Sunday, May 30, 2010

Set backs, Progress, Passion

The dogwood.  We have really grown to love that tree.  It showed signs of this sickness last year, but we took it for some kind of scalding, since it came right after that long late-July heat wave.  My hypothesis is that this spring has been too wet, too long.  Gee, more evidence.  I have some spray on fungicide, but it totally gives me that feeling - you know, throwing rocks at the sun.  I think we're doing everything we can for it.  Please, tree, pull through.

The cherry tree.  When we first moved here we made the mistake of buying one of those dumb self-fertile trees with four kinds of cherry grafted on it.  There are so many things wrong with this idea, and with the results of this idea.  I can't even get started.  So, now we have this rapidly expanding, imbalanced, confused specimen that has been completely colonized by aphids.  It happened to all the trees, I put up barriers, a little late in the game.

**(Note to self: put up barriers as the leaves are forming, as part of a spring routine, even ritual.)

The apples are doing fine, recovering slowly, unfurling their new leaves, leaving the damaged past behind.    But the cherry.

Try as I might, I cannot help being totally grossed out by aphids.

At least it's providing a sexy atmosphere for the lady bugs.

And, Gay and I cleaned up and I planted.  Victoria lettuces, my free nantes carrots (good luck on that one), cucumbers, more black hollyhocks (all in #3 under cover); radishes, more arugula (#1); more red sunflowers along with the lettuce from the other day and the lettuce starts and the red chard in #2.  When I put the beans in there it's gonna be niiiice.

I keep fantasizing about how great the trees are going to look in a few years, or how quickly the flowers will grow in July, but the truth is that the garden will never be perfect.  I will always have dreams and ideas and changes and plans.  That's passion.  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rain, peas, Gaga

Too much rain, if you ask me.  I know, I know.  I know all about it.  But this last couple weeks, too much.  Moving on.

Worms rock.  We should remember to crush up the eggshells before we put them in the bin.  When I harvest, the worms are all hiding in the shells and they get smashed to smithereens.  Sorry worms.

This is where all that pesky bolting parsley was.  Gay Riley cleaned it right out and is slaving turning it into salad.  That spinach is there in that basket because it was bolting too.  Hey, everybody, how about a nice big salad on this cold, rainy day?  

The new peas I got this year (Dwarf Grey from I don't know because I used them all) rock my world.  

See those pinkish purplish flowers?  Sweet.  My english pea seeds from last year on the other hand, are producing these super short super slow vines with wrinkly brown tops.  They are bummed out.  Did I get the seed wet last spring?  Did I plant them too early and they got rotty?  Is there something in that end of the bed?

And, we couldn't figure out for our lives how to tie up the peas this year so Jeff came up with this plan of stringing wire the whole length of the beds about two feet up from rebar in the four corners, to keep the individual bamboos from tipping in as the weight of the peas on the twine grew.  The result is that there is so much going on and I tie the stupid peas up all the dang time.  He predicted this, but I refuse to use that plastic netting that we have all tangled in the garage because then you can't compost the vines when they're done.  But I saw this in our photos from last year:

See that tall structure there on the end?  That's the way we're doing em next year, with the favas somehow interspersed or interplanted and also radishes.  Can I also just say how much more amazing everything looked last year and that these pictures were taken June 6, and this year the favas are about eight inches tall and full of slug holes and the tomatoes are less than half as big?  And the garlic?  Are you kidding?  Rain?  Are you?

But we did grow some big lettuce.

And I am ripping this garlic out while it's still green and pickling some asparagus.  Then I'm going to plant all lettuces and arugula.  Screw the simultaneously dying and flowering (what could be more tragic than that) watermelon plant on my kitchen counter.  I don't like watermelon, do you?  

Noooo.  I oney yike wain. 


Tuesday, May 4, 2010


It is good to remember that I can't grow everything.  That the yard is not only for growing row crops in direct sun.  That developing regularity and consistency creates good results that will allow me to experiment without losing the lessons I have learned.  Keeping this in mind, I would most like to harvest:

peas, favas, radishes, lettuces, spinach, strawberries, asparagus, arugula, chives, leeks

green beans, shell beans, zucchini, melon, flowers, blueberries, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes.  there is more to say on the topic of tomatoes.  beets, cilantro, basil.  garlic, shallots.

beets, lettuce, winter squash, chard

brussels, kale, parsley, collard greens

TBC, baby, TBC.


This year there are pests.  I knew that it was coming.  For a while, our garden was a surprise to any little hungry thing that stumbled on it.  Now, it is expected among a certain population that we will try to grow delicious things in this particular area.  They are alive and waiting.  They are planning future generations based on projected yield.  As far as the slugs are concerned, the hoop house was erected just to keep them cozy for the long cold nights of January.  It is probably working its way into their mythology.  I have a whole bed of bolted brassicas.  Great for the bees!  Also great for the aphids.  I swear, where did all these aphids come from?  On the apple trees, I know the ants planted them.  Watching those busy, busy ants tending their patches of mindless, leaf-sucking grubs makes me feel very scientific and very grossed out.  I run the strip of raised sticky paper around the trunk and feel like a tree ninja, a thousander, changing the very materials that make up the universe for those crazed buggers.  They frantically examine every inch of my barrier from both sides, screaming at each other with their pheromones over the inch wide plateau.  I know that the aphids will gradually disappear from the poor curled apple leaves now that the farmers are foiled, but they will thicken and clump on my arugula (did I plant it too late?), my nasturtiums.  Yucky-yuck.  A part of my philosophy is to keep ambition low, to work with the flow, to grow what does well and leave the finagling to the farmers.  But if it only gets worse the longer you work in the same space, then a mark of seriousness is learning to deal with the pests you get.  At least slugs don't like tomatoes.


I feel all out of sync.  It's sunny!  Things are growing!  It's raining!  It's windy windy windy (as Zelda would say)!  Don't even think about putting those poor plants outside!  There are four blooms on this melon start.  There are tiny weird little bugs that only exist on those blooms.  I don't know anything about melons.  What is going on?  Which are female?  Can I hand pollinate?  It feels so backwards and dumb to be so concerned about this poor, unnatural little plant, doing it's best to work with circumstances it would never choose.  I love 50 degrees and rainy.  Really, I have found that the better I like 50 degrees and rainy the better I like Portland.  It is good for swinging, for walking, for lettuce, for peas, for spinach.  It is not good for soft, tippy sunflowers or zinnias or melons.  Because of my plants - because of thinking about July in March - I am impatient with this weather.  I am rushing it.  

Maybe I'll just throw out all of my big lights in the basement and direct seed everything.  

Or: make better use of the tunnel.  Say: if Row #2 is overwintering, covered until, say, mid Feb.  Then the cover goes to Row #3, for peas and favas (which are maybe even already seeded?  Crazy.) and radishes and lettuces until mid April approximately when in moves to Row #1 for Tomatoes.  (or maybe I will grow tomatoes somewhere else.)  Anyway, the next round goes in under the house til it is too hot and big in June.  At which point I trash row #2 and plant roots and beans or squash and flowers or chard and leeks.  mmmm, hmmmm.  Thinking.

For now, everybody is all cooped up in the house, wishing they were outside, or else outside, wishing they were in.  They are out of their element and stuck.  They admire the potatoes, but they have nothing to say to such sturdy, all-purpose types.  They wonder who invited them to this party, anyway.