Thursday, February 27, 2014

building raised beds

Raised beds serve several functions. They warm the soil by allowing the sun to warm the edges as well as the surface. They define areas for walking and planting so that planting areas don't get compacted by walking. And they define separate areas for different crops, allowing easier and more efficient preparation of soils for specific crops.

I'm thinking about raised beds now, and am cheered by seeing the big pile of boards for my new beds in my front yard (getting covered by snow soon I hear). I thought it would be fun to take a look at different types of raised beds. I've seen many creative options at our community garden. I've seen edges made of house siding, rocks, discarded pallets.

Raised beds my husband has previously built for me are fir or pine from a local store. We used 2 x 3’s, which a a bit low, but work fine. I'm looking forward to beds made from 2 x 6’s in my new garden. We don't use pressure treated, but you can if you prefer. It will last longer and the new pressure treating methods are not toxic like the older ones. You can also use cedar (if you can afford it). It will last longer than fir. My guess is the costs may balance out in the long run and the cedar will be less work as you need to replace less often. My fir beds are started to rot after 3 years and my husband is replaces one or two a year.

You can build beds with corner posts and then drive the corner posts into the soil and level the beds. Or you can do the reverse – drive in corner posts and then attach and leveled beds around them.

Here are some links that show bed design:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

wood for my new raised beds!

skippy on my new garden lumber 034 We bought a bunch of 2 x 6's for my new raised beds. 15 and 12' lengths for the long sides of the beds. With all this snow, it'll be a while before we can use them, but we're ready.

Skippy loves to pose!

revised 2014 garden plans

2014 home garden diagram v6.pptx
I've scaled down on the size I'm planning for my new home garden. Originally I had a giant garden planned, almost twice as big as this one. But I've realized that I don't need to grow much more food than I did before. Plus, since I will have a a big lawn to mow, a small orchard to tend, and my chickens, two dogs, and hopefully a couple bee hives to care for too, so I don't want to burn out too soon. This garden version is only a little bigger than my old home garden.

The two large beds at each end of the garden will be for crops like potatoes or corn. Its been difficult to dig potato trenches in the 3.5 foot wide beds at my community plot. I think 6 x 15 will give me some good space for digging. I can get two 15 ft rows, or five 6 ft rows. I won't grow potatoes here this year, because the soil is so hard. This year, I'll grow plants in the 6 inches of soil that I'll bring in to fill the raised beds. I'm hoping that, by next year, the worms will get busy and loosen up the deeper soil for me. I'll try tomatoes and popcorn in the big beds this year.

A big difference between this garden and my old home garden will be the amount of sun. I'll be able to grow tomatoes again! (fingers crossed) In recent years, my old home garden had gotten too shady and late blight can be a problem in the community garden. I'm planning two 4 x 12 beds for tomatoes. Using string and cross pole supports, I can grow 4 rows of 6 plants; 24 plants. Wow! I haven't been able to can my own sauce in years.

Other things I am looking forward to this year:

- More potatoes: I'll use 2 beds in my community plot this year. The flea beetles have gotten really bad for the potatoes there, so I'll try Johnny's Mycotrol, an organic beetle control. (I've started a program at the community garden to provide all gardeners with a variety of organic pest controls and Mycotrol is a new one we're adding this year. Its not very effective for me to spray my crops when pests go rampant in neighboring plots. We had really good success controlling late blight in tomatoes last year by providing sprays and resistant plants.)

- More beets, carrots and lettuce: These didn't grow in the shade at home and I wasn't able to water frequently enough to grow them in my community plot. I had a water spigot installed last fall right next to the location where the new garden will be. This year, I am planning on using drip lines and sprinklers with a timer to make sure the garden gets regular irrigation.

- And I'll have room for popcorn again! I had such fun with this several years ago when I got a good crop at my community plot. But in a small patch, only the inner rows get pollinated and produce ears. I hope this big 6x15 foot patch will do well. Corn ear worms were also a problem at the community plot so I'll see how that goes here.

- Not that I'm looking forward to it, but it'll be new for me to garden with a lot of wildlife around. There are so many deer and raccoons here. I'll plan a 6 foot chicken wire fence. Either that or an electric fence.

2014 community plot diagram v4

Saturday, February 22, 2014

sunning seedlings

sunning onion seedlings 018 Such a nice day, my seedlings were sunning outside. It was near 60*F on our sunny patio. Still a foot of snow, but melting fast. My onion seedlings are growing and the celeriac have sprouted. My 6 year old onion seeds still haven't come up. Last year they eventually sprouted, so I'm giving them more time.

celeriac seedlings 020

looking forward to an exciting new garden book....

Garden writer Niki Jabbour (Author of The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, 2012 American Horticultural Society Book Award winner) has put together a brand new book. Its titled Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden. It includes plans from really interesting food gardens - AND ... one of them is MINE! (ah, well, Skippy's, I should say...)

Our section is titled "Urban Shade Garden". It includes a beautiful diagram of my garden plan drawn by an artist. And Niki's write up after interviewing me. I've seen the copy of my section and I love it. Can't wait to see the rest of the book. It has a March release date set - I think towards the end of the month.

Here's a link to her first book review. "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the most versatile, user-friendly, practical and absolutely gorgeous food growing manual I have ever seen!" Wow, sounds super!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

sweet potato sprouts

sweet potato sprouts 165 I count about 17 sprouts coming along. Some really small still. Last year I planted about 30, but they were too close. So about 20 should be good this year.

sweet potato sprouts 168

Monday, February 17, 2014


winter scene 033 winter scene 119 We have about 2 feet of snow everywhere. I have to use snow shoes to walk to the end of my backyard where I'll dig my new garden in a couple months. Skippy and Suzie sink in up to their bellies in the snow. And my poor chickens haven't been out of their coop in weeks.

But the sun is getting bright. Its noticeably higher in the sky - coming up over the tops of the tall pines by 9 am now. Our forecast is for a couple more inches of snow tomorrow and Wednesday, and then a warming trend - up into the 50's! And rain.

Yes! Spring will come. Its 30 days til spring - and counting! March 24 I planted my peas last year (I did have to pull aside the snow to get the seeds in). Its 81 days (11 weeks) til my last frost. Inside on my plant racks, my onion seeds have sprouted and the sweet potato slips are an inch tall. In two weeks, I'll do a big planting of broccoli, kale, lettuce, escarole, and eggplant seeds. Yes, spring is coming.

winter scene cutout 030

Sunday, February 16, 2014

onion sprouts!

onion sprouts 157 My onion seedlings are up!

These are all 1 year old seeds. The 6 year old seeds haven't come up yet (but they did last year).

onion sprouts 163

new clips

heather clips suzie 002 heather clips suzie 006 heather clips suzie 009 Skippy and Suzie got new hairdos yesterday. Their breeder, Heather, spent the day with us and groomed the dogs. She's teaching me how to do this and helped with selecting the tools I will need. She clipped their muzzles and ears short, lion clip-style, took a lot of fur off their bodies, and shaped their legs.

That's Suzie above, and Skippy below.

heather clips skippy 024

Friday, February 14, 2014

valentine eggs

valentine eggs 047 I put together 4 blue eggs and a Meyer lemon as a gift for a friend on Valentines Day.

valentine eggs 031

Saturday, February 08, 2014

2014 planting list

January (inside under lights)
Sweet Potatoes

February 8 (inside under lights)
Onion, Frontier
Onion, Pontiac
Onion, Walla Walla Sweet
Onion, White Wing
Shallot, Prisma

March 8 (inside under lights)
(Note: Many of these I mixed together to get more variety of fewer plants.) Parsley, Single Italian
Pepper, Canary Bell (note: peppers need to be 75*F+ to germinate)
Pepper, Sweet Yellow
Chili, Thai Hot
Chili, mix of Tepin, Jalpeno, Anaheim
Broccoli, Romanesco
Broccoli, Cook's Super Blend Hybrid
Broccoli, Diplomat
Eggplant, Kamo
Eggplant, Calliope F1
Escarole, Broadleaf Batavian
Escarole, Natacha
Endive, Dubuisson
Endive, Tres Fine Maraichere Olesh
Lettuce, Butterhead Sylvestra MT0
Lettuce, Butterhead Red Cross
Lettuce, Butterhead Skyphos
Lettuce, Prizehead
Lettuce, Oak Leaf Blend
Greens, Johnny's Elegance Greens Mix
Greens, Kyoto Mizuna
Kale, Blue curled scotch
Tomato, Red Siberian (note: I planted just a few very early tomatoes)
Tomato, Orange Blossom
Tomato, Pink Beauty

the onions are sown!

sowed onions 054 I planted a whole tray of onion seeds today. Its exciting to have extra planting space to be planting for this year! The varieties I planted are on my 2014 planting list.

one of these eggs is not like the others...

eggs 046 So, I've collected many pink-brown eggs and many green-blue eggs. In addition to these, I've found two specked brown eggs. I know Ginger, my Auracana, is laying the green-blue ones - because that's what Auracanas (Easter Eggers) do. I know Penny, my Black Astralorp, is laying the brown-pink ones because I saw her pop one out and pretty much caught it as it ejected (!). I don't know if Penny is the one laying the occasional speckled eggs or if maybe Bertha, my light Brahma, is laying them. A mystery....

Friday, February 07, 2014

mini pies and Meyer Derby

pie and derby 043 My favorite dough recipe is this one:

I like it for apple pie as in the recipe. Today we made a double batch and used half for mini pies with canned fruit and froze the other half. My favorite fillings for mini pies are canned cherry or blueberry. To make mini pies, I roll the dough in a square, slice it in three or four sections, dollop on the fruit, fold over the dough, crimp and bake. I'm looking forward to canning my own fruit soon for these little pies.

For the perfect beverage with these little pies, I like a Meyer Derby. Mix 2 oz Bermuda dark rum, add maple syrup and squeeze fresh Meyers lemons to taste. Shake with ice and then strain into a chilled martini glass. Yum!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

seed starting pots - fresh out of the dishwasher

old seed cells My aging collection of seed trays and pots is clean again and ready to go. A bit warped, but functional. They all went through the dishwasher this morning. I even found an empty white milk bottle in our recycling bin to cut up for labels. I'm ready to plant!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

a good time to start planting seeds

Now that the sweet potatoes are planted, I think it a good time to start planting some onion seeds. Its only 2 weeks early. My husband found my bags of potting soil in the shed over the weekend and they are thawed out by now. I still need to find the seed trays I saved and run them through the dishwasher. Then I need to locate some labels. If I can't find some little wooden ones from last year, there's usually something plastic in the recycling bin that I can cut into labels.
Eight days, 2 laying hens, 10 eggs
Ginger 6 medium blue eggs and Penny 4 large brown eggs

Sunday, February 02, 2014

potting up sprouted sweet potatoes

planting sprouted sweets 057 I have lots of little sprouts on my sweet potatoes so today I potted them up in soil. My first pot under the seed lights! I'm saving those big plastic lettuce and spinach containers for potting this year. They are a nice size.
planting sprouted sweets 059 planting sprouted sweets 063

fried fresh eggs for breakfast

fried eggs 049 We went with fried eggs, easy over, for breakfast yesterday. We noticed that the yolks were deeper orange in color than our usual store bought eggs. Also, the whites held together more. I thought they taster richer, but my husband thought they just tasted like eggs.

In the past 6 days, my three hens laid 8 eggs. Not bad. egg in a bowl 030