Gardening in January

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Jan 142018
two image collage of the raised beds, before and after

Left: The raised bed (double height) in its original shaded spot. Right: One of the new beds, moved into the sun.

It seems like every January has at least one day that makes us all a little hopeful that winter won’t last forever, and today was that day, with clear blue skies, temperatures up into the 60’s and a hint of spring in the air. I took advantage of the beautiful weather to embark on a gardening project I’ve been planning since fall, when we had two sickly trees taken out of our back yard. The trees, along our eastern fence, blocked much of the morning and midday light from half of the yard, and now that they’re out I finally have somewhere besides my back patio to grow vegetables.

I had an old raised bed in another part of the garden that never got enough sun, so today I took it apart and started to move it (and the soil) to the new sunny patch. I’m halfway through, but since tomorrow’s a holiday and it’s supposed to be nice again I’ll have plenty of time to finish. While I was out there I had an epiphany about using the old posts from a wood pile to frame and support a raspberry patch, now that its in the sun. Here’s a highly professional mock-up of what that would look like:

raspberry patch mockup

The only problem with this plan is that its right atop our pachamanca pit, so I might not win this round – we’ll see!

Tomato Plants are in the Ground!

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Jun 052013

Well I finally got my tomato plants in the ground – it’s probably super late for most of the country but just fine for the northwest. I actually plant them in planters because the least shady spot in our yard is up against the side of the house so they sit on a gravel strip with a nice southern exposure.  I planted a roma, a supersweet 100 cherry tomato, and ‘champion’ which seems like a slicing tomato. I also put in a few jalapeno peppers and pot of sugar snap peas.

The big project of the day was pulling the fig tree out of the planter box next to our patio – we always loved to eat the figs at the end of summer until last year, when we happened to notice the rats enjoying the figs too. That pretty much ended our enjoyment of the figs, so the tree had to go. There happen to be a lot of other plants in that planter I wanted to save, so I had to dig and cut out the fig just around the bottom of the trunk and then pull out as many roots as I could. I had to cut through a few of the roots with a pruning saw they were so thick. Look at this thing!

I planted a bougainvillaea in the fig’s spot, which will look nice against the shed wall and will complement the Mediterranean herbs that are growing there now (rosemary, lavender, marjoram and sage). It normally won’t overwinter here, but I’ve got it in a little microclimate so I’m hopeful. I still need to fashion some sort of lattice or ladder it to climb.

I also had a fuchsia to pot up so I planted it in an old watering can that belonged to my grandfather. I think it’ll look really great once the fuchsia starts to flower and droop over a bit.

Finally, here’s a peony that’s just bloomed – beautiful isn’t it?

I hope you’re all enjoying your June gardens! What’s blooming in your yard?

Pruning the Big Trees in the Front Yard

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May 222013

There is something so therapeutic about pruning – I really love to get in there with a pruning saw or loppers and just go to work on a tree or bush. We have some decorative trees in our front yard that are quite old and tend to overgrow their spaces if they aren’t pruned occasionally. The worst culprits are a Japanese maple and a magnolia tree (although my husband would say the oak is the worst, I saved that one for another day). They shade the yard with such dense shade that nothing much grows beneath them and their limbs drape all over the roof which looks so messy.

These are not the best photos, but I was eager to get pruning and didn’t want to wait until the light was right to take the before picture (on the left) and I took the after picture (on the right) just after I finished so at least the light would be the same for both shots. Note the motor home peeking through in the after shot, but at least the roof-line is visible now!

I cut them both back to neaten them up, although I don’t have a tall lopper or a ladder high enough to get to the upper branches. The only downside to my pruning party is that it ended up exposing the neighbors’ motor home, which has seen better days, honestly. The only downside to pruning is the enormous pile of branches we’ve now got to dispose of . . .

May Day Work in the Garden

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May 032013

I spent May Day working in the garden. Our backyard was feeling neglected after a long stretch of dreary cold weather, so the sun outside got me motivated for an impromptu work party. Plus I had a number of plants languishing in their store pots and wanted to get them potted up in their permanent homes before the temperatures go up this weekend (please let them go up!). Of course, one thing led to another so after the potting was done I did some more pruning and overdue winter cleanup and put tomato cages around a few of the blueberry bushes. I haven’t tried that before but last summer they got so floppy that this should help keep them reined in.

I thought about staging this supply shot more carefully than what I did (which was raise the patio umbrella so the sun wasn’t blinding the shot) but hey – this is real life! I’m planting pots in the midst of refereeing kid battles.

I ended up planting up a few hanging baskets, a mixed herb pot I got from Trader Joe’s that was hideously root-bound and a miniature rose and lemon thyme I got as gifts awhile back. I love how happy plants look when you get them out of their too-small containers and into fresh soil and a long drink of water. They seem to perk up and look fresher almost instantly. We’ll enjoy these plants on our patio (and in our meals) all summer long.

Mar 252013

The other day I saw a post from Kaitlin at Wunderbar about tea tin terrariums and it got me thinking about a project I’ve had on the back burner for awhile – a succulent planter from an olive oil tin. We buy our olive oil in large tins from a food importer and I always save them when the oil’s gone. Sometimes I use the empty tins for vases, but once I used one for a planter as a gift and I’ve been meaning to make another one for our kitchen.

The process is quick and easy: first buy a few succulents for your planter (I bought two and transplanted two).

Look at these beauties!

 Add plastic as a liner and then stones at the bottom for drainage. I had a bit of a problem with the plastic so I had to push it to the sides as I filled the tin with soil so that the dirt stayed inside the plastic.

Fill the tin with potting soil (I used cactus mix) almost to the top, then add the plants and fill the soil in around them. Water well and you’re done!

I have my olive oil planter sitting on the windowsill above the kitchen sink – its a spot where succulents thrive and also I can admire it while I do the dishes.

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!
Mar 232013

Spring came in with a roar around here this past week with a wild windy Wednesday and snow on Friday, and since we’ve all been sick around here the sun today was a real relief. It can really lift one’s spirits to be able to get out into the garden and poke around after a time stuck inside. I brought my camera out with me and took a few photos of the young blooms and buds.

Our Asian plum tree is just getting started – when its in full bloom its a giant puff of white, and as the blossoms fall it looks like snow on the grass below. The plum is the first flowering tree to bloom in our garden – next will come the apples and European plum, then the flowering cherry.

The blueberry bushes are just starting to leaf out as well – with their promise of fresh organic blueberries this summer. We’ve got four bushes now but at the height of berry season its not enough to satisfy my little blueberry monsters!

What’s starting to bloom in your area? Happy Spring!

 Posted by at 11:34 pm

Gardening Cleanup (To Fill up the Bin on Trash Day)

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Sep 052012

I had a big empty yard waste bin that needed to go to the curb filled for tomorrow morning, so I decided to go a little bit crazy on the butterfly bush in the corner of the yard. Here’s the before picture:

After much cutting and sawing and pruning and snapping branches, I had a full-to-the-brim bin and a butterfly bush that looked. . .

pretty much the same, truthfully. It looks like I’ve got quite a few more bins-worth of work to do to get this bush tamed.

New Blooms in the Garden

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Aug 142012

I spent some time today potting up some new flowers for the patio. We have a big party coming up this weekend and I’m trying to get the yard and patio looking nice beforehand. I didn’t use anything fancy, just some mums that I hope will last until well into the fall.

The photos make it look like it was a dreary gray day – it wasn’t, its just that I forgot to photograph my work until dusk.

Cleaning Up in the Garden

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Aug 112012

We’ve got a big event coming up next weekend, so I took some time today to try and neaten up the garden. I did a lot of deadheading flowers, picking blueberries, and evaluating what’s done for the year and which pots need new flowers.

We also came up with a fun little game this evening in the garden – I picked an assortment of herbs and then Viv went around the patio trying to figure out which plant they came from.

clockwise from the top: mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender and oregano