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.

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.