Winterizing The Garden

I’m sure that most everyone has already winterized their garden, but for us here in zone 8b temps have been very mild this year.  The forecast has it dipping into the upper 30′s this week and although I have my doubts that it will actually get that cold, I figured it’s better safe then sorry.  I’ve had a very busy weekend getting the garden ready for winter, but am glad to say I am finished. This year I decided to build  low tunnels for most of my garden beds after the huge success I had with the one bed I covered last year.  I got the idea for low tunnels from Mother of a Hubbard.  Although I built mine a little differently, the principle is the same. Since all my beds are raised beds made out of wood I decided to attach the PVC pipe to the beds using metal brackets.  I found the brackets at my local box store in the electrical section.

Drill, screws, 1/2″ brackets

Attach the PVC pipe to the side of the bed using metal brackets.

Once the first side is attached just bend the pipe over and attach the other side.  It took less then an hour to attach the pipes here in the East Garden.

This is what the beds after the PVC pipes were attached.

Once the PVC pipes are secured it’s time to put the plastic on.  Since temps here in Florida don’t get too cold, and it never snows, I went with a 4 mil plastic.  The rolls I got were 12′ by 100′.  The plastic went over the beds perfectly with about a foot on either side.  I secured one side by laying some 2×4′s and whatever else I could find on the plastic to weigh it down.  I used clips to roll up the other side to insure the hot air could escapes and the veggies didn’t overheat.  Putting the side up and down only takes a few minutes.  When the side goes down I’ll just weigh that side down too.

Here is what the East Garden looked like once the plastic was put on.

Not only did I have to get my beds covered but I have a few papaya plants, which are tender tropicals, that  I want to keep from freezing.   The easiest and cheapest way was to build a frame out of PVC and cover it with plastic.  I used 1″ PVC, only because it’s what I had, I don’t think I would use thinner pipe but thicker stuff would be fine.  I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the frame before I put the plastic on, but I didn’t.  The plastic was quite a job to get on so once on I didn’t want to take it back off to take pictures.  :(   I used the same plastic as I did for the tunnels, with one layer going from back to front and a second from side to side using clips to secure it in place.  If heavy wind is predicted I will tie a rope around the top and bottom, thankfully it’s not hurricane season.  Here are some pictures, and I hope you get the idea.

The structure is 9 feet tall with a center pole about 13′ tall to try to keep the water from pooling on the top.  The upright pipes were driven at least one foot into the ground to give it some stability.

A look at the top corner or the stucture.

A picture from further away with plastic clipped open.

Here’s what it looks like all closed up.

The other thing going on in the garden is there has been a rabbit eating my asparagus.  It has taken over a week but it has eaten the entire bed down.  I think it will continue returning to eat any new shoots that come up so I put some chicken wire around the bed.  Not sure if that will work but I had to try something.  I secured the bottom of the chicken wire to the bed with staples so it will not be able to squeeze under.  I don’t think they can climb so I am hopeful this will work.   Not sure how I will get in the bed if needed but I’ll figure that out when that day comes.

Chicken wire around the asparagus bed. Sure hope this keeps the rabbit out!

I thought since it has been so long since I posted I would add a few pictures of the chickens and ducks.        

Another Rainy Day

Today is another rainy day here in the panhandle of florida.  Between yesterday and today we have had about 3 1/2 inches of rain with more to come.  But, it has been mostly a slow steady rain, which is the kind of rain I love.  As you can imagine the ducks are happy, the chickens and Kahlo are miserable, and me, well, just enjoying to day.

I was scheduled t0 work with the Master Gardeners to help propagate plants for out Spring Plant Sale, but that had to be rescheduled due to all the rain.  So here I am with a free Saturday, what to do, what to do.  Not that my to do list isn’t miles long, like I’m sure yours is too. But an unexpected free day, even if it is rainy is just glorious.

After a few extra cups of coffee, out I went to work in the garden, in the rain.  A slow steady rain with no lighting or thunder was perfect weather to get my veggies transplanted.  I had direct seeded turnips, rutabaga, and collards in the garden.  The  last few week have been mostly dry, and I have been spoiled from not having to water the garden in July, so the direct seeded veggies germinated but not evenly.  I’m sure the spotty germination was a lack of constant moisture which is a must for seeds to germinate.  I wanted to move some of the seedlings, that had germinated in clumps, to areas where none had germinated.  With the temperatures in the 70′s, no sun, and slow rain, I felt the chance of these very small plants surviving the transplant was pretty high.  I also had small seedlings of broccoli and cauliflower that I had intended to up pot, but decided instead to plant them directly into the garden.  The tomatoes I started in the middle of July were getting pretty big so out they went as well.  I am pretty pleased with the outcome, just crossing my fingers the transplants take.  Here are some pictures I took of the garden this afternoon in the rain.

Lima beans are doing great. A butternut squash is also in there.

Jalapenos and eggplants that are still producing.

I’m not even sure you can see the tiny plants I was transplanting today.

Lima beans, okra, and asparagus in the west garden.

Zucchini and crooked neck squash with a couple eggplants to the back.

Tomatoes were planted.

One of my papayas has 3 papayas on it. I have visions of green papaya salad in my head.

This picture was taken a few days ago, but the banana’s are growing.

 

Did I mention today was a pretty good day?  Well, here’s what came in the mail a couple days earlier than expected.

I finally have a full sized pressure canner. I am super excited. I know I’m a bit late for the summer growing season, but what should I can first?

I didn’t use my new pressure cooker to make them, but I made some pickled okra this afternoon.  I got the Ball book at TS a few weeks ago and used the recipe from there.  It called for one hot pepper per jar, but I used only a half of a Thai pepper in each and am a little concerned even that may be too much heat.  I only planted one raised bed with okra so I didn’t have very many okras.  I halved the recipe and made two pints.  Can’t wait to try them.  I think you are supposed to wait for a while before eating them but not sure.  Anyhow, here they are.

Pickled Okra.

Look out world, between this book and my new pressure cooker I hope to be a canning fool.

Bonus pictures:

This is a picture I took the other day of Ghost and one of the young chicks. Aren’t they getting big?

The ducks were napping this afternoon having worn themselves out playing in the mud.

 

Vegetables to plant in August

I have to say, in a way I am thrilled it’s August but also feel a tinge of dread.  This is because, here in zone 8b, we are now officially into the second summer garden stage, yet August is normally the hottest month for us.   The month of July was not as hot as normal, due to the fact we had rain nearly every day with a total of 19 inches for the month.  I think I watered my garden one time all month, and even that watering was unnecessary as it rained shortly after I watered.  So far no real rain here in August, so hopefully we’ll get a reprieve from the rain, but I know, be careful what you wish for.  I think tomorrow I will have to water as things are beginning to look like they need it.

This is my first day off this month so I should be out in the garden, yet haven’t managed to make myself brave the heat and go and do just that.   Thankfully, I took advantage of a few of those rainy days in July and prepared my beds.  So maybe this evening when it cools a bit I will head out and plant my seeds.

Here is the list of  vegetables to plant in August.

Vegetables to plant in August for zone 8b:

beans, bush and pole
lima beans
corn
cucumbers
southern peas
peppers
pumpkin
summer squash
winter squash
tomatoes
watermelon
broccoli
Cauliflower
Collards
Rutabaga
Turnip

As you can see, the top part of the list is summer veggies we can have a second go at, and the bottom is the start of the winter  veggies.  I have read  that it is good  to start the broccoli and cauliflower seeds indoors, as it is too hot for them to germinate outside.

 

Vegetables To Plant In July

As I mentioned last month, the list of veggies to plant in July is very short.

Vegetables to plant in July for zone 8b:

  • beans, lima
  • eggplant
  • okra
  • peas, southern
  • peppers
  • watermelon

For me, the only one on the list not currently in the garden is southern peas.  I have never grown them,but I think I can scrounge up some garden space to try some.   I am hording garden space because August is the month to start a second summer garden here in zone 8b.  I hope everyones garden is still surviving better yet I hope it is flourishing.  Mine is a mix of these two, depending on which vegetable we are talking about.   I’m looking forward to getting a fresh start come August.

A Midsummer Garden Update

Here in the panhandle of Florida, it’s been a crazy summer.  If the heat hasn’t gotten to your garden, then the rain probably has.  Over this Fourth of July holiday, here at my house, I have had over 8″ of rain, but I know others on the panhandle have had more then that.  Hopefully, we are going to be drying up this next week and I will be watching the garden for signs of wilt and fungus.

June was a tough months for the garden, I spent a lot of time picking caterpillars off the tomatoes.  After a two week onslaught, the tomatoes survived, but were no longer the pretty plants they once were.  But even with that, I was able to can and dehydrate lots of tomatoes.  I will be using the dehydrated ones in stews and soup come winter.  The tomatoes are now coming to their end.  I read the other day that tomatoes quit producing blooms when night temperatures are above 75 degrees.  This is the first time I had heard this and it makes sense, but I will do more research.   A quick run down of the rest of the gardens goes like this.  Green beans, for me are a great veggie.  They taste great, freeze well, and best of all are easy to grow.  I grew both bush and vining varieties, planting them weeks apart, so some of my vining ones are just beginning to produce as the bush ones are ending.  I have lots of beans in the freezer.  Peppers have also been good this year.  They have nice thick walls, which I think is due to the fact we have had a lot of rain.  I chipped up and froze 30 or more peppers, and am hoping the plants survive this wet week so they can continue to produce until winter.  The eggplants have just recently begun to produce.  I am not sure why they have been so late, but I’m happy to have them as other things are slowing down. Cucumbers are done, I got an okay crop but they were all on the small side.  I think that bed needs the soil reworked, more compost please!  After a bumper crop of zucchini to start June off, I lost almost all of them to vine borers.   I need to find a fix for that next season.  Failures were tomatillos and onions.  I’m not sure exactly what happened with either, but I will try grow onions again next year, but I think I am done with tomatillos.  A few of the other things growing are, carrots, kale (not sure how this is holding on but the ducks are happy),  okra, and lima beans.  The okra and lima beans were planted mid June and are still small.  My package of lima beans was marked as bush limas but guess what, they are the vining type.   I had two choices, dig them up and plant something else or construct some makeshift trellises.  I can’t bring myself to dig up good plants, so I looked around and used what I had and made trellises.  Then I had to transplant some of the limas, as spacing for pole varieties is much different from bush varieties.  This was one time I was happy for it being cloudy and rainy.  I think they will all survive the move. This wraps up how the garden is growing.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I am growing asparagus for the first time.  I always thought I lived too far south to grow asparagus, but learned it can be grown all the way to zone 9.  I bought larger root stock in hopes to be able to get a few next year.  Crossing my fingers on this one, as I love asparagus!

Here are a few pictures of the garden.

West Garden. Left side front to back, okra, peppers and kale, tomatoes. Right side front to back, lima beans, onions (which need to be removed as they did nothing), tomatoes, asparagus.

East Garden. Left side front bed bush beans that are spent but I have been giving them to the chicks who love them, next is a hodge podge bed with a couple zucchini, jalapeno, a tomato and tomatillo, then a bed with a few carrots. Right side front bed, lima beans, next tomatoes, back bed has peppers and eggplants. The trellis beds have pole beans in front and cucumbers which need to be removed in back bed. Outside front bed is done, except two eggplants, with pole beans in back bed.

This is my asparagus. As I have never grown or seen it grown before, I hope this is what it is supposed to look like. I also have two pots of papayas. The one has been in a pot all along while I just dug up the other one out of the yard and put it in a pot. I had no luck with them in the ground. The two remaining in the ground look awful.

My herb bed running along the outside of the east garden.

Kahlo and the ducks.

Ducks loving the puddles from all the rain.

The chicks have been miserable!

I just had to show you this. I’ve got some banana’s. I think it is early enough that they will have time to ripen before the first freeze. I am very excited out this!

I just love sunflowers! Not even all the rain can keep them down!

Vegetables To Plant In June

Summer is definitely here.  The good news is the spring veggies are ripening, the bad news is, it’s getting tough to be working in the garden.   But, I’m sure many of you are hardcore gardeners like me, and the heat isn’t going to keep us down!   If you have some empty space in the garden, here is a list of veggies to plant in June.

Vegetables to plant in June for zone 8b:

  • beans, lima
  • eggplant
  • okra
  • peas, southern
  • potatoes, sweet

Both June and July have very small selections of veggies to plant, but save up some energy, because in August, it will be round two of the classic summer veggies.

Here’s a look at my kitchen counter.   This helps energize me to keep working in the garden.

Summer harvest!

 

 

 

Back Yard and Garden Update in Pictures

I was sitting on my deck when I got home this afternoon and decided to take pictures.  Here are some pictures of what my back yard looks like from my deck, and just for fun, I’ll add a few more.

The pond with the west garden in the background.

The west garden and part of the duck, chicken play area.

Duck and chicken runs and coops next to the east garden with rose bed on the right.

The duck and chicken coops and run with the east garden on the right.

A closer view of the ducks taunting Kahlo and Kahlo barking back.

West Garden

East Garden

Kahlo showing off!

The ducks are telling you “Life is Great!”, well, I hope they feel that way.

 

I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of my back yard and gardens.

Vegetables To Plant In May

I sure hope we’ve had enough April showers to bring May flowers or even better would be May tomatoes.  How many of you are checking those tomatoes daily just waiting for the first one to ripen.  I hate having to buy tomatoes, and the wait is killing me.

When I went to look at my list of vegetables to plant in May, I was surprised at how short it is.  But realizing, what we plant this month will be producing in the heat of summer, it makes sense there are so few.  As they have to be very heat tolerant.   Below is the list of vegetables to plant in May.

Vegetables to plant in May for zone 8b:

  • beans, lima
  • eggplant
  • mustard
  • okra
  • peas, southern
  • potatoes, sweet

My chickens, ducks, and I sure wish I could grow some greens.  I think I may try to find a partially shady place and give it a try.  Maybe, with some shade and extra water I can get one last batch of greens.  I’ll let you know if it works.

Duckies loving their greens!

My Journey with My Ducks

On March 2 I became the proud owner of 5 baby duckies.  When I got them from Tractor Supply, they were already 10 days old, absolutely adorable, and way too cool.  From the research I had done, everyone said ducks are easier to care of then chickens.  Even though I love my ducks, I do not fully agree with this statement.  I realize ducks are less prone to sickness then chickens, but as far as the day to day care, chickens are easier.  I’m almost afraid to put this in writing, lest I jinx myself, but I’ve had chickens for a year now with no sickness or injuries.  But to be fair, I inherited my chickens in a trade, and they came with coop, run, and instructions.  The previous owners had already worked out all the kinks, which in hindsight  has been priceless.   The ducks on the other hand have been a learning experience from day one.   Here is the account of my journey of how to care and provided shelter for ducks.

Duckies when they first got home

I had been told that they were messy.  I figured no biggie, I can handle a little mess.  I was unprepared for how messy they are.  That is by no means the fault of the ducks, but rather, my lack of knowledge.  If I were to have baby duckies again, I would set up an outside brooder for them, or if they had to be inside I would keep them in the bath tub for easy clean up.  I was also unprepared for how fast they grow.  When I got them their coop was not yet built, but I thought I had plenty of time.  Let’s just say if I had a do over, I would have their coop built before bringing them home.

The duckies at 3 weeks of age

The duckies at 5 weeks of age

I searched for websites with information on how to build a duck coop and run.  From what I gathered, ducks don’t require much in regards to shelter.  For me, it was more about insuring they would be safe from predators.  This means safe from black bears.  I lost 2 hens to the bears, so I knew they had to have a sturdy shelter.   Bottom line, they needed 4 – 6 sq ft each in their coop and 10 – 25 sq ft each in their run.   I’m on the low side for both the coop and run, but since they are allowed out to roam when I am home, this was okay with me.

Completed Duck coop and run

Initially, the ducks were to have an inground pond.  This idea got nixed when I realized it would need to be drained almost daily and this was just too much work.  Instead, they got a $10 kiddie pool, which can easily be cleaned each evening.  I had seen pictures of  how others used hay in the run and coop and this seemed like a good idea.  For the first few days or maybe even a week this worked well.  But then the hay around to pool and waterer got water logged and started to smell.  My original idea was to put the spent hay in my compost pile, but I soon realized this was too much hay to compost.  So, now I have a smelly coop and a question as to what to do with all the hay.   Back to the drawing board.  What was I going to use to cover the floor of the run so I didn’t have one big mud hole or smelly hay?  In my research I found a picture of what someone else had done, (click here), and went from there.

Modifications to the duck run

The end of the run, with the kiddie pool and waterer, has been filled in with egg rocks approximately 3 to 4 inches deep.  Around the outside of the pool there is a single layer of bricks to give them a platform to enter and exit the pool.  The rock allows for drainage and also allows me to hose off any nastiness.  There is a landscape timber dividing the rock end from the rest of the run.  I decided to put leaves in the other end of the run.  I use leaves in my chicken run and it works great.  Once a week I take a pitchfork and flip the leaves and that is about all I have to do.  My only concern is the leaves will end up on top of the rocks, but this is a minor issue I am sure I can deal with.  At least the smell is gone.  I am hoping that my daily duck chores will be cut down to about 15 minutes each evening.  This will entail, baling the pool and refilling, cleaning and topping off the waterer, and throwing a light layer of fresh hay in the coop.  On the week ends, I will remove hay from the coop, and flip the leaves in the run, which shouldn’t take more then about 1/2 hour to complete.  All in all, I am very pleased with the run and coop.  I think I have the problem of the messy ducks under control.  Now I can just enjoy their antics.

Below are more pictures of the modified run.

 

 

 

 

Garden Update

Here it is almost 8 pm and I just came in from working in the garden.  The days have gotten longer and that just means that much more time to work in the yard.  I have been so busy working that I haven’t taken the time to post.

Most of my time has been taken up by filling in my old fish pond, and putting in a new much smaller pond.  I just went through all my pictures and can’t find a picture of my old pond.  :(  It was about 22′ by 10′. The new one is less than half the size of the original one.  Now days, much of my time is taken up caring for the ducks, chickens and vegetable gardens, so I needed the pond to be less maintenance.   

I still lack planting some flowers around the front and maybe put a lilly or two in the pond, but besides that it’s finished.  I can’t wait for all the plants to grow and fill in.  The green tube you see in the bottom of the pond is for the fish to hide in when the herons come.  The herons have already visited the new pond, but thankfully the fish were smart enough to hide in the tube.

Last week end I decided to have a plant sale.  My seedlings that I started back in February have done very well, thanks to the low tunnel.  The tunnel spared them from all the freezing and near freezing nights we had in March.  I knew when I was planting my seeds I didn’t need that many of each variety of tomato and pepper, but I just couldn’t help myself.  So what was I going to do with all my extras?  I decided to have a plant sale.  By selling the seedlings for $.50 and $1, I knew I wasn’t going to make a ton of money, but anything I can do to help my habit, I mean hobby, is a good thing.

By 10 AM all the plants were sold.  I made a little money and had a great time chatting with all the veggie lovers who stopped by.

The vegetable gardens are doing quite well.  I have finally gotten all my seedlings planted and only lack replanting a couple beds.  Here is a picture of the east garden.

East Garden

The front row left has cabbages, that need a bit more time, and broccoli that is going to the chickens and the ducks.  The right side has lettuce, beets, and swiss chard.  In this picture, the middle bed on the left has a few head of cabbages.  I took this picture yesterday, but this evening I replanted that bed with the last of my tomatoes and zucchini, but it was too dark when I was done to take a picture.  The middle row right side, has volunteer tomato plants.  I know I tell you to rotate your crops but I am breaking the rules.  Last year this bed also had tomatoes.  It held the tomato plant that produced the best for me.  That tomato plant had come up as a volunteer, so I don’t know what variety it was, and of course, neglected to save seeds from it.  So I am hoping that these seedlings will be that same variety.  Back row left side, carrots and cabbage that are about ready to come out.  The right side has peppers, tomatillos, and eggplant.  The front trellis bed has peas and behind it is a trellis bed with cucumbers.  Something dug up that bed so I decided to give up on having peas in it and plant my cucumber seedlings instead.  On the outside of the garden, on the right, which you can only see a tiny bit, I made a bed.  I planted cucumbers to grow up the fence, zucchini and summer squash.  Zucchini and summer squash take up so much space, that I am going to try them out there where they will have more room.  On the outside left is my herb bed.

West Garden

The front row beds have potatoes.  They really got hit pretty hard by that late freeze we had in March.  Next year I hope to put low tunnels over most of my beds to keep this from happening.  But even with the freeze they are doing quite well, though they were twice the size before the freeze.  I dug down around one of the plants the other day and it had tiny potatoes, so I think they will be fine.  The second row left has bok choy, cauliflower, and kale.  The bok choy is starting to go to seed already, I’m thinking because of the warm weather.  Hopefully that will be on the menu tomorrow night.  The row on the right has onions.  The back row beds have tomatoes.  Running down the left side are my blueberry bushes and they all have blueberries on them.  They are only a year old, so I should have taken all the blooms off, and not let them produce, but I just couldn’t do it.

I will leave you with a few pictures of the baby chicks.

Until next time!