Monday, November 10, 2014

Garden is Resting Now

This was a pretty successful year in my hand made garden. I have to say I've had more success than in the past. I can't be sure this is due to the square foot garden plan, the over-the-top summer weather we had here in the Pacific Northwest this year, or the All Holds Barred slug assault I began in March and kept up till July. After that, I just killed slugs that crossed my path, and those that hid under pots I had sitting on the ground.

Slugs still got their share of my tomatoes, but I had more than I could eat and even gave some away.

These are some of the green ones in July.
This was taken in early August, much earlier than I usually get ripe tomatoes!!
I planted flowers in the holes in the cement blocks that I used to form the sides of my Square Foot Garden. I never did put the grid over the top, so the inventor of the Square Foot Garden system would not say I really had one.

This small bowl of berries were picked on November 1. We have not yet had frost here, but we have had deluges of rain, so I have called the season to an end, leaving a few berries for the sparrows to have. I have to cut all the vines to 6" after the harvest, and pile them in a big pile. The birds enjoy picking whatever berries are left on the vines, even if they are a bit hard or not quite ripe.
This is one of my larger blueberry bushes, looking splendid in her Autumn attire!!
These are my lovely potatoes. I plan to do a watercolor of them, they are SO beautiful!!! They tasted wonderful, too!!
I took a class in making baskets from pine needles: this is my first one. It is made from pine needles collected in California by our teacher. I think he said it was a Colter Pine? Does that sound familiar to anyone? We have pines here in Western WA but have to go to Eastern WA to find the longer needled pines.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 9, 2014: My Garden Grows, Regardless

Even though I have had very little time in my garden for the past two weeks, it has been able to do pretty well without me. Frankly, I think it does better without me than I do without it.

For me, as I think I've mentioned before, gardening is my meditation; I enjoy being outside, hearing the birds, seeing the sky, as well as hearing the daily sounds of our small town: the sounds of a pile-driver whenever a new building is going up, the fire trucks/aid cars as they depart the nearby fire station, the sounds of jets flying very high above, and the medical helicopter flying low overhead almost everyday to ferry some ill person quickly to a hospital in Seattle.

My husband has been ill and we spent 6 days of the two week span previous to this past week in Seattle at Virginia Mason Hospital . It is a top-rated hospital and we are very lucky to have it within our reach. However, it is a two and a half hour trip away and it is tiring to have to go there twice in two weeks; we are still tired even though we have been home for a week today. My husband continues to heal and we are looking forward to this spell of illness being a thing of the past soon.
This is a view from the 11th floor of Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, on August 1, 2014, on a clear summer evening. If you have to be in a hospital room, it's great to be up in the sky with a beautiful view of the city. I use inexpensive Canon cameras, in the Elph series.
I put the Local logo at the top of this post just to remind people to support their local businesses. Dollars spent at local businesses stay in your community; they are spent at other local businesses, unlike the dollars spent at big box stores owned by a big corporation--most of those dollars go to the corporate headquarters in other states. So vote for your local businesses by spending your dollars there.  

As you can see from the tomato picture above, my garden is doing well. My first red tomato had a big slug bite out of it, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Here it is with some of the very last blueberries and raspberries, and the very first blackberry of the 2014 season.
Here is the "harvest" from yesterday--until the blackberries come on for real, I won't have a lot of picking to do, but once they get going, I will be busy picking berries every day. We freeze them and in the fall or winter, we make seedless jam. Some of the jam becomes holiday gifts for family and friends. We have a Victorio Strainer that helps us remove the rather large seeds from these thornless blackberries.  

Here are some of the berries moving ever closer to harvest every day. We have had a very sunny summer in the coastal Pacific Northwest and the berries so appreciate that!! I have had these blackberry plants for about 15 years, I think. Every fall they are trimmed to 6" tall, and every following summer they will grow as tall as I'll allow them. However, only the lateral branches bear fruit, so it's a good idea to cut the tips off when they are about 5 feet tall. I wish I could remember what variety they are, but I don't. I bought them by mail. They do not sucker and for years I only had three plants, however since we adopted a flock of sparrows, I have had more plants spring up; I have been able to give some to friends as well as add more to my own "stable."
These berries are very big!!

 This little cherry tomato is ready to eat!!
So I 'm hoping in the next few weeks I'll be doing more gardening and less work as a nurse. Stay tuned, and shop locally!!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dirt in my SHOE!!

This happens to me WAY TOO OFTEN!! Not only that, I poured liquids in my shoe (yes, while wearing them) several times as well. Sometimes I feel as if I'm starring in my own comedy!!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

First Square Foot Garden Done

Well, it took me a LONG time, but I finally got the first Square Foot Garden done. It is approximately 2 feet by 2 feet, but since I used cement blocks, I have all those holes in them that serve as planting space, too.
This is the "lane" between the first garden and what will become the second garden. I seeded it Tuesday night, expecting rain--it finally arrived on Friday morning!! You just can't count on the weather!!

This was one of the "harvests" this week--it's early in the harvest year:

There is absolutely NO reason for anyone in western WA to ever BUY lettuce. I'm pretty sure we can grow it year round here. I have some growing on both my front porch and the back porch. this is my back porch crop a week or so ago:

I had a terrible time getting clematis to grow in my backyard; I think I killed several plants before I finally got two to grow, and then one of THOSE seems to have disappeared. But the remaining one has a field day every summer:
Here it is indulging itself in its annual  Butterfly Bush Climb:
My friend Mary Lou HATES morning glories, but I like them. Here is my "morning glory fence;" I think the flowers improve it:
Since it is raining today, the extent of my gardening will probably be rounding up some slugs that are wandering about. That's OK. My stuff really needed a good soaking and it looks like it's getting it. Stay tuned.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Working Before the Rain

The weather folks on television said it would start to rain today, and they were correct this time. I worked from about 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and, as always, I am astounded by how little I got done in that amount of time. That said, gardening is my meditation, and so "hurrying" is not in the description at all. That's the point for me, you know? I want to BE out there, listening to the birds (and the fire trucks and my dogs), savoring the pure beauty of the out-of-doors.

It was pretty nice when I went out, but a couple hours in, the weather changed and it got cooler. I looked to the west and sure enough, I could see the coastal weather heading my way; we are only about 17 miles from the coast, so it doesn't have far to go.

Yesterday, I had planned to mix the rest of the soil for the Square Foot plot, but got sidetracked and instead potted some houseplants that I'd rooted from cuttings and also planted my husband's herb garden:
The herbs look a little lost in that big pot, but hopefully, they'll notice what lovely soil they have and take off. They're probably ticked because I left them sitting in their tiny pots for so long.

Today, I also put off finishing the filling of the garden, so here it sits, just as it was on Saturday afternoon:
The pink container and the plastic jug are just "saving the place" for the rest of the soil mix. The blue container in which I mix the soil components can be seen in the top right. The author of The New Square Foot Garden suggests using a tarp and mixing the soil on it, but I like using the plastic container, even though it takes four batches to fill the garden.
I tried to get all the little piles of organic debris into cans and boxes today, ready for their trip to what we refer to as "Greg's Gully." Part of our friend Greg's lot, about 12 feet of it, is a sheer drop off and he is trying to fill it in, so we take our yard waste there (what I don't want to compost) and throw it over the edge, into the abyss. I have about four for five big garbage cans full of hay roots, berry canes (from last year), wild blackberry vines, etc.  Hopefully, we can take them there tomorrow afternoon because I am running out of room in the cans to put any additional unwanted garden waste and  I'm tired of looking at them. I know there will be more, as I still have one former raised bed full of hay to deal with. You can see it in the picture above, at the top center: the white clothesbasket full of hay roots is sitting in it. When I started working this year, just about all the garden that wasn't berries was that tall hay you can see on both sides of that clothesbasket. I don't have a picture of it because I didn't want to LOOK at it!! It would get to be 5 or 6 feet tall!! It's the painful reminder of my stint at Straw Bale Gardening--not only did my plants not grow any better on the straw bales, but I unwittingly sowed hay seeds that produced this robust hay everywhere in my garden. It wanted to take over the world!! The roots are sometimes a yard long for one stalk of hay!! So think hard before you decide to do some "new fad" gardening!! I had no idea this would happen as a result of my little "experiment."
This is what the roots of the hay looked like when I started cleaning out the area for the square foot garden!! It is slow going, for sure.
A lot of my time this year has also been spent "sorting." When I clean out an area, I have dirt, roots, and rocks, usually--and sometimes rugs. Did I mention them yesterday?  I think I've pulled out about 14 rugs from the "lanes" between the berry rows, although two of them, and maybe another, are still in the garden, only partly uncovered. They were somewhat successful at keeping the weeds between the berry rows in check, but if they are there 15-20 years (and they were), about 4-6" of soil covers them, and they are no longer helpful. So getting them out has not been fun, but I've found if I work long enough, and hard enough, I eventually get them out, one at a time. A few friends have asked me why I didn't just leave them, but I didn't want them there any longer. They were not cotton or wool (at least those still there weren't) and so they'd never biodegrade any further.
So, besides digging out rugs,  I sort: rocks into containers, soil into different containers, roots into garbage cans for Greg's--except wild blackberry roots. I am a cloth dollmaker and I have a doll blog (, and dolls are never far from my mind. One day, as I pulled up a weed, I thought, "Wow! That root looks just like hair!" And so I made Earth Man with the root his hair:
He is not very big, only about ten inches tall. I really LIKED him, especially his hair! Then, as mentioned before, I have some very stubborn wild blackberry plants in my garden that I will NEVER get totally rid of--they were here first and they aim to stay. But, as I unearthed one of them, I thought, "Whoa!! Hair for a BIG doll!!" and so here she is:
She is about 30 inches tall when standing. and this is the next doll in the series: 

He/She is a little smaller than the one before. So anyway, using the roots this way has made digging them up a little more exciting for me.
It looks like the rest of this week will be short gardening stints worked in between the rain showers, much like it was in March, April, and May. And I will be out getting slugs--I killed over a hundred shortly after it began to rain this afternoon, but only 15 of those were in my backyard, and only maybe 10 more in our front yard. The rest were caught from the front yards of other houses on our block--slugs do not obey property lines, so I figure I don't need to obey lines when pursuing them either. So far, no neighbor has complained that I'm stealing their slugs!!!
That's all for now. Bedtime. Stay tuned.



Saturday, June 21, 2014

Welcome to Gardening By Hand

I told my husband I was going to write a gardening blog, not because I'm so good at gardening, but because I'm so BAD at it! He said, "I don't understand." I told him that I've made so many gardening mistakes that I want to tell other new gardeners about them, and save them from making the same mistakes I've made!!

I use no machines in gardening: only hand tools and my own power. I'm not counting the lawnmower or the weed whacker as I consider those as belonging to my husband, and more pertaining to yard maintenance than to gardening. If I was doing the job he does now, I would get another Neuton lawnmower, as they are light, electric and quiet, none of which my husband's lawnmower of choice is, and I would forget the weed whacker. I hate them for the same reason I hate SkiDoos--they're noisy and they ruin the serenity of the neighborhood.

I am a fairly successful berry grower: I have thornless blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  However, I've not had a whole lot of success growing other things. I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have quite a bit of rain where I live in southwest Washington state. Slugs have been a HUGE problem for me, and I'm not willing to use baits and poisons in my yard. We have resident sparrows, not to mention neighborhood cats and our own dogs, all of whom share our fenced backyard. I know they say that animals won't eat the slug bait, but I just don't want to use it. I saw a dog in convulsions once--he had eaten slug bait. You only need to see a scene like that once to be turned against products like that FORever!!

So this year, to try and win the slug battle, I began early--in March--killing every slug I saw and making inviting little traps for them--boards on the damp grass for them to sleep under during the day. Then, I hunted them relentlessly. It is too wet here in March to do much in a garden, so I pulled weeds and ambushed slugs during semi-rainless days. That means, when the rain let up a little, I went out with a jug filled with about 2 inches of water and two inches of ammonia (unlike salt, ammonia is actually GOOD for your lawn and other plants), and scooped up slugs right and left and dropped them into the jug. When I was done, I'd screw the lid back on the jug. You can use the same bottle for a week or so, and when it gets too gross, you can actually pour the whole disgusting mess into your compost!! At first, I'd pop the whole mess into the garbage can, jug and all, because I didn't even want to SEE it. Later, I became more stoic and put the nasty stuff in my small composter that has a lid. I'd replace the lid VERY quickly, too. My friend Becky keeps a bucket with the ammonia-water and I tried that first, but I just hated SEEING the mess, so I like my jug method better. You can also spray slugs with the ammonia water--I did this first but I got tired of spray bottles that didn't work well, and I used up a LOT of ammonia--besides, I didn't like the slugs lying around--I wanted them to DISAPPEAR or at least be where I couldn't see them!!.

In April I began counting how many slugs I dispatched each day--I'm curious, you know? I wanted to know if I was killing as many as it SEEMED like I was killing. And you know what? I WAS!! I killed over a thousand slugs during the month of April. They say for every slug you kill in the spring, you save yourself 35 slugs in the summer. Man!! They must have been convening for a World Convention or something!!!

I continued killing slugs in May, too, but there weren't as many then and I was also distracted by other gardening tasks by then, so even when I tried to keep count, I'd get interrupted and forget how many I'd killed. But I did notice in May that the slug population had diminished pretty drastically--either that or they were getting better at hiding, but I think there were actually less of them by then. One thing I noticed was that most of the slugs I had been killing were small ones, recently hatched. Very infrequently, I'd get a larger one, but even those were fairly small.

We've had a pretty dry June and some days I could only find 6 slugs, even when I looked in all their favorite places. I don't know where they go, deep down somewhere I guess. But it rained a couple days ago, and they were back with a vengeance: once it started to rain (in the evening), I went out at dusk and killed about 33, and in the morning I went out again, early, and killed 124 before breakfast!!One thing that I noticed after three weeks of dry weather, was that about half the slugs were large ones. I think those came from outside my yard, but I guess they COULD have grown from babies to big in three weeks--I'm not sure about that. But I definitely wanted to get them before they could lay more eggs in my yard, if at all possible. And so the hunt goes on. I know that there will always be some of them around and that I'm not going to get every slug in the vicinity, but I'm hoping to get most of them in my backyard, anyway. So far, I've only found two on my rhubarb in the three months I've been after them so that is a good sign, I think.

Well, I've probably already told you more about killing slugs than you EVER wanted to know, and so I will stop here for now, and next I will tell you why you should never, EVER, even THINK of trying straw bale gardening. Stay tuned.