Category Archives: planting

Onion Confusion

I planted onions in the spring…

So apparently I’ve been having a blond moment for the last several weeks now. I’ve been excited to collect seed from whatever garden plants I can. My onions sent up nice big flowers that now have thousands of seeds in them. I thought great, yippee, I get to save some onion seed. Ummm, no. Well, yes, I get some onion seeds. But no freakin’ onions!! I pulled them up today and the aren’t much bigger than the sets I planted.
Duh, I guess I should have thought about that. Apparently onions are not supposed to flower in their first year and if they do the bulbs will be very small. The bulbs also won’t store well since they have been pierced where the flower stalk pushed up. The only explanation I can find for this is extreme temperature fluctuations during the growing seasons. Yep, we’ve got that going on here in Michigan.
So what do you think? Has this happened to you? Am I missing something? Is this more likely to happen when you grow from onion sets? I’m so bummed.


Herbs and Our Front Porch

I picked up some herbs from two different places lately and finally planted them today. The planter boxes are something that my Dad was getting rid of. I think he made them from old deck lumber. I painted over the brown paint so they now match our porch. There were already drain holes drilled in the bottoms. I added some hay and then a mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.

From left to right we have Peppermint, Thyme, and Lavender. If the plants do well I expect the Peppermint and Lavender to fill in the box.

Here from left to right is Curly Parsley, Rosemary, Basil, and more Curly Parsley.

We were just talking about how much we enjoy our porch so I thought I’d share a few more pictures. A passerby during early evening might find us sipping iced tea in our Adirondack chairs. We found this table in the garage when we moved in so I painted it to match.

Of course the dogs are never far away. I’m really surprised that Maci hasn’t chewed up or otherwise damaged those citronella pots yet. I picked them up on clearance years ago for 10 cents each and just got them out the other day.

The iced tea is cold, won’t you join us for a glass!?

P.S. I’ve finally replied to the comments from the last 3 posts so if you had left a comment you may want to check back there. Sorry I’ve been slacking lately! 🙂

Canning Rhubarb, and more planting

I’m trying a new theory. Instead of eating within the seasons, how about preserving each season so I can have it all year long. Case in point: last year I made the heck out of rhubarb muffins for a couple months. I’ve been craving them for about 10 months now. I like to can as much as possible to save freezer space for meat so I thought I’d try canning rhubarb. It was the easiest canning experience ever!!

I had a bag of rhubarb that must have weighed 10 pounds. I could have run it through the food processor like I sometimes do but cut it up by hand instead. It is easier to work with and looks nicer. Plus, I didn’t feel good and sitting in front of the TV with the cutting board for 2 hours made me feel like I accomplished something. Anyway, I chopped it in small 1/2-1 inch pieces.

Add 2-4 cups of sugar to each 16 cups of rhubarb. I used only 2 cups because I prefer a very light syrup. Toss together in a big bowl and let sit for at least a few hours. The natural juices will seep out and create it’s own syrup.

After setting for awhile it is time to get the canner going and jars ready. Then heat the rhubarb and the juice in a pan until boiling. Boil for 30-60 seconds. Transfer to jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rim and seal. Process for 15 minutes.

The Ball canning book says that each 16 cup batch will produce 8 pints. I had about 40 cups but only ended up with 13 pints, not the 20 I expected. The rhubarb must have cooked down quite a bit. There was not a lot of syrup but all the jars sealed and I expect them to store well. I already opened 1 jar to make muffins and I was very happy with the product. I’ll share the rhubarb muffin recipe as soon as I find the one I used last year.

In other news, I planted out some more seedlings tonight. 35 Waltham 29 broccoli and 17 more Amish Paste tomatoes, bring the total AP tomatoes up to 25 surviving.

Tomorrow is my early day at work so off to bed I go. Enjoy! 🙂

Growing Challenge Check-In: Planting

My garden isn’t small but I didn’t have any room to plant corn. Our neighbor Jeff was kind enough to come by with his tractor and rototiller and make the above long strip of garden for me. It is between the pasture fence and the road. We had to put the fence far off the road to make room for snow in the winter but can still use the space all summer.

I planted 5 different kinds of corn the first day. I still had some room so in went 2 packets of sunflowers, hopefully to use in granola bars this fall. Well, there was still a ton of room left so I just kept planting. All the peas and beans went in. Then watermelon, zucchini, and squash. There is still room so I added eggplant seeds and may stick in some eggplant seedlings to fill it up. I’m trying to plant less valuable crops there since I wouldn’t put it past some idiot to drive through it or pick from it. The tomatoes and other crops will stay in the main garden. Plus, now there is room in the main garden for pumpkins!!

Here’s the complete running list, new additions in bold, the rest are updated.

Seedlings still under light (they really need to get outside but the weather is poor):
Amish Paste Tomatoes
Green Zebra Tomatoes
Waltham 29 Broccoli
Ping Tung Eggplant
Long Purple Eggplant

In the main garden:
Red pioneer potatoes- 10# – growing well, need straw
Red onions – 8-10″ tall
Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas (hybrid) – 1 20′ row – 8″ tall
Asparagus – mostly gone to seed, some still coming up
Black seeded simpson lettuce – 1 20′ row – up
Black seeded simpson lettuce – 1 20′ row planted 4/27 – up
Sugar Ann snap pea – 1 20′ row planted 4/27 – 4″ tall
Victoria Rhubarb – approx. 25 seeds planted 4/27 – didn’t come up, disappeared!
Amish Paste Tomato seedlings – 10 planted out 5/25 – 2 died, others holding on

In the long garden:
Country Gentleman sweet corn – 1 packet – planted 5/25
Golden Bantam 8-Row sweet corn – 1 pkt. – planted 5/25
Carousel mini ornamental corn – 1 pkt. – planted 5/25
Strawberry popcorn – 1 pkt. – planted 5/25
Japanese White Hull-less popcorn – 1 pkt. – planted 5/25
Mammoth Grey sunflowers – 1 pkt. – planted 5/30
Buff Valentine (Contender) bush bean – 3 pkts. – planted 5/31
Sugar Ann snap peas – remainder of 1 pkt. – 5/31
Laxton’s Progress 9 garden pea – 3 pkts. – 5/31
Tall Telephone garden pea – 1 pkt. – 5/31
Blacktail Mountain watermelon – 1 pkt. = 5 hills – 5/31
Butternut Roosa squash – partial pkt. = 2 hills – 5/31
Black Beauty zucchini – partial pkt. = 2 hills – 5/31
Ping Tung eggplant – partial pkt. = 2 hlls – 5/31

Around the farm:
Heritage Raspberry – 4 canes planted 4/26 – doing great
Strawberries – a few blossoms, only half dozen plants survived winter without mulch
Gooseberry and Currants – 2 of each – planted last year – huge w/ small berries forming!
2 Red Haven Peach trees – planted – all fruit trees are healthy and green
1 Harrow pear tree – planted last year – only tree with blossoms
1 Bartlett pear tree – planted
1 Montmorency Cherry tree – planted
1 Gala apple tree – planted
1 Golden Delicious apple tree – planted
4 blueberry bushes – planted last year – greening up
Mature apple trees – small apples forming!

Here’s a pic I snapped from where I sat planting the endless patch.

Also, this is the broken hoe that I’ve repurposed to help me plant. It makes a great little tool to cut rows in the soil. Then I just drop the seeds in and pat over them with my hand.

I’ve enjoy reading many of your garden updates and how everyone’s plant are flourishing. What’s your favorite garden tool? How do you plant your seeds?

Planting the Big Fields

Brian planted 40 acres of corn at the end of last week. Sunday we planted 25 or 30 acres of soybeans. Brian helps our neighbor farm in exchange for use of some his equipment.

The planter he’s using in these pictures is a “no-till drill”. It actually cuts a path and sticks the seeds in the ground without the field being plowed up every year. Last year we had corn in this field, this year we drilled the soybeans right in. The conservation district in our county even owns a drill that can be rented out. No-till farming is easier on the environment. The fields are not as susceptible to erosion. Plus, the practice saves quite a bit of fuel and time, thus reducing our expenses.

Planting can be a one man job most of the time. The picture above shows the bins that hold the seed. Ideally we would have just enough seed to plant the field without too much extra to clean out at the ends. As we near the end of planting I stay on the planter and watch the seed level. One person, or even two, can stay pretty busy shuffling seed from one bin to another.

I didn’t have to work too hard. We had quite a bit of seed left. There wasn’t much planting to do this year since our other fields are already growing wheat and hay. It’ll be nice to see these fields turning green again as well.

Planting Onions!

This should by no means be taken as a tutorial since I am planting onions this year for the very first time. I wasn’t even going to post about it until I saw that little paper bag sitting next to the freshly planted row and thought what a cute picture that would make.

We don’t eat many onions, just a few in casseroles and such, so I probably didn’t need to plant any. Our good friend Rob shared some of his last year and is growing plenty again this year. These ones just caught my eye in line at the feed store so I picked up a couple bags. I figure it can’t hurt to learn a new skill.

The paper that came with the onion sets had decent directions: plant 2-3″ apart just deep enough to cover the tops in rows 12″ apart. Thin later to 4″ apart, then harvest in July or August when tops dry and fall over. I pretty much followed the directions except went about 4″ apart right from the start. I’ve never been one to “thin” plants out, I just can’t bring myself to pull up the little buggers just when they get going.

While out in the garden I also cut away the old asparagus stalks from last year and trimmed back some of the old strawberries too. My favorite part of last summer was spending a few hours in the garden each morning before work. It has been so nice to be out there again the last few days.

I was thrilled that today was nice enough to plant without getting hypothermia. I put in one row of lettuce and one row of sugar peas on Monday and thought my fingers were going to fall off. Only in Michigan do you have to hoe through the snow to get your seeds in at a decent time.

Have you ever grown onions? Did you start with sets or seeds? I tried seeds indoors last year but none of the seeds I started then did any good. What are you planting? Are you getting back in to a routine that includes garden “chores”?

My Take On Forward Contracting

This is a little more technical than most of my posts and refers to grain farming. Not sure how many readers raise grain but this is something I learned about that I’d like to share.

So basically, we grow the corn, we take it to the elevator, and then we either sell it right away (if prices are good) or we start to incur storage costs on it and don’t sell it until prices come back up. Supposedly, this is the first year in the last 10 where a farmer didn’t make money by storing grain until after the 1st of the year. Of course that would happen during our first harvest year, why not!?

So since we are beginning field work and need $$$ to buy fertilizer and seed, we really need the money from last year’s corn. Plus, we don’t want to pay to store it much longer. However, prices are still low enough that I’m not convinced they will even cover the cost of growing that corn. So, there is another option available: forward contracting. Basically, we sell the corn today and a check is mailed to us. The check is for the current price ($3.42/bushel) times the # of bushels we have minus any unpaid storage AND minus, in our case, $0.37/bu for this forward contracting option. This storage costs will stop the day we sell. The $0.37 gives us the option to “sell” again in the next 3 months in order to benefit if prices go up.

Say in June prices go up to $4.00. We could “sell” then and get a check for the extra $0.58 x # of bu. We can only do that once and then our “contract” is done. I think. The downside is that if prices don’t go up we would actually lose money. If prices go up $0.37 we would get back what it cost us to have the option but would come out the same as if we had sold outright at today’s current prices.

Is this understandable? I know it is a confusing topic, so I thought I’d share what I know. Maybe someone will Google it and find this post. Do you see what crop farming makes me batty!? I hate gambling, and that is what we do in this line of work.