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

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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

Winter Musings

First I want to thank all the people who have recently started following this blog. I am not sure where they all came from but I am thrilled to have you here.

I have been less than diligent of late in posting. I will try to do better.

Cover Crops

I have attached photos of my garden boxes with the cover crop now fully growing. These were taken yesterday. It is red clover. I will dig those in later in the early spring.

The cover crop is great. It keeps the weeds out, helps protect the soil from the pounding rain and looks nice! It will add nitrogen fixation at the root level and improve the soil when it is dug in. Not bad for scattering a bag of seed in October.

Garden Thoughts in Winter

This time of year I am busy with various other pursuits and am just thinking about what I want to do next planting season. I plan to fill one growing box with corn this year, just for the heck of it. I really do not have room for a decent corn crop (unless I take out most of the lawn, maybe not a bad idea). But a small stand of corn would be fun.

It will mean I will need to garden a bit more intensely in the remaining boxes which is a good thing.

My other thought is that I have to do something with the flower bed to the west of the vegetable garden. It is mostly planted in Coreopsis. However grass keeps invading and growing up through the Coreopsis and making it impossible to weed. I plan to remove all the Coreopsis this spring, clean out the grass, replace some of the flowers and add others. Just keeping the fingers crossed that the grass will not return.

My reading chair beckons, my favorite place in Winter!

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Of Geese and Crocus

Geese

For some reason I’ve been noticing the geese more this year. I watch them in Grand Prairie Park near our home and in the sky where they are busy honking and rallying to fly south for the winter.

The other day I was walking through the park and saw over a hundred Canada Geese in the park on the other side of the pond. They were honking now and then but more so they were softly talking to one another. Then I noticed they were lining up along the water’s edge. Each line had about 15-20 geese in it. They formed these lines parallel to one another from the water’s edge backward. Soon the entire flock was lined up.

Within a minute the first line began to honk and babble much more and then flapped their wings a bit. Then that first row lifted off in perfect unison, flew over the pond to the north and banked to the left to head southwest.

About the time the first group was banking the second row started talking and flapping and it took off and repeated the same flying pattern. Each successive row of geese took off in this manner about 30 seconds apart.

Finally, growing impatient I suppose, the final four rows took off in one group. By the time they had banked the entire group formed the familiar V shape and headed south by southwest. Once in the air their honking was louder and more of them seemed to be doing it.

I’d never seen this behavior before in geese. But then I am not sure I’ve watched such a large group take off. It was fascinating and beautiful.

Crocus

Yesterday I noticed that the crocus have broken ground. They are just nudging up. This seems very early for them. I recall seeing them come up in early January or even late December – but never before a day after Thanksgiving.

It has been unseasonably warm of late, is that why? Or is this another sign of climate change? If they grow as fast as usual we are likely to have flowers by Christmas.

Fall Faces

On my walk the other day I captured the photo on this post of three fanciful faces peaking over the fence at a nearby home. I love it.

I love fall itself. I love the turning leaves and the crisp air. It is an enchanted time of year with the changes happening.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Fall in the Garden

Fall has been with us for over a month now, officially. It took over a month to put the vegetable beds into their winter state. In the attached photos you can see the little shoots coming up – the crimson clover cover crop I planted a couple weeks ago. You will also see that since we have not a true frost yet the marigolds continue to shine forth as though they think it is still summer. I do not have the heart to remove them until frost kills them.

Photo 2

Photo 1 is entering the back yard from the side yard on the west side. You see the garden shed on the right and the herb harden on the left. Photo 2 is the lawn with coreopsis still green and behind them the herb garden and the raised beds. The green house is also visible though there is nothing growing in it right now.

Phots 3 and 4 are the raised beds with their cover crops starting out and marigolds hanging on.

Finally I have a photo here (5) of the tiniest ripened tomato we have ever had. It is barely larger than a green pea!

Yesterday I raked up the first leaves fallen from our two maples in front and the neighbor’s sweet gum. Many more leaves will fall yet leaving me plenty of raking to do in the coming weeks. The leaves are composted.

In the coming months pruning, lawn care and leaf gathering will be the chores to attend to in the yard. As much as I love the gardening in spring and summer it is nice to put it all to bed for the winter and take a break from watering, planting and harvesting.

Soon it will time to start planning for the early spring planting. It will all begin again…

 

Photo 3

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 5

Photo 1

Harvest Report

The vegetable garden is now almost totally put to bed. The only thing remaining are some marigolds and the potatoes. I have not had time to harvest the seeds off the Marigolds yet and am waiting for the tops of the potatoes to die back before digging them up.

Here are the vegetables I planted and how they did:

Tomatoes

Sungold Cherry tomato – small orange fruit – we had an excellent yield and the fruit did not split or otherwise lose its structure. They were very sweet. I’d plant that again.

Brandywine beefstake tomato – very poor yield; maybe three or four fruit and the split or developed blossom end rot. I think this is my third run at these with poor luck; I will not plant these again.

Beefy Boy beefstake tomato – very poor yield

Early Girl tomato – poor yield; these have done well in the past but not this year.

Oregon Spring Tomato – plant was very small and only set a few fruit; flavor was OK.

Tomatoes did not do well this year over-all and the local farmers are having the same problems. Spring was too cold and too wet followed by a very hot summer with too little water. Tomatoes, despite being a semi-tropical plant, do not like a lot of heat.

Peppers

Sweet Non Bell Pepper: v: “Fooled You” – a small non-bell pepper; the yield was very good this year. It was the best pepper growth I’ve ever had. The plant grew tall and vigorous with a lot of fruit. Flavor was good.

Sweet Bell Pepper –poor foliage with very poor yield; only one pepper reached maturity and it was too small.

Over all peppers do not seem to like my garden conditions and I will not plant them next year.

Other plantings:

Green Gold Broccoli – these may not have been hardened off well enough from my green house; they died within a week or two.

Butter Crunch lettuce – these did very well, excellent yield and flavor.

Genovese Basil – these did well with very nice flavor. They have been dried and saved in the kitchen.

Sunspot sunflower – this died within a couple weeks of planting the start; I suspect some kind of cut worm destroyed the stem.

Marigold Inca I – these did well, they are still growing.

I left most of my large box fallow this year; it has never been left fallow before and needed the rest. I only planted marigolds around the edge and they did well.

In the herb garden I added English Thyme, Italian Parsley and French Tarragon. The thyme is growing very slow.

Yesterday I threw out crimson clover throughout all the boxes for a cover crop. We are to get rain this week so if the soil stays warm enough it should sprout well.

Next year I will likely plant all four boxes and leave nothing fallow. I will try some succession planting as well. I’d like to plant some corn. We do not have room for much corn but I’d like to try it here.

 

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy