In the fall in New England, I rake up the leaves that have fallen in my gardens and yard and move them out to the compost pile. Then I turn the pile, add horse manure, turn the pile, add kitchen scraps (no animal products except egg shells), turn the pile, turn the pile and turn the pile.  So that in a years time I can spread this compost over my gardens and lawn.  Maybe I should just leave them where they fall.


My chickens enjoy the raking.  They don’t get out as much as they use to, so this weekend was a treat for them.  If I was out raking, they were out helping.  They slow it down some because you have to be careful not to hit them with the rake.  Maybe helping isn’t quite right.  But they are good company and talking to the chickens looks better than talking to yourself.  I love watching them scramble for the creepy-crawlies that  I uncover.


Once the leaves are in piles they need to be moved to the compost area.  This has never been fun.  The wheelbarrow doesn’t hold enough leaves and raking them onto a tarp and then dragging this to the compost is way harder than you would think.  So some years back I made a cardboard tube that fits over my wheelbarrow giving it much taller sides.  I am amazed at how many leaves can be stuffed into this and easily wheeled away.


wood strips to support the cardboard sides

wood strips to support the cardboard sides



I’ve put the gardens (my 2 vegetable gardens) to bed for the year.  Since I won’t be planting a vegetable garden next year,( I did things a little differently.  After pulling the last leeks and carrots from the old garden and pulling the last kale from the newer garden I added all of my remaining compost, some lime and then seeded them both with clover.  I have never planted a cover-crop before.  My Dad always planted winter wheat in the fall and tilled it in, in the spring as a green manure.  I’m hoping letting the gardens rest for a year will discourage the cabbage worms and a blight that my beets and Swiss chard get.  I’ve also dug up a couple of parsley plants, potted them and have them in the south facing living-room window for fresh parley all winter long.

last of the leeks and carrots from 2013

last of the leeks and carrots from 2013


pulled kale plants hung in the run for the chickens

pulled kale plants hung in the run for the chickens


old garden

old garden


newer garden

newer garden there is 1 turnip plant left


I grow sweet potatoes in containers that I hang off of my deck.  I like the foliage all summer and the small purple flowers.  I grow my own slips. Here is a link to an earlier post with the starting of the sweet potato plants,

I have 1 large round container and 4 rectangular containers (kitty litter buckets).  To harvest I just dump them out into my wheelbarrow and pull off the potatoes.

large round container on side of deck

large round container on side of deck

4 kitty litter buckets with sweet potato plants

4 kitty litter buckets with sweet potato plants

sweet potatoes

sweet potatoes

sorry, it's a little fuzzy. sweet potato harvest 2013

sorry, it’s a little fuzzy. sweet potato harvest 2013

Not a bad harvest, some large ones and a lot more small ones.  I have them spread out  on cardboard  by the wood stove to cure before I store them in the cellar.

In my last post I wrote about pulling up my tomato plants.  I want to add, that I DO NOT compost these plants.  I bury them away from my garden.  This is to help control the tomato blight.  This blight would survive a compost season.  It probably is in the soil but I feel better not mixing it with my compost.




I set my leeks into my garden using a newly made dibble, close to the size and shape of the seedlings  from the multi-pack.  The dibble certainly made the transplanting much easier, push it into the ground and you have a perfectly shaped hole to place the young seedling in.

Dibble and leek seedlings

Dibble and leek seedlings

This dibble is the first single one that I have tried .  I have a couple of multi-dibbles that I have used for years.

I set my leek seedlings in a dug out boxed area or place an open bottomed box over them.  The sides are about 6 inches high.  As the leeks grow I add compost around them till the compost is level with the top of the box.  This will give me a 6- 8 inch white leek at harvest time.

Leek seedlings planted in bottomless box

Leek seedlings planted in bottomless box

Mother nature sometimes helps with the plant selection for the garden.  I planted New Zealand spinach 4 years ago and have not planted it since. But, every year since then I have New Zealand spinach growing in my garden.  I just have to find where the small seedlings are growing and transplant them to where I want them .  I thought this year I wasn’t getting any but I found some seedlings growing in with the garlic.  When they get a little bigger, I will move 3 or 4 to their rightful spot.

Also this year Mother nature selected 6 Russian Red Kale plants and 4 dill plants to be part of the garden.  The kale was a surprise, mostly because I had decided not to plant any of the Russian this year.  Not wanting to piss-off Mother nature, I found them a spot, well 6 spots.  The dill was gratefully received since the dill I planted didn’t grow at all.

My rhubarb is very happy this year.  Bigger, taller, thicker, fuller and just lush.

Happy Rhubarb,  with fencing to keep out the chickens.

Happy Rhubarb, with fencing to keep out the chickens.

Garlic 5/22/13

Garlic 5/22/13

Peas  5/22/13

Peas 5/22/13

One last item in the garden. Actually there are 2 of them, I only got a picture of the smaller one.

Garter snake  5/25/13

Garter snake 5/25/13


I’m off to a slow start this year with my garden.  I think the chickens are taking up too much time and energy.  Well, that’s my excuse. It could also be the last late snow storms that kind of put all gardening on hold.  I hadn’t even gotten around to ordering seeds for this season.   I did finally order seeds about a week ago, from Fedco Seeds in Maine.  They arrived in the mail Yesterday, kind of like Christmas in April.

I did start some tomato seeds that I had from previous years.  Started them April 3 rd, no signs of life yet.  With old seeds I never know.  I grow a lot of different plants but not a lot of any one plant, so I have 6 recycled cookie containers with a sprinkling of seeds in each one from 6 different varieties of tomatoes.  I will transplant the best seedlings into larger containers, keeping maybe 3 of each.  I had one new variety of tomato seed in my seed order, so I planted them as soon as the mail came.

recycled cookie container with tomato seeds in potting soil

recycled cookie container with tomato seeds in potting soil

cookie container in clear plastic bag & tagged with empty seed pack

cookie container in clear plastic bag & tagged with empty seed pack

I place the started seeds into a clear plastic bag to keep the moisture constant, like their own little green house.  When they start to sprout I will remove the bag.

Tomatoes are one of the few plants that actually do better with transplanting.  I sometimes transplant them a second time into a still larger pot before setting them out into the garden.  Starting my own seeds I get to grow varieties that you can’t find normally at the nursery, like Black Cherry tomatoes, one of my favorites.

I couldn’t stop with just the tomatoes, so I also started basil, 3 different lettuce and leeks.  These I started in individual 12 packs, they will go straight into the garden when ready.

SWEET POTATO.  The sweet potato that I set up to grow slips from ended up rotting in the container of water it was in.  My wonderful wife brought me home a small sweet potato from “Whole Foods” and I set it into a container of water March 15 th.  It is doing great, roots are growing out of the bottom of it and buds are growing from the top section, some of the buds are actually slips already with little leaves.

first try 3/5/13 now rotting

first try started 3/5/13 now rotting 4/2/13

first try

first try picture taken 4/2/13

second try 3/15/13 buds showing

second try started 3/15/13 buds showing 4/2/13

second try with roots and buds

second try with roots and buds picture taken 4/2/13

I need 5 slips and should get at least that many from this one potato.  I will plant them in 5-5gallon buckets and hang them off of my deck.  The sweet potato plant all by itself is very pretty.  Guests are surprised when I tell them what they are, their green leaves and light purple flowers look like an ornamental plant.  They are,  we just get to eat the potatoes at the end of the season.

slips starting picture taken 4/6/13

slips starting picture taken 4/6/13

It is so good to be digging in the dirt again.  I moved some of my compost  (this is from the chicken run) and spread it in the East garden.  The sun was strong and felt good but the air was still cool and the wind made it even chillier.  This is why we live in New England.


Here in New England, the middle of January, and this weekend was 52 degrees F (16 C) for a high.  It was so nice I decided to clean the run and coop because it isn’t frozen solid.  I start by shoveling out the run, this took 3 trips with the wheelbarrow over to the compost pile.  Then I scrap out the shavings and poop in the coop and spread them in the run.


run with coop shavings


scrapped out coop

I then spread the shaving from the nesting boxes into the coop, refill the nesting boxes and add more shavings to the coop.  I will add more shavings to the coop as needed to cover the poop and keep it dry.  I’m hoping this will get me through till spring.


cleaned nesting boxes


coop with clean shavings, board at door to keep shaving in

The run then gets a layer of fall leaves, about 5 to 6 inches.  The ladies (and Jack) will scratch this up and turn it into almost ready compost for my garden.  If they could handle the wheelbarrow they  could help out even more.


some of the ladies checking out my work

The ladies (and Jack) are liking this weather, the snow is just about gone and they are roaming into the woods again.  They even found a couple of small frogs that they played keep-a-way with before  enjoying them for lunch.

I find it hard to get a good picture of Jack, he’s always moving his head, but I did get this one this weekend.

Jack on the deck

Jack on the deck

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