Monday, April 16, 2012

....And We're Back!

I cannot believe its been three months since I last updated this blog.  I am so sorry!  My reasons part laziness, two parts business and one part I lost my camera!  Thankfully my father-in-law came to the rescue and gave me one of his old cameras so we are back in business!
I thought I would take this opportunity to show you whats going on around the homestead.  Due the mild winter and unusually warm March, the garden beds are already in full swing!  I've been spending the last few weeks preparing my vegetable beds and even have some early crops in one of them.  I have two 8' x 4' cedar raised beds (courtesy of my hubby and his mad carpentry skills).  The back bed has cool weather crops such has cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, radishes and parsley.  I started all of those from seed in late February/ early March.  We have already enjoyed some tasty lettuce!
The front bed I'm reserving for my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil.  I started all of those from seed too and they are growing happily indoors!  I'm hoping to get them out by the end of April or beginning of May.
As I said earlier, I've been preparing my vegetable beds.  By that I mean I've been performing soil tests and adding a layer of blended compost and manure to the top of the beds.  Burpee makes a really cheap, easy soil test kit.  It allows you to test soil pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to see if there are any deficiencies.  (And no I'm not receiving any kickbacks from Burpee for promoting their product, which would be nice).  The tests are very easy to perform and can be done in 10-15 minutes.  First you gather soil samples from around the garden bed you are testing.  The samples need to be below the surface several inches (where the plants roots would be).  You mix the samples together and then take a small amount and put it in the mini test tube.
Then you add the capsules with the test reagents, add a little water (straws make nice pipettes), shake and wait.  
The pH of my soil came out to be neutral to slightly alkaline.
Depending on what you want to plant, you may want to adjust the pH.  Most vegetables and plants do well in neutral soil.  Some plants prefer more acidic soils, such as azaleas and hydrangeas (if you want them blue).  I have an "acidic" bed in the front of my house where I keep an azalea and  hydrangea.
Every spring and fall I treat the soil to very slowly bring down the pH.  You don't want to do it too fast or it will shock the plants.  The azalea pictured is a crimson azalea, that produces beautiful crimson blooms every spring.  It usually doesn't bloom until May but just yesterday I saw a few blooms open up...
The rest of the garden beds are doing just as well.  Here is a picture of the "dead nettle" we have planted under a tree with shallow roots.
As you can see it is going to town!  It makes excellent ground cover in shady areas.  Don't give it too much sun or it will poop out on you!  I think its called "dead nettle" because just when you think its dead and its not coming back, it really surprises you!  Here is another picture of a shade garden out by our shed.  The coral bells and astilbe are growing vigorously, as are the hostas.

So far, the garden is coming along!  So what are YOU planting this year?

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