First thing is I've changed the name of the blog since my urban blogging colleagues got too busy having babies and designing houses to blog.
Second, I apologize to myself for not keeping the garden blog up to date. This is primarily my own record of gardening progress through the years.
Finally, to anyone who actually reads this—welcome to season 5 of my young career as an old gardener.
We started the year off with a workshop I conducted under the auspices of our local Grange on how to make potting soil, bokashi, fertilizer and compost teas. I learned all of the above at workshops led by Steve Diver one of the most eclectic gardeners you will meet. If you ever have a chance to spend some time with him please take advantage of the opportunity.
I continue to monitor Steve Solomon's Soil and Health Yahoo Group daily and have added BD Now to my daily routine. Have been watching a DVD on biodynamics by Hugh Lovel who is a very interesting and knowledgeable gardener. I'm still participating in Michael Astera's Nurtrient Dense Project. Trying to get tuned up on soil science as I am scheduled to make a presentation on soil testing to our Island Gardener's Network in April.
Have started some plants indoors (peas, artichokes, tomatoes, peppers, basil). I built a grow light frame last year to hold a six tube flourescent light fixture which adjustible levels. This year I added a piece of hard insulation and a heat mat that is large enough to fit under the entire unit which is big enough for four trays.
Today I transplanted peas with help from grandson and neices and nephews. I plant them inside what we call The Peahouse of the August Moon, a framework that provides fishnet support for their climb and makes it difficult to harvest the crop. However, it's necessary because of the problem I have with rabbits. After this photo was taken I wrapped the outside with row cover material, tied it with string and rope and pinned it to the groud to try and discourage the beasties. I also put a plastic cup around each plant to keep the cutworms at bay. Between the cutworms and rabbits we had no peas last year so I am going overboard.
Is it wrong to feel a bit smug after returning from the garden on Jan 12 with a half dozen beets, some carrots, a handful of sun chokes and enough mache for a salad? Mache or corn salad aka fleld lettuce, lamb's lettuce, nut lettuce, repunzel or field salad is a member of the valerian family. Just so you know, mache has three times the vitamin C as lettuce. I was gifted with three small plants wrenched out of the community garden last summer. I transplanted them to a small bed in the lower part of our garden. I thought they were dead but the wilty looking plants surprised me by bolting. They reseeded and now, in January, plunging a shovel into frozen soil, I can harvest fresh greens in mid winter, mix them with some young kale and chard leaves that grow wild in the garden and have a tasty salad without having to leave the premises.
I have been negligent in winter gardening but made more of an effort this year to plant some stuff that I could leave in the ground. I'm amazed that the beets still taste good as do the carrots. Not quite as tasty as in summer but good and only a few steps away, stored live in the ground and mulched with leaves to try and keep them from freezing.
The sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) are supposed to be eaten in winter. We roasted some along with beets, carrots, the remaining potatoes, shallots and garlic (the shallots and garlic are storing quite well). Sunchokes are a very useful crop. You could make fuel with them if you had a field full. I started mine with a handful I bought at the co-op. Once they get going there is no stopping them, a striking sunflower that grows eight feet tall and even makes an occasional bloom. They leave behind some tasty tubers which are often difficult to clean but worth the effort.
One notices fewer trips to the store in the summer months but we have been pleasantly surprised at how little we are spending this winter on groceries. We are eating lots of frozen greens, beans, squash, pickled beets, pickles, kim chee we traded for, salsa verde, pesto, chutney, frozen onions, shallots, garlic and pickled garlic. It's a bit repetitious but we find that a bland meal can be made tasty with lots of condiments.
We extended out eating season by freezing, canning, pickling and storing. Next step is to extend the growing season using cold frames, cloches and hopefully a greenhouse. I have one more season to achieve my goal of growing half our food. Getting closer.
Week of August 8.
Canned seven quarts of pickled beets and froze about a gallon of beet greens.
Harvested two five gallon buckets of onions. Plan to freeze most of them.
Three big braids of garlic and another hundred heads unbraided.
Pulled about thirty pounds of shallots which are curing in the barn.
Blackberries are about ready to give us jam.
Pole beans will be ready in less than a week.
Just ten days after this the corn looks really great. We've had ten days of sunny weather. Pole beans are wrapping around the corn stalks and in some cases leaping from stalk to stalk. Today I finished wrapping this bed with bird netting to see if I can discourage the stinking raccoons.
This is my Oregon Homestead squash which I am hand pollinating following Carol Deppe's instructions from the Resilient Gardener. We might get three squash off this plant but I am mainly interested in seed for next year.
Rural Garden: Last year I posted a photo tour of the garden on this date. So am doing it again for myself so I have a point of comparison. Things are way later this year. For example, our first sunflower bloomed just yesterday (Aug. 7).
Jerusalem artichokes on their third year. Growing straight and tall.
I short-changed us on variety this year. Too much emphasis on crops (beets, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, beans). But here's my row of turnips, broccoli, kohlrabi, and cabbage. They are all doing well. All tasty.
This is beet bed number two. Bed number one is pretty well eaten or pickled. Have done 24 quarts of pickled beets so far and will can a few pints again tomorrow (Aug. 8) to finish up that row. This bed has lots of chioggas and some cylindras. Not my first choice for canning but I was trying to use of my huge store of seed.
Cover crop cut and chopped. Bed resting.
Crispy mint lettuce. My late summer salad.
The shallots look really good. Bought the starts from a guy in Mass. Am getting ready to reorder. Shallots will come out this week.
These red poppies used to be in the old garden. Haven't seen them for four years. They returned from the dead. We had a large white/pink poppy that was also a volunteer and volunteer giant lupin. Plus, volunteer flashy oak lettuce and a couple volunteer tomatoes.
Tomatillo. Planted six which I raised from seed indoors. All in Wall O Waters, two of which collapsed. All the tomatillos got tall and leggy. They are staked and tied to keep them from toppling over. If the lanterns they are putting out are an indication of size we will have some big fruit and lots of chili verde!
Strawberries potted in bokashi. Fourth season for these plants. Will have to divide them next year. Tall plants in the background are fava beans which had to be fenced up to keep them standing. Used rebar and bailing twine.
To be continued in part 2.
Last year I ran through my 5000 gallons of water by mid-July. This winter I added an additional tank. Checked the tanks today and still have about 6600 gallons. We got a nice refill this past Monday. With cautious watering I should have enough to get through the hot weather. Hope the water isn't too radioactive.
Michael Astera is getting organized to find funding for the soil and plant tissue testing required by the High Brix Project. He asked participants for a write up. So, for the record:
If gardening is a college I'm in my senior year and looking forward to grad school. For the last couple years I have focused on "crops." I try and grow lots of beets, potatoes, green beans, onions, garlic, squash, basil, cukes, berries, tomatillos, tomatoes. All of these will end up frozen, pickled or jellied or cold stored. We eat a pretty bland vegetarian diet and like to spice it up with condiments: zuke relish, pickles of all description, chutneys, salsas, jams and jellies. I trade some of my canned stuff to a friend who kim chis all his vegetables. I'm running a few experiments this year: trying to grow string beans on corn, squash in hollowed out stumps and tomatoes in garbage cans.
As I enter my fourth season of gardening (I had no prior gardening experience) I feel like I'm starting to understand a few things. It all starts with the soil and it's important to build the soil/life web using biodynamic compost and compost tea and to replenish lost nutrients by amending soil with the proper ratio of minerals. I've gardened organically from the start using lasagna composting on semi-raised beds. I made lots of mistakes. Too much organic material for one thing. Too much seaweed for another. You can have too much of a good thing.
I have no formal training in gardening, no permaculture certificate or BD workshops. I have attended two one day workshops with Steve Diver who is highly regarded in organic gardening circles.
I have no degree in science but do have a significant amount of real world experience with alternative medical therapies. This experience resulted in a book published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company called Diagnosis Unknown, now out of print. My experience with conventional medicine radicalized my point of view and this has carried over into every area of my life. So when it came to gardening I was not interested in what everyone was doing. I was only interested in what the smartest, most contrarian people were doing. This led me to biodynamics, the books of Steve Solomon, Steve Diver's workshops and Michael Astera's work with soils.
As a result I make Steve Solomon's Complete Organic Fertilizer (COF), apply biodynamic preps from The Josephine Porter Institute (JPI) and use compost tea from Sustainable Texas (Steve Diver's formula). In additional, I volunteered for the High Brix Project, have tested my soil and amended them according to Michael's RX. New soil tests are on their way to Logan Labs.
It will be hard for me to trial anything this year because of the late start but in 2013 I will trial beets.
Rural Garden—June 17:
Planted corn three times. Was finally the beneficiary of some starts that a friend gave me. Instant corn patch. Watered them in well, doused them with Ormus and Steve Diver's special mixture from Sustainable Growth Texas and they doubled in size in a couple days.
Finally got two long days in the garden and a chance to use the broadfork (U-bar) that Brian at Inspiration Farm built for me. Works great. I lift up the soil including the path with the U-Bar, hoe the path clods a bit, shovel a couple inches of the path onto the bed, spread fertilizer on the bed, hoe the bed to work the fertilizer in and break up the clods, pick up the big rocks and rake it into the shape I want. Then it's ready to plant. As usual I have several experiments taking shape. This is the first one:
Trying to grow winter squash inside these hollow alder stumps. Interplanting with some short season salad stuff. Specifically, Australian yellow leaf lettuce (my favorite).
Potatoes are poking through the soil. Looks like 100% on the Butterballs. The crescent potatoes are lagging behind but I'm confident they'll show up.
The tomatoes were getting a bit leggy indoors so put them out to seek their fortune. Again, as last year, using the black garbage cans as heat sinks. Will interplant with tomatillos in walls o water. Am starting tomatillos inside and they are about a half an inch tall.
Rural Garden: It's been busy. I wanted to make note of what's been happening so I won't forget. Even buying blueberries 30lbs at a time isn't helping my memory. Attended a gardening workshop instructed by Steve Diver. I'd been to one of Steve's gatherings two years ago and learned lots of good stuff like how to make your own potting soil and compost tea.
This time Steve was going to talk about the energetic aspects of gardening and I didn't want to miss that. As a result, Linda and I are now taking a substance called Ormus and using it on the trees and gardens as well. He connected us with a guy named Greg Willis who makes all kinds of interesting herbal/biodynamic stuff. I ordered his bee sprays which I hope arrive before Friday because that's when I pick up the bee package and enter the world of beekeeping.
Behind the pickup truck in the above photo you can see part of the kiwi arbor that Adam J built with my help (I handed him stuff). We rolled out to Cloud Mountain Farm last week and bought three kiwi plants and they are now at home in the arbor. On the way to Cloud Mountain we stopped at Inspiration Farm and ordered a broadfork from Brian who runs a very nifty biodynamic garden/glass blowing shop/and welding operation. The broadfork is a tool that I should be able to pass down to my grandchildren. At Cloud Mountain we picked up an Asian pear and two plum trees which are heeled into the garden waiting for my to dig some holes.
Part of our bank collapsed to the beach so we built what we call a "safety fence" to keep the kids and me away from the bank edge. We'll let the berries and roses grow up in the space between the bank and fence which, hopefully, will stablize it. Three fruit trees will be marooned between the fence and the bank. I planted some marion berries along the fence. Earlier this spring we had to drop three good sized alders which had come to the end of their life span. It was a big job splitting and hauling the wood but the woodshed is full for next winter with a reserve pile of rounds standing by. The bottom rounds were completely rotted through like giant pots which gave me the idea to use them as pots. I used a dolly to get two of them to the safety fence and planted marion berries inside them. The other three I put in the hot garden and will try to do my big squash inside them. Sort of a variation on huglekultur but probably also a magnet for slugs.
Been trying to be patient because of the weather. Garlic planted last fall is coming up nicely. The raspberries look pretty good; blueberries—kind of sparse. I can see a couple of artichokes survived and are poking through the mulch. We finally ate some mache (corn lettuce) and the kale is still good even as it starts to bloom. I finally planted some snap peas and potatoes. Last year the bunnies nibbled the peas and we didn't get many. This year I've put a plastic cup over most of the seeds (until I ran out of cups). Maybe that will work. And, potatoes are in. It's a hassle trying to figure out where to plant potatoes as I'm attempting not to plant any crop in the same bed the second year. I have two smaller beds for potatoes this year and actually cheated by making on eight foot bed into two four foot beds.
Steve D. would freak to see the amount of grass I have in the garden. I keep it under control with a Shindaiwa B450 and my handy long handled hoe.
Rural Garden: Reflecting today on the fact that it's been a busy and productive spring: three big alders split and stacked, two hazlenuts planted, shop table constructed, grow light table constructed, safety fence to keep kids away from the bank built. A sturdy kiwi arbor raised. Bee hives constructed. Attended Steve Diver workshop for lots of good gardening ideas. Germination tests on all old seed with generally great results. Community orchard underway.
I've spent a week testing old seed for viability. Here's how I did it per instructions that are readily available on the web by Googling "seed germination test." Material needed: zip lock bags, paper towerls, scissors, spray bottle, masking tape, pen and a warm place to keep the seed.
Step 1: Cut a paper towel in half and wet it with a spray bottle.
Sprinkle some seeds across the middle of the towel.
Step 3: Fold it over and roll it up.
Mark the bag with masking tape.
Put the bags in a warm (70 degree) place. I used a metal container with a trouble light in it and covered it with a cushion.
Check in two or three days to see if they sprouted. If they did you are good to go.
This is a book that Northwest Gardeners will need to add to their library. It's quite unique in tone and content. Carol Deppe's gardening philosophy is the result of her long experience as a gardener and seed saver and her own problems with food, specifically celiac's disease, an intolerance to wheat gluten. Gardening ( her case more like farming due to the size of her "garden"), for resilience she has learned to focus on five crops that will provide food throughout the year: potatoes, corn, beans, squash and duck eggs. I resonated with these ideas because last year, on my own, I tried to plant for an extended eating season rather than just trying to produce the typical kitchen garden veggies like lettuce, chard and spinach. I picked beets, potatoes and green beans but Carol Deppe had given me lots of good ideas on specific varieties to try and grow. In addition to detailed information on potatoes, corn, beans, squash and duck eggs which each get a comprehensive chapter, she has very interesting ideas on watering, tools, help, labor, seed saving and preserving food. Highly recommended.
I've been very negligent in keeping up with the garden blog concentrating instead on transitionlummiisland.com. But, it's time to recap the garden season. I've been putting the garden to bed, cleaning out old plant material, hoeing weeds and mulching beds with maple leaves. We have truck loads of leaves so I rake them and move them to the garden and spread them on beds and paths. In the spring I'll rake them off and compost what's left. I don't mulch them. Just put them on whole. The wind will blow them around but they'll help to keep some weeds down and they do attract worms.
Although the garden started slow and late due to cold, wet and sluggy spring weather we are still eating garden meals in November (even a few half red strawberries). Yesterday I picked a zuke, some carrots, potatoes, lettuce, kale and sunchokes and beets. Have lots of beets left. We also went after the tomatillos and got about 11 cupfuls. They were small. I think I should have pinched pruned them. This morning I canned 11 x 8oz jars of salsa verde and must say it was the best salsa verde I've ever eaten. I pretty much followed the Ball Blue Book recipe except I added a jar of the green peppers which I packed in red wine vinegar.
We now have pickles, zuke relish, pickled beets, green tomato/apple chutney and salsa verde plus frozen green beans and frozen beet greens. In addition, we have a lot of squash. The kale and potatoes should be good for awhile.
I have finished compost left over and a huge new pile that is mutating quickly and includes the ten straw bales I bought two seasons ago. It's amazing how that straw turns to dirt with the help of the little red worms. Straw also makes a nice nest for rats. I happened to find a nest with six newborns in it mid-summers. They didn't make it. I need to get the traps out because I occasionally see a big rat in the garden and they will eat the sunchokes as they've nibbled the beets.
Rabbits are all over the place in spring but by mid-summer they disappear. Perhaps that coincides with the return of the eagles from the high country.
Successes this year were: beets, pole beens, squash, potatoes, turnips, shallots, kale, onions, peppers, cabbage, strawberries and artichokes.
Modest success with tomatoes grown in garbage cans. Hopefully some kind of small greenhouse will appear by next year. Also modestly successful with raspberries, corn and garlic (though it suffered from rust).
Failures: peas, basil and blueberries. I don't think I killed the blueberries but the ph of the bed was way too high and I didn't water enough. Cutworms and rabbits got the peas. Could not encourage the basil to grow although I finally managed one ice cube tray of pesto.
This was the year of the High Brix experiment where I followed Micheal Astera's prescription based on a soil test. Brix reading weren't exceptional but Michael seems to think it takes more than one season to get where we want to go. I need to get another soil test but am behind the power curve on that chore. The food tasted good, though and my gut feeling was that it was nutritious.
I find myself in the unenviable position of being considered a gardener by those who don't garden. It's all relative, I guess. I was even asked and, surprisingly agreed, to conduct a beginning gardener's workshop. It went pretty well. No one laughed. But the fact is, if you are willing to take your tools in hand, work on improving your soil, plant and water and eat what you grow, you probably are a gardener of merit.
I keep my perspective by reading the Soil and Health group on Yahoo each day which is loaded with knowledgeable gardeners and interesting and irritating people as well.
I was religious this year about compost tea on both the garden and small orchard. It seems to help. It's actually most notable on the geraniums and dahlias which are fantastic looking, shockingly healthy plants.
The water catchment system we installed last fall worked well until we ran out of water. At that point I switched to a bucket system to reduce evaporation loss and put the water right where I wanted it a la Steve Solomon's books. And, we are adding a third 2500 gallon tank.
My first three years (my entire gardening career) I ordered way too much seed. Some of it failed to germinate so I believe I will toss most of it and try to do a better job of ordering just what I need. The garlic and shallots are already in the ground. Would have done onion sets too but couldn't find any. I also had the pleasure of growing kale in my fall garden from seeds I collected from last year's plant.
Hopefully, next spring will bring a hive of bees.
A month or so ago when my cousin was out for a visit he built me a "rabbit gum." I kept the trap baited for a couple weeks but had no luck. My grandson Yoah was here for a couple days and he wanted to set up the gum. He baited it with an apple. This morning he ran in to tell me he thought he'd caught something. I thought he was joking. But, it was no joke. There was a young rabbit in the trap. The mother rabbit had tried to free it by chewing through the twine that holds the door. No luck. He was caught fair and square, retribution for messing with my garden.
After a short period of enhanced interrogation, trying to discover just how many of these terroristic hares live in the neighborhood, we paroled the beast. He took off like a rabbit at a dog track.
Behold the successful trapper:
Partial beet harvest:
The beets didn't get as big as I would have liked. Maybe I should have watered them more than once or twice. On the left in this photo you can see the snow peas and sugar snap peas, which are now pretty much done, and on the right are the beans, which we are just starting to pick.