Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Echium and Pisum

While I haven't been available to the garden much in the last few days due to other commitments,  I thought I'd share pictures of my two "plants of the day".
     Echium are a wild looking species of plant.  It is a tall spire with beautiful colors of flowers swirling around the spire.  It is quite attractive to hummingbirds, self-seeds readily, and if you don't want your garden taken over with them, you will need to pull out seedlings.  There are a number of species- I think the one I have is Echium pininana, but it is possibly Echium wildpretii.  We let three bloom in our backyard this year.

Pisum sativum (garden peas) come in many varieties.  We normally grow bush shelling peas, edible pod peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. Here are some clickable photos of the current pea crop.  We started garden harvesting them yesterday.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Building a walkway, and plant of the day

     One of the interesting things we do outdoors is the building of structures.  We try to use recycled materials for our building projects, and today's materials came from a variety of sources.  We used recycled concrete blocks from our neighbor, old bricks from the Daly building in Eureka which we sourced when it was being torn down, and even old rusty screwdrivers left here by the previous occupants of the house 12 years ago.
     We are building a landing and walkway for my mother who is coming to live with us soon.  She turns 93 on June 1st, uses a walker for mobility, and needs a level area to get into and out of vehicles.  Our yard is anything but level!  We set out to construct a place in which she could easily get out of a car and walk to the house.  Illijana designed the plan, and did a majority of the work.  I helped with the manual labor.  While the project is not yet complete (we are still figuring out an edge for the front border) the pictures will give you an idea of the project. (Click to enlarge them.)
Moving the concrete blocks
The first job is moving the blocks to the desired location.  They are heavy!  We use a dolly to transport them up the hill to the landing.
Loading block onto dolly
Sometimes the blocks need some of their previous mortar taken off if they are to be level.
Hammer and chisel work
We set them in place after preparing each section of ground, and then pack the pieces with gravel, chips of previously used mortar, or whatever will work to keep them in place (we are not using new mortar for this process.)  The edges which have bricks are held in place by the old screwdrivers sunk into the ground as a stake.
Steps added to the right
We still need to figure out how to add a pressure treated and then painted piece of wood to the edge, basically to protect the car tires.
     Plant of the day - I intend to add the picture of one or two plants each day to this blog.  These are plants which are growing in my yard the day of their photo.  Today we have one of my favorite flowers, the tall spire of foxglove (Digitalis purpurea).
I love it for its height and the amazingly attractive interior of each flower.

Also growing today after some initial difficulty with the cold are two different zucchini plants - a yellow zucchini and a green one.

Can you tell which is which?
On tap for tomorrow: transplanting the winter squash to their permanent summer homes.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tomatoes, upside down and right side up

I've been playing with tomatoes the last few days; transplanting them to larger pots, hanging them in upside down growing bags, noticing the prolific set on an early girl tomato in the greenhouse.  Here are a few pictures. (Click on them to enlarge.)
     Several years ago we gave the upside down growing system a try in the hothouse and it worked well.  The hothouse is a jungle this year (already full of tomatoes), so we are trying this system on a stand alone hanger system on the south side of our house (the warmest spot available).  Normally, outdoor tomatoes don't do that well here, but we planted these with cherry tomatoes and hope.  The plants are suspended upside down, watered from the top, and begin to grow upward.  I just planted these a few days ago, and you can already see them growing upward.  Amazing.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse continue their growth.  The early girl has set quite a number of tomatoes and we are hoping for some early ones in a month or so.  Here is a pic.
Finally, I transplanted the last three tomatoes from small pots to larger, and put two of them as our south facing door guardians.
Tonight's dinner is garden faire... an asparagus frittata, cooked spinach, and fresh garden salad with three different lettuces, and three different spinach varieties.  Yum!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weeding, fertilizing, planting

Weeds on ground after weeding

Compost around mini rhodie
New plantings (calendula)

Illijana at work
Illijana did a lot of work in the garden today; me a little.  I had decided to use the last portion of the second batch of Compostumbler compost to fertilize the roses we have scattered around the yard.  In order to do that, I needed to weed around the roses.  That led to weeding around other plants as well, and spreading the compost to other plants too.  We also planted out quite a number of seedlings we had started earlier in the year in the greenhouse.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A break day, and 150 degree composting

After our exertions yesterday on the retaining wall I took a break from the garden today except to go out and pick three types of lettuce, two types of spinach, some mizuna and some chard for a garden salad for lunch.  It was yummy.
Two days ago I started a new batch of compost in the Compostumbler and today it was cooking away at an internal temperature of 150 degrees F.  Yay!  The last batch came out great.  I'm using the last batch on all our rose plants.  More tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moss terrace - a retaining wall with a history attached

     We love to do projects with recycled materials.  Months ago we started a project to build a retaining wall on the east side of our garden.  The area has quite a history.  When we first moved here over 11 years ago we decided to clear a space for a vegetable garden.  We cut down a large number of alder trees growing in a grove, and eventually hired a heavy equipment operator to use a Cat to remove the innumerable roots.  He leveled an area for the garden, and pushed all the roots he had dug out with his backhoe into a huge pile at the east side of the property.  After about 6 years we decided to plant the area of mixed roots and soil.  We planted the area to daylilies.  The area never looked quite finished.
    When our neighbor Margaret decided to rebuild her house (originally owned by her father, Larry Moss), she had quite a load of concrete pieces to get rid of.  She kindly donated them to us for whatever projects we could use them for.  We decided to build a retaining wall to separate the daylily bed built atop the roots and soil from the alder trees, from the rest of the garden.  Today we completed the off and on, several month long project.  Here are some pictures of some of the construction, and the finished product.  We call the area Moss Terrace in honor of the memory of Larry Moss.
Root area to Illijana's right
Digging spaces for the stones
The part we did today
The finished project

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rototilling, beans aplanting, wood astacking, native iris aviewing

     I decided it was time to plant beans today.  In order to do that I had to prepare the garden bed chosen for the beans this year, add amendments (chicken manure, alfalfa seed meal, bone meal, greensand, and compost), till them into the soil and plant.  One of my more useful garden tools is the Mantis tiller.  I've had it for 20 years or so, and it does a great job.  (Click on photos to expand them.)
Mantis tiller and bed
I then planted 6 kinds of beans, 5 of them bush, and 1 polebean (Helga).  The bush types were Derby from Stokes Seeds, Blue Lake from Territorial Seed, Jade from Territorial Seed, Soleil, a yellow variety, from Territorial, and finally Dragon Tongue from Abundant Life Seeds. I then covered the whole planting with a polyester fiber to prevent the birds from digging up and eating the seeds which they love to do. Here is a pic.
The pole beans were planted under the garden structure that we strung with twine for the beans to climb.  It worked well last year so I'm trying it again.  The structure is a recycled clothing rack from KMart that they gave away a few years ago.
Illijana spent her time today mowing our neighbors lawn as a present to her, and in finishing the wood stacking for the year.  Here is the pile (4 cords plus one left over).

  Finally, here are a few pictures of native iris which we have been working to establish along our driveway.  They look mahvelous!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Morning ritual

I start my garden day with a ritual.  Each morning I walk out to our two greenhouses, one constructed of old windows recycled from our neighbors, another purchased at Harbor Freight, and open them to cross ventilation.  This prevents overheating and allows for better plant growth.
The first two pictures show the windows opened for cross ventilation.  Next photo is the Harbor Freight greenhouse, first closed up, and then with its roof vent open.  I also leave its door open as well.

I then water the plants in the greenhouse (see yesterday's blog).
After the greenhouses are done, I go over to the compost tumblers, turn them, and check on the compost.  The two tumblers are quite different.  The photos show the difference in compost after 19 days in the tumblers.  The Compostumbler is much faster.  It will be interesting to compare after the Costco tumbler has completed its compost making cycle which will take about 13 weeks.
Costco tumbler
Compostumbler finished product
Today's job: stacking wood.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Transplant city

     It was a transplant day today.  The seeds I had planted on May 4th were ready to be transplanted because I tend to plant 2 seeds in each cell of the six packs.  I normally wait for the first true leaves to appear and then transplant into larger containers (although sometimes I just prick out the extra plants.)
     The process starts by washing out the containers I'm going to transplant into first with water, then with Physan 20, an anti-fungal, antibacterial agent, then with water again.  I fill the containers with potting soil, water the container, and transport it to the greenhouse.  There I pop out each cell of the selected plants from their six pack, and using a small container to hold them in, I separate out the roots of each plant and place it in the newly prepared containers.  Afterwards, the plants get labeled (we use cut up recycled venetian blinds for labels).  Here is a pictorial of the process.  The last photo is a plants eye view of the greenhouse after the transplanting. (Apologies to Humphrey Bogart.)
Ready to transplant

in new pot
"Here's lookin at you, kid."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stakes, weeds, yellow then red

One of the garden tasks that I enjoy is weeding plantings of peas and then staking them so that the bush peas I tend to plant are free from weed competition and are supported off the ground as they grow.  I did that for two plantings of peas today.  Usually I use branches I clipped the previous winter from garden trees but I ran out of them and had to buy some bamboo stakes.  Here is what it looked like after the staking.
(You can click on the photo to expand it).
I spent some time weeding a bed by our hothouse.  Now I'm not the champion weeder in our family, because that would be Illijana, but it was fun to clear out the space to get more room for flowers.  Here is the pile of weeds pulled, and the space I pulled them from.
Finally, passing the hothouse, I checked in on the tomato plants inside.  They are growing very well, and here is a photo of one of the blossoms (yellow headed to being a red tomato).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Heterohabditis bacteriophora, roses ablooming, and a visitor

Illijana and I stopped into a nursery on the way home from Arcata and purchased some juvenile stage nematodes (Heterohabditis bacteriophora).  These microscopic creatures are predators in the soil for maggots, cutworms, cucumber beetles, etc.  I have lost at least 15 plants to cabbage maggots so I thought I'd give this a try.  You mix up the sponge they come in with water, and then spray them on the soil.  We will see how this goes.
While doing this I got distracted by the weeds coming up in the asparagus patch and spent time weeding, and then got to the fertilization and disease control for the roses.  I normally try to use generally organic methods for our foods and flowers, but with roses around here, I am a true blue pesticide/fungicide/non-organic user.  So I watered the bases of the roses with Bayer three-in-one fertilizer/disease control.  It is the only thing I have found that can even reduce blackspot to tolerable levels around here.  Here are a few of the roses that are recently blooming.

We also have a group of visitors to our yard I thought you might like to see.  I took this photo out the kitchen window.  Our dog loves to chase after the chipmunks, but never catches them, thank goodness.