Thursday, May 4, 2017

First 80 Degree Day of the Year

Only 2 days after hitting 70 degrees for the first time this year, we hit 80 degrees for the first time this year! The official high was actually 83 degrees today and it felt hot! It has been cold and wet for so many months on end now that we are unaccustomed to any form of heat. It was also the first time this year that I really had both the daylight hours and the sunshine to work on an outside project after dinner. The support tower for the "Wiltshire Ripple" sweet peas hadn't yet been wrapped with bird netting. With the warmer weather, the sweet peas are finally taking off and I really needed to get this task completed. So with a lovely evening to spur me on, I got out the netting and got this project done. I am really pleased with how lush and green the plants are looking and now they can easily latch on to the tower and start their climb.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

First 70 Degree Day of the Year

Rhododendron "Seaview Sunset"

It finally happened! We hit 70 degrees for the first time this year today. May 2nd. mind you and we only hit 70, but at this point we are so glad to see "just" 70 degrees. The swallows were swooping, the flowerbeds are beginning to dry out and this lovely rhododendron in the front flowerbed was bursting into bloom. Welcome, welcome warmer weather!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Greens Harvest #2

The weather has finally shifted in the last two days and Spring feels like it has arrived in Oregon. Yesterday I was able to process my first lettuce harvest of the year. I started with the bed of "Heirloom Cutting Mix" from Renee's Garden. This is at least the third year that I have grown this mix and it is still my favorite. It's a blend of "Speckled Trout's Back", "Blush Butter Cos", "Red Ruffled Oak","Devil's Tongue", and "Sucrine". And since it comes from Renee's Garden, I can always count on a really even mix of all 5 varieties in every planting.

This stunner is a new-to-me varsity from Renee's Garden; "Sea of Red" lettuce. I wish it would have photographed a bit better. It is just a mass of deep, blood red leaves. Really a knock-out in the garden and it looks lovely in the salad bowl too.

I also harvested my first bunch of "Abundant Bloomsdale" spinach. While it is starting to perform well, I don't think this variety is a good fit for me. I haven't ever grown a heavily savoyed leaf spinach before. I discovered today that those pretty, deeply wrinkled leaves are a magnet for both dirt particles and baby slugs. As you can see there was a fair amount of damage before I picked anything. And then I had to spend a lot more time cleaning this variety than any of the other greens that I harvested. But that said, it is growing well and the leaves do look pretty in the salad bowl. So, my final harvest for today was:

  • "Heirloom Cutting Mix" Lettuce; 4.1 oz
  • "Sea of Red" lettuce; 1.1 oz
  • "Abundant Bloomsdale" spinach; 6.1 oz.
  • Total Harvest; 11.3 oz

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Spring is Finally Here

Well it appears that Spring has finally founds its way to the Willamette Valley! Starting with yesterday's sunshine filled day, we have mostly sunny and dry days forecast for the next 15 days. And it looks like we might actually hit 70 degrees mid-next week! Wonders will never cease. I spent today's lovely day outside, slowly knocking a few things off of my to-do list. My big project of the day was laying out the plan for our new rose flowerbed. This past week Mom and I finally narrowed our choices down and picked and ordered the five roses that will grow in this flowerbed. I wrote down each roses' mature width dimension and then outlined the placement of each rose in bone-meal. After that as done I took out the plants that we purchased last Saturday up at Garland's Nursery and we decided on their placement. Then I got busy and did some actual planting!

In front of our future "Birthday Girl " rose, I planted the two  Dianthus "Everlast" red and pink. I also set in the Salvia "Pink Dawn" that I gave Mom for Easter and the Coreopsis "Big Bang Star Cluster". It is exciting to finally have some plants actually planted in this new, full sun flowerbed.

I was really glad that I took the time last Sunday to pot up the lilies that we purchased. Two of the "Casa Blanca" lilies had already pushed up above the soil line. Now we are hoping with crossed fingers that the rabbits don't eat our young lily plants.

I also had a chance today to plant the "Cortland" onions that I bought at the Farmer's Market last Saturday. I set in 16 plants and then watered the onion bed and the garlic bed with a solution of balanced liquid fertilizer. Another thing crossed of my list!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

More Seed Starting and Transplanting

Today dawned wet and grey. I was hoping for a few breaks in the day where I could do some of the outdoor gardening things on my list. But it wasn't to be. So instead I focused on what I could accomplish inside, where it was warm and dry.

I began the day by transplanting my 20 "Ukrainian Purple" tomato plants. In three weeks, my little plants have gone from tiny transplants with no true leaves - pictured above - to 4" plants with two sets of trues leaves- pictured below. They have now filled up their 2" cells and the tray is getting crowded.

So today I moved them all into 4" X 4" individual pots, hopefully their last home before they get transplanted into the ground. As per usual, this project took much longer than I thought  it would. But I did add 1 tsp. of the new organic tomato fertilizer that I bought yesterday, up at Garland's Nursery. Besides fertilizer, it is also suppose to contain mycorrhiza fungi. Hopefully it will help give my plants an extra boost as they grow in nursery pots underneath the lights.

After I finally finished up with the tomatoes, I turned my attention to the next round of seed starting. But before I could do that, I needed to add the second tier on my new grow light tower. That went fairly smoothly and soon I was ready to start seeding some 6-pack cells. I started with "Gift" zinnias, a pretty red annual I bought from Hudson Valley Seed. I am planning to grow this variety in the "kitchen garden overflow" area, along with the cantaloupe. It gets a ton of sun there and I am hoping they will attract hummingbird and butterflies. I seeded 24 cells and then placed them on the heat mat. Then I filled six 2" pots with potting soil and planted "Giant Primrose" sunflower seed from The Seed Savers Exchange. I am planning to plant these in our new rose flowerbed and maybe also put a few in the sunset flowerbed.

When I was finished, the sunflower pots joined the zinnia cells on the first tier of the tower. I am hoping between the heat from the grow mat and the heat radiating down from the grow lights, that both of these newly planted varieties will germinate by next weekend.

After I finished that project I got out the bags of lilies that we picked up at Garland's Nursery yesterday. Since we won't get these guys planted at least until next Saturday, I wanted to get them out of their bags and temporarily potted up in some half gallon pots. I was really happy to find that all of the lilies bulbs were in good shape. You can never fully tell by trying to look at them through the plastic bags. We ended up with 3 "Casa Blanca", a solid white oriental lily, 3 "Salmon Star", a white and orange oriental lily, and 2 "Lilac Cloud",  a fully double pink and white oriental lily. If they all perform well this first year, we should have one amazingly scented flowerbed sometime in July.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Apple Tree Explosions

All of the apple trees, both wild and cultivated, are springing to life. The wild apple tree, down at the bottom of the driveway, is bursting into bloom.

There were lots of happy pollinators working the blooms. That should be a good sign for apples this Fall.

The blooms on this tree begin as hot pink clusters and then open to reveal snow white petals.

My "Honeycrisp" apple, that I purchased last year, has broken bud and it starting to produce some leaves. Since it is still a fairly young tree, I am not expecting any blooms this year. But I am pleased to see that it survived our tough Winter just fine.

My brand new "Spartan" apple tree is just breaking bud. This is really exciting for me to witness, since we only planted this tree a few months ago when it was completely dormant. This is a large tree but I still don't think that I will see any blooms this first year in its new home. But I am still thrilled that it has settled in and is off to a good start this growing season.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Spinach Harvest #1

Yesterday was a bit a of a milestone in the Kitchen Garden; the first harvest for 2017. It has been such a challenging Spring. We had snow in March, a huge windstorm in April, and we have yet to hit 70 degrees this year. In fact, the last time it was 70 degrees or warmer was back in November. Cloudy skies, lots of rain and the occasional hailstorm, that's what Spring has been in the Willamette Valley this year.

Thankfully, in spite of all of this, Spinach is one tough vegetable. I seeded this raised bed way back on February 12th. With nothing more than a protective remay cover, it germinated and has slowly grown and matured. The "Gazelle" spinach, pictured above, came up first and is much more vigorous at this point.

The "Abundant Bloomsdale" was a good 7-10 days slower to germinate and the plants are lagging behind. They are healthy though and their savoyed leaves are really pretty. Time will tell if this variety will be as productive as "Gazelle". Here's the breakdown for today's harvest:
  • "Gazelle" Spinach - 7.0 oz.
  • "Abundant Bloomsdale" - 1.4 oz.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Onion Planting

I lucked out once again today and was treated to a rain-free weekend day. After such a rainy week - again! - today dawned clear but cold. I started my day at the Lane County Farmer's Market, wearing my down jacket and shopping for onion starts. I picked up the "Candy" sweet onions from my regular vendor Roger and then made my way over to the Hayhurst stand to get my storage onions. Unfortunately, they didn't bring the variety that I wanted. They did promise to bring it next week, so I headed home with only half of what I had hoped to purchase. Once it finally began to warm up in the afternoon, I started working in the Kitchen Garden. I began by removing the remay and the hoops from my garlic row.

Then I hauled in multiple buckets of Natures's Best to build a new raised bed for the onions. Once that was completed I planted 8 "Candy" onions in the first part of the bed. The rest of the bed will get planted with the storage onions I will pick up next weekend. I watered the young plants in with a water soluble fertilizer and then covered the bed with a protective remay tunnel. I always hope to plant my onions around April 15th, so it was so nice to actually get at least half of them planted on time this year.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Tubers Are Arriving

This past Winter I placed 4 dahlia orders. Most of the orders were for new-to-me varieties that I am anxious to try. But a few of the orders also contained varieties that I have already grown. Sometimes dahlia plants don't perform as well as they used to and a few of my plants tested positive for a dahlia virus when I had samples sent to WSU this past Fall. So I am hoping new stock will prove to be both vigorous and virus free. I was excited to come home to find that my first two orders arrived during the past week. I was particularity thrilled with my order from Blossom Gulch Dahlias in Coos Bay. The owners Mike And Kathy Iler doubled everything that I ordered at no extra cost! Since a couple of these just released varieties were fairly expensive, it makes me feel a little less guilty getting twice as much for my money. Plus I will now have two plants of each new variety instead of just one.