Tag Archives: sunflowers


August 20, 2014

We grew red and yellow sunflowers this year. My girls have been asking me to grow flowers for many years now. I am not much for putting effort into things for aesthetics. However, this year, I decided to plant sunflowers and save the seeds for the chickens. If there’s a practical purpose, I’m all for it and this saves money on chicken feed. Bonus!

DSC_5090(red sunflowers with droopy yellow sunflowers in the background) DSC_4774 DSC_4835They all did really well. The yellow sunflowers grew to be about 11 feet tall and our largest one was about 15 inches in diameter. Nieto Family - August 12 14 - 0003 Nieto Family - August 12 14 - 0175The red sunflowers were pretty but not as red as I thought they would be and their seeds do not save very easily. I do not think I will grow red sunflowers next year.

In order to harvest the sunflowers, I cut the heads off:Nieto Family - August 10 14 - 0094The kids exposed the seed heads and stripped the leaves off. This is what the driveway looked like after a morning of sunflower harvesting:Nieto Family - August 12 14 - 0005I ripped the first stalk out of the ground but after seeing what a huge hole was left afterward, I decided to just cut the stalks and leave the stumps to rot a bit before ripping them out of the ground.Nieto Family - August 12 14 - 0001(hole that was left from one sunflower stalk)Nieto Family - August 12 14 - 0002(This is what one box looks like with all of the stumps intact (those are cucumber vines at the base).)

Here is about 1/3 of the yellow sunflower heads we were able to harvest.Nieto Family - August 12 14 - 0004Once the sunflowers were cut, stalks taken to the chickens, and seeds exposed, I hung them up in the basement to dry the rest of the way.Nieto Family - August 11 14 - 0006(This is about 1/3 of the sunflowers harvested.)Nieto Family - August 11 14 - 0008Some of the sunflowers had some worms in them so we just threw those to the chickens.

We will definitely be growing more sunflowers each year, I think. They are easy to grow, easy to harvest, and turned out to be a wonderful companion plant to cucumbers, which we love! And what a wonderful treat for the chickens!

I am linking up to Green Thumb Thursday to see what other gardeners are up to 🙂


Garden in August

August 6, 2014

Garden at the beginning of June

_DSF9171-EditGarden at the beginning of July

DSC_4679-EditGarden at the beginning of August

Untitled_Paaanorama1-2Well, it doesn’t look much different…It looks like the watermelon plant has sprawled more, sunflowers are taller, and there are less potatoes. However, looks (at least looks from far away) can be deceiving. Here is what is going on in our garden (North Carolina, zone 7b) in August, looking from the bottom of the photo to the top:

As you can see from the picture above, there is not much greenery left in the potato patch. We are harvesting them as needed.

There are kale and cabbage seedlings growing under the screens (in the potato patch). The extra shade really seems to be helping them along.DSC_5091The tomatoes are producing well but as you can see in the photo below, I am really having to prune them heavily to keep the disease at bay._DSC2987The peppers are slowly ripening.DSC_5093We have quite a few watermelon growing from ONE plant but we have yet to harvest any (ripe ones) yet…DSC_5087The corn patch has been stripped bare, raked over, composted, and halfway replanted with carrots and peas.DSC_5095Raspberries are forming…we’ll see if we get an actual harvest this year…DSC_5088The sweet potato patches are doing well, at least from what I can see 🙂

Main Sweet Potato Patch:

DSC_5094Overflow Sweet Potato Patch #1:DSC_5100(Notice the small sweet potato sprouts to the left. That was the box in which I grew the sweet potato slips. Apparently, I left some sweet potatoes in there. I have been unable to grow much else in that box this season because the boxes with sunflowers is right next to it and they, being over 10ft tall, shade out too much sun.)

Overflow Sweet Potato Patch #2 (main sweet potato patch is in the top/left of the photo):DSC_5101(between spent bean plants (planted in April, ripped out last week) and thriving zucchini plants)

Overflow Sweet Potato Patch #3:DSC_5104(Spaghetti squash patch used to be just above these and to their right are the volunteer tomatoes.)

The first zucchini plants I planted were devoured by squash bugs (planted at the end of April). The second round (planted mid May), planted in the original pea patch (where everything seems to do well) is doing great! All of the zucchini harvested so far has been coming from these three plants.DSC_5096More zucchini plants are coming up behind them for whenever/if ever they give out 🙂DSC_5098The sunflowers are all drooping. How long before I can harvest seeds? I need that space to plant fall crops!!!_DSC2977 DSC_5106Next up: Beans

I ordered Hutterite beans this year instead of Blue Lake Bush Beans. Never again. They are supposed to be bush beans but they vine like crazy. Their beans taste more like pole beans as well. But I bought the seeds so I’m going to use them. As with most crops, I plant beans in succession so I will have a continual crop.

These Blue Lake Bush beans were ripped out earlier this week (seed from last year).DSC_5101The next round of beans (Hutterite) are producing pretty well.DSC_5102And the last round are just sprouting (overflow sweet potato patch #3 to the left, apple tree to the right).DSC_5103Speaking of the apple tree, I planted fall broccoli under it and it is really doing well. The germination rate was great 🙂DSC_5097That’s what’s going on in our garden at the beginning of August. All of the summer crops but corn are still going strong and fall crops are being planted.


Our youngest chick is not so little anymore. We put her with the other chickens this week to see how she did. She got picked on quite a bit (though she stuck up for herself pretty well). Her mamma did not protect her as she should so we are still separating her from the flock until she gets bigger.DSC_5149

Our other two chicks have turned out to be pretty dominant among the flock. One is a rooster and the other is a big, beautiful pullet. Her comb is pretty red so I would not be surprised if she started laying any day now. They are 19 weeks old. We have gone through two roosters so far (attacked children so we had to get rid of them). So far so good with Whitey. I hope he’s a keeper.DSC_5155(Whitey crowing at me) DSC_5145(Goldie is the darker chicken in front)

I read recently on another blog that back in the day, chickens were only fed supplementally during the winter months. During the summer months, they got plenty of bugs and greens free-ranging. We looked into it and decided to try it.

I was sick of the tunnels. They were impossible to mow around, annoying to walk over, and the chickens didn’t go in them much during the hot days because there is more shade in the run.

The side yards of our house are sloped so they do not get mowed much. The north side (by the chicken coop) was really overgrown so we decided to expand the run and let the chickens do the mowing for us.DSC_5107Since they now have twice the room they had before and A LOT more green, we thought we would give the ‘no feed during the summer’ theory a try. The hardest part is breaking them of the habit of eating feed. They freak out whenever we walk out the door and try to follow us (along the fence-line) wherever we go. I feel badly, but not really because they have PLENTY of food free-ranging! They have just been spoiled up until now. They get garden scraps, table scraps, and all the grass, weeds, and bugs they want.

I hope it works out. We’ll see. We have noticed our egg count has gone down significantly lately. We think it is because of a combination of factors:

  1. An increase of space to roam (more energy on roaming means less energy on egg production).
  2. No more all-you-can-eat buffet of chicken feed.
  3. We have 3 broody hens. We are trying to break them of their broodiness because we are going on vacation in a month and we don’t want someone else to have to take care of a newborn chick.

I feel pretty confident they’ll get over this hump and egg production will pick back up again…We sure have gotten used to an abundance of eggs! We’ll have to adjust our diet again.

If we can make it without buying chicken feed for a third of the year, that will cut costs significantly! Right now, other than start-up costs of lumber for the coop and fencing for the run and tunnels, the only things we spend money on are our seed order once a year and chicken feed. We don’t spray our crops (with chemical or organic spray), don’t start seeds indoors (so no need for potting soil, trays, lights, heating mats, etc.)…this is really what ‘Gardening Without’ is all about! Gardening Without…

  1. Tilling
  2. Spraying
  3. Money! 🙂

I am linking up with Green Thumb Thursday to see what other gardeners are up to this week!

Mid-June Garden Update

June 19, 2014

A little update about what’s going on mid-June in the garden (Zone 7b, Piedmont, North Carolina)…

The beans are flowering nicelyNieto Family - June 08 14 - 0457(black beans) Nieto Family - June 08 14 - 0459(pinto beans)

And beans are starting to show up!Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0506(pinto beans) Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0007(snaps/green beans)

We are expecting a good crop of blueberries this year! Check out all of those (unripened) berries!!!Nieto Family - June 08 14 - 0474 We were actually able to eat our first ones this week. We are excited for more to follow.

Blue Potatoes are flowering…Nieto Family - June 08 14 - 0401

Our first tomatoes are forming!!! Nieto Family - June 08 14 - 0433(Early Girl Tomatoes – beginning of the week)Nieto Family - June 12 14 - 0068(Early Girl Tomatoes – later in the week)Nieto Family - June 12 14 - 0070(Roma) Nieto Family - June 12 14 - 0072(Black Krim)Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0500(Indigo Rose) Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0502(Mr. Stripey)

Other fruits are forming:Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0504

(spaghetti squash)Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0505

(cucumber – I found a bigger one later but didn’t have my camera…)

Even though I pick squash bugs, eggs, and nymphs every morning, a few plants have succumbed already 😦Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0001(zucchini) Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0002(butternut squash — I think)

The sweet potato patch has, indeed, grown many more slips! I will plant these out within the next couple of days. I have read sweet potatoes need 4 months of heat. Our first frost is mid-October so I don’t want to plant out any later than mid-June. I will be interested to see how the later planted sweet potatoes do compared to the earlier planted ones.Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0499Sunflowers are starting to bloom 🙂Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0496(forgive the blurriness…I was holding a baby, trying to zoom in, focus, & take the picture) Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0498

We had a few good soaking rains last week. The corn seems to have grown overnight!Nieto Family - June 13 14 - 0073(The tallest of the stalks are 4.5 feet tall!)

And lastly, here are our 12 week-old chicks! We think the white one is a rooster (comb is larger/redder)…Nieto Family - June 08 14 - 0500More chicks are due tomorrow!

How is your garden coming along?

Check out other helpful gardening posts at Green Thumb Thursday 🙂

May 28, 2014

_DSF9171-Edit(the goal is to see how the look of the garden changes as the gardening season progresses…we’ll see if the shot is close enough to be able to see a difference….)DSC_4212-Edit(1)L to R, front to back:

  • potato patch, blueberry bushes
  • sweet potato patch, beans, beets, onions, strawberry patch with lettuce and spinach
  • tomato and pepper patch, (tree), 3 sister’s garden (corn, beans, squash), sunflowers, sweet potato slips, kale, carrots, beans, daughter’s tomatoes, onions
  • far right – hedge-looking greenery is peas, then in overflow garden (btwn apple trees) … lettuce, carrots, kale, beets, spinach, sunflowers, spaghetti squash, beans, flowers, volunteer tomatoes, cantaloupe…

Because of the heat wave we had a couple of weeks ago and the lack of rain, we have been watering once a week. Normally, with a Back to Eden garden, you would not need to do this. However, with newly planted/sprouted plants, I wanted to go ahead and cover our bases.

The weeds loved that :\ but so did the plants! Check out our…

  • Corn_DSC9579(Three sister’s patch (corn, running beans, various squash) and cool crops on the east next to a tree for afternoon shade) _DSC9595(Good representation of the Three Sister’s Garden: Corn in the middle, surrounded by running beans to climb, and on the edges of the garden, squash to vine along the ground)
  • LettuceThe Nieto Family - May 16 14 - 0127
  • Beets_DSC9609
  • Spinach
  • Kale_DSC9613(Carrots in front looking great! Kale halfway picked over. Black beans are starting to climb!) _DSC9587(Even the cabbage is looking good so far! 🙂 )
  • Potatoes_DSC9548(Red Potatoes starting to flower. Others starting to bud.)


As I was weeding one day, I found about 10 volunteer tomatoes in the corn patch/old tomato patch! Tomatoes are not good companions for corn so I needed to transplant those. All of the tidy places in the garden are planted up but we have an area between two apple trees that has been covered with mulch for a year and with horse manure for about four months so I am using that area as an ‘overflow’ area.

It is not tidy but I am thankful for the extra space. I transplanted the five largest transplants this week and planted some cantaloupe seeds (they did not come up in an earlier planting…brand new seeds…wonder why…).

_DSF9022-Edit-2(5 volunteer tomato plants, my daughter’s tomato plant, and marigolds that need thinning in the bottom-right of the photo)

I also planted more lettuce, carrots, kale, cucumbers, zucchini, bush beans and the last of the spaghetti squash in the ‘overflow’ area of the garden. Trying to keep up with succession planting! 🙂 I find it keeps me from being too overwhelmed when it comes to planting and especially when it comes to harvesting.

At the same time, we are eating fresh produce all season long and I do not have to preserve as much. That saves time and energy (mine and my stove/freezer).

One other thing about succession planting — if the plant(s) does not do well because of bugs or whatever, the whole season is not lost because I have another one (planted two weeks later) coming up right after it 🙂


I have one raised bed in the garden that does not do well with sprouting seeds. Last year, I planted corn in it and barely anything came up. I transplanted extra corn into the box later and it did fine though. This year, I planted the box with cantaloupe, watermelon, and red sunflower seeds and only one sunflower seed sprouted. I planted another box with yellow sunflower seeds and had some sunflowers that were too close together so this week, I transplanted yellow sunflowers into the red sunflower box. They looked drooped over and sun-scalded at first but they seem to be bouncing back 🙂

_DSF9070(Raised bed with yellow sunflowers…sweet potato slips in background) _DSF9050 (Raised bed where only one sunflower seed sprouted (bottom-center). Droopy (but alive!) transplanted sunflowers.)

Do you succession plant? Or would you prefer to plant all at once, harvest all at once, preserve all at once? What do you do with volunteer plants?

Planting, Planting, Planting!

April 28, 2014

This week, my (7.5yo) daughter started her garden by planting lettuce, carrots, marigolds, daisies, and wildflowers. These are seeds that were given to her but she fully intends on turning a profit from them. The two chicks that hatched about a month ago are hers as well (she took care of them pre-hatching and takes care of them now as well). She is excited that one day, she will be getting money year-round for eggs!

I planted some sunflower circles for the kids (red and yellow). I am afraid the circles may be too small but there is nothing I can do about it…it is planted now. I also transplanted one of the sunflowers that came up in my greenhouses. They want these sunflower circles so they can have a shaded ‘fort’ to go into during the summer. You may have seen sunflower circles on Pinterest.Nieto Family - April 21 14 - 0131Nieto Family - April 21 14 - 0132Other things planted this week:

  • Beans – snaps, black, and pinto (dried beans are not expensive but organic is not available where I live and we eat beans for our main protein source so it is worth it to me to grow)
  • 3 Sister’s Garden – sweet corn, runner beans, butternut squash, Boston Marrow squash, and cucumbers
  • Tomatoes – Roma, Jellybean, Cherry, Rutgers, Homestead
  • Peppers – California Wonder
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • More sunflowers & cucumbers (sunflowers for the chickens & cucumbers for us! you can never have too many! 🙂 )

I’ll share pictures when/if they sprout 🙂 Until then, who wants to see pictures of trenches and mulch?

Some things were transplanted from the greenhouses as well:

  • Sunflower (already mentioned)
  • Red Romaine Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach

 Nieto Family - April 21 14 - 0138Kale Nieto Family - April 23 14 - 0001Transplanted Nieto Family - April 21 14 - 0137Red Romaine Nieto Family - April 23 14 - 0004Transplanted Nieto Family - April 23 14 - 0006

Spinach to the right is transplanted from greenhouses. Spinach to the left were direct seeded. This is the first time I’ve ever grown spinach in greenhouses — I thought it was pointless because they grow so well in cool temps. Not sure I’ll waste a greenhouse on spinach next year…

One last thing I did this week: I buried my runt sweet potatoes from last year (halfway in soil, like a boat, then covered with mulch) in order to grow slips. The raised bed I buried them in has been covered for a couple of weeks with clear plastic, in order to warm the soil. I covered it again in clear plastic (with hoops) to keep it super warm. I need to make sure I keep them well-watered and some slips should be ready to be planted in two to three weeks. Nieto Family - April 21 14 - 0136I have always heard of people growing slips in window sills, in water, but our house is tucked in among trees. This is a blessing with our electricity bill but it makes it nearly impossible to grow anything in a window sill. I read the ‘burying the sweet potatoes like a boat’ method is the way seed companies do it so I figured it was worth a shot! I’ll keep you updated on how it goes…or doesn’t…

A couple of hours after I planted tomatoes and peppers, we had a HUGE storm come through. Amazing rain, wind, and hail. I went to check on everything afterward…wow. Nieto Family - April 25 14 - 0034 Nieto Family - April 25 14 - 0137 Nieto Family - April 25 14 - 0235Peas flattened…they bounced back though 🙂

Mulch was washed everywhere! It had completely covered some of the plants that had sprouted months prior. I moved a lot of the mulch to uncover and support the small plants. The hoops covering the sweet potatoes had collapsed. When I lifted the plastic, the sweet potato box flooded and sweet potatoes floated to the top.Nieto Family - April 25 14 - 0219(This picture was AFTER I uncovered the spinach plants that were buried by mulch.)

With all of that, I can only assume many of the seeds planted just previous to the storm (tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, cucumbers, even beans) were washed away, or at the very least, moved. 😦 I’ll have to wait and see whether or not they come up in a week or two to make the final assessment though.

As far as harvests, the chickens are still producing like crazy 🙂 We were able to get rid of 7 dozen eggs on Easter Sunday (sunrise service breakfast) so that was nice. I have a feeling we’ll have to start getting creative as they summer progresses…

Check out what’s going on with everyone else’s gardens at Daphne’s Dandelions 🙂