Friday, March 26, 2010

Boredom with Early Spring

Spring has sprung. I am bored as hell with its progress though. I am diligently turning my cover crops into the soil, preparing seed beds, starting seeds for transplant, and watching things slowly spring in to action.

That said, things are moving slowly. I mentioned in a previous post that I planted peas - way back on 3/13. They still have not poked out of the ground, I am starting to get paranoid that they are all dud seeds. I know this is not the case as one seed packet was purchased this year.

Some zinnias and some Nicotiana have sprouted in the greenhouse - now I need to protect them from slugs. My peppers, eggplants, rudbeckia, cosmos, chives, coleus, snapdragons, lobelia, parsley, are just bare looking pots of dirt, nothing to even mention yet. The peppers and eggplants have been sitting there for nearly two weeks now - in past years they take between 2-3 weeks, so its normal, but I am impatient!

I have hardened off my sweet peas and transplanted spinach out into the garden. I have some lettuce and onions that should be transplanted soon. Big deal. Nothing is growing in earnest, and the yard still looks like its basically winter. :(

I am starting to see the lillies poke the soil surface, and I am starting to see action with my hardy salvias and my viburnum. My blueberries are budding out. But damn it, I want more action! In the meantime, I'll just keep weeding :(

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Seed Organization and other stuff

Okay, so I realize now - into my 3rd post on this unread blog that a gardening blog is a slow process. You have to wait for things to grow and develop, bloom and fruit, you even have to wait for them to go dormant and then sit around dreaming about how things might work out next season. It all starts with a few seeds for me every year, so I have been messing around a lot lately with my seeds. I have organized them into monthly sections and again into flowers versus veggies. I even got bored enough waiting for spring that I am trying to better organize my self-harvested seeds by creating a custom seed packet with elmers glue and a visio template:

I have noticed that I may be in for some real trouble this year if my seeds are no longer viable. Most of them are from 2-3 years old now, and may be pretty unviable.. If that is the case, I may be looking at a lot of money being spent on starts from the nursery or else a very bare vegetable garden.

So that said, I am trying to figure out ways to start taking better care of my seeds. I am also starting to think about a few heirloom varieties. I purchased a book called "Seed to Seed"
that will take me through the various vegetable varieties and will tell me about how to maintain strain purity using isolation distances, and otherwise how to create and maintain a constant supply of seeds.

You may have seen from my garden plan, and the pictures of my yard that I don't really have much space for all of this activity, so I might just be deluding myself into thinking I will be able to do vegetables, flowers and bi-annual plants just for seeds all at the same time, and at the same time try and get my isolation right.

I likely will end up just doing some unplanned hybridization (like with my hot peppers for example) and get some sort of habanero and poblano cross or an early girl and roma cross. I do want to attempt to get carrot seed, but have heard that even getting a pure pollination I still might get bad or bland tasting carrots with the seed crop. Whatever, maybe its just seed company propaganda. I probably won't bother trying to get zucchini and pumpkin seed - I am nearly sure they will have to be too close together to not get an unwanted pollination. I'll probably hedge my bets and do a planting of home-grown seed and purchased seed just to see what I can do.

Garden Update:
I planted my peas in the ground, plus a couple spinach seeds over last weekend (3/13 I think). I also planted my peppers and eggplants in pots on a germination mat. Nothing has sprouted yet. I didn't blog about it, but my sweet peas have their cotyledons up (in the greenhouse). I am excited to put them on the deck and enjoy their sweet smell...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Early Spring

I think this time of year is what the garden books and seed packets call early spring. I might be a couple weeks too early, but I think there is finally starting to be a few new things to do. I spent all last summer working on a barren yard that looked really boring, and now I am excited to watch the garden fill out, and show me space where I can plant some more plants.

Weather:
It's been a balmy winter hovering around 50degrees through most of January and February, where now in March, we have had a couple highs close to 60. Though today we have sat around 45 degrees all day long, so I know I can't be too aggressive.

February Activity:
I planted onion seeds in a pot around mid-Feb (the 13th or so). That is probably a little late, but I dunno - better than not planting them at all I say. There are a few of those overwintering onions still left in the ground, so that is pretty cool. On around 2/23, I planted a couple spinach seeds in pots, and a couple lettuce seeds in pots. All my seeds are up and growing.

Also, over the course of 3 or 4 weeks, I dug out a plot in the front yard - about 8 feet by 24 feet. I did this between my two dwarf apples that I planted 2 years back. I simply tilled under a patch of dandilions on the parking strip (which in oulying Seattle are all sans sidewalks), and just kept breaking up the big chunks of weed sod with a mattock (by hand - which was young mans work, but I did it anyways). I then went the extra mile and turned the compost pile which was full of sod from the excavation project last year and now almost completely decomposed and fortified with a fall and winters worth of veggie scraps from the kitchen and spread 4-5 wheelbarrow loads over the plot. I'll get up photos when I can.

Here is the garden plan I've made for the year:

March Activity
I'll plant my peas this month, and start a bunch of the summer crops (peppers and eggplant, I'll wait till April 1 for my tomatos).

I purchased a 50 ft semi-hard 0.5inch plastic hose - the kind used for landscape sprikler systems, and plan on using it to build a tunnel cloche frame - with a nylon fabric over them. I'll cut little trenches out of small scraps of the hose to create clips to secure the fabric. Its all a theory at this point, at garden stores there is a surprising lack of cloching equipment.

I've also laid out black plastic over all the unplanted garden area (which is nearly everything at this point) to heat up the ground. I'll remove it piecemeal as the garden goes in.

Other Planning

I plan on doing a garden succession this year - I've never done this before. I think the garlic comes out in late June, the lettuce should be getting regularly harvested and re-planted, the peas will come out in July. So in those spots in the garden, I want to be filling in any of the following, and am not precisely sure where, but here are the latest planting dates for these crops as I understand them for the Seattle area:

  • Broccoli - June 25
  • Chard - July 15
  • Carrots - July 15
  • Spinach - August 5
  • Lettuce - August 10 (I can probably get away with a little bit later)
  • Onions - August 15
  • And of course Garlic which can go in mid October

I've started thinking about flowers too, but these are sort of on the back burner - I have my hands full. I put a bag of cold wet seed starting mix and some echinacea seeds in the fridge, and those will get planted in pots in early April. Other seeds will probably just get direct seeded towards may, or else in pots in April. I am taking the flower garden much less seriously, but hopefully it will turn out nice.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Garden




I've spent all spring and summer digging up my yard. I started the year with a mound of grassed over dirt that was about 15feet X 15 feet, and about 3-4 feet deep. My wife and i dug the sucker up over the course of about 2 months. At the end of that time, we discovered that previous tenants of our home were very lazy and covered what looked like rubble from a very large fountain made out of shale. They just dumped dirt on top of it, over the pump and everything. There were about 3 truck-loads of brick, shale and random concrete rubble, and we were able to dump it very inexpensively at Pacific Topsoil over near the corner of 105th and Aurora (about $30 per truck load of rock, concrete and brick).

We had at least a ton of dirt to move, and simply spread it out on our ugly and weedy lawn, covering the whole thing by the end of the process of mound removal. I really hope that it doesn't grow back up through the dirt, but its been so dry this summer, that I am guessing all that old lawn is dead by now, and that it will eventually decompose.

After the mound was removed, I spent a few weeks planning and building a raised bed in which I plan to plant a nice vegetable garden next spring. To fill in the planter, I've bought 6 yards of "Special Garden Mix" topsoil I purchsed from Pacific Topsoil. I probably bought 2 yards too many, but was able to spread it out nicely across parts of the yard to sweeten the soil. Look at the rediculous hops vine sprawling on my deck - next summer it will be strung up with that pole I cut out of the pear tree.

I then planted 15 X 15 foot patch of shade type grass in the spot my former mound used to be. Its a nice spot cause it gets shade during the hottest parts of my afternoon (the time of day my deck just bakes in the sun).

I've been waiting for the rains and cooler weather to start buying, moving plants around the yard. So far this September, I've been able to get quite a few good deals at the Sky Nursery - they have some 30% off deals on perennials, and now is the time. I'll try and get pictures up of the process over time.

In August, I thought I would get a head-start on my veggie garden. I made a boner move though, and planted a storage onion (Copra onions) instead of overwintering onions (which you should avoid my mistakes next year and pick Walla Walla or Hi-Ball). I've also planted 4 little spots with loose-leaf lettuce (a variety pack from Territorial.) I've got a question out to some gardeners at OSU about the Copra onions and if I should just plant over them with a green cover this winter and forget about them, or leave them be and see if it works out. I'll probably just leave them and report back here if / when they fail.

I still have some work to do this fall. I have to plant my cover crops - I don't want grasses and weeds to invade the yard, and I want to add some organic matter to my soil this winter. The dirt under that mound after the first 6-10 inches was pretty depleted, but it was nice loam. Certain parts were pretty clayish though :(