Last night the lighting was just right for me to get out and snap a few photos of the vegetable garden. I also took photos of the flower gardens, but I’ll show those to you on a different day. It ended up being a rather large set of photos so I’ll ignore the words (mostly) and skip straight to the pictures.
It's time to do the first thin on the onions
Peas are finally taking off, but not flowering yet
Carrots and beets are planted under the peas
Squash was just put in and isn't taking off because of the colder weather. Give it time.
The tops of the raspberries fell over the wires in an early Spring rain. I'm leaving them alone and it isn't effecting the flowers too much.
Potato beds need to be completely filled now
Broccoli, Cabbage & Cauliflower are looking wonderful.
We are now harvesting lettuce and the arugula needs to be pulled
This is one of 5 strawberry beds. I think we officially have too many strawberries
Not to leave my son's garden out. This is the right side with squashes, sunflowers, lettuce, rogue potatoes and peas.
The left side of my son's garden. This is broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, peas and beets.
Yesterday my agenda included weeding the winding pathway through the garden. That didn’t work out so well for me. I worked like crazy to make the entertaining spaces around the garden look decent. I’m hosting my girlfriends for brunch on Sunday. If it is nice we will be eating outside. Garden paths could wait.
Last year I created large tee pees to hold my beans up. The idea was supposed to be that the beans would grow up the tee pees and there was an open spot in them for the children to hide in. For the most part it worked. I ran into the problem that I planted my beans too early and they didn’t come up. Then I couldn’t remember what bean I’d planted on which tee pee and which ones were pole and which ones were bush. I abandoned the tee pee idea and went with a simpler bean support.
The beans were moved to two 4′x4′ beds this year. A welded wire panel is roughly 4′x4′. How convenient! I bought 4 panels at my local home improvement store. My husband had to cut the pointy bits off the ends. It’s a good thing he did it because with my tendency for injury I’m sure I would have ended up at the ER with that one.
Once the pointy bits were cut off I zip tied the tops together. I will interject here to tell you that zip ties are the gardener’s best friend.
We spread the panels out and they were so tall and flexible that they bowed in the middle. My husband looked at me and said, “well that won’t work.” Never fear! I had bamboo poles and ZIP TIES!
Stick the poles in the ground, zip tie them at the top and then attach the panels to the poles with none other than… zip ties!
When we put up the supports the beans had not emerged. I was sure I would have to plant them again. The bean gods are looking down on me with favor this year… except for that slug issue.
When we built our chicken coop we needed a place to put it. It was supposed to be a temporary location. The plan was to extend our fence in the front and move the coop into that new location. The coop is pretty much permanently attached to the ground since we had a run in with some rats last Fall. The plan was still to move the coop once the fence was finished, but it has to be modified to accommodate 2 new chickens that will join our flock in August.
Chicken Coop + Fence + Coop Expansion = hot mess.
Basically the latter of those two is not happening turning hot mess into HOT BURNING MESS. And by that I mean the build up of shavings, dirt and chicken poo right in front of the coop. There is a 28″ path between the front of the coop and my son’s vegetable garden. That area tends to stay rather wet so it has been a soggy smelly mess.
I had a bunch of bricks laying around. I tend to hoard building supplies, but never enough to actually finish a project so that meant a trip to the home improvement store. Of course they didn’t have the same type of bricks that I had at home so I went with the next closest thing. Why should anything in my garden match and be beautiful?
I put my husband on an airplane and then set off to build my little patio.
I started by digging out the area in front of the coop. The area my coop sits on was an RV parking area in it’s former life so the soil is pretty much heavy gravel. This made digging rather challenging. It also made figuring out what was level extra challenging. When it comes to me and laying pathways or patios “good enough for government work” is my motto. I can’t tell you how many
paths my husband has pulled up and re-laid due to my serious case of meh. This one will be no exception. I warned him of that before he left. He just rolled his eyes.
At this point the girls and I stopped for snack time. I was out of beer so I had to settle for a banana. The girls cleaned up the worms in the area.
After snack time I put down paver edging and filled the area with paver base. I should say that in projects like this I tend to ignore that whole measure thing. I cut my edging for the ends the distance between the coop and the raised bed. I also was a little lazy when it came to filling and leveling the paver base. In an attempt to cut corners and costs I also didn’t put down the “step 2″ sand on top of the paver base.
I compacted the base and then started in on the bricks. Laying the bricks was fairly straight forward until I whacked my thumb with a mallet. They totally don’t tell you that part on those home improvement shows.
I continued on my brick laying until I somehow smacked my pinky finger with the mallet. I’m not exactly sure how I did that. I said some choice words and kept on working. A few minutes later I the glove on my left hand started to feel odd. I pulled it off to investigate only to find out that the smack to my pinky was slightly worse than originally thought.
Oops. A quick wash up and band aid I declared it wasn’t going to fall off so back to work.
I finished laying the rest of the bricks (without losing any more fingers).
I am aware the bricks don’t match and aren’t the same size. Oh well. Once all of the bricks were down I filled in the big gap between the bricks and the raised bed with the gravel/soil stuff. I might throw a little mint seed in there. Next came sand to lock everything into space.
Now I may be a little half-assed in my paver laying ability, but I do know the value of a good sand layer on top. My mother-in-law was the queen of the paver patio. She taught me well. So the steps go like this: 1) put on a blob of sand, 2) sweep the sand around, 3) dance around on the cracks to work the sand in (she may or may not have taught me that part) 4) sweep the sand some more.
Once all of the cracks are filled sweep all of the sand away and sit back to admire your work.
Yes, there is a slight dip right in front of the door. I’m calling that a slope for drainage.
I’m going to write a short post about potatoes. I know this is going to backfire on me and you’re going to get angry because you’ll come into the nursery and be sad because we’re out of seed potatoes. Consider this a forewarning or a what not to do next year if you’ve already planted your potatoes.
When you buy your potatoes and ask how to grow them we always ask if you’re going to do it in a container, in the ground or a raised bed. There are different techniques for each. Ok, not really for in ground vs. raised bed, but containers are a different story.
Shockingly this isn’t how to plant potatoes in a container. This is what happens when you plant your potatoes in a raised bed (or in the ground).
There is a reason we suggest potatoes in a “potato tower” or large nursery bucket or one of those potato bags or any other potato dedicated device.
Last year I planted my potatoes in 2 raised beds in my garden. One set was planted in “the chicken yard.” The other was in the front garden. While I was turning both beds I found small potatoes in the soil. This isn’t shocking. Potatoes are notoriously difficult to harvest every last one of. I knew this going in.
In the front bed I decided to plant onions there. Probably not the best for crop rotation, but the layout of my garden doesn’t lend itself to proper crop rotation. Meh. So I turned the bed and found a few wayward potatoes. I did a thorough search for additional tubers and came up empty.
I was smug in my gardening awesomeness.
Little did I know there were little tubers remaining in the soil and they were organizing. I’m pretty sure they were forming a little potato union with the sole purpose of demanding better fertilizer and more water. I don’t know what they are thinking. I give them top notch Dr. Earth and we live in Washington! How much more water do they want.
We suspect they are joining with the dandelions and may take over the world.
Happy Friday. May your garden give you many surprises.
When it comes to most things that float around the internet I’m a huge skeptic. When things are wildly popular on Pinterest I’m a PURE skeptic or laugh in the face of some of the stuff people pin. White kitchen? HA! I had a white kitchen once. White cabinets, white floor. My kitchen is now a rich dark brown for a very good reason. That maxi-dress you just pinned… yeah… it will make you look fat. Just hang a sign around your neck that says I’ve given up. I promise you, that heirloom tomato you just purchase won’t grow in that 5 gallon orange bucket.
The hot new thing floating around Pinterest right now is using vinegar as a weed killer. I will say we tried this experiment in college so it certainly isn’t something new. Of course we tried the flame thrower technique and it totally worked in school. In my garden… not so much.
My vegetable garden paths are a little weedy and there is a section that is down right weed ridden. I could spend an afternoon pulling the weeds. It wouldn’t be a big deal since there is landscape fabric under the gravel. The only problem is that my yard waste bins are totally full. I suppose I could give the weeds to the chickens, but I needed something to write about. I’m doing this in the name of education.
I picked up 2 1 gallon jugs of white distilled vinegar. They run a couple of bucks a bottle. I poured the vinegar into a new tank sprayer. I happened to have one of those laying around. You can put the vinegar in a hand sprayer or a watering can too. I labeled the tank since I have more than one of these sprayers.
Next I picked the worst area of my garden path to start my experiment. This area is at the very back of my garden.
There is a mixture of weeds. There are dandelions, grass, pepper cress and host of other weeds. I sprayed the area on Sunday and the tank was originally set on mist. Half way through I turned the sprayer to more of a spray and finished the area.
I went out to take a look yesterday (Wednesday) and this is what I found.
You’ll notice that there is still green on the grass, but the weeds themselves are dead. This would have worked a little better and faster if the weather had been sunny. It rained Sunday evening and has been raining off and on for the past 5 days. Once the weather clears up I’ll spray the area again just to finish it off.
Here are a few things to consider when going the vinegar route:
Vinegar is not a selective herbicide. It will kill things besides weeds. Case in point —->
There is an area where there are some wayward strawberry plants growing in the path. I accidentally sprayed a portion of the plants. Oops.
Vinegar does not have a residual soil effect, but salt does. Some of the tutorials indicate to add a bit of salt into the mix. Don’t do this. Salt can move around in the soil and can potentially harm plants you want to keep.
A bit of Dawn dish soap is often suggested too. The point of this is as a sticker. The soap helps the vinegar stick to the leaves. Vinegar works so fast that you don’t necessarily need to add the soap.
If your weed area is especially aggressive you may need to reapply the vinegar.
Where is the best place to use the vinegar? Gravel pathways, in between cracks in pavers or brick, driveways or large patches of open ground. This isn’t something that I would use in my perennial beds and most certainly not in my lawn. There is no good solution for that other than good old fashioned hand pulling.
Last night we ate our first meal that included fresh Washington asparagus. Now that the delicious little spears are available in the markets we will eat it at nearly every meal. Man our house is going to stink. Not to mention my husband kept feeding it to the chickens and the dog. Every time he gave some to an animal he’d say, “watch out, it’ll make your pee stink.” The chickens totally didn’t care and the dog gave him the finger and asked where the hamburger was.
We’ve lived in our house for 8? 9? years (honestly I can’t remember what year we moved in). We’ve had a vegetable garden since the first Spring here. I’ve never planted asparagus. It wasn’t until about 6 years ago that we figured out that we actually liked it and then I couldn’t figure out where to put it. Every year I say I’m going to put in asparagus my husband will remind me that we won’t be able to eat it for 3 years.
It’s a commitment that asparagus. We know customers have made an unwritten contract with their home when they decide to put in asparagus. I guess we aren’t going anywhere then… I planted some last week.
Asparagus is sold by bare root crowns. You can grow it from seed or purchase plants, but when you do that you aren’t assured that the plants will be all male. Asparagus is a dioecious plant which means typically there are male plants and female plants. Female plants will produce little red berries that are poisonous to humans and those berries produce seed that can reseed madly around your garden. By planting only male plants you will avoid the aggressive over population of asparagus in your garden (trust me, you can’t eat that much and if you could your pee would totally stink out your neighborhood). You’ll also avoid poisoning small humans that might frequent your vegetable garden.
Crowns will either be sold in bunches or by the each. At The Nursery we sell it in bundles of 10. I decided to start with 10 and see how much we can harvest in the next couple of years. I was going to put the asparagus in large raised beds that was going to build, but I didn’t get them finished so I went with a space between the perennial garden and the vegetable garden. If I can keep the hoards of neighborhood children out of the area it’s a good spot.
I had to start by weeding the area. For the most part it was weed free, but there was a little bit of cover crop that needed to be taken care of.
Once I had the area relatively weed free I amended the soil with compost.
Then I dug two trenches about 12″ wide and about 12″ deep. The trenches were roughly 12-18″ apart.
Once I had the trenches dug I put down a few pints of my favorite vegetable fertilizer, Dr. Earth… what else?
At this point I opened my packages of crowns to find out that the decision to leave them on the mantle inside the house was a bad one. They had shriveled up and were pretty much useless. I got into the car and drove to The Nursery to pick up new crowns. That was fun. If I hadn’t already dug the trenches I would have given up the whole project. Once I got home I opened the new package and it confirmed my theory that I am truly dumb.
The roots of asparagus like to spread out so I took a handful of soil and put it in the bottom of the trench for every crown and spread the crown out over the little mound.
To make sure the little people that run amok through my garden don’t destroy all of my hard work I put short punji stakes next to the crowns, and then backfilled the trenches.
I won’t harvest any of the asparagus that grows this year. Next year I’ll harvest about 1 meal worth and the 3 year I can harvest at will. At least that’s the theory.
I found an article on Huffington Post this morning. Ok, I’ll admit it. I found it through Pinterest. Don’t judge. You know you like Pinterest too. I read the “article” and the accompanying info graphic and I do believe my head exploded. Honestly went ka-blam! I sat there looking slack jawed at my computer screen for a good 5 minutes. Then I scooped up my brain and poured it back into my head and I swear to you it exploded a second time. I’m pretty sure those two remaining brain cells I have left are so stunned no amount of coffee will ever keep them going.
I’m not exactly sure where to start so I’ll begin with the article.
It wasn’t an article per say. It was more of an intro to the info graphic. However, it said something that got me going.
Those who become homesteaders today aren’t necessarily aspirational in the same way; instead, they’re looking to escape mainstream America. They want to do so for many reasons: privacy, radicalism, a philosophical belief in self-sufficiency.
Now I took philosophy in college. This would be qualified under gross generalization. The list is not, by any means, all encompassing. But how about adding things like wanting to know where your food comes from or actively taking part in fixing the food system in America. I’m not world’s most private person. Chronic over sharer would be more my style, but I am most certainly not a radical nor do I have some deep philosophical belief that I should be 100% self sufficient. I like it when a cute boy brings me a fruity drink on occasion. There are so many reasons Americans are waking up to realize the old ways are just plain wrong. Don’t mow it grow it.
Then there was this.
And here’s one more, aesthetically pleasing resource from solar panel discount company One Block Off the Grid: a useful chart illustrating the typical land requirements for a family of four seeking nutritional and electronic self-sufficiency.
1) aesthetically pleasing resource from solar panel discount company One Block Off the Grid and B) a useful chart. GAH! They are citing their resource from a company who put together the graphic to sell their discount solar panels and USEFUL?! !? More like loaded with shit upon crap.
Here’s the info graphic in question.
See. It just did it again. I can’t tell you how flawed this is.
Let’s cut to the heart of the matter. This graphic assumes you will eat as you have: subsisting on a wheat and corn based diet.
Wheat. It’s in everything. The graphic states the average American consumes 1.5 pounds of wheat in a week. This wheat comes in the form of bread and bread like products, but it also is in nearly everything else commercially sold. Trust me I know. I’ve lived with a wheat (gluten) free diet for the past year. Not because I want to, but because I have to. If I could pick up a slice of bread or a bowl of pasta right now I totally would. However, the change to gluten free eating has taught me so much. Wheat is in everything and for no good reason. Why does modified food starch (wheat) need to be in my salad dressing? I can mix together some oil, vinegar, garlic and salt and pour it on my home grown lettuce and be satisfied. There is no reason Americans need to eat 1.5 pounds of wheat in a week let alone grow it in their idillic 2 acre “self sustaining” plot.
Corn. Oh corn how I loathe you. I believe corn is the epitome of evil. Before I go on I want you to stop what you are doing and go watch this movie. I’ll wait….
Did you watch it? Good. Now we can be friends.
The info graphic assumes that we’ll grow what Americans consume in corn with a “conventional diet.” If there is one thing that is more prevalent in our food system than wheat it is corn. Bottom line: corn makes you fat. Bottom bottom line: a bushel of (feed) corn is 56 pounds and you can purchase one for less than $5. That’s what you pay, not what the farmer gets. The average corn farmer in America loses money on their corn farm. If it weren’t for government subsidies they would all be bankrupt.
What’s wrong with the food system in America again? Way more than I can fit into a blog post that’s for sure.
I won’t even get into the part in the graphic about the animals. Keep 13 chickens in 65 square feet? Give it a try and let me know how that works out for you.
In my opinion the graphic is trying to discourage you from growing your own. Oh, you need 2 acres to be self sufficient. There is no possible way you can do that. I agree that you could no doubt be 100% self sufficient on 2 acres of land. However, you could be pretty close to it on far less land. How do you do it? Start with a small raised bed and work your way up from there.
Now if you’ll pardon me I have some brain matter to scrape off of the ceiling.
Last year I took the bull by the horns and re-landscaped my back yard. I found the nearly surefire trick of keeping my dog from digging in my flower beds… chicken wire. My dog is tenacious and she found every section of the new landscape that didn’t have chicken wire, but for the most part all of my shrubs survived and it appears as if many of my perennials are coming back. Yay me!
I’m not one for much Fall cleanup around my garden. Mostly because I’ve gotten too old to do much yard work in the rain and Northwest Autumns are pretty much all rain all the time. That means I leave all of my Fall cleanup for the Spring and then the sun comes out and I realize how horrible my garden looks and then I cry.
My backyard was no exception. There were layers of blown in Douglasfir needles, random Hot Wheels, chewed dog toys and dead plant material scattered around my yard. The carefully placed chicken wire was showing through in spots thanks to the aforementioned dog and it was just a generally sad place. When my backyard looks sad I feel sad. I didn’t just spend a shitton of money on a surgery to make me feel happy again just to let it all go to my stupid dog. Besides, I have 10 yards of compost that needs a home.
I had 1 last location in my back yard that needed plant material. It was part of last year’s original plan that didn’t get finished. I wanted to plant a hedge of white azaleas along a section of the picket fence. I specifically wanted Helen Close Azaleas because of the bloom size and foliage color. I mostly dislike all evergreen azaleas, but have a weakness for white ones. We were unable to get Helen Close Azaleas in at The Nursery last year so I scrapped that section of the garden.
This year I was determined to finish the whole project.
I made my once a year attempt at buying cheap plants at an unnamed retailer to, once again, walk away empty handed. I was buying white azaleas! At this point I’m not picky about the specific variety. My experience at the unnamed retailer had me running to my tried and true nursery stock establishment. **Yes I know I work at a nursery. MY nursery didn’t have 1 gallon white azaleas in stock and this was an instant gratification project so I went to the next best place.** Portland Avenue Nursery is the second best nursery in Tacoma. I’m not sure I’ve ever left the place empty handed. My original backyard makeover (8 years ago) was done in plants from Portland Ave.
In any case, I bought plants from the competition, brought them home and planted them. I added a bunch of plants that were hanging out on my front patio and I made myself a nice little black and white garden.
The center is a Holly Osmanthus (that I also picked up at Portland Ave.), there are Girard’s Pleasant White Azaleas on either side, a pink clematis that will grow up over the arbor, black mondo grass, white anemones and snow drops. I also transplanted a dark ajuga at the base of the clematis for root shade. I covered it all up with chicken wire and a heavy layer of compost.
While I was at it I weeded and mulched the rest of the planting beds, swept the patio and cleaned up all the toys. It was a good 3 1/2 hours worth of work. 3 1/2 hours of well spent time because every time I look out the back window I smile and I’m happy.
I will admit that my beds are not perfectly edged. I have no problem with this. I kind of like the organic flow from the beds to the grass… ok that’s a load of crap. I’m just lazy.
Oh, and while I was out I let the girls free range it in the back yard. Betty Draper says hello.
When we were house hunting (8? 9? years ago) we wanted to live in a very specific neighborhood in North Tacoma. Even though it was right before the housing boom (lucky for us) every house we looked at had some major flaw. It’s not shocking since most of the homes in that neighborhood are over 100 years old. The biggest flaw most of the homes had (in my opinion) were the yard was too small. In reality the houses were too small and the prices too large. We expanded our search to the dreaded “suburbs.” That is if you could call what we live in the burbs. Most people think Tacoma is a suburb of Seattle. Not true! I swear.
Anyway, we found our house in the “burbs.” For a city lot it is huge. 1/3 acre corner lot where the house is only 1700 sq. ft and sits way back on the lot. Having lived here for as long as we have I kind of wish we’d gone with the little garden.
The guy who lived here before us is affectionately known as Dane the Dumbass Previous Homeowner. He was the supreme leader of the dumbasses. He made Kim Jong Il look like a good guy. Our home inspector really was no better. If ever there was a home that Mike Holmes needed to visit it is this one. I also staunchly believe that home inspectors should be well versed in landscaping. Or maybe there should be such a thing as a landscape inspector! Someone who inspects your garden before you purchase home to say, “Yeah, um that is a wicked case of creeping buttercup. You’ll either need a chemical weed killer or 4 hungry chickens to take care of that.” I could have used that guy.
So here I was, first time home owner with my own patch of dirt to dig in. It was like the skies opened and the heavens sang… I used that metaphor didn’t I. Hey, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. The only problem with my fancy new home, and by fancy new home I mean 1964 rambler that looked like 1982 threw up in it, was that the landscaping was horrendously ugly. I had 1/3 of an acre of lawn and a planting bed that blocked the entire front of my house. We purchased our home in the Fall and the following Spring I dawned my full compliment of Helley Hansen rain gear and started ripping out plants. Once I ran out of plants to pull I rented a sod cutter. It was one of those things where I went to the mega home improvement store in the late morning and rented the thing. They delivered it an hour later and I called my husband to come home an hour after that because I couldn’t manage the thing.
I made him remove about 1/4 of our front lawn so I could have, what I envisioned to be, beautiful perennial beds. Only we didn’t really know how to work a sod cutter and we didn’t set the depth correctly and basically skimmed off the top of the grass. We also had spent all of our landscaping budget on renting the sod cutter so we couldn’t afford to a) pay to get rid of the sod and b) rent a rototiller to properly amend the soil. We (cheaply) paid some guys to take the sod (and all of the other plants I’d pulled out) away and threw mulch on top of the freshly cut sod and called it good. It was beautiful. And this is where the landscape inspector would have been handy. That sod wasn’t any old sod. It was creeping grass of doom. It haunts me in my sleep. It taunts me when I’m awake. No amount of pulling or spraying or burning will kill this stuff. Oh yes I said burning. I have a blow torch and I lit that shit on fire. And just like Katniss Everdeen it didn’t die.
Die grass die!
The grass comes up in the perennial gardens everywhere. Ev.ery.where. It is my arch nemesis this lawn. I’ve battled it back to the last perennial bed, but I’ve fought it in that bed for 8? 9? years. This year I’m going to make it my bitch. Oh yes I am. Just as soon as it stops raining. And if it doesn’t stop raining… I’m pulling out that rain gear and convincing my neighbors that I am, in fact, certifiably nuts.
This weekend the skies parted and the heavens sang and I was happy. That’s the long way of saying it was sunny. Ok, I’ll admit these days I’m always happy… for the most part. In any case, this weekend was sunny which means of course I have to work. I’m pretty convinced the Gods hate me and it is only sunny on days I work. That would super suck if I worked in an office building, but I don’t so a sunny day at work is like an added bonus. A sunny day on a day off is like the skies parted and the heavens sang. I mentioned that already didn’t I?
Sunny days off actually mean that I force my husband to do manual labor in the garden. Hey, he’s the one who deemed it a working farm.
Two years ago I came up with this awesome concept of making our vegetable garden aesthetically pleasing. It is in the front yard and all. It was a combo of raised beds and in-ground planting. That combo has worked well for us the past two years, but it’s getting a little rough around the edges. It also didn’t help that my husband was trying to be frugal and instead of proper thick cedar deck boards he purchased thinner fence boards to create the raised beds. Some of the beds are 4′ wide by 10′ long. The were also build on a slope and not properly supported in the middle. Then last year I went and attached my super heavy tomato supports to them. It was a raised bed disaster in the making.
My husband doesn’t like stuff to look to terribly janky (with the exception of the chicken coop) so he decided that he was going to rebuild the two beds along the street. They were the two in the worst shape.
He started the project two weeks ago, but since we only get 1 weekend day to work on projects we didn’t get very far. It should be noted that any time I say “we” regarding this project I really mean he. Derek took on the project by himself and did a damn fine job. My only stipulation was that the beds be level and square.
Saturday and Sunday he spent the day cutting wood, digging holes and recreating 2 beautiful raised beds for me. I have to go back and put poly-tunnel supports in, fill the beds back up to level, and plant. It’s just in time because these beds are slated to have lettuce, spinach, carrots and all of the brassicas.