Homestead Diary Week Ending April 1st

Saturday was a repeat of the day before: bright sunshine, very little wind, temperatures just on the border between light jacket and short sleeves. I went to Lowe’s and got the wood to build the last 3 raised beds, tarps to cover my compost pile against our typically heavy spring rains so that it’s nice to work with as I need it.

Spotted a few signs of life that were welcome sights. All 3 of our gooseberries are breaking bud. Our  rhubarb crowns are forming their first shoots. One I thought wouldn’t come back because I’d sited it poorly has been moved to a much better location. Makes me want to dig out the last frozen rhubarb from last year and make a pie! Spotted the first sprouting chive plant in the tray I seeded just a few days back.

I went ahead and splurged on some more perennials like I mentioned last week. I ordered the following from Stark Brothers: Liberty apple x 1, Mac-Free apple x 1, Hansen’s Bush Cherry x 3, Stark SureCrop Pie Cherry x 1, 2 Jelly Bean bluerries and one each of the following blueberries: Jersey, Earliblue, and Blue Crop.

I am still researching whether I want to grow them in containers or in-ground. All of these varieties can be grown in large (25 gallon or so) containers. Contrary to what I had thought, however, apparently the pH of the soil media is not as important as the pH of the water solution in the soil. So periodic irrigation with some dilute vinegar added to a watering can keep them almost as happy as direct manipulation of soil pH via gypsum, elemental sulfur, and the like. Also, containers reduce both the cold-hardiness and heat tolerance of the plants.

Later in the day I checked the soil temperature, which is above 50F in many spots, so I decided to risk sowing some carrots and peas with the kids’ help. The compost retains moisture really well so I am not going to cover the carrot furrows with a board, instead hoping to remember to water evenly as needed so they don’t dry out during their long germination period. The peas I sowed today were dry seeds but I started pre-soaking some seeds of the same varieties. I’ll plant those out Sunday or Monday and do a little experiment to see for myself what others have claimed about shortened germination time.

Sunday morning the peas seemed ready. They had swelled up and I could see what I thought was the root radical forming underneath the seed coat. Given it was Easter, rain was expected later, and we were due at my sister’s house in the afternoon anyways, I went ahead and sowed. I ended up with more seed soaked than I had planned, so the entire space I planned for peas is now in the ground. I’ll give it three weeks before considering resowing if germination this early ends up being a bust.

I misted the carrots just in case it didn’t end up raining. Otherwise that was basically it for the day. I swept up the sidewalks a bit and began thinking about how I want to handle irrigation this year. If the budget allows I want to go 100% soaker hose and have a decent layout in my head. I have some hose already but need to pace out everything else, figure out how many Y-adaptors, etc. Irrigation is something worth carefully thinking about early because changing it during the growing season is a major PITA.

Tuesday I decided to risk planting some of the broccoli in the ground and up-potted the rest. The weather for the rest of the week looked nasty so I moved what I didn’t plant back inside under lights instead of trying to harden off during a week that was mostly overcast and featured some strong rainstorms. I also sowed an early tray of tomatoes.

I bottled my first attempt at hard cider, which wasn’t bad at all. Very dry, with some apple goodness. The siphon I bought seems to be defective out of the box so the process was a little frustrating. I used straight apple juice with Red Star Cuvee wine yeast. Next time I will likely add some sugar to up the alcohol content.

Wednesday and into Thursday I was quite sick with some sort of stomach bug. I managed to keep an eye on the seedlings downstairs. During thunderstorms Thursday I thought I saw germination in some of my sowed peas and carrots but it’s just weeds poking through the compost layer. The peas keep getting shoved up onto the surface via frost-heaving (I think). Not sure what the best solution is.

Some of my perennial fruit plants arrived Thursday but I just wasn’t feeling up to planting them. I put the unopened boxes in the garage and hoped I would be up to it by Friday. Sure enough I was feeling fine Friday and got to it after doing a little bit of school. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I’d done all of the school and housekeeping tasks, though, because the weather turned quite nasty mid-afternoon.

Planting went pretty well. The kids helped me with some of it but had a tendency to want to treat my $30 fruit trees as spears that may have had me scream some bad words 😛 The planting list was as follows:

  • 1 x Stark SureCrop Pie Cherry tree
  • 1 x Libery Semi-Dwarf Apple
  • 1 x Mac-Free Semi-Dwarf Apple
  • 3 x Hansen’s Bush Cherry
  • 2 x Brazelberries Jellybean Dwarf Blueberry (in pots)
  • 1 x Earliblue Blueberry
  • 1 x Bluecrop Blueberry
  • 1 x Jersey Blueberry

I planted both the blueberries in pots and blueberries in ground in a 50:50 mix of compost and peat moss. I’ll periodically irrigate it with acidified water and/or use acid-loving plant fertilizer. I’ve always wanted to try growing blueberries, so hopefully this works.

Pictures of some of the plants below.

In foreground is the new cherry tree. In the way back is our existing cherry. In between them is the bush cherry.

In foreground is the new cherry tree. In the way back is our existing cherry. In between them is the bush cherry.

The Mac-Free apple

The Mac-Free apple

Liberty Apple. Behind and towards the right you can see another of the bush cherries.

Liberty Apple. Behind and towards the right you can see another of the bush cherries.

One of the full-size blueberries.

One of the full-size blueberries.

One of the dwarf blueberries in a free pot a neighbor gave us.

One of the dwarf blueberries in a free pot a neighbor gave us.

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5 Comments on “Homestead Diary Week Ending April 1st”

  1. Jay says:

    Looks great! Are you using pine for your raised beds? I am hoping to create some more with cedar, but it is expensive and also doesnt come very tall heights. We have had great success with 5 gallon paint buckets too – drilling holes in the bottoms and lining the bottoms with rocks for drainage.

    • David says:

      Yeah, I’m using pine. Standard white wood 2×6 stud lumber. Studs because a 92″ board is significantly cheaper than a true 8 foot board.

      Cedar is expensive, way out of my budget. Also, while it lasts longer, from what others have told me, it last 3x longer but costs 5x as much. I think it depends on climate too.

      Tell me more about the 5 gallon buckets – what have you grown in there with good success?

      • envisionhappy.com says:

        I think the pine would be good, preferably non-treated. The past couple of years we have grown tomatoes primarily in the buckets. They do great in there, although last year some type of blight got them. We had about 40 buckets. I placed them all around a chain link fence I made around the chicken coop – and then I could stake them to the fence! I just had to make sure they were high up enough to keep the chickens from pecking through to the leaves and fruit. We grew a lot of peppers and squash last year(in regular beds) – with the peppers continuing to make until frost. I’ve never had so many, could give them all away, bananna, bell, and jalapeno. Canned some. You are going to love the chickens – 4 birds and we give away eggs all the time that we cant eat. This year my we are planting okra and watermellons(the kids are doing this as a project). I made one raised bed from fallen trees I stacked and cut with a chainsaw – that worked ok too.

  2. James says:

    Nice to see your homesteading progress. Thanks for sharing! If you and the Alchemist are coffee drinkers you can add your grounds on the blueberries. It helps acidify the soil. We have been doing it successfully for years.

    • David says:

      I don’t drink much coffee anymore owing to issues with anxiety/depression but I do occasionally crave a cup. I’ll remember that so thanks 🙂


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