Category Archives: Vegetable

March Madness

The strange winter continues here in Minnesota…

On February 29th, only two and a half weeks ago, this is what it looked like outside our window.


The snow started during the night and by morning, we had almost a foot of heavy, wet snow.  School was cancelled and we were officially all “snowed in.”  It was the first snow day of the school year and nobody was complaining around here about staying home.

March rolled in the next day and as quick as it had arrived, all that snow started to melt away.  The temperatures soared and before too long, there was no trace of snow left.

When the temperatures started hitting the upper 60’s and 70’s several days in a row, we started to notice some interesting things happening around the farm.

We checked the bee hives and were happy to see that they are definitely still alive.   This good news means that we have successfully wintered our bees for the first time!  (Most likely due to the warm winter temperatures we have had, rather than our beekeeping skills).

We also noticed the bees were out foraging.  They seemed to like the sap leaking out of the maple trees that we pruned in late February.

Since they are active so early this year and there is little food supply available yet, Jesse decided to start feeding them some sugar syrup to get them through the next month or so.  He also took off the black winter hive covers because of the warm temperatures – we don’t want them to cook in there!  The hives both seem really strong, so we are excited to see how this season turns out.

After a week of continuous March temperatures near or over 70F, we also noticed that my gardens are starting to wake up and spring to life.  These poppies were hiding under the leaf mulch.

My tulips have also decided it is time to make an early appearance.

With our warm weekend temperatures (more 70’s), we spent most of our time outdoors and in the gardens.  Although we realize it is very early in the season by Minnesota standards, we started the process of cleaning up the raspberry patch anyways.

After digging up all the rogue plants to reduce the rows back down to about 12″ wide, we cut our all the old canes and re-strung the wire that holds the plants upright.

We then trimmed all the remaining canes to about chest height, applied a 10-10-10 fertilizer, and lightly tilled along the sides of the rows.  When we get around to it (hopefully within a week or two), we will put down a chopped straw mulch to try controlling weeds.

Since the frost was already out and the soil was so dry (we have had very little snow this winter), Jesse went ahead and tilled the whole garden up.  We like to work it up several times in the spring if possible, before we do the bulk of our planting.

And finally, the last crazy thing we did on this 18th day of March here in Minnesota, was to plant some lettuce (mild mesculun mix) and spinach.  These crops can handle some colder temperatures, so even though I know better, I am taking a risk and giving it a try.

(Last spring, my first planting of lettuce was on May 7th, after a very cold and wet spring.)

So, the madness of this Minnesota winter continues into March.  I’m hoping we have seen the last of snow, but after living here my entire life, I know that just about anything can happen yet this spring.

But whatever happens, I’ll be ready.  I couldn’t be happier to be back out in the gardens.

Hope you are enjoying some March madness wherever you are too!


1 Comment

Filed under Bees, Flower, Gardens, Vegetable

Fall around the Farm

Although the growing season is winding down around here, there is still plenty of activity going on outside.

The honeybees are busy collecting pollen from the blossoms of the mini-pumpkin plants in preparation for winter.

The morning glories have finally started blooming.  It won’t be long before the first frost around here, so I need to enjoy these beauties as much as possible over the next few weeks.

Even the shrub roses continue to offer some blooms to enjoy.

The Sedum is in full bloom.

The Pee-gee Hydrangea has taken on the rich pink hues of fall.

The Rudbeckia continues to push out some new flowers, but most of the blooms are becoming tattered.

The asters have just started to blossom.  The warm weather predicted for this week will likely encourage them to burst into full bloom.

Squash awaits harvesting on the vine.

And the leaves are changing.

No doubt about it, fall is here…which means winter is around the corner.  I am not a big fan of winter (especially here in Minnesota), so I am going to cling to the beauty of autumn as long as possible.



Filed under Daily life, Flower, Gardens, Vegetable

Pumpkin Pictures

Life is crazy busy at the moment with fall chores and all the kid activities.  I decided to take a quick moment today, however, to post some pictures of our harvested pumpkins. Despite the mildewy mess in the pumpkin patch, we still have quite a few pumpkins for decorating and carving!

We tossed all the mildewy vegetation over the river bank instead of potentially contaminating our compost pile with the fungi spores.  The pumpkin patch is mostly cleaned up and ready for tilling this fall.

I also planted decorative mini-pumpkins this year.  The vines are growing on my garden fence and have been very prolific.

I have started picking these cute little things for decorating around the house.

After using 4-5 of them for decorating the dining table, I am at a loss as to what I am gong to do with the other fifty mini-pumpkins.  Any ideas?



Filed under Gardens, Vegetable

The Mildewy Pumpkin Patch

Growing pumpkins.

It is not as easy as one would think.  I discussed in a previous post all the issues we’ve had with growing pumpkins in the past.  Last year was our first successful growing season.  Encouraged by our success, we grew pumpkins again this year.

Our pumpkin patch looked beautiful and healthy earlier this season.  The plants were robust and filled with blossoms.

The weather, however, turned hot, humid and soggy during late summer.  It seemed like overnight, the pumpkin patch turned into this powdery mildew mess.

Powdery white spots appeared all over the leaves and eventually covered many of them.  The severity of the infection started causing the vines to wither and die.

The good news is that there are several ripe pumpkins hiding under the disgustingly infected leaves.

Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus.  My challenge for next year will be to try to catch this sooner if it reappears and apply a fungicide and dispose of the infected leaves.  Spacing the plants further apart to help with air circulation might help too.

The thing with gardening is that just when you think you have something figured out, nature throws you a curve with weather, insects, disease, etc.  Gardeners are stubborn though, and this minor setback in my pumpkin patch will not deter me from trying again next year!

I’ll post pictures of the pumpkin crop soon!

Leave a comment

Filed under Gardens, Vegetable

Dilly-icious Beans!

Thanks to the ranting and raving of various people, I have discovered a great new way to use all of those green beans and wax beans that I am harvesting at the moment.  Over the past few years, when discussing preserving the garden harvest I have heard numerous people mention dilly beans and how much they love them.  I must admit, the thought of pickled beans did not sound that good to me at first.  At some point, however, I just could not ignore the fact that a LOT of people seemed to like these dilly beans.

When the bush beans started producing a few weeks ago, I dug out my canning books and looked for a recipe.  I found several variations and decided to use the following simple recipe out of  The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving:

Continue reading


Filed under Food, Freezing and Canning, Gardens, Vegetable

Eat Your Vegetables!

The harvest is on and I cannot pick the vegetables fast enough to keep up.  Although I try to stagger my planting times, every year it seems that everything ripens at once.  At the moment, we have wax beans, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, zucchini and onions ready for harvesting and eating.

We have been eating several servings of vegetables at each meal and I keep trying to come up with different ways to slice, dice, chop, spice and serve them to the family.  My kids are pretty picky eaters, however, and their contributions towards vegetable consumption is limited.  Nonetheless, I just keep reminding them to, “Eat your vegetables!”

As any of you that grow your own food already know, produce picked fresh out of the garden and prepared the same day bears little resemblance to store-bought food.  It really is quite unbelievable.

Consider potatoes, for instance.  I have always rejected suggestions of growing potatoes because they are so inexpensive in the store and why would I bother?  We went ahead anyhow and planted them for the first time this year.  Over the last week or so we have started harvesting some to eat.  They are tender, moist, and flavorful!  Butter is no longer a necessary topping (but it is still really, really good).  We never imagined home-grown potatoes could be so much better than those purchased in the store.

And then there are the carrots.  I planted scarlet nantes and rainbow mix carrots this year and their sweet, mild flavor far exceeds the woody and sometimes bitter carrots we usually purchase.

So, we will continue to enjoy these fresh flavors from the garden as long as possible.  I will do my best to harvest, prepare and preserve our home-grown vegetables during our short growing season here in Minnesota.  Then, in the dead of winter, when I am at the grocery store buying produce, I will try to ignore my memories of these summer flavors and console myself with thoughts of next year’s garden bounty.


Filed under Food, Gardens, Vegetable

Smiling Sunflowers

I have planted sunflowers the last several years because I love seeing the beautiful blossoms towering above the garden.  They are such happy flowers that seem to smile all day long in the sunshine.  Of course, they have the added benefit of providing the birds with some tasty snacks once they go to seed.

I plant them along the north fence in the garden so that they do not shade out any of my plants.  The fence is also a strategic support, especially for the Skyscraper sunflowers that grow really, really tall.  I love these gigantic plants and the huge flower heads they produce.  I will definitely post pictures of them when they begin to flower.

Last year I planted Pastiche Sunflower seeds along the barn, in the pumpkin patch, but had very poor luck with germination.  The beautiful pictures in the seed catalog made me forget that experience, however, and I ordered them again this spring.  I planted them along the north fence with the Skyscraper sunflowers and this year they did not disappoint.

Continue reading


Filed under Flower, Gardens, Vegetable