Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

How Much Sun Do You Need?

I’ve known for some time that my vegetable garden boxes do not get as much sun as they should, especially for fruiting plants.

At minimum here are the sun requirements:

Fruiting Vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, vine crops) – 8 hours per day.

Root Vegetables (carrots, beets, etc.) – 6 hours per day.

Leafy Vegetables (lettuce, spinach and other greens) – 4 hours per day.

Depending on the time of year my beds are shaded in the morning by a fence and the neighbor’s very large apple tree. In the late afternoon and evening our house shades them as the sun drops.

In general Boxes A and D get 6+ hours per day. Box B gets maybe 5 hours and Box C gets a bit less than 5.

This means none of the beds get the 8 hours that tomatoes would do best in and Boxes B and C are more suitable for leafy vegetables and perhaps bean. Because I’ve rotated crops however I’ve used all of the boxes (except C) for tomatoes and peppers. Peppers never do well here and it is because of the lack of direct sunlight I am sure.

One of my gardening friends has his garden along a wire fence which never casts shade and a good 40 feet from the house. The entire bed gets 8-10+ hours of sun a day. His plants thrive and currently they are over twice the size of mine.

You can grow vegetables with less than optimum light but they will not do as well and I’ve struggled with that all along. I do not have the option of moving the garden now, so I have to make due. There is one possibility I suppose – I could remove most of the back lawn and convert it to veggies. That would provide at least 6 -7 hours of sun per day. I am not sure I want to do that however. Something to ponder for a future year.

Perhaps I’ve been too slow to fully realize this. I could remove the herb garden and use that space for tomatoes next year. I could move the herbs to one of the boxes that does not get quite so much light. That is something to consider.

I also should probably keep the tomatoes in Boxes A and D where the most light is and reserve Boxes B and C for greens.

Our weather has been very cool and that has been delightful to work in. This week however the heat is back. It was 84F today and should be in the mid to high 80s all week. That should give the plants a boost I hope.

The lesson here is to plan better. When I laid out the boxes many years ago I should have given more attention to sun exposure and designed things accordingly. Live and learn I guess.


Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy


Straw Mulch

Now that all my veggies are in (or most of them) I wanted to make sure and mulch them well this year to conserve moisture. I bought a bale of straw and used it around all the vegetable starts. I’ve already noticed that the plants are loving it. I will be testing for soil moisture tonight and then watering as needed.

I am not sure what kind of straw it is but I’ve inspected it and see no seeds which is good. I am told that best straw to get is wheat straw as it has the fewest seeds.

Weather here is perfect in the 70s F. I am still removing weeds and cleaning things up.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Planting Time

The last two days have been planting days! I know I am a bit late this spring. Partly we had some very wet weather earlier that made planting difficult or impossible. (Well I guess it is never impossible). Partly I got busy with other things.

I usually get the main veggies in by late April or early May and the tomatoes in by Mother’s Day. This year the tomatoes went in on 5/19 and the rest today (5/20).

Because I am late with things they are all starts, no seeds as yet. Not sure if I will put any seeds in, perhaps for some spinach. The starts are more expensive but give one a bit of a head start. That is unless the cut worms get them. I am holding my breath.

Here is what went in the past two days:

Dill (one plant)
Blue Lake bush beans x2
Cauliflower x6
Sweet Bell Pepper – yes I am trying yet again – just one plant
Brussels Sprouts – my first try on these; 6 plants
Broccoli x 6
Beefsteak tomato – country taste
Tomato: Standard Champion
Brandywine beefsteak tomato
Yellow cherry tomato
Roma paste tomato
Juliet cherry tomato

All the starts are small this year so it may take some time to catch up. We are getting afternoon sun the past few days but cloudy morning. The tomatoes and the pepper will need much more sun to do well. I am not wishing too loud for sun as yet – the heat will set in soon enough. Right now the highs are in the high 60s F. and low 70s F though there are some forecast for a few days at 80 F. soon.

It is so fun to play in the dirty again, planting and fertilizing and watering in. I love this time of year for that.

I plan to intersperse some flowers in the next week or two to help draw pollinators.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy


This year I shall plant some peas. I do not plant them every year but decided this year I would do so. In preparation I did some research on the internet to learn more about peas and growing them.

It is recommended to sow them in the ground about 4-6 weeks before the last frost. I am a little late by that measure but it should be fine. I was always taught to plant the first ones around Valentine’s Day but it really depend on the weather.

I’ve also read the St. Patrick’s day is a good planting time, but again it depends on the frost schedule in your area.

Generally you plant the seeds one inch deep and about one inch apart. The soil temperature should be at least 45F. If you want to start earlier you can start them in a greenhouse or cold frame. See the video below for more on that.

Peas are sensitive to too much nitrogen so you do not want to fertilize heavily. Adding a bit of bone meal is recommended for the phosphorous content.

Peas are a legume and as such they will fix nitrogen in the soil which can help other plants. I’ve read that this may not be as helpful as once thought but it cannot hurt.

A few other tips for peas:

  1. Do not hoe around them as it can disturb their delicate root systems.
  2. Keep the area well cleared of weeds by pulling them out.
  3. Rotate peas each year to reduce soil-borne disease.
  4. Keep the soil moist but be careful not to over-water; they will rot in ground that is too wet.
  5. Keep the pods well picked as this will encourage the development of new ones.
  6. Recommended varieties include Snowbird Snow peas which are resistant to fusarium wilt; Sugar Ann snap peas which have a short vine and Green Arrow garden peas for a mid-season variety that gives high yields and is resistant to wilt.
  7. Peas do best with at least 6 hours of sun per day but will tolerate some shade. They are a cool weather crop and do not do well in the heat.

Sowing “early” peas is recommended because they tend to be hardiest.

The video below shows a clever way to use house gutter to start and plant peas early. Happy pea planting!

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Selecting Seeds

It is 44F outside though it feels at least ten degrees colder. The wind is blowing and it is raining steadily. It is a typical gray and dreary day in Western Oregon and I love it! Yesterday was sunny and I took a 4-mile hike and loved that too. But these cold, wet, dreary days are wonderful for cozying up to the fire, reading a good book, or even writing a blog entry!

It is also a good day to peruse the seed catalogues, both on paper and on line. I have  been looking through the Spring 2018 catalogue from Territorial Seed Company, one of my favorites. I still have a fair amount of seed left over from last year and I also want to get some at Nichols’ Nursery here in Albany so I will not be ordering a lot from Territorial this year but I could not resist a few of them.

Since my growing space is limited I will try Mascotte bush beans this year as they promise to grow very compactly.

Though I’ve not had great success with beats I shall try Early Wonder Tall Top this year just to see if it might do better. It says perfect for early spring planting so I may get those in by mid-March if Mother Nature cooperates.

Finally I will get some Lincoln (sometimes called Homesteader) shelling peas this year. I usually plant snow peas or sugar snaps but I thought I’d try some shelling peas for a change.

Everything else will either come from starts or seeds on hand as well as what I pick up at Nichols this year. As I mentioned in an earlier post I hope to plant more intensely this year and am even thinking of a limited fall/winter garden of cole crops, onions and garlic in the fall. We shall see how ambitious I feel in the fall.

Now I need to plan the garden and I do that on paper. In the next few weeks I will start some seeds in the green house. I had mixed success last year, let’s hope it is better this year.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

No Till Gardening II

Last June I posted my No Till Gardening post about how I had red Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich and studied his no-till method of gardening. I used that method last summer and found it quite successful. Though I do not have a significant weed problem in my garden boxes there were even fewer with no tilling.

My favorite British gardening videos recently discussed this. They call it no-dig gardening. They show how to create new garden beds without digging as well. It is certainly much easier than digging, and far easier than double digging.

This winter my boxes have a healthy cover crop of red clover. I am not sure yet whether I will try to pull them all out by hand or dig them in. My aim will be to dig as little as possible. One of the advantages of cover crops is to dig in the green material to benefit the soil. So there seems to be some conflict between these two methods. In the past I have removed the cover crop tops to the compost pile and only left some root material behind. I shall try that this year I think. That will avoid deep digging.

So have a watch of the video below about no dig gardening and consider using this method. No digging, no tilling – it is definitely easier and better for your soil.



Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Intensive Planting – New Goal for 2018

Every year this time as I peruse seed catalogues or websites I decide that this year I will plant and grow more intensely using succession planting, climbing plants, spacing plants more efficiently, etc.

And every spring and summer I fail to follow through and really do it. I plant my beds in spring and occasionally add something through the summer but I have not practiced the discipline to continue the process throughout the season.

Maybe I am a lazy gardener. Or maybe I just forget? I think I have set in my mind too rigidly that planting is in the spring and fail to consider the additional planting, especially the succession planting, that I could be doing all season long.

I fail to plan adequately. If I planned more intensive planting and more succession planting I would achieve a lot more. So that is my aim for 2018. I have a total of 64 square feet of planting space in my raised beds alone. I should be able to plant and harvest much more than I do in that space.

So this is my goal for this year: plant more, plant more often, and harvest more. Let’s see how it goes.

Now to learn more tips about planting more intensely watch this video by my favorite British garden guru—


Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy