The rainy season has come

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.

Busy day before the rain

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View of Taylor Mountain on this cloudy and misty day

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…

Winter is here

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Oops, never got new rain gear. Rain imminent. Paths to mulch with 3 bales of straw I bought today. I did put compost on the paths around the “new” strawberries and in some of the bare spots in the bed and on paths that I walked on between that bed and the pile of compost. Wish I had an effective way to quickly seed the cover crop beds (oh, wait, we do have that seeder)… no time…

The sky after some rain; produce study

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!

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Bed prep… this no-till stuff will kill me

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!

The greens bed in progress
Garden bed with lighter, older compost on the ground and plants growing along the lines of drip tape in the foreground and darker compost that I put out today in the background

 

Longest garden day yet this season!

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cabbages and kales. the white area at the end of the bed is ready to receive some more plants!

This morning I was trying to extend the greens bed that I filled up last night (it was 25 or 30 feet long). I started hoeing and immediately got into this awful, thick grass that was along last summer’s drip tape line. Ask me how I know that the drip tape had been there. Well, it’s because I pulled it out of the dirt and grass this morning. Anyhow, I had to try both the shovel and my dull digging spade. It was hard work digging around those roots! I realized that I should try to put the grass roots (and dirt) where there’s a low spot on the path along the west side of the garden. Anyhow, the roots are happy to grow sideways — or even upwards! How ridiculous.

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clump of grass roots that I dug up when I was trying to transplant seedlings

So I was trying to hoe the “easy” stuff off of the bed and I found that 1. it was too windy, the soil was too dry, and the soil was powdering out into the air (wind erosion), and 2. a few feet to the north, the soil is too wet. So I put compost over the area that I finished, and this evening I added some oyster shell lime and extended the drip tape to include the new area. I watered with a watering can and hope to get more of my dino kales in tomorrow.

light-colored dry soil in foreground, darker wet soil in back on the left. dried grass stubble around those areas
light-colored dry soil in foreground, darker wet soil in back on the left. dried grass stubble.

One problem with having big seedlings like I do now: the Red Russian and Dino kales that I planted last night were not happy getting blown around the way they were. I should have hardened them off. So I put the remaining incomplete tray of dino kales out where they can get some wind, and I tried to hill more soil at the base of the plants that are in the ground.

I am thinking that I should try to prepare the bed next to this one, on the off-chance that the southern end of it is usable like the 1st bed is. That will put me up against last year’s Chandler strawberries. I really need to clean up that bed. We have been debating mowing a strip down the middle of that bed to improve acccess. T he problem is that our mower blows the stuff out the side, and the string trimmer doesn’t work anymore. Fortunately it has an overkill “brush blade,” but can you imagine the smashed berries blowing everywhere?”

summer strawberries in May! Cracked earth nearby is called reactive soil. It is a great place for slugs and bugs to hide out!
summer strawberries in May! Note cracked earth (reactive soil). A great place for slugs and bugs to hide out!

Today I also hacked weeds out of the purchased compost, did some seed inventorying, and pulled weeds in part of the snap pea bed. Wow, what a productive day!

I got a new tool!

 

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Sonoma County-fabricated broadfork

I heard about a guy who was making broadforks, so I ordered one. He made it of the lightest material he could put it together with and have it not bend. We’ll see how it works- right now the soil in some spots is making sucking noises, since we got an inch and a half of rain this week (most of it in one day). I am hoping that the broadfork will help aerate the soil and keep us from using the chisel plow, which I think has caused too much damage to our soil.

I’m glad that I covered the old tomato bed with compost last weekend. It looks a lot better this way. And I tried planting peas. The ones that I planted in a trench have been popping up out of the soil a lot more frequently than the ones that I dug individual holes for. I was in a hurry at the end, what can I say?

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last year’s tomato bed. I planted 3/4 of it in peas this week
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a pea that popped up out of the soil. They tend to be getting a first root, so wish us luck with the reburied ones.

Also, the strawberry crowns arrived today. I put the new fridge thermometer into our 2nd fridge, which we bought at least thirdhand last fall, and it was 55. The temp has ranged from 50-60. I tried putting a couple of gallons of water in half-gallon jars into the fridge and it’s not helping. So maybe I will move them to our main fridge tomorrow. Boo for fridges having trouble working after they’re tipped on their sides. We and our frozen berries are lucky that the freezer works so well!

Hello, blog

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No, I haven’t forgotten about you. I’ve just been sick. Still. This cold is brutal, but at least it’s not the stomach bug that’s going around T’s school. Speaing of cold, it was 35 degrees last night, according to our wildlife camera, and we had our first rain today. Not a lot, just a few showers. A total of .15 inches, according to the weather folks.

I finished transplanting my old seedlings and got some more yesterday. Today I put a sixpack of collards and half of one of broccoli into the ground. Picked 5 ears of corn on my way out! Zak picked a lot of peppers – the padrons, I think, and the habaneros, and is trying to dehydrate them. He moved the habaneros out of the kitchen because the smell reminded him too much of getting burned from peppers.

Z did some mowing (mostly our yard and along the driveway, but also next to the corn, which is good because the western neighbors entered from that side last week and it looked terrible!) with the pushmower this weekend, and did some chisel plowing this morning while it wasn’t windy and it seemed that the rain was able to catch most of the dust. I want to get cover crops into the ground! It’s a bit early, but not if we are having an early winter (?).

This morning I made a list of the fall/winter cover crop seed that I have in the house. I tried to organize all of the seeds that are in the 2 containers, but I was there too long with T and he disorganized them. (roots, summer crops, herbs, flowers, and maybe lettuce/greens is how I organize them, with tons of packs of peas lying around, too)

Can’t wait for Monday!

On Monday my kid’s school starts back up after a vacation. Hopefully I can get back into my morning-in-the-garden ritual and even turn it into 2 hours in the garden. (The trick is to eat breakfast and clean up before the kid goes to school).

My sister-in-law picked tons of strawberries and blackberries this week! Our freezer is even more stuffed full of berries than it was before! I checked today or yesterday and noticed that there are very, very few flowers. Am I going to keep watering those berries in hopes of a future harvest? Last year it was great to have berries the week of Thanksgiving. Do these plants produce like that in their 2nd year, as well as their first?

Last night (?) and tonight I planted more pumpkins- this time, in the middle of the south side. I’m noticing that a lot of the soybeans I planted are lying on the surface, like the soil pushed them out 😦 A good amount of soil got scraped off by the tractor and it’s in a big pile that, from a distance, looks like it is only straw. There were 10 gopher mounds in one of the beds were I put pumpkins. And that’s before I even started planting!

The good news:

there are still a few Chandler (spring) strawberries, and they are really yummy! I managed to pick a combined basket of them and summer berries this evening. I got out later and picked 1/4 of a gallon of blackberries.

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The next crop of Trilogy green bush beans is coming on. I’ve seen some rather large yellow ones. The Scarlet Runner beans have sprouted (is it too late in the season for them?).

There are broccoli and cabbages to pick.

Some not-so-good news:

To research: some branches came off of one of my tomato plants. This one was still sort of hanging on when I found it on Wednesday.

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dried out and cracked tomato branch.

The raccoons continue to wreak havoc all over the garden – digging up beans, pumpkin seeds, and more. They are probably knocking over the corn plants, too.

I lost 2 more broccoli plants on Wednesday! I’ve noticed that a bunch of the old green bean plants have gone missing. I should probably pull the rest of them out. Z wants to save seed from them (I am imagining that they are hybrids, though).

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signs of gopher (and snake?) activity very close to a bare patch where there used to be bush bean plants

There are so many weeds out there. Some of the beds are literally carpeted in lambsquarter, pigweed, and purslane. I need to be putting compost out to cover that soil! And I need to hoe!!! When can I??

 

Blackberry harvest has begun!

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Himalayan blackberries

Today while we were walking past the Himalayan blackberries along the driveway (with a septic guy), I checked to see if there were ripe berries. Just in time, since there are tons of ripe berries! I went out and picked maybe a basket’s worth or so with T. He ate and ate and ate them! I hadn’t realized that they were that far along. They are delicious. My inlaws had made it sound like they’d only gotten a half a basket on Tuesday. Now there are a lot more than that, and the photo shows a small portion of the closest patch to the house.

Sad broccoli plants. Bad gophers!
Broccoli plants damaged by gophers.

The wildlife is really starting to impact the garden- 4 broccolis have been affected by gophers in the last 2 days. One or two are still holding on, if sideways. I put the others into the compost. To work on for the future: bigger heads.

Small hole where animals dug into the soil to eat pumpkin seeds, eat bugs, or find out what the fish smell was from (fertilizer)
Spot where raccoons or skunks dug up pumpkin seeds

The raccoons dug up approximately 5 of the 8 little “mounds” where I planted pumpkin seeds the other night. Boo. 😦 Fortunately I have another packet. Z thinks I should wait another few days to replant, since the animals tend to dig on more than one night. Possible reasons for the digging: use of fish/kelp meal right as I was planting (so it wasn’t watered in for a period of time before I planted), and use of compost on the surface. There’s another gopher mound along where I planted the pole beans the other night. May need to replant that section.

Z got so much done today! He chiseled 11 beds (8 pictured) and then after I took this picture he got them most of the way raked. I am not happy about the “dust” that was blowing around. He was working while it was too windy. And yes, the soil was too dry.

Today I harvested: blackberries, kale, broccoli, basil, purslane, strawberries (ate in the field), and beans (three huge handfuls). T was excited to carry two of those handfuls of beans into the house! They sure get big quickly.

Z has an interesting idea: we could grow a bunch of things that local plant breeder Luther Burbank grew. Maybe some spineless cactus, Shasta daisies (need those for the strawberries!!), etc.