Have you been curious about what’s happening at Growing to Ground?

I’ve been so busy go-go-going since I founded Two Wishes Child Care in January and STEAMer Trunks in April. I’m also continuing to offer services through EmSun as well (transcription, writing, editing, photography, etc.). It seems like every day I’m waking up to another 2,000-item-long to-do list!

Even with all that, though, we’ve been making progress at our tiny 0.3 acre in-town farm.

Chickens

Ramona, Buffy, Willow, Snow White, A Da?, and Ashley are all doing quite well. They’d started to not lay as well and then dropped down to not laying at all, but we think that might have been due to an autumnal molt followed by the dropping daylight hours. All six are healthy, though, and clucking around their little yard like the tiny dictators they are. If they don’t start laying again in the spring, I think we’ll be having chicken stew.

Rabbits

We added two rabbits in mid-April named Banjo and Alice. Banjo and Alice are Netherland Dwarf rabbits and were purchased primarily for the high-quality black gold coming out their tush, but also in case our daughter wanted to participate in 4-H projects. Our daughter “accidentally” (jury’s out) messed up and put Alice in Banjo’s cage sometime in early June. On our daughter’s birthday she came out to find that, sadly, Banjo had expired. He seemed healthy and we had no real understanding of what had happened. We decided to clean and sanitize both cages just in case there was an illness of some kind, and in doing so I found a precious little bundle in Alice’s cage. She had had precisely one baby rabbit (we couldn’t find any evidence of others) while we were on vacation in the days leading up to our discovery.

Laylee

A photo taken of Laylee about a week after she was born.

We decided to name this surprise gift Laylee – short for Ukulele after her Banjo father. Sadly, in November Laylee went the way of her namesake and passed on. We don’t know why, but it was her first winter and it had gotten quite cold that evening after being surprisingly and unseasonably warm.

We had added two other rabbits in late August, which we haven’t named yet. The person who sold them to us told us it was a male and a female, but in looking at them, I was pretty sure they were both female. Just recently I had them professionally sexed and it turns out they’re both New Zealand females! They have been doing quite well. Today, we bought a New Zealand male. Our four rabbits (Alice and the three New Zealands) are living happily in our new greenhouse for the winter. When it gets too warm in the greenhouse, they’ll move out to their summer runs. Lucky snowbird rabbits!

Greenhouse

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Our new greenhouse in the first snow of the year.

Yes, that’s right. I mentioned a new greenhouse! I will go more in-depth into how we built (and are still building) the greenhouse in another post, but for now, I just wanted to state that we did build a walpini-style greenhouse on our property in November. So far, it is showing more warmth inside the greenhouse despite it being uninsulated with large gaps. We’re tracking the temperature with wireless tags placed at various locations within the greenhouse and collecting data right now.

Ornamental-to-Edible

A columnar apple tree in front of our raised beds. The tarragon did fantastic!

A columnar apple tree in front of our raised beds. The tarragon did fantastic!

I’ve slowly been removing invasive buck thorn from our yard and replacing it with edible plants. This year we planted two apple trees (to go with our four columnar apple trees), a cherry tree, two hardy kiwi, and two honeyberry bushes. Next year I’m hoping to plant some more fruit trees and a lot of fruit and nut bushes. I’m thinking currants and hazelnuts.

Raised Beds

I didn’t get nearly as much as I expected out of my raised beds this year. It was a really odd growing season for me and plants just didn’t flourish. I did get a lot of grapes in summer and a lot of garlic late in the spring, though, which was exciting given it was my first time planting garlic. This fall I took cloves that I’d saved and braided, cured them, and then planted them in the garden. If they come up again next spring, I’ll have completed an entire circle. I won’t dissemble; this makes me giddy. I’m looking ahead to next spring, now, and dreaming ahead to when I start seeds in my new greenhouse.

The garlic swayed in the breeze as the rain fell.

The garlic swayed in the breeze as the rain fell.

Little Ass Farm

Things at Little Ass Farm progressed, but we got a lot less food from it than we’d hoped as well. Lots of growth, but not as much fruiting. We also had an immense amount of weeds that we’re hoping we can get under control for next year. Or maybe in ten years. There really are that many weeds out there!

Looking Ahead

This isn’t a true goal-setting post, so I won’t make specifics. I will say that next year we’re hoping to add more edible perennials to our property, we’ll be fixing up and landscaping around the greenhouse (the area is currently a mud pit covered by snow), we’ll add some evergreen bushes around the property to block the view of the greenhouse from unhappy neighbors, I’m hoping to expand my annual garden space for more plants, I’ll be gardening out at Little Ass Farm again (as long as they let me!), and we might even start having New Zealand litters! The jury is still out on the chickens and whether or not they’ll be replaced with the newer, younger model. I’m also hoping to get a system set up for red wiggler worm farming down in the bottom of the greenhouse and maybe even some aquaponics!

How did your gardens fare this year?

 

We Built Clover Hill


Working in the garden tonight. This is the driveway-side garden bed where we have four columnar apple trees, two rhubarb, one accidental mullein, and a volunteer tomato.

Verbascum/Mullein

We are professionals over here as evidenced by the newly dubbed Clover Hill.

All jokes aside, it’s good to be out in the front yard waving at the neighbors and sharing my love of gardening with kids and rabbits alike.


Much love,

💚

Jen

The “Lil Ass Garden”: A Community Partnership

Lil Ass Garden on June 5, 2016

Community partnerships can be so enriching. While I have 0.3 acres here in town with a lot of planting space, I’ve been looking for a chance to stretch my gardening legs with some plants that require a little more space or sun. I’m very lucky that Karla and Brian, a super nice couple who live nearby at Lil Ass Farm, have allowed me to create a “Lil Ass Garden” on their property just for this! We love coming out to the farm and visiting the donkey, chickens, sheep, goat, calf, kittens, and of course their large and very friendly dog. Our four kids run around in the grass while my husband and I get to work.

Lil Ass Farm banner

Our first serious grouping of plants went in to the garden on May 22nd.

Lil Ass Garden on May 22nd, 2016

The corn in the field adjacent had hardly popped its head up, and the weeds hadn’t really gotten started either. I’d thrown some radish seed down the first week of May, but unfortunately it didn’t come up. I’m not sure what went wrong. In any case, in the two weeks since May 22, the ground exploded with grass and weed seed.

Lil Ass Garden on June 5, 2016

Yesterday, we put in some more plants and a temporary “fence” using T-posts and a ball of nylon twine. We anchored each end with 4×4 posts that we had removed from our fence since it was rotting. After cutting off the rotting portion, we are reusing them here to see if they’ll help hold the fence steady. I’m a scavenging queen, so when Karla said she had some T-posts lying around that they only used in the winter, I did some research and jumped on it. It’s all a grand experiment, so we’ll see how it works out.

Tucked in with our industrious grass crop, Lil Ass Garden also has:

I still hope to get more plantings in this week… Some more tomatoes, beans, and peppers to start. And maybe I will have to pull some of that grass. 😉

I have a Bird in spring

I have a Bird in spring
Which for myself doth sing —
The spring decoys.
And as the summer nears —
And as the Rose appears,
Robin is gone.

—Emily Dickinson
I saw my first robin yesterday. I don’t know if I’d just been missing them as they scurried around the yard looking for worms, or if it’s truly when they first appeared. Regardless, I now know that spring has actually arrived. The robins have left their sheltered winter habitats – maybe in the nearby forest – and are back to scavenging in my yard.
The lilacs started sending out growth just before March 16. I was so excited, I sent a plethora of photo messages to my husband who was out of state at the time. I was even too excited to get the picture into focus. (Whoops.)
Lilac Plants March 16, 2016
I planted a bit less than half a pound of Inchelium Red softneck garlic this past fall. I was really late getting it in the ground – I want to say it was even November. This of course led me to be very concerned about how things would go this year. Once I noticed the lilac leaves budding, I started paying more attention to the beds that I had covered with straw.
On March 16, pulling back the straw a little, I saw a tiny shoot. An intense aroma of garlic hit me as I disturbed the straw, which I felt must be a good sign.
Garlic on March 16, 2016
By April 7, they’d looked like this:
Garlic on April 7, 2016
Today, I was out planting some sugar snap peas (64 peas, to be exact). The kids and I counted 28 sets of garlic leaves poking out of the top of the straw.
Garlic on April 14, 2016
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Given that my household is comprised of extreme garlic lovers, I’m not sure that 28 heads of garlic will be enough…. I might have to save a pound or two for next year!
 Now that the garden adventures have started, you should be hearing a lot more from us – and more frequently.

We just welcomed some new family members to our “farm” – a pair of papered Netherland dwarf rabbits for showing for 4-H. The gardening has begun – edible and pollinator-friendly. I have a ton of photos already.

I’m back to my favorite mental health regiment… gardening and writing. 😉 See you around.

Fall is almost here – time for planting!

First frost is about 20 days away here in tropical Minnesota, so it is long past due to get the fall garden in. I do wrap my raised beds in greenhouse plastic in order to elongate the season a little, but I am still nervous for these early beets I’m planting. Let’s hope it goes well.

Going in the ground in box #21, I have:

  • Flat of Egypt Beet: “50 days. In 1885 Vilmorin said, “An exceedingly early variety, and certainly the best of the early kitchen-garden kinds.” This is a very quick beet of great quality, producing flattened 3”, crimson purple roots and short leafy tops.” – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Crosby’s Egyptian Beet: “55 days. Introduced to this country in 1869 and trialed by Peter Henderson, who recommended it in 1871. This improved “Crosby’s” strain was first offered by J. H. Gregory. This beet is early, tender, & fine flavored.”- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Early Wonder Beet: “50 days. An old heirloom, pre-1811 variety. Early, smooth, round beet; makes lots of tall tender greens, too! Perfect pickled, fresh, cooked, or in borscht.”- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Golden Beet: “55 days. This variety dates back to the 1820’s or before. The beets are a rich, golden-yellow and very sweet. A beautiful beet that won’t bleed like red beets. The greens are also very tasty. A favorite of many.”- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

In the ground and going into the ground in box #20, I have:

  • Kohrabi Gigante (planted earlier) – “A fantastic Czech variety for fall crops with enormous basal bulbs that can reach a foot in diameter and weigh 25-35 lbs. under proper culture. Always tender, they can be used fresh or dug before hard frost and stored in the root cellar 4-6 months. Sure fire State Fair winner!” – Cooks Garden
  • Cosmic Purple Carrots (planted earlier, not pictured): “This one is causing excitement at farmers’ markets. Carrots have bright purple skin and flesh that comes in shades of yellow and orange. Spicy and sweet-tasting roots are great for marketing.” – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Shiraz Tall Top Beet (not pictured): “60 days. Dual-purpose variety! Very fast-growing tops may be harvested early in the season—red-ribbed green tops grow lush and succulent. The sweet, very smooth and stylish roots follow in due course. Disease resistance of this newer type keeps the uniform roots blemish free! Excels equally for canning, pickling, roasting or boiling!” – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Dwarf Siberian Kale (not pictured): “This tasty Russian variety produces leaves that are only slightly frilled and of top quality. 16-inch plants are very hardy and productive.” – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

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