Monday, April 2, 2012

March 2012 in Review, Part III: A Whole Lot of Gardening

With the late Spring/early Summer-type weather we've been having, everything is about a month ahead of schedule. Our daffodils and forsythia have come and gone. The grass is lush and green and we've been working outside everyday. Here's what's going on in the garden. 

March Orchard Improvements

Our pitiful little cherry tree is finally getting some TLC

One of my goals this year is to make major strides towards establishing a survival orchard. I thought I should probably try and do something for this cherry tree I got for free four years ago before I start spending money on new trees! I pulled all the grass and weeds from around it in a 2' diameter. Then I bought some organic fruit tree fertilizer and gave it a generous serving. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I have ever fertilized this tree. Gee, I wonder why it is still 3 feet tall? ;) 

I learned from my orchard bible, The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way,that putting mulch right up against a fruit tree is a bad idea. It holds too much moisture against the trunk and is prime habitat for rodents that munch on bark. It is also a bad idea to lay down a circle of weed cloth underneath wood mulch or stone. Weed cloth creates an environment that favors bacteria at the expense of the fungi that are key to tree health. So, yes, I did that wrong when I planted my pecan trees last fall! It is better to put a thick layer of pea stone down and then mulch in a wider circle around that. Much more about mulch this month. (Hehe)

Spritzing and Spraying

I've spent a significant amount of my prepping budget over the last couple of  months on equipment and spray ingredients recommended in The Holistic Orchard for our fruit trees and berry bushes. The sprays aren't toxic pesticides or chemical fertilizers but are aimed at improving the overall health of the plants. It's all about helping the plant's own immune system fight off potential pathogens and insect pressure. Does this sound a bit New Age-y or otherwise weird? It's not, I promise! Read this for a bit more explanation.  

Solo 4 Gallon Backpack Sprayer
The weather has accelerated the spraying timetable so I've already sprayed two of four total spring sprays. I loaded up my nifty new backpack sprayer with a pungent concoction of water, neem oil, liquid fish, liquid kelp, effective microbes, and blackstrap molasses and slid on the 40+ lb contraption. It felt like a stubborn, smelly toddler was clinging to my back as I staggered across our homestead, spraying our cherry and pecan trees as well as the blackberry and raspberry bushes. Luckily, I'm used to stubborn, smelly toddlers so this was a breeze! 

Raspberries in the foreground, blackberries in the middle. Hopefully the holistic sprays will encourage bountiful harvests. 


We set up a compost bin primarily for chicken and rabbit waste. The majority of our food waste will be consumed by the chickens as they get older and we plan to use many of our spent garden plants as mulch in the chicken run.  

The bin is close to the coop and to the garden. 

When we were deciding where to set up the compost bin, we debated putting it somewhere that would be a bit out of the way but wouldn't be visible from the house. But then we remembered that our giant chicken run isn't exactly discreet! The compost bin is practically invisible in comparison.  

I'm looking forward to reducing the number of bags of compost we'll have to buy in the future for our garden endeavors. 

The Vegetable Garden

Hardly a day goes by when we're not planting something.

We planted onion transplants this year rather than trying to grow them from seed. 

Growing onions from transplants instead of seed seems like cheating, but maybe we'll actually get some good sized onions this year.

"Music" variety garlic

The garlic we planted last fall all sprouted and is doing great.

"Encore" lettuce mix and "Corvair" spinach

The first of many boxes of salad greens have sprouted. 

My usually June-bearing strawberries are in bloom

Last year's strawberries are blooming. In addition, we planted 75 new plants.

Peas! We outsmarted the mice this year

Hubby Dear's relentless trapping of mice in our garden has resulted in many more seeds surviving long enough to sprout. Yippee for peas!

I love our garden 

If you've been following my garden adventures, you might notice that we switched out the wooden lattice-style square foot grids for ones made of twine. We decided that the wooden grids simply take up too much room and make weeding and planting difficult. Hubby Dear installed metal screw eyes to the sides of the boxes and ran the twine through. We are much happier with the result.

Seed Starting Results

The seeds we planted in the little Jiffy Pot greenhouse took off rapidly. We're now in the process of hardening off the seedlings. 

Rosemary I overwintered indoors, the seedlings, and one of our new blueberry bushes

The sunflowers aren't enjoying the process very much and everything else is pretty leggy and windblown, but we may end up with a few successful transplants. We hedged our bets by directly sowing the same seeds in the garden and we'll keep whichever are the best looking plants in the whole lot. 


The beat goes on in April. More planting, hopefully we'll start harvesting! Coming soon: planting apple trees and blueberries.

Have you started your garden yet? What's growing at your house?


  1. Beautiful garden. I agree on replacing the wooden slats with twine grids--they never last and take up precious inches of space. I use a bright, obnoxious, neon yellow twine that makes it really easy to see even when muddy.

    I like onion sets as opposed to seeds. It makes a huge difference. I have had nothing but success with sets of Copra (from Johnny's Selected Seeds).

    I am really behind this year, as when I was starting to turn the soil for spring prep, I found that two of my four boxes had rotted through. So now, in addition to wanting to add four more boxes at my leisure, I am scrambing to rebuild the original boxes AND fix drainage issues that caused this.

    Although I have missed my early planting window for the boxes, I decided to put stuff in pots until the boxes are set. I have 4 pots of lettuce (black seeded simpson), 5 pots of spinach (lombardi), 2 pots brocolli (arcadia), and 2 large pots of peas that can be trellised right in the pots. As in everything, have a backup plan. These pots have kept my garden spirits up during this little setback.

    Good luck with the orchard. My husband has been struggling with his trees for the past three years. I hate deer...can I say it again...I HATE DEER! I live in a northeast state and you can't just shoot them and put them in your freezer. These aren't normal timid woodland creatures either. These are Jersey deer that watch the Sopranos and have no fear. They seem to know you can't touch them and they sit in your front yard all summer and mock you when you come to shoo them away.

    The only option is a large $$$fence$$$ now. My husband wants to mine the perimeter, too, but I think the neighbors would object. Great...exploding deer.

  2. Your garden looks lovely! I love how everything looks neat and orderly. Your layout is somewhat similar to mine. I also planted "Music" garlic this year and I am excited to see how it does.

  3. Anonymous - You made me chuckle with your Sopranos deer. :) So far we haven't seen deer on our property and are keeping our fingers crossed that remains the case. The Copra plants from Johnny's are exactly what we ordered. Glad to know you've been successful with them. Good luck with your gardening adventures!

    Jill - Thanks! Right now the leaves on my garlic plants are starting to turn a little yellow at the tips. I did a foliar spray with kelp and liquid fish in case it's a nitrogen thing, but I'm starting to wonder if the wacky weather is causing it to form a bulb and die back a lot sooner than normal. We shall see.

  4. What is the purpose of the twine?

    1. Hi Ron. We utilize the square foot system of gardening. Our garden beds are divided into 1 sq. foot sections to help us space our plants for maximum utility, weed efficiently, and more. We used to use a wooden divider, but found that the twine is a little easier for us to work around. Check out the book "The All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew if you want to know more about his method.

  5. Hello - what did you use to attach the twine to your boxes? Thanks!

    1. Hubby Dear installed screw eyes on the sides of the boxes, threaded the twine through, and then tied them off. You can find screw eyes at any hardware store. Hope that helps!