Saturday, January 14, 2012

Self control

When I was a kid, my younger brother and I would leaf through xmas catalogs, pointing and chanting "I want that and that and that and that..." Not much different than what I do now, but with seed catalogs. Since this is to be a rebuilding year, I had to put the brakes on. I want to grow something, but what?

Part of the plan for this year is to subscribe to a CSA, so I started by looking through the list of fruit and vegetables they supply. This helped me narrow my garden list to the following:
  • Peas - snow, snap, and English
  • Sweet potatoes (which I plan to start from my own slips)
  • White potatoes (for winter storage)
  • Paste tomatoes
  • Green beans (to freeze)
  • Onions (for winter storage)

I am also going to start beds of:
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • asparagus

For flowers, there will be marigolds, zinnias, sunflowers, and magic lilies, aka naked ladies. Since the winter rye I tested for viability FAILED, Canadian field peas was added to the list, for green manure. And, because I could not help myself, I also ordered a blueberry plant.

And that's all! Sometimes I start feeling overwhelmed by the garden before I have planted even one seed, but this feels manageable. The potatoes will grow in grow sacks, the veggies will go into 5 of the new raised beds, strawberries and asparagus in the raised beds by the patio, and the raspberries in the long raised bed. The magic lilies are for the south side of ths house, the other flowers to fill in the blanks. Not sure where I will put that blueberry plant.

I'm excited!

And now, for your amusement, some more squirrel pictures.

Me watching you watching me

Pole dancing

Friday, January 06, 2012


I usually keep my leftover seeds from year to year, in the refrigerator. Although occasionally some seeds turn out to be useless, for the most part, most of them remain viable for years.

In 2010, I purchased some seed for green manure, but used very little. Not wishing to spend money for fresh seed if I did not have to, I decided to test the seed for viability. This is a very simple procedure: soak a paper towel in water, place 10 seeds on the paper towel, fold the towel several times, to trap the seeds in its moist environ, then wait.

The barley sprouted in about five days...

... with 90% viability. In other words, 9 out of 10 seeds sprouted.

So now I know I don't need to purchase more barley. I am also testing winter rye, which takes 10-14 days to germinate. Results shall be forthcoming.

It is sunny today, about 50 degrees, very springlike. Tomorrow is supposed to be similarly mild. Maybe it would be a good day to get some horse manure.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Winter critters

There was a blue bird at the bird bath this morning, but I was not quick enough. Here are a few backyard denizens that deigned to let me snap a few.

Don't you wish you were this flexible?

So much for my diet!

Lord and master of all I see.

You lookin' at ME?!?

It may be heated, but I still think you should go first.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

A rebuilding year

Usually around this time of year, I reflect on the past gardening season and make plans for the new one. Instead, let's look at lessons learned and what I plan to do about them.

For one thing, the climate, it is a-changin'. Last summer's brutally hot and humid yet rainless weather repeatedly chased me into the air conditioned sanctuary of my house. Not that much was going on outside - it was too hot for seeds to germinate or plants to set fruit. Weeds grew, though - lots and lots of weeds. There was no way to keep up. It does not help that my garden helper and I are both aging.

So the emphasis for 2012 is to focus on gardening smarter instead of harder. Toward that end, the meadow is to be down-sized and planted in green manures, to smother weeds, provide mulch, and rebuild the soil, so that maybe next year I can plant dwarf fruit trees there. The plants are going to be moved to the patio beds, where not only will I be able to keep a closer eye on them, I will have a more up-close-and-personal view of the birds, bees, and butterflies who visit.

Also, the beds with shrubs where we throw truckloads of mulch are going to be populated with space-filling perennials, with the goal of needing less mulch in the future. Even though the tradition in these parts is to widely space trees, shrubs, and flowers and fill in the gaps with mounds of mulch, most gardening magazines and catalogs show densely planted beds with nary a spot of mulch or bare ground showing. My hosta bed looks like that; why can't the rest?

The vegetable garden is in the process of being transformed into more formal raised beds ala square foot gardening. Hopefully, this will result in less garden to weed and water without sacrificing productivity. Also, I am going to focus on more early and late gardening, since that middle part of the summer is so unproductive. While all this is going on, to make up for the possible dearth of fresh veggies this season, I plan to participate in a CSA (community supported agriculture).

There are a lot of smaller steps involved in all this, like move the rhubarb to the tractor tire, build a cold frame, etc. I expect this list will be fluid, depending on how things go. Hopefully, by next winter, some progress will have been made.

What are your gardening goals for 2012?