Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Category: Homesteading

Farming Gardening and Homesteading

Tomatoes, Peppers, and Okra Spring Garden Update

Jalapeno peppers

The garden got off to a late start this year. In March we received so much rain the seeds rotted in the ground. It seemed like every couple of days we were getting a cold front.

All of this means the 2018 spring garden is running a month behind. Instead of the peppers producing in May, they are producing in June. Which is no big deal because once the peppers start producing, they will continue until the first frost.

Instead of the okra being planted at the first of May, it was planted at the end of May. I was hoping to get some rain to help the okra germinate, but we did not get rain for a month.

Eventually, I decided to plant the okra and water the seeds with a sump pump that sits in a creek. Everything worked out and the seeds germinated. Once the okra started to come up, it is making solid progress.

Tomatoes and Tomato Cages

Local Wildlife Ate All The Wild Plums

Texas Wild Plums

The wild plums here are on the farm were almost ready. So the other day I grabbed a bucket, walked over to the plum patch, and the trees were empty. They had gone from hundreds of wild plums to one in just a couple of days. Chances are the local wildlife feasted on the plums.

How do I know it was the local wildlife? There were no plums on the ground. When the plums ripen they fall off the tree. Since there were no plums on the ground, this means something ate them.

There is a wild plum crop here on the farm that has been left to grow for the past decade. Some of the trees are close to eight feet tall and are nice sized.

Wild plum production can be hit and miss. Some years the trees do very well, while other years they produce almost nothing. The plum production may have something to do with the time spent below freezing, but I am not sure. The winter of 2017 – 2018 was very harsh here in Southeast Texas, and the plum corp in 2018 was wonderful.

Ending the Chicken Manure as Fertilizer Experiment

Tomatoes grown with chicken manure experiment

One gardening experiment for 2018 was to take a field that had not been used for a couple of years, till in chicken manure using a garden tiller, then plant the crops.

How well would the crops grow? Would some types of crops do better than others?

After watching the experiment for close to two months, I think I have my answers. The experiment for this year has drawn to a close and 13-13-13 fertilizer was spread along the garden rows.

However, I feel part of the experiment should be repeated in the spring of 2019. The weather here in Southeast Texas was very wet between March – April, then very dry from April – May.

When the rain stopped in April, it stopped. It was like GOD turned off the water valve. We have not gotten a drop of rain in close to a month.

Starting the Chicken Manure Fertilizer Experiment

Transplanted Tomatoes and Planted Okra

Tomato and pepper plants in a home garden

The tomatoes that were planted a couple of months ago were root bound and had to be transplanted. While the tomatoes were being transplanted, I went ahead and planted the okra seeds we had germinated

Related article – How to germinate okra.

For those of you who do not know what root bound means; simply put, the pot is too small for the plant. The roots need more room than what the pot provides. The solution is to either transplant the plant into a larger pot, or plant the plant in the ground.

There were other issues:

  • The roots were getting too hot.
  • The pot was not holding enough moisture for the plants to grow.

Transplanting Tomatoes

Tips on Getting Okra Seeds to Germinate

Okra seeds

Okra is one of those wonderful and well rounded crops. It can be canned, boiled, fried, or used in recipes such as gumbo. As wonderful as okra is, it needs certain conditions for the seeds to sprout (aka germinate).

To help understand okra we need to look at where the crop originated from, and that is Africa. What would we expect a crop from Africa to need? If the reader guessed hot weather they are correct. Some theories suggest okra was brought to the United States during the slave trade, which would be feasible. On thing is for sure, okra is a mainstay in Louisiana cuisine, including gumbo recipes. If gumbo does not have okra in it, it is not real gumbo.

The old timers use to say, “Plant okra when all you need is a sheet to sleep with.” This was before modern air conditioning and people slept with their windows open. So when the weather warms up enough that all someone needs to cover up with is a sheet, it is time to plant okra.

Here in Southeast Texas, most people plant okra in early May.

After heat, the next thing okra needs is water. A lot of people I know soak their okra seeds in water before planting. Some people even add a couple drops of bleach to the water. I have never tried the bleach.

Soaking Okra Seeds

Leaving a Rat Snake in the Chicken House

Texas Rat Snake

This may seem counter-productive, but two rat snakes have been allowed to stay in the chicken house. Usually, if a rat snake (aka chicken snake) is caught in the chicken house, it is dealt with with extreme prejudice.

However, awhile back a good size rat was spotted in the chicken house. For those of you who do not know, one of the worst creatures that can be in the chicken house is a rat. Not only will they eat the chicken feed, but the will kill chickens. Yes, a rat will kill and eat part of a chicken.

When it comes to pullets, which are chickens less than one year old, a rat can easily kill and eat one. Then there is the egg issue. Rats will eat whatever eggs they can.

Simply put, a rat in the chicken house can wreck havoc.

A live trap was put in the chicken house to catch the rat, but it kept getting out of the trap. Poison is out of the question. Old style spring loaded rat traps are also out of the question. What’s the next best thing to do? Let nature take its course.

In other words, let rat snakes do what rat snakes do.

Rat Snake in the Chicken House

Trying Something New With The Fig Trees

Fig tree

Around 2014 several fig trees were planted in the chicken yard. Some of the fig trees died and had to be replanted. The original ones, and the new ones have barely grown.

One of the original trees has barely put on any growth in four years.

In the past I had tried stuff like Miracle Grow plant spikes, and some Miracle Grow plant food. All that stuff is is a low grade fertilizer. Nothing I tried with Miracle Grow spikes or plant food helped the fig trees.

For 2018 I decided to try something different. I picked up some 6-7-7 fertilizer and put a cup around the base of each tree. This was done right before a rain. To benefit the plants the fertilizer has to be worked, or washed, into the soil.

Fig Tree Fertilizer

Washed Out Roads In Rural Areas

Washed out roads in rural areas

Washed out roads in rural areas have the possibility of disrupting daily life for weeks, and sometimes for months.

One of the problems facing rural counties is the amount of tax money allocated to them for road maintenance and upgrades. Believe it or not, there are thousands of miles of dirt roads all over the United States. Rather than putting in bridges over creeks, culverts are used.

Well, culverts only allow X amount of water to pass through them. When the flow of water exceeds X, the water starts to back up. Eventually, the water will find a way around the culvert. This typically means the water goes over the road, which causes erosion.

With enough time, the flowing water erodes the road away.

Washed Out Roads

Wild Plum Crop Looking Good For 2018

Wild plums, the American Plum

The wild plum, also known as the American Plum, is a plum native to the Americas. It grows wild in sandy soil and is drought tolerant.

Here on the farm there is a batch of wild plums in a pasture and have been growing there for years. This year looks like they are going to produce a good crop.

I do not know if it was the harsh winter of 2017 – 2018, or the very sweet spring, but whatever happened, the wild plums here on the farm are doing pretty good.

Some of the trees have 5 or 6 plums on one branch.

There is a spot on the farm I want to cultivate more of these trees at. So when the plums ripen I am going to harvest the seeds and plant them where I want the other orchard at.

The only bad thing about wild plums is they need full sun. If they get shaded, chances are they will die back. Some pine trees grew up in the north side of the wild plum patch, and the plum trees around the pine trees have died.

2018 Spring Garden Has Been a Bust

Cajun Spicy Bell Peppers

The spring garden for 2018 has fallen flat on its face, and it is my fault. To fully understand what happened we need to back up a few years.

Several years ago I held a New Years bonfire. The bonfire was made from pieces of timber left over from cutting trees from the property. There was a large section of Sweet Gum, pine tree limbs… etc. piled up maybe eight feet tall. After the bonfire was lit, it burned for several days.

Once the New Years bonfire had finally died out, there was a pile of ash almost three feet tall and eight – ten feet across. The pile was so tall a tractor was used to level the pile out. Once the pile was leveled out, a tractor disk was used to mix the ash into the soil.

Fast forward a few years. I figured the ash had time to dissolve into the soil, but I may have been wrong.

What Does Potash Do?

How To Use a Garden Tiller to Till Manure Into a Garden

Load of chicken manure in a wheelbarrow

Using a garden tiller to till manure into the garden is a labor of love. It would be easier to pick up a bag of 13-13-13 fertilizer and spread it into the garden, than it is to shovel, spread, and then till.

In a way, tilling manure into a garden makes a full circle. The feed the animals ate came from the ground, so why not return it to the ground.

April 12, 2018 I tilled three wheelbarrow loads of chicken manure into the spring garden. Some of the seeds I put down in March did not take, so I redid the rows with manure, and planted fresh seed.

I also tilled chicken manure into the garden along the peppers and tomatoes, then raked the soil up around the plants. We are expecting terrible storms in the next 48 hours. So I worked the soil up around the plants to protect them from being damaged by the wind and rain.

To Till Manure Into The Garden:

Planted Two More Brown Turkey Fig Trees

During the spring of 2018 I decided to put two more Brown Turkey Fig trees here on the farm. This gives me a total of five fig trees. Three are in the chicken yard, and two are outside the chicken yard near the chicken house.

Planting the first set of fig trees in the chicken yard came with some problems. For one, they were a long ways from a water source. To water the trees, about 100 yards of water hose had to be strung together. They were also planted in sandy soil which did not hold very much water.

The two Brown Turkey Fig trees planted in 2018 were planted near the chicken house. the clay layer is around 12 – 14 inches below the surface, the the soil holds water better than the sandy soil. Also, the fig trees were planted where they could use manure in the chicken house as fertilizer.

Two More Brown Turkey Fig Trees

Planted Some More Pepper Plants

Garden salsa pepper plant

Decided to go ahead and get some more pepper plants in the ground. The local Walmart has their garden plants on sale, so I thought why not? I bought five more pepper plants for $2.94 each.

Peppers usually do a good job of withstanding the Texas summer heat. All they really need is plenty of water and they usually bear until the first frost.

For fertilizer I am using aged chicken manure from under the brooder house mixed with dirt. Also, under the plant is a fresh chicken yard egg. Using eggs as fertilizer is a little experiment I am doing this year.

More Pepper Plants

Rethinking Buff Orpingtons For My Prepsteading Chicken Flock

Buff Orpington Chick

There have been some events which have caused me rethink the Buff Orpingtons for my prepsteading chicken flock. Buff Orpingtons have been part of my chicken flock for around four years, and during that four years I have noticed a common trend.

When new chicks are bought from the local feed store, they are brought home and put in a six feet X eight feet brooder house. The house has perches, plywood walls, screened in floor, heat lamp… everything the chicks need to be safe.

The chicks are usually kept in the brooder house for around six weeks, and then put in the main chicken house. A lot of it depends on outside temperatures, and how feathered out the chicks are.

Buff Orpingtons

Garden Update: Contender Snap Bean Sprouts and Peppers

Contender snap bean sprouts

Contender snap bean sprouts are breaking through the soil and pepper plants are getting established. Some the peppers have died, and some are not looking too good, which is to be expected.

The pepper plants were planted in a garden spot around 100 yards behind the house. Just a couple of days after planting we got around 8 inches of rain overnight. I suspect a couple of the plants drown during the rain. Some of the pepper plants look nice.

One of the things I love about spring is the garden. Seeing sprouts break through the soil is a wonderful sight. They symbolize rebirth after winter is over.

No signs of the potatoes yet, but that is no big deal. It may take the potatoes a few more days. When the potatoes were cut, I made sure each eye had plenty of meat on them. The potato chunks provides nutrients so the roots and sprouts can get started.

Snap Bean Sprouts

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Kevin Felts © 2008 - 2018