Sunday, December 30, 2012

Transplant the Blueberries Day

The sun was out today!  That meant it was Transplant the Blueberry Day.  I bought four new 12" pots at the Grange for $2.99 each.   They're just the black plastic nursery pots, but eventually the plants will need large ones, so it makes sense to go cheap until then.  They were in 8" pots, so now I have four "new" 8' pots for other use!

Many professionals recommend not only acid-lovers potting soil, but peat, pine shavings (or bark,  needles, etc.), and a handful of soil sulfur per pot.  I sure hope that isn't over acidifying the soil!  The instructions I read were for planter grown berries, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.  I just bought the pine shavings from the pet department! 

I mixed up the soil, shavings, handful of soil sulfur and a bit of peat, then transplanted the berries.

New transplants in the rare, rare sun!  December 30, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

...come again some other day.  Little Lisa wants to garden.  Or at least be able to mow and weed. 

The rain is still coming down. The ground is fully saturated so the water just sits there, getting deeper.  In a strange way I am grateful for clay soil. If I had planted directly into the ground, rather than used raised beds, all my vegetables, berries, etc. would be waterlogged. 

The lettuce has been doing well though.  It's pretty! 

I like the pretty spotted lettuce!

I don't know what sort of lettuces these are.  They were in a "garden mix" that I am not impressed with.  My best lettuce has grown from seeds from Walgreen's, when they put seeds on sale for 10 cents or so!

What is a bit ragged for us to eat doesn't go to waste.  We have a Guinea pig and three rats who enjoy fresh produce!

Remy (left) and Dash (right) enjoying lettuce - December 22

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Funny Weather We're Having...

Remember the rain?  The rain that is setting new records?  It stopped long enough to drain the sitting water, but everything was still soggy.  Then, what do I wake to yesterday, with no warning from the weathermen and weatherwomen?  This...

Yes, that's snow on the blueberry plants! 
 That's right, SNOW!  We may get a dusting a few mornings a year, maybe four or five. And maybe a bit more once or twice that soon melts.  Last February we had some like this, but that's February!  I know much of the Northern Hemisphere has had snow for months, but this is a big deal for us!  That's because it is still new to us.  While my daughter refused to budge from her warm bed, my son was up and tossing snowballs.  The dogs loved it.

Some plants are so resilient.   They look so fragile, yet can withstand the snow.

Rose bud in the snow - 12-15-12
Snow is so pretty, photos just can't do it justice.  I love to just stand at the front door (yes, it has a window!) and watch it fall.  So long as I have nowhere to go, it's all good!   Unfortunately, the rains returned in the night, and the puddles are back. 



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bok Choy and Broccoli

Bok Choy.  Pak Choi.  Boc Choi.  Pac Choy.
However you spell it (it means "white vegetable" in Cantonese), I harvested, cooked, and ate it for dinner!  Sauteed in a little olive oil, a bit of garlic and ginger (I cheated and used powdered), it was tasty.  I prefer it in won ton soup, where you get just bit of it.  The stems didn't get a bulbous as the kind in the groceries, or else that is a different variety from mine. 

Bok Choy - something small nibbled a bit on the leaves.
 Oh, boy, the excitement of harvesting my own broccoli!  (Insert sarcasm here.)  Yeah, this was as big as my heads of broccoli got!  I read that this can be caused by the plant being in a small container too long, but I don't think that is the problem here.  Nor is it due to cold temperatures as seedling, unless the nursery didn't care for them properly.  I think it is just me.  Fall and winter vegetables are just not for me.  Maybe lettuce is fine, but not the others. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Berries: Boysen', Blue, and Rasp'!

I am now the proud owner of nine berry starts!  Either Boysenberry or Tayberry, the kind woman who gave them to me didn't remember what was planted where these came up.  But, I got them free!  Yes...they were on Craigslist!  I called her first thing this morning and rushed right over to get them.

They don't look like much right now, but just you wait...

Boysenberries and Tayberries are both hybrids.  Tayberries are a blackberry and raspberry cross, while Boysenberries are said to have Loganberry added into the blackberry and raspberry background.  Tayberries originated in Scotland, in 1979, while Boysenberries date back to 1920s California.  In fact, Boysenberries (named for their developer Rudolph Boysen) are what made Knott's Berry Farm famous!  Long before it was an "amusement park," as my daughter called it when hearing the story, Knott's Berry Farm was just that, a berry farm!  Of course, you can still buy their fruit preserves and jams.  My grandmother would send us a box of Knott's Berry Farm jams each Christmas.

New little buds that may produce berries this next year!

I temporarily planted them in a large planter, since I wanted to get them into soil as soon as possible, and I was definitely not prepared for them!  They can be planted in large planters, which is what I will do.  A large planter on the deck against the house, with my unused trellis (that was a kitchen project that flopped) will look nice this summer!  A quick pruning, and there they are.  Boo couldn't wait to toss his tennis ball into the mix!  He is so frustrated by the weather; he isn't allowed to play fetch in the mud. 

Newly planted "starts" with Boo's ball.
I still want a raspberry bed, but between these and the blueberries, I think I have my hands full for the time being.

Speaking of blueberries...mine are looking good!  Many of the leaves have fallen, and the plants are looking pretty healthy.  I am unsure how to properly prune them, so more research is in order.  They do look much better than when I bought them. 

Let's not ignore the one raspberry I do have, the Meeker in the pot.  It has grown considerably since planting.

Meeker Raspberry - October 8...
...and December 11

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Raised Beds are THE Way to Go!

In case you missed my post from last March, I will yet again extoll the virtues of raised beds.

1) they warm sooner in the spring, allowing for earlier plantings
2) they hold warmth longer in the season, your plants will produce longer
3) not as much bending (none if you build them tall enough!) to plant and harvest
4) not as much weeding
5) the soil doesn't compact since you are not walking on it (raised beds are usually no more than 4 feet wide, just right for reaching the middle from either side)
6) you are in control of the soil in the beds
7) pets are less likely to bother stepping up to trample your plants (a problem I have)
8) depending on the design, you can sit on the sides of them while planting, harvesting, or just to enjoy the garden
9) you can plant in the holes if you use cinder blocks
10) they drain better

#10 is what I am happy for this time of year.  We just had a week of very heavy, record setting rains.  My far back, where the beds are, is under water. More so than last year.  Imagine trying to grow anything not planted in raised beds!  My current clay soil is so different from the adobe clay soil in CA.  My father planted directly into that soil, long before the days of bagged compost and potting soil. Oh, he did make his own "leaf mold," so he did have compost.  He built a topless wooden box, with a hinged flap at the bottom.  Leaves were just piled on the top, and as they rotted he opened the flap and scooped out the rich composted "leaf mold."  But, my clay isn't like that. 

Cookie likes the green, green grass!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Spring Day-Dreaming

It isn't even winter, and my thoughts are in spring!  Seed catalogs are arriving, and I am perusing them for hours on end.

Seed Catalogs (Territorial's is last spring's issue, but I can base my "wish list" on it!

I already bought seeds for three tomato varieties.  They were 50% off, packed for 2012. But, the seed life is usually 3 years, even according to the seed companies.  Since Territorial Seeds are in Oregon (like me!), I figure I will get what seeds I can from them. 
1) Sungold (the cherry I grew this year, and was going to plant again)
2) Mortgage Lifter (I was going to get this one too!) Named for the story that the man who developed it made enough money to pay off his $6,000 mortgage selling the plants for $1.00 a piece.  I guess that sounds possible. 
3) Yellow Pear (another yellow cherry, like Sungold, but a cute pear shape)

Tomato Seed Packets

It isn't actually all that early to be planning since I went back on my promise to myself never to start from seed again!  That was just last winter, and here I am planning to do just that!  This time though I am going to make plant growing shelves.  More of that to come when I get the supplies!  I keep reading lists of how much money home-grown veggies have saved people, but I can't see it.  I do it because I like it.  If it is something you enjoy, a hobby say, or something that keeps you sane, you don't worry about the cost, right?

I am saving containers to start the seeds in.  Empty orange juice boxes, cut off bottoms of milk cartons, yogurt containers...things like that.

On another note, my Christmas cactus is forming blossoms!  My neighbor, Melanie, gave this plant to me last Christmas.  In California I would have had to put it in a closet for a month to force the blooms, but here it gets enough dark to do it on its own.  I love Christmas cactus!  My grandmother (of the "If I could get up..." fame) had a huge one on her enclosed back porch.  My mother always thought it needed water, but they are called "cactus!"  Although, reading about them shows they originally come from shady, high humidity areas of Brazil.  So much for "cactus." 

Christmas Cactus Buds

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Asparagus and More Great Deals!

The asparagus has been cut back to ground level now.  I still have to add a couple of inches of compost, but it started storming and the rain hasn't let up enough to get outside today.  The bed is small, but it came with the house, and was a pleasant surprise. 

Asparagus - November 28, 2012

Asparagus Bed - November 28, 2012
I stopped by the Grange the other day, just to take a look at their Christmas trees (too rich for my blood!) and found some planting bags with trellises.  The package says for tomatoes, but they are quite small, so I plan on putting something else in them.  Perhaps peppers, which have a much smaller root space need.  Or cucumbers. 

Planting Bag with Trellis...
...with Boo.

The trellises can be unfolded too, so I might use them that way for cucumbers in the raised beds.  I am not a big fan of planting bags, having had little success with them in the past.

Boo Being Boo - trellis unfolded
I could also clip the plastic ties and get three small trellises to put in planters.  Oh, these are so multifunctional!  And on clearance!  Too bad there were only two left...

Oh, we ate chard last night!  The plants aren't big, so I just cut off a few of the oldest leaves from each plant.  I liked it, my son ate it, and my daughter grudgingly tried one small leaf and decided it isn't her sort of thing. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Compost and Trellises

My garbage company sells compost.  Compost that they make from "our" green waste.  Branches, weeds, lawn clippings, leaves...all that stuff we put in our big green containers.  My old garbage company didn't do that with our waste, so this is very exciting!  I drove out to the recycling center last week to drop off a broken microwave and bought 5 sacks of their compost.  $4.99 for a big, heavy bag of wonderful, fine, dark (almost black) compost.

I got a book on container gardening at the library, The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible.  I got so much inspiration for my raised beds, and more, from it.  One thing I have been lax in is support for my climbing crops.  I did make a rickety bamboo and string trellis for the peas last spring, but that's it.  So, when I ran across these metal trellises online, and on sale for only $6.99, I had to have some!  They are a bit short, 56", but the 72" ones are $46.95, so 56" will do!  The Cascadia snap peas are fairly short, I don't believe they got over 4' tall, so that will work.  Also, cucumbers might be all right.   I ordered five, but four came.  The company (Gardener's Supply Company) is sending me the missing one, with no shipping since it was their error.  They even told me to I could add extra items with no extra shipping!  So, I ordered three more of the trellises!   I am SO looking forward to spring! 

New Metal Trellises (oh, that's Cookie in the background next to the dogs' water bucket)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Crop Updates

Broccoli is getting there:

Bok Choy is looking nice:

Lettuces are so beautiful:

Cauliflower is taller, but no little cauliflower bumps yet:

Monday, November 19, 2012


Blueberries. I haven't mentioned them before, because I had no intention of growing any.  But, opportunities come up and I can't resist a bargain for the garden!  This time it was blueberry plants on Craigslist.  Four of them.  The lady thinks they are all Bluecrop, so I should get one more of another variety for best production.  Blueberries are self-pollinating, but they do much better with another variety nearby.

New Blueberry Plants

They were bigger than I expected for $5.00 each.  They are a bit ragged, with some sunburn on the leaves, but they look healthy otherwise.  I won't do a real pruning until they are dormant, but I did clean them up a bit, cutting off broken and really straggly stems.  I am controlling myself from transplanting until they are dormant too!  Eventually I will put them in half wine barrel planters, but this year I will get pots similar to what they are in but a size or two larger.  They have a fairly shallow root room need, so are suitable for planters, even Bluecrop, which matures to 4' to 6' tall. 

I sprinkled some acid-lovers plant food on the soil and watered it in.  That's the only thing to be concerned about with blueberries, the soil.  Acid lovers, needing a pH of about 4.5 to 5.  NOT what my raised beds are, since veggies prefer around 7.  After spending hours online, reading and watching videos on blueberry care, I think I can do right by them. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wet and Cold Weather, Insect Pests, and More Canning

Wet and Cold Weather:  Not too much rain, the back-back isn't a bog yet.  We have had one night of freezing temperatures, which froze the bird bath water, but not the dog water under the overhang, which will happen later on.  The tree frogs are still chirping away.  Do they hibernate?  I need to look that up. I feel so Mama- Bear about them, protective and worried!  The freeze got the marigolds, zinnias, and basil. I cut the peppermint, chocolate mint, catnip (catmint), spearmint, and wooly apple mint to near ground level.  The frozen lettuce always amazes me.  Frozen stiff, yet thaw with no harm to the fragile leaves.  Pretty frost on all the plants. 

Frost on the Strawberries - November 9
Insect Pests:  I tore out two broccoli and two cauliflower plants yesterday.  Full of aphids and I didn't want to deal with them any more since they are the same plants that have had problems before, even with my spaying Sevin on them.  I don't plan on growing cole crops again.   My "winter" garden will consist of lettuce and chard next year.

More Canning:  At least this topic is more upbeat.  I canned apple sauce, apple slices in a light syrup, and more apple butter.  Apple butter is the easiest, since it cooks slowly all day.  The apple slices are rather repulsive in that the apples are floating.  The teacher at the symposium told us to really pack them in to the top, but I followed the Ball Blue Book instructions to the letter.  My jars were a bit big also, quart size.  I bought some pint ones for apple sauce.  The apples, Granny Smith, cooked down so smooth I didn't need to blend them beyond just using a hand wire-whisk.  I did add a little sugar as the apples are on the sour side.

Apple Slices - not too appetizing!
Apple Sauce

Apple Butter Apples in Slow Cooker

I made an apple crisp for dessert tonight.  On one hand the apples are going fast, but on the other hand, it takes so many of them to make a jar of butter or sauce.  I have 34 left, which sounds like a lot, but it took about 10 just for the crisp.  

Apple Crisp
Apple Crisp Recipe
Grease the bottom and sides of a large rectangular baking pan.  Peel, core, and slice apples into the bottom of the pan.  I used about 10, it should cover the bottom about 3 slices deep.  Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.  The amount of sugar depends on the sourness or sweetness of the apples.  Mine took 1/2 cup.  Cinnamon was just sprinkled on.  Add 1/3 cup water.  In a bowl mix 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup oatmeal (I use old fashioned, not "quick cooking), cutting in 1 cube (1/2 cup) margarine.  Sprinkle over apples.  You might have a bit too much, so just use the lumpiest parts with the butter!
Cook for about 40 minutes (peek!) at 350 degrees until browned and bubbly. I like the chewy parts on teh edges, if you don't take it out sooner.  Great with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gardening Symposium - session four AND My Sick Apple Tree

Maintaining the Home Orchard was the last session of the day.  The most important points I brought away from this class were:

1) What fruit trees are tolerant in my area.
     pears - very tolerant
     apples - tolerant
     plums - tolerant
Any other fruit trees are not very tolerant, even though they are grown in home gardens.
2) Pruning/shaping the tree includes 4 areas:
     heading cuts - remove parts of branch, buds grow below
     thinning cuts - remove entire branch (recharges growth)
     branch spread/bend
     pinch off unwanted buds

3) Thinning - thinning increases yield. Leave a space equal to the distance between your thumb and pinkie apart.
You need to thin:
     apples - 4-5 weeks after petal fall, leave the "king" bloom, which is the first one that opens, the one in the middle. 
     pears - 7-9 weeks after petal fall, save middle one, or 4th one from the base.

We discussed pests and what to do about them.

This leads me into my second subject, my Braeburn apple tree Dale.
I became familiar with coddling moth larva this past spring (which caused me to lose my entire crop of nine apples), and unfortunately I just discovered borers in my tree trunk.  Probably Pacific Flathead Borer.  I tried to cut the dead wood away, and dug into the small holes to remove the borer larva.  I did manage to find a couple of the nasty little yellow things.  Then I squirted vegetable oil into the areas, which I read might help suffocate the larva. Anything might help, and it can't hurt. I am afraid I might lose the tree.  A lot of damage is at ground level. 

Braeburn Apple Tree - cleaned out hole where borer burrowed in