Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 2012 Homestead Tour

Here's what's going on in our little suburban homestead.

I started these tomato plants from seed, and they have done better than any I've ever grown myself. The secret? Fertilizer. Specifically, they like (brace yourself) urine that has been watered down 20:1. They like a little salt, so a lower water to urine ratio works okay for tomatoes.

I'm growing all my tomatoes in pots this year. Our soil is so fickle and is heavy clay. No matter how much I amend (or fertilize) tomatoes don't like it. Actually, our first year here we did a lasagna garden (layered leaves, dirt, etc.) and they liked that fairly well. But these plants are doing so much better in pots.

Cucumbers also in pots, with a little hail damage on one of the leaves.

This one is a little hard to see, but demonstrates some of the animal residents. We have this old box elder tree that is rotting, but we can't bring ourselves to cut it down. We have trimmed off some of the dead branches to keep it safe and slow the rot. This branch, which is over the path going up to the upper garden beds, is hollow inside. The top black dot is a hole in which nest  starlings. The bottom black dot is a hole in which nest three rather strange looking and strange sounding flicker babies. Letting the tree be a part of the ecosystem has brought lots of life to our yard!

Under that branch grows our grapes. No grapes this year, but they are growing well. I've even successfully started a few branches from cuttings! Last year we had three grapes - as in three little round fruits - total. Needless to say the birds got them. This is a Pink Reliance variety, a table grape.

I'm letting this lettuce plant go to seed, and will save the seed for replanting. Behind it you can see an onion flower from one of the store-bought onions I popped int he ground when it started to sprout. I used the white outer parts and planted the inner sprouting part. I'll save those seeds, too.

At the bottom of the lettuce, to the left, is a honeydew melon that Sophie planted at one of the Denver Botanic Garden's homeschool days. I'm going to try a new squirrel repellant made from essential oils that I saw at a local nursery and hope we get a melon or two. Mostly so Sophie won't be devastated.

Another experiment, based on something I saw in a gardening supply catalog. I cut the top off a chicken feed bag and planted potatoes in the bottom. As the plants grew I covered them with compost. When they die back in the fall I can just dump out the whole thing to harvest the potatoes.

Two of our three baby apples. Also going to dose these with the herbal squirrel repellant. I look forward to our tiny fruit trees getting bigger. For now I have a baby orchard. This apple tree is the biggest. We also have a two-foot-tall peach, a tall but skinny plum, and a three-inch-tall cherry.

The chickens in their "outer" run posing with some hollyhocks. Wondering if I have treats for them. One of our hens is broody again, and we might get a chance to hatch some fertile duck eggs via her warm self!

Second crop of peas, replacing some bolted lettuce. This is the first year I have a bed here, in a shaded area by the patio. It seems to work well for cool season plants. I finally switched to the permaculture zone system and put lettuce, peas, chard, and carrots as close to the house as I could.


And lastly, evidence of leafcutter bees - the little circular holes. I decided I'm not up to beekeeping right now, but I want to get some mason bees, which pollinate but don't make honey. Hopefully leafcutter bees pollinate, too!

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