Monday, May 28, 2012

Seed Starting & Transplanting

Today was overcast and cool until almost 5:30 PM when the sun finally made a brief appearance. I started my gardening day by transplanting the four grafted tomatoes that I had purchased two weeks ago at the Oregon Plant Fair. I was happy to see that the tomato plants were still in a good condition after being tucked away and neglected in the greenhouse for that long.

I brought in some fresh Natures Best soil and top dressed and leveled the area where I wanted to plant them. And in they went, surrounded by the first tier of my Gardener's Supply tomato cages. It is still so cool out that I know they are just going to sit there for a few more weeks, refusing to grow, until we finally start to see some warmer weather. I think that I will wait until mid-June to buy my last few tomatoes for the garden.

After getting the tomatoes planted I turned my attention to seed starting. I am so late on this task. I should have done this a good 2-3 weeks ago but I can't go back in time. I have decided to buy my Squash starts at the Farmer's Market since I am so late but everything else was started today. I began by planting this large 9-cell tray with the Sunflower "Giant Primrose" from Seed Savers Exchange.

I found these inexpensive, bio-degradable 10-cell packs at Down to Earth. What I didn't realize, when I purchased them, was how perfectly they would all fit into one plastic nursery tray. I planted one unit with "Russian Pickling" cucumber from Seed Savers Exchange, one unit with "Ring of Fire" Sunflower from Seed Savers Exchange, 2 units with "Frances' Choice" Marigold from Seeds of Change, and the last unit with "Red Metamorph" Marigold from Seeds of Change.

Here's a close up of the "Russian Pickling" seeds before they were covered.

I also planted another tray with flower seeds. I planted four 6-cell units with "Blue Point Bouquet" Zinnia from Renee's Garden. Then I planted one 6-cell unit each of "Red Gem", "Tangerine Gem" and "Lemon Gem" Signet Marigolds from Johnny's Selected Seeds.

After finishing up with the seed starting, I was please to discover that I now have five dahlias up. Pictured below, an emerging "Kathy's Choice" , a Miniature Yellow Cactus form.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Finsh - Potting up the Dahlia Tubers

Today I accomplished one of the gardening tasks that was on my "need-to-finish" list. In a four hours marathon, with a break for lunch, I finished potting up all of my dahlia tubers. Wow- that's a lot of 1-gallon pots! I am still in denial and haven't done a complete count. In a normal year, I like to plant 200 dahlias. With that amount, I can transplant them into the big garden in a two week push, working every day. I can also generally dig-up 200 dahlias over the span of 4 weekends in late October & November. But this year isn't a normal year. This year the Portland Dahlia Society is hosting the National Dahlia Show on Labor Day weekend. It's very rare to be so close to a National Show. So, as I potted up my tubers, I chose to keep 4 of many varieties, instead of 2. The end result is I have 240 potted tubers plus another 12 tubers in the "infirmary" area. Yes, it looks like the garden will have right around 250 dahlias this year. Yikes!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The First Dahlia Up!

After a busy morning at the Lane County Farmer's Market and stopping by Down to Earth, I am afraid that I didn't really get anything garden related accomplished today. I did however have some good news on the dahlia front. I discovered that my first dahlia has pushed above the soil! It's one of my two "Chimicum Troy", a Purple Miniature Ball, that I just got planted last week. While it's only one dahlia, it does feel like the garden season has really started. Now I just need to get the rest of the dahlia tubers potted up. No more relaxing this holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Evening Grosbeaks

One of my very favorite birds is the Evening Grosbeak. The birds are special to me because we only have them at our feeders for a fairly short period of time - April through mid-June. By July they have left us for higher altitudes where they happily feed on maple seed. The last two years however, we have had one family stay the summer and raise their chick here. I am certainly hoping that that happens again this year.

While both the Male & Female are pretty birds, the Male really steals the show. They have such beautiful coloring and I just love the shocking yellow "eyebrow" that they sport. And those huge, lime green beaks.

This year we appear to have a nice size flock. My sister has counted 10 Males, so we can safely assume there are 10 females too. As soon as dawn breaks, the morning air is filled with their sharp "Chirr" call. It's not particularly pleasant, but it sure does carry well!

As you can see, our feeders are as busy as small airports right now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Rains Return

This morning I awoke to the soft sound of rain on the roof, signalling an end to our amazing dry spell this May. Yesterday was our 16th straight day of dry, sunny weather. That is almost unheard of in Oregon in the month of May. This stretch tied for fourth on the all-time list of May dry spells for the Southern Willamette Valley since that data has been tracked. While we didn't beat the all-time record of 21 days from 1928, this was the longest streak in 20 years. It felt like Summer had arrived early and allowed me to get a lot of garden chores accomplished. I know we need the rain but I am sorry that I haven't got the big garden fully tilled and all of the rows laid out before the rain returned. Thankfully the forecast shows the wet weather ending Thursday and the holiday weekend a bit cool, but dry.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Begining to Pot up the Dahlias

This morning I got up early and worked the first shift of a fundraising sale for the Dahlia Society. After I returned home I finally had the time to begin potting up my dahlia tubers. I like to pot up the tubers for two reasons. First, I never know when my garden will be totally dry and ready to plant. By potting up the tubers, I can control when they are planted, even if it isn't in their permanent home. Secondly, by starting each tuber in a pot, and then transplanting it into the garden, I can be assured of not having a "gap" in the garden where a tuber failed to come up. I have had so much on my plate the last two weeks, between work & dahlia society commitments, that my own gardening was getting neglected. But today I was rewarded with pleasant weather and cats and family members to keep me company. By the end of the day I had potted up 73 dahlias. A good first days work!

I have really been enjoying my "Blauschokker" Purple Pod Pea plants the last few weeks. The blooms are so pretty. They start a two-toned fuchsia and pink color and fade to a soft lavender purple.

After the petals drop off the deep purple, baby pods appear. As of today I have my first 5 pods set.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Third Tilling

Tonight after work we headed down to the garden and made the third run though the soil with the tiller. While there are still some fairly wet areas that still need time to completely dry, much of the garden is in good shape. The soil has come a long way since Monday night's first tilling. I think I can start raking the ground flat and laying out the rows after one more tilling. If only rain wasn't in the forcast for Monday!       

This smart little Robin followed in the wake of the tiller, hunting for earthworms.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Last Frost?

This morning we awoke to a chilly morning. The temperature outside read 34 degrees but the water in all of the bird baths was frozen. Later, when I spoke to a friend in the Dahlia Society, she told me that she had left a tray of young dahlia plants outside, overnight. This morning some of them had died. So even in town there was a killing frost. The question is, will this be the last frost of Spring?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mid-May in the Kitchen Graden

Another beautiful day today. We hit a high of 80 degrees. After work I decided that it was time to take off the remay that had been protecting the radish bed and the onions.  I also went through the whole garden and weeded. The garden looked so much better after all of my work.

The radish are definitely big enough now that I don't need to worry about the birds pulling them out.

The "Plum Purple" radish are starting to size up and are such a pretty shade of purple.

The largest two varieties in the radish bed are the "Cherry Belle" & the "Early Scarlet Globe". In fact I can't really tell much of a size difference between the two. Both are ready for some early picking.

The garlic row continues to amaze me. The plants just keep getting taller and the stalks thicker. I still haven't seen any sign yet of garlic scapes protruding from the hard-neck variety Chesnook Red".

My onion row was ready for the remay to come off as well. The red "Mars" onion plants had already reached the top of the tunnel. As you can see in the above picture, the "Mars" plant on the right is larger than the "Frontier" onion on the left. It will be interesting to see if this growth trend continues. I don't recall my "Prince" onions being substantially smaller than the "Mars" plants the last two years.

Here's a close-up of a "Mars" onion.

And a similar shot of a "Frontier" plant.

The "Blauschokker" Purple Pod Pea plants have really started to heavily bloom. Lovely!

I also thinned my radish bed. While many of the seedling I pulled were too small to keep, a few of the radish were almost full size. I washed those up and voila - the first harvest of the year! .7 oz. of home grown goodness.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The First Tilling of the Year

Today was one of the "landmark" days on my annual gardening calendar. Today we were finally able to give the big garden its first tilling of the year. It is always interesting to look back and compare when we are able to accomplish this task each year. Last year in 2011, with all of the record rainfall, we weren't able to till until June 15th - a full month + one day later than this year! But in 2010, I recorded that we had the first tilling on May 14th - the exact same day as this year.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

We enjoyed a beautiful Mother's Day Sunday. The weather could not have been nicer. The high hit 83 degrees and everyone was outside soaking up the sunshine. My day was full between track & Mother's Day activities so I had to get up early to sneak in some gardening time. While I gave the grass around the garden its second mowing of the year, Dad worked on leveling out the dirt in the garden. He filled in old dahlia holes with the left over compost and scraped the hills and bumps flat with the blade on the tractor. After a couple hours of hard work from both of us, and a sunburn or two, the garden is now ready for the first tilling of the year!

As I pushed the mower down the road, heading back home, the wind picked up and an unmistakable fragrance filled the air. Lilacs! I hadn't even noticed that the old lilac bushes across the road from my garden are in full bloom. I stopped to admire the beautiful blossoms. We haven't had any rain since May 4th, so the blooms are in perfect condition. There is no other scent like a lilac. Lovely!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Plant Sale

Today dawned sunny and beautiful  - the perfect day for a plant sale! Once again, I worked the Lane Co. Dahlia Society booth at the Oregon Plant Fair. Once my shift was over I had a quick 1/2 hour to do some plant shopping be fore my next commitment. My first stop was at the Log House Plants tent. Once again they had a wonderful selection of unique plants and vegetables. This year they have really expanded their grafted tomato offerings. Last year I grew my first grafted tomato. It was a "Black Krim" that grew into a giant that produced an amazing number of tomatoes. So this year I decided I wanted to try a few more plants and see if I had the same great results. I picked up:
  • (1) "Black Krim" Indeterminate, Purple/Black, 75 days. Originally from the Isle of Krim on the Black Sea in the former Soviet Union. This rare, and outstanding tomato yields 3-4" slightly flattened dark-red (mahogany-colored) slightly maroon, beefsteak tomatoes with deep green shoulders. Fantastic, intense, slightly salty taste.
  • (1) "Copia" Indeterminate, Red/Yellow Stripped, 85 days. A Jeff Dawson creation of a cross between green Zebra and Marvel Stripe, named in honor of COPIA (the American Center of Food, Wine and the Arts). 6 oz., red and yellow striped slicer with great flavor.
  • (1) "Julia Child" Indeterminate, Pink, 78 days. The tall, indeterminate, potato-leaf plant produces lots of 4-inch, deep-pink, lightly-fluted, beefsteak fruits that have the kind of robust tomatoey flavors and firm, juicy flesh that invites tomato feasting and seed-saving.
  • (1)"Moonglow"Indeterminate, Yellow/Orange, 85 days. A regular-leaf tomato plants bear heavy yields of beautiful, 6-8 oz., 2",  blunt-pointed globes. A brilliant, warm-orange slicer with great flavor.  A real winner and one of the best, round, gold tomatoes. Moon Glow is considered, by many tomato lovers, the tomato with the best texture and flavor of any yellow-gold tomato. 
  • I also ended up buying one 4" pot with a nice large start of "Lacinato" Kale. I am afraid the the tiny starts in the six-pack that I bought last week will be easy picking for the birds. Hopefully this larger fellow stands a better chance of growing up.

    After a busy day, I noticed this evening that the first blossom had fully opened on our lovely, pink oriental poppy. The bushy plant is just loaded with buds so this is just the first of many blooms that we will get to enjoy over the next few weeks.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's Iris Time

We are at "peak-season" for the wild Oregon Blue Iris ( Iris Tenax).

I am sure that I probably say this every year, but I really think this year we have the biggest display ever. The meadows are just covered with islands of lavender and purple.

The rich green grass is such a perfect backdrop to really show-off the iris.

Here is a small upper field that I am sure has never had a display this colorful before. Maybe the mowing that I do every Fall really does help the iris. Or they are just happily multiplying over the years.

Farther up the driveway, right before the Sweet Gum trees.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Sunny Saturday at the Market

Since I have plans the next two Saturdays, I really wanted to be able to make it down to the Farmer's Market today. After running a few necessary errands, we arrived around 10:30 AM. The Hideaway Bakery brought their portable wood burning stove for the first time this year, so the breakfast decision became somewhat easier. After devouring a delicious breakfast scramble, I headed off to see what was new at the Market this week. I first spied these beautiful stacks of young red & sweet onions.

Many of the stands were featuring piles of freshly picked rhubarb.

I loved the geometry of this basket of young artichokes.

This was also the first strawberry sighting of the year. I am sure that Groundworks Farm is growing them in a hoop house to have ripe fruit this early. The crowds were snatching the pints up!

I was also surprised to see cucumbers this early. I am not familiar with the variety "Diva".

These red potatoes looked great. And how nice to have more than one variety from which to choose.

Lots of the vendors were also selling asparagus.

And how about some zucchini the first Saturday in May?! Amazing.

After we finished up at the Market, we headed to Down to Earth. I picked up a 6-pack of "Toscano" Kale. I also purchased everything I will need to get my flower and vegetable seeds started. I am hoping to start planting tomorrow. The long stretch of sunny weather that is forecasted should be great for seed germination.