The spring garden is just passing its peak and I will start to remove lettuces, spinach and cool season crops that are going to seed and start to pop in sweet potato plants, more peppers plants and squash seed in the vacant spots. Our little farm is lively with the arrival of twin Nubians does, baby bunnies,baby quail and the rest of our farm critters that keeps us on our toes. This is when true dedication comes in….or in other words, the work! Weeds are a plenty, watering chores have elevated, milking, feeding, thinning the fruit trees, harvesting and preserving.

This week we harvested over two gallons of Camarosa Strawberries.  They are one of my favorite strawberries.  Although they are not everbearing, they are big,  extremely flavorful and the harvest is very plentiful and they will produce a second crop in the fall, although not as big.  After cleaning them and slightly drying them, I place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze.  Once frozen they get put into quart bags for winter smoothies.

2 years ago I planted 3 pear trees, one a seckel, one a bosc and the other is a red pear.  I really didn’t have anymore space on the property so I crammed them closely on the south side of the shed to be espaliered.  Beneath them is another bed of strawberries.  So far the are looking great and maintenance has been very minimal.  Besides they are a great addition to farmyard.

This week we have new baby bunnies.  You know the saying “breed like rabbits”, well new bunnies are pretty common here, but none the less, I just love the little guys!

Our chickens are laying in full production.  They are getting all the scrapes from the garden, like lettuce, spinach and other greens that have become bitter or have gone to seed.  Their production always gets a boost when they get a large amount of fresh garden scrapes.  If you haven’t raised chickens, you might want to try.  I love watching them rummage through their treats from the garden, plus the eggs become so rich and bright!

This week the artichokes are abundant.  Artichoke dip, artichoke hearts, and whatever else I can muster up.  Saturday we harvested over 25 artichokes off of three plants and we will probably harvest that again this week.  As they ripen through the month the size of the globe gets smaller and smaller.  After the harvest is over, the plants start to look scraggly so I will cut out old stocks and leaves then toss them into the compost.  My once beautiful, very large plants will become rather ugly and tired looking.  They need a rest from their labor!

I have really become a fan of ‘purple of sicily’ cauliflower.  It’s taste is almost nutty when steamed.  It seems to do very well in our conditions and what’s not to like?  It has color, it’s an heirloom, and it tastes good!

Our tomatoes get covered ever year to prevent the beet leaf hopper from infecting the curly top virus.  This year we have warmed up early and we are very dry.  These conditions are prefect for this awful virus.  Once the tomatoes get it there is nothing you can do, so prevention is essential.  Eight years ago here in Southern Utah it was almost unheard of and now the virus is ramped and can wipe out your entire crop.  Now that’s devastating whether you have hundreds of tomatoes or maybe just a few heirlooms.

If you have the space, I would suggest planting a Bagel Peach.  Oh my goodness!  The flavor can’t be beat (although our white peach is a very close runner-up).  Although the peach is small, it’s not small in flavor.  The bagel peach is not for preserving, but I think you will find a small family can consume them rather quickly before even thinking about preserving.  Caution:  They can be very addicting!  You may also find them with the name of Flat Peach or Saturn.

Our Nubian doe Ivy, had twins does two weeks ago.  Once again I am milking and looking forward to making cheese, yogurt and kefir.   the babies are so much fun at this age, so full of life and playful.  The first doe born has a name of Sassafras, Sassy for short.  The poor little second baby is still nameless….  Perhaps nothing has come to fit her personality yet.

Our lavender looks great this year.  It’s loaded with blooms that we will harvest within the next few weeks.  Did you know the blossoms are great in a balsamic vinegar dressing?  There isn’t too much that will bother lavender and once established, it is a breeze to grow.  Once I have harvested all of the lavender flower stalks I will trim back the bush to a nice mound to keep it uniform and healthy for next years show.


Filed under Fruits from the orchard, Gardening, Goats, Life on the Farm, Preserving

Tomatoes….Pure Bliss

What garden is complete unless it has America’s favorite vegetable crop the tomato?  Beautiful shades of red, maroon, yellow, green and even striped tomatoes find their way into my kitchen (if they make it that far) starting as early as mid-June.   With a little TLC you will be well on your way to the succulent, sun-kissed taste you look forward to all year.

Soil Matters!  Tomatoes like a rich well-drained loamy soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0.   I add plenty of compost early spring along with phosphorous in the form of Soft Rock Phosphate and potassium in the form of Greensand.    If you have a problem with blossom end rot you can add lime if your pH is low and oyster shell if it is high.  I always use organic fertilizers in my garden to build up the soil to create a healthy environment for my veggies.  It truly makes a big difference in flavor too!  I just makes sense!

Tomatoes love sunshine, with a minimum of 6 hours of full, bright sunshine to soak in the rays.  Where I live in Southern Utah, however, tomatoes benefit from some afternoon shade.   The sun is intense and we will even use floating row cover that lets in 85% light to help protect our plants throughout the day starting late spring.  Without it, we have less production and more sun-scald.

Once the days are longer and soil temperature in your garden reaches 60-65 degrees, it’s time to plant!  Make sure your little babies have been hardened off and always plant in the evening time or on cloudy non-windy days.  All tomato varieties will be happy and produce better if they have some kind of support, whether it be stakes, cages or trellises.  I space my tomato plants very close together.  Determinate varieties get planted 1 foot apart and indeterminate varieties are planted 2 foot apart.  Bio-intensive gardening baby!   Our area is very arid, so the problem of molds and mildews are rare and there is plenty of wind so we get ample air circulation.  If you live in a humid area, planting 3-4 apart is recommended.  By planting this close, it helps keep the roots cooler, helps prevent weeds and I can have a bigger variety in a small space.  Plant them deep!  If your plants are tall and spindly, plant them deep.  Others can be planted an inch or two deeper than the pot they are in.  Roots form along the buried portion of the them, giving better growth and they have less plant injury from to weak of a stem.  I’m not afraid to buy a tall skinny tomato plant as long as it’s healthy.   Press the soil around they transplants with a slight depression, this way you can give it a drink without the water running off.  At this time I like to feed with liquid kelp to help strengthen the plant and help with stress of transplanting.  A weekly foliar feeding of kelp will really give your plants a boost.  I have used the ‘red mulch’  and I am giving it a try again this year.  It’s just a red plastic you place right over the soil and  make slits to pop your transplants in.  It’s said to increase yields and make healthier plants.  I can say my plants do look really great this year and have plenty of blossoms, but so do the ones a few beds over!   Experimentation!  Priceless!

Water will depend on your area, soil and climate.  You can use mulch to help keep the soil moist.  I like to apply it a couple of times a growing season.  Allow the soil to slightly dry out between watering.   A steady supply will keep your tomatoes from cracking and getting blossom end rot, but too much water will cause your tomatoes flavor to be washed out.  Fertilizing should be done every 3-4 weeks with a good balanced fertilizer.  Carefully work  it in around the base of each plant without disturbing the roots.

I love planting heirloom tomatoes!  Some big, scalloped, lobed,  stripped and some…..down right ugly like the Black Elephant!  But that is what is so fun about heirlooms.  I always add a few new varieties just to see how they perform.  Brandywine is a very popular tomato and many people ask for it, but it does not perform well in hot climates.  Potato leaf and the wispy fern-like leaf tomatoes do not perform well in my hot dry area, but 15 miles east they do just fine.  It’s just a trial and error to find the perfect heirloom tomato for your area.  Not all heirloom are created equal!  This year my new varieties that look outstanding so far and have many tomatoes on already are Orange Giraffe, Koralik, Orange Purple Smudge and Sub-Arctic.  Sub-Arctic is a variety that is good for cool regions, opposite of me, but because it is an early variety and I planted it out rather early (with some protection) and it already has many golf ball sized tomatoes.  And this is the beginning of May!  Even though I love heirlooms,  I will always plant a few hybrid tomatoes, kind of as a back up plan.  NOT GMO tomatoes though! Hybrids perform well in the heat and are more disease resistant then the heirlooms.  A couple of old-time favorites of my is Better Bush and Mountain Delight, both determinate.  Ask seasoned gardeners in your area which varieties have preformed well for them.

If you are in to saving seeds from these heirloom beauties, you will find that some varieties will adapt to your area and start to produce better and become more hardy.    Truly amazing plants!

Liquid Kelp, Greensand, All Purpose Fertilizer

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After the Daffodils Bloom……

We all love daffodils when they are blooming with their bright faces announcing its spring!  But what about once the leaves start to flop all over taking up space, flowers faded and gone.   We are ready  to pop in a few new annuals here and there, but the leaves!   Removing the leaves before they die back naturally will cause the bulbs to weaken and possible not bloom the following spring.  Flower heads can be removed (“dead-heading”), if desired, but leave flower stems intact to photosynthesize food for the bulb.  Once the leaves tips have started to brown and the entire leaf if yellow, which is usually around six weeks after bloom, the leaves can be removed without sacrificing next years blooms.

A simple solutions is tying the leaves up or braiding, my favorite.  Braiding gives a maintained look, while making space for new annuals to start their new home for summer color.  Simply grab a group of leaves and start to braid!  I like to tuck the braid end down at the base of the leaves to keep them even more tidy.  Once the leaves have become lifeless, I can easily toss the braid into the compost pile.  This is also a good time if I need to move bulbs or separate due to overcrowding.  The braids will mark where my bulbs are.  Overcrowding will happen about every 5-7 years.  Dig deeply with a straight-edged spade. Lift the entire clump out and carefully separate the bulbs. Do not pull bulbs apart with any force!  Either replant immediately  (add bone meal in each new planting hole) or store bulbs until September in a cool, well-ventilated dark area. Bulbs must dry before you can rub off roots and dead outer layers, approximately six weeks. Check bulbs for softness or rot during drying.  Share extra bulbs with your neighbors!  In September sidedress bulbs with bone meal for bigger blooms in Spring!

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Filed under Flower Gardens