Clearly I need to be keeping a closer eye on the 10-day forecast. We got around .11 inch of rain on Saturday. I found my first Berkeley Pink Tie Dye tomatoes on Sunday!
At least I got compost delivered last week. I was disappointed that it is not “finished,” since I need to use it right away. Fortunately I have a teeny bit left from this spring’s delivery and I also may be able to salvage a yard from the last delivery I got from Waste Management (I thought theirs was a very good compost). It’s almost buried by wood chips from the notorious time this past spring when the delivery truck got stuck between the driveway and the garden and sank into the soil. They put the wood chips where the compost went, and then the compost got dumped where the truck was stuck. I guess that my next delivery will have to go at the end of the driveway and I’ll just have to go a longer distance with the wheelbarrow. Sigh! I’ve been putting wood chips on the bald spots on my paths and today I finally started putting compost on the new greens bed. So far behind, as always.
We’re expecting an inch or two of rain in the next few days — we’ll see what happens!
Today I did some mowing in the garden in preparation for my imaginary pea and fava bean plantings. Maybe I can just sneak them in without a drip tape guide if it doesn’t rain too hard tomorrow(?). Then I mowed a path to the back gate. The wildlife path is super-hard and sunken, so hopefully getting some cut grass and rain on it will loosen that soil back up. I always fantasize that we’ll put woodchips on it. In very rainy winters the low spots get puddling.
This is not a very rainy winter. We have had 48% of normal for this point in the rain year, and 25% as much as we had gotten at this point last year! We’d had like 145% of normal rainfall by this point. Scary.
I’ve been trying to get more woodchips and some compost while the ground was dry (the delivery gate is at the back corner that’s visible in the above photo). I called back the company in Marin County that had flaked on returning my call “tomorrow” 5 days earlier yesterday. They’re having trouble finding a truck with a transfer (so it can carry 2×15 yards of material) that is available because they are all busy doing fire debris removal. I don’t want my compost to come in a debris removal truck!!! But I guess it’s part of us all sharing the burden of the legacy of the fires(?). I don’t want to get compost from the place that’s like 3.5 miles away from us because it has a terrible reputation amongst gardeners (funny because they have a respected local small farmer writing their blog-type articles). I don’t want to risk having plants that seem to be suffering from herbicide damage (speaking of which, I found a wild brassica that looked like that today – maybe from the 32-degree nights?). Our trash company changed and now our green waste seems to be going to Vacaville, which is an hour or so away. I called out of curiosity to find out how much delivery of compost would be. Guess how much? $600. It’s around $255 from West Marin (CA DFA organic), and it was around that much when Waste Management was making its OMRI-listed compost in Novato. Argh!
This afternoon I got back out to the garden and collected my soil sample. There were places where the compost that I’d put on the surface had infiltrated 6 inches below the surface! Overall the soil was a bit too cold and wet for sampling with a shovel. It was hard to get a slice of soil and it was hard to break up the clods (peds) so I could take a small amount out. I’ll just have to bring in what I have when I’ve got the time. The place we send it thru is close to Z’s job in Sebastopol, but he’s so busy that I don’t think I’ll ask him to do it on a weekday.
Then I dealt with putting soil back on a low spot next to the driveway. By the end I could hardly move! So tired…
We’ve had 51% of normal rainfall for this point in the season. Last year at this point we’d gotten 203%. We started watering this week.
“A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 10am. Some of the storms could produce small hail. Sunny, with a high near 55. Breezy, with a northwest wind 14 to 22 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.”
In other news, next week’s predicted rain seems to have devolved into showers 😦
It is taking me weeks to get any beds ready to plant. I wanted to try phacelia and mustard – the latter is for the old strawberry bed. It had a big, angry yellowjacket nest last year. Hope they don’t come back to the same area this year. By the way, I saw my first butterfly, cucmber beetle, and yellowjacket of the year last week.
I need to figure out a better way to get the grass off so I can plant. Z suggested using the tractor’s loader, but that takes too much topsoil off.
I’m getting ready to order more compost and/or wood chips. It’s a big financial commitment. Our green waste, by the way, apparently goes to Vacaville, on the other side of those mountains (and delivery of compost from there would cost $600. that’s before the cost of the compost!). Too bad that we can’t get our local organic back into our soil. My friends in the Central Valley buy (or bought) their compost from that site.
Today we used our new soil thermometer. It said that the soil ranges from 54 to 70 degrees. 54 was in a grass-covered, wetter area in the center of the south side. It was 68 about 12 feet away from there in an area that had compost on the surface.
Just what is the effect of ash from the #NorthBayFires landing on plants in our gardens? Is the food we’ve grown safe to eat?
Today I went to an event about the “Citizen Science” produce sampling project. Here’s a link to an original invitation for sites to get involved. It was really good but I can’t type up all my notes. Basically, very little is known about the effects of fires on garden/farm produce. A graduate student was “voluntold” by a produce project founder to look into air quality issues from the time of the fires so that any toxins in samples could be compared to the air quality during that time. The samples are from a nice smattering of places around Sonoma County (and, I’m sure, beyond). There is a basic list of things that are common chemicals in houses, furniture, clothes, etc, and there is a list of things they’ll test for. I seem to remember lead, PAH’s, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt. PS, more research is needed about the effects of flame retardants and the Phos-Chek that was applied.
There is at least one group doing bioremediation by putting (mushroom) inoculated straw wattles in/around streams. There will also be a project that will do soil sampling (I think they said it will be linked to the results of the produce test? or at sites that were sampled?). It sounds like sites that had more than one type of greens, ie lettuce and kale, will be prioritized. Someone from UC Davis has already collected ash from impacted sites to examine with mass spectrometry. “Science is amazing!” as the kids from the Pokemon cartoon TV show said.
I still need wood chips. Now I’m nervous about sources (were the trees from burned areas? was phos-chek dropped on them? etc) and about my compost in the future- are people bringing fire-damaged plant materials to the big composting sites? Should that stuff go to a toxic waste disposal site? It was mentioned that adding organic material to the soil is a key way to mitigate the effects of, or even basically break down some of the bad compounds into things that are not as bad. So I need to keep covering my soil 🙂
Funding for the produce project is yet to come. They figured out that each site’s produce testing will cost some $2000. There is a Giving Tuesday campaign to raise money for the produce testing project (although the project is not mentioned on the link I’m including?). The goal for this Tuesday is $2000 to be able to get one site’s samples tested, but I would like to think they will raise more. They will also be requesting grant money. Please help support the project if you can. Please comment here or contact the folks in the first link to find out more about the project.
Yay, I started a new compost pile on Sunday. I didn’t get to add all of my buckets of compost, never mind all the smelly tomatoes that are in the field… (T was sick Saturday night, and recovering on Sunday)
I put out the last of my straw bales along the “old” strawberry bed. Today I picked 2/3 of a basket of strawberries from that bed, and then this evening I put compost down at the edges of the bed and on the bare spots. I got a lot on leaves and fruit, too, mais c’est la vie.
I smushed so many cucumber beetles in my few flowering calendulas today!!! It’s almost enough to make a person not grow it. Speaking of flowers, I also still have stock. The flowers I picked last week are still mostly doing well on the table.
Still need wood chips, lol.
We’re up to 77% of normal rainfall for this point in the season (3 inches so far). Lots of cool, cloudy, kind of rainy days lately.
I’m trying to get more active, since I gained like 10+ pounds back since I planted the tomatoes. When harvest uses up all the garden time, I get a lot less exercise. And then we had the fires (2 weeks where I avoided being outside except to harvest quickly) and a sick kid for a week in the last month. So yesterday I spent 2 hours putting compost out to mulch some paths, especially the ones around the strawberries that I planted this spring, and today I did the center path and most of the way to the compost (that I make) pile.
The air quality is, at least on paper, getting better. It rained .2 inches on Thursday night! Note dark-colored soil due to the presence of moisture in the photo below. The air is definitely worse in other parts of town (like 6 blocks from the Coffey Park neighborhood on Friday, and when I visited Bennett Valley on Weds it was really bad). I got out to the garden on Friday morning and picked a basket of strawberries. A lot of the “eat today” berries did not take well to being quintuple-washed. 😦
In the evening I started a new compost pile. I only used 4 or 5 buckets of stuff because I sprained my thumb (tho now it feels like the whole wrist) taking off my backpack the other day. SIGH! I’ve really overdone it the last few days, but, you know, vacuuming has to happen, especially after all the smoke in the last week and a half.
On Saturday I am planning on going to an orientation training thing to be part of a study about the effects of fire on produce! Yay! The woman was like, wow, you were really close to the fires. (3.1 miles by our count) I hope that some of the farmers who lost everything in the actual fires have gotten in touch with her!
I harvested 4 baskets of strawberries today. Got about 15 pears (low-hanging) from trees in garden. They are still ~75% ripe. It feels like they are ripening very slowly this year. And of course about a pound of green, yellow, and purple green beans.
Got my 40 yards of compost delivered this week. They didn’t call in advance (I hadn’t even paid yet, and they hadn’t confirmed!!!), so I didn’t get to move the old compost out of the way before it got buried.
The second, larger batch of green, yellow, and purple (Trilogy) beans is starting up… hoping that folks we know will come over and pick some (pears, too). I planted another round of them today. Maybe I’ll get to one more before I stop planting them. There’s always that fantasy of having fresh green beans for thanksgiving, lol.
I have some flower and dill seedlings to get into the ground really soon. Those are for fall. I am missing my chance to plan and plant for the spring. Missing the chance to get cover crops in. It’s really a terrible month for planting because the raccoons do so much digging at this time of year :(. I have to pot up my broccoli seedlings in a few days, and start many other kinds of greens. The aphids are destroying my red russian kale and have moved on to the dino kale. i need to clean that bed up (deadhead and harvest and sell flowers, as well as getting rid of old kale leaves) and just cannot find the time. I started a compost pile last week and never managed to turn it. I did add water to it once or twice. Z even got me a new hose for it.
Have been thinking about how I need a farm partner or three.
Better get ready for bed. Phone having trouble posting photo but i think one may have gotten thru to my flickr page…
I checked my notes yesterday and yep, I did plant a bunch of things this week last year. It was way too late for longbeans (I wonder if it might not be hot enough for them here). So it’s a good thing that I am trying to prep some beds. This involves hoeing like 12′ long beds, putting compost out as a mulch, and then moving on to the next ones. (I am going to need to sneak a large purchase of compost in in the next few weeks. Good thing I have my own bank account ;)). The heads of these beds have gotten really messed up from when Z has plowed with the chisel plow in past years. When you first start to drive the tractor, it can dig into the ground before it starts moving. I bought some soil conditioner to try to help soften up that soil so it can be repaired at some point. I’m thinking 2 cucurbit beds, 1 of tomatoes, and a bunch of beans, sunflowers, etc.
My inlaws helped me pull out the peas at the end of July. Z ran over them with the flail mower and I started a new compost pile, including them and the mowed grass that they landed in, as well as the previous pile and the buckets of stuff (house compost, greens, and strawberry waste). When I finally got around to turning the pile some 3-4 days later, there was no “green” (nitrogenous) stuff left. Oy. Anyhow, that bed had a lot of borage and some volunteer tomatoes in it, so I’ve left it alone for now. When I tried to plant into it this spring, the soil was rock-hard. I think I should put a cover crop there. I need to get a new kind of sprinkler that can cover a single bed so I can water individual cover crop plantings. More $ (not gonna get around to researching, and not gonna spend it).
I’ve been trying to tuck in plantings of flowers here and there, and I even finally planted some sunflowers 2 weeks ago. I have yet to plant corn (maize) but I finally got some sweet corn seed this week. And overgrown summer crop seedlings. I just cannot resist planting tomatoes, even though T and I don’t eat many of them. I started some seeds last week- tomatoes, tomatillos, cayenne pepper (I know, it’s too late. I’m getting emergence after 10 days, though), basil, melons… the evenings are going to be too cool to get much, but I have to try.
I need to make time to do fall crop planning. Especially for flowers to overwinter.
There appear to be 3-4 gophers per bed right now. They are turning the newest strawberry bed into a raised bed. It’s ridiculous. I have been very lucky to have lost so few plants so far.
My main method of preparing a garden bed for planting is to hoe the grass and weeds off, put down compost and ground oyster shell, and then lay out the drip tape. This spring I am finding that the bigger weeds such as dock and the big clumps of grass have to be dug out with the shovel. This adds a lot of time and bending over to the job 😦 I spent 4 hours preparing the 2nd half of my greens bed today. Maybe I can get the rest of my kale seedlings in before they die! And plant some zinnia seeds. I transplanted my few zinnia seedlings and my many dills into the top part of the bed earlier this week.
We are having a heat wave but at least the wind wasn’t too bad while I was working this morning and early afternoon. It is 10:45pm and the house is still 77 degrees!