Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Free "Raised Beds"

In my neighborhood it's not unusual for people to haul their unwanted furniture to the edge of the sidewalk and put up a "free" sign.

My son took a walk the other evening and came home with the news there was a free furniture jumble around the corner. 

So, around I went with the truck, getting a "new" easy chair that needs cleaning (if the before-unsmelled cigarette odor doesn't leave it's out of here!), and some "raised beds!"

The "raised beds" are an old maple dresser.  The dresser was missing the top drawer, so I am not feeling the least bit guilty over what I did to the piece! It also stinks of old cigarette, which doesn't make me hopeful I'll be able to save the chair.  Older furniture was made of solid wood (even the drawer bottoms and back), no glue, no nails (tongue and groove) and from what I have seen in photos, make for nice little planting beds. 


I got two of the drawer "beds," and one larger "bed," which isn't as attractive, what with the funky/chunky legs.  I may not keep it, now that I see what it looks like in photo-form!  I like the drawers though. 

Keep your eye out for discarded items you can use in the garden!  Free is good!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Nature Notebook for Adults!

My youngest two children were mostly home schooled.  We went on lots of nature walks, and made lots of nature journals and notebooks, some in conjunction with classes in such places as The Gardens at Heather Farm and Tilden Nature Area in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Tilden is an awesome place, and one of the less than a handful I miss since moving to Oregon. 

The notebooks were so much fun for my children, and I wished I could make one too!  Well, now I can! For Christmas my daughter gave me Grow Curious: Creative Activities to Cultivate Joy, Wonder and Discovery in Your Garden, by the wonderful gardener and blogger (and author of my favorite gardening book Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces) Gayla Trail! 

It's page after page of activities, garden quotes, inspiration, and more. 

ooooo... I can hardly wait for a scavenger hunt! 

It "starts" with Spring, since the growing season/gardening year begins then, but I started with an activity under Winter.   It has to do with seed catalogs, and I had so much fun I not only did it twice, with two different catalogs, I furthered the activity by cutting out pictures of my chosen vegetables, herbs and flowers and glued them into my "working notebook."  This is a notebook for the "dirty work" activities, my notes, photos, drawings and general musings on the garden.   A collage, from old magazines, for me to do!  

Between the time spent last night going over the catalog, and today cutting and pasting the pictures, I have spent a very enjoyable few hours!  One of the things I got from this activity is knowledge of vegetable varieties I knew nothing about.  When I look through seed catalogs I skip the pages of things I don't grow, which really is most of the catalog!  This activity forced me (oh, not "forced" really!) to look at each page.  I read seed descriptions aloud to my family, laughing at some of the silly seed names, and wondering who really spends eight years in India hunting down seeds to a single variety of squash?  Apparently "Seed Explorers" do.  I never knew...  The only page I completely crossed out and refused to clip was okra.  Nope, don't do okra, even as a fantasy activity.  Just can't bring myself to even consider okra.  I despise mushrooms, but at least they look interesting and you can do spoor print activities with them (my children did)!  Okra has no redeeming qualities.

Get yourself a copy of this book and start having fun in your garden!  Even if you depend on your harvests for food, you can still have a fun time growing!  

(I have no connection with the author of the book, just got it as a gift and highly recommend it.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Some Rock Garden Chores

A day off + a day without rain = garden chores! 

Of the many chores, the front yard needed tidying up most of all.

The iris had never been cut back in August! It was a mess!  A real mess... made more so by the fact the neighbor's cats have been using the area as a litter box.  Yes, the iris.  Maybe because it is above the wet soil.  Grrrr... I also found cat poop in my lovely pea gravel walkway!  It used to be just the soil, which was bad enough, what with the little soil piles of buried "surprises."  Now, don't get me wrong, I like cats, I have two.  My only problem with cats is really with their irresponsible owners.  I doubt these two cats even have a litter box.  Mine are indoor only cats and don't bother anyone. They are a bit too lazy to bother doing much! 

Velvet - cats always look fatter on their backs!

Benny - aka Benny Butthead, Monkeyman, Bensonmum.  He was alarmed I'd gotten up from our "time together"

So, the iris... So much soggy old leaves.  It was good to get them off the rhizomes, which could rot in the wetness.  They look so much better, even if there are still quite a few dead leaves.

 These are definitely next on the list of "iris to divide." 

I "weeded" the rock garden.  I like the Hula Hoe; I'm not sure I have name brand, but it works well on damp earth.  That penstemon on the left should have died back by now.  This is the first winter it's been in the ground, in pots it always completely died back.  I cut back forming bloom stalks too.  The lavender in the middle is Ellegance Snow, and it's doing better than the ones in both the herb garden and Butterfly Garden. 

The Gaura (Indian Feather or Wand flower) flower fronds were brown, so I cut them back to close to ground level.  They too died back all the way last winter.  Maybe our weather has been milder than usual.  Well... definitely milder than last year at this time when were were under snow! 

It felt really nice to get out into the garden again.  It feels really nice to be getting more days off, and working part-time again too!  (I have a confession... I've been ordering more seeds...)

Monday, January 8, 2018


Remembering last January, not fondly, and looking at some of the photos from that month, I decided it would be a good idea to try to protect some of my pants.

Three photos as reminders of what happened last year:

The area to the left of the pinwheel is the herb garden proper. 

 Under this pile of snow is a Tuscan Blue rosemary and Golden oregano! 
 These are the herb planters on the backyard deck. 

It might not be necessary (in Zone 7), but I put a blanket of bark mulch (of course it's a half-off broken bag from Lowe's!) around some of my favorite plants.   I've used straw in the past, but what I have is already moldy, and best used now for laying on the bare beds or tossing in the compost heap. 

Coyote Mint
Dittany of Crete Oregano
Lavenders usually look a little ragged in the winter anyway, but mulch might help, especially the hybrids with French lavender in their background, as they are more susceptible to cold temperatures.  I lost a gorgeous French lavender last winter.  (I need to make a chart to remind me which lavender is planter in what pot!  I got confused adding captions.)  I also spread some around the White Grosso Lavender in the front yard.  The Hidcote and Munsteads in the front are big enough to withstand the cold, and even got through last year's snow fine. 

Platinum Blonde

Mini Blue

Goodwin Creek Grey

Ellegance Snow
Dwarf Garden Sage
Creeping Winter Savory - not sure it is surviving

Prostrate Rosemary (both pots) and Golden Oregano started from cuttings
There's a layer of mulch on some of the dormant Butterfly Garden plants too.

Blackeyed Susan

Anise Hyssop

Pineapple Sage

Saturday, January 6, 2018


Thinking of Spring, and what seeds I'll need spurred me to do a "seed check," inventory, on what I already have.  After all, seeds don't expire the date on the packet!

I found this mess in the carport shed.

I'm good for February plantings.

Peas: I found two unopened packages (for the 2016 season) of Oregon Sugar Pod II peas, and a 1/2 package of Cascadia peas from last year. I love Cascadia! 
Lettuce:  Unopened package of Salad Bowl mix lettuce packaged for 2016.

I also have, and this is a much longer list than I expected, as I forgot how many seeds I have left from last year, and exactly what I had ordered last fall!

These are the leftovers from 2016 and 2017-
Beans: 1/2 package each of Jade (2017) and Jade II (2016).  I am not sure what the difference between the two are.  I will be needing to buy more beans.
Pumpkins: 1/2 package of Small Sugar from 2017.  More than enough for this year.  I wasn't going to grow pumpkins this year, but I'll do it since I have the seeds.
Cilantro:  1/2 package from 2016.  I remember now!  Something kept eating the seedlings and I gave up.  Time to try again.
Sunflowers:  1/2 package of Mammoth from 2017.

These are the new purchases of edibles-
Garlic Chives
White Eggplant - I hate the taste of eggplant, but the plants are too beautiful to forgo in a pretty container! 
Sweet Italian Basil - I am a poor basil gardener, so many seeds will give me some extra chances for  success!

Then, there are these leftovers and new purchase seeds of herbs, flowers for the butterfly garden, the front yard rock garden, for annual containers, for just about anything because I found cheap seeds that looked interesting.

White Yarrow - Butterfly Garden
Rocky Mountain Penstemon - Rock Garden
Purple Coneflower - Butterfly Garden
Bachelor Buttons - these are such pretty annuals in the Butterfly Garden
Creeping Thyme (1,000 seeds!) - I really want a lot of plants for the rock garden.

Snow in Summer - an evergreen ground cover for the rock garden
Lemony Catnip - I'm really looking forward to this new herb! 
Hens and Chicks
Succulent Mix
Ice Plant
Mealy Cup Sage (also known as plain blue salvia)
Wild Bergamot (beebalm) - Butterfly Garden
Mexican Red Sunflower - Butterfly Garden
Korean Mint (giant blue hyssop) - Butterfly Garden (okay, I may need a second Butterfly Garden at the rate I'm adding more plants!)
Anise Hyssop - I expect self seeded plants from the one in the Butterfly Garden.
Rock Cress - It will be nice if I get lots of these for the front yard Rock Garden.
Snapdragons - free gift with purchase of who knows what
Russell Lupine hybrid - Butterfly Garden
Butterfly Weed -Butterfly Garden of course!
Giant Globemaster Allium - because it looks fun!
Mexican Butterfly Weed - Butterfly Garden
Milkweed fluffs - the ones I was given last year, that I didn't stratify, so didn't plant.  They started the entire Butterfly Garden project and weren't even included!

...and my own saved seeds (of which many are spilled on the shed floor)
Grape Hyacinth
Onion Chives 

As I stated, seeds don't really need to be purchased new each season.  The germination rate is a little lower than new seeds, but last year's, or the year before that even, will be fine.  After all, you get hundreds and hundreds of tiny carrot and lettuce seeds, so a small percentage fewer won't matter.

Oh, boy... what was I thinking?  Starting tomorrow I will be working part-time again, so will have more time for the garden, but still, this is a lot of seeds!  The worst part?  I keep looking online for new varieties!

I forgot to mention my new tomato seeds I ordered online last night!  They are from heritageseedmarket.com
Two were on sale for just .50, while the other was just $1.55, and the postage for all three was more reasonable than I've seen before!    

Ditmarsher - a small pink cherry tomato to grow in a pot or hanging basket
Golden Jubilee - I'm hoping it will be as good as Yellow Brandywine. 
Hoskins-Barger - No particular reason. 

Sigh... I know I say seed starting isn't for me, but I am so easily tempted. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

It's NOT Too Early To Dream (or Plan)!

The new year has barely begun, but the Spring seed catalogs are arriving.  It's planting time for those who start their own seeds indoors, something I tried once.  Once was enough.  Too much trouble, not enough success.

But, I love to spend hours, longingly gazing at page after page of wonderful garden produce!  I plan, I make lists, I dream, I budget, I cross off lots.

My method is to start with a notebook.  I've had the same notebook since Spring in 2012, my first gardening season after moving here in the summer of 2011. 

Step 1: what do I want to grow?
This is my list from last year, with additions and deletions and a few comments!  

Step 2: where will they be planted?
A rough diagram of what planting beds will be available and their sizes, helps.  I know that anything climbing should be in planter A, since it has the trellis.  

Step 3: (*step 3 assumes the beds are prepared and amended for planting*) get the plants, noting where and when they were purchased and the date they were planted in the garden.  As the plants grow I add any notes, such as when seeds emerged, the first blossoms appear, the harvest size, if the plants even survived or date they were torn out.   I always get my tomatoes from the Tomato Lady (local seller), and my lemon cucumbers from the FFA at the high school. 


Step 4: reflect on the season.  I know from looking at last year's notes not to bother with tomatillos.  Yes, they grew, but from seed it took way too long.  Also, I didn't like them, most just fell to the ground (which will probably sprout now that I don't want them!).  I have great success with Sungold cherry tomatoes, so I stick with them year after year.  Brandywine did well in the 4x4 recycled gate bed, but not in the 4x8 cedar bed, where nothing did well last year.  I need to move the bed and enrich the soil.

Back to step 3 - your garden plots need amending each year.  This is especially true in raised beds and containers.  The plants took a lot of the nutrients out, you need to put them back in.  I like to get bags of different composts.  Steer manure. Chicken manure.  Plant waste compost (from my garbage company).  Mushroom compost.  The more the happier the plants will be.  One of each in each bed is a great start.  My own compost heap should yield some "garden black gold" this year too.   I won't do this until early Spring, expect where I plan to plant peas in February.  That will be my bed A on this year's plan.

Just thinking that February will be here soon has me switching into full gardening mode!  If I build the planned 4x4 beds (with those great deal raised bed corners bought last year) I will need more soil.  I probably could use 2 yards (my original soil delivery was 4).  The cinder block bed, the old raspberry bed (E) will need to be dismantled (some to the Stella cherry) and rebuilt.  My plan is to arrange them in a sort of circular area for strawberries, with a second smaller tier for a pear tree.  Most of the existing soil will be unusable due to raspberry infiltration!  I love raspberries, but I can get so much more use out of the space they demand.  Same with the former boysenberry containers.  Oh, I forgot those on my plan!  I have large empty containers that would fit many, many different vegetables!  Or, my weakness, herbs.  I am already hoping for another gift certificate to  Mountain Valley Growers!

Happy 2018 and Happy Garden Planning!  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Winter Asparagus Chores

I finally got to the asparagus patch!

After harvesting delicious asparagus spears for about six weeks, I let the rest grow, form pretty ferny fronds, and die back.  Asparagus needs to be allowed to die back before pruning to feed the roots for next year's spears (the same thing as with bulbs such as daffodils, the leaves feed the bulb).  Once the spears start to get small, don't harvest more.  I know the stores offer "baby" asparagus spears, but that is just bad for the plant!  Asparagus takes literal years before you should harvest any at all!  But, once established, plants can produce for 20 years. 

Some gardeners cut back their asparagus in the spring, before new growth, others in fall.  I wait until December (late December this year!).

This is my asparagus patch last week... 

This is the same patch yesterday afternoon...  There is still some stubborn garlic growing.  I have it almost eradicated. 

Once you've cut them back, you can see last years dried "stems," and can easily pull out. Don't yank this year's bunch!  You can see the difference between the new cuts (fresh looking interior) and the old ones, which are dried and dark brown.  I pulled out the weed by the way!

The one between my fingers is from 2016, the one below this year's. 

 The same one showing how easily it slid out of the soil.  (Sorry about my dirty Band-Aid!) 

The last thing to do preparing an asparagus bed for winter is to layer on some nice manure!  My bed is about 3' x 4', and took a large bag of steer manure, about 2" - 3" thick.  Don't dig it in, even come springtime.  That would damage the asparagus roots.  You can't dig around in an asparagus bed!  It doesn't get really cold here, so I don't add a layer of straw mulch, which is done in colder locations.

This bed was here when I moved here in 2011.  It is the one and only edible planted by the home's original owner.  Hard for me to fathom owning a house with a large yard since 1962 and not planting more!