Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wormsign!

I was out turning over the decomposing leaves into the garden today and in many of the forkfuls of soil were earthworms! Big fat worms, medium worms, and small baby worms. Worms everywhere:



Why is this a big deal you ask? Because this is garden section number 2, the one that I built from scratch 2 years ago that sits above the ground. I brought in some base garden dirt, added a ton of composted chicken manure and have been adding autumn leaves, green cuttings, kitchen scraps, wood ashes, shredded newspaper, kelp meal, old aquarium water, and bone meal ever since. The first year it produced nothing but beans well (which fix their own nitrogen), last year it produced peas and beans very well and the rest of the veg at about 50% of what it should have:


This year I hope to have a fully functional garden. Worms help aerate the soil, minimizing soil compaction and allowing plants to access water and air easily. As the earthworms eat their way through the garden soil, they produce waste - worm castings - that are full of nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium, nitrogen and magnesium. The more worms in a garden, the more productive that garden soil will be. Last year there were a few worms in the garden, but not many. This year, there appear to be many worms! Color me excited to see how the veg garden will perform this year with a garden crawling with worms.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Grapes

One of the first things I did when I began the garden was to plant grapes along the fence of the sport court. It gets very hot along this area and stays sunny all day long. I thought, heck, I'll give grapes a go. Well, a couple years later and I harvested 20 pounds of grapes from the 2 vines I planted! And that was after the deer ran off with several mouthfuls. The grapes totally took over the fencing and provided us much needed privacy on that side of the yard:


These are the Canadice grapes. I also planted Glenora and harvested an equal amount of those.


All of those grapes became jelly! Beautiful jewel colored jelly. This is the Canadice grape jelly:


I also thought I would try my hand at preserving grape leaves and that also turned out pretty well:


This year I planted a white grape as well and if it follows the growth pattern of the other 2 vines, will begin to bear fruit this next year. I think I better learn how to make wine.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Perennial Slope Garden Through the Seasons

The last couple years have been spent removing 3 ft tall weeds from the slope below the sport court. I have slowly been clearly it and replacing with perennials. Sometimes the plants work, sometimes not so much and I shift things about. As it is, I have snapped pics of all 4 seasons, which turns out, is pretty neat.

So, here is Spring and as you can see, there are many iris on this slope on the right. I split a 30 year old declining iris bed up and moved several of them to this spot:


The iris love it here and are really making a comeback. I think they just needed split up:


There are also species tulips I planted here. The rabbits don't seem to bother these like they do the hybrids:


Closer. These are Tulipa Sylvestris:


I think these were Tulipa Clusiana Cynthia:


And Byzantine glads. Yep, these are the real deal:



Same slope in the Summer. Crocosmia, Guara, Lavender, Jerusalem sage, California poppies, several varieties of Penstemon, Achillea, and many others fill this space. And look at the rampant grape vines! Glorious! Beyond the Crocosmia and escaping the camera shot are 2 Gooseberry shrubs and maybe 11 or 12 Lingonberry shrubs that are really starting to take off. I'm really excited about those.


A closer look at the slope plantings and a garden lantern surrounded by OxEye daisies and California poppies:


Nasturtiums and California poppies:



And here we are in the Autumn. Goodness, I do so love having real seasons again! Here, the grape vines are turning fabulous colors, the blue gray of the Lavender really stands out, Guara foliage turns more reddish as the nights cool way down, and the huge fuzzy leaves of the Jerusalem sage add texture:


Winter! Snow blankets the perennials with the Achillea and Jerusalem seed heads providing texture to the winter garden.


I have expanded this bed even further along the slope this year adding shrub roses, more guara, more herbs, and other interesting plants. I can't wait until spring so I can watch the slope fill in the rest of the way.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Brand New Year - I'm back!

Wow, It's hard to believe it has been this long since I posted to this garden blog. My life has been so busy the past couple years that I hardly had time for myself. I love living in the Pacific Northwest. It truly is my happy place. The last several years have been spent working, working, and working some more and spending what little time I had to myself outdoors hiking, exploring, and of course gardening!

Even though I love where I live, after a decade of hard work, I realized that life was passing quickly and that if I didn't stop and look around a little bit, it would pass me right on by. So, this past year I made a life choice to take a sabbatical and spend some time with my family. It's the best decision I have ever made. I went to visit family I haven't seen in a couple years, I took a month long vacation to Yellowstone National Park and hiked over 100 miles of back country and boardwalks, spent weekends hiking in Mt Rainier National Park, ran many cross country miles in my state parks, visited the coast, learned to cook real food (how funny that I love to grow veggies, but never was a very good cook), completed a 5000 piece puzzle, learned to can and preserve all manner of gardened and foraged foods, and of course worked in my new garden I am building. I had some days where I just sat back and enjoyed the sun hitting my face while sipping an iced tea and reading a book. It was fabulous.

I feel as though my mind is finally refreshed and I'm ready to tackle this new year and whatever it may bring.

I knocked around the idea of changing the name of this blog since I haven't spent much time with it recently, but really, the name still applies. The sun french fries me when I'm out in it and I really am a pluviophile. So, the blog name is staying and I'm returning to frequent it.

Without further adieu, here is a pic of the backyard perennial garden as it was this last summer and I'll be back soon with more garden-y updates. Happy New Year Everyone!


There are many daylilies in this bed as well, but bloomed earlier in the spring. Here are the lemon lilies:


These bloom the same time and I think are hemerocallis dumortieri:


Here are the lilies all together. The neighbor lady who has lived in her house for over 30 years gave these to me when she was splitting the massive clumps of them she had:


On the sunnier side of this flower bed are the liatris, coneflower, rudbeckia, and hollyhock mallow. This is really the first year they have bloomed like this since I started them from seed. I think I had a couple coneflower the year prior, but that was it. Everything in this bed has to be rabbit-proof because, well, we are overrun with rabbits here. I tried to grow some giant allium in this bed, but the rabbits mow it down every year in early spring. So I gave up on those. Oh, well. At least they don't eat these!





Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Woodland Trail Project

It's the beginning of March and the perfect time to build a woodland trail. At this time of year, the foliage is still all down and I can see where to safely cut a path. It's also the time of year when the woodland ephemerals (dicentra, for example) are just beginning to emerge and I can safely dig and move them out of the way of the impending trail. The days are also a bit longer and I have more time to work outside before I lose daylight.

The woodland trail will be leading down the slope, through giant ferns, past groves of native trillium and dicentra, under the giant mossy vine maples, past ginormous western red cedar, past the salmon berry grove, around the ginormous stumps enveloped by red huckleberry that are all that remain of the old growth forest that once covered this land before it was logged off in the teens and 20's, down to the stream and back around to the other side of the yard. Phew! It's kind of a big project but I am so very determined to create a fantabulous path through the woods that I can presently only peer down into.

In case anyone is curious, the tools used for this project include a big-ass pick ax, loppers, hand saw, mini pick ax, and a chainsaw. Oh, and occasionally a buff  hubs to help move large rocks and logs about.

So far, I have managed to cut my way through the ferns and down the slope and created a few switchbacks. A large swath of native dicentra (bleeding heart) had to be moved to a new location at one point. I refuse to crush any of those lovelies!:






The next leg of the trail will require the chainsaw to cut fallen logs out of the pathway. Hopefully I'll have the trail finished in another month or so, weather permitting.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

To Build a Garden - Progress Through this Year

Hello! It's been a mighty long time since I posted an update, but I've been super busy deconstructing 30 years of neglect and reconstructing a garden on our little acre.  This has been an immense amount of work so far and at one point I had wondered what I had gotten myself into! But I am determined to transform this place into something wonderful and so keep plugging along.

I am breaking up the yard into several different garden sections including 2 wilderness gardens, a side garden, an eventual patio area at the base of the deck, a perennial plants area over the septic mound, slope gardens, a firepit area, a zen garden, shade gardens, and a large veg garden area so far. Holy cow!

Let me just give an overview of  the progress this year. Here's what it looked like when we moved in Summer of 2013. You can see I started cleaning even at that very early stage; in the far back right corner I was tearing out overgrowth:


The first order of business was to weed whack the 4-8ft tall weeds out of the way. Hubs took on this job summer 2013. That's him in the far back corner of the image:


The weeds were a jungle:


Once the weeds were knocked out of the way, I could see what I had to work with:



I wanted a woodland garden in that cedar grove behind the septic mound, so I went to work ripping out 30 years of overgrowth, blackberries, and garbage including old smashed burn barrels, soda/beer cans, tarps, and leftovers of a woodpile long hidden and gobbled up by the woods:



This took several months of ongoing work. I finally had cleared a space in Fall 2013 to plant a few Korna Kousa dogwood trees. A pink one and a white one. Just a few weeks ago I planted narcissus Thalia underneath them:


The cleanup of the cedar grove continued until I was finally able to clear off the nurse stumps that I have planted native bleeding heart, trillium, creeping dogwood, redwood sorrel, and Himalayan blue poppy on. I also busied myself with constructing a path through the woodland. It's still a work in progress:






Once we had the woodland area entirely cleared of overgrowth by this Spring, it was time to bring in the mulch. 30 yards of mulch:


To keep the weeds from coming back up, we had saved the cardboard boxes from our move and laid them out across the large area that we would be covering with 4-5 inches of mulch.:


We also raised the canopy of the grove by 25 feet. Well, the hubs did most of the trimming, but I helped out, too. In the photo below, you can see how much this opened up the yard and the woodland garden area:


Once that task was complete, we laid the mulch down and results were amazing! This is July of this year. It's beginning to look like a real yard and garden!:


That giant wood round will eventually be rolled up to the firepit area, but we haven't gotten to that task quite yet:



Now moving to the area below the deck where eventually we will put a patio. I haven't done much with this yet. Pretty much just trimmed back the giant huckleberry bushes and weeded the area. Before shot:


After shot:


Moving on, we arrive at the perennial garden I am building over the septic mound. Here, I am ripping out grass/moss and replacing them with perennial plants and grasses I found on sale, were gifted to me, or have been started with seed. Anything I plant here I pretty much have to be willing to lose if the septic ever needs replaced. So far, I've only got about a quarter of the area cleared off that I eventually want filled in with plants. This photo was taken around April of this year:


And here it is in July this year:


Moving on to the massive veg and fruit garden project. This is a big one and has consumed a bulk of my time this year. It was once a horse field and is filled with various junk including many rotted pallets.  I began cleaning the first section of this area out in February of this year. It was once a veg garden many, many, many years ago and had once been filled with piles of horse manure so the weeds were immense. In the fall of 2013 we piled cardboard and old plastic pallets on top of this area to try and kill the weeds, but it was still necessary for me to pull the foot-deep rootballs out by hand. Yep. Me and my pickaxe are gonna transform this land:


Here is veg garden section number 1 finally cleared of weeds:


And here it is August of this year planted with all manner of veggie goodness. What a transformation!:


Here is veg section number 2. Cleaning began this spring and was completed this September. There was a lot of junk that needed disposed of from this area. That ugly fence belongs to the neighbors and they removed that this fall and are replacing it with a nice greenbelt of evergreen trees/shrubberies this coming spring. They also plan to re-roof and paint the garage, so it shouldn't such an eyesore anymore. Yay!:


I had 15 yards of garden soil/compost brought in. We used cedar logs from trees that we thinned from the cedar grove for the borders of this garden:


This is what it currently looks like. Next year there will be corn and pumpkins and sunflowers in this space. Hurray!:


Just above the veg garden area is a tennis court. It is surrounded by a slope that is covered in nothing but weeds, weeds, and more weeds. I am working on tearing out all the weeds and replacing it with drought tolerant plantings. Oh, and random posts that I suppose were supposed to become a fence once upon a time, but never came to fruition. I put copper tops on them and fixed hooks to the posts from which I hung garden lanterns. This is also another HUGE project. I didn't get as far as I had hoped with this this year, but it's coming along and is a priority for next year:


I have planted grapes along the fence at the top of the slope. They really seem to like it where I planted them and have been growing like gangbusters even though they are brand new this year. Slope planted with new plants and plants divided and moved from other areas of the yard:


Below and to the left of the tennis court is a space that was once used to tie the horses in place. We added a crossbar and hung a garden bell in this space:


Since the ground in this space is hard as cement and filled with gravel, we decided to create a zen garden and added borders and filled it with sand and a few large rocks. I will be weeding and replanting the sloped area around this space this coming year:


Behind the now zen garden is what will become wilderness garden number 2. First order of business was to weed, cut back, and build steps and paths through this area. The staircases on either side have been rough-cut in by me and my pick-axe this year and will hopefully be completed next year:

 
We are planning on having a large delivery of rocks brought in so we can finish off various staircases like this one with the rockery:

Here is the wilderness garden area the stairs lead up to. In front of those giant trees, to the right of the apple trees, but above the tennis court is a space that I weeded last year and attempted to grow wildflowers in. I failed miserably as even though it is wet in the fall/winter here, the summer dries the area out in the summer and it receives no supplemental watering. This year, I am trying Camassia quamash and alpine strawberries in this space. I noticed the alpine strawberries had reseeded themselves into the hardpan and gravel in the full sun last summer and were doing quite splendid, so I'm taking that cue from nature and trying them in this hot, sunny space. Also, the shed you see in this shot, I initially wanted to paint, but it is so rotten, we have decided to take it down and replace it with a new modern shed. That will likely happen in the next couple of years:


And finally, along the side yard, I have been cleaning out the gully that was filled with 30 years of cuttings thrown over the side. The trees had been pretty mildewy in this area and cleaning out all the rotted cuttings, trimming up the trees, and getting airflow back into the area helped a ton. I haven't had mildew problems on the trees this year:


I also weeded the edge of the yard and planted a boxwood hedge to try and delineate the edge of the yard from the woods a bit more:


Well, that's most of the projects I've been working on this past year. I have many more ambitious garden plans for next year including planning an alpine garden space, more staircases, and hopefully adding some fruit trees and shrubs. I also want to find more time to post updates on this garden build. I finally feel like the garden is coming together, even if very slowly.