Stone Soup for Five: Isolation Weeks 5 & 6... I think

Isolation Weeks 5 & 6... I think

I'm not even joking when I say that I don't remember the day of the week anymore.  My husband's schedule has completely changed, and there are no longer regular weekends, so I'm all out of sorts.

So what have I been doing?
Getting dirt under my fingernails.
and I love it.

for now.

A friend and I were joking that every August, all our gardening hopes and dreams usually end up turning into a field of shame, but I have hope that it will be different this time... because apocalypse and all.

These are indeed crazy times.
Pour yourself a cup of ice tea and come on a walk with me on this glorious sunny spring day and I'll show you around.

First, right out the sliding glass door you'll see some of the starts that I'm hardening off... which is fancy gardener talk to say "getting them used to being outside with wind and sun and all."  These are pinto bean starts that I started from dry pinto beans from the store.  I soaked them overnight and then put them in a dish with damp paper towels. Every spot in the egg carton had a bean with a big root, but I'm not sure whey every one didn't form a plant.  But they did pretty good for something that was in the pantry anyway.  I think I might try some black beans too!  (These will go in my next door neighbor's garden that he generously offered to let me grow in and he'll water.  He's getting too old to garden much anymore, but loves to, so this might be a fun way us to do it together.)

Before all the craziness started with the virus, I had ordered seeds from an online company but didn't have any seed starting trays.  By the time I went to get some, they were all sold out everywhere, so I used some ice cube trays that we poked a nail hole in the bottom of.  They actually work really well!  Here are some broccoli, green onion, peppers, and tomato starts. (I got some San Marzano tomato seeds off Etsy. Who knew?)

Now if we walk to the corner of the house, we'll see the raised beds that Mr. Measure painstakingly built for me (my birthday gift last year was the promise of them, this year was the finishing of them!)
And yes, we have read and done research that pressure treated wood might possibly leech some chemicals into the soil.  But these boards were treated without the chemicals that seem to be a problem.  So we decided to go with them to save money and not have to rebuild them because they are on a slope and some boards are partially buried.

We have a big problem with squirrels digging up our garden and killing seedlings, so my son built squirrel covers out of 1x2 boards and chicken wire.  They worked amazingly well.  As the plants get bigger, we'll take them off (like the one currently leaning on the fence in the back) because the squirrels don't kill bigger plants as easily as seedlings.

We used the soil we had on this slope for the bottom of the boxes, then searched Craigslist for free or (super cheap) horse manure compost.  We found a bunch at a horse stable for $5 a pickup load that  topped off the beds well.

In the first bed, I've planted the lower tier with all kinds of mixed lettuces that I started inside.  The back is full of sugar snap peas and the right side has two rows of spinach.  When the peas are done, we'll plant cucumbers there and tilt the squirrel cover at an angle, resting it on the boards that are holding it up right now and the cukes will climb up and also provide shade for the lettuce underneath that doesn't like to get too hot.  Hopefully it'll work as well in real life as it does in my head right now.

The top box hasn't been planted yet, but is holding the flowers I need to transplant into my flower pots.

In this middle box the top tier has potatoes.  The back row is early red potatoes and the front is later season white potatoes.  I'm anxious to see how they do.  The lower box has some tiny baby pepper plants.  It'll hold bell and jalapeno peppers with herbs in the front.

In the ground in front of the lower box is a small bed full of white onions with a few radish plants up front.

In the third bed, we have peas in the back that I've been pinching off the tops of and using as sprouts in my salads--soooo good!  In the front of that box are some bush green beans.

Then below are the brassicas.  Or the plants that the cabbage moth loves to lay its eggs on and destroy with hundreds of catepillars (broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts).  So we put them in garden jail.  We built this cage with 5-ish yards of netting from JoAnn (I'm not sure how it will hold up through the summer heat, but we'll try it.) and 1/2 inch pvc pipe from Home Depot.  It cost about $15 total to make... and about a hundred zip ties.  It has done an excellent job keeping the bugs off!

In front of this bed are tasty Hood strawberry plants and in front of them is more lettuce plants plus some broccoli rabe that I'm experimenting with.

I realize this is a ton of lettuce, but since I'm picking it as leaf lettuce as it grows (like Charles Dowding does) I'll have it for many weeks.  And, I'm really hoping to take it around to share with my neighbors and get to know them a bit better as I share our produce.

This is a leaf of a cabbage that we didn't put under a net and you can see the gross little cabbage moth egg underneath (its the white dot on the bottom left side of the leaf).  Quite a few leaves had dozens of eggs.  If you catch them early, you can just squish them off.  I planted a few of these cabbages outside the cage to experiment with spraying them with BT which is a bacteria that is harmless to humans and pets but kills caterpillars.

A little off to the side of the raised beds is what used to be a flower bed, that we dug up this year and re-homed the plants to other areas so we could continue with the garden here.  This bed has celery and radishes at the front (celery regrown from the root of a celery heart).  Under the boards I'm germinating carrots, which are just about the pickiest vegetable to germinate.  They have to be warm but not too warm, and constantly damp but not too damp, and never let the ground get dry or form a crust over.  So I heard that putting boards over them for about 2 weeks helps all that.  I'll know in another few days.

Behind them is more broccoli rabe, and where the just finished blue bells are in the back will eventually be zucchini.

Now, just off to the right of the raised beds, is a new garden bed we made for our Apocalypse Victory Garden.  Plus, I want to have a bunch of produce to freeze, can, and share with neighbors, so we generously planted... this is a raised bed like Charles Dowding does (he's my gardening hero) made with cardboard on the bottom of the paths, and lots of deep horse manure compost for the beds.  I sprayed vinegar around the edges to kill the grass (well, honestly, it's mostly clover, because we're awful at lawn maintenance).

We built this hoop house cover with a 16' cattle fence panel we got from a farm store for $25 that we cut in half then covered with more netting from Joann... and dozens of zip ties.

Inside it is all broccoli.  24 tiny baby plants of broccoli. My favorite vegetable.

In this bed, are four beefsteak tomato plants that were given to me (I'm going to put the San Marzano and Roma tomates along the fence above the garden boxes).  I'm going to try a new-to-me method of growing them up a string and pruning as they grow so they don't turn into monster plants.  I "planted" the string hanging from the top string under each tomato plant by tying a couple knots in it and putting it down in the hole before I put in the plant.  I hope it works as well as it is promised to!

Behind the tomatoes are more snap peas that I'll let climb on old tomato cages.

And this end bed has garlic at the front (I know you are supposed to plant it in the winter, but since I had a couple heads of garlic sprouting in my fridge, I figured they wanted life, so I planted them.)  At the back are the cabbages I'm going to experiment with BT on, and in between them will eventually be French green beans.

So that's about all I've been doing on nice days.  Oh, and ignoring all the inside the house stuff like cleaning toilets, wiping down counters, and dusting.  But the next project waiting for me is defrosting and organizing our big old deep freezer.  I'm not even sure what's at the bottom anymore...  


  1. Wow! You and I are kindred spirits! 😉 So curious about how well the netting “fabric”
    From Joanns works. Insect netting is so expensive! Have you done it this way before?

    1. Nope. This is my first year covering anything. I just never tried to grow broccoli or cabbage after my first try yielded only bug infested grossness. So I'm excited to see how this does! I'm hoping to post an update every month!

  2. Your garden is absolutely beautiful. It looks like you are staying creatively busy. I am quilting, watercolor painting and any other creative idea I come up with. I love your blog. Blessings Madelyn Shields

  3. Thanks for sharing your garden! I love garden pics and I love your set up!

  4. Thank you for the lovely garden pictures, a pick me up during a scary time for everyone.


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