Monday, April 13, 2015

Greenhouse News!

Half a Greenhouse is Better Than None

Last summer, I decided to try out the long-neglected  greenhouse. After soaking the ultra-desiccated rock-hard potting-type soil in the two beds, I dumped on bone meal, organic fertilizer, and compost, digging it in as best I could. I planted some store-bought tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and Walla Walla onions. I only planted one side, figuring that I'd not waste so much effort if nothing grew.

See those red "automators" around the tomato plants? They DO work!

Yeah, trellises would have helped, but the whole thing just went bananas, with loads of really tasty veggies - we gave away lots, and still had plenty for ourselves. We got some weirdos, too.

So how did tomatoes sprout their own appendages?

Those plants pumped out stuff all the way to the end of October, despite my lackadaisical watering, even forgetting to turn on the timer for the drip hoses I put in. Waaay too many onions, too, but that's for another post.

Auwe! I managed to bust off one of the mower blades, to be repaired...

Winter this year was almost a no-show, and we are well into Spring, ready or not. The greenhouse is getting kicked into shape, so we should get peas, spinach, and more. If I can, I'll let the old onions set seed, but if they fail, well, time for something else to be planted, and at least I'm having a lot of fun with the old greenhouse. Meanwhile. the pastures are getting really lush.

Friday, September 5, 2014

What I Did This Summer

Once the rains petered out, I damn near killed myself arduously marched back and forth with the little Honda mower, lugging countless bags of clippings to be piled on the garden beds becoming. Here's the joke:

See, I have "dandelawn", not grass like most folk. Mowing it is a race between the dainty little yellow blooms and the fuzzy puffballs of dandelion seeds just waiting to go forth and multiply.

Here's the look in mid-mow:
And this is just the front lawn. Somewhere along here, I heard a voice saying "Why won't you just get a rider mower?" I stopped the mower, took off the ear protectors, and turned around to find my wife holding a big cold glass of water. Of course, I said, "What? I didn't hear you. What didja say?" (Code for message acknowledged. Roger that.)

Got this little beauty, on sale as a store return at the Sears Homeboy Hometown store the next day, with all of 0.6 hours on the meter, because the original buyer found it was too hard to drive. I drove a heck of a bargain, taking a fat slice off the price. They delivered it 3 days later, complete with a full tank of gas, all nice and shiny:

With a 54-inch deck, mowing has become fun again. I am saving up for a bagger attachment, though, as a little lawn sweeper takes way too long to use. I really give this thing a work-out:

All I do is blow the dust and clippings off with a leaf-blower, and dust it with a microfiber towel. It has subdued the blackberry/fern jungle on the east end, and the big pasture on the west end is being cut and re-cut to compost in place:

You might think that's pretty level, but it is a bone-jarring thrash for me. The hidden ruts and gopher mounds haven't been tamed in many years - this stuff was 3 to 4 feet tall at first, but several tanks of gas later, it looks much better. There's a lot more back in the trees, too. I am wondering if a chain harrow (drag harrow) might smooth it out some, but it's not something I want to plow, till, grade and seed....more about that at another time.

The "RGB's" - raised garden beds - are still slowly accumulating, and don't really look different since the earlier pictures I took. I had more success with the greenhouse, with a mad jumble of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and lettuce. I still have the second row of soil there to start with brassicas and carrots, and possibly a rooted sucker or two from the tomato vines:

You might recognize those red tomato tray thingies, which I actually found to be pretty good after all. I do need to get some repair tape for the greenhouse cover. The previous owner must have gotten into a fight or two with it. The PVC lines are purely decorative, since there's no known water line out to the greenhouse. I just got some cheesy 5/8" hoses at the local Bi-Mart and ran soaker hose over the beds (after taking the above picture). Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do, capeche?

The house repairs and stuff have taken most of our time, but I remind myself, to plant a seed is to believe in the future. I expect to have a real garden next year, even though I was saying that last year, too. Getting the garden tractor was not expected to happen until next year, so in some ways, we are doing OK, anyway. I've done more stuff here in two years than I did in five years on Maui, but that's my fault. Stay tuned....

Saturday, May 31, 2014

We Interrupt Our Normal Programming...

Every available day to work on the garden has been usurped by non-garden activities, mostly unplanned. When those distractions abate, we have lovely ground-soaking rains, generally resulting in furious grass growth, taxing my ability to keep it semi-tamed in the lawn areas, but the pastures are doing the reversion to nature dance without even one brush hogging arranged (the folks with the big Kubota tractor were away earlier, so the fields have gone wild). I only got about half of one brush-pile burned, and burn season ends any day now. Dang.

I did manage to drag the branches from the fruit tree prunings to the back, and chipped them down with a rather puny shredder-chipper. The larger branches will get to season for next winter, if we can get a real wood-burning stove installed.

The garden beds slowly rise, but it takes hours of stacking on cardboard, then countless bags of grass clippings, dirt and letting the rains soak it.

I think y'all get the idea. There's a lot of worm activity down in the decomposing stuff, which surprising (to me) doesn't have that stinky odor that wet grass piles sometimes exude. I try to sprinkle some old organic fertilizer on a layer when I find some, and some old rose food I had dragged over from Maui got added, too.

We got some tomato, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, and Wall Walla onion plants to get the raggedy old greenhouse to working. There's almost no decent soil in the two rows, which look like straight potting soil was in there years ago. We've added some decent bagged soil, a  bit of compost, and the little plants went to work. No pics, but after I find some sticks to set up some trellises, I'll take a couple. Seeds will be planted on the other row, now that the soil amending has settled. We leave the greenhouse door open during pollinator visiting hours, but tickling the tomato blossoms gets done often. We probably need more 99-cent lettuce packs to put in once we harvest some of that lovely green. It's not much, but compared to zero last year, we are happy. 

Oh, and here's pair of feathered visitors in the south side of our back yard. I don't know what kind of birds they are, but the are big!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Uh, Happy New Year, and Hurray For Spring!

Yeah, it's a bit early for another post, according to the Procrastinators Rules, but here goes. The winter was cold all the time, with really cold weeks on two occasions, leaving us 6+ inches of snow each time, with the second snows made really messy with a bit of rain. Trees and branches took out electrical power, but thanks to the power company crews, we were down only for hours, not days. Lots of catalog time, but no way to do any garden building!
This Japanese maple was thinned somewhat, so no branches gave way.

Frozen jungle, but at least it looks pretty...

The river rose to "flood stage" level, but it raced by furiously then receded.

And then, the sun came out, and Japanese maples began to leaf out.

Ta Da! Now the layer building has begun, and there's tons of cardboard to pile on.

Each of those five rows is nearly five feet wide, and they are about twentyseven feet long. The lawn clippings start about eight or more inches thick, matting down with rain and molehills-dirt. The cardboard is easier to handle when dry, but obviously, some of it over-wintered on the grass... OK, I know it will grow back, so I just carry stacks of more cardboard out, and wait for a dry day to mow again. There's a good-sized brush pile behind the fence, but it is nasty thorny crap, fit only for torching on a no-wind day. I have at least 4 other piles to burn, too.

I managed to run some soil tests with A&L Labs just to see how to correct the deficiencies. PH is 5.1 - nice, if you are a blueberry. Nitrogen is ridiculously low, but iron is OK. They advise about twenty tons 280 lbs of dolomite for 1000 sq ft, but that will take all year to apply in stages. I just hope the fruit trees forgive me for the boot-camp pruning that was done to remove the broken and split parts after the black bears mauled them in search of rotty old scabby fruit. I'm trying to fix a crappy little chipper, to put through some of the trimmed-off branches to help on the garden beds. It wasn't expensive unless it won't work, but I'll have something for my cousin (St.) Vinnie if it's dead.

The one good thing I found this Spring is the great clean-up of the mower and string  trimmer/strimmer/weedwhacker. I used MowDeck and Clean Machine only a couple of times before winter arrived, but I was surprised to see how easily the tools shed the cuttings - they washed right off! No caked-on concretions, and only a faint green tint on some parts, which I could polish off if I was getting a white-glove inspection. I need to touch up the mower blades, but they still look almost new. I'm happy, because I mowed a lot of hidden crap in the grass, hitting branches, stone and dirt molehills, and acres of really way overgrown grass last year. I actually like to mow, but some day, I just have to get a tractor. Seriously.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter Solstice passed - Merry Christmas!

This year has been long in some ways but fast in others. Then, we froze. No way to do anything outside but run out and take a couple of photos.
The iron horsehead got twice again as much - this was early in the day.

Our backyard was just getting whiter by the hour, at 13 degrees.

Wistfully, I looked out at the garden beds to be - those little wooden stobs are a foot tall sans snow, with he first couple of "lasagna" layers inside the string-bordered beds. See how procrastination gets covered up - at least for a while. We are getting some light rain, with the temps soaring almost to 50, so I might be tempted to slap on another bunch of molehill dirt (yes, they are back!), leaves, and gobs more cardboard, and if I can get some dandelion greens pulled, so much the merrier!

Oh, I forgot! Just a few days before the snow, I found this big ugly fungus amungus. I slapped Mr. Lincoln down alongside to give it some scale. No sign of any harm to it after the snow, but no way I'd I want some intrepid 'shroom-hunter to snack on that!

And finally, here's the river, dressed in its winter formal outfit.

Now that the days will be getting a bit more light, I'll find the bits and pieces of junk tools and supplies I've been collecting to start making the garden bed walls. The plans have been sketched out, modified considerably, and the fun will start once theory meets reality.
Here's to a very Merry Christmas, and a most Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Price of Procrastination

Only about seven moons ago, I thought I could make a few posts about setting up some garden beds, pick some fruit from trees I found along the fence by the road, and try to start weeding and mowing and yardy sorts of things.
Obviously, the autofocus looked right past this pink-bud apple blossom, but it was one of many.
 I have no idea what this bush is, nor do I know much about rhodies, but they bloomed all over the place.
 And these Dutch Iris (I think) popped up, along with all kind of hostas, some at dinner plate size.

So went the spring into summer, with yellow plums, blue plums, a couple of Bartlett-like pears so scabby, I thought they'd be yucky, but I peeled one and decided it was just so-so. Apples were tasty but I didn't try making a pie or applesauce. The scab on the apples was pretty ugly, too. I procrastinated on summer pruning the fruit trees. They got a late-summer pruning that I'll illustrate in my next post.

After much more time and delay of game, I got some decent Honda stuff to attack the looming acreage of grasses/weeds. Great exercise, but it also let me procrastinate on starting even one measly garden bed. Various and sundry events filled in the days and weeks, with only notes and plans written on yellow tablets to show my intentions. More effort went into whacking down the nasty blackberries, creating heaps of stuff only a flamethrower could love. But - you guessed it, I had  to  procrastinate, because the county prohibits brush-burning until late October. That works for me!

The first frosty days just arrived, with the grass staying frosted for two full days so far. Really gives me a good reason excuse to stay indoors. Besides, I just got a High Mowings catalog, so I can catalog-garden instead. Maybe Johnny's and others will arrive soon, too. Oh, boy!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Enough Chilling Hours

and other excuses for not setting up a garden yet

OK, so I got over the winter, which I think was milder than what we were told it could be. Goody - but unmistakably obvious signs of Spring have been happening, except there's no long piles of greens and browns to indicate future garden beds. I did get out and pound in a garden stake, so gimme that teeny bit of credit. 

Mostly, I hibernated, and planned out how to start replacing the one-way tool borrows that happen when moving twice. Hey, we did get some snow.

 For a while, the river rose a lot, but now the rocks are sticking out again, and the lush stuff along the banks turns green, not just from moss.

I even found a daffodil, all by its lonely, and I took a crappy picture of it, but you'll have to wait, because I can't find the camera to upload it. I tediously counted up how many hours below 40 degrees F we had between November 15th and March 15th, to get an idea of the chilling hours this winter. I got well over a thousand, so I guess I can plan on lots of pome fruits for the future orchard. And lots more, of course. I made a command decision to delay pruning the old fruit trees, as I read that they will do better with summer pruning anyway, and I'll get more to shred for compost, too. Now that the ground is warming a bit (all of a whopping 43 degrees now).

Duh - found the picture of the daffy.

Sounds crazy, bug we have some bayou-looking stuff in the far back yard. I put on my Bogs boots and stomped down the canes to get a closer look, since the weedy stuff had frozen and died down. But what the heck are those giant yellow flowers? They are easily 6 or 7 inches long, mostly right in the little pond and creek water, tons of them!

see what I mean about moss...and even ferns in the moss! In the top left of the first picture, that's a blackberry cane about 1 inch in diameter, meaner than hell, so I quit
my little excursion into the wilds. I need a big machete next trip, I think.
There are all kind plants and flowers, including the fruit trees, which bloomed out in the past week or two. I know one is a pear, two are apples (leafing but not yet flowering) and some are what, plums? apricot? I just have to wait, I know, and yes, I'll thin the fruit. Hang some sticky red things, too, to trap the flies. Gotta get some Tree Tanglefoot.


I found a pretty white flowering tree of some sort in the front "ivy" bed:

And, here's a leetle better pic of the lonely daffodil.