Large Squash Flowers

This year’s squash took a very long time germinating and we even had to reseed multiple ones that were not successful. We’ve never had such a hard time with them. This included ALL the squash. Not just zucchini but also yellow squash, butternut and acorn squash. I still don’t know if it was the seed source, the weather, or potentially pests? Either way we finally got the squash growing and I’ve never seen such large flowers and leaves in my life! It’s amazing! The flowers were larger than my hand and the leaves were the size of the Elephant Ear plant.

Production this year didn’t disappoint. Like previous years, we had to harvest nightly to prevent over-sized fruit. Although we have a couple customers who prefer larger zucchini for firm Zoodles making, most prefer the smaller ones.

Something else we experienced with the squash this year is the fruit was inconsistent in the summer squash. Some had lines, some speckled and some had solid color versus any kind of variation. I assume this is due to the open pollination of the heirloom seed company I have been using. I may consider not using this seed source next year or may move to a close pollination source.

Either way, I’m impressed with the size of the plants this year and hoping it’s related to soil conditions rather than the seeds themselves. Maybe the compost is kicking it into high gear! That would be fantastic just in case I change seeds for next year.

Xeriscaping for Water Preservation

I love having a perennial garden in my front yard. It’s welcoming for visitors, a great way to attract bees for pollination and fresh cut flowers at the dinner table reminds me of why I live on a farm. It’s just beautiful!

Water is such a valuable resource, especially on a farm. Historically I found perennial gardens not only use a lot of water, they also require a lot of money, time and attention. That’s changed over time. The first thing we’ve done since we moved in is remove lawn which is a water sucking, fertilizer using, high maintenance nuisance. Expanding the perennial bed a little at a time into the lawn and filling in the bed with more drought tolerant plants is the objective.

Since we are spending a lot of money on chickens, bees and vegetables right now, there is no money for new ornamental plants. I’ve looked around the property for perennials that have weathered the recent years of neglect and divided them, moving them into the new planting spaces we are creating. It’s been very successful. There were a few plants I really wanted to add that were no where on the property.  I bought packets of Blanket Flower (picture to the right) Blanket Floweand Pineapple Sage seeds and grew a few transplants while I was growing the vegetable transplants. Cost effective and you get a lot of them this way.

Weed MulchI plant the divisions fairly close together so they reduce the sun’s exposure to the soil. I pull weeds before they start seeding and lay them down back to dry out on the soil for free organic mulch as seen to the left. Since we get a lot of grass, it makes a fantastic mulch.Cat Mint Seedlings

Some plants also drop seeds to expand the plantings. One of my favorites, Cat Mint is famous for finding seedlings at the base of the plant shown above. I just dig up the seedlings and plant them in new spots to start up a new plant. Cat Mint is a wonderful plant that grows fast in almost any condition, smells minty and has nice purple flowers that really attract bees.

Here are some other plants that are very forgiving with lack of water or care.
IrisLillyDaisiesLambs EarsPeoniesBlack Eye Susan
Iris                    Lillies            Daisies        Lambs Ears      Peonies     Black Eyed Susan

DianthusechinaceaIMG_0198YarrowPin CushionWild RoseBee Balm
Dianthus          Echinacea  Penstemon  Yarrow      Pincushion  Roses       Bee Balm

Herbs are also great as most are drought tolerant.
Lemon Grass

Drip irrigation or soaker hoses reduce water evaporation and will get the water right to the roots of the plant. They need only 5-15 minutes a day in the summer. They can thrive without extra watering the rest of the year. We are seriously considering a small pathway of artificial lawn through a large garden be. They technology on fake grass has come a long way! It would also keep the weeds more at bay than a walkway of rocks.

Next steps…..we will build a large patio in the backyard to eliminate the lawn and grow a perennial bed on the outer edge, surrounded by existing lilac bushes.

This is our dream to a virtually water free yard.

Fruit Tree Freeze

Pear flowers

The pear tree blossoms are just starting to open and the apple trees are full of unopened buds. Unfortunately they are predicting 12-15 inches of snow over the next two days and the blooms are at risk! If it gets too cold they will freeze and if there is a lot of snow, the weight will break the buds off. As long as the buds are closed they have a great shot of surviving.

Last year the trees were in full bloom when 18 inches of snow fell. Every flower died leaving us with no fruit. Even if the buds survive this time, it’s been known to snow in May.

You can buy large covers for trees to protect them in freezing conditions. If we lose all the blossoms this year I may very well consider them for next year!

Let’s hope for the best!