06. March 2016 · 1 comment · Categories: Domestic
The tomato trees - just planted

The tomato trees – just planted

Here we are, a week or so to go until the traditional last recorded winter frost in this part of the world … which I do not think is going to happen, to speak candidly and openly. Two years ago, we had a sudden norther which blew in and dropped the outside temperature about thirty degrees in the space of twenty minutes, and went farther – from a mild and temperate afternoon, to a hard frost after sundown. And this, after a weekend spent in the garden, and a week after having planted the first of the beans, and the garden starts bought from the local HEB grocery store, which has them available at a good price at this time of year.

But this early spring has been – mild. Warm, even – to the point where we have had to run the AC on some late afternoons. The house is one of those mid-1980s cracker-boxes, without any air flow-through, with minimal insulation, and large windows across the western-facing elevation which catches the full fell blast of late afternoon sunlight. There are things which can be done to amend this situation, which are being done as fast as I can afford them – but this concerns the garden, spring planting and all.

Apple Blossom - Early March

A single pink and white apple blossom

Having the chickens – or the ‘whup-whups’ as my daughter calls them, for the contented noise that they make when they are happy – makes it necessary to rethink the yard as regards the potential for veggie growing. The whup-whups are death to most green and growing stuff. Plants must be either tall enough to escape their snacking habits, totally distasteful to them or out of their reach entirely. It’s just the way that it is. There are, apparently, lovely chicken-proof gardens that one can design, but I will note that a lot of these depend on keeping the chickens on a plot of land large enough to be fenced into segments – and to keep them out of the area where the ambitious back-yard farmer is trying to grow vegetables, in an area either large enough to where their depredations are not noticeable, or specifically fenced off from those plants most vulnerable to chicken-snacking.

This means that our veggie-growing area is either out at the front, out of reach of the whup-whups, or in containers suspended out of their reach. Like the patented tomato-trees that Blondie bought at amazingly-marked down prices a year or so ago. We planted them in tomatoes last season, didn’t have much luck, so we are trying again this year. Honestly, conditions change so much from one year to the next. Last year wasn’t so good for tomatoes, but the pole beans were champions. I’ve also managed to grow some interesting varieties of peppers from seed over the winter, so – I have hopes of a bounteous harvest of bell, jalapeno, cayenne and poblano peppers. There is also a large bed set aside for potatoes; last year wasn’t so great for potatoes; I think we got some fancy assortments from Sam’s Club that looked promising, but had sat too long on the shelf or something. This year I have a five-pound bag of seed

Pepper plants - grown from seed over winter

Pepper plants – grown from seed over winter

potatoes from Tractor Supply, who on the whole seem more … serious about things agricultural, and a goodly assortment of seeds bought in the fall from Rainbow Gardens. So – a promising start to the gardening season, I think – as long as it doesn’t become too hot. There are buds on the plum tree, a blossom on the apple tree sapling, tiny buds on the calamondin orange, on the lemon and lime shrubs, the Spanish jasmine is in full bloom, and the wisteria is about to go full-blast, so hope springs eternal in this particular back-yard gardener.

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    What works for our chickens, and also keeps out deer, is to construct cages for rows/plants, rather than the winged dinosaur escape artists. Small diameter pvc pipe frame, glued together, chicken wire over it, weight it down with a couple bricks or rocks. Shaped like the plastic row covers people in northerly places use to extend the season, but in chicken wire. Beats putting a ten foot deer fence around the garden! And those two hens–that black one there, and her buddy the Americana, can fly over a ten foot fence anyway, so . . . you just gotta check that the kids put the covers back after they pick.

    I don’t bother with the covers for the potatoes: they don’t seem to care if the deer shorten their stems, and my chickens apparently don’t care for them, so the only casualties are the dust-bathing sort.