from January to… June!

An online friend has pointed out that I need to update this blog and he is not wrong. When I logged in tonight to remedy the situation — beer in hand, because I need some help at the end of a working day — I discovered a post I started back in March. A post about planting onions. Well those babies are well on now. In fact, all the seeds I started back in February are sprouted and grown and in the ground…as you’d expect. Except for the lemon grass, which is doing amazingly well, but I haven’t yet researched what its needs are or dug it a hole it might like. This is making me think of what I might do next time I’m in the garden, but — guilt descending — something tells me it probably won’t involve putting lemon grass to bed.

Moving swiftly on for the moment: here is the garden, most of it, in a pic taken just yesterday! (See how up to date we are now!)


The veg beds in June.

Let me explain what’s been happenin’. The closest bed to the camera is the one that grew all the wild cherry tomatoes and basil varieties so well last year. The toms were in the right-hand half. The left-hand half of this bed ended up being mostly fallow since the plants I put in there (edamame and herbs, I believe) were eaten by demon bunnies… or maybe box turtles, but I don’t want to imagine that. Anyway, that was last year. Obviously tomatoes couldn’t go back in to most of this bed — although try telling that to the volunteer tom seedlings. I must have weeded dozens of them out by now. Instead, I’m growing perennial onions and a row of leeks in an improvised raised bed. There was nearly a post on the making of that raised bed. Basically it involved a couple of days of hauling old cement blocks from another part of the property and hauling in bags of topsoil and Moonure (love that stuff!) from Home Depot. Both the onion sets and the leek seeds were gifts from Steven at Turkeysong. There should have been a post about that too, but if you’re following on Twitter or Instagram (and please do!), everything has been documented there. I think I’ll do some separate posts here to celebrate seed to harvest of the Turkeysong produce, so watch this space… Those leeks are going to be giant. COLOSSAL!!

To the left of the leeks and down a step, please notice one of my row covers, constructed out of halves of hoola hoop and chicken wire. The hoola hoop is sparkly to provide extra protection and glamour. You need a bit of glamour in the garden. Under that, although they’re pretty much bursting out now, are my fennel plants. Doing really well. When the cover comes off (probably next visit), I’ll take portraits of them and post. To their left are some tomatoes and basil. I’m only growing cherry-type tomatoes this year. Three different varieties: Matt’s wild cherry, because you can’t go wrong with those; Amy’s Sugar Cherry, and another Sugar/ Cherry variety whose name I forget. Hopefully all will make it to harvest and not get snacked on like my big heirloom varieties last year. Needless to say, I’m already on the look out for hornworms.

The middle bed has seen some changes! That used to be the Solstice Bee Garden — remember that? The first bed I dug! While my parents were visiting back in March (and helping put up a bit of anti-bunny wire netting round part of the perimeter of the deer fence… harder work than we thought, and we didn’t finish it…) I dug this bed out and replanted the three strains of native wild flower that had survived from the original garden (hyssop, bergamot and wild indigo). The flowers are now in a new bed running down one of the long sides of the deer fence. I’ll feature them next time… Where they used to be are now: Amish snap peas — zoom in on the pic, and you’ll spot them with their stick and string trellis. A bit of greenfly action on them, but otherwise making it. Near them (and still partially under a second row cover) are clumps of chamomile and some herbs — cat mint, echinacea and thyme. All grown from seed! At the extreme left of the bed, I’m growing peppers and trying to grow egg plants. But something is bothering the egg plants. They’re hanging on in there, but they don’t look all that happy.

On Sunday just gone I extended this middle bed. Not for use this year — just preparing the ground at this stage. I covered it with a layer of cardboard, and on top of that, a thick layer of leaf litter. By the autumn it should be ready for a cover crop.

And that leaves the hugelbeet, because the row of cotton isn’t visible in this pic. The hugelbeet has more tomatoes and basil, a couple of marigold plants and a fennel. Only the fennel isn’t doing well. It’s looking a bit crispy and unhappy. I was worried about that hugelbeet because I wasn’t sure it got enough sun. Turns out — now that I’ve visited earlier in the morning (ahem) — that it gets fantastic morning sun, and sun again in the late afternoon, so I think the toms in there will be fine. They need feeding, but I’m hopeful.

So that’s it. The state of play in early June!



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planning this year’s garden

Two blog posts in one day!!?? This one is short and sweet, unlike my review of 2012, which took me nearly five hours to “research” and compose. Having said that, though, this plan is the product of a few happy hours going through the seed I already have, choosing seed for things I’d like to grow, and then playing with the Mother Earth News Vegetable Garden Planner…

So here it is: The Master Plan

Yeah, about that row of cotton… And I sneaked in some peanuts too. We’ll see.

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2012: the year in pictures

As I look forward to a new year of trying to get things to grow on my land, I thought it would be interesting to feature here some of the highlights of 2012. With that in mind, I’ve just spent the last couple of hours reliving the year, going through all the photos I took, and picking out candidates to showcase in this post. Some months yielded three or four pictures that I really wanted to include, but I’ve finally narrowed it down to twelve images that, in their various ways, highlight what was achieved (if only fleetingly!) as well as the shifting beauty of the seasons. And it’s especially lovely to be gazing at sunny summer pictures on a cold dark freezing-rainy night in January.

I have so many plans for 2013 — I’m already firing up the online vegetable garden planner and I know what I want from the seed catalogues — but everything I do next year will be built on what I learned in 2012 from my very first attempt at growing a vegetable garden.



I love seeing these emerge long before spring, and can’t help wondering who planted them and when… Nothing seems to eat them, which is wonderful (see below for wildlife appreciation of just about everything I planted). They seemed to bloom extra early in 2012. This photo was taken in late January!






My woodland in winter. Love the light catching on those dead leaves. There were so many jobs to do in the “homestead” area last year that forest projects (and most of my 19 acres is woodland much like this) were neglected. I haven’t made a trail yet, but clearing away more of the old farm trash (barbed wire, rusting corrugated metal, the remains of old electric fences…) at the edges of the homestead site is still a top priority. I made a start on that in Jan/Feb 2012 and will continue to work away at it in the coming year.




The really big news of 2012! I got me a deer fence!! It wouldn’t have been possible without my parents’ help, and also the groundwork laid by friends — Bin and Dave — who visited me in Summer 2011. I have a whole blog post on achieving this fence, but I’m including a pic that shows here the beginning of the work, measuring out the area. And there’s my trusty strimmer (trimmer for those Stateside of the Pond)… the tick situation has already improved thanks to regular mowing of the grass and weeds.


A picture taken not long after we’d put up the deer fence from the vantage point of the hugelbeet-in-progress (see its own blog post). Everything is strimmed, the veggie bed is calm and waiting for transplants, and the bee garden in the foreground is not yet out of control. That’s my mum in the background working on something, and you can also see the old hunter’s ladder leaning against The Old Man.



Gaze on these little seedlings and admire! They did not last long. At least not the ones in the foreground, which include marigold and fennel and various herbs. Towards the back of the bed are the basils (Genovese and Thai) and my tomato plants. A different and more jungle-like future lay in store for them.


Flaming June

Very pretty with lots of spectacular insects. I’m not going to feature the tobacco hornworms here. The less said about them the better. Now I know I’ve got them, I’m going to look out for them much earlier and maybe my larger tomato varieties will make it to maturity. Here is the wild bergamot of my bee garden attracting (what I think is) a Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria Cybele). With thanks to Jeff’s North Carolina Butterfly Page for helping me ID the butterfly!



Jungle! Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes went crazy and took over not just their bed but surrounding areas. This is what they do, apparently, and I just let them. By the end of the season (November) I was harvesting tomatoes from runners in the long grass as if I were picking wild berries. I fully expect to have volunteer tomato plants in 2013… One comment on the wild cherries, apart from the fact that nothing could stop them: the first ones harvested weren’t that sweet, but as the summer wore on they just got sweeter and sweeter. Amazing plants!




The bounty of the woodland! And this is why I need to make time to walk through the forest more often: Horns of Plenty carpeting sloping areas of my woodland. (There were also chanterelles, but I missed picking them at their prime). After I’d confirmed with my dad that these are indeed Craterellus cornucopioides aka black chanterelles or trompettes de la mort, (hilarious emailed “conversation” which went something like: Dad: I’m almost certain that’s what they are. Me: Almost certain isn’t certain enough. Would you eat them? Dad: Yes! We’d eat them!) I picked a small basket load and cooked them up. Delicious. Dried what was left and gave them to my parents as a Christmas present. Apparently the flavour (which is lovely enough fresh) improves when dried to be almost like a black truffle, so I can’t wait to hear what they think of them. They have never been able to find them in the UK.



One of my favourite views, looking towards the old cow barn, almost hidden now by foliage and those yellow-flowered weeds. This is precisely what the land looked like when I first visited it with the agent in September 2010 (except that a tree hadn’t fallen on the cow barn at that point). Lovely. Nuff said.



Still harvesting the success stories of this year. And OK, tomatoes and basil are the easiest things to grow, but I’m still pleased to have eaten stuff I’ve grown from seed.



I picked out so many images for November, and changed my mind so many times about the one I’d use, but here it is. A kind of self portrait in shadow over my favourite woodland pool. It never dries up. Is it a spring?? It needs clearing up a bit, though — lots of dead leaves and wood fall, especially in the creek that runs out of it. But I’ve seen frogs here (or were they toads?), so I suppose I’d better be careful not to ruin whatever ecosystem supports them in any clean-up operation.



Waiting to begin all over again… Wishing everyone a happy and productive 2013!!


Posted in Homesteading, Seasons, Uncategorized, vegetable garden | Leave a comment