Tuesday, September 3, 2013

August Totals & Notes for Next Summer

I am doing a terrible job with blogging this summer, for which I do apologize.  We have hopefully finished remodeling work for a while, and we have just one more family visit coming up, and perhaps I will be better for the winter garden plans.

Here is one photo, taken in July. The squash plants grew so much bigger here than they did in Colorado!  Pole beans and peas were much taller too.  The winter squash didn't do as well, but that may be a location problem (that bed may be somewhat shaded).

In the meantime, I wanted to make note of some (rounded) totals, and things I want to remember for next year, so these are notes for myself, but you're more than welcome to read them.  :-)

June 2013:
  • Lettuce     approx .75#

July 2013:  
  • Lettuce/Greens:     2#
  • Snap peas:         2.75#
  • Alaska peas:          1#
  • Potatoes (new)   .75#
  • Broccoli:             .25#
  • Elephant Garlic:   .75#
  • Softneck Garlic:   .75#
  • Pattypan Squash:  2.75#
  • Zucchini:                4#
  • Crookneck squash:  .5#
  • Cucumbers:           2#
  • Yellow Beans:     1.75#
  • Green Beans:      1.75#
  • Rattlesnake Beans:  1#
  • Egyptian Walking Onion:  .25#
August 2013:
  • Cucumbers:   13#
  • Pole Beans, Green:  2#
  • Rattlesnake Beans:   8#
  • Bush Green:  1.75#
  • Bush Yellow:  3#
  • Pattypan Squash:  16.25#
  • Zucchini:         37.5#
  • Crookneck Squash:  5.5#
  • Carrots:  6.25#
  • Broccoli:  .5#
  • Cauliflower: .25#
  • Kale:  1/4#
  • Potatoes:  14.25#
  • Tomatoes:  1.25#
  • Pinto Beans 1/8#
  • Corn: 2 ears

Notes for next year:

Plant more pole beans -more Rattlesnake beans.  This year I had about 18sf of green bush beans and about the same in yellow bush beans.  I had 3 towers of pole beans- 2 Rattlesnake, the other a mix of Blue Lake (I think) and Zi- probably 15 sf of bed space.  The bush beans are not nearly as productive, and the flavor of the yellows was lacking.  The Rattlesnake beans produced heavily for a time then stopped quickly.  Next year, stagger plantings to extend harvest.  Pole bean supports need to be very tall and very strong.

Plant more snap peas, and stagger planting.  Trellis needs to be at least 6' tall and sturdy. 

Reduce summer squash, or at least stagger plantings as powdery mildew is killing them quickly, and all at once.

Plan a better potato space, and hill with soil, not mulch.  The pockets of potatoes seemed to be where there was soil (I planted a quick bed- a little compost & soil on the grass, mulched with straw as I overbought seed potato and didn't leave enough space to plant them in the beds).  Slugs seem to love straw.

Plant more garlic, and more onions (not just walla walla- storage onions too).

West end beds get a little less sunshine.  Not enough for winter squash or melons.
Peppers and some other heat lovers may benefit from row covers next year to boost heat.
Carrots around bed edges worked well but make sure bed is dug deep enough for them to grow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Building the Garden (a catch-up post)

I thought I'd take a minute to backtrack to building the garden beds.  This first pic shows the plan I started with, superimposed on an aerial view of the back yard.  Of course, like many plans, it's not how it actually ended up, but I think the changes were for the better.

This is the "before" shot, looking east-ish.

For the beds against the fence, we went with a 2x12 (untreated) back.  I didn't want to use the blocks against the fence for a couple reasons; first I wasn't sure how many I would actually need to build the planned beds (we had about 400 that we got free from around the building next door to my husband's work that was being demolished, though it took us about 4 trips to get them, so there was some fuel expense) and second, I thought it was an invitation to a weeding nightmare.  The lumber was in the culled pile at Lowe's which cost around $30 for the 2 bundles we bought.  It was enough for this backing and to build the big potato bed that was a spur of the moment addition.  It also gives a little height and space between the veggies and my boy dog. 
Because I was trying to build the garden and remodel the kitchen pretty much at the same time, we might not have done things in quite an ideal fashion.  I had tried to gather organic materials during the fall and winter but all I really had acquired were some OPBL (Other People's Bagged Leaves) and the compost we moved from the rental house.  I feel I should explain that we brought the compost as a simpler way to clean up the yard of the rental on our way out (we just moved a few minutes away) and I figured I would use it anyway.  It's really not that I was so attached to my compost I had to take it with me.  This winter we did get some horse manure and layered it with some of the leaves hoping to get it to "cook" some, but it was not a very hot pile- just warm at about 75 degrees when I checked it.

When I unpacked boxes from the move, I tried to sort them by condition.  Those that were still in decent shape that someone could use again to move, I put on Freecycle.  Those that had lost their integrity became the base layer for the first half of the garden.  The second cardboard half (pictured) would be the zillion boxes our new Ikea kitchen came packaged in.  If you do this, be sure to peel the tape or you'll be digging it up sometime in the future.

I picked up a piece of plastic (or maybe fiberglass?) edging at the Restore which I taped into the center size (I had made one sample ring out by the block pile) which helped me keep my circles round.  It's not a foolproof pattern by any means, but I found it helpful.

This spring, a man found my Freecycle request for hay or straw and gave me 4 very wet bales of straw he had used for archery practice (before they were wet and rotting).  I was happy to have them.  The first couple of beds I filled, all I had was the straw and horse manure/leaves mix.

I answered a Craigslist ad for rabbit manure, which had the potential to be some really nice stuff.  Unfortunately, what I found was a very wet (it rains all winter here) anaerobic pile.  I took some anyway, and used it in a couple of beds.  I did try to unclump it and mix some straw in with it to make it an aerobic mix instead.  The smell diminished in a day or so.  We ended up getting a yard of triple mix (topsoil, sand, compost) for about $22.  Most of the beds are filled with manure "compost" , a layer of half rotten straw, and topped with triple mix.

I have since acquired a large amount of hay (probably 35 bales worth, though some bales were partial or loose- free from another reply to my re-posted request on Freecycle, but about a 40 minute drive each way, so again, some fuel expense) as well as a bunch of alpaca manure.  The alpaca poo and hay mix have been a good, hot pile.  I will have to consider whether or not to get more, though out of respect for the neighbors, I don't think I should do it during any season they might have their windows open, as it was pretty "fragrant", I suspect because the alpaca people bagged the manure in plastic bags, which then sat in a pile until they posted on Craigslist (free).  It made for pretty easy loading into the truck, but a bit unpleasant to "unpackage". 

I apologize for the switching between "we" and "I" when I write about the garden.  The garden is my doing, but the husband has been very helpful in building this one.  Thankfully, he was on-board with this one from the beginning (not so with the last one), and he's helped me by hauling blocks, hauling dirt, hauling mulch, hauling hay, etc.  This is the biggest garden we've ever built, and while I am again doing it on the cheap, it is quite labor intensive.

These poor little potatoes spent the winter sprouted in a paper bag in a cold room in the house.  I got them out as soon as I could, but they've been out there since the end of March and only one sprout has emerged.  They were probably too far gone, or the slugs are eating the growing tips, but they still look about like this under the mulch.

I also did some wintersowing (or early spring -sowing) so I'd have something to put out when we got the beds put together.
And just for the record, this is NOT good labeling.  First the Sharpie faded (which I did renew while I still could read them) but now the tape is falling off.  Right now, on the deck, I have a plant I do not know if it's a zucchini or a buttercup squash. 
So, there's the rundown. 
There are a couple things I probably should have done but did not.  I meant to use the spading fork to poke holes down through the ground before I put down cardboard, to help the roots go down into the native soil when they get there and to help the whole thing mix together in time.  I totally forgot this step.  My mother also mentioned something to me last week that I never even thought of.  As an adult, I have lived mostly in the west that has alkaline soil.  Now I live in the PNW with acidic soil.  I'm not sure if I should have put down some lime under there as well.  Too late now, so I'm hoping the composted stuff helps keep things neutral in there.  I guess we'll find out.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I see trouble ahead...

See those indents in the soil?  Those would be hoof-prints.

The neighbor has told me in the past the deer would walk through here, between the houses and through the back lot, then across the street to the golf course.  I know the dogs have been barking like crazy every night when I let them out, but I've been chalking that up to the raccoons in the trees along the fence line.  I've actually never seen a deer in this neighborhood (though I've been told they come through, both at this house and the rental, which was just a few minutes away from here).  I'm afraid this adds a whole new level of challenge and one I have not had to deal with so far.  I'm not looking forward to it... 

Monday, May 6, 2013


What a beautiful day today!  It was 84 degrees today, a very warm day in May (average is mid-60's)!

Last night, I stopped by Lowe's to pick up a couple packets of seeds I recently realized I need, and they had asparagus marked down 1/2 price.  The husband has been whining a bit because I didn't get the asparagus ordered, first because the beds weren't built, and then I figured it had gotten to be too late to get any.  I came home and told him if he was willing to help me build another bed, we could go get some.  I do hope they'll come up okay, they were definitely not enjoying life in the packages anymore.  I opened them right away and soaked them overnight in some water with a little splash of liquid kelp.  I figured by the time I planted them, I'd be able to tell if they looked like they just were too far gone.  Other than the one I seem to be missing- and I thought I counted all 15 of them last night, so I'm guessing it's just wound in with another root- the roots did seem okay today.  I guess we'll see soon enough.

I was so hot and tired after working outside all afternoon (I am definitely NOT used to warm weather!) I forgot to snap a new photo, so the details will have to wait.

I did finally get out to take some photos of the new garden:

This is the view from the east:
You can see how the little garlic rings we put together in the fall, really don't fit in well with what we ended up building (oops!). After the garlic is done, I'm going to take them out.  We added the asparagus bed in the grassy area in front of the larger rings on the left and will add another bed or two as well, for next year.  I hope to leave the rhubarb where it is (the small ring on the far right, on the side of the chain link fence.  That poor plant has had a rough couple of years, as I dug it from my rhubarb in Colorado and stuck it in a pot, with what turned out to be awful soil, and it spent some time on an apartment balcony, then the too shaded front yard of the rental, then to a sunny deck but with no attention due to moving and remodeling.  That it is still alive shows it is a hardy plant.  We stuck it in the ground last fall and though the stalks are small, it has put up many leaves.  I don't want to disturb it again.

Here's the view from the other end:
The arch is a cattle panel trellis.  When we rented last year, the back yard was not completely fenced- the last 15' of each side was open because I think it is technically a green belt that didn't belong to the landlord.  The way things were when we moved in, nobody could really access the space anyway as it was very overgrown next door, so we bought two 16' panels and a couple t-posts and made a temporary fence, but one that was sturdy enough to safely contain our labs, and one that I already knew how to re-purpose.  I don't think I'll use the second one this year, but it is an option if I need it.  I'm planning melons in the right side bed (where if you look closely, you can see the kitten, Fred) and winter squash in the left bed. 

This is the long bed toward the east side.  It has a mish-mash of transplants, probably too closely planted, and because these were in wintersown jugs, I had to get them off the deck before I had all my materials for bed-filling, so we'll see how they do. They're pretty much planted in composted horse manure and old, partially rotted straw.

 Anyway, that's all for now.  I'll be back again- hopefully with more regularity than I have been.  It's been hard to get back into the blogging swing.  During the past couple of summers with no garden, I had to stay away from Gardenweb and the blogs, as they just bummed me out.  I am glad to be back, and I'm really looking forward to catching up with everyone's gardens, and keeping this blog up to date.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Change in plans

I drew up a plan for the new garden quite a while ago.  I really liked the idea of the little joined rings, right up until I started to build the beds. 

My first problem was an error in measurement somewhere.  When I started to build the two beds in the middle row, to the right of the pathway, I quickly realized there was not room to build them as I had laid out.  I wanted the paths to be 30" between beds as that is a comfortable path for using my garden cart.  I was going to end up with the two beds very close to each other, so I decided at the last minute to just make one larger bed.

Next, I was preparing to build the rings, and when I calculated the extra blocks I would use and the reduced planting space of the design, I decided to change them.  I swapped the smaller triple rings on the left for two more 3'x6' rectangular beds and the small triple ring on the right for a larger double ring.  I may still add the third, smaller ring to what I ended up building as medium double rings, but that's going to have to come later.

This is what I actually ended up building (with some excellent help from the hubby last weekend) though the strawberry bed isn't built yet.  I will probably end up changing the two small rings to the far right (the bottom ones, the top one is at the corner of the fence and has rhubarb growing, I'll probably leave it alone).  After a  quick look at the pile of landscaping blocks after building all the beds shown (except the strawberry one) I have 100-120 blocks left.  I suspect I will add some more beds to the right side next year, but I'll figure it out after I get stuff planted and see how they do.  So far I've got about 250 square feet of bed space, I think almost twice what I had before (though I'm being lazy and not actually looking up how big the other garden was, I think it was about 130 sf) but I want to try giving the plants more space to grow than I did before.  We'll see how well I do with that once I've got it planted :-). 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Slowly Making Progress

I'm slowly making some progress on the garden. Part of the reason we chose this house was the extra 3/4 acre lot that was also available.  The house is on 1/4 acre, so we ended up with just over an acre.  You can see in the aerial view that we have almost an arrow shaped lot (both included) because the back lot is a big triangle.  The downside is it does back up to a fairly busy road, but in addition to the dog-yard fence (a little deeper than the 1/4 acre- I drew it on the photo-) we also installed a fence along the busy road.  We still have to close off the way-back from the front, but at least now if the dogs get out of the back fence, we've got a little more protection to keep them from the main road.

We moved in August, and I tried to watch where the sun was and was not during the day.  I had originally planned  to put the garden to the right of the yard, sort of behind the neighbor's house, but as I watched the sun, I learned that area was much more shaded then I had expected.  The evergreen trees are very tall and throw a huge shadow.  What I did see was the sunniest spot seemed to be just behind the fence.  I also pulled up the old aerial photos on Google Earth to try and find the shadows.  It was actually somewhat helpful as over the years the photos were taken during different months.

Because it does not rain much during the summer here, and we didn't water much (just a bit out front and enough to stop the hydrangeas from wilting), I also noticed that where the sun hit the most, there was very little grass and and it was a more bare, weedy spot.  It reminded me of the lawn in some of the hotter areas we've lived...  (lol).  While I do wish I had a handy sun calculator like the solar power guys use for site surveys, I'll just have to make do with what I have.  Noting the sparse growth meant I had some leeway once the rains came, to actually mark out the plot, as the grasses would all be green soon.

I drew in the "dog fence" and the proposed area for the main garden.  I also plan to include berries and herbs, though I don't have the details worked out quite yet.  I'm thinking herbs along the right side of the dog fence and the berries where I had originally planned to put the garden and in a little pocket of the way-back yard.  Eventually I would like to plant fruit trees as well, but that won't likely be this year.

This is the general plan I have for the main garden.  I learned today that my estimation is off by a few feet and the two rectangular beds to the right of the path (the brown textured area is a path from the back gate to the old wellhouse (storage building) won't fit as planned, so I've got to modify the plan a bit, but it's a start.

Right before we closed on the house, hubby learned they were tearing down the building next to his work.  There was quite a bit of landscaping around it, and all the blocks were going to be hauled off.  We made, I think, three trips with our little utility trailer and brought home about 400 blocks.  We were pretty positive the closing would happen, so we took them straight to the house (which was vacant) and unloaded them out back.  Luckily, nobody had a problem with it, because we did not relish the thought of unloading them at the rental, then hauling them again.  We think they'll make nice, non-rotting, raised beds, and the price was right -just the cost of fuel to get them and our labor to load and unload. 

There is another stack around that corner too.

This is the ground view of the garden area. 

We've already got a few little rings built.  We have a rhubarb, that is hopefully still alive, that I actually dug from the garden in Colorado, which did survive its time in a pot, though it was not happy.  We popped it in the ground before I had much of a plan, so it's sort of on the wrong side of the fence, but it's fine.  The herbs may go along that fence line anyway, so it won't be way out there.

I also wanted to get some garlic in the ground, so we built two more little rings to go with it.  I noticed this weekend that the garlic has popped out of the leaf mulch already.

To build these little beds, I slightly loosened the soil by sticking a spading fork in the ground a few times and giving it a little wiggle.  That's it.  No digging.  Then I laid a piece of cardboard (hello moving boxes...) with ALL the tape removed, tossed a few forks of compost on there (uhm, yeah, we sort of moved the compost from the bin we had at the rental- we didn't move far and we were trying to clean everything up and frankly, it seemed like the best plan since it was unfinished).  We planted the garlic and covered it with some leaves I scrounged this fall.  Amazingly, with all the trees we have, almost none are deciduous.  We got some from a neighbor who was putting them out for the yard waste collection, and another from an older woman we met at the first HOA meeting we went to, who made a comment apologizing for her un-picked up pile of leaves since she'd had surgery. I got her address and we went over and scooped them up for her.  It was a win-win.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Quick Catching Up...

First, please excuse the unfinished changes to the blog page.  I've still got some work to do on it, but I was so frustrated just trying to get the picture to fill the top section (which is now too blurry, but will just have to do for now) that I'm leaving it alone for the time being. 

As you know, we sold the Colorado house summer of 2011.  It wasn’t financially pretty, but at least we got it sold, which at that time, not selling it was a real concern.  We moved to a rental house in Olympia, which was too small and turned out to be underneath too many trees.  We did a little container gardening that summer as my husband had started a couple zucchini on his apartment patio before I moved up here.  As we grew to really dislike that house, it did make us realize that when we purchased one, to really watch out for how much sun there was, not just for the garden, but also for the house itself.  We looked and looked, and even passed on a few that might have worked, due to lack of sunlight.  Then one day last summer, my husband calls and says to check out a new listing.  It was a house in our neighborhood (well, technically a neighboring neighborhood, but they’re connected) that a few times when we’d walked the dogs, he’d commented how much he liked it.  The house is very 1970, it still had red shag carpeting in the living and dining rooms, it had off-white shag in the bedroom (and still has, for now, blue shag in one bedroom).  We still have an apple green kitchen with brown appliances.  We had to do quite a lot of work, some of it unplanned (we discovered some water damage and found that rodents had just trashed what little insulation there was in the cathedral ceiling in the living room, so we re-insulated and replaced the ceiling).  We still have a lot to do, but it will take some time.  Here are a couple of pictures, but if you want to see more, click here, here, and here


What this house DOES have, is an adjoining ¾ acre lot that the seller also owned.  It also has a well that used to supply the neighborhood (which is now on city water), but it is currently disconnected.  We will have to replace the industrial sized pump, which may or may not prove economically feasible, but it is my understanding that we can irrigate up to ½ acre without needing a water rights certificate.  We aren’t going to deal with the well this year, so we’ll work that one out later.  This house also has a nice sunny backyard, with a nice sunny deck and big windows to let the sunshine in.  Can you tell, sunshine is a very important asset here?  

We fenced in a little more than the ¼ acre parcel that the house is on, extending back into the second lot, so the dogs could have a little bit bigger yard.   Last summer, I tried to watch where we had sun and where it was shaded throughout the day, and I actually had to adjust where I had planned to put the garden, as it was more shaded than I had realized.  We had a few more containers for the second summer, and as it turns out, I do much better in-ground than container gardening.

Sadly, in October, we lost our beautiful Gabby to kidney failure at the age of 18.  He had gotten very thin, and his bloodwork showed his kidneys were in decline.  We did what we could to help him feel better but he declined rapidly and in about a month, it was clear what was to come.  Gabby is the silver tabby.

Later in the fall, we were leaving the grocery store and there were two kids outside trying to find new homes for a litter of kittens, and though we weren’t quite ready for it, and had not planned on it, we brought this little guy home.   

This is Fred.  He’s just about 4 months old now, and he’s a crazy kitten.  Annie, our 16 year old cat, is not thrilled with him yet, but I think she’s slowly warming up to him.  I keep trying to tell the little monster that she might like him better if he’d just quit touching her, but he’s a kitten, and he just can’t help himself. 

Before Christmas, we learned our dog Wilson has cancer.  Because he is only 6 and to the best of our knowledge, the cancer had not yet spread beyond the tumor that was removed, he is undergoing treatment.  We are hoping to have him with us for a while longer.  

So, that’s the quick rundown.

The next post will be about the garden.  :-) 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pardon the Mess

Pardon the mess, I was trying to update the blog with current location, information and photo, and apparently I need to do some reading to see how to fix this the way I want it.  I don't know what they did to Blogger but they sure didn't make it more user friendly.  I don't remember having this much trouble before.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Coming Soon...

I am working on my garden layout this week, and I will be coming back to the gardening world soon!!!

More to follow soon!