Friday, June 29, 2012

Gardening This and That

Our garden at Third Days Farms is really taking off!  As this was our first year with a garden here, we were not sure what to expect.  I'm pleased to report that (so far) the garden has exceeded my expectaions.  Our hard work and hours of planning are paying off. 

The garden is about 145 x 30 feet, adding up to about 4,300 square feet of garden space or just shy of 1/10 of an acre.  There are 26 raised beds in the garden, each one about 4 x 16 feet, surrounded by straw covered pathways.  My previous garden at our old house was 200 sq feet - to say we expanded is an understatement!  However, we're discovering that we are able to manage the space quite well.  After a few weeks of intensive weeding, the weeds have diminished greatly and are not really a problem.  I should be spending about least 30 minutes out there each day, preferably an hour, but lets be realistic.  I have a three year old.  Enough said.  Hopefully, next year I'll be able to get my time in.

Part of the garden - raised beds with straw pathways

Despite my lack of labor in the garden (and the fact that we have recieved no rain for 4 weeks - it all keeps missing us), the plants seem to be doing quite well. We've been having to water often, but as the plants grow larger and shade the soil, the need is lessening. One of the goals of raised bed gardening is to fill the bed with tightly growing plants.  By packing the plants close together, weeds are choked out and watering demands are reduced.  Raised beds are also more productive than growing plants in rows.  In the same amount of space, over twice the amount of produce can be grown in raised beds, versus rows.  Also, when growing in raised beds, the soil remains deep and roots are able to penetrate well, creating stronger and more productive plants.  Every time you step on soil, you are compacting it, which makes it difficult for plant to grow well.  By created raised beds, you eliminate compaction and there is no need for tilling.  My children have heard this too many times, "NEVER step in the bed!!!!  That's why we have pathways!"  The beds are 4 feet wide, so produce is easily accessable from either side.  Raised beds are more work initially to construct, but I think in the long run, they are much easier to manage - weeding is a snap and no more tilling each year. 

Raised bed with "Royal Burgundy" Bush Beans on the left, "Yukon Gold" Potatoes in the center and Tomatoes on the right.  

The spinach went bad about 3 weeks ago, when the weather turned hot and dry.  I've been pulling it out and feeding it the pigs.  This past week, the Sugar Snap Peas and the Shelling Peas puttered out.  Those plants were also pulled and fed to the pigs (they are handy garden garbage disposals!).  After spending many an hour shelling peas (not an unpleasant task, mind you, especially when done sitting in the shade chatting with a friend), I'm pleased to have about 6 quart bags of peas in the freezer.  That should last us until next year. 

Most of the lettuces turned bitter and bolted  in this heat, all except the Romaine Lettuce - we're still harvesting beautiful heads of Romaine each day. "Bolting" means the plant starts to suddenly grow tall and lanky, instead of forming a nice tight head of lettuce.  It also gets bitter and the leaves will produce "milk" when you cut them.  Plants bolt when it's too hot and there is not much you can do about it (tear it out and feed it to the pigs!). Lettuce likes cool weather.  I may try growing some more in the shade of the tomato plants and see how that works. 

I have about 40 broccoli plants and they are beginning to form nice heads.  Soon, I'll be harvesting the center heads and preserving them for the rest of the year in the freezer.  After giving the heads a salt water bath to kill the sneaky cabbage worms that hide in the broccoli (don't skip this step!!!!  Trust me, it's not cool to bite into your broccoli and discover you just ate half a worm.  Simply boiling or steaming the broccoli won't make them fall off), I will blanch and freeze as much broccoli as I can.

The Swiss Chard is looking lovely and like always, I have WAY too much of it.  To be honest, I grow it simply because it's so beautiful - green leaves with bright red, orange and yellow stems.  I just don't know what to do with all of it... my family does not care for cooked greens no matter how I prepare them, and though they go well in egg dishes and soup, I can only make so many egg dishes.  Suggestions for using up Swiss Chard would be appreciated!    Or just come over and take some!

"Bright Lights"  Swiss Chard

Over my years of gardening, I've discovered I prefer pole beans over bush beans.  Anyone who has ever picked green beans know that the bending over is for the birds.  Pole beans grow up and are super easy to harvest - no bending over!  As I pulled the spent peas off the trellises, I planted pole beans to take over.  When I ran out of trellis, I got the idea to plant pole beans and sunflowers in the same bed at the same time.  Not sure if it's going to work, but I'm hoping the pole beans will simply climb up the sunflowers.  So far, so good!  The sunflowers will reach 6-8 feet, which should be tall enough for the pole beans.

Sunflowers with Pole Beans growing up on them

And look!  My first tomato is ripening!    I have over 50 tomato plants in the garden (yes, I'm crazy) and it won't be long before we're swimming in a sea of red.  Again, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all of them.  I hope to can at least 100 jars and fill several freezer bags, but we're thinking we may need to set up a roadside stand. 

"Stupice" Tomato, an early ripening variety

There are lots of other exciting things going on in the garden, but I won't bore you with all the little details.  The garden is such a magical place.   It grows by leaps and bounds each day.  Each day, it fills me with delight, as I walk around checking on my "babies", rubbing my hands in glee and excitement.  Come on over and take a walk with me.  I'd love to show you around so that you can taste and see that the Lord is good.  


  1. Let me know when you start getting too many tomatoes. We'd love to take some off your hands!

  2. I have actually started putting chard in our smoothies.... My kids need more iron and veggies. Seemed logical. It tastes stronger than kale or beet greens, tho, so I can't put quite as much in. I am jealous of you... Let me know if a farm goes on the market near you and we will move! I am friends with hvilah and have told her many times to keep an ear and eye out for a job for us and we'll move back to Michigan! Thanks for blogging!!!