Gardening Catch Up

Wow it’s been busy here. Well, at least when it hasn’t been raining, which it seems to have been doing almost the entire month of May. I’d say we’ve had maybe 5 nice days out of the last 30. The rest of the time it’s either been raining, or cold with temperatures never getting much above 55 degrees, or both at the same time. The farms around here are running weeks behind with planting. Well, so is most of the midwest. This time of year we should have just about all of the corn crop planted. Instead we have about 45% of the crop in the ground because the fields around here look like this:

We’re at the point now where if farmers can’t get the corn in the ground in the next few days they might as well not bother at all. Every day’s delay means a significant reduction in yield, and it isn’t going to be long before even the faster growing varieties won’t reach maturity before we get frost in the fall.

The commodities markets were so distracted by the trade wars going on that they didn’t notice the weather problems we’ve had, but they sure have now. Corn prices have shot up over $1 per bushel in the last week and a half, and are now sitting around $4.30 on the Chicago market.

But I wanted to talk about gardening, not farming, so let’s drop that and get on with this.

It was a hard winter here, which was easy to tell from looking at our yard, especially behind the house. The decorative plantings got especially hard hit, and the decorative area back there was an absolute mess.

The bark mulch had disappeared, for the most part, probably floating off in the heavy rains, the rest was discolored and deteriorating badly, parts of the area had sunk in where the old koi pond had been, the irises were drowning, it was pretty bad back there. So we decided the whole thing had to be redone. So we started digging up the old plants, moving rocks, putting in something like 250 retaining wall blocks, and about a week of work, and this is what we ended up with.

Still a lot of work to do but we’re getting there. You can see the raised vegetable beds off to the right.

We still have a lot of work to do to finish it off obviously. Some of the block have to be straightened up, some things moved around, but we’re relatively pleased with the result. One problem is that boulder sitting there. I moved that sucker there when I still had the tractor because it seemed like a good idea at the time and since the tractor got sold, well that’s where it’s going to stay, so we’re stuck with it and have to work around it.

It’s still pretty messy back there and we have a lot to do. We’re debating whether or not we want to put capstones along the top of the retaining walls. We have probably several more yards of dirt to haul in to fill the planting bed, a lot of crushed rock for the area around and behind the boulder, lots of plants to transplant into there and buy, and probably a truckload or two of mulch.

The old stone wall containing the garden at the back of the garage isn’t in good shape either any more. You can see what’s left of it here at the back of the garage. It’s just barely hanging on and needs to be replaced. But we’re pretty sick of putting in retaining walls at the moment so we’ll let this go another year and worry about it next spring. Despite the cold, wet weather you can see the raspberries are doing pretty good back there.

The 55 gallon drum you see in the background behind the lilac at the corner of the garage is our rain recovery system. There’s a piping system attached to the rain gutters that diverts water into the barrel that we use for watering plants in the dry season. Works pretty well. That’s generally enough to handle all of potted plants around the house. Not enough to deal with the vegetable gardens as well, but it helps a lot in keeping the water bill down during the summer.

We’ve cut back on the vegetable plantings this year. We had ridiculous amounts of tomatoes last year so we cut way back on that. Lots of pepper plants, though. We seem to go through a lot of those. But tomatoes? We still have quarts and quarts of canned tomatoes on the shelves from last year, although we did run out of soup and spaghetti sauce.

That opened up space in the raised beds so we put in a variety of onions this year to see how that works. I love being able to just go out in the backyard and dig up fresh onions when I need them during the summer. But the area where we were planting onions until now didn’t work very well because it was getting shaded out by the trees. The onions would start out well but would never grow very big because of the lack of light.

But then I have this going on right now —

She’s been sitting there staring at me for the last half hour waiting for her breakfast so I suppose I better feed the little goof.

Author: grouchyfarmer

Yes, I'm a former farmer. Sort of. I'm also an amateur radio operator, amateur astronomer, gardener, maker of furniture, photographer.

11 thoughts on “Gardening Catch Up”

  1. I live about half a day’s drive from you and it has been a rough spring here too. I do admire your gardening/landscaping skills. Even when messed up from the winter, your place looks better than mine does when it’s been tended!


  2. Right now the stores here are selling corn $1 an ear ๐ŸŒฝ. I donโ€™t suppose that will improve much. $6 for corn for my family dinner. Really, we like corn but not for $100/month.


    1. Sweet corn generally matures more quickly than the corn used for industrial and cattle feed so hopefully the family corn roast won’t be hit too hard. I’m trying to think where fresh corn would be coming from this time of year. It would have had to be planted in March or early April so maybe southern california or Mexico? Part of the problem with costs is shipping. Trucking costs have been going up drastically over the last couple of years because there’s a serious shortage of drivers. It’s gotten to the point where they’re talking about lowering the minimum age for interstate truckers from 21 to 18.


  3. Hey grouchy, I want that boulder. Can you email it to me? ๐Ÿ™‚
    Yes, “climate re-organizing” is a bitch, isn’t it! Here we’re bracing for a smoky-sunny, hot, dry Summer as the fires build up again. My garden, such as it is, is in now, finally, as it’s been too cold until now to bother and I never cover anything, it’s do or die, baby.


    1. I wish I could email it to you! ๐Ÿ™‚ It was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. Still, I do like the dopey thing, I just wish I could move it instead of having to work around it.

      The climate – Yeah, I don’t know. It’s been weird. Right now the long term predictions are that the summer is going to be cooler and wetter than normal. Well, whatever “normal” is these days. We’re seeing the smoke from the Canadian fires all the way down here as haze with brilliantly colored sunrises and sunsets.


  4. My mother literally moved a good size rock (about half the size of your boulder) from Beloit WI to Cincinnati to Puerto Rico to W. Simsbury CT to Cincinnati. She finally left it when my cousin bought the house in Cincinnati. Happily, her son bought the house from her so my Mom’s favorite rock is still in a family garden.
    Every mover just looked at her like she was a loon. She kind of was, but since she made my father go to undignified lengths to retrieve it from Lake shore on the promise that she would always treasure it… She couldn’t leave it behind. She explained that she was honor bound. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Your remodeled garden was worth the work. It’s gorgeous.


    1. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Once the plantings get established I’ll put up some photos of how it looks when it’s done.

      I can understand why your mother might have been attached to that rock. It probably wasn’t just for some silly reason, it probably had significant meaning in her life. We human beings can be silly, sentimental things sometimes. We can become attached to any kind of object that may have been related to important events in our lives. Or for no other reason than the object triggers a memory or we even just like how it looks. I’m very glad that your mother’s rock is still in a family garden. I think she’d like that.

      Beloit? Seriously? My oldest son went to Beloit College and have fond memories of that town.


  5. Your garden is going to be stunning this year. And I hear you on the corn. My field is going into the preventative planting thingy. (we will still put a cover crop in though). It is and always was a great swamp round here (we are about 100 miles south of Chicago) The insurance guys are going to be having a fit!


    1. Yep, I agree. the crop insurance is really going to get hit hard this year. It’s June 9 here and finally dry enough to get into the fields, with the farmers working 24 hours a day to try to get something into the ground. I was out on the bicycle today in the surrounding countryside and I still see fields that haven’t even been touched yet that should have been planted a month ago.


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