Archived Monthly Posts

Cold Frame Up, Lettuce Seeds Started, Lettuce Under Hoop Growing

My cold frame has been up for about one week, but I do not have any plants in it as of yet.  I like to get the cold frame put up before any plants are moved into it to allow time for the containers of water to warm up a little.  This also allows me time to do any adjustments to the solar vent.  See the two pics of my Juwel cold frame below.  I place the cold frame over an area of the garden and line the bottom with black trash bags.  I then line the back side of the frame with 1/2 gallon plastic milk jugs filled with water.  This helps to moderate the inside temperature of the frame, especially at night.

I started most of my spring lettuce seeds yesterday.  I then placed them under florescence lights and over a heat mat inside until they germinate, then they will get moved to the cold frame.  See my relatively low tech set-up for germinating seeds below.  I converted part of a bookshelf for this purpose.

I looked under my sorry looking hoop the other day, the one that has spent the entire winter under snow and hard packed ice.  Wow, was I surprised at how green the lettuce is, despite spending all winter under that sad looking piece of plastic (see pic below).  Just goes to show you that things do not always have to look good to be functional.  The weather forecast here is for relatively warm weather and sunny skies for the next 3 days. 

Low Tech Seed Propagation Set-Up

Late February Cold Frame Awaiting Plants

A Look Inside the Cold Frame

Sad Looking But Functional Hoop House

A Peek Under the Hoop and Lettuce Looks Green!!

Seeds Ordered – More Chicken Stories

My Spring 2011 seed orders were placed on February 2nd. The weather here has been absolutely dreadful. I have never seen an ice build up like this before. There is at least 4 inches of hard packed ice covering everything. It has also turned extremely cold. It got down to zero degrees this morning. The good news is that it will be warming up into the 40’s by this weekend. I guess it will be time to break out the shorts :-) . I am hopeful that all of the ice will melt in the next week to 10 days so I can at least get my cold frame put up. My chickens are also tired of all of the snow and ice. They have a hard time walking on ice, but come to think it, so do I.

Speaking of chickens, I thought I would relate some more humorous chicken stories. Anybody that thinks chickens are dumb have not truly raised chickens. I occasionally let them “free range” around the backyard, but only when I am out there with them for safety reasons. I have certain areas that I have to keep them out of, like my vegetables beds. My 3-foot high galvanized fencing seems to work very well for this purpose. They have yet to jump over that, although I think a few times they have thought about it. I have also trained my chickens to stay out of other areas of the yard that are not fenced off. I use a squirt bottle filled with water for some negative reinforcement in case they forget. After a few times of being sprayed, they know where they are not supposed to be. Most of the time I can shoo them out with a snap of the fingers. They especially like to follow me around when I am working in the garden because they know I will always feed them treats, mostly earth worms or insects. If they see you digging, they will go absolutely wild because they know they are probably going to get fed. The times when I am working in the yard and they are not out, they stand against the fence in their run and either stare or pace back and forth. My brother termed this as “Being on Chicken TV” (see the first picture below).

My favorite chicken is Mary Ann. For being the smallest chicken, she lays the biggest egg. A few of her earlier eggs approached ostrich size (no kidding). Anyway, she is at the absolute bottom of the pecking order, but I think she does not really care about that. When she is out she is always at your feet and very personable. She also enjoys being picked up. I have several nicknames for her, but my favorite is “Booger”. I always make sure see gets extra treats when she is out with me in the garden (see second picture below. Thank you Susan and Bob for taking that picture).

Spring will be here before you know it!!

Hey, I’m on Chicken TV

Yours Truly with Mary Ann

Chicken Bathing

Since my garden is currently in Ole Man Winter’s frozen grip, there is not much to report except that now is a good time to get your seeds and supplies ordered for the upcoming gardening season.  If you procrastinate, you might not get the seeds you want.

Some of you have asked to see more posting about my chickens, so this is the first of several post that you will see relating to my very spoiled hens.  When you first get chickens you will be constantly amused by all of their unique behaviors.  One of the more curious chicken activities is dirt bathing.  It is a very instinctive behavior and one that is fun to watch. 

My Hens Taking a Dirt Bath

You will not see a chicken any happier than when it is taking a dirt bath.  It is pure “Chicken Nirvana”  I have posted a new YouTube video below of my chickens taking a bath.

You may also view the above video directly from YouTube by clicking on the following link:  Chickens Taking a Dirt Bath

Happy New Year - Very Cold December

Happy New Year!!  Sorry for the long time between post.  The weather this past December was very cold and snowy in Central Indiana.  I was able to get one last small harvest of brussels sprouts before the really cold weather set in.  The plants are still in the ground, but have since turned brown and died.  The lettuce under the plastic hoop has also stopped growing since it was so cold.  The snow finally melted off of the ground about one week ago.  I did notice green shoots coming from the November planted top setting onions.  Before it got cold, I covered them with a thin layer of shredded tree leaves.  I did eat the last of the fall planted cabbage yesterday.  It kept very well in the refrigerator for about one month.

I have sad news to report.  One of my hens, Ginger, died on December 29th.  Ginger developed a breathing problem a week before Christmas and was brought inside to heal.  She initially got better, but then started to get worse.  She was really laboring to breathe the last few days she was alive.  We did all that we could for her.  It is was really tough holding her in my arms, knowing that she was probably not going to recover.  She was only 1 and 1/2 years old, which is pretty young for a chicken.  The other 3 hens are getting along pretty good, but the coop still feels a little empty :-( ……I think four new chicks are coming this spring!!!

Now is the time to organize your leftover seeds and start planning your 2011 garden.  I will be ordering needed seeds and supplies before the end of January.

Late Fall Garden Harvest….Drought Broken

Sorry for the long time between posts.  A lot has changed in the garden since the end of October.  As of this writing, there is a light dusting of snow on the ground and it is 28 degrees outside (burrrr!!).  Needless to say, the fall harvest is nearly complete.  About one week ago I finished harvesting the last remaining broccoli heads, some were a little smaller than I like.  The first brussels sprouts were also harvested and just in time for Thanksgiving!!  I harvested a few more brussels sprouts a couple of days ago, which should wrap up that harvest for another year.  The lettuce continues to grow fairly well under the plastic covered hoop, and I was able to harvest quite a bit 2 days ago.  I also harvested a few carrots.  Although there are not many of them, the few I pulled up were of pretty good size.  The last few heads of cabbage have also been harvested.  The fall cabbage did very well this year.  It has finally rained, so hopefully this year’s drought is a thing of the past.  Overall I would rate the fall garden harvest as good, with the broccoli harvest a little below normal.  I still have fresh garden cabbage, broccoli, brussels spouts, and lettuce in my refrigerator.  Not bad for the first week of December.

Late October Garden Growing Well

The late October garden continues to produce.  A nice bit of lettuce, that is growing under the plastic covered hoop, was harvested on October 25th (see pic below).  The first 2 heads of fall cauliflower and fall cabbage were harvested on October 28th.  A freeze had been predicted for 2 separate mornings recently, but so far it has stayed away from the garden.  I did receive some much needed rain last week, but much of Indiana remains in a moderate to severe drought.  The weather forecast is for cooler weather next week and maybe the garden will receive some frost/freeze then.  I am still harvesting broccoli, although somewhat sporadically, as some of the plants still refuse to push on decent sized heads.  I will keep these plants covered with row covers to allow them to mature.  The brussels sprouts continue to get a little bigger now that the weather has cooled off a bit.  I might start harvesting some within the next few weeks.  I finished up harvesting the last of the celery a few days ago and I will be planting the top setting onions bulbs within the next few weeks, after I remove the very large pepper plants.  The peppers have nearly stopped growing, so it is time for them to come out.  The growing season is fast approaching the end :-(     

Happy Halloween!!

Fall Lettuce Growing Well Under the Hoop House

Fall Lettuce Growing Well Under the Hoop House

First Fall Broccoli Harvested

I harvested the first of the fall broccoli on October 13th(see pic below).  I harvested 2 heads from the raised bed, with one more on the way.  Both of the heads measured about 8 inches across!!  This raised bed has done very well this fall (see second pic below).  The 8 cabbage plants also growing in this bed are nearing maturity as well.  The cauliflower is just starting to form heads, so I am hopeful that I will have a decent harvest from them.  The broccoli growing in the other bed is a little farther behind, but most of these plants have started to form small heads.  I think the hot and dry conditions have caused some of these plants to delay forming heads until about one week ago.  I am still hopeful that I will see a nice harvest from these before the real cold weather sets in.  The brussels sprouts have also struggled due to the weather, but they are now starting to form sprouts.  The late planted lettuce is growing well, and I harvested quite a bit of lettuce a few days ago.  Harvest also continues on the late planted green beans, and also from the mammoth sized pepper plants (which just keep growing!!)  I have also started harvesting green onions from the top sets that were planted around the first week of September.  The garden has experienced only one very lite/scattered frost so far, but I am sure more will be coming soon.  Happy Fall Gardening.

One of the Two Broccoli Heads Harvested on 10-13-10

One of the Two Broccoli Heads Harvested on 10-13-10

Cabbage and Broccoli in Raised Bed, 10-13-10

Cabbage and Broccoli in Raised Bed, 10-13-10

It Finally Rained - Very Large Green Beans

My garden received some much needed rain yesterday……HOORAY!!!  It was only about 1/3rd of and inch, but some is better than nothing.  At least it filled up my rain barrel.  The weather has really cooled off in the last few days and now there is a chance for the first fall frost the next few mornings.  Harvest has started on the late planted “Derby” bush green beans and oh, WHAT A HARVEST!!  Some of the beans are at least 8 inches long (see pictures below).  I was really expecting a much smaller harvest due to the dry conditions, but I guess all my watering did the job.  Most of the cool season plants are growing okay, but a little slower than I like.  I am still hopeful that I will get a decent harvest from the cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli before the really cold weather sets in.  The late planted lettuce is progressing nicely and a plastic covered hoop will be going up over them today.  I will also be getting out the row covers today in anticipation of frost the next few mornings.

Very Large Green Beans Ready for Harvest

Very Large Green Beans Ready for Harvest

More Very Large Green Beans Ready for Harvest

More Very Large Green Beans Ready for Harvest

Drought Worsens, Fall Arrives

The very dry conditions have really set in now.  The garden did receive about 0.25 inches of rain a few days ago.  That was the first substantial rain in over a month.  Temperatures remain high, with high temperatures two days last week over 94 degrees.  Fall has officially arrived, but it is hard to tell right now.  Temperatures have at least cooled some today, with highs only in the 70′s predicted today and for the next few days.  Despite the heat, the cool season plants are growing fairly well.  I have been watering the plants in the raised beds every 5 to 6 days now.  The cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli plants are getting to a good size now.  One of the three broccoli plants in the raised bed has a very small head forming.  The cabbage moths have really started flying around, although I have not seen as many in the last few days.  The late planted beans growing in the old corn raised bed are starting to flower and have some small green beans forming.  The lettuce seedlings I planted out about three weeks ago are getting bigger now.  The Sierra lettuce plants that I was growing for seed have self seeded themselves (see pic below).  I am letting some of those seedling grow just to see how they do.  The brussels sprouts plants continue to grow taller and the plants were staked about one week ago to keep them from uprooting.  I planted some top setting onions about two weeks ago, for green onions, and some are about 4-6 inches high now.  Harvest continues on the pepper plants and some have reached five feet tall!!  The first fall frost will be here before you know it.

Lettuce Transplants Growing with Some Self Seeded Sierra Seedlings

Lettuce Transplants Growing with Some Self Seeded Sierra Seedlings

Green Beans Growing in Old Corn Raised Bed Starting to Mature

Green Beans Growing in Old Corn Raised Bed Starting to Mature

Cauliflower Plants Getting Bigger in Old Potato Raised Bed

Cauliflower Plants Getting Bigger in Old Potato Raised Bed

Cabbage and Broccoli Growing Nicely in Other Old Potato Raised Bed

Cabbage and Broccoli Growing Nicely in Other Old Potato Raised Bed

More Broccoli Growing and Brussels Sprouts Staked in the Background

More Broccoli Growing and Brussels Sprouts Staked in the Background

Driest August on Record, Backyard Chickens

It is now official, Indianapolis had the driest August on record, with only 0.37 inches of rain recorded.  While some areas around the city had more rain, my garden did not.  Needless to say, it is dessert dry.  The temperatures have also been very hot, with many 90 plus degrees days recorded.  Only within the last 2 days has it really cooled off.  The broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower seedlings have been suffering along with the hot and dry conditions.  I had to shade them a bit, but even with supplemental water, they wilted under the heat.  They are doing much better now since it has cooled off.  The late planted carrots are not doing well at all.  Germination was very poor with maybe 25 percent germination, at best.  I have some lettuce seedlings that I will transplanting out into the garden hopefully either today or tomorrow.  I will keep them shaded until they get established.  The late planted beans continue to be attacked by bean beetles, but within the last week, their numbers seem to have declined a bit.  Cabbge worms continue to be a problem, so I have been applying bt to the affected plants.  This year’s late summer gardening has proved to be very tough.   Sometimes I think I must be crazy trying to garden in this weather!!!  Harvest continues on green beans, green and hot banana peppers, a few tomatoes, and some celery.

For those of you who have been considering getting a few egg laying chickens for your backyard, what are you waiting for?  With the latest egg recall, it is nice to know that I do not have to worry about where my eggs come from.  Check out this nice blog entry on the Urban Chickens Network, Happiness is knowing where your eggs come from.