Archive for the ‘Mother Nature’ Category

Fall is in the Air

It feels to me as though fall is coming more quickly this year. It may be because August and the first week or so of September were so hot and so smoky. The upper 90F heat and the smoke sucked all my energy away.

Now for the past week the temperature has dropped very noticeably. The smoke cleared for several days though it was back yesterday. The forecast now calls for five days of cooler weather and rain.

There are other signs that fall is here even though the calendar will not acknowledge it for five more days. Leaves are beginning to turn and fall. Not in large numbers yet, but enough to tell you that summer is coming to an end. Nights and early mornings are now chilly. Yesterday morning I actually had to wear a jacket working in the yard until about 10 AM.

The vegetable plants are also showing the end of summer. The tomato plants are looking tired. The leaves are beginning to dry out and although there is still some fruit ripening it is near its end. The pepper plants still look vibrant as does the potato.

In the next week or so I will clean up the vegetable garden and consider planting a cover crop for winter.

I do not like the dog days of summer. There is no denying that climate change has made summer hotter here and it is no fun for me. The smoke this year from the many forest fires throughout the western US also made August less pleasant.

I still have projects to finish though. I need to fashion a cover for the new compost bins before the rains come. I also need to finish the rain collection barrels to be ready for early spring.

I did get one little job done yesterday – cleaned up the Japanese garden. I trimmed the boxwood shrub and trimmed the lace leaf maple a bit. As autumn sets in I want to plant a couple more plants in the Japanese garden and in the front yard. There are some bare spots that need filling.

A friend of mine told me he reads this blog and that I must be very serious about my gardening. I suppose I am. It is a great hobby and it feeds me! Not many hobbies do that.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

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Tis’ a Wet Spring

It has been a cooler and wetter spring this year than normal. The average temperature for today in Albany is 72F. the high was 60F. This has been typical this spring.

Upside

There have been advantages to this cool weather. I can still pull the wild onions that litter my perennial beds out by hand. The mostly come out whole. By this time of year they usually snap off because the ground is too dry. Other weeds also pull out more easily except of course dandelions which manage to cling to the soil no matter what the condition.

I did have to water the lawn and veggies for the first week or of June so but for the past four days the rain has done that for me. Rain provides a better soaking than irrigation does and there is something about rain water that promotes growth better than city water. In part it may be the chlorine and fluoride that come with city water.

My cool loving lettuce loves this weather. No threat of bolting in this cool cloudy weather.

Downside

Weeds also love this weather. Weed seeds that might not sprout at this point are and growing weeds are thriving. I continue to battle them (pull them) but cannot keep up with the entire yard.

My sun loving plants, especially the tomatoes, do not love this weather. Their growth is slowed and setting fruit is not happening as yet.

There are fewer insects around, especially bees, which means less pollination. On the other hand the water sitting about in puddles and containers will produce more mosquitoes.

It is likely that later this month or for sure in July the heat will return and things will return more to normal. That is my expectation anyway. I am not complaining. Cool or hot each condition has its advantages and disadvantages. For now anyway the garden looks happy and all is well.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

No-till Gardening

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Normally every spring I till up my garden beds. I’ve read in various books over the years that this is a good thing to do as it mixes levels of soil to bring nutrients to the surface, aerates the soil to improve drainage and bring air to the area where roots need it.

I’ve also read about the advantages of not tilling the ground, so called no-till gardening. Various sources also call this lasagna gardening because it involves creating layers of mulch, compost, organic matter, etc. and then to plant on these layers. All methods of gardening have their advantages and disadvantages and one site discusses some disadvantages of lasagna gardening.

In his book, Weedless Gardening, Lee Reich advocates a form of no-till gardening. He does not advocate true lasagna style gardening which involves multiple layers created at once. Reich’s reasoning is that in nature the ground is not tilled. Mother nature naturally layers thin applications of organic matter on the ground each fall as leaves and plants dies and fall down. They rot into the ground adding all the benefits of organic matter without disturbing soil structure.

Reich writes that there is much less work involved with no-till gardening. There is no backbreaking labor in the fall or spring to turn over the soil and then till it. He suggests you just add a couple inches of high quality compost to the top of the soil each year and let nature do its work.

He cautions that you prevent soil compaction by avoiding walking on planting beds. Walking and wheel barrows are confined to pathways between the beds.

In addition to better soil structure he suggests that there are fewer weeds because weed seeds are not brought to the surface to germinate each year from tilling.

I decided to give this method a try this year. I could not fully use it on my garden boxes because I rebuilt them and had to add about 4-6 inches of soil and compost to build them up. I then raked this in well along with organic fertilizer. I did not till the boxes so to some extent I followed this method. I am also using his method in flower beds and beds that contain shrubs.

Next year I will follow the method to the vegetable beds. I will just add a couple inches of compost and see how things go.

I must admit it is a lot less work and if Reich’s theory is sound it may create healthier soil that is more natural in its structure. When you consider the ample flora that nature supports using this method it seems to make sense.

This is one of the things I love about gardening. Learning new approaches and trying them out.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Spring is Here!

Today is the official beginning of spring this year. The daffodils have been up. The sun was out yesterday (though it is to rain today and all week) and the high yesterday was forecast at 50F. It was cold yesterday morning though with a thin layer of ice on the windshield of the car.

On Friday my box of seeds arrived from Territorial Seed. My plan was to plant some of them in the greenhouse today to get started on my “starts”. If the warmth continues I may be able to plant some cool weather plants next weekend.

I got busy with visits from family and other things so the planting will have to wait until later in the week.

A soil test kit also arrived with the seeds so I hope to test the garden soil today to see what is deficient. Then I can amend as needed. With no cover crops this year my garden boxes have been pounded with rain all winter and we’ve had a lot of rain. I expect I will have to dig the garden boxes to loosen the soil.

I am persuaded by several sources that using the electric tiller is not necessary or an advantage. I will let the worms do the tilling as discussed in this Fine Gardening article.

My best laid plans to plant yesterday failed but I will get those seeds started soon – hopefully today.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

 

Long Cold Winter

It has been a long, wet and cold winter here in the Willamette Valley. Recent reports indicate the average temperature since December 1 has been 5 degrees below normal and our rainfall above normal.

I cannot remember a colder and wetter winter in a long time. It has been too cold most days to work outside. The ground is sodden. I did not try planting any peas or other cool weather crops yet as the ground is just too wet and cold.

So far March is not looking much better. Some snow is predicted today though I’ve not seen any fall yet. The wind is cold enough for sure. I doubt it could accumulate on the valley floor as the ground is not that cold.

I perused seed catalogues and thought a lot about the garden to come but have not done much more. I need to order seeds, have not got to that yet, hope to do so later today. I plan to start some plants in the green house soon.

I failed to mulch the left-over beets and they have rotted in the ground. The carrots look OK and I need to pick some to check them out.

We usually have what I call the false spring in February. We often get a week or two of sunny weather and it can warm up enough for insects to come out. Nothing like that this year – just continued rain and cold. I am not complaining, it gives me more time to read and other things. I do look forward to some warmer weather before long so I can get somethings done out there.

I do not expect to plant any seeds early this year in the garden beds. I suspect it will be April or early May before that happens

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Frozen Garden

A cold front moved in on us last week. Lots of ice and a bit of snow on Wednesday and below freezing weather since.

201601218-2-snowI harvested a carrot and two beets about a week before. They were very nice. The carrot was still small given how long it has been in the ground (since May) but the beet was the size of a baseball. I shredded it on salad and it was quite good.

The freezing weather has wilted the tops of the carrots and beets, not sure yet if it is permanent damage. I will find out when things thaw out. If it did them in I will harvest them all and see if the damage went underground.

This cold weather in the valley is not much fun. The roads get very icy and treacherous. Rain and temps in the 40s predicted for tomorrow – that will be good.2016-1218-snow

And to think it is still three days before winter begins!

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

 

Winter is Here

The calendar says that winter is still 16 days away but Mother Nature does not have a calendar. The weather has been rain and colder temperatures though much warmer than usual. We still have not had a frost though one is predicted this week with a low of 26F predicted for Thursday night.

All that is left in my garden are a few beets and a row of carrots. They continue to fatten as time goes by. I may harvest a couple of them today but will wait a while longer to see how long the rest will last.

In addition to mostly gray skies this time of year features lots of geese migrations. Though some farmers are not keen on them (they can eat a lot of grain out of a field) the sound and sight of hundreds of geese flying over is neat to see and hear. I always enjoy it.

It is nice to have a rest from the garden during these cold winter days. I am just thankful I can get nice veggies at the store, my garden would not feed me for more than a day. I spend time putting up Christmas lights and reading.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy