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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Apple Trees Have Broken Dormancy

"Liberty" Apple Tree

Walking around the property this past weekend, I decided to head over to my "Apple Orchard" and have look at my three apple trees. It has been a while since I had last visited them, and I was wondering how they were faring. I was very pleased to discover that my little "Liberty" tree has broken dormancy and is starting to leaf out. My other two trees, the "Honey Crisp" and my newly planted "Spartan" have yet to leaf out. But the buds on both of those trees are swelling and it shouldn't be be long before they too have some delicate new green leaves. Spring might be late this year, but it is coming!

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Pretty Combination

Right now, directly below the dining room window, we have a really pretty trio of plants in full bloom; bleeding heart "Gold Heart", trillium "Volcano",  and a hellebore who's name has been lost to time. To be perfectly honest, the combination wasn't really all that well planned. But as it has matured and filled in the past couple of years, it has really become striking.

This trillium has such a gorgeous deep black/red bloom and glossy green leaves.

It has now gone from one plant to a cluster of six plants. We could divide it but it looks so good all clumped together.

The "Gold Heart" bleeding heart is just beginning to bloom. As nice as the blooms are, we equally appreciate its vibrant chartreuse leaves. They take the dark corner in which it is planted and bring it front and center.

And I can't forget about the hellebore. It is completely covered in deep purple blooms that complement so well the chartreuse bleeding hearts leaves and the deep red trillium blooms. We couldn't have planned it all better if we tried!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Blustery Gardening Day

After yesterday's sun breaks, rain showers, hail and cold temperatures, we were promised a much milder day today. Well, they were half right. It was warmer, and the sun shone the first half of the day. But unfortunately, right around noon, the wind kicked up and blew hard all the rest of the day. It made it feel much colder than it was and also aggravated my tree pollen allergies too! But I really wanted to get a little gardening done, so we still ventured outside. I started by weeding two full trugs out of the first new flowerbed. As you can see, I have just started weeding this one and there is a lot more work to be done. But at least it's a start.

Then we moved onto the big flowerbed in the front of the house.We weeded maybe 1/3 of it today. It was exciting because we discovered a number of plants that we thought had perished during our cold Winter, are just starting to send up their first green shoots of the year. After weeding for awhile, Dad helped haul in 8 buckets of Nature's Best to fill in some low spots near the back of the bed.

Then we planted our newest purchase; "Pokey's Pink" flowering current. Mom and I first saw it a few weeks back at Down to Earth and admired its soft pink blooms. Later she returned and brought it home.

It is a nice contrast to our other current and its vibrant hot pink blooms. I noticed this last week, while it was still in its pot sitting out on the sidewalk, that the hummingbirds were visiting its blooms. We are hoping that in future seasons it is a big attraction to the hummers, as well as a lovely sign of Spring for us.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Ukrainian Purple Tomato Plant Update

Tomorrow will be three weeks since I planted my flat of "Ukrainian Purple" tomato seeds. I am pleased to report my little plants are doing great. After a scare last week with aphids, the seedlings have bounced back and have produced their first set of true leaves. They now look like tomatoes! I know they still have a long way to go, but I am actually starting to believe that I might actually raise these babies to adulthood and harvest some fruit this Summer.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mount Hood Muscari

The "Mount Hood" muscari that we planted last year have come back strong in their second Spring.

We are quite pleased how dense this grouping is. Each lovely blue bloom is topped with a few white petals, just like Mount Hood is always capped with white snow. With our cooler Spring this year, all of our bulbs are lasting much longer. It is so nice to have this great pop of color along the front boarder of the flowerbed.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Hot Pink Current

The pink current in the west facing flowerbed is in full boom. It is always puts on such a showy display each Spring. 

I have been hoping to catch a few hummingbirds drinking from some of its long flowering tassels but so far I have stuck out. I don't see how they cannot be drawn to this knock-out floral display. This current is certainly the star of the sunset flowerbed this week.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Transplanting Tomatoes and Spinach

One of the to things on my "to-do" list today was transplanting my "Ukrainian Purple" tomato plants. Almost every cell in which I dropped two seeds now has two baby tomato plants. And a couple of the cells have three. Apparently my seed planting has some quality control issues! All of the books I have read this Spring say you are suppose to take a small pair of scissors and cut off at ground level the smallest  plant in each cell. This doesn't cause any root disturbance. But I didn't have the heart to kill any of my new babies, so I gently divided each cell into single plants and transplanted them all into new, larger digs.

I now have 20 individual plants growing in 2" X 2" cells. This is way more tomato plants of this one variety than I need, but I figure it allows me some security if a few plants don't make it along the way. Plus it would be nice to have some plants to give away to friends.

Now that they are all settled into their new, roomier homes, they suddenly look so little and fragile once again. I am hoping that they will get over the transplant shock quickly and begin the process of growing their first set of true leaves.

After I finished up with the tomatoes, I headed over to the Kitchen Garden. My bed of spinach has been quietly and happily growing underneath its protective cover of remay. For the past few weeks, I have need to do a little thinning, especially in the four rows of "Gazelle" spinach. It came up faster and thicker than the "Abundant Bloomsdale" spinach did. 

I decided to try to transplant some of the "Gazelle" plants into some empty spaces in the four "Abundant Bloomsdale" rows. Of coarse I am attempting this on the first sunny day in a month, or so it seems. After I gently moved the plants and watered them in, they quickly began to wilt a bit. I am hoping, after the rains return tomorrow, the newly moved plants will bounce back and settle into their new space.
A row of "Abundant Bloomsdale" spinach.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Welcome April and the Farmer's Market

This year the first day of April also happened to be the first official day of the Lane County Farmer's Market main season. While the Market has been open during the Winter months, it has been on a much smaller scale. Today the full Market began, along with its neighbor the Saturday Market. The booths were filled with many of the usual Spring suspects; including these neon pink radish. How bright and cheery they are on an overcast Spring morning.

One of the more unusual offerings was this basket full of huge celeriac. I overheard someone saying the head farmer here could tell you "100 ways to cook with it"!

I loved these two-toned Rutabaga.

And here's another uncommon crop; Burdock root. I can truly say I would have no idea what do do with this crop.

Back to something more familiar with this pile of rainbow carrots.

It was a cool enough day that Leek and Potato soup sounded awfully good.

A few of the stalls were selling vegetable and herb starts.  I loved all of the colors and textures in these flats of young lettuce plants.

And there were even tomato plants for sale. While it was fun to look at them, it is way to early to even begin thinking about buying and planting out tomatoes. I will be back to make some purchases in another six weeks.

I loved these bundles of "Bright Lights" Swiss Chard. And I was also tempted by these sweet pots of Hoop-Petticoat Narcissus. I really liked their unusual rounded bloom. We might have to add this to our wish list of bulbs to buy this Fall.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Planting the Lettuce and Sweet Peas

Our second lovely day this month and it fell on the weekend - hooray! That meant that I had no excuse to stay inside. It was time to get outdoor and get some things off of my "to-do" list. I started in the Kitchen Garden. Dad helped me bring a load of Nature's Best around and we added it to some low spots in the garden. Then I got out my seed stash and planted the two remaining raised beds with lettuce seed. I planted one bed with nothing but "Heirloom Cutting Mix" from Renee's Garden. Then, in the next bed I planted 3 rows of "Sea of Red" from Renee's Garden, 3 rows of "Green Oakleaf" from Seed Savers Exchange, and one row of "Yugoslavian Red Butterhead" from Seed Savers Exchange. It appears that the worst of our Winter weather is over, and I am hoping the lettuce will germinate.

After I got the lettuce all planted and covered, I couldn't help but take a peak at the Spinach bed. The spinach is doing great and I really need to thin it soon. 

The "Gazelle" plants, that germinated first, are just now producing their first true leaves.

Last Fall, when the builders were completing our new deer fence, it was necessary to move my chives from the Kitchen Garden so they wouldn't be trampled on as the posts were set in. Today I dug up my clump from its temporary home in the front flowerbed and settled it back home in the Kitchen Garden. It is growing like mad right now. My hands and the air were filled with a strong onion scent as I dug it up and relocated it. With a good watering in, I don't think it will even know that it has been relocated once again. 

After finishing up in the Kitchen Garden, I moved over to the Sunset Flowerbed. I brought out the Sweet Pea tower and set it in a bare patch of ground that had some fresh Nature's Best worked into it.

Then I transplanted the two six-packs of "Royal Family Mix" sweet peas from Hayhurst Nursery. I also dug up and moved 4 sweet pea plants that had germinated from last year's planting.

They look so little now, but will soon attached themselves to the tower and quickly begin climbing upward. I can close my eyes and practically smell them already.

I finished the day by beginning to weed one of your two new flower beds in the front of the house. Over the Winter, the new grass from the lawn has invaded the bed and is taking it over. I worked and work and managed to get a 1' wide strip weeded all along the front edge of the bed. There is still a lot of work to be done but at least it is a good start.