Archive for February, 2012

* Emerald City Gardens

Posted on February 21st, 2012 by maitreya. Filed under Crafty Review.

We stopped by Emerald City Gardens this weekend on the way to Ballard.  Such a cute shop, and they are always so helpful and knowledgeable.  They have an excellent assortment of seeds, including Irish Eyes, Baker Creek, Renee’s Garden, and they were putting out more while we were there.  Good potato selection too.  My favorite thing is the bin of last year’s seeds.  50 cents each!  Can’t beat that.  I got a fistful of packets, plus I found out that I’ve been overwatering my lithops :P

And there’s a shop cat!


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* peas planted on Presidents’ Day

Posted on February 20th, 2012 by maitreya. Filed under Experiments, Home and Garden.

As is traditional, I planted peas today.  Two varieties: Alaska Early Bush and Oregon Sugar Pod.  I’m trying a trick I read about somewhere (if this rings a bell, let me know.  It’s driving me crazy that I can’t remember where I saw it.): starting seeds in seedling mix outdoors to help germination.  The idea is that the light fluffy seedling mix is the best environment for starting the seed, but you still get to direct sow outdoors.  The best of both worlds!

First I dug a trench.  This bed has terrible clay soil that I’ve been working to amend.  I grew a cover crop there over the winter, and we dug that in a couple of weeks ago.  I’m hoping the peas will also give it a boost.  Anyway, I filled the trench with compost mixed with some of the dirt and very lightly firmed it.  Then I took a 2 inch pot and pressed it in to the soil every 6 inches.  Closer than that, and my previous hole would cave in as I made the next one.  Once the pot was all the way into the soil, I firmed up around the edges to ensure it would be structurally sound.  Here they all are.

Then I filled each hole with seed starter mix and planted the peas.  Cute, right?  Seed starter mix costs a fortune for some reason, so I wanted to do an experiment to see if this method actually helps.  I planted more peas in between, just in the compost.  Now we race!


* Northwest Flower and Garden show 2012

Posted on February 12th, 2012 by maitreya. Filed under Crafty Review, Home and Garden, Inspiration.

Mark and I spent the whole day yesterday at the Northwest Flower and Garden show.  It was a lot of fun, and I managed to find a few things to bring home: Rose Finn Apple and La Ratte fingerling potatoes from Irish Eyes, a free packet of carrot seeds from the zoo booth, some samples of chicken feed from Portage Bay Grange, and an armful of 50% books that I’ve been meaning to get anyway, including Put ’em Up, Sugar Snaps and Strawberries, and Your Farm in the City.  I was a little disappointed there weren’t more vegetable seed companies there, though. I had hoped to find a few novel varieties not usually locally available.  There was one booth of Italian seeds that was interesting, plus Irish Eyes, but beyond that, nada.

We did get lots of ideas at the show.  I’m going to try bolding the ideas I want to remember the most for reference.  Mark was the official family photographer.

We had two favorites of the demonstration gardens, both including lots of edibles.  The first was titled Pictures at a Northwest Exhibition (creators), and featured an accordion player in a gazebo made from repurposed items and vegetables planted in slices of industrial pipe.

They also had a Kippenhouse duck coop with a living roof and potatoes planted in burlap bags.

The other one we liked was by Cascadian Edible Landscapes.  Besides all the nice vegetables, they had a chicken coop (with chickens, unlike the plastic ducks in the other one) made out of a VW bus by Recoop.

The big winner garden was also pretty spectacular, using giant tree roots in the landscape.

We spent the afternoon going to seminars.  The first was by Jessi Bloom: “What the Cluck?! Great Plant Choices for Gardening with Chickens.”  She brought a few chickens for show and tell, and her talk covered some of the topics in her new book, which I am currently on the reserve waiting list for at the library (thank you Seattle Public Library iPhone app).  She had some good suggestions, and made us realize that letting our chickens out to range during the day is not very useful if they have nothing in their little landscape.  Even though we only have two chickens, and they have a really spacious area, they have eaten every single green thing in sight.  This year we’re going to try to plant some shrubs by the coop to liven things up, and today I set up their tractor over one of my cover-cropped beds.  I was going to turn this bed under this weekend to plant with sweet peas, but instead maybe they will do it for me and get some tasty greens at the same time.

Next up was a kind of bizarre talk about Potager gardens, which included some nice pictures but not much information content.

After that, we went to see Ciscoe Morris’s seminar on Indestructible Plants.  He’s such a character.  Every slide came with a funny story and encyclopedic information.  I really need to see if the podcast of his radio show ever started up again.

We had to leave that one early to get to Annette Cottrell‘s Winter Vegetable Garden talk.  I did a lot of research on winter gardening this past year, so I was reasonably familiar with a lot of what she said.  I did get on the library reserve list for her book, though.  She had some great advice on capturing heat that we will probably try to implement somehow.

The other set of displays we really enjoyed were container gardens.  There were two I particularly liked, both of which featured moss-covered walls.  The first one was by Ravenna Gardens and had a lab theme, so of course I loved it.  Plants in test tubes and beakers!  I am now contractually obligated to try this.

Their moss wall had stag ferns (I think) growing on it.

The other one was called Portholes and Time by Cultivar LLC and Midnight Blossom.  The portholes mounted in the shed were pretty great, but I also liked the pretty boxes on the moss wall.  There were lots of cute sheds and coops.  We’re now on the hunt for a shed for the coop area to house our garden implements, or maybe we’ll build one.  This coop from the ReStore was pretty great.

Whew, it was definitely a busy day!  I’m not sure I’ll go every year, but it is definitely worth visiting occasionally.


* Pacific Northwest seed-sowing meta-analysis

Posted on February 9th, 2012 by maitreya. Filed under Home and Garden.

[Note: I added a few more sources since I first posted this.]

It’s kind of interesting how different gardening references can be from one another.  I’ve taken a broad view, and tend to plant as often as recommended by the union of all the calendars from Portland to BC.  Here, for example, are the spinach recommendations (colors go warm->cold, south->north).

Others are very similar across all calendars, like the squashes.

Anyway, just in case anyone else is interested, I made a comparison of Pacific Northwest planting guide recommendations.  I only plotted the vegetables I grow, and I only plotted direct sow dates since I have not mastered the art of seed starts yet.  The sources are

Mother Earth News What to Plant Now PNW
Territorial Seed Company
Portland Nursery Veggie Calendar
Oregon Tilth
Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, by Steve Solomon
solid ground LettuceLink Gardening for Good Nutrition
Washington State University King County Extension
Seattle P-Patch Planting Calendar
The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide from Seattle Tilth
West Coast Seeds Planting Chart for Coastal BC

Each line represents one of the planting guides.  If the guide didn’t name specific months, I just left it out.  Many of the left out entries are because they recommend starting the seeds indoors and transplanting, or they put timing relative to last frost and I was too lazy to calculate.  Hopefully still somewhat useful, though.  All mistakes are mine, and not from the sources.

Download PNW Metagarden PDF



* probably premature planting

Posted on February 5th, 2012 by maitreya. Filed under Home and Garden.

It’s been just gorgeous out this weekend, so I took advantage to pretend it’s spring and do some gardening.  The big additions to the garden this year are going to be fruit and flowers.  On the fruit side, I’m planning strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and a container tree of some variety (fig? meyer lemon?)

This weekend’s progress was planting 15 bare root everbearing Quinault strawberry plants in one of the raised beds, plus four blueberry bushes along the south side of the house.  This area previously had some other kind of unhappy bushes that we ripped out, then became my pumpkin patch last year.  The soil here is a terrible clay.  I planted a cover crop mix there in the fall, so we turned that under to add a little organic matter.  Then Mark dug a giant hole for each plant, which we filled in with peat to make it more acidic for the blueberries, plus mixed in compost to add organic material and drainage.

We must have looked pretty confused at the nursery because one of the employees stopped and offered advice.  We had just grabbed one of each dwarf-ish variety, since they will be going along a row of low windows.  With his help, we ended up putting back a couple of not-so-great varieties and coming home with two Sunshine Blue, one each Patriot and Legacy, plus some expert growing advice.  The set will make for a nice range of ripening times, and nice year-round foliage.  The Legacy and Patriot bushes are supposed to get up in the 5 foot range, so we tried to space them away from the windows.  Planting different varieties together also makes for better fruit, apparently.  It’s advice like this which makes going all the way out to Sky worth the trip.

I also planted another horseradish root in a big flowerpot on my deck.  Last year it never did anything, but I have a feeling that’s because it dried out before I planted it.  This one I planted right away so hopefully it will make it.

The seeds are all newly stocked in the stores now too.  I find that Fred Meyer always has the best deals on Ed Hume packets.  I took advantage of a 40% off sale and got dwarf jewel mix nasturtiums, Little Sweetheart dwarf sweet peas, snapdragons deluxe mix, a gourmet blend radish mix, rainbow blend carrots, and Parisian market carrots.  Sky has better selection, though, so I picked up a few things I can’t get at the Fred Meyer: a beet mix from Renee’s Garden, Swiss Chard Rainbow from Baker Creek, and a lovely Frosted Salmon Poppy, also from Baker Creek.  Then I had to run to the local Ace to get some compost while we were planting the blueberries, and they have an Irish Eyes seedrack.  From that I got a Gourmet Bush Bean Blend.  Can you see a trend here?  I looked back over my planting records as I was entering them into Folia, and realized that I frequently end up mixing varieties in the same patch anyway.  Might as well save myself a few bucks and buy the mixed seeds.

And can I just say that the Baker Creek seed envelopes are every bit as gorgeous as their catalog.



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