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The Gardens as of Today

September 12, 2015

Seems like all I can muster anymore in the way of blog posts are garden posts, which I know drives cow people crazy just like when I post about cows for posts on end, it drives the garden people crazy.  Sorry folks, I do both each day, I’m beginning to wonder how I ever posted on the blog as often as I did.  So sorry cow folks, this is a pic heavy garden tour post.

By this time of year you realize that you really just borrowed the garden spot for a few months.  Mother Nature is taking over and preparing for winter.  Today I’m working on dismantling the drip irrigation and getting ready for a final spot tillage for more cover cropping.  Now it’s full on harvest mode with a tiny bit of planting.  After we got a decent rain, the weeds are back with a vengeance and doing the natural cover crop thing.  Some I will leave, and in large blocks where I can drive the tractor without damaging an adjacent crop I will till and plant a cover crop of my choosing.

It’s easiest to just start at one corner and walk through taking snaps.  I am the very east edge of the Staple Garden.  I basically have twenty rows/beds to play with here.  I have already installed the eight inch high hot wire for my carrot eating dogs.  Much easier to maintain than my plastic deer fence cover of past years.  You can see the weedy headlands…

From left I have a double row of late mixed variety carrots and beets, double row of Chantenay carrots, double row of Chantenay carrots, double row of Turga parsnips, double row of Winterkeeper beets, and barely visible adjacent to the corn, there is a single row of celeriac.


If I look to the left, the reason for all those carrots and parsnips is clearly visible.  Ms. Jane Butterfield keeping an eye on things.

If you follow me on Instagram you know last weekend I had to cut the flint corn and get it away from the Steller’s jays that were really wreaking havoc in the rows.  A few weeks back I underseeded some cover crop between the corn rows and it is just visible now.  The sweet corn remains as we harvest the smaller cobs still ripening.

These are the potato rows, all dug and just about sorted and weighed.  So far, the Purple Viking yielded 232 pounds from 20 pounds planted.  The potatoes were dryland, by the time I decided the more tender crops needed irrigation the potatoes were well on their way.  Tomorrow I will sort the Desiree potatoes and compare yields.  To the right was my dry bean row which I harvested before the rain on Labor Day weekend.  This entire block of four rows will be tilled and planted to cover crop.

Next is the pollinator row, rutabaga row and the squash patch which was two rows with a vacant row in between. It’s a jungle of summer squash, butternut, musque, sweet meat, naked seed pumpkin and jack-o-lanterns.

Next to the squash patch are some miscellaneous brassicas and the last open row for garlic planting in October or November.

This is just the back corner looking at the garden from the other end near the greenhouses.


This greenhouse garden is petering out.  The melons, cukes and squash are done.  The tomatoes are just about finished, with the only thing left being irrigated and harvested in here are the peppers and strawberries.

Right next door to the big greenhouses are the little chicken greenhouses.  This year I planted the vacant chickhouse to greens, this greenhouse receives the most light of all during the dark days, so we’ll see what this experiment yields.  Usually I just cover crop it, and call it good.  Rest is rest though between species.  Might as well have a few more salads this year.

Next is the greenhouse we usually start growing in.  I have a small basil patch in here in addition to a sudan cover crop.  This cover crop is really showing me where I have too much fertility and not enough.  Some of cover crop is yellow and short and other patches are beautiful and lush.  This greenhouse has symphylans too, so we’ll see if the sudan has any allelopathic effects on them.

Greenhouses are wonderful things on a farm, here are the dry beans drying in a corner.  Usually I stick the winter squash in here for a bit too unless the weather is really wet.  In the northwest, a roof is a roof.

Hope in a flat.  Fast growing salad greens that just might put on a respectable crop.

Poor old main garden this year, only got about half planted.  We just filled in here and there with small little successions of summer squash, cucumbers, lettuce, peas and beans.  It needs some cover crop before winter in all the open rows.

So that’s about it, it feels in garden-time that the season of summer is gone for good, plants are waning and it’s getting to that time of rest.  I. Can’t. Wait.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. Joan permalink
    September 12, 2015 6:03 pm

    I enjoy reading whatever you post about. Cows or garden or whatever. I enjoy it all.

  2. nicky permalink
    September 12, 2015 6:54 pm

    Very much enjoy learning from your posts. Curious as to why you choose Sudan grass as your cover crop. I am currently contemplating different cover crops for a vegetable gardens first winter and want to add lots of organic matter to some sad soil. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

    • September 12, 2015 7:00 pm

      Nicky, most folks are missing the N part of the equation, I am not since we keep livestock and actively manage their manure by composting for the gardens and pastures. So what I am really after is something that will winterkill here and leave a nice dead mulch by spring so I won’t be be delayed in getting some early crops in. I have always shied away from sudan because of the danger of prussic acid poisoning if it gets grazed after a frost. A note to me to mind my fences…

  3. September 13, 2015 3:06 am

    Glad it is not just me who has a weedy plot. Around here in Latvia, they often have pristine plots and mine just looks bad, but I still get veg out of it with far less effort – well my effort is spread over a larger area, not that I don’t do anything 🙂 It is good to start harvesting though

  4. Craig permalink
    September 13, 2015 3:39 am


    Always enjoy your posts (and pics on Instagram). Question about you squash patch. I constantly battle squash bugs and cucumber beetles in my patch. It’s fairly easy to keep them off by hand when the plants are small, but when they take off, not so much. Any advice as to how to keep these pest under control?

    • September 13, 2015 4:42 am

      Craig, someone else will have to chime in for you, we don’t have problems with squash bugs. Thanks for reading 🙂

    • Bee permalink
      September 13, 2015 4:55 am

      Craig, I don’t have problems with squash bugs, either, but I understand the Black Beauty eggplant variety is so attractive to cucumber beetles it’s often used as a trap plant. Might be worth a try…

      • Stumplifter permalink
        September 13, 2015 2:30 pm

        Besides the trap crop plan, I would suggest floating row cover. Depending upon where you are, you could play around with timing and such, trying to protect before they get too intense. We’ve got both pests here in WI and besides hand picking and IPM, those are the only other methods I’ve seen work. Good luck, some bugs just suck.

        • September 14, 2015 9:45 pm

          I think we will have to go that route to stop the cabbage white caterpillars from making skeletal remains of our brassicas this next year

  5. Bee permalink
    September 13, 2015 5:09 am

    Nita, I hear you on the ‘long winter’s rest.’ I really wish I had a ranch hand or a clone; between the garden, orchard, animals, putting food by and trying to write enough to keep some sort of income coming in, most of time I feel (as my husband would put it) like a one-armed paperhanger in a 30-room mansion. If it’s not the tomatoes, it’s the peppers; if it’s not the peppers, it’s the pears; if it’s not the pears, it’s the potatoes. When the blackberries finally quite producing, I seriously thought about going to church and lighting a candle:-) Then there’s 4H, since we’re back into meetings and activities since it’s fall. What takes short shrift around here is the housework, as dusting and vacuuming can always be put off. And I’ve just added to my load by agreeing to take on a new pup; three-month-old Border collie, no training so far. The current owners think she might be nearsighted, and on their 7,000 acre ranch, that’s a problem for a working cow dog. With my much smaller operation, she’ll probably do OK, and I don’t plan to breed her. Old soft-heart here — they were going to destroy her if they couldn’t find her a home, and nobody up in their small ranching community was willing to take on a dog like that. Oh, well, at least we’re never bored!

    • September 13, 2015 5:20 am

      A puppy right now would drive me over the edge! Our three exist in a Venn Diagram of Dog, two want to fight to the death but both get along with the middle. Makes for an interesting dog juggling schedule. At least, our grass started growing again is all I can say, with more real rain predicted this week.

      • Bee permalink
        September 13, 2015 4:18 pm

        Yeah, I know, I need my head examined! But she’s a perfectly good dog and I didn’t want to see her killed. And it may not even be her vision; she could just be timid compared to the other dogs. You could share some of that rain…

  6. Allisa Imming permalink
    September 13, 2015 7:32 am

    Carrot eating dogs…..little boogers.

    • September 13, 2015 11:22 am

      Allisa, yeah tell me about it! Under the guise of “hunting” for voles, they tell me they need sustenance… Big Boogers, they all weigh about 80# and they can pack away a lot of carrots in one night of “hunting.”

      • sherryw2015 permalink
        September 13, 2015 3:59 pm

        My two (a 25#er and a 65#er got in my asparagus patch in spring and ate it all, they loooove their asparagus!

  7. Stumplifter permalink
    September 13, 2015 2:48 pm

    MoH- always a complete treat to see a post from you! I’ve got another newbie farmer question for you, and please don’t hesitate to say, “enough with the questions already, newbie!”, if you simply don’t have the time- I get it.
    Aiming to plant between 3000-5000 cloves of 19 garlic varieties. New ground to us, hasn’t been tilled in ages (at least 25 years), we are thinking about attempting this on our own, but only have the 1972 Leyland and a mower, and very little resources (and getting very littler by the minute as we are still looking for work). Thinking about picking up a smaller chisel plow, and then creating a spiked drag out of some 4×4’s and something spikey, and then either an old tire or old chain drag. Do you have any thoughts about this? We placed an ad, but have only heard from a guy who said he could come and disc it for us. We also have a kindly neighbor with a one bottom, who may lend it for a case of Rhinelander Shorties 😉
    Any input you can offer is, as ever, greatly appreciated and revered, as Matron, you rock.

    • September 14, 2015 5:57 am

      Stumplifter, wow, that’s a tall order to get the ground prepped in time to plant garlic. Disc and then harrow to get a smooth planting bed? Then mulch the heck out of your rows to combat weeds? Is geotextile out of the question for you with drip installed? Garlic is a toughie because you span basically two growing seasons weed-wise. Weed competition will be your biggest obstacle without a fallow year to work on weed control. I plant garlic in my cleanest ground just because it is hard to weed when the soil is wet.

      Here is an article about strawberries on weedmat, and lots of growers are using weedmat with dahlias, onions, asparagus etc. It’s reusable, and well worth it with an expensive crop like garlic. The labor alone in weeding justifies the cost. I picked the strawberry article because it details how the drip is installed in November for irrigating in the next season. I hope this helps.

      • September 14, 2015 9:56 pm

        I have seen this book being given some good reviews and so we bought it. I can’t tell you yet how practical it is, because I haven’t had the chance to read it. It only arrived this week and it was hubby’s birthday present so he gets first read. It might give you some ideas on getting going and appropriate tools to get – at least that is my understanding of the book.

  8. September 14, 2015 1:05 pm

    Your gardens are quite impressive and your discussion of the method to your madness, so to speak, is extremely appreciated as I contemplate going from my tiny little veg garden here at home to our [eventual] farmscale operation.
    “Time of rest” – aaahh yes, that does sound nice but since our septic permit was just now issued (even though we filed in April!) we will be killing ourselves to get everything in the ground and backfilled before the rains begin in earnest.

    • September 15, 2015 6:38 am

      Thank you, they seem a little large until now, when things are starting to wane, and I realize oh, that’s the last fresh corn, and the last of_____________ until next year. And then the wide row spacing, seems overkill when you drop the tiny seeds in the ground and then come harvest time it’s hard to get through the rows with a wheelbarrow or cart to actually harvest. Labors of love, my gardens.

      Dang, I thought our county was the slow one! Hopefully the dry weather days will coincide with your schedule. Fingers crossed for an uneventful septic adventure!!

  9. Karen R permalink
    September 15, 2015 7:16 am

    I’m a garden person but still learn lots from your cow posts, storing up knowledge in hopes of using it later. Your garden looks just incredible after enduring such a brutal summer. As far back as the data goes indicates that there has never been the record temps we had in our area this summer. What official climate zone are you in? The beautiful brassicas you have growing next to squash are throwing me off. I’m just now planting cole crop starts in our zone 8b.

    • September 15, 2015 8:11 am

      Thanks Karen! “Officially” we’re in 8b also, but it’s more like 7b, since we are lumped in with lower elevation and areas that receive the Gorge wind. Most of the time we can be 10 degrees lower than PDX in the winter, and a little hotter in the summer because we don’t usually get the onshore flow on summer days. Well I just planted some coles in the chicken greenhouse, and that is very late for me, usually I need to plant fall stuff by the first week of August or it never really matures. I did seed some quick arugula, bok choy and spinach that I’m going to plant out, but it’ll be a crap shoot if it matures. But what the heck, a gardener has to push the limits right?

  10. treatlisa permalink
    September 15, 2015 7:57 pm

    Being a cow AND garden person… I love it all!!

  11. Carrie permalink
    September 17, 2015 1:13 am

    I am constantly amazed at your efficiency (and energy). Any chance of a winter post (step-through) on how you assess/evaluate each seasonal work load, how you think it through, and find/plan efficient ways of carrying it out? Have you developed/refined ‘systems’ for the various tasks which, once you’ve decided what to grow where, what to amend when, you can then activate almost on ‘autopilot’ or ‘painting by numbers’? Obviously seasons throw different and unpredictable events at you but the basics of what you do must be well honed, sytemised, because you get through so much.
    My allotment and fruit garden would likely fit within your big greenhouse! And yes, I have an ongoing rotation plan but seem to get ‘disconnect’ between the plan and the implementation – it feels like I need better strategies and systems (and less dithering about!). Thus I’d be interested to hear about the thinking processes that lead to such stunning efficiency. I guess I also need to order the book Joanna mentions!

    • September 17, 2015 7:01 am

      Carrie, I don’t know if it warrants a post, it seems so rote to me. Plod through the calendar…we’re pretty much on autopilot, and work around the livestock schedules and fill in when we aren’t doing things like hay, firewood, milking etc. As far as a rotation in the garden I don’t behave as strictly as I should, and sometimes change my rotation to fit the conditions. Where I make changes is in what I grow, and that is determined by what we eat. DH just started eating potatoes again after about 5 years, and wouldn’t you know it, this was the year I finally grew way less…but by growing less, that freed up some rows for more experimentation on something that I haven’t felt like trying before. This year I grew less Sweet Meats and tried some butternut squash. I really don’t have it all together, it just appears so on the blog 😉 Good idea though for a post probably, I take my garden planning for granted I think. In my mind, I am already checking out varieties for next year.

      Energy, that’s coffee!!! I am tired!

  12. Carrie permalink
    September 17, 2015 9:34 pm

    Watch yourself Nita, you need to be alert with an unknown bull about. Maybe share the load and take your daughter with you at stock move? I hope you can ease down and get some rest before ‘Jane’.
    While I’d welcome a post about your thinking and systems/processes re annual garden planning and resourcing, there’s no rush – indeed, no need to do it at all!
    Take care.

    • September 18, 2015 6:21 am

      Carrie, thanks for that 🙂 I am alert in the am when I move the cows thank heavens. He’s a good boy, not quite as tame as the others that have been halter broke, but he has a good flight zone is only interested in food mostly, unless he’s courting one of the ladies. But I’ll be glad when he’s gone, just because.

  13. September 19, 2015 7:45 am

    All I can say is WOW! I love both of your garden and cow posts but would love to see some photos (current or past) of the farmers themselves…doing well, you know…farming! 🙂

  14. September 19, 2015 2:47 pm

    Well, you need to hand that camera over to the farmer’s daughter who I know takes some mighty awesome photos herself! 🙂

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