Last night I finally picked everything our blueberry bush had to offer….10 delicious blueberries.
Well worth the time (3 years) it has taken to grow and fruit. They were plump and soooo delicious!!!
Now I’m really excited about next year!!!
I can’t think of anything I would rather do on a Sunday afternoon than dig out weeds for nearly 3 hours. Okay, I can but yesterday was really amazing!!!
A coworker organized an outting for some of us to volunteer at Gaining Ground in Concord Ma. Established in 1994, Gaining Ground is an organic farm, located on the land of Henry David Thoreau’s Birthplace, that donates all of its produce to area food pantries and meal programs. 70% of all the work on the farm is volunteer based, totalling 5,500+ plus hours of man power.
I thought this was an interesting program to volunteer some hours to. Plus I figured I would learned a bit about gardening, which is always a plus. I brought my friend Natalie along with me to take part in some farmin’!
Verena, the Gaining Ground farmer, brought us to an area of the farm that needed some heavy-duty weeding. Our goal was to weed out the quakgrass that was in the plot. I now hate quakgrass. I had no idea what it was before but I hate it now. Here’s why… quakgrass is a hearty perennial grass that can quickly take over your lawn, or in this case, your farm. Verena explained that his land has been farmed for over 300 years and the last farmer here was for rhubarb. Just rhubarb. Acres of it. Sure you can make some great pie with it but not rotating crops is not great for soil, which is why quakgrass took over. Some weeds, like dandelions, have tap roots, but quakgrass has a root structure that resembules a carpet. Ends and ends of roots. You can’t just mow this stuff down since the roots will remain, allowing them to come back again and again. Also, no herbicide or pesticide has been able to tame it. Gaining Ground is organic, so they would not use pesticides, but a home gardening might not understand why this awful grass is standing rough against the sprays. So you just have to use a pitch fork or get on your hands and knees to dig this stuff up.
Why doesn’t Gaining Ground use a machine to do it? They don’t have any large farming equipment. No, they are not crazy. Vernena explained that if it is really necessary they will rent equipment but their goal is to be from equipment like that because of what it does to the ground. She explained what soil really is and how mechanical tilling is hard on soil. It disturbs it which causes the connections between the particulates, microbes, and other matter to break down, which deteriorates the quality of the soil. Doing the work by hand allows volunteers to help and limits how the soil is disrupted.
While digging out the quakgrass we unearthed several frogs. Natalie thought she speared one of these guys with her pitch fork but he was spared. Little hard to spot rock shaped living creatures hiding about 6″ underground!
The weather for the day predicted that storms would roll in the area around 2pm, luckily the rain did not come until 4ish. After we heard some decent thunderous booms we packed it up for a quick tour of the farm. We were brought over to the pig pen. The pigs are being loaned to Gaining Ground from another farm because pigs like poison ivy and Gaining Ground has plenty of it. Sheep also will eat poison ivy, but like quackgrass, the roots need to be removed, which pigs happily do.
Gaining Ground grows several varieties of vegetables, including tomatoes, peas, beans, lettuces, boy chow, potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, etc. The list goes on and on. One of the coolest things they do now is ‘make’ maple syrup. They tapped public and some private trees around Concord to draw sap from to make syrup.
The best of the day was when I locked myself out of my apartment and had to introduce myself to my new neighbors hoping to get in through the back door (it was locked also). Really nice to introduce yourself while your legs and clothes are covered in dirt and you smell as nice as the pig above from digging weeds for 3 hours in some crazy humidity. I’m good like that…
These pictures are boring as hell. I know it. There is nothing flashy about dirt and empty flower beds. Well, this past weekend Price and I cleaned up the yard by cleaning up the leaves, bringing the table out, dumping the compost to air it out, weeding, etc. The magic is beginning and pretty soon we will have some great things going on with hostas, roses, alyssum, elephant ears, moon flowers, morning glories, and a stubborn iris. Plus I just started strawberries, basil, parsley, 3 kinds of tomatoes, and winter squash. I’m hoping that is the year my blueberry plant will finally fruit. Fingers crossed!
This is the approach to our apartment. I have a potted hydrangea and a potted echinops on the left. Next to those are 3 little pines we got as a wedding favor from Price’s friend’s wedding in sept 2008 which have really taken off and will be repotted soon. The blueberry ‘bush’ grew like 3′ straight up last year so I’m hoping it will fan out this summer. The new green on there is making me hopeful.
Again, another boring photo. I wish I had what it looked like when I first moved in. Ha. It was all dirt. Plus I moved in august and there were leaves from the fall before on the ground. I have retrained the ivy, well sorta. I created the beds using a stupid amount of top soil, topped with peat moss, in the blocks that I bought. I removed all but one root tripping hazard. I need to finish the tiled area by picking up the rest of the extra tiles at work. Sadly the grass that I got to come in last year basically washed away with all the rain we just had.
Last year I planted sunflowers along the front of the porch. This year I’m going to convince my landlord it’s a good idea to let me plant a bunch of tomato plants there. Hoping that bribing him with tomatoes will work and he won’t care about me digging up his lawn more. There were gladioli and another tall wild flower in front of the bushes, but weeding that area revealed that most of the bulbs crapped out from the rain so I yanked the area clean and planted some elephant ears there. Plus then I trimmed back the hedge.
This iris was the biggest headache last year. I let it dry out, it would droop; gave it water, it would droop; gave it fertilizer, flies decided to lay eggs in the soil. Daily spraying for weeks got rid of the flies but the flower did nothing. I was lazy and just left it in the pot in the fall since I figured I was just dig it out in the spring and put something new in. Well, for once, being lazy has paid off since it has already doubled in size. The growth looks promising so I’m hoping for a flower this year.
We spend most nights out in the yard and most of the weekends too. Dinners from the grill, late night drinking, learning to use the smoker, drinking bloody mary’s while reading the paper- we do it all back here. So I’m really focused in making this our second living room. Hoping my planning and the weather don’t let me down.
I had slug problems last year but this year has been horrible! Last year they destroyed my string beans and did some damage to my hostas. Since I could not deal with them again I figured I would skip the beans this year, assuming that was attracting them to the yard. I was wrong. Without the beans this year they attacked my hostas will full force. Plus they decided to go after ther bird suet that we hung from of of the trees. Yes, they moved on from foliage to deer fat.
Well I kept a box of salt by our door last year and was pretty aggresive with my Morton’s assault. This year I knew I had to try a new approach…. Beer. While Price and I were sitting outside last night- he smoking a cigar and me getting eating alive we remembered to put a bowl of beer out to teach those slugs a lesson. So we dug a bit and put the bowl in the ground and filled it half way with some Bud Light.
So this morning I fought my addiction to watch the news and went outside to water the sunflowers I planted out front a week and a half ago and see if the beer trap worked… Victory! There were about a dozen plump slugs that died from alcohol poisoning. Sweet. Sorry critters, I just enjoy hostas more than you.
Also on the plus side- my tomatoes are doing well. I should be able to start to pick my yellow pear tomatoes in about a week or so.
PS- the buns enjoyed the beet greens that I gave them last night.