This is a sad post announcing the news of the death of my favorite hen, Mary Ann, aka “sunshine.” She was recalled by St. Francis and taken away by the chicken angels on Tuesday, August 16th (see picture above of me holding her). She came to live in my backyard in March of 2010 with her “sister” Ginger, who preceded her in death. She was believed to have been hatched out in April of 2009. She was still relatively young for a hen, but she apparently developed some internal issue (maybe an infection of some kind or it is possible she was egg bound?) and went from healthy to expired in 4 days. From all indications, see did not suffer much, for which I am grateful. I know that some people reading this will think it odd to talk about a chicken in this way, but all of my backyard chickens are like pets, each with their own personalty and mannerisms. Mary Ann was an Isa Brown hen (or a Sex Link type). Up until last fall she laid every day (with a few exceptions) and she laid some of the biggest eggs I have ever seen (see pic below).
Mary Ann's Big Eggs - The Size of Tennis Balls
I guess all of the egg laying probably took a toll on her, but that is what these breeds are bred to do. Whenever the chickens were let out of their coop to run “roughshod” through the backyard, Mary Ann would be my constant companion, never straying too far from me, especially when I was working in the vegetable garden. She always knew that I would feed her special treats, like worms. She had the sweetest personality and would never mind being picked up, in fact I think she liked the attention. She had several nicknames: Booger, Grill (because she was always in my face) and Sunshine. I am not sure when I started calling her “sunshine”, but it wasn’t until sometime later after I got her. I use to frequently pick her up and rub her neck and sing the first verse of the song “You Are My Sunshine.” I guess I felt sorry for her becuase she was at the bottom of the then four hen pecking order. Mary Ann was the hen who was flapping her wings in the article about lead in garden soils. Mary Ann was a one of a kind chicken, there will never be another one quite like her. May she Rest in Peace:
She was my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
She made me happy
When skies were grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I loved you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
The desert dryness continues, but at least it has cooled a little over the last week. The following is what has been happening in the garden over the last few weeks. Harvest finished up on the corn and this plot was planted with Derby bush green beans on August 4th. I should be able to get a crop of beans from this plot before the first fall frost. The roma tomatoes continue to ripen and mature. I picked 2 full plastic grocery bags of tomatoes yesterday and processed six large containers of sauce. More tomatoes should continue to mature over the next few month. So far, no sign of any leaf disease on the tomato plants. The heat has taken a toll on the pepper plants, as they have almost stopped growing, but they should start producing again as the weather has turned slightly cooler. The early summer planted green beans continue to develop and have started to flower. Some bean beetle leaf damage has been observed on the plants. Both the pole lima and the bush lima beans are just starting to mature and harvest will begin today. Carrot seeds were planted out yesterday and were watered in really well. I plan on getting the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce seedlings transplanted out into the garden today. They will get plenty of water and some shade netting over them for at least for the next few weeks. Fall is fast approaching, so get out there and enjoy the late summer weather.
Wow, what a difference 3 weeks makes in the garden. The weather has literally turned desert like. Look at the high temperature displayed on my outdoor thermometer today. 101.3, are you kidding me!! The very high temperatures are bad enough, but worse than that the rain has completely shut off :-(……… I am lucky to have anything growing in these conditions. Despite all of the weather challenges, I have been able to keep the garden productive throughout this period. It has only been excessively hot for about one week now, but it has been desert dry for about the last month. Needless to say, I have been watering.
Over the last 3 weeks but before the real heat kicked in I have been harvesting cucumbers, onions, potatoes, celery, lettuce (which has now bolted….big surprise there), and cabbage. Overall, the harvest on the cucumbers and potatoes was decent this year. Harvest continues on the peppers and the broccoli side shoots. I harvested the first ripe roma tomatoes a few days ago. Despite all of the heat, the tomato plants seem to be growing well. I should begin harvesting many tomatoes over the next 2 to 3 weeks. The corn is almost ready as well……Yum. The small early planting of bush green beans has not yielded too much, as I think I let the soil get too dry between waterings. My onions were finished growing and and I have since pulled all of them up and dried them. The onion harvest was better than normal this year!! I will be planting bush green beans in this area hopefully within the next few days. Despite all of the heat, now is the time to start thinking and preparing for the fall garden. I started broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and cauliflower seeds on July 6th, and they have since germinated and are growing under the shaded back porch. I have added some pictures below (sorry, some are a bit dated). Happy Desert Gardening!!!
Happy July 4th everyone!! The garden has exploded into growth with all of the rain around here. I have finished harvesting the peas about one week ago. The pea harvest this year was average. I was able to replant the area with bush green beans. The late planted lettuce has grown enough to start harvesting from the plants. The onion tops have started to fall over, so it will not be long before they are ready to be pulled up and dried. The potatoes are almost ready for harvesting as the foliage has started to brown out and die back. The broccoli is producing some really nice side shoots right now and 2 cabbage heads were harvested a few days ago. The other cabbage heads are also nearing maturity and will be harvested over the next few weeks. All of the warm season plants have absolutely exploded into growth. I harvested the first cucumbers about one week ago with more many more to come for sure. The bush green beans have started to flower so it won’t be long before harvest begins on those. Harvest continues on the banana peppers. The roma tomato plants continue to grow and mature. I have observed many small green tomatoes on the plants. The lima beans, both the pole and bush varieties, are growing nicely and some have just started to flower. The NK199 sweet corn is growing really well and has just started to tassel.
The three new spring chickens, now over 4 months old, are doing fine. They have now been fully integrated with the three older hens and are getting along farily well. One of the spring chickens turned out to be a rooster. We decided to give him away so as not to cause a problem with the neighbors. He is now enjoying life in a larger coop in the country. The three remaining new hens, Pixie, Dixie, and Dolly, look like they are nearly full grown. With any luck they should start laying eggs sometime in September.
I have posted a few garden pictures below. Happy Summer Gardening!!
Early Summer Peas Before Last Harvest, 6-26-11
Notice the Nitrogen Fixing Nodules on the Pea Roots
Large Cucumber Ready for Harvesting, 6-26-11
Pole Lima Beans Filling Out the Trellis, 6-26-11
Lettuce, Onions, and Cellery, 6-26-11
Roma Tomato Plants Getting Big, 6-26-11
Chickens Grazing in the Yard, 3 Young Hens in the Foreground
I hope this post finds all of you getting your hands dirty in your garden soil!! A lot has changed in the garden since my last post. The rain has stopped and the heat was turned on big time. Temps reached into the 90’s about a week ago. Temps have only just recently cooled down a bit. Despite the heat, some of cool season crops have continued to grow and produce. Harvest has been ongoing on the broccoli. The spring broccoli harvest is down a little this year, probably due to all of the rain and cold temps in early spring. The lettuce is doing okay in the heat, but some of the plants starting to bolt, so I removed them. Two days ago I replanted some new lettuce seedlings. I am hopeful to get some kind of harvest from them before it gets too hot. The peas are doing okay, but it looks like the heat is getting to them a bit. Some of the pods are starting to fill out, so I am hopeful to have some kind of harvest from them. I harvested the first hot banana peppers on June 12th. This seems quite a bit early for them, but the plants seemed to have really exploded in growth when the hot weather kicked in. Harvest has finished on the green onions. The other onions are growing really well and it looks like I should have a decent harvest of storage onions this year. The roma tomatoes are also growing well (no sign yet of early blight leaf disease like I have seen the last few years). All of the beans, both limas and green snap, are also growing very well right now. The corn and cucumbers have also exploded into growth due to the warm weather.
I have posted a new YouTube garden video from May 28th below:
Here are some very useful on-line gardening resources that I have come across recently:
Sources for Vermiculite
Excellent list of sources of vermiculite, sorted by location. I get asked about this quite a bit. I now know where to send people who have questions about where to find it!!
Cubic Yard Calculator
This is a very good on-line calculator to help one determine how much soil is needed to fill a raised bed. Just input the dimensions of your raised bed and it calculates the amount of soil amendments needed (expressed in cubic feet) to fill the bed.
My spring garden is growing well despite the rain. The rain has lessened over the past few weeks, and I think the garden soil is starting to dry out. The first harvest of the spring planted lettuce started on April 30th. See picture below of what the lettuce looked like just before it was harvested. Who says vegetables are not attractive! I harvested more of this lettuce yesterday. There was a moderate frost a few days ago, but most of the lettuce was under the plastic covered hoop. The cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts were covered with row covers, just to be on the safe side. I am hopeful that this will be the last spring frost. I will be taking down my cold frame today and I will also be planting out my celery seedlings today. I will also be planting out the pepper and tomato seedlings within the next week, along with the cucumber seedlings. My brother planted the corn yesterday in the raised bed. If the soil continues to dry out and warm up, I would like to get the green beans and lima beans planted in another week or so. I am hopeful that the weather will turn a little warmer and drier. The forecast is for highs in the lower 80’s next week, Hooray! Happy late spring gardening!
Beautiful Spring Lettuce Awaits Harvesting, 4-30-11
Somebody please stop the rain!!! It has been so wet here in Central Indiana over the past 2 weeks. I think my rain gauge has recorded nearly 6 inches of rain over that time. Despite all of the rain, the garden is doing okay. I transplanted out the broccoli and cabbage seedlings about 2 weeks ago, and then about 4 days later, we had a freeze. I did not have the seedlings covered because a freeze was not forecasted. Fortunately, the seedlings were not damaged by the cold snap (I sprinkled the seedlings with some water that cold morning before I went to work. I am not sure if that saved them or not), but the uncovered overwintered lettuce was nipped quite a bit. That is okay because it is about time for that to come out anyways. I am hopeful that the rains will cease soon. If it stops raining, I will try to get the brussels sprout seedlings transplanted out into the garden in the next week or so. Despite all of the goofy weather, the lettuce seedlings are growing well under the hoop, and I should begin harvesting them soon. I have been harvesting green onions (from the fall planted top-setting onions), with a few more still to be harvested. The spring planted onions are starting to grow. I side dressed them with some fertilizer about a week ago. The peas have germinated, but because of all of the rain, they are not growing too fast right now. I planted cucumber seeds in small pots about 6 days ago, and they have since germinated while inside the cold frame. Most of the potatoes planted in the two raised beds have poked up through the soil surface within the last few days. Happy April Showers
Lettuce seedlings were transplanted out into the garden and under a plastic covered hoop on April 6th. I have a few more lettuce seedlings to plant out, if I have room. The peas (variety, Mr. Big) have started to germinate. Some of the top setting onions planted last fall are about ready to be pulled for green onions. The other onions planted in late March are just starting to push on new green leaves. I will be fertilizing them soon. I think I will hold off transplanting broccoli, cabbage and brussels spouts plants for about one more week. The forecast might include some frost over the next 3 to 4 mornings. The weather has been warm up until yesterday. The high temperature on Sunday, April 10th, was 83 degrees. High temperatures are now back down into the upper 50’s and low 60’s. Most of the heavy rains have stayed away, which is good news as the garden does not need any more rain for now. The red bud trees are now blooming, which is a sure sign that spring is here.
The new baby chicks got their first tast of the outdoors last week. They have now been moved into the coop, but are separted from the 3 adult hens with fencing. They will be integrated slowly with the other hens over the next month or so. My adult hens have stopped laying eggs. It is not for the lack of food, I assure you. Hopefully they will start laying soon.
Baby Chicks in Their New Temporary Home Inside the Coop
The first of the overwintered lettuce that was growing under the plastic covered hoop was harvested on March 27th (this might be a record for the earliest lettuce harvest). It’s great harvesting from your garden in March!! The onion plants were delivered and were planted out into the garden March 29th (Candy and Red Candy onions). For those of you new to this blog you might find last year’s post about planting onions interesting: A Guide to Planting Onions
The potatoes (in the raised beds) and peas were planted on April 2nd. The potatoes in the grow bags will be planted within the next few weeks. The seedlings in the cold frame are growing well. I am hopeful to start transplanting lettuce seedlings out into the garden within the next week. The weather has been cooler than normal, but at least it has dried out quite a bit. The soil was even dry enough to allow me to till up a few plots the other day with my Mantis tiller. The forecast is for slightly warmer weather, but also with some rain.
The baby chickens are really getting big (now over one month old). Waiting for warmer weather before they get a chance to run around outside for the first time. I have posted a few pictures below.