Sunday, April 19, 2009

new garden additions

Last summer, shortly after we moved in, we had our bikes stolen from our backyard. The perpetrators jumped the old chain link fence, through the bikes into the back of their truck, which was parked at the apartment complex next door, and took off. I was at the hospital. Camie was here alone. It was 3 am.

Since then, we've been wanting to build a new fence. It happened this weekend. Almost. I need about 10 more fence boards (you can see the section all the way at the back of the yard still needs filled in), and a new skillsaw (I think smoke coming out of the motor is a bad thing.) And some time for my left thumb to heal (exploded the tip with my hammer.)
Yesterday, while waiting for the posts to set, I built this little trellis for the peas. I ripped some 2x4's down the middle, shaped some points on one end, and pounded them in with a sledge hammer. Then I used some twine to make supports for the peas to climb up. I think the sugar snap peas should make it all the way to the top.

And, finally, a shot of the greenhouse - as wide angle as the camera on my iPhone goes. The opening at the back of the greenhouse - where you can see the trunk of the pear tree - was made a couple weeks ago. It was the same day I took my first tomato seedlings from the basement lights to the greenhouse. It was the same day it was 70 degrees with no clouds in the sky. I didn't open the door to the greenhouse. It probably got to over 100 degrees inside, and half of the seedlings died. Now there is permanent ventilation - at least until I build a new door to go there.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gaia's Garden


I've done a lot of reading and learning and planning in anticipation of this gardening season. I read books by Ogden and Coleman. Multiple times. In detail. And I made my plan based on what they wrote. They are the experts and I am the newbie. And, so far, I've executed the plan pretty well.

Then, at the first Garden the Avenues meeting, one person mentioned another book to check out - Gaia's Garden, A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway. So I did check it out, from the library, and it has turned just about everything I've read on its head. Here's what it says from the back cover:

"Gaia's Garden describes a gardening system that combines the best features of wildlife habitat, edible landscapes, and conventional flower and vegetable gardens into a self-renewing landscape that lets nature do most of the work."

One phrase that has come up a couple of times, is "food forest," which really appeals to me. The idea, as I understand it, is that forests grow without the help of humans. Vegetables and fruit can do the same. Our yards can be food forests if we encourage the growth of ecosystems rather than just one product to the exclusion of everything else. As we try to control one product - i.e. the vegetables - and kill everything else - weeds and insects - we are fighting nature. This book explains how we can work with nature and end up having a much more healthy yard with much less work.

I'm still making my way through it, and the paradigm shift is happening. Go and check it out yourself.

garden update as of 4/5/09

Here is a shot of the garden from Feb 22 - leaf mulch still on the beds, irrigation not yet in, and nothing in the ground except the garlic planted last fall:

Here is the most recent photo, though not current (Camie has the camera up in Idaho this weekend, so no new photos - but there's plenty to get caught up on). This was taken about two weeks ago. Garlic has sprouted, some lettuce has been transplanted, the artichokes are outside, and the peas are coming up:One major change that I'm working on this weekend. The chain link fence on the south side of the yard is coming down, and a cedar fence is being installed in its place. The cedar fence is being built right next to the retaining wall of the parking lot next door, so even though it will reduce the amount of southern sun slightly, it will also expand our yard by about 2.5 feet - or almost 200 square feet. And it will give us a little more privacy.

Artichoke update. These have been in the cold frame for about 6 weeks now, going through their first winter season. They are cold hardy down to 25 degrees, so could be transplanted at any time now:

A shot of the garlic bed. With the exception of maybe 3 or 4 cloves, all have sprouted and are doing quite well. This is a nice shot also of the fence that is no longer there. The new cedar fence will be about 2.5 feet to the right of this chain-link.

Peas and spinach. What spinach?! you might ask. Exactly. It should be next to the drip tubing on the right of the photo. It didn't really come up. Not sure why. The peas are doing well, especially the sugar snap peas, which germinated better and are slighty taller than the Oregon giants. The sugar snap peas start where the picture comes into focus - Oregon giants are in the immediate foreground. One other project this weekend is to get a trellis built for these:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

seedling updates from 2/7

These pictures were taken on Sunday, so they are a week old, but here they are anyway. This tray was planted on 1/25, mostly with seeds gifted me by our friend Andrew. He gave us some artichoke seeds grown on plants last summer. This tray has been on a warmer. I'm not sure if that has helped or hindered. I planted about 20 artichoke seeds, and about 5 of them have germinated. The largest one in the center of this picture has its first set of real leaves now.

These are lettuces planted about 2/5. They sprouted real fast and are doing quite well. I'll move them to 2" block this weekend and take them out to the greenhouse.

This tray was planted on 1/25 with artichoke seeds purchased at Johnny Seeds, and they are doing quite well. Probably about 75-80% germination, and they had no heat.

Up this weekend: set up the second light station, and seed a whole lot more plants - mostly onions, leeks, and more lettuces. I'll also be transferring some plants out to the greenhouse.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

fall garden update: 2/1/09

I set about cleaning up the fall garden this afternoon. It was a beautiful day and it was nice to be working outside again. It was so nice, in fact, that I decided to pull up some of the carrots that have been sitting since I planted them last fall. I planted them too close together, so many of them were quite small and a bit stringy. But the bigger ones were absolutely delicious - and there's nothing like harvesting fresh vegetables in February.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

seedling updates: 2/1/2009

We have germination. A few of the artichoke seeds and a few of the leeks. Nice! The leeks will head out to the greenhouse maybe next weekend. Today's sunny weather made it about 70 degrees inside the greenhouse - and it was about 45 outside. Here's a shot of some artichokes:

And a tiny leek seedling:

I'm starting to figure out that space is at a premium under the lights. Two solutions. First is to use the small soil blocker - puts out 3/4" cubes. Once these have germinated, I will move them to 2" blocks that have a 3/4" insert, so the 3/4" cubes just fit right inside. I put the 3/4" blocks into 9" pie tins. Second solution: buy another light and some more trays.

I'm covering the pie tins with the 3/4" blocks because they will dry out much faster than the 2" blocks. Here's the complete setup right now.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

germinating setup

I decided to set up a seed-growing station in the basement. Many seed require higher temperatures than I will achieve in the greenhouse in order to germinate. Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants are notorious for liking soil temperatures of 75-80 degrees for germination. So Joel and I went to Lowe's and purchased this shop light. I hung it from the ceiling in the basement and the seed trays sit on the basement shelf.

The soil blocks were accomplished using a tool purchased for this purpose. It packs seeding soil (mixture from Eliot Coleman) into 2" blocks, four at a time. I have another block maker that makes tiny 3/4" square blocks, but haven't used it yet. This first round is artichokes, rosemary, and leeks. When these germinate, some will be moved to the greenhouse, some will stay under lights, and I'll germinate more using the 3/4" blocks, allowing more blocks to be done at once.You'll notice in the picture above that in the far seed tray, there is a gray mat under the tray. This is a warming pad, purchased initially for Anna's bed outside. Sadly, she passed away a couple of weeks ago after being hit by a car in front of our house. So now I use the heating mat for warming seeds. Anna is buried on the far side of the greenhouse next to the pear tree.

The warmer and the lights are attached to a timer, set to be on for twelve hours and off for twelve hours. This makes it possible to simulate day and night cycles for both temperature and lighting.