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  • Donna

Project Management -- Farm Style

In the fall I like to review the spring and summer projects to determine which were successful and which ones need to change for next year. We started out strong with the new fence along the road. It's now time to paint it after letting it season throughout the summer. Hopefully, the Sherwin Williams folks will be ready to sell me lots of white paint.

After a whirlwind May with two graduations and Katie's departure for Ireland, I planted the straw bale garden (SBG). This was both a success and a failure. While it's true I never had to pull a weed out, I also didn't produce as much as I'd have liked. I failed to stake up my beefsteak tomato plants so the fruits just rotted on the vine before I could harvest juicy red 'maters. The grape tomatoes, however, took off like gangsters. My take-away for next year is that I don't need 8 grape tomato plants.

Remember the rutabaga/kohlrabis? I did get 8 nice sized kohlrabis and used them in soup, so it wasn't all bad. Just not what I had planned. My leeks never took hold and were too scrunched for space to be useful. And cauliflower! Don't get me started. Stupid things didn't produce a single head. I got great big green plants but no heads at all. It's a shame because I use a lot of cauliflower. I got about 8 cucumbers and maybe 7 Hungarian peppers, but not a single usable bell pepper.

The most exciting crop to come out of the SBG was the Brussels sprouts. They are cool to watch and harvest. Fibonacci would be in love with my Brussels sprout stalks. And while it was fun to have some success, the project really just reinforced to me that growing enough food to live on is hard work. And you need a much bigger space.

The wildflower yard is in its second year. Last summer, I attempted to grow wildflowers in the front by the fence and driveway. It sort of fizzled out and only a few random flowers made it to maturity. As instructed, I mowed down the weeds-flowers in the fall and threw down some new seed this spring. While it wasn't a rousing success, I think the resulting blanket flowers and black-eyed Susans were pretty. And as I dead-headed my daisies this year, I threw their heads into the yard as well. Hopefully, next spring the new flowers will come back strong. I'd call it a mild success.

In a previous post, I wrote about our sunflower field experiment. I declare that a success! It was beautiful while it lasted. Next year there will be many more rows and more varieties. I'm going to do a large section of mammoth ones that can grow to 12 feet! I learned that I can plant the seeds further apart and then I won't have to worry about the thinning-dilemma. After the first full week of blooms, the neighborhood deer gang ravaged the plants. They ate the flowers right off the stem whole! Luckily I was able to save about 30 heads which I am in the process of drying for seeds. Whether we will be brave enough to eat them is another story. Most will be saved to plant next spring. And another lesson is to get them in the ground sooner. I think it was mid-June by the time I'd finished putting seeds in the ground.

Sunflower field in bloom; sunshine close-up; after the deer

And finally, there were the flowers in my cottage garden. New this year to the garden were the dahlias. I ordered them from a local farm called Summer Dreams Farm which specializes in them. I even got to visit his farm during his open house in early September. It was simply breath-taking. If you love flowers and want to support local small business, check out his website for ordering details. The three varieties I purchased were all in shades of pink. I am still waiting for one type to blossom, but it's really late and I'm unsure if it will make it this year. And I love the diversity of the blooms that did grow. One is so round and beautiful. Another example of Fibonacci's principle in nature. The other is so enormous and frilly. I just love it. They both are top-heavy, though, so they are both more suited for cutting and vase-displays. A strong wind will bend the stems right over. Soon it will be time to dig up the tubers to store for winter. I've learned that they grow tall so maybe next spring they will go further back in the garden to look more in proportion with the other plants.

Most of the other flowers in the garden did fine. The exception was my lavender. I have tried multiple locations and different varieties. None seem happy here. I have killed more lavender than any other plant. I just don't know what goes wrong and it's a shame because I absolutely love the fragrance. I use lavender flavored everything from house deodorizers and linen spray, to body wash and shampoo. On the success side of things, the rhubarb took off, the delphiniums were amazing, and I had an over-abundance of daisies.

Oh yeah, I forgot one failure: my herb garden. I got a bunch of new plants in the ground this year. Cilantro, basil, oregano, sage, thyme, and chives. Everything was growing well until I decide to dump the water from the Damp-Rid buckets on it. We use the Damp-Rid in the basement to keep the moisture down, and I didn't think about the possibility of it being contaminated with desiccants. I just thought I was being "green". Ha! Within a day, the entire herb garden was brown and dehydrated. Nothing was salvageable. Even the chives! And I thought they were indestructible. So next year, I will replant my herbs and hope for better results.

That wraps up the season. Now it's time to prepare for winter. I'm ahead of the game with over 400 bales of hay put up in the barn for the animals. But there are stalls to clean, the arena to prep with new bedding and the chicken coop needs a deep cleaning. The list goes on and on.

Until next time,


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