Sunday, April 11, 2010

The First Plow and Harrow

So after the manure had sat on the field for a few days, it was time to plow.  Adam's dad's tractor comes in handy for these situations.  It took a few times going over, but eventually the garden was ready for step 2.
After the garden was plowed we then harrowed the field.  A harrow is a farm implement consisting of a heavy frame with sharp teeth or upright disks, used to break up and even off plowed ground.  Mr. Britcher has two different types of harrows.  The first is like the one pictured below.  The chain harrow is dragged behind the 4-wheeler and did a fairly decent job, thanks to Adam and his cousin Derek who kept getting off the four wheeler to get all of the dead vines off of the equipment.  

The second harrow that Mr. Britcher has is like the one below but without the seat.  This created a slight issue since Adam had to stand on the harrow to increase it's weight so it would go deeper.  This was slightly risky but he survived.

Once the ground was leveled and broken up, we got ready for the first planting.

Cleaning Up and Spreading It

The picture to the right is how our garden looked before we got started this year, and the one on the left is after we pulled up the black plastic.  We sort of were lazy last year and didn't get a head start on fertilizing the ground or even cleaning up after ourselves.
So, once we caught up a little bit, we then had to visit our special fertilizer patch (see previous post) and spread the good stuff around.  With all of the tools that Adam's dad has, a manure spreader is not one of them.

After we covered the field with manure, we gave it a few days until we went back to work on the garden.  Below is Jack, about to roll around in the freshly strewn manure.

Starting from Seeds

   So last year, we were pretty successful starting  most of our crop from seeds.  It's not as difficult as it sounds but it does take some planning.  For about the cost of a night at the bar, you can purchase all the seed packets it will take to start your fabulous garden. 
   This year we bought a couple of greenhouses.  We didn't build a giant one like you might think, basically it is 72 peat pellets that you water and add your seeds to. Then cover with the plastic lid and let your garden take off. In about a week or two, you will start to see your plants come to life.  It's very exciting knowing that you're growing your own food.  We do monitor our plants to make sure we transfer them into peat pots (which you can see in the picture) before they get too big.  Both peat pots and greenhouse (by Jiffy) can be purchased at Lowes, Home Depot and even Walmart!  We currently have 2 kinds of zucchini, yellow squash, & cucumbers in peat pots.  They'll be ready to transplant around the 15th of May.  This is traditionally the day to start a garden in our area but we're very excited to have a big harvest this year so we started early by growing from seeds indoors.  You can find out when it's time to put your wellies on and dig by googling Hardiness Zone.  I like the National Gardening Association's page.
   We also have quite a bit of fennel still in the pellets as well as eggplant, watermelons, pumpkins and hot peppers.  Once it warms up again, we'll drive up to our garden and transplant everything in. Butcher's farm stand has tons of fabulous tomatoes and I'd rather leave the growing to Stacy.  I'll get my tomatoes from her as well as my herbs for my herb garden.   Last year, Adam's dad and grandmother didn't think my fennel would survive but lo and behold I had some fantastic salad with fennel.  This year, I'm really hoping to do more with my veggies.  I've also decided to donate as much as possible this year to local food bank or a place that feeds the hungry.  You definitely have to give back when you've been blessed! Don't you agree? 
   I think we may have to plow more this year for our very big garden.  I hope Adam's dad doesn't mind!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Manure Happens!

Adam's parents race standardbred horses so we are lucky to just go out back and get fresh fertilizer for our garden.  We forgot to cover our garden last year,  so this year we killed two stones with one bird.

Adam's dad bought that orange tractor you may have seen in some of our photos a while back and puts it to good use in our garden.  We loaded this wagon up about 3 times and hauled it over to the garden which is pretty much next door to his parents house.  Then we scattered all this horse poo over the garden and let it rest for a couple of days.  On Saturday, Adam's dad with Adam's help, plowed the field incorporating all those good nutrients into our garden.  It took them a few hours to do but it is definitely worth it.  If you don't have access to fantastic resources (horses, tractors, etc)  like we do, Lowe's and Home Depot have a great gardening department.

I know this is about 2 guys, a dog, & a garden and you're probably wondering where the dog is in most of these shots!  If you look at the photo, our garden runs along the side of a road,  a country road.  And Jack Russells love to get into trouble, so we taught Jack (yes! our Jack Russell's name is Jack) to work the camera.  No, just kidding. He in the car (usually on the center console) watching us and not getting himself killed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Greens, Greens and Nothing but Greens

In the past we have tried to grow salad greens in various pots and containers.  Normally this works for a bit but either we have poor drainage or not enough soil for the greens.

This created a debate between Miguel and myself.  Miguel wanted to grow the greens in the garden, while I was willing to settle for buying them in a nice plastic bag at Wal-mart.  I guess my concern was whether animals would leave the greens alone or eat them or worse contaminate them in a way that no salad spinner would ever get clean.

However, we came to a conclusion that we would grow the greens in our garden... aka Miguel won. (You'll see this as a recurring theme.)

We did reach a slight compromise.  Rather than putting the greens into our rows of vegetables, we decided to create a separate bed for them.  

We started by using a garden claw to tear up the ground some and then the shovel to remove the top lawyer of sod.  Once we had the old grass removed, Miguel then went to town with the garden claw and tore up the soil while at the same time mixing in some coffee grounds and some pelletized lime. 

Once the garden was worked properly, we used the hoe to make rows and planted our seeds.  For this bed, we planted Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, Grand Rapids Leaf Lettuce, and an Italian Mixture Salad Blend.  

To finish off the garden, I found some birch branches and created a border partly to make it look good and partly so no one would step on it.

Below are some more pictures of Miguel creating the garden for the greens.

Stacey's aka Butcher's Farm Market

Some of our seeds are bought from Wal-Mart, some from Home Depot and Lowe's, but the best seeds and supplies are purchased from Butcher's Farm Market.  This year Miguel and I (oh by the way this post was written by Adam) purchased our seed potatoes, sugar snap peas, sugar peas, carrot, radish, and red beat seeds from Butcher's.  In a few weeks, we will be purchasing our tomato and pepper plants from here.

In addition to plants and seeds, Butcher's Farm Market sells delicious cakes, breads, and other baked products.  My family is a big fan of their chocolate cake with peanut butter icing.  There is also a wide selection of vegetables that are locally grown.  

So next time you are in Newport, PA be sure to check out Butcher's Farm Market.