Monday, August 29, 2011

Harvest Time

I think it's safe to say that this has been a good year for cucumbers in spite of the extended cold spring weather.

This is our second round of picking - we've already pickled some last week, eaten quite a few fresh and given several bags away to neighbors and friends.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quick Photo Update

Just a quick photo-only garden update:

Photo taken right after my morning run at 6:00 am

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, July 4, 2011

Another Whimsical Garden Project

current work-in-progress

A couple of my neighbors have told me that they love how whimsical our garden is.  

I told Charlie that it made me wonder if 'whimsical' is a really nice way of saying that we choose a lot of rather garish colors for our garden structures.  Oh well, if so, here comes another whimsical garden project, lol!

(please note that all of our neighbors are quite nice and lovely, and I don't really think that any of them are trying to give some sort of backhanded insult - it was just a funny thought)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cone of Plenty

Ginormous cone o' string

Pretty sure we won't have to worry about running out of string this year...

(or perhaps even next year and the year after that)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Potato Blossoms and Bindweed

potato blossom with bonus field bindweed

The potatoes that Charlie planted back in February are starting to bloom. I think these are the fingerlings, but I don't know for certain because someone neglected to make up labels as they were planting. ::cough, cough, Charlie, cough::

We used the potatoes that we grew last year that somehow escaped being eaten for dinner and sprouted quietly in a corner of the basement.

These were planted in a trench and then hilled two or three times as the vines grew up. We'll harvest the potatoes once they're done flowering and the vines start to die back.

At one point I was concerned that the vines were developing a blight because the leaves looked singed and crispy, but the vines bounced right back and look nice and healthy now so, in retrospect, I think it was just the really unseasonably cold weather we had this spring.

The field bindweed* that you see amongst the potatoes is a real problem in our area and the end of the garden where the potatoes are this year has the heaviest bindweed infestation. I plan to clear out this area after the potatoes are harvested and work on eradicating this weed with some focused weeding and root removal followed by a late summer/early fall application of RoundUp.

Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)

We usually rely on persistent manual weeding and root removal to clear out an area (which is exactly how we cleared out the huge patch of ivy in the back yard after we bought this house), however bindweed is very challenging to clear out this way and even if one is really dedicated it only provides limited (and usually temporary) success. Missing just a couple of bits of vine allows the roots to quickly regrow and a single, tiny piece of root will rapidly produce miles of vine that quickly overwhelm other plants, being nearly impossible to remove without damage to the desirable plant.

Field bindweed in perennial fuchsia

So just how difficult is field bindweed to control?
Here's an excerpt from the link about field bindweed above:
In its first year it can grow from seed into a plant with a root system five feet deep and ten feet in diameter with many plant shoots. Each plant will store nutrients in the root system that can reach depths of greater than fifteen feet and will grow new plants wherever the root is broken.

Each plant can produce as many as 500 seeds that can sprout for over 5o years.
(emphasis is mine)

That's why I like to combine manual removal (to weaken root reserves) with a carefully timed, light application of RoundUp. RoundUp gives really good results if used in the late summer or fall when the plant is storing energy and nutrients back down to the roots. If applied earlier in the season, the plant is growing from the root and will quickly recover from the initial die-back, requiring multiple applications. My goal is to kill the bindweed while using as little chemical spray as possible.

* also often referred to as morning glory, wild morning glory, European bindweed or creeping jenny

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekend Progress 6/05/2011

Just a quick Monday morning post on the weekend activity. I worked in the garden until 6:30 pm and, as usual, after dinner I just did not have the energy to go back to the office and sit at the computer to write a garden update.

I'm still trying to get caught up on the planting, hopefully the end of this week will find the garden back on track.

I planted pole beans, cucumbers, *another* planting of snap peas (third time's a charm?) and more lettuce and greens. I also thinned and fertilized the broccoli. I still need to thin the onions.

Weekend Before and After:

June 3, 2011 (my weekend starts on Friday)

June 5, 2011

I think I need to pick a different location to take the weekly photos. These two shots are both taken from the sidewalk at the end of the driveway. The combination of the location and the wide angle of the camera lens is making the trellises look a bit off-kilter and tilted. They look straight in real life.

The green trellises on the right are for the cucumbers.

The unlovely pile of lumber in all of these shots is for the test fence section that we need to build. Charlie and I did some sample layouts on Memorial Day weekend and (finally) decided on a pattern so now we just need order the remaining supplies and get started.

Here's a slightly different shot of the garden from the driveway next to the house:

The hoop house is covering the broccoli and cabbage. We seem to get a LOT of cabbage moths here and even though I'm diligent about regularly checking the leaves and hand picking the caterpillars and the eggs, there is always one or two that escape execution and they can cause significant damage when the plants are young and the leaves are small. This is our first attempt at using floating row cover (Reemay) to prevent insect damage so Charlie and I are both really interested to see how it works out.

We need to build a second hoop setup over the carrots (the bed to the left in the photo above) this week because I want to prevent a repeat of last year's carrot fly infestation that rendered a lot of the carrots inedible.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Many Parts Are Edible

What would Euell Gibbons eat?

Sure, good old Euell liked to stalk the wild asparagus, thought GrapeNuts tasted like wild hickory nuts, and tried to convince us that many parts of pine trees were edible (notice that he never said they were actually *tasty*, just edible), but would how do you think he would feel about a nice pan of scrambled Fuligo Septica?

Charlie discovered an odd-looking volunteer in the garden the other day near the raspberries. We both thought it was some sort of fungus but it turns out it’s actually a slime mold* even though, rather confusingly, it goes by the common name of ‘Dog Vomit Fungus.’

It just so happens that our recent weather was just about textbook perfect for being conducive to the development of this slime mold; a bout of drenching late spring rain followed by warmer weather. Combine that with our generous use of hog fuel mulch and you get a perfect slime mold nursery scenario.

Had I realized the interesting progression of the slime mold, I’d have taken a series of photos that showed the dramatic development, oh well, maybe next time. Instead you get a photo that shows the slime mold as it moved from the colorful, quickly creeping phase into its less interesting ‘drying up so I can disperse spores and take over the world’ stage:

Here’s a photo that I borrowed from the Dog Vomit Fungus Pictures and Information page that shows the colorful early stage (also? It grows and creeps rather quickly at this stage)

According to a Chicago Tribune article, Dog Vomit Fungus is edible and native people in some parts of Mexico gather it and scramble it like eggs for a dish called ‘Caca de Luna’ (essentially, moon poop).

I think you really have to respect the imagination and sense of adventure
(not to mention the intestinal fortitude) of the first person who looked a dog vomit fungus and thought ‘hmm, I wonder what that would taste like scrambled?’

Thankfully, slime molds aren’t harmful in the garden, which is good since there isn’t really any way to prevent them.

So there you go, we do the research so you don’t have to! 

Remember, with a name like ‘Caca de Luna’, it has to be good (and Smuckers thought *they* had it bad - ha!)

*and even more confusingly, slime molds aren't actually a mold (a type of fungi) either.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 22, 2011

Another post-dated post. I haven't seemed to master the art of working in the garden most of the day and writing a blog post the same evening. Charlie and I came in from the garden at about 6:00 pm, cleaned up, walked the dog, stopped by the grocery store (it's within walking distance so part of the dog walk), came home cooked dinner, cleaned the kitchen and then that was about all she wrote for the evening, lol.

We got the two top dressed beds turned under and raked, assembled the bean trellises, weeded, and planted carrots in bed 1 and marigolds at the ends of beds 2 and 3.

April-planted onions - carrots are at the back

fall-planted garlic

Garden view from the driveway

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Quick Update for May 21, 2011

Not looking too much different yet...

Yesterday's morning activities and errands seemed to expand into the afternoon of their own accord and before I knew it, most of the day was gone with very little gardening progress to show for it.

Which is why at 4:00 pm yesterday Charlie and I were shoveling mushroom compost out of the truck in the rain in order to top dress some beds and make some headway on the list of tasks still to be done for this weekend.
beds top dressed with fresh mushroom compost

I also managed to make some progress removing that last patch of sod near the driveway (Charlie had gotten it started a few days ago).

The salad mix is coming along now that the weather has progressed from frigid to merely chilly

hurry and grow, I would like to eat you!

The peas have been kind of a non-starter this year. We've grown peas without any difficulties in the past so I suspect that the varieties I've chosen this year are not a good match.
The Sugar Star snap peas have been planted twice (they occupy the blank spot in the photo below) and, with the exception of three plants from the second planting, failed to come up both times. The Avalanche Snow pea is currently doing a little better.

the rather pathetic pea patch

So now I'm off to run some hopefully shorter errands today and then get out in the garden to finish up the weekend to-do list before the work week starts up again. I'm running behind on planting, having gotten distracted with some other non-vegetable garden projects.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Rhubarb Deflowering

Last week after yet another of the very large, hairy dog's many daily constitutionals, Charlie and I rounded the corner near our garden and happened to notice that the rhubarb had a large flower stalk emerging from the center of the plant. Hmmm, that's interesting, I thought to myself, I don't remember the rhubarb ever flowering before. Is it supposed to flower? Better go check the Google...

As it turns out, flowering rhubarb is not, as Martha Stewart would say, 'a good thing'.
According to the oracle of Google, rhubarb may flower for various reasons:
- the selection may be prone to bolting
- plant maturity (older plants are more prone to bolting)
- low nutrients in soil
- weather (plants stressed due to drought or heat may be more likely to bolt)
- excessive crowding

Given that we've just experienced the wettest, coldest April on record for quite some time here in the PNW, I think the weather options can be ruled out. I fertilized and then mulched with mushroom compost last year so I think the plants are good nutrition-wise. The plants were here when we bought this house about 12 years ago so I suppose maturity could be a factor.

I'm going to have to go with 'crowding' as the primary cause since we moved the rhubarb from the ground near the sidewalk to one of the raised beds two years ago when we were removing the horrible yew bushes near the back fence (the rhubarb had to be moved to avoid being run over by equipment), and the plants have really flourished in the new location (most likely due to better summer irrigation but the better soil and mushroom compost has surely played a role as well) and are larger than ever but the roots are now constrained by the sides of the raised beds.

Allowing rhubarb to flower greatly reduces production, since the plants biological mission to reproduce and blanket the earth with rhubarb seed will have been accomplished at this point and it doesn't really have much incentive to continue to work at growing stalks as a result, thank you very much. Therefore, it's very important to remove the flower stalks as soon as possible in order to ensure the ongoing availability of delicious rhubarb stalks for as long as possible.

Here Garden Guy demonstrates how to successfully deflower your rhubarb:

hold the stalk and cut near the base*...

and remove

be sure to look for smaller flower stalks hiding in the leaves...

and cut those out as well

You can check here for more handy tips about growing rhubarb.

Gardening with Ciscoe had an interesting looking rhubarb recipe featured on a recent show: Rustic Rhubarb Tarts. I bought some puff pastry the other day and plan on making them this weekend. I'll be sure to report back on how they turn out!

Oh, and an update about my unfortunate new Crimson Red rhubarb start that I ordered this year from Territorial Seed: I called the very helpful folks at Territorial and told them about my rhubarb failure and they refunded my money no questions asked since they were sold out of rhubarb starts and there were no more available from the grower.

* As you might suspect, this post was full of tempting opportunities for some double entendre fun. I hope you will appreciate the rare display of self-control and maturity that prevailed. Barely.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Garden Portrait - 04/27/2011

The garden still looks pretty bare at this point:

you can just barely make out the newly planted blueberry bushes in front here.
The dead looking sticks to the left of the blueberries are our new raspberries
(currently not looking too promising)

The stakes and twine are serving as stand-ins for the fence we're planning to put up this year. Nothing too big, just large enough to keep out the free-range neighborhood dog(s) who insist on walking through freshly planted beds or to serve as a slightly more inconvenient barrier for mischief makers who pull out pepper plants planted close to the sidewalk. We're thinking something picket fence sized but with a horizontal design rather than the typical vertical one, which we think would be more in keeping with our 1960's ranch house.

We really like the current open quality of the garden, and judging by the disappointment that we sensed from the neighbors when the fence was mentioned it seems they do too, but it's a bit too open right now. The plan is to design a fence that will protect the garden but still allow it to feel accessible and friendly because Charlie and I both enjoy how many of our neighbors stop to chat with us when we're out there working and would hate to lose that.

The type and size of fence we're considering won't do anything to keep the deer out unfortunately. May have to come up with a secondary plan for that situation.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Garden Update - April 22, 2011

(sorry, no photos for now but I'll update later - I wanted to get this blog post written while I was thinking of it since waiting until I have everything ready usually results in not having time to write the actual post)

Sometimes the hardest part of getting a blog post together (for me anyway) is trying to come up with a snappy title for the post. You can see how hard I worked at it for this post.

But I had to move past that limitation because there's a lot of garden accomplishments to post before I lose track of them. I'd already forgotten about a few Add Imagethings I've gotten done this month and had to go back through my impromptu Facebook posts to refresh my memory.

New to the garden this year are some perennial fruits and veggies.
Charlie and I have decided to forego corn in the garden, it doesn't really do very well for us here and takes up a considerable amount of space for not a lot of food in return (in other words, the ROI is not worth it). So in the front garden space formerly occupied by corn, we have:

12 Raspberry plants (all planted 4/10/11)

5 blueberry bushes (all planted 4/9/11)

and 2 wine grapes (still to be planted)
Zweigelt Grape
Burmunk Grape (Raintree - no link available)

The wine grapes were an impulse purchase of Charlie's and there were some rather ::cough:: extended negotiations involved in deciding where they could be planted.

Another impulse purchase by the garden guy while wandering the greenhouse at Raintree: Marionberry plants. I have no idea where we are going to put those. (I thought accountants were supposed to be the obsessive, pre-planner personality type?)

In the narrow garden bed that runs along the sidewalk there are 25 newly planted Jersey Supreme asparagus crowns. I planted them on 4/8/2011 and there are currently just a few skinny spears poking up over the initial 3 inch layer of soil used to cover the crowns.

I have dedicated one of the raised beds at the back of the garden to 28 Tri-Star Strawberries. The bundle was for 25 but apparently a couple of tiny bonus crowns crept in to the bundle.

Back in February (2/18/2011, I believe), Charlie planted out some potatoes. They were our harvest from last year that had gotten sprouty in the basement. The leaves are up and ready to be covered up again soon.

Once again our PNW weather has been exceptionally cold and wet so I haven't gotten a lot of planting done, but here's what I've got in (all seeds from Territorial Seed Company):

Planted planted 4/5/11
Sugar Star Snap Pea

Planted 4/10/11
Candy Sweet Onion
Copra Storage Onion
Salad mix (my own random mix of last year's lettuce and herb seeds)

Planted 4/15/11
Red Bull Storage Onion

I also planted a new Crimson Red rhubarb start but it seems to have died. I'll be following up with Territorial Seed on it as it looked a bit sad when it arrived but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and planted it out anyway. My other established rhubarb plants look great so I don't think this new plant's untimely demise was due to bad weather for rhubarb. Hopefully Territorial won't balk at replacing it.

Today we are having more traditional PNW spring weather. It's only 39F degrees right now (at 9:10 PDT), but the forecast is for sunny and 58F degrees today. I'll be out in the garden!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Belated Garlic Update

During a (much overdue) cleaning of the office, I found my empty garlic bags that I'd stashed in there, and then subsequently forgotten about, so that I'd remember to blog how much garlic I'd planted.

I also neglected to log my total harvest last year but the we used a lot of garlic from the garden in last year's pickling production and just general eating before planting the remainder out in Fall 2010:
Chinese Pink: 9.25 oz (early)
Broadleaf Czech: 11 oz (mid-season)
Italian Late: 1 lb 2 oz (late)

I only bought 8 oz of each variety in Fall 2009 so I think we had a pretty good rate of return on the garlic investment.

My plan is to buy a couple more varieties this coming fall.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Garden Art

As a result of his time in the welding studio at SPSCC, Garden Guy has been busy in the off season creating some wonderful art for our garden:

Mr. Rusty Head in the garden

Though our eventual goal is to have more fall and winter gardening, right now the only gardening going on in the colder months is the imaginary sort. I've been perusing our many seed catalogs and reading gardening books (and wishing for fresh vegetables!) while day dreaming of warmer weather.

In the interim, Mr. Rusty Head is keeping an eye on things for us!