Surviving the Drought

I live in one of the rainiest places on the Washington coast.  In fact, it normally rains 201 days out of the year in my home town.  This means that I typically have a very short growing season: May/June — September/October (depending on when the spring rains end and when the fall rains begin).  Every year, we have a mini-drought from July to mid-September, but the moisture from the rest of the year carries us through, with a little bit of watering. Because of this, learning how to make the garden drought-tolerant has been low on my list of priorities.

This year is different.  The entire state of Washington is in the biggest drought in decades.  Sort of.  Even though the governor declared several counties to be in a drought in May (eventually spreading to a statewide declaration), it began as a snow drought.  We had normal rainfall, or maybe a little bit more, but the snow pack was much less than most years.  During this early stage, the coastal areas did not have to worry much.  By mid-June, however, we started seeing a slew of wildfires.  And then, to make things worse, the temperature began being much warmer than usual.  Earlier this week, it actually reached 102 degrees at my house.  Our grass always browns out by early August, since we do not water our lawn, but this year it was brown by early June.

My plants do not know what to think about all of this.  On one hand, I am getting the biggest crop of tomatoes I have ever had.  On the other hand, the tomatoes are wilting.

Green Tomatoes -- 7-18-2015

Look at all those happy tomatoes!

Wilted Tomato -- 7-18-2015

Unfortunately, the plant is stressed from heat.

Eventually, we will get our normal weather patterns back, and then everybody will go back to moaning and groaning about not having enough sun.  Until then, however, I will stay focused on keeping everything watered.

Posted in Weather | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Organizing Chaos

My garden shed has to serve many purposes.  It is a gardening shed, of course, but it is also an exercise room, a machinery shop, freezer space, and storage.  All these purposes make organization and order very necessary.  Unfortunately, it also means that the shed quickly slides into chaos.  Over time it gets to the point where order must be restored.

I forgot to take a before picture, but this shot of the the other side of the shed should give you a pretty good idea of what I am dealing with.

Definitely chaotic, and no room to move around.

Definitely chaotic, and no room to move around.

As I said, organization is very necessary, but it is also a giant project at this point.

When projects get to be this big, I find it very helpful to break them into parts.  First, my husband and I cleared off the floor space, so we had room to move.  Only then did we tackle the gardening bench.

When organizing anything, there are a few simple rules to follow:

  1. If it is broken or useless, toss it.  A lot of old handtools and pool toys (which did not belong there anyway) got tossed.  I also threw out most of those cheap black plastic pots that I have accumulated over the years.  I still kept some, though, because I had nothing else of that size.
  2. Hang things on the walls to make the best use of the space.  My long-handled pruners will no longer be constantly in the way, because they have a spot on the wall allocated just for them.
  3. Place items in containers when possible to conserve space and to keep everything together.  I found that my old hanging baskets work perfectly for this.  Besides, I know I’m not likely to use them again, and they were in too good of shape to justify tossing.
Tool Basket (w) -- 7-11-2015

Repurposing an old hanging basket.

After a couple of hours, this is what we ended up with.

Organized Potting Area (w) -- 7-11-2015

A garden bench I can use!

Along with the space looking much nicer and feeling much less claustrophobic, I can now find what I need quickly and tools are less likely to get broken.  There is also room for more stuff, which is always a good thing.

Not all of the shed has been tackled yet, but by taking a section each week, it will not be too long before everything not only has a proper place, but we can easily get to it.

Posted in Garden Plans | Tagged , | Leave a comment

July 2015 To-Do List

Broadfork -- 8-15-2014Flower Gardens

Annuals

  • Plant wildflowers, cosmos, celosia, and zinnia.

Native Plants

  • Thin out the Oregon grape.

Perennials

  • Spread compost on the fuchsias.
  • Prune the deadwood off the fuchsias.

Roses

  • Weed the rose beds.
  • Tie up any new canes on the climber that I want to become part of the framework.
  • Remove blind shoots.
  • Trim off blackspot.
  • Deadhead the climbing rose.

Shrubs

  • Weed around the azalea, lilac, and barberry.
  • Prune as needed.

Houseplants

  • Fertilize once.

Maintenance

  • Mulch everything to prevent drought stress.
  • Clean and sharpen the pruners.

Trees

  • Inspect and photograph the trees.
  • Remove sucker sprouts.
  • Give the hazelnut and cherry a deep soak to combat drought stress.

Vegetable Garden

  • Order garlic.
Posted in Flower Gardens, Garden Plans, Monthly To-Do Lists, Trees | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

June Wrap Up

Wheelbarrow of Poplar Roots -- 8-3-2014Berries

  • I successfully kept the deer out of my blueberries by draping bird netting over the bushes.
  • I harvested my blueberries and strawberries.

Flower Gardens

Bulbs

  • I staked the calla lilies in the backyard.  Unfortunately, I did not get to the ones in the front yard in time, and they flopped over.

Herb Garden

  • I planted the cilantro and garlic chives.
  • I pruned the thyme.  Most of it did not survive the winter, but a couple of the plants seem to be healthy.

Maintenance

  • The compost got turned.

Vegetable Garden

  • I planted my turnips, beans, arugula, squash, and radishes.
  • I undersowed the turnips with vetch and the tomatoes with nasturtiums.
  • Clover was sowed in all the bare areas.
  • The potatoes were mulched with straw.
  • I harvested the early garlic.
Posted in Monthly Wrap Up | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I’m Back!

That is pretty much all there is to this post.  Summer is here, and with it time to work on my blog.  One of my key focuses this summer will be to try to make it more sustainable during the school year.  I may not be posting as much each week, but hopefully this will let me build a strong foundation to carry me through the busy time of the year.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October To-Do List

Broadfork -- 8-15-2014Berries

  • Plant more strawberries.
  • Spread compost around blueberries.
  • Mulch blueberries with fallen leaves.

Flower Garden

Annuals:

  • Nothing this month.

Bulbs:

  • Spread compost on the Spring bulbs.

Native Plants:

  • Mulch Indian plum with leaves.
  • Uproot/dig up as many poplars as I can once rain starts.

Perennials:

  • Transplant the hostas.
  • Transplant the fuchsia.

Roses:

  • Tie climbing roses to trellis.
  • Mulch roses with fallen leaves — after the first freeze.
  • Trim back long canes.
  • Remove rose leaves after the first freeze.

Shrubs:

  • Fertilize the shrubs.

Herb Garden

Houseplants

  • Nothing this month.

Lawn

  • Aerate, thatch, and reseed the front lawn.
  • Rake leaves as needed.

Maintenance

  • Sharpen the mower blades.
  • Edge the beds.
  • Conquer the front bed.
  • Clean the birdbath.
  • Set out the birdfeeders for the winter.

Trees

  • Call an arborist to cut down the pine tree.
  • Mulch around the fruit and nut trees.
  • Cut down the Japanese maple after the leaves have dropped.

Vegetable Garden

  • Sow cover crops as plots get emptied.
  • Plant the garlic.
  • Harvest potatoes and turnips.

 

Posted in Monthly To-Do Lists | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

September Wrap-Up

Wheelbarrow of Poplar Roots -- 8-3-2014Not much got done this month.  I harvested some of my potatoes and turnips, but that was about it.  Fortunately, more is already getting accomplished in October.

Posted in Monthly To-Do Lists | Tagged | Leave a comment

Turnip Harvest

When I harvested my potatoes the other day, I also harvested some turnips.

Basket of Turnips

Basket of Turnips

These took a bit more work to store away than the potatoes did, though.

First, I had to dump them in a sink for a quick rinse.

First Rinse

First Rinse

This time around, I did not scrub them, but let them soak as I quickly separated the greens and the roots into two separate bowls.

Not very many roots for such a big sinkful of plants.

Not very many roots for such a big sinkful of plants.

The True Harvest

The True Harvest

After separating the roots from the greens (and cleaning the sink) I put the roots back in the water.  This time, they got a true scrubbing before getting trimmed.

Trimmed Turnip Roots

Trimmed Turnip Roots

You will notice that the bugs got to one of the turnips.  However, no rot had set in, and the root was sound, so I kept it anyway.  Our turnip patch is not big, and we only grow enough to keep in the fridge, so I did not need to worry about long-term storage.  Some of the roots, however, were too bug-eaten to keep.

This is why we can't let our turnips grow too big.

This one is too bug-eaten to keep.

As the turnips were drying on the towel, I washed and trimmed the greens.

Trimmed Turnip Greens

Trimmed Turnip Greens

Now, I was ready to store everything in the fridge.  The turnips were easy.  All I had to do was put them in a zip-lock bag.  The greens, on the other hand, needed a little more care.  I have found that the best way to store them is wrapped in a damp paper towel.  By doing this, they will last several months in the refrigerator.

Packaged Turnip Greens

Packaged Turnip Greens

Normally, we just throw a bundle of turnip greens in a pot of soup about five minutes before serving it.  Since we have so much right now, though, I thought I should look up some recipes where the greens are the main focus instead of an added ingredient.

Here are the recipes that looked the most promising.  Who wants to try them out with me?

Spicy Skillet Turnip Greens

Southern Turnip Greens with Salt Pork

Country Turnip Greens

Turnip Green Soup

 

Posted in Harvest, Preserving Food, Vegetable Gardening | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First Harvest of the Year

It may not look like much, but I gathered in the first harvest of the year.

Basket of Fingerlings

This is just the start, though.  Since the potatoes that volunteered in the compost pile (denying me use of half of said pile) sprouted first, they were also ready to harvest first.  I still have two more potato beds to go, which should yield many more potatoes, but the first harvest is always exciting, no matter how little it produces.

There is more to harvesting potatoes, though, than digging them up out of the ground.  Unless they are destined for that night’s dinner table, potatoes need to cure, and toughen up their skins.  To do that, I spread them out on our deck table.

Curing in the Shade

Curing in the Shade

This lets the dirt dry enough that it can be brushed off the potatoes without bruising them.  Washing them is a bad idea, because it can let rot set in.

After the dirt has fallen off, usually a full afternoon, it is time to sort the potatoes.  No matter how careful I am, some of the potatoes end up being scarred by the potato fork.

Scarred Potatoes

Scarred Potatoes

These fingerlings are still perfectly fine to eat, but if they are put in storage with the rest, rot will eventually set in.  Instead, I put them in the bin of potatoes to be eaten soon, while the rest of the harvest gets set in our pantry.

Over the course of the winter, most of the potato harvest will be eaten, but some is usually left to seed next year’s crop.

Posted in Harvest, Preserving Food, Vegetable Gardening | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

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.
Posted in Garden Plans, Monthly To-Do Lists | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments