Monday, February 13, 2017

Here Come the Daffoldils

While walking all over our property this past weekend, I was surprised and excited to see that the main season daffodils have started to surface. I first discovered the group pictured above, two big areas planted with "Passionale". Then, as I hiked up the road, I found variety after variety had emerged. Amazingly, just two weeks ago, when I took this same walk, there wasn't any sign of them. I was especially pleased to see so many of the varieties, that we planted months too late last Winter, up and looking good. It is still early, but it looks like we might have a strong daffodil showing this Spring.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Planting the Spinach

Another mild day. Unfortunately we didn't get the extended sunny breaks that we saw yesterday but it was still a nice, overcast, 45 degree day outside. I decided it was also the perfect day to officially kick off the 2017 gardening season. Spinach planting day! Last year on the 14th of February - this exact weekend - I direct seeded lettuce and spinach seed. I had never done it this early but the weather was so mild, I decided to give a try. My experiment paid off and I was harvesting greens by April 11th.

While this Winter has been much colder and wetter than last year, February has brought the return of milder temperatures. So I have decided to repeat last year's experiment. I began the day, with Dad's assistance, by hauling three loads of Natures Best to the Kitchen Garden and building 3 raised beds. Then I got out my seed stash and planted one bed with Spinach. I seeded half the bed with "Gazelle" a smooth leaf variety, and the other half with "Abundant Bloomsdale" a savoyed leaf variety. I planted 4 rows of each in the bed and then covered the bed with a hoop and remay fabric. I hope to direct seed the other two beds with lettuce over the next few weeks. I would like it to warm up, and dry out, just a little more. For now its time to just sit back and see if the Spinach germinates. We are off and running!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Winter Storm Clean Up

After what seemed like weeks and weeks of bad weather, we were finally blessed with a sunny weekend day. So with no excuses left, Dad and I spent a good 2+ hours today down on the secret path, working on storm clean up. We started at the entrance along the driveway and worked toward the bridge. Most of the cleanup along this section involved cutting back blackberry canes and cutting down small limbs and branches. We did encounter one fallen tree but thankfully it wasn't too large. 

Eventually we made it to the bridge. I raked the bridge free of fallen leaves, so that it could dry out. It was still slimy and slippery even when that was completed. I had Dad whack back a bunch of brush growing on the left, right before the start of the bridge. Many, many years ago, Dorothy planted Bearded Iris here. Each year they return, but rarely bloom. I think the area is generally too shaded for them. I hope this removal of competing brush will allow them access to more sunlight which will hopefully lead to more blooms for us to enjoy.

After crossing the bridge we hit the stretch leading to the Big Garden. Thankfully a crew hired by Lane Electric had already been through here, clearing access to the power lines. They had cut down, but left on the ground, at least one fallen tree and piles and piles of black berry canes. While I worked on picking up that mess to clear up the path, Dad started work on the large fallen tree still blocking the path. After only working on it for a few minutes, the chainsaw started acting up. I took that as a sign to quit for the day. While we still have 20-30 feet of path that still needs cleared, we got a ton accomplished. 

Friday, February 10, 2017


The snowdrops in our front flowerbeds have just started to open. While petite in size, these small bulbs are one of my favorites. Their simple white bells are are so crisp and clean in a world that is still made up of mostly browns and grays. They are also amazingly tough for their small size. While they might be temporarily flattened by a February snow or ice storm, they quickly bounce right back.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rainy Weather

We are experiencing a very wet week. Sunday broke a rainfall record for February 5th in Eugene, with 1.24" of rain recorded. Now a tropical system is moving through the area tonight and tomorrow, which could bring an additional 2" of rain. All of this moisture is good news, after experiencing dry, mild Winters the last 2 years. It is also fun to see the creeks on our property so full, and to watch the water quickly rush downstream with a noisy roar.

Friday, February 3, 2017

More Seed Packets Arrive

I recently received my 2017 seed order from Johnny's Selected Seeds out of Winslow, Maine. While Johnny's might have the most visually boring seed packets in the industry, they certainly come close to having one of the best selections available of both open pollinated and hybrids seeds for sale. They are one of my favorite seed companies and I love it when the new catalog arrives in the mailbox each year. Of all of the seeds that I ordered from them this year, I think I am most excited about:

"Cupcakes Mix" Cosmos - 90-100 days. "Novel Cosmos resemble fluted cupcake wrappers. As showy as Double Click with lighter weight blooms held upright on stems. The light colored, finely pleated blooms float above the foliage, reminding us of Degas' paintings of Ballerinas. A small percentage of flowers have lovely, tufted centers. Height, 40-50"."

"Oklahoma Mix, Improved" Zinnia - 75-90 days. "Bright colors, excellent vase life, and low susceptibility to powdery mildew. Prolific, 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 inch double and semi-double, petite, yet sturdy blooms. Excellent, reliable accent flowers for market bouquets, wedding flowers, and event work." Height 30-40".

"Oklahoma Carmine" Zinnia - A Hot, pink selection of the "Oklahoma Mix, Improved".

"Jazzy Mix" Zinnia - 1980. 75-85 days. "Similar to Persian Carpet but with a wider range of colors. Attractive fully-double and semi-double blooms are 1-2" in size. Bright but earthy tones add unique accents to specialty bouquets." Height 20-26".

"Choice Mix" Centaurea. 65-75 days. " Classic Cornflowers. Upright plants produce abundant 1-1 1/2" blooms. Great edible flower for decorating desserts and salads. Blue, pink, red, and white" Height 30-38".

"Striped Armenian" Cucumber - 63 days. "Unique appearance and excellent flavor. Also know as Painted Serpent. Unusual, slightly fuzzy, serpentine fruits are slightly ridged with alternating dark and light green stripes. Harvest from 8-18". Delicious and different."

"Gazelle" Spinach - 36 days. "Best suited for Fall/Winter Harvest. Dark green, smooth, oval-to-round leaves with good flavor. Long stems, very uniform leaf shape and plant habit. Suitable for baby leaf and bunching.High resistance to downy mildew races 1-13."

"Full Sun Improved"  Sunflower - 65-75 days. "Single stem. Dark Center. Southern growers prefer this variety for Winter production." Height 70-80".

"Winter Sweet" Winter Squash -95 days. "Unparalleled eating quality and extra long storage. Winter Sweet delivers a combination of sweetness, flaky texture, and depth of flavor that has made it a favorite on our research farm. A more reliable producer than Confection, it also keeps very well and improves in storage. Fruits average 4-5 lbs., are light grey with a charcoal mottle. Best eating quality between 2-5 months after harvest. Average yield 3-4 fruits per plant."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Flowerbed Clean-up

I spent a good deal of this weekend working in the Mudroom Flowerbed. It was time to give it the annual spring cleaning. I unloaded tote after tote of dead branches and old foliage. Slowly but surely I worked through the whole bed, leaving the enormous "La Trinidad Pink" salvia until last.

Our two patches of "Tete-a-tete"  narcissus are off to a good start. I was happy to observe that this past December's cold weather hasn't excessively browned the leaf tips. Before we know it, this clump will be a sea of blinding yellow trumpets.

As usual, I was pleasantly surprised by how many perennials are already showing signs of new growth. Here is Black-eyed Susan "Henry Eilers". I guess if you are going to reach 5 feet in height, you had better start growing early in the new year.

A healthy clump of agastache "Acapulco Orange", already sending up lots of new growth.

I also spend a few hours today completely cleaning up the Sunset Flowerbed. While this bed is much larger than the Mudroom Bed, it is less densely planted. While it still involved a lot of careful work, it was a much easier weeding job than the Mudroom Bed was.

Here is the lobelia "Fan Scarlet", just beginning this year's new growth. This poor plant got absolutely smothered under a Penstemon last year and never stood a chance at reaching full size, let alone blooming. We are going to move it once Spring weather arrives, so it has its own space and the right conditions to perform.

Here is my sweet little clump of "Sabrosa" narcissus. I dumped some extra soil over the clump before our freezing weather hit. I think that really helped to protect the young green shoots.

I am also excited to see some of the "Toto" narcissus that we planted last year coming back. They were among the group of bulbs that didn't get planted until mid-Winter 2016. They seem to be coming up in good numbers this year and I am anxious to finally see them in bloom.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Yellow Witch Hazel

The Witch Hazel in the Sunset Flowerbed is in full bloom this weekend. I am afraid I hadn't noticed it, until I started weeding the bed. Then the yellow caught my eye. We did discover that this plant has sent up quite a few suckers over the years, growth from its root stock These branches were covered in small, red blooms. I took some clippers and cut off at ground level all of those branches. Hopefully that will direct the plant's energy to the yellow blooming cultivar.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The First Seed Packets of the Year

Each year, I try to order from a few different seed companies. I love receiving all of the different catalogs in the mail each Winter, but I certainly don't need enough new seed each year to justify placing an order with every company from which I receive a catalog. This year I was excited to buy a few seeds from a "new-to-me" company out of New York called The Hudson Valley Seed Company. I was especially taken with their selection of seeds that come in an Art Pack. After many happy evenings spent reading through their catalog, I finally chose to order the following three seeds;

"Abundant Bloomsdale" Spinach - 55 days, Certified Organic. "An improved savoy-leaf spinach developed by the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) in partnership with organic farmers. OSA continues the long tradition of on-farm seed stewardship by working with farmers that breed new varieties and improve older ones. Bloomsdale boasts cold tolerance, high yields, and deeply savoyed, attractive leaves."

"Toyko Market" Turnip - 35 days, Certified Organic. "Fast Growing, sweet, crunchy all-white roots will have you second guessing about what you thought a turnip could be! A great variety that can be sown all season long. Direct sow outdoors, and cover with a row cover if flea beetles are an issue in your garden. Harvest when roots are two inches in diameter. Use fresh in salads or for dipping, or stir fry with their sweet and tender tops."

"Gift" Zinnia - 80 days. Certified Organic. "In its native Mexico, the original zinnia was considered an unattractive weed called "mal de ojos". In the mid-1700s, the German Ambassador to Mexico sent seeds to Johann Gottfried Zinn, a professor of botany for whom the plants - and part of the eye - became named. The cut flowers of this variety are spectacular on their own; a mix of single and double medium blooms. Plants are also medium in height, reaching up to 4 inches by the end of the season."