Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The orchard has landed!

Yaaaayyyyy! The fruit trees I've been holding in pots for two years since I bought them bare-root, are now in the ground! The weather has been really gardener-friendly the last couple mornings, and yesterday I went out and took another whack at the weeds. This morning it was 59º and thickly overcast, even had a little breeze, so I went down early with my tools and started digging out the holes I laid out last fall. I had to cut out a few roots left over from the since-departed cherry trees in almost all the holes, but the dirt wasn't really that bad, so I got all five trees planted in an hour and a half. In addition to the Shinseiki asian pear in the foreground, there are now a Liberty apple (with 3 little apples on it), a Chinese apricot, an Italian plum, a Bartlett pear, and a Montmorency cherry. They're all semi-dwarf, and I'll be keeping them all pruned pretty low, so there won't be any need for ladders. The ground is sloped enough that ladders would be a pain.

I'm really happy this is all done because this was a project four years in the making, from the time I first started wishing the big cherry trees could go away. All the potted trees had nice solid root balls except the apricot, which turned out to be sharing its pot with an ant colony. I expect they'll be leaving now that there's going to be a lot more water around. I hope so anyway. I would really like the apricot to be happy and healthy. And make me some apricots some day.

Five of my young cardoons are big enough that I'm pretty sure they'll make it. I'm keeping them sort of rabbit protected till they really get spikey and nasty, another month or so. They didn't do much of anything till a couple weeks ago when the temps started creeping up.

My potatoes grew another 2" this week! All of the plants are bigger, even the Rose Finn Apples, which shot up and are finally starting to look happy. I thought everybody had topped out last week when the first flowers appeared, so I have to wonder just how big these guys are going to get.

Two more pieces of good news—I have 6 healthy fennels and two runts, and my snow peas are blooming! So I should get a few pods soon. This warmer weather—and soil—are really making a difference.

Happy 4th of July, and happy gardening!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Warm enough for beans (I hope!)

I planted my bush beans today! I didn't check the soil temp at the garden, but it's 58º at the house, which gets a lot less sun. That is at the bottom end of the range for beans, but I've got a big package of seed if these don't come up. I'm afraid they're a little late to be much good as companion plants for the potatoes; I would have to plant the potatoes a month later for them to be growing together.

Here's what the spread looks like now:

The new little collards at the far left are unfortunately bolting already; I'll let them flower until I get some kale started. I won't bother with store-bought collard plants again, but I may try starting some seed again, around August, for the fall season.

Everything else is growing pretty well. The broccoli twins aren't showing any sign of heading yet. The one that went early is blooming nicely now.

The kohlrabis are big, but not showing any sign of forming bulbs yet. Wonder when that's supposed to start happening.

The peas are taller than the 39" fence, and I saw one flower bud today.

Five of the seven fennels I planted are still alive and seem to be growing well enough. I'm looking forward to harvesting them this fall.

The daikons were a bust! They're already flowering so today I dug up 4 of the biggest ones, and the only "radish" was an inch and a half long and no thicker than a pencil. Oh well. More flowers. Right above the radishes on the left you can see my baby zucchini clump. It's definitely growing like a zuke.

I put more hay up around all the taters—it's 10-12" now. I'm really not sure how well hay is going to work for keeping the spuds in the dark, but I'll know in a month or two. Front to back, these are the Rose Finn Apples, the All Blues, and the short row of Pontiacs. Took this before I planted the beans.

I saw how much bigger the Pontiacs were than either of the other two, and I thought, Wow! They must be a lot more vigorous!

Then I remembered that they're the only ones planted in the old manure pile soil—the other two are in the dusty sand of the corral. The All Blues still look pretty good, but the Rose Finn Apples look like they're struggling by comparison. They sprouted so much later than the others, maybe there's hope for them to catch up, they really are delicious little babies.

The hardy golden oregano I planted on two sides to block weeds is just wonderful—what a great, bright ground cover!

The big lupine is really showing off. Later I'll move him out to the orchard where he can have a permanent spot. At one point this was a single plant, and yet it now has three different kinds of flowers. Both it and the smaller one in its shadow were both volunteers.

As far as my hay mulch, I love it more than ever. I pulled apart several of the old soggy flakes today and this time I didn't find a single slug. Maybe the sluggo got a lot of them, but it's also obvious that even the formerly soggy flakes are now starting to dry out, and dry hay is no place for a slug. In contrast to the occasional spindly weed I'm finding now in the hay, they just keep sprouting all around outside, in the bare dirt.

This is the 4th crop of weeds in this spot just this year, I keep whacking and they keep coming. These guys' days are numbered. The hoe is coming! Beware the hoe!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The secret of hay

I spent another afternoon in with the veggies a few days ago, and I think I understand the secret of using hay for mulch. If you take compacted hay, like that pressed into a flake or a bale, and let it get wet, it will hold the water just like a sponge would. How quickly it rots probably depends on how much of it is stem and how much is leaf, but my grass hay is not rotting quickly, even the flakes I'm using for paths and borders which have soaked up and are holding so much water it runs out when I touch them. Grass shoots sprout from their edges and will root where they touch the ground. You can throw another flake on top of it to stop the sprouting, but eventually it will sprout too, if it gets wet.

On the other hand, if you take the same flake of hay and pull it apart into loose strands before it gets wet, you can pile the loose strands up 8" deep, at least, and no matter how many inches of rain fall on it and through it, it will stay drained and dry, and will not sprout. Only the thinnest layer touching the ground will rot, and if it's thickly enough covered to keep light from getting through, none of it will sprout, and no seeds underneath it will sprout either.

That's why it works as mulch. Compressed hay—bad. Loose hay—good.

And it's still early in the season, I probably have more to learn.