Saturday, June 24, 2006

Robin's Nest NOT so Peachy!

It should be almost time for the robin eggs in our peach tree to hatch. I checked on the nest this morning and found that the nest had almost fallen out of the tree. Two of the eggs were on the ground!

If you missed my post, The Robin's nest is Peachy from the other day, then you don't know that this is a pretty big deal to my family. My daughters are praying for these little birds and checking on them daily. My wife said that one egg fell out yesterday afternoon. It appeared unharmed and she put it back in the nest. The mother robin then came back and kept sitting on the eggs as if nothing had happened.

This time, two eggs fell out, and again they were not broken. They also were not wet, so they must have just fallen out. I put the eggs back in the nest and asked myself, how can we keep this from continuing to happen? I don't know if it will work, but I put a rope around the nest and tied it to the branch nearby.

It may be too small of a branch, but it was the closest one that is growing up instead of down. I hope the mother comes back. I took my camera out there this morning in hopes of catching a picture of her on the nest. Imagine my surprise to have to photograph this instead.

What do you think? Will the eggs be okay? Do you think they can still hatch? Do you think the mother bird will come back or be upset that I disturbed her nest? We are hoping for a happy ending. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Goodbye Cool Season Veggies!

Appropriately so, now that it is officially summer, our broccoli has bolted! Not surprising since the temperatue has been well over 90 degrees this week.

Pretty ugly huh? We had a great broccoli season. We only planted 6 plants, but from the other 5, we harvested so much that my family got tired of it. My daughter had fun cutting the heads and putting a couple together to make a boquet.

That picture was taken last week. Now the broccoli is finished. The peas and lettuce are finished too. We harvested the last of the peas last night. The ones at the end were a bit smaller with fewer peas to a pod.

The lettuce hasn't bolted yet, but it has gotten bitter. we pulled all of the remaining plants and put them in the compost bin. We ate a lot of lettuce this season. In addition to having their own bed, plants were tucked in beside tomatoes and peppers. my daughter found a plant that we must have never harvested from. It was enormous!

Too bad there isn't a Grow The Biggest Lettuce Plant category at the fair! my kids really seem to like giant vegetables. We have to plant the pumpkins, and in a hurry! Do any of you have suggestions for what giant varieties to try? Now that the cool season is officially over, we can turn our attention to trying to grow a monster pumpkin, and harvest it before the first fall frost!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Helping the Apple Tree

This apple tree was a mess. It had become more and more crooked over the past few years. Finally it was time to do something about it! At least it didn't have a bird's nest in it like our peach tree from a few days ago.

I was able to drive a stake and put some ties on it to hold it straight. These are the metal wire ties that go through a rubber tube. The rubber protects the tree from injury. I used to use clothsline, but the tree grew right around the clothsline and girdled itself. Be careful of that! Thats probably why I hesitated so long to fix these trees.

After I got the tree straight, I had another problem - the branches had adjusted the the leaning tree. Now that the trunk was straight, most of the branches were leaning to the left. I had to try to spread them back out so some will grow to the right. I would like to get some plastic limb spreaders, but until then, I used a second stake and some more wire/rubber ties. It works, but it aint pretty!

The limb spreaders I'm talking about can be found where trees are sold, but the ones I've looked at are from Stark Brothers, where I bought my trees. I have heard that they are stronger than most, and come in several lengths.

Please let me know if you have used limb spreaders and if you've had success with them. I'll let you know if I get them, but my make-shift spreaders are working for now.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Let Your Kids Help in The Garden

It is a great idea to let your children help you in the garden. I used to be a perfectionist and resist the help of a little one because things would not be done exactly right. Now I see that it is worth losing a seedling or two to have your children by your side in the garden. Even if they only help in small ways, they begin to understand how plants grow. They get to be part of something bigger than themselves. They marval at God's workmanship in every step.

So far, my daughters have been able to enjoy watching broccoli, lettuce and peas grow from seed to harvest. As for the tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, beans and everything else, they now want to check on the progress almost daily and notice even small changes in growth. Because of my girls, we have planted more vegetables than I originally planned. Every time they want to plant something new, we find a little more space. They recently planted corn and green beans.

I know it is kind of late in the year to be sowing seeds, but as long as we don't have a very early frost, they will make it. This weekend they will be planting pumpkins and gourds. We don't really have enough room in the garden for such space hogs, but by being a little creative I think we can manage. I will save the details for a future post.

The bottom line is that gardening is a great family activity. Our family is having a great time and learning a lot together. If you have a garden of any kind, I encourage you to involve your children in the tasks needed. As long as you can get them to see it as fun as well as work, they will want to visit the garden again and again!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Confessions of a Rose Murderer

Okay I confess. I am a Rose killer. However, I'm not a very good one! The rose bush below is one that I not only cut down, but dug out and threw out - or so I thought.

Now before you Rose lovers hate me, I have to explain. This bush was growing along the side of our house. It was already there when we moved in, but was very puny. My wife cut it down several years ago and planted daylilies all along the house. We also got new siding put on the house and this is on the side of the house that we rarely see.

Last year the rose bush grew back and grew up and under the siding! After it got under the siding, because it was looking for light, it grew several feet up into the side of the house! I nearly ripped off the siding trying to get the rose out of there! At that point I decided to completely remove it.

Well, just the other night I was cutting the grass on that side and was quite shocked to see such a prolific rose bush! Now I don't know whether to leave it or try to dig it up and move it to a better spot. Obviously, it likes living right where it is. Do you think it should stay?

Funny isn't it, that sometimes when we try very hard to grow a certain plant in a certain spot, it dies. But other times like this, we get a beautiful plant without even trying. It just goes to show you that it is the Lord above, and not the gardener, who is really the one in control!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tomato Cage Alternatives

I am experimenting with tomatoes this year. I chose 20 different varieties to plant, watch and critique. Of course I couldn't have just one plant of each. For safety I needed to plant at least two of each kind. That means I have over 40 tomato plants! Never mind how I'm going to use all of those tomatoes, I've spent the past month trying to figure out how I'm going to stake or cage that many plants.

I've never been a big fan of using stakes. It seems you are always tying them up and they fall down anyway, or pull the whole stake down. All of my friends use the cages that you can buy at Wal-Mart or the hardware stores. Many of those commercial cages are too small. The bigger ones are too costly. I had a few cages from previous gardens, but I set out to find other ways of tomato support.

Above on the left is an example of the store bought cage. Above on the right is one of my new tomato tables. I call it that because it is built like a topless table. The idea is that the plant will grow through it and spill out over the top. It should give it just enough support to keep the tomatoes off the ground (I hope). I'll let you know later this month if they work well or not. They are built out of scrap wood that my father-in-law gave me. The boards were part of crates that flowers are delivered in at the florist he works for. I am now building some double-decker tables to try, just in case my single level tables aren't tall enough.

In another area of the garden I'm trying a different approach for tomato support. These are my cherry and grape tomatoes. They are indeterminate and grow quite tall and skinny. As you can see in the picture on the left, they were already falling over and sprawling on the ground. The picture on the right is my solution.

This is my first tomato trellis, also built from scrap wood. I drove two ten foot boards into the ground and attached a top board by drilling holes big enough to drop long bolts down. I left the top board longer on the ends to hang a planter of flowers later for added beauty. To support the tomato plants I just tied clothesline to the top support and then to the base of the plant. I then wrapped the clothesline gently around the main stem of the plant to hold it upright.

This is very easy to make. You don't actually tie the clothesline to the tomato plant. You make a loop at the base of the plant so it is not tight as the plant grows. Several years ago I did this but tied the clothesline to a stake in the ground next to the plant. This worked too but some of the plants pulled the stakes out and fell over. I then switched to this method and it worked well. I'll let you know later if it works again this year.

Even with my tomato tables and tomato trellis; I still have some tomato plants without any support. Do any of you have any other suggestions for cheap and easy means of tomato support? I'd love to hear any ideas. If not, I guess I'll keep making tomato tables or resort to plain stakes. Don't you just want a BLT sandwich right about now?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Robin's Nest is Peachy!

I know I haven't posted in a while, but that doesn't mean that nothing has been going on out in the garden! I have recorded much progress with the vegetable garden, the flower gardens, and the fruit trees and will be posting regularly now. My daughter wanted me to show this to you first.

A Robin has made a nest and laid eggs in our peach tree (she laid a third egg after this picture was taken). My daughter is very excited and watches the momma bird with binoculars. The problem is that I was in the process of staking my fruit trees because they are leaning a bit. Guess I'll have to wait at least a few more weeks to straighten this tree.

I did manage to straighten an apple tree that is next to this peach. I didn't even see the birds nest. Children are much better at noticing such things. The nest is low - right at my daughter's eye level. It has a nice foundation of eight or nine half-size peaches.

Look at how low and wide open the nest is. We are a bit worried about predetors. My daughter is praying for those baby birds, but it may take a miracle to keep a hawk or something from spotting them. Is there anything that we can do to help their fate? From researching Robins we think the eggs should hatch around June 24th or so. We'll keep you posted on how they are doing.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Garden Desk

What's better than gardening and writing about it? Nothing! I've always enjoyed gardening. I used to have huge vegetable gardens but haven't for the past few years. I also used to keep a garden journal (on paper) and even wrote a few gardening articles for a local newspaper. My busy computer-oriented job has kept me from gardening or writing for the past few years, but this year I am back at it! And why not journal it all here in these electronic pages? I know the growing season is already in full swing. Yes I am a bit behind. Soon I will get organized and visit this blog on a regular basis. Check back soon! Thanks for stopping by!

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