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The Garden Report

I’m way overdue for some birthday posts, but we spent today puttering around the garden and the yard in general, so I snapped a bunch of pics and will just talk about that instead. 

I tend to be pretty optimistic on my seedling starting dates, so unfortunately my basil and tomatoes are more than ready to go in the ground… but we have some predicted overnight lows of 45*F this week, so I’m trying to hold off on transplanting for now. My system of leaving the tomato pots out during the day and tossing my PVC pipe coldframe on them at night has been working quite well though. Here are the 16 plants that fit in the cold frame, they’re in 1 gallon pots, and the coldframe is sitting in the background, where I generally leave it during the day:


The wire fencing was an impromptu barrier against a rampaging toddler. 

The rest of my seedlings mostly stay on this little “greenhouse shelf”:

Because the basil plants are still in 4″ pots I worry about them not retaining enough heat at night so I’ve been bringing them in pretty much every night that’s supposed to get under 50*. I’m getting pretty sick of it though, so I think I’ll go ahead and stick them in the ground on the warmest looking night this week and hope for the best. I do have a bunch of individual plastic cloches, so I’m thinking I’ll cover them for the first few nights, but after that I think I’ll just wish them good luck and call it done. 

I’m trying again with peppers despite last year’s failure, but this year I’m going to be much more serious about keeping them warm, so I’ll be babying them along in individual pots for quite awhile. I may not put them into the ground until June. I had them on the greenhouse shelf with the basil, but it’s been cold enough I finally decided to bring them back into the garage with the warminb mat underneath and the grow light on top:


It feels so silly to have them under grow lights when it’s so nice and spring-like outside, but it’s not supposed to even get up to 70* for the next week. Bah. 

Moving back outside, here are some new things I’m trying this year… potatoes (foreground box) and snap peas (background box):


I planted them both in February, but they spent a  lot of time doing nothing and then finally went to town once it stopped raining. I used the hoop over the potatoes to throw plastic over them and keep the rain off so they wouldn’t get too waterlogged. Once they’re done I’m going to refill the box with soil and put green beans in on a trellis. The trellis that’s currently holding the peas in the other box will get spaghetti squash in a month or so. 

Here’s my garlic (going great) and broccoli (why can’t I grow straight broccoli? Sad face):


Oh and I have volunteer cilantro all over the place. πŸ™‚

And here’s some spinach that’s kinda growing. And non-existent carrots. (I sowed seeds and saw some growth but it’s gone now.) And kale that seems to have survived being transplanted:


Perhaps the spinach would grow better if the toddler didn’t sit on it? Anyway, this is the “partially shaded” box, but it’s a lot less shady now because we just had the tree people in to lop the top off our elderberry:


Okay, that photo isn’t terribly illuminating, but just take my word for it that it’s a lot shorter now. πŸ™‚

Moving along, I got more bare root strawberries this year, and they’re already a lot bigger than when I tried to plant them last year. Good job, self. Here they are, in the foreground and along the left side:

The two new strawberry boxes, the ones in the foreground, should get some afternoon shade, so I’m hoping the plants won’t fry the way they did last year. 

One last picture… a friend gave me some calendula seeds last year, which I just tossed around near the back corner of the yard and then ignored. They’ve been happily growing and reseeding themselves ever since:


I really should do a post about that chicken run thing at some point. Ah well. πŸ™‚

February Gardening

It’s been quite a while, so I have way more than a month’s worth of changes to the back yard to talk about.

First off, two of my neighbors got motivated about replacing our shared fence line, so we took the opportunity to remove the overgrown yuccas that were pushing the fences over and threatening the power lines. The back yard is really almost too sunny in the summer now, but the removal of the yuccas did reveal some pretty birch(?) trees that I didn’t even know existed in my neighbor’s yard. We’re vaguely discussing possible replacement trees, but it’s not a high priority. Here’s how that corner looks now, though the neighbor’s trees are boring and leafless at the moment:

No more yuccas

My raised veggie garden beds were over on the opposite side of the house from the chicken coop, but we’ve been slowly moving them over, along with the compost pile. It allows more flexibility in moving the temporary chicken fence so I can let them in and around the beds if I want, and also means less walking to toss the old chicken bedding in the compost. Also, this side of the house is much more visible from the kitchen and dining room windows, so the garden is less likely to suffer from my “out of sight, out of mind” forgetfulness.

New garden box location

So far I’ve just started planting in the 6’x3′ box, (spinach, cilantro, carrots, bunching onions) and also put in some bare root strawberry plants in the long skinny box. I’m hoping to make two 3’x3′ boxes for tomatoes and basil, we’ll see how that goes. The oregano plant I got last year survived my neglect, so I moved it to a big pot that I had available. The parsley that I put in the ground last year (near the rosemary) limped along all summer then went crazy once it started raining. I’m going to plant some more next month, but I’m hoping after that it’ll just self-seed.

Parsley

The dwarf citrus trees that I got last March (one each of navel orange, lemon, and lime) are doing okay. Β They’re still in their original tubs… the pots I had procured are still too big I think. I guess I should revisit the pots this year, maybe I can buy an in-between size and hopefully not kill them off.

Potted Citrus

The front yard is still in a holding pattern. I’ve done my best to let the grass die, but it doesn’t make sense to do anything fancy until our theoretical renovation to the house actually happens. It looks like we got a bunch of volunteer poppies that presumably blew in from the neighbor’s yard, so maybe I’ll weed around them and try to encourage them along.

 

February Gardening

In the past few years I’ve made some novice attempts to get a veggie garden going, with some successes and a lot of misses. So now I’m reading up on how to grow veggies effectively in our warmish San Francisco bay area microclimate. For starters, I’m making a concerted effort to start a bunch of seeds indoors, for real this time. My problem in the past has been that all of our south-facing windows are blocked from the sun by the patio covering thing. Oh and we have curious cats who like to knock over anything that’s sitting on “their” window sills. So I’m setting up the operation in the garage. It’s not even remotely insulated in there, and overnight lows have mostly been in the high 40s Fahrenheit, but I bought one of those heat mats to sit under the seed flats… and everything is sprouting really fast!

The next hurdle was getting light for the seedlings. I ended up buying some 6 watt LED “grow lights” and a shelving unit with a zip-up plastic covering billed as a “mini greenhouse”.

Grow Lights

I set the grow lights and the seedlings on the top rack, with the heat mat and unsprouted flats on a lower shelf. Possibly the extra heat keeps night time temps just a little bit warmer for the seedlings, I’m not really sure if it made a difference. But everything still seems to be growing fairly well, so that’s cool. The plastic covering certainly keeps sawdust off the plants while they hang out in the garage, and I’m in and out of there several times a day doing laundry and such, so I get lots of opportunities to peek in and see how they’re doing. I have a spray bottle sitting right there so I can easily mist anything that’s looking dry.

I’ve already started tomatoes, broccoli, kale, leeks, celery, basil and parsley, and I’ll be starting some bell peppers in a few weeks. The basil, tomatoes, and peppers I’m growing inside now to get an early start. For the broccoli, rather than picking at random I actually did some research and am trying to grow a fast-maturing cultivar called “De Cicco”. I got a different one to plant in late summer, “Watham 29”. I’m so fancy with my names and such. πŸ™‚ We’ll see how it goes. The celery and leeks I probably could have seeded directly outside, but those were two that I failed at last year, so I’m starting them indoors to keep an eye on them.

I did sow some seeds directly in the garden boxes too, basically all the ones I had success with in the past: spinach, carrots, cilantro, green onions, and lettuce. And I’m growing some radishes too. I don’t really ever buy them to eat, but maybe I’ll eat some if I grow them. πŸ™‚ Really they’re supposed to be super easy to grow, and I figured I could direct Dakota’s “helpful” energy at the radishes so hopefully she doesn’t drown my other veggies with love and too much water. Maybe I’ll even make a special garden box just for her and plant more radishes in it.

I’m going to try to grow a winter squash this year, so I’ll plant that in April. I’ll build a big trellis for it and the tomato, and hopefully they won’t take up too much horizontal space.

Oh, for the spinach I bought a culitvar called “Okame” that’s supposed to be more heat tolerant. I sowed the last of the cultivar I bought last year already, but when I sow more in a month or two I hope to have more success than my late-spring attempts last year.

February Garden

The big plant on the right in the picture above is the one kale plant that actually germinated from what I sowed last fall… It took its sweet time and came up while I was away for xmas. Cool. The radishes are poking up on the left and the spinach is along the back.

Herb-wise, The sage got too big for the raised box so I moved it over next to the rosemary, and it’s doing just fine.

Sage and Rosemary

My thyme and oregano both died. For the thyme I think I just wasn’t watering it enough, but for the oregano I planted a new plant in one of the main veggie boxes, because I think it needed more depth than the little herb boxes provided. We keep checking the home improvement stores for thyme plants, but they don’t seem to have any in stock yet. Blarg. I’m also going to try to grow dill and chives this year. I don’t currently use either in any of my recipes, but I’ve heard that dill, at least, tastes good in chicken soup… Oh! And I’m going to grow ginger indoors. Should be interesting…

Last but not least, the strawberries! I was sad last year that Dakota couldn’t reach them in the middle of the big box, so I made a long skinny box just for the strawberries, and they seem to have transplanted okay. I’m going to stick with the “remove all the runners” philosophy of strawberries and see how it goes. Having them in this box by themselves probably makes them more vulnerable to birds and bugs and stuff, but I’ll just take things as they come and see how it goes… Here’s Dakota watering them shortly after I transplanted them. You can still see the sage in its old location in the background.

Strawberries

We had bought the temporary fencing to give the chickens their own space on the other side of the yard, but the dogs seem to respect it (though Alaska, at least, could totally jump it if she was feeling adventurous) so we set up the extra fencing to keep the dogs out of this part of the yard. The dogs need to stay out because we’re slowly getting around to repairing the fence and it’s full of exit routes, but the extra benefit is that this setup keeps the dogs from digging in the garden boxes. Sadly it does nothing to deter the neighborhood stray cats. >:|

Temporary fencing

 

 

Gardening Adventures

I finally worked up my courage and decided to attempt a vegetable garden. I decided that a raised bed in the “square foot garden” style was probably my safest bet, so we bought some boards and built a 3′ x 5′ bed:

It helps to have knowledgeable people standing around and going, “Hm, interesting.”

Actually, she did way more than that. We blew through the gardening section of the hardware store and tricked out the flower boxes in the front yard with columbines:

Okay, that picture is boring. How about the glam shot?

Pretttyyyyy. And I hear they’re perennials or something, so maybe they’ll last awhile. Though only if I actually start watering way more than I’m currently doing, or so says Mom.

In the other box the alyssum and pansies were still going strong, so we just added two more columbines in there:

The chrysanthemums were actually still pretty green-looking (no flowers though), so I replanted them near the lavender while receiving admonishments to actually WATER THEM!

Anyway, back to the vegetables, I’m going to try starting most of them from seeds, but I got started too late in the season for broccoli, so I bought some broccoli plants:

I’m not entirely convinced that I’ll actually succeed in keeping anything alive, so I’ll finish up with a picture of one of our roses, since the roses somehow all stay alive despite my ineptitude: