September To Do List

Broadfork -- 8-15-2014There is always a lot to do in the garden, and every month I faithfully post my list.  Some of it will get done and some will not, but it helps to keep me on-track.  For those of you who want to make a similar list, my garden is in zone 6b.

Berries

  • Plant more wild strawberries to fill in the plot.
  • Spread compost on the blueberries.
  • Spread mulch on both the blueberries and the strawberries.

Flower Gardens

  • Photograph all the beds.

Bulbs:

  • Spread compost on the Spring bulbs.

Native Plants:

  • Mulch the Indian plum with leaves when they start to fall.

Shrubs:

  • Spread compost around their drip lines.

Herb Garden

  • Transplant the lavender and thyme.

Houseplants

  • Fertilize them once this month.  I usually use coffee grounds, since they are readily available.

Lawn

  • Aerate, thatch, and reseed the lawn.

Maintenance

  • Sharpen the lawn mower blades.
  • Edge the flower beds.

Trees

  • Call an arborist to cut down the pine tree.
  • Spread mulch around the fruit trees and the young hazelnuts.
  • Spread compost around the drip lines.
  • Cut down the Japanese maple after its leaves drop.

Vegetable Garden

  • Harvest the potatoes.
  • Sow cover crops.
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August Wrap Up

One of many wheelbarrow loads of roots.

Like most gardeners, my to-do list tends to be bigger than I can actually accomplish each month.  However, some of it still manages to be crossed off the list.  Here is the wrap up of what I did get done in August.

Maintenance

Vegetable  Garden

  • Thinned the radishes and turnips
  • Harvested radishes and turnip greens
  • Planted lettuce
  • Ordered garlic

Herb Garden

Flower Garden

– Shrubs

Houseplants

  • Transferred them to my classroom

Trees

What have you been doing in your garden?

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My Trees

For living on such a small plot of land, I actually have quite a few trees.  Some of them I like, some I hate, and some I just do not know what to think.  Here is the rundown.

Poplars

Mowing just keeps them short.

Mowing just keeps them short.

By now, everybody knows I hate the poplars.  If I know how to get rid of them without poisoning my yard or damaging other trees I would.

Honeycrisp

The thimbleberries make it seem like a midget tree.

If you look closely, it is there.

This tiny tree actually had a few apples last year, although I only let one grow, since it was close to the trunk.  Then it got pruned by deer and did not even blossom this year.

The Big Hazelnut

My Lopsided Hazelnut

My Lopsided Hazelnut

This tree is the reason I have not just rototilled the poplars out.  I am too afraid of damaging its roots as well.  Even though all the nuts seem to be hollow, it is a nice shade tree and the kids love to climb in it.

Belmac

Belmac

Belmac

This apple tree is growing a lot faster than the Honeycrisp, but I have not seen any blooms yet.  And yes, a good weeding would definitely make it happier.  At least we pruned out the blackberries and poplars!

Pine Tree

What killed this pine?

What killed this pine?

This tree was happy, and then suddenly died last summer.  I suspect the herbicide my neighbors sprayed along the property line had something to do with it, but have no proof.  It must be removed before this year’s storm season.  Unfortunately, it is too close to several buildings for us to do ourselves, though, so calling an arborist is a must.

Mystery Ivy Tree

What is this thing?

What is this thing?

We do not know what is actually under all that ivy.  Once we clear out the brush pile, though, it is coming down so we can build a bike shed.

Small Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

After several years, they are finally happy.  Next Spring we will pot one up and give it to my parents so the other one has room to grow.

Big Mystery Tree

Yes, it is alive -- sort of.

Yes, it is alive — sort of.

This tree is half-dead, and I have been wanting to cut it down for years.  The birds absolutely love it, though, so my husband will not let me.  Fortunately, there is a sapling ready to take its place soon.

Replacement Tree

Replacement Tree

Indian Plum

Pruned Indian Plum

Pruned Indian Plum

This is a transplant that somehow survived, even though I did it at the wrong time of year.  I have to fight with it each year to keep it in a tree form instead of becoming a shrub, but I love it.

Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

Along with having gorgeous flowers every year, it is a good climbing tree.  I just wish it was not so close to the road and to the property line.

Japanese Maple

Pretty Tree in a Bad Place

Pretty Tree in a Bad Place

I absolutely love Japanese maples, but this one has to go.  It is just too close to the house and it is starting to interfere with the power lines.  As soon as the leaves drop, it is gone.

So those are my trees.  What trees do you have?  Are there any you regret?

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Completing the Herb Garden

After digging out all the poplars and removing the cinder blocks, I was finally ready to move onto the more normal aspects of prepping my herb garden.  First, I had to loosen the soil.  Since it was so heavily compacted from the cinder blocks, this took a couple of days.  On the first day, I whacked at the ground with a long-handled claw to loosen the soil as much as I could before putting the sprinkler on it.  Once the water had a chance to soak in, it was easier to break through the clumps on the second day.

After the soil had been loosened enough that it looked like a garden bed instead of a garden path, I spread compost over it.  Normally, I just put a strip of compost in the middle of a bed and spread it out evenly.  Since the soil had been so maltreated here, though, I poured it out at about 2″deep throughout the entire bed.  Then I went over it with the claw again.  (I repeat this step a lot.)

Now I was ready for my secret weapon: my broadfork.

My Broadfork

My Broadfork

By using a broadfork, I was able to penetrate far into the soil without destroying the worm tunnels that are also working to loosen the soil.

The dimples are all that show after the broadfork has done its work.

The dimples are all that show after the broadfork has done its work.

Finally, I went over it with the claw one last time to smooth everything out.

A Well-Prepped Herb Garden

A Well-Prepped Herb Garden

When I began creating this herb garden, it was to get my lavender out of its pot.  However, transplanting it will have to wait until next month.  I will probably also transplant some of my lemon thyme as well, since it is beginning to crowd one of my rose bushes.

Lemon Thyme

Lemon Thyme

In the meantime, I scattered dill seed, hoping that it will take off faster than the weeds will.

Hopefully this is dill and not an army of weeds.

Hopefully this is dill and not an army of weeds.

As all gardeners know, that is a war that is never won.

 

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Battle of the Cinder Blocks

As I mentioned in my previous post, after finally clearing most of the poplar roots from my new herb bed, I discovered that cinder blocks were buried under the dirt — a good five to six inches deep — in about a third of the bed.  Thus the next battle began.

The ruler is sitting in a semi-cleared spot, but is resting next to the regular level of the garden bed.

The ruler is sitting in a semi-cleared spot, but is resting next to the regular level of the garden bed.

The first thing I had to do was uncover the cinder blocks.  To do this, I discovered that a snow shovel worked best, because it had a flat blade and could scrape most of the dirt off with ease.  Then I went over the blocks with an old broom to get as much dirt off as possible.

Freshly Swept Cinder Blocks

Freshly Swept Cinder Blocks

Now it was time for the pry bar.  Fortunately for me, the previous owners had not mortared the blocks together, so this chore was not as onerous as it could have been.  When I was done, I had a decently-sized stack of cinder blocks, a lot of very compressed dirt, and an exposed ant farm.

 

Stacks of Cinder Blocks

Stacks of Cinder Blocks

No More Cinder Blocks 2 -- 8-5-2014

Very Compressed Dirt

Ant Farm

Ant Farm

Finally, the end was in sight.

To be continued . . .

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Attack of the Poplars

For years I have been trying to get an herb garden established. Unfortunately for me, though, a good portion of our yard floods every winter.  Each time I thought I had found a good spot, the floods would destroy the plants.  Sometimes they would struggle on for a few years, but the results would always be the same.  Finally, I started looking in other areas of my yard — even in places where I had not planned on planting anything in the near future.  As I did this, I noticed that there was a promising site next to my deck.  Originally, it would not have worked.  Our old apple tree had to be cut down, though, so this area was no longer in the shade.  Eventually, the new tree, planted a little further down the fence line, might force some of the herbs to be relocated, but that should not be an issue for several years.  For right now, this seems to be the ideal spot, except for one thing.  Establishing my herb garden next to the deck meant waging war upon the poplars.

Until I had moved to this house, I had always loved poplars.  They looked very stately lining roadways and I could understand why so many people planted them.

That was before I met my arch enemy.

Doesn't she look all innocent and peaceful?

Doesn’t she look all innocent and peaceful?

My neighbors have a gorgeous poplar growing in their yard.  Unfortunately, she is not content with merely looking gorgeous.  She intends to conquer the world.

This is the army she is building in her own yard.

This used to be a backyard.

This used to be a backyard.

We weed-eat/prune our “wild” areas at least once a year, so this is the worst it has gotten in our yard.

They grow faster than the apple tree that they surround.

They grow faster than the apple tree that they surround.

Even our lawn is not immune.

Mowing just keeps them short.

Mowing just keeps the poplars short.

Despite this unrelenting attack, I decided to go to war.  First, I used my heavy-duty pruners and cut down all the saplings.  Then I loosened the soil as well as I could with a shovel.  After all that, I went to work with a long-handled claw.  Whenever I encountered a poplar root, I pruned it out if I could.  Usually, though, it meant digging around the root, pruning off all its runners, and sawing through the taproot.  Despite being a relatively small space, several wheelbarrows of roots were hauled off to our brush pile before I was done.

One of many wheelbarrow loads of roots.

One of many wheelbarrow loads.

Eventually, I had cleared out the worst of the roots, and the bed was at the stage where I would normally prep it for planting.  Unfortunately, during my battle with the poplar roots, I had discovered that this was just the beginning of the war.  Buried well under the dirt, there were cement bricks throughout a third of the bed.

Mostly root free, but hiding even more obstacles.

Mostly root free, but hiding even more obstacles.

To be Continued . . .

The End Result

 

 

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Searching for the Perfect Avatar

At times I can be a perfectionist.  I get an idea in my head that seems absolutely perfect.  Then, when that perfection is not readily attainable, I cannot and will not deal with lesser substitutes.  This is why my house felt bare and empty for several years after we bought it.  Until I could afford the furniture that I actually wanted, I saw no point in buying anything that was not absolutely necessary.  It is also why my blog has never had an avatar.

Finally, my sister took me to task over this.  Granted, she was not the first to do so, but she also listened as I explained what I wanted.  I simply cannot draw well enough to create the logo I was looking for, and I do not have the funds to pay somebody else to create it for me.  Eventually, though, we decided to take a picture of a rained upon flower.

This was in the realm of possibility, unlike my hand-drawn logo, but it would still be difficult to achieve.  I may live in a rainforest, but it is in the middle of August right now — drought season.  Besides that, when it does rain, everything is usually so soggy afterward that it does not make for a good picture.  My sister told me to just spray the plants with a hose, but I was determined to wait for actual rainfall (the perfection thing again).

Fortunately for both myself and my blog (and Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter) today’s rainfall was just what I was looking for.  It rained most of the day, but it very rarely poured.  Most of the time it sprinkled just lightly enough that the plants did not dry out.

I took several pictures, but eventually settled upon this fuchsia.  (And yes, there are two watermarks on it.  Oops.)

It's me!

It’s me!

It might have taken me several years, but I have the perfect avatar for both myself and my blog.

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Pruning and Shaping

Normally, I try to post one blog entry during the week and one on the weekend.  That was not going to happen last week, though, because we were going camping.  Realizing this, I planned to do some super-easy garden work on Thursday, take some pictures of it, and get an early post in.  I decided that pruning was just the thing.  After all, how long could pruning two shrubs and one tree take?

You might have noticed that this post is going up on Monday . . . after I have gotten back.

Anyway, I had three plants I wanted to prune this month: the Indian plum, a barberry, and the cherry tree.  All of them needed shaping, and I had been putting it off for far too long.

This is what my Indian plum looked like before pruning.

The Indian Plum before Pruning

The Indian Plum before Pruning

As you can see, it is very healthy, but it is also putting up more shoots at its base in its quest to become a thicket.  I, on the other hand, want it to pretend to be a tree.  Knowing that Indian plums want to be thickets, not trees, I would never have bought this plant for this particular property.  However, it was here when we bought the place, and instead of cutting it down, I transplanted it to the best place possible and resigned myself to a lot of pruning.

This is how it looks now.

Pruned Indian Plum

Pruned Indian Plum

Eventually, I would like to prune it down to one main trunk, instead of two, but so far neither trunk seems dominant, so I am leaving both.

Next on my list was the barberry.  This just needed a little shaping, because it was starting to get unruly.  However, I have found that once I start pruning, I keep noticing more areas that bug me.

Barberry before Pruning

Barberry before Pruning

Barberry after Pruning

Barberry after Pruning

Yes, that is dead grass sticking through it.  In this instance, though, it is not a failure to weed on my part.  We try to keep this area more natural for the birds.

Finally, I tackled the cherry tree.  Cherries do not normally need to be pruned, but it was getting hard to walk under and it was encroaching upon the road.  (Being the photographer meant that there was nobody to take awkward pictures of me bonking my head upon the lower branches.  As the tallest person in my family, it happened a lot.)

The Cherry Tree before Pruning

The Cherry Tree before Pruning

Encroaching upon the Road

Encroaching upon the Road

This is how it looked when everything was done.  I was not expecting this big of a difference.

Cherry Tree

Cherry Tree

As long as I was in there, I also cut down the spirea.  Now I can easily walk under the branches and I no longer have to worry about them reaching into the road.  My day of pruning may have taken longer than I had planned, but I am happy with the results.

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Locally Grown Heirloom Garlic

Garlic Braid -- 8-14-12In August 2012, I posted about a bumper crop of garlic.  It grew so well that I had full intentions of using some of it for seed.  Unfortunately, that October had heavier rainfall than normal.  Any marginally clear day had to be devoted to salvaging what little bit of the harvest I could, and there was no time to plant my garlic.  With a heavy heart, I realized that I would have no garlic for the next year.  However, I promised myself, I would order the same varieties next fall no matter what, so it was only one season that I would have to do without.

Then life happened.

As of now, it has been two full seasons without garlic.  That cannot be allowed to continue.  This year, even while I am in the midst of reclaiming my garden, I am making sure to order my garlic.  Like other Spring bulbs, this needs to be done now, so that I can get it in the ground before the first true freeze.  On the Southwest Washington Coast, this usually happens in late October/early November.  However, as in 2012, the non-stop winter rains can arrive as early as mid-September.  Getting garlic in the ground as early as possible is a must, so that means that ordering early enough to be able to do that is also a must.  Even though it is still early August, I ordered my seed bulbs today so I can get them as soon as possible.

As I have mentioned before, I prefer to order locally.  Along with limiting my carbon footprint and helping my local economy, I believe these seeds are more likely to grow well in my garden than seeds that were ordered from far away.  Last time, I ordered my garlic bulbs from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, an organic seed catalog based out of Idaho.  Since the garlic grew so well, I had planned on ordering from them again.  A couple of days ago, though, I was poking around on Pinterest and came across a list of heirloom seed providers.  Lo and behold, one of the three providers based out of Washington, Filaree Garlic Farm, specializes in garlic.  As happy as I have been with Irish Eyes, I decided to check this place out, especially when the two varieties I chose to try, Nootka Rose (also available at Irish Eyes) and St. Helens, were both originally developed in Western Washington.

With any luck, I made a good choice and these varieties will thrive in my garden just as well as the old varieties did.  If not, I will go back to the tried and true the next time around.

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Giving the Lavender a Haircut

Everything is so dry right now that I have to run the sprinklers just to be able to weed without choking on the dust.  Yesterday, by the time I watered things down, thee was not a lot of time left to devote to garden chores.  I managed a quick weeding/thinning run through in my vegetable garden, but felt like I should tackle something else as well.

Looking over my To-Do List for the month, I realized I had the time to deadhead and trim my lavender, especially since I only have one pot of it.  This was especially convenient timing, because all the flowers had seemingly died on it overnight.  As you can see, it was looking quite sad.

Lavender with Dying Blooms

Lavender with Dying Blooms

 

I did not want to trim too much off, so at first I just pruned out the flower stems.  Yes, it still looked scruffy and sad.

Freshly Deadheaded Lavender

Freshly Deadheaded Lavender

 

After its haircut, the lavender looked a lot better, albeit a lot shorter as well.  Hopefully new growth comes in soon.

New Haircut

New Haircut

 

Next year, I want to do something with the blooms before they all die.  I have always thought that lavender was just used in crafts, but apparently it is used in a fair amount of recipes as well.

Some recipes I would like to try: Lavender Shortbread Cookies, Lavender Lemonade, and Lavender Ice Cream.

And, of course, some crafts: Lavender Fire Bundles and Lavender Dryer Bags.  I am not much of a cutesy cute person when it comes to crafts, but both of these crafts are as practical as they are easy.

Do you harvest your lavender?  If so, what do you do with it?

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