Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there. It is past time for another Independence Days post. For those of you who are not familiar with the Independence Days Challenge, you can read about it here. This is what I have been up to over the past few weeks.

1. Plant Something:  We have had the strangest weather over the past several weeks. Most of the time, it has been rainy, sometimes with sever storms. In fact, the sever rains has caused flooding in the bottom floor of our near by shopping mall, and (according to the radio) most of the winter wheat harvest had gone to pot. Naturally, I had to get out into the rain to build my new sweet potato bed. I got the sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) planted and added a cover crop of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), which recently sprouted (see below). The buckwheat will help to build the soil by building organic matter, smother weeds and attract beneficial insects and bees.

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I purchased the buckwheat from GrowOrganic.com at the same time that I purchased the beneficial nematodes. Conveniently, the sell buckwheat by the pound, so you don’t have to buy some huge amount that you won’t need. I planted two varieties of regular (i.e., Irish) potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) that I picked up from GrowOrganic.com. This year, I chose to plant Desiree (red skin with cream-colored flesh) and Terra Rosa (red skin and red flesh). They happened to be on sale and looked pretty good.

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I planted the potatoes in large plastic nursery bags that I purchased a while back. I forget how large they are, but they are definitely larger than my 20-gallon smart pots. So, I would guess that these containers are about 30-gallons each. To plant the potatoes, I dumped about a half bag of cotton bur compost in the bottom of each bag. Then I placed the seed potatoes around the pot at regular intervals. Each potato variety has its own grow bag. After distributing the seed potatoes, I covered them with more compost and topped that off with a thin layer of leaves and grass clippings that were on the top of my compost pile, Finally, I watered everything well. As the potatoes grow, I will layer in more composted leaves and grass clippings. A lot of people use straw, but this is what I happen to have on hand and it is FREE. Yay free garden stuff! If I have a chance to buy some straw, however, I may use that too. We will just have to see how thing go.

On a side note, with all of the rain, mushrooms sprouted in the potato bins.

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I suppose one might refer to these as toadstools. I left them alone, since they aren’t bothering me and they will help break down the composting leaves/grass clippings to nourish the growing potatoes.

I needed paths between the various beds, so I built them with a thick layer of overlapping paper grocery sacks that I have been saving up. I then covered the grocery sacks with a thick layer of leaves that were saved last Fall. Most of the leaves are oak leaves, which don’t break down very quickly. This the leaves a good candidate for mulching paths. Hopefully, the grocery sacks and leaves will smother the grass and weeds that had begun growing in the paths. At least I won’t have to walk in the mud. 😀

In addition to these activities, and waiting for the rain to subside, I planted zinnia seeds (in the gardens) and transplanted pepper and tomato seedlings into larger containers. I think that the next bed that I put together will have the tomatoes and peppers. I will probably get around to it next weekend.

And finally, I was able to spray the beneficial nematodes that I had purchased a week or so ago (read about that here). I used Steinernema feltiae and Steinernema carpocapsae this year. This will help with fleas, nats, grubs, etc.

The nematodes had been hanging out in the veggie drawer of my fridge, since I received them. To spray the nematodes, you need to use a sprayer that does not have a filter, like this one. I mixed half of the nematodes in the sprayer with water. Then I sprayed them all over the gardens and the yard. I used two kinds of nematodes, and I mixed them together and sprayed them at the same time. I left half of the nematodes in their boxes, and wrapped each one up with plastic wrap (to prevent them from drying out). Then I put the boxes into a zipper plastic bag and returned them to the veggie drawer of my fridge. I will spray them again in about a week, hopefully next Saturday.

I really like this nematode sprayer, because it sprays as large drops. That helps the nematodes to get down to the soil, instead of staying on the surface of the grass, etc. It is super easy to use. You just dump the nematodes into the container, fill it with water and mix to distribute the nematodes, hook it up to the hose and spray away. Every so often, I give the container to bit of a shake, to re-mix the nematodes. When I am finished, I dump it out into the garden, give it a rinse, and lay it out to dry. When it is dry, I close it up and put it away for the next year.

Here is a video about treating your garden with beneficial nematodes.

2. Harvest Something: I haven’t had much time to harvest anything. Just work, work, work and rain. It seems like when ever there is time, it is raining so hard that I should be building an ark, instead of gardening.

3. Preserve Something: Nothing here either, except wish-booking (i.e., looking through cookbooks and catalogs dreaming about what I would like to do). 

4. Waste Not:  We are continuing with cleaning out the house. We have recycled so much that we had to ask for a larger bin from the sanitation company. On top of that, DD helped me clean out my sewing room. We got rid of any fabric or yarn that was in good condition and in a large-enough quantity that someone might want it. We also got rid of old, unused sewing patterns, craft supplies, and the like. A lot had piled up over the years, so it really was time to do this. And finally, we took a book-case of books to Good Will. I hope that someone enjoys reading them. 

I have begun using fabric scraps, instead of disposable tissues, when I do my makeup. I like to use them to prevent eye shadow fallout while doing my makeup.

I am contemplating re-using kitchen disinfectant wipes, instead of throwing them away. I noticed that the wipes are pretty heavy-duty. It might be possible to wash them in the washer, and then put them into an old baby wipe box with diluted cleaner, like Mr. Clean or Top Job. Mr. PR isn’t too hot on that idea. But I am thinking of giving it a try in any case. That stuff is really expensive.

5. Want Not: Nothing in this department.

6. Eat The Food:  Nothing in this department.

7. Build Community Food Systems:  I have been making arrangements to visit Gasper Family Farm this coming Saturday. I am considering joining their raw milk CSA. I’m not so concerned that the milk be raw, as that it be organic and local. I have read a bit about conventional dairy practices, and find it rather disgusting. For example, check out this article in Modern Farmer. Additionally, organic just tastes better! 

8. Skill Up: Nothing in this department either.

What have you been doing over the past several weeks? Are you having problems with rain too? Please let me know.

Happy Gardening!

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