Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Garden pics :)

Time for a little garden tour.. I took the pics on Sunday morning, but I'm also going to put in stuff I've done since then.

A long shot from the FOH garden. Off to the right in front of the garage door are all the fruit pots that need to be hauled out back and planted. The greenhouse is standing strong, and that front flap is essential for shade that makes the front porch pleasant. On the left in the back you can barely see the beds.. In the foreground is a sea of grass- half of that is gone as of today- once the sun got too cooking down by the greenhouse, it was time for weeding in the shade. I've now cleaned out the whole planting in area for this years columbines.

A shot of the greenhouse and kennel beds. In the foreground you can see where I spread out a tarp to lay out some composted manure and straw bale flakes to dry. Why did I do that you ask? Because I got those two boxes moved and needing filling. Today I completely weeded out that whole front bed, and started out some sifting on the right side- where the most of the gravel and shallow rooted weeds are.. by the time I got the first couple feet sifted, the sun was nixing anything more there for today- shade is my friend, lol.

A good shot of the setup. Off frame to the left is another tarp where I stacked up the bags of stuff and straw bales- it's a testament to how well they were wrapped for winter 2015/16 that when unbagging 5, only one was really rather gunky... mostly with mushroom mold. That bale I flaked out to dry a bit overnight on Saturday. Three bags of composted manure- really wet stuff. What makes it good to mix into sweet feed but sucks for spreading over a couple boxes. So those got dumped out on Saturday to dry out a bit too. In the back you can see the left box with a first flake fluffed in. I fluffed the flake for a couple reasons- I didn't have enough bales to just straight lay in flakes, and I wanted to spread out and mix up that mushroom mold, and break up the flake matrix into a new matting to better accept what was going on top. There were 11 flakes, 5 went into the left box, 6 into the right since it's a deeper box.
A closeup of the boxes as I started. The box in the back has one flake on it so far, the box in front is just the basic inch I gave of smothering paper layer to seal in the bottom, shovels of dirt from the bed removal, and some grass on top. got the green mulch, I'm using it :) The carpet edge goes under the box by an inch or so to help with weeds too. Carpet is wonderful stuff.
After flaking up the straw, had some fun stomping it down real well again. Then a bag and a half each of composted manure on top. I watered in with a couple gallons each box to help tamp stuff down a bit more for settling.
The fill after the peat and veggie dirt mix. I used one big bale of peat moss and 4 bags of veggie dirt. Mixed up a quarter batch at a time and spread around with a small rake- it was wonderfully zen. Watered in this layer with a couple more gallons per box to help it settle in before packing a very full barrow divided between the two of more grass over the top.
While my grass fairy was off collecting that heap that you now see packing those two raised beds to the top, I started working in the rest of the smother bed action. I had just enough carpet left over that I was able to do the whole front line of the lasagna beds. This front corner is cardboard and one bale- I had barely enough, because I wasn't also covering the carpet aisle- didn't need to. Around the light pole area got two bales of straw and a good heap of cardboard- It needed the cleanup, and this year it's were the peppers growing in their containers are going to live. Nice big spot for them.
Ah, and cleaned up the far corner to with a new smother layer. I had the cardboard, but not quite enough straw at one bale because I was also renewing the aisle on that side. In the foreground is this years big brassica garden- Kalettes in back by the fennel, a row of romensco broccoli, a row of green cabbage, and a row of red cabbage. You can see the two lemon balms in the front corner of the next bed looking good, and the two cages for the asparagus beans to grow on this year. The far bed is going to be some corn, and maybe some greens.
A shot from the far end. You can see how loose that straw looks by comparison to the other end, but it was a darn sight better than the tall grass mess that was there. The carpet on the front looks great, and lays in nicely. The three bronze fennels are spectacular- we hate the stuff as a food, but it is beautiful and the bennie bugs love it. While in the cleanup, I discovered several borage sprouts popping up in the front of the beds too, which is rather nice.
A bunch of seedlings enjoying the sun... everything has been moved from the solarium and porch down to the greenhouse now. Monday night I had to tuck everything under cover because we got a thunderstorm with hail... but tonight they all stay out.

Some pots lined up and ready to move around... Starting on the left in the kitty litter bin is hardy kiwi, three lemon balms, a couple baptista and foxgloves, the dozen gallon pots of lavender, and the avocado tree.
From the nice shady corner of the greenhouse at this time in the afternoon. In the forefront is some dried grass. That marks where the helios radish is.. beets and carrots haven't done nada. Right close to the garlic is the transplanted beer radish. And a nice big area in between that I can still do what I want with. With the way the rows are matching up, I can put in future raised beds moving from the pole, and will still have a nice aisle further down the time line...

The old raised beds area still needs the whole round of attention too, starting with some solarization. And the stair garden needs it's cleanup and set in of this years plants. The tree garden needs it's tending too, lol. But so far, so good!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Started May 9...

5/9: So, looks like everyone survived the freezes. Yes, freezes- last night hit it like the night before. But today I took off the frost cloths and the stuff down by the greenhouse looked perfect. Since overnight lows are going to be in the 40's now, we are good to go there. The poor Purple Hyacinth Bean- I covered it over days ago, and I fear it may have cooked a wee bit much when it was still sunny out. But it's still almost hanging in there when I took it's cloth out, so we shall see. The dill has loved the extra cover and sprouted great.
Today was another shuffle day- a lot of stuff moved back out of the greenhouse, so a lot of stuff could be moved from the solarium to the greenhouse. The lavender seedlings- there's a total of 84 of those at the moment, lol. Over this year they will be slowly transplanted up as needed to 3x3 then 5" pots to grow in for a year or two. Got 56 chamomiles, 36 zinnias, 18 each of fennel and dill plugs, some cauliflower, a couple more baskets of fuchsias, and all the 3x3 scented geraniums in the greenhouse too. A few days ago I transplanted 13 variegated sages from their 3x3 pots into gallon pots for growing out this year, and those got moved out to the porch. Those will be planted in next year along the front fenceline where I've tried and failed to get other stuff to start.
This year I'm going to pull out the few tulips from that area and lay in a deep smother bed and let it just die for a year before trying again. Next year I will set in the sages up that line. And I now have 16 Candy Lilly seedlings that are going to be grown in pots this year too- those will be nurtured along to plant in with the sage. Candy Lillies have spectacular blooms on 3' stalks that will look spectacular over the sage growth. So some 2018/19 plans there.
I did another good spraying with Neem & oils over the lasagna beds today- almost finished off this batch of mix doing it. Since I had a wee bit left, I started to spray on the corner of the kennel garden where there was the most recent squash bug activity... and noticed some delightful seedlings!! Last year sis and I had capped over the Beer Garden Radish as late in the season as I dared to help along what little blossoms and seed pods I saw at the time.. and when I moved the giant radish corpse today there was a nice handful of tiny radish plants!! I carefully dug them all up, and transplanted the best 21 in the batch- 7 per row, 3 rows. There were littler seedlings I scrapped too, but dang, those are big radishes and I only need so many, even with letting a few go to flower and make seed. And I do hope a few do that so I can collect some seed stock. I put them into half of last years brussels sprouts, on the garlic side. The brussels didn't respring for seed, and those radishes had to move anyway since that's the area the toothache plant is going in.. so hey, good deal. I got one strip left in that garden area, and I think I'm going to plant it in with "weird spinach and greens". Some of the other other plant species that aren't part of the classic plant rotation groups.

Tippy and friends..
The feeder action has become popular! A few weeks ago I started refilling the nyjer sock feeder, and picked up an new tube feeder since all of the old ones were broken. Menards has the sale on nyjer seed, Meijer better on wild seed. Started filling the tube feeder with cheap Meijer feed that had more small seed and less sunflower and corn. The finches, sparrows, tickmouses, chickadees came out. Dumped all the moth ridden bad seed down on the platform feeder- and that seemed to draw off to the greater extent some of the pest birds like grackles, starlings, and some of the red winged blackbirds- the grackles and starlings can't perch at the tube feeder, but the red wing blackbirds can if they are smaller and hunch up well. Then there was a red belly woodpecker that was showing up at the tube feeder and being rather entertaining because he was so huge and could hang in so well to snack at those holes and pegs meant to feed a bit smaller and upright perching feeders.
So I made up a lil batch of suet to try to feed Mr. Woodpecker. I had a lot of suet goodies stacked up that didn't get used so much this winter since it was so mild and birds had a lot of natural goodies. I made two suet cakes, poured into mushroom tubs....

For the fat..
1/2 cup of lard- I use a pound tub, and half of it was used up. I used half of what was left.
Equal amount of generic chunky peanut butter.
Nuked them up enough to make them soft and mixable, but not liquid.
In a 16 oz Daisy sour cream tub... about half fullof freeze dried mealworms, and topped off to about 2/3 full with some moth spoiled quinoa. Topped the tub off to the top with dehydrated apple bits.
Mixed in about 1 1/2 or so of Daisy tub of wild seed to that.. and poured it off to two mushroom tubs...
The woodpecker was last to show over the curiosity of the red wing blackbirds and sparrows.. and then I put out the Baltimore Oriole feed.. just in time too..
Because now every good bird is exploding like a colorful and musical muse into the spring backdrop of the tree blooming..
We have at least 2 females and 4 male Baltimore Orioles. And a nice treat- Rose Breasted Grosbeaks- we usually see a few of them here and there, but this time we have a full Gross! I'm not sure if it's the suet, or other goodies, but it's rare we see so many.
There's flocks of birds.. but then there's names for those flocks.. And how much fun is that?
Chicadees are banditry
Finches are Charm or trembling
Grosbeaks are gross
Sparrows are Host, quarrel, knot, flutter, crew

5/10: lots of indoor outdoor shuffling between the house and the porch... hardening off time has come since today is the last frost date. Transplanted up all the double furled blue columbines- ended up with 63 big, 12 little seedlings. Will be growing those out in the pots this year, or perhaps two depending on how slow they are to show first bloom. I'm hoping the mother plant was isolated enough not to have been cross pollinated with other colors, but only growing out will tell if that happened or not. If they are true, I will plant them in with the original mother. If not, elsewhere as I'm sure they would still be pretty.
Meijer had their mushrooms on sale, so over the last couple days I've dehydrated and picked up a heap of them! Which is nice, because we are always chowing those down, lol.

5/11: The birds are happy- we also have catbirds and cowbirds showing up- just a couple of each. They are new additions we had to take time to look up and identify. Orchard Orioles started showing up today too. Knock on wood, the larger ickier birds are staying away- the grackles, starlings, and bigger blackbirds. The new tube feeder has perches just short enough they can't really get on it, and the birds that are feeding aren't dropping much to make the ground enticing. Filling the platform feeder has helped with it as well.
Another round of shuffle indoors/outdoors for hardening off. Moved the asparagus seedlings and the blown small spring bulbs out to the garden porch. Moved all those transplanted columbines into the greenhouse.
Took the time today to start moving the raised beds. The biggest bed sort of fell apart while I was digging around inside and popping it up- a bit too much rot on one of the bottom side boards and collapse of a corner left me with one solid side and end panel, and some wood, lol. So it isn't being moved up this year obviously. I'm glad I did the dig out on it first, because I cleared that mound off first to start filling the two other beds. The smaller bed I made when I made the big one almost survived intact- it had a bottom end board that rotted out. No problem since I was planning on flipping the frames over so the good side was down anyway. I just put the short end in front and won't deep fill there just yet. The first frame I made held up best- a bit of chunk off on some bottom edges, but not too much- that one made the flip perfect.
Keep in mind I tend to build my beds straight on top of the lawn, I don't dig out the area first. 
So to start off with, I started cutting up that old rug we used to smother the stairs garden and has been sitting folded up for a while. 2 foot wide strips. Made 2 at first, one for the front and one for the fence edge. The front edge lines up perfect between the lasagna beds and the kennel beds, and the fence side tucked in perfect too. One box fit neatly front to back just barely covering the carpet strips. Another couple of 2 foot strips cut in half fit perfectly for the aisles between the boxes. Carpet makes for a darn fine kill blanket.
On the pole side of the beds, I laid in a new cardboard and straw smother layer to even out that curved mowing edge to butt up against the first box. I've let the back and front edges and the aisles sit as just carpet for the moment. I still got carpet to use and still need to smooth that edge for now.
In the beds themselves... laid down a thick layer of saved up MailMax newspapers.. and covered that with the dirt dug out from where the large raised bed was. It sure did make it easier that I had dug it up a lot this morning before I tried moving the box... after that all I had to do was shave that mound down to about ground level to put in my first dirt layer. I sprinkled in dirt as I was laying down paper to help hold it down in the wind.. then went back and filled and tamped down the edges and corners well with dirt, and made sure all newspaper was completely covered.. and that took up pretty much all the "extra" dirt. Raked up the mowed grass from the garden path to put a bit of green over the top- not much, but a nice fine layer of seed free green mulch. And that's as far as I got today, lol. It pooped me out, but felt good to get it done.
Tomorrow I will continue on it... I have three bags of "veggie soil", two bags of manure (both got to sweeten been planting, but I'll get more after this, I need the beds to mature before planting tomatoes), a big bag of used cocoa saved up- it isn't the most satisfying medium I've experimented with, but it will be good to add a big boost of organic fiber to the box. Since I'm breaking up the last of the bagged straw bales, I'll take a good bit of that and break it up for more fiber.. mix that stuff with the bags of stuff, plus the top clearing off of another of the old beds- the oldest one is pretty much crap now for soil removal.. I got a handful of small fertilizers that need using up and will go into the mix... and hopefully at the end of the fill I will be filled enough to plant in tomato goodness.
I should have enough straw to give the rest of the walkways around the beds a fill too. The front of the lasagne beds and it's far corner are sorry as hell, but the aisles there are looking good. This weekend sees the last of our low 40 overnights, so the big patch in the lasagne bed will be getting planted in soon with this years brassicas.
Where the raised bed were I'm going to clean up a bit then just lay it over with clear plastic to solarize for a while. I don't really need to do anything yet to that area other than the bed removal, and I don't want weeds to get in there yet, lol. I already need to work a lot down there, don't need to add to it while other stuff is going on if I have to.
In the kennel bed- the Helios radish is for sure popping up- the questionable on if it was viable or not Little Finger carrot has not popped. I think I'm starting to see the beets starting to sprout, but I'm not sure yet, lol- they are still tiny.
I still need to weed out and clean up the side of the greenhouse where the toothache plant will be planted in. And the Tree bed needs to be addressed and cleaned up before I can start thinking about putting in the beans, winter squash, and cuke seeds.......

But now it's time to get cleaned up for dinner.. pulled pork sandwiches tonight!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Last frost? How about freeze?

Wednesday the 10th is the last frost date- but tonight we have a freeze warning, and tomorrow night is only supposed to be a couple degrees warmer. Good thing I got a nice greenhouse and know how to use frost fabric to cap over my fruit bushes and trees- the potted ones have already gone through blossoming, so I don't want to lose any potential fruiting off them. All the rest of the plants that have been sitting out between the garage and the greenhouse have been pulled into the greenhouse- all the little pot stuff. I even pulled the flat of toothache plant from the greenhouse to the solarium, just to be on the safe side.

The first week of May has been pretty darn nice so far though. Pretty much all my indoor seed starting is over now, I only have a few more pots under plastic for sprouting at this point. Got a LOT of various seedlings spread out between the kitchen, solarium, and greenhouse. It has been outstandingly nice having a greenhouse for so much stuff!!
I have been starting to harden off the tomatoes and peppers a bit with a couple hours a day in the mini-greenhouse on the porch. By next weekend, that will shift along with most of the rest of what's inside right now. Overnight temps will start stabilizing into the upper 40's/lower 50's so I will be able to overnight plants in the greenhouse instead of inside.. and without using a half dozen mini greenhouses and stupid amounts of plant shuffling. So far this year I haven't had to put the one I've been using as a shelf for pots and trays to plant use yet. Two in the kitchen has worked out fine mixed with the solarium. I have one full rack in the greenhouse, and one half rack- that one had a structural fail and the lower section removed, lol. And one on the porch.

Stuff done.. I recently moved the black compost cans and started filling the first one with cleaning out the kitchen herb garden. Over the last couple days I finished filling the bins.. I've cleared out all three lasagna beds. I'm going to give the whole area a hardcore spraydown with homemade garden spray- a mixture of oils. Neem being the biggest component- it seriously effs up a lot of the bad stuff like aphids, mexican bean beetles, squash and stink bugs, tomato hornworm feeding habits- they don't like the smell and emergent worms avoid it, reproductive cycle of japanese beetles.. while still being almost harmless to a lot of the beneficial insects that aren't out yet, and bees that are coming out now. Rain is coming in later in the week, and will wash it in.. then we can turn over those beds and give them another neem and oils shot. The other oils I'm using for this are Tea Tree, Rosemary, Lavender, and Peppermint. A nice side bennie of these oils is a lot of critters don't like the strong scent and start to avoid the gardens early.
I also cleaned out two of the raised beds real well. They were pretty easy to hand clean out since they were mostly loamy sandy and been more cleaned out more recently. The original raised bed is pretty much a contents loss, so I just cleaned it up so the frame can be dug up. These are going to me moved up to the east of the utility pole and west of the kennel garden.

But had to hunker down for freeze alert, lol. Now everything is cleaned up and tucked in.. and time for enchiladas thanks to my sis whupping up yummy dinner. and I'm off to make some refries and guac :)