Kitchen Garden Tips

This summer will be our third summer here at the farm. It will also be our third summer with a kitchen/vegetable garden. Though we are not experts by any means, there are a few things that we have learned each year and try to remember the following year. Here is a list of tips and suggestions when starting out with your own vegetable garden.

2014 Garden just after planting. SUN SUN SUN!

2014 Garden just after planting. SUN SUN SUN! But to far from the house!

Tip 1: Location, location, location! Vegetables need a lot of sun. Make sure your location is in a sunny spot with as little shade as possible. Your yields will go down if the vegetables do not get adequate hours of sunlight per day. An exception may be lettuce and other heat intolerant plants that have problems in the high heat of summer. They may benefit from a little midday shading as long as they get some hours of early or late day sun.

Also, keep your vegetable garden as close to the house as possible. We have moved our garden around every year. The first year we insanely placed our first garden about 150 yards from the house. Why, you might ask. Well, with the placement of our poultry and other animals and the rental of our fields to a local farmer, that was the most logical place to put it as newbies. Wrong! The distance made it impossible to water adequately, protect it from deer, and in general tend it properly. We did get several harvests of half-runner beans; a couple of tomatoes, cabbage, and pumpkins; and several watermelon and cantaloupe.

2014 Garden View From Pumpkin Patch

2014 Massive Garden Early in the Season

Our second garden was moved to a location the was about 50-75 yards from the house. This made watering easier, however we had to still walk 50-75 yards and open 2 heavy farm gates to tend it. Though it was tended more, it was still to far to be convenient. We had a bumper crop of zucchini, cayenne pepper, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, snow peas, and snap peas.

This year we have moved our garden into our yard. It is only about 50 ft from our door. Up until this year we were unable to have it in the yard because of our border collie who loved to eat all kinds of vegetables, especially melons and cabbage. Joey passed away last fall due to old age, and Charlie the little Havanese does not bother the vegetable garden at all. He is not a digger and doesn’t eat his veggies.

Extra produce in 2014 heading for office for sharing

2014 Extra produce in 2014 heading for office for sharing

Tip 2: Size matters! Make sure that when you are first starting out, that you don’t bite of more than you can chew. Our second year garden was massive! We planted it with canning and sharing in mind. Well, I quickly discovered that I didn’t like canning and that it does take finesse to do it well. After several batches of mushy pickles and a few batches of green beans, my canning days quickly came to an end. My husband trekked nearly a ton of produce to work with him throughout the growing season and quickly became the man in demand for fresh produce. The shear size of our massive garden was terribly time consuming for him and he did little else but work and tend that garden. While giving the produce away was rewarding, we ended up giving away 90% and keeping 10% for ourselves. Given the exhausting time investment for my husband, it was just a bit disproportionate.

2015 Garden Loaded with Family Favorites

2015 Garden Loaded with Family Favorites

This year we have put in a much smaller garden. We rented a sod cutter and removed the sod from (3) 36 ft by 3 ft plots. Here we have planted kitchen herbs and our favorites from the garden. I tried to restrain myself when planting and stagger planting times so that we do not have a crazy abundance of produce coming off at one time. There should still be enough to share but hopefully at a manageable level. Our favorites that made it into our garden this year are snow peas, snap peas, red cherry tomatoes, sun sweet orange cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, better boy tomatoes, 45 day small cabbage, 75 day regular cabbage, zucchini, red onions, sweet yellow onions, garlic, sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, and purple), jalapeno peppers, hot banana peppers, strawberries, basil, and other assorted kitchen herbs.

2015 Garden Herbs Basil is one of our top favorites

2015 Garden Herbs
Basil is one of our top favorites

Tip 3: Plant what you like! If you are going to spend many back breaking hours in your vegetable garden, make sure its rewarding by tending the plants that you like to eat. This does not mean that you can’t try new things, but limit your experimentation to a couple of new things per year. You will only have so much garden real estate to go around. Its best to give the things you love the most and best space available. New in our garden this year are 2 spaghetti squash plants and about 16 leek seedlings. If either one stand out a new favorite, they will get more real estate next year.

Tip 4: Do your homework! Other gardeners and the internet are a great source of information about growth habits, planting guidelines, and recipes for your new garden. You can quickly Google the answers to questions like: how deep should you plant onion sets? How much space do zucchini need? What are some delicious recipes for Roma tomatoes? How do you cook with fresh herbs? Remember, everybody has an opinion so check out a few sites before taking it to the bank.

2015 Garden Tomato Cages Ready for Growing Vines

2015 Garden Tomato Cages Ready for Growing Vines

Tip 5: Tomato cages and trellises: It is best to plan ahead by buying and placing your trellises and tomato cages while the plants are still young. You will want them to have their support in place at the moment they need it instead of having to pick up weakened stalks from the ground and coaxing them to grow upright again.

2015 Garden Small Decorative Fence for Peas to Climb

2015 Garden Small Decorative Fence for Peas to Climb

Corkscrew Willow

May 9, 2015 Corkscrew Willow 10.5 ft

May 9, 2015
Corkscrew Willow 10.5 ft

The Corkscrew Willow is a fast growing ornamental tree that has beautiful twisting branches. The branches can be cut and used to decorate in the same way a pussy willow’s branches are used. They grow up to 30 ft tall.

Corkscrew willows are not picky about soil type but like all willows, they prefer a lot of water. The roots will invade sewer and water lines if planted too close, so be careful about planting location. They grow well in zones 5 through 9.

Our corkscrew willow was purchased in the fall of 2014, and we ended up planting it in a temporary location. It will be moved soon to its permanent location. (Picture will be updated.) Trees that are moved need a little extra water to make sure they survive the shock.

Corkscrew Willow 2016

Corkscrew Willow May 2016

Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry Tree

There are basically 2 times per year that the large box stores such as Lowes and Home Depot sell fruit, shade, and ornamental trees; spring and fall. In October 2013, we purchased a pretty little flowering snow fountain weeping cherry tree. It has white blossoms and is doing even better than the pink flowering cherry that we bought before it.

May 9, 2015 Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry 6 ft 10 in

May 9, 2015
Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry 6 ft 10 in

Weeping Cherry 2016

Weeping Cherry May 2016 (not doing well at all)

Norway Spruce: A New Tree for Christmas 2013

Tree in MudroomWe decided to purchase a locally grown live Norway Spruce to decorate our mudroom this Christmas. It is about 4 to 4.5 ft tall. After Christmas we planted it in the front yard. It was very cute and welcomed our guests to the farm for the holidays.

Next year we might try a blue spruce or maybe a white pine. We also plan to try a cut tree for our main tree in the living room. The bigger and prettier that artificial trees get, the harder they are to put together. This year we used a tree that we have had for a while but were never able to fit it in our old living room. It took me two days just to assemble it not to mention a day or two to decorate.

As a side note… The after Christmas clearance sales on Christmas merchandise is a great place to stock up on all Christmas supplies for the next year, especially the expensive LED light strands. This year we found 25 count C7 LED light strands for $1.45 per box and miniature 65 count LED light strands for $1.98 per box.

May 9, 2015 Norway Spruce 5 ft

May 9, 2015 Norway Spruce 5 ft

Norway Spruce May 2016

Norway Spruce May 2016

Autumn Blaze Maple – Tree Growth Record

Autumn Blaze Maple August 2013

Autumn Blaze Maple
Planted August 2013
9 ft tall (front yard)

We planted this autumn blaze maple in August 2013. Autumn blaze maples are one of the fastest growing maples available. It was produced as a hybrid of the silver maple and the red maple and retains several of each of the parents trees good qualities. From the silver maple it gets its fast growth rate and adaptability, and from the red maple it gets it’s beautiful fall color and it’s harder stronger wood. The stronger wood means there is less breakage in rough wind than with the silver maples. The leaves of the autumn blaze maple are medium green with red veins running through them. In the fall the leaves turn a beautiful bright orange-red color and remain on the tree longer than most other deciduous trees. The autumn blaze maple grows to be 50-60 ft tall and 30-40 ft wide.

Autumn Blaze Maple May 2016

Autumn Blaze Maple May 2016

May 9, 2015 Autumn Blaze Maple 10 ft

May 9, 2015
Autumn Blaze Maple 10 ft

Sugar Maple – Tree Growth Record

Maple Tree Planted August 2013 (front yard)

Maple Tree (1) Planted August 2013
2 ft 10 in tall (front yard)

These little trees are saplings from a mature 50+ year old maple tree that sits in our (former) neighbor’s yard. The parent tree is absolutely beautiful. I am not sure what type of maple they are, but suspect them to be a sugar maples. They suffered some from drought conditions but we are going to see if we can pull them through.

The sapling below has a few small green leaves on it though you can’t tell it from the picture. As soon as I set it out, a rogue chicken came along and plucked all of its leaves off. And this little guy was minding his own business. We will see if it survives with so much going against it.

 

Maple Tree Planted August 2013 (backyard)

Maple Tree (2) Planted August 2013
1 ft 8 in tall (backyard)

Information about Sugar Maples

Sugar maples are slow to medium growing deciduous shade trees. They are the best maple to choose when you are thinking about tapping to make maple syrup, because their sugar content is double that of other maples which results in needing less sap to make more syrup. The sap of the sugar maple usually rises sometime between January and April. When the sap is in this process, the tree may be tapped to gather some of the sap to make the deliciously sweet maple syrup. The leaves are medium to dark green and turn amazing shades of yellow, orange, red, or even all three on the same tree in the fall. Sugar maples get long-pediceled flowers in the spring that give way to their saramas (winged seeds). The sarama hang on throughout the summer and mature in the fall. The seeds germinate in the spring.

Sugar Maple 1 May 2016

Sugar Maple 1 May 2016

May 9, 2015 Sugar Maple (1) 3 ft 5 in

May 9, 2015
Sugar Maple (1) 3 ft 5 in

Sugar Maple 2 May 2016

Sugar Maple 2 May 2016

May 9, 2015 Sugar Maple (2) 5 ft

May 9, 2015
Sugar Maple (2) 5 ft

Red Sunset Maple – Tree Growth Record

Red Sunset Maple Planted August 2013 (side yard)

Red Sunset Maple (1)
Planted August 2013
8 ft 7 in tall (side yard)

We planted this red sunset maple tree in August 2013. Red sunset maple is a fast growing maple tree that reaches 50 ft in height with a canopy spread of 35 ft. The tree has red flowers early in the spring that give way to red winged seeds called samara. The new leaves have a reddish tint in the spring before they quickly turn glossy dark green with red veins running through them. In the fall the leaves turn bright orange-red. The new twig growth of the current growing season is also red which gives the tree much visual interest in the winter months after the leaves have fallen. The surface roots of many maples can buckle sidewalks and driveways so care should be given when deciding on placement.

Red Sunset Maple 1 May 2016

Red Sunset Maple 1 May 2016

May 9, 2015 Sunset Red Maple (1) 10 ft

May 9, 2015
Sunset Red Maple (1) 10 ft

Red Sunset Maple 2 May 2016

Red Sunset Maple 2 May 2016

May 9, 2015 Sunset Red Maple (2) 7 ft 10 in Planted Spring 2014

May 9, 2015
Sunset Red Maple (2) 7 ft 10 in
Planted Spring 2014

Northern Red Oak – Tree Growth Record

Tree- Northern Red Oak

Northern Red Oak (1) Planted August 2013
6 ft 6 in tall (front yard)

We planted two northern red oak trees in August 2013. One sits in the front yard and the other the backyard. Northern red oaks are fast growing deciduous shade trees. In the spring its new green leaves have a reddish tint before becoming glossy dark green in the summer and then brilliant red for autumn. It grows to about 80 ft tall and it’s canopy has a spread of 45 ft. It grows best in well drained soil and tolerates urban and street planting well.

Northern Red Oak Planted August 2013 (backyard)

Northern Red Oak (2) Planted August 2013
6 ft 10 in tall (backyard)

May 9, 2015 Northern Red Oak (1) 7 ft 3 in

May 9, 2015 Northern Red Oak (1) 7 ft 3 in Tree Moved 2014

Northern Red Oak 1 May 2016

Northern Red Oak 1 May 2016

Northern Red Oak 2 May 2016

Northern Red Oak 2 May 2016

May 9, 2015 Northern Red Oak (2) 7 ft 3 in

May 9, 2015
Northern Red Oak (2) 7 ft 3 in

Pin Oak: A Gift of Love from Mother – Tree Growth Record

Soey's Tree Sophia standing next to the tree that my mother bought in her honor.

Soey’s Tree
Sophia standing next to the tree that my mother bought in her honor.

This tree was a gift from my mother in honor of her youngest great-granddaughter (my granddaughter) Sophia. It was planted August 2013. My mother, like myself, loves all kinds of trees and enjoys a variety of them for visual interest. She also loves her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and regularly seeks gifts that she can bestow on her loved ones that will remain long after she is gone. It is her way of reminding us that she loved us and will always love us even after she is no longer there to tell us herself. This is definitely the message that my heart hears loud and clear with no mistake. 🙂

Pin Oak Tree Planted August 2013 (side yard)

Pin Oak Tree Planted August 2013
6 ft 8 in (side yard)

Information about Pin Oak Trees

The pin oak is a fast growing deciduous shade tree with glossy dark green leaves. In the fall the leaves turn to a brownish red color and the tree retains most of it’s leaves into and through the winter. It can grow up to 3 ft per growing season and reach the height of 70 to 100 ft tall. Its canopy can spread nearly as wide as its height. It likes moist to swampy ground and prefers full sun but can tolerate shade as long as its not full shade. The soil should be at least slightly acidic to make this tree happy.

Pin Oak May 2016 Replacement for Sophia's tree that was eaten by Millie the Mule.

Pin Oak May 2016 Replacement for Sophia’s tree that was eaten by Millie the Mule.

Weeping Willow Tree: A Gift of Love from Mother – Tree Growth Record

Nat's Tree Natalie standing next to the tree my mother bought in her honor.

Nat’s Tree:
Natalie standing next to the tree my mother bought in her honor.

This tree was a gift from my mother in honor of her oldest great-granddaughter (my granddaughter) Natalie. It was planted August 2013. My mother, like myself, loves all kinds of trees and enjoys a variety of them for visual interest. She also loves her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and regularly seeks gifts that she can bestow on her loved ones that will remain long after she is gone. It is her way of reminding us that she loved us and will always love us even after she is no longer there to tell us herself. This is definitely the message that my heart hears loud and clear with no mistake. 🙂

Weeping Willow Tree Planted August 2013 (backyard)

Weeping Willow Tree Planted August 2013
9 ft 6 in tall (backyard)

Information about Weeping Willow Trees

Weeping willows are fast growing deciduous trees with drooping branches that sweep the ground. The leaves are long and slender. They emerge yellow-green in the spring, turn darker green in the summer, and turn yellow in the autumn. Weeping willows can grow to be 50 ft tall and nearly 50 ft wide at maturity. They have been known to grow 5 to 10 ft in a growing season. Their roots can be intrusive on septic systems and water pipes and should not be planted to close to the house. However, the roots can also be helpful in drying swampy and marshy areas as they drink up a lot of water.

They have medicinal qualities as well as beauty. For centuries people have chewed the bark of the weeping willow to treat headaches and to reduce inflammation and fever. The bark contains the chemical salicin which is similar to the chemical acetylsalicylic acid, an active ingredient in aspirin.

May 9, 2015 Weeping Willow 10.5 ft

May 9, 2015
Weeping Willow 10.5 ft

Weeping Willow May 2016

Weeping Willow May 2016