Saturday, July 11, 2015

we'll just call it a fallow year

Behold the most intensive and successful agriculture going on in my backyard this year:






I ruined it shortly after taking the photo, though I'm sure I haven't deterred them for good. The host plant there is a red elderberry, and despite being the site of an extensive aphid farm it's thriving -- I planted it as a bare-root stick this spring and it's now tall enough to look me in the eyes, with rich green foliage and plenty of it. It's honestly the most successful of its group. The ants know how to pick a good farm site, I guess.

Mostly things are not happening this year. I spent some crucial months being not well enough to support the garden the way it needed, and now that we're having an alarmingly hot and extra-dry summer it's too late to recover any of the spring annual crops. I did get a few small onions out of the back garden, and the cherry tree I planted last year bore enough cherries this year for a batch of really delicious syrup to pour over ice cream (pit 2 cups tart cherries, place in small pot with 1/4 cup local honey, heat gently until boiling, simmer a few minutes, cool a little bit and serve). So it's not a complete loss? But a very good thing I'm not depending on my direct efforts for any substantial amount of food.

I'm going to have to attack the southeast corner of the garden with power tools, I think, where the neighbors haven't rooted out a blackberry problem and now it has spilled over the fence with a vengeance. And probably I should just sheet mulch 95% of the garden at this point and start over when the rains come back. Well. One learns even when one doesn't produce.

Monday, May 18, 2015

tree update

Utterly failing to keep up and make timely notes ever, the lifestyle~

Just moved 4 of the 5 Indian plums i planted this spring from the native plant sale; the only one that was thriving was the one completely under the shade of the maple. The others were all sad little sticks with withered leaves. But they're not dead, so I moved them into shadier spots and watered them and hopefully they'll perk up a bit. Will have to remember to water them more often so they can get established.

I'm honestly not doing very well at getting a vegetable garden going this year, but I'm at least making some progress on the front. And I do have a few things to set out in the garden soon, including crookneck squash, paste tomatoes, and my tiny soviet melons.

The apple tree has loads of tiny fruit on it this year, after not setting any last year, so that's a good sign for pollination. The quince had lovely blossoms but is setting no fruit at all. The cherry is going to need bird netting any day now as its loads of green fruit start turning red. The peach has a terrible case of leaf curl and may not make it. The mulberry is young but beautiful.

Also I recently planted a madrona, because I love them dearly, and here's hoping it survives; they apparently are very hard to transplant and cope badly with any disturbance of the root system. But maybe!!!

Monday, March 16, 2015

tomato notes

Started a bunch of paste tomatoes in tiny pots on a heat mat last month. Moved them up to 4" pots tonight. The Amish Paste from Baker Creek seems to be slightly better performing (13/14 vigorous enough to be worth transplanting) than the Sheboygan from Uprising (10/14). The Amish ones are in the colored pots; the Sheboygans are in the black pots.

Next repotting: april?

Friday, March 13, 2015

buried treasure!!!

Look what I found when I was digging a hole for the last of the blue elderberries:
Trowel included for scale. On the bright side, by the time I finally got it out of there, I had PLENTY of room for the bare roots of the plant.

The more sincere buried treasure that I've been turning up in all this digging is, of course, the worms. The dirt below the sod layer is pretty barren and compacted, but in among the grass roots I've been finding some nice fat earthworms. And they've already started to colonize the dirt I had trucked in, too, which I take it to mean that it meets with their approval. One of the ones I turned up the other day was so big I didn't recognize it at first glance. Onward, little detritovores!

This weekend I need to repot my tomatoes for the first time. They've gotten their first true leaves and are a bit leggy, so time to move them into 4-inch pots and bury some of that excess stem so it can get to rooting.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Springing

I'm just not good at posts with pictures; waiting to get pictures of things means the things don't get posted. So here's a post with a lot of text instead.

 I have two big outdoor goals this year: to no longer need to mow the front slope, and to encourage more pollinators to hang out here. I've been working on both of them in the last few weeks! Saturday of last week was the annual King Conservation District native plant sale. I preordered a few things, and then went down there with H so we could both buy some stuff in the walk-up sale too. Now, looking at the prices on the website, I thought "well, that's a little high but reasonable," and ordered two blue elderberries and one mock orange. Then we got to the sale, and we discovered that I had ordered two bundles etc, and that each bundle was 10 bare-root plants. We promptly strategically divided our lists so we didn't repeat species, and bought bundles of a bunch of other stuff too.

 But then we have the best problem ever: so many plants that need to get in the ground! And it's a beautiful weekend! So for the rest of Saturday we worked in H's tiny back yard, where we moved around clumps of rosemary and oregano to make room for various exciting berries. She also gave me two of her rose bushes, since she's really short of space and I'm not so much, and when I got home I plopped those into the front garden bed beside the driveway, which has had a big blank spot in it ever since the old heating oil tank came out of its underground lair.

Sunday it was my turn.

Friday, January 9, 2015

buy less, make more

2015 got off to a bit of a rocky start for me -- I got food poisoning on the night of the 2nd. I'd never had the full-blown experience before, the fever and shakes and convulsive voiding of the whole GI tract by any available means. Now that I have, I think once was enough. I was mostly wiped out for the rest of the weekend and only started eating actual meals again on Monday. Food is still making me kind of nauseous most of the time, as my colonies of carefully selected internal symbiotes struggle to recover from the purge. I have been carefully applying small doses of kombucha and live-culture yogurt to encourage them. I miss my symbiotes. :(

This weekend, though! This weekend I'm going to sit down for real and make a plan for the garden. I think the rule is that I have to make a basic list before I open a catalog, so that I'm then shopping only for varieties instead of completely impulse buying. There are just too many beautiful things from Baker Creek otherwise.

Also this weekend, or later this month, making a plan for the front yard: the street-facing 1/3 or so of the yard is on a slope, which makes mowing it absolutely awful, so it's first on my list for replanting. I recently made a commitment to actively study and practice Druidry, and as part of that commitment I took a few vows to do things this year that would lessen my impact on the earth and improve the health of my environment. One of them was to rework that area from lawn (which supports very little wildlife) into a stand of native shrubs and wildflowers (which will support birds, bees, squirrels, butterflies, all the tiny unappreciated fauna that live in and around fertile soil....). I'm looking forward to the transformation so much. Even the part where it's going to take a lot of digging and grubbing in the dirt and digging some more.

Also also, I wanted to mention my one resolution for this year: buy less, make more. More and more, I find that consuming passively doesn't give me much pleasure, whereas the time and effort involved in making things to meet my own needs are immensely satisfying. Learn, make, thrive: the good life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Planning season

There isn't really an off season for the garden, is there? It's actually a prepare-for-the-next-growth season.

The Baker Creek seed catalog reached me this week, which means I'm now swooning over pages and pages of full-color photos of beautiful, unusual vegetable varieties. Currently I'm mostly in the ridiculous wishlist phase (what if I tried amaranth again!) and only just starting to consider more practical considerations (early snap peas in the bed near the strawberries sure would be nice).

I'm thinking a lot, though, about how to manage seedlings' light needs. I want to be able to do tomatoes again, because they're such a staple in my kitchen. Given how late the warm season starts here, that means giving them a good long indoor stay to bulk up; last summer, the plants I got substantial production from were ones I bought from a nursery, and they started their seedlings in January or February.

They also almost definitely used grow lights to get theirs going, which I fussed about back in May. I'm still committed on principle to minimizing the external energy inputs I use for the garden, though, so I'm wondering about what I could do with our existing solar power. I've been thinking about trying to set up a reflective/mirrored screen to set behind the seedling trays, so it could bounce back sunlight from the window to give them a second shot at it. Ideally, that would give them extra light and heat to encourage growth without taking constant infusions of electricity. In a worst case, it just fries them. Maybe I'll set up a control group so I can actually measure what difference it makes.

Much later in the year, I think I'm going to want to start my fall seedlings outside this summer, instead of leaving them in the spare room (where honestly I think they probably baked). If I can get the cold frame done early this year, which just means getting off my lazy butt and doing the job, then I'll have a nice set-aside space; I can leave the glass top open and rig some kind of screen to filter the south and west sun, so they get some light but not enough to overwhelm them. Bonus, this minimizes the amount of hardening off they'll need when it's time to move them out to the beds.