Heritage Harvest Festival At Monticello

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

Yesterday, my wife and I attended The 6th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA. This event was put on by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. The focus of the event was heirloom gardening, but there was so much more to see and do.

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Summer Garden Update

Tomato Ladders & Cucumber TrellisThe rain has finally arrived, so now the weeds are really growing. Overall this summer is really producing some good crops, despite our higher than normal temperatures. All our plants seem to be staying healthy and the insect damage has been minimal.

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A Modern Reel Mower

This is not your grandfather’s reel mower. This is the latest in green mowing technology, the Fiskars Momentum™ Mower (now the StaySharp™ Max Reel Mower). I have been using this mower to mow my small town lot for over a year now and I have been very pleased with this mower.

The Fiskar Momentum mower.

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Weeds Be Gone

With spring underway and summer right around the corner, there is one thing growing in every garden, WEEDS. It’s a battle all gardeners face at some point. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.

There have been days when I have gone through my garden picking weeds only to turn around and see more. It’s like they are growing as fast as I pick them! As frustrating as weeding is, the pleasure of seeing a well weeded garden or flower bed can be really rewarding.

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Creating New Garden Plots

I finally completed my last two garden plots, now giving me a total of 4 plots to plant in.

The two new garden plots.

I created these plots the same way I have been creating plots since I first started gardening years ago. In fact, this is about the sixth time I had to cut sod to create a garden.

First I start by determining how big I want the garden plot to be and how much space I want to leave between the plots. For these plots the formula is simple: 4 ft. wide and 16 ft long with 3 ft. between all plots.

Since I wanted to place my new plot 3 ft. from my existing plot, I measured 3 ft. from the corner of the existing plot and drove a stake into the ground. Then I did the same thing at the opposite end of the existing garden plot. I ran a string between the two stakes creating what would be the edge of my new garden plot. Using an old edging tool I follow the string down the edge of the plot cutting through the sod.

Once I have complete one side, I measure out 4 ft. from each corner stake and then drove a new stake into each corner. I then connect both of those stakes with string to create the opposite edge of the plot. Like the other side, I slowly work my way down the string using the edging tool to cut the sod. When both sides are completed, I cut the sod at each end of the plot. Since these plots are only 4 ft wide I just eye up my edge and work my way across the plot.

Laying out the new garden plots.

Once the perimeter of the new plot was cut I worked my way down the bed using my edging tool to cut 18 inch wide sections of sod. I then used a standard spade shovel to remove the 18 inch wide section of sod, making sure to leave as much soil in the garden as possible. I used the sod that I removed as filler around my property.

The process of creating a new garden plot.

Once all the sod was removed I covered each plot with some decomposing leaves from the fall. In a few weeks I will run the rototiller through each plot, making sure the decomposing leaves are turned into the soil.

The completed two new garden plots.

Now with these two plots complete, I can focus on more growing.

Happy growing….

Planting Asparagus

One of the great things about asparagus is once you have the plants established it just keeps coming back each year. The only negative is that you really can’t start harvesting it until the third year. So for an asparagus lover those three years seem like an eternity. I had grown asparagus for about 7 years at my pervious house and now that we have moved, it’s time to start all over again.

Since asparagus is a perennial vegetable, I decided not to plant it in my standard vegetable beds. Instead I decided to plant it in an old flower bed along one of my buildings. Even though it is along the building, the bed gets really good sunlight in the morning and late afternoon. This seems like a great spot to try growing asparagus.

Last fall I had applied a thick layer of shredded leaves to the bed. So before I planted the asparagus, I turned over the soil in the bed several times and ran the small rototiller through it to make sure the soil was good and loose.

Preparing the Asparagus Bed

Asparagus Bed

I purchased 8 Mary Washington crowns from our local hardware/garden supply store.

Asparagus roots

Asparagus crowns

I dug 4 long ditches (about 6 inches deep) and placed two crowns in each ditch and spaced the crowns 18 inches apart.

Planting Asparagus Beds

Asparagus crowns in the bed.

I then covered all the crowns with about 3 inches of soil. In a few weeks when the asparagus begins to sprout I will apply another 3 inches of soil over top the plants.

Asparagus Bed Planted

Asparagus planted

Now with the asparagus planted the only thing left to do is sit back and wait three long years. I guess all great things take time.

Happy growing…

Garden Update 4-5-12

Spring is in the air and the garden is starting to show signs of life.

Pea seedlings

Pea Seedlings

All the pea seeds have germinated and the seedlings are growing well.

Peas and onions in the garden

Peas and Onions

Lettuce, Arugula, Swiss Chard and Spinach Seedlings

Lettuce, Arugula, Swiss Chard, and Spinach Seedlings

The arugula is off to a strong start but the lettuce, swiss chard, and spinach are not far off.

Plant from my fall planting

Plants from my late fall planting.

The carrots, swiss chard, and spinach that I planted late last fall and over wintered under the cold frame have started to grow again and should give us an early spring harvest.

Close up of plants from fall planting.

Plants from my late fall planting.

The year is off to a great start here at The Year Round Harvest.
Happy Growing…

Seedling Update

It’s been two weeks since I started my seeds and all but a few seem to have germinated really well. The only seeds that have not germinated yet are one of the varieties of bell pepper (maybe old seeds) and the Greek oregano (which seems to be really slow to germinate).

Tray of seedlingsI have been keeping the seedlings under lights for about 14 hours a day. I usually water the seedlings in the early morning and the late afternoon. Several days ago in order to keep the seed starting mix damp all day, I had to switch from just misting the seedlings to watering and misting the seedlings.

Seedlings in seed starting tray. In a few days I will thin out some of the seedlings, keeping the plants that seem to be the strongest. I will also have to transplant my tomatoes soon to small pots. I will post more on my tomato transplant process.

Happy growing..

Seed Starting Time

I began growing my own plants from seeds several years ago when I became frustrated with the selection of plants that were available at the greenhouses. Over the years I have had good success with starting a wide variety of herbs and vegetables. The following is the process that I use.

Seed Starting Supplies:
– Seed starting tray with cover and tray cells (if cared for, these can be reused for several years)
– Organic seed starting mix
– Standard fluorescent shop lights with some way to adjust the height above the seed starting trays.
– Last but not least the seeds, the following is the list of the seeds that I started this year.

The Seeds for 2012: 
– Heirloom Tomatoes: Red Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Hillbilly, Gold Medal, Mortgage Lifter, Amish Paste, Large Cherry, and Cherry Roma
-Peppers: Bull Nose and Fish
-Herbs: Dill, Cilantro, Summer Savory, Genovese Basil, Sweet Basil, Large Leaf Italian Basil, English Thyme, and Greek Oregano.

Seed Starting Supplies

Seed starting supplies

The first step in my process is to fill a tub with seed starting mix (the approximate amount I need to fill the cells) then I add water to the mix until the mix is really saturated.

Seed starting mix in a tub

Seed starting mix

The next step in the process is to fill all of the tray cells with the seed starting mix. I fill each cell about 3/4 full with the mix. Then I make plant markers to label what plant is growing in each cell. I put the plant markers in first so that I don’t forget what seeds were planted in each cell when I am all done.
Once all of the plant markers are in place, I begin placing a few seeds of the variety in each cell to ensure germination in each cell. After the seeds sprout, I will go through and thin out the seedlings in each cell. After all the seeds have been placed in the appropriate cells, I take some dry seed starting mix and cover up all the seeds so the seeds are the correct depth. Then I take a spray bottle filled with water and mist the top of all the cells.

Seed tray filled with seeds and mix

Seed starting tray filled and ready to go

The last step in the process is to cover the tray with the clear plastic lid and place it under the lights. I use a standard 4 bulb fluorescent shop light, with standard bulbs. I have used this light system for the last 5 years with great results. My light hangs from a simple stand that gives me the ability to adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow. I usually keep the light only a few inches above the seed trays to start.

Seed starting tray under lights

The seed tray under the lights

I leave the clear plastic cover on until the first seeds start to germinate and push through the mix. Not all the seeds will germinate at the same time, so I make sure the cover is removed once the first seedlings push through. Once the cover is removed it is important to make sure that the seedlings are kept moist. I use a spray bottle filled with water to mist the seedlings.

I will keep you posted on the progress of my plants.

Happy Growing…

Peas and Onions Please

With a warmer than normal week of weather forecasted, I decide to plant my peas and onions a week ahead of my typical planting schedule.

Onion Sets

Yellow, red, and white onion sets ready for planting.

I always purchase my onion sets from our local hardware store, they have a great selection. Planting the onion sets is a pretty simple process. First I create mounds of dirt for each row then I work my way down each row pushing the onion set down until they are completely covered. I plant my onion sets pretty close together, then in the late spring I will pick a few of them for spring onions, I pick every other one or so to allow more space for plants that will grow into large onions.

Sugar Snap Seeds

Sugar snap pea seeds that I have saved from previous seasons.

Next thing on the schedule to plant is sugar snap peas.  When planting sugar snap peas I create mounds for each row, then I create a little valley in each row. I place the pea seeds in the valley then using a rake pull some soil back over the valley to cover up the seeds. One thing I always keep in mind when I am planting sugar snap peas is where and how I am going to support the plants. I have had this variety grow to about 6 ft. tall, it takes a lot of support to keep the plants up. I try to keep in mind how much space the support system will take up, allowing enough space between my rows.

Once I was completely done with all my planting I watered all my freshly planted seeds and sets. Another great day spent in the garden.

Two girls planting

My two little helpers.

Backyard Garden

Planting complete