Finally got to work in the garden again

I hate the holidays and am so glad that they are over. It was nice having my sisters-in-law and their kids around, and we went for a nice hike with my in-laws, but I personally have a hard time. I did go to the garden to show people what little there is to show on Saturday (and I pulled a few weeds and noted that the gophers seem to have stolen some of my garlic plants already), but other than that, I went 3 days without doing any work out there. Tonight I managed to put 4 wagonloads of compost out, so that makes me feel a bit better. On the way back to the compost I’d grab a bucket or two of wood chips and put them in low or bare spots on the path, so I felt like I was getting some work done on that project. We’re due to get a bit of rain this week. Like really not much. We are having a very dry winter so far.

Z’s relatives actually found edible strawberries in the garden this weekend. Those Seascapes are amazing. I’m sure that I wouldn’t have found them very good, but I am spoiled from living in California (and getting to choose which ones I eat vs compost as I harvest them).

We had a live christmas tree this year, so we spent some time today figuring out where to plant it and then putting it in the wrong place, anyhow. Check out (below) what a gorgeous day it was! It was interesting to see how my way of planning and carrying out movements was more efficient than Z’s. I actually spend a lot of time worrying about my inefficiencies when I’m working in the garden. Tonight I finished reading the excellent book Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables. It gave me a lot of food for thought. I even learned something (I think it was in this book) that I’d suspected about needing a different potting mix when I’m potting things up into larger pots.

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Those naughty raccoons!

The raccoons have been digging up a storm. You can see that they dug all around a spot where I had put compost. This area is the southernmost end of the south garden beds.

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We won’t be getting any rain until December 21st, according to the forecast. I’m trying to use my limited garden time to put compost out on the areas in the beds where the animals have been digging, but for areas like the paths at the end of the rows, I NEED WOOD CHIPS. I tried to buy wood chips from a guy, but he said they were from trees that had dropped their leaves due to the heat from the #SantaRosaFirestorm – too close for my comfort. I need them to be clean and not from so close to the fires. So of course every time I go anywhere, I see tree service trucks coming from areas where there were fires. I’ve also been digging out some of the curly dock that’s all over the place, while my soil’s soft and mostly not too wet.

This reminds me, I see debris removal trucks every time I leave the house, too. Well, that kind of truck is actually all over town all the time, what with wood chips, gravel, and compost being driven around in similar vehicles. I really hope that the drivers have the debris closed up tight!

Sign on a Disaster Debris hauling truck
Sign on a debris hauling truck that was getting off the freeway about 4 exits before Petaluma. I guess it must have been taking side streets to the dump.

Here’s an article about the debris causing a burden on our local landfill

My  gym is closed this weekend and I’d love to go to outdoor water aerobics, but the pool is located too close for my comfort to Coffey Park. 😦 When I went to an event on the other end of that neighborhood 2 weeks ago, I could smell and taste the ash in the air.  I don’t want to mess with that.

 

Reportback of sorts about the produce testing project

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.

Meanwhile, in my garden…

there are a few ripe strawberries!
there are still some strawberries!

 

…and the garden got frosted-out

Yesterday afternoon I found out that the temp overnight was going to be 34, or maybe 37. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to water, and I’m not sure if it would have made a difference to my poor, belated zinnias. I think I will leave the ones that aren’t touching the kale, in case there are butterfly eggs (?) on them. Why, oh why didn’t I pick some yesterday? Because I picked tomatoes and strawberries.

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Zinnias that were killed by frost

I also lost my basil. I did pick a little bit of it yesterday. And tomatillos.

Today I did some hoeing in preparation for planting garlic. And I watered for like half an hour this evening, as I picked a couple of gallons of tomatoes, a few peas (the snow peas don’t seem to like frost, hm), some stock flowers, and a few marigolds.

The harvest continues

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…

Still planting my summer garden

Well, I finally finished transplanting the watermelons I started and the tomatoes that I bought around 4th of July… things are coming along very slowly. I have come to a lot of realizations about how in order to really produce much, I need labor-saving devices. Or I would at least need clean, tilled, shaped beds. I don’t have all that equipment, so I did individual planting holes. Sometimes the area hasn’t received much water, so I have to do a lot of tiresome handwatering. After planting, I keep handwatering once or twice a day to make sure that the plants get a good start. It’s a lot of work!! Carrying the 2-gallon watering can all the time is really hurting my elbow. Not sure if that’s the bursitis, or something else. I’m getting ready to plant my 4th planting of green,  yellow, and purple beans. It’s been 2 weeks since the last one went in…

We’re still not getting very many strawberries. They taste very good, but the pests are starting to get going again. I’ve been lucky about the taste, considering it’s been quite some time since I last fertilized.

I still can’t get much done when T is there in the garden with me. I actually have to redo some things, like how he put about a dozen sunflower seeds in a few different spots. I transplanted a few of them to other spots in the bed the other day. I’m really working at garden-scale, and farm-scale (especially in terms of having space for trays of seedlings) seems very far off. That reminds me, I need to plant the sunflowers that are best for cut flowers really soon! The cucumber beetles will kick their butts, though. This morning I killed the most I’ve ever done in one visit to the garden (7ish). I could be misremembering, because we grew a lot of sorghum-sudangrass (it makes so much biomass!!!) two years ago, and the cucumber beetles just loved it.

 

It’s July already!

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.

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the view from the southwesternmost bed that is in use (flowers on left, bush green, yellow, and purple beans out of picture on right)

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.

Maybe I need to rethink things…

I’ve been trying to decide if I should order more strawberry crowns (bare-root plants). I keep forgetting how many of the ones I planted this spring survived. More than 30, maybe even closer to 40? That’s enough for one family… and I have some Shasta Daisy seedlings and can try to start more… so maybe I should focus on adding flowers to that bed, and consider putting more berries in there this fall/next spring, if I can. For the Integrated Pest Management class at the Junior College, I did a report about Lygus bugs, and learned that Shasta Daisies are supposed to help keep them away. I think I found one in last year’s Seascapes a couple of nights ago.

I’ve been saying that I want to focus on flowers (at  least as a first enterprise).  I have those shasta daisies and like 10 zinnias started. Also some poppies that are probably rootbound. I need to start more stuff! Meanwhile, last night’s entire garden time was spent potting up my greens seedlings. Not the best use of my time, is it? I did the cabbage (green), red russian kale, and some of the dino kales. The plants already look like they should be potted up further. I also divided up the shasta daisies into their own cells in new sixpacks. I hate using all this single-use plastic. I don’t really have the means to wash dirt out of pots and bleach them. Can’t put dirt down our drains and I don’t have a dedicated farm sink. I need to buy more 4-inch pots so I can do more of those greens, and I need to prep the bed(s) where the greens will go. And start more broccoli and cabbage.

I have a problem about my anticipated greens beds – it turns out that they are immediately next to last spring’s. I wasn’t able to get the old plants out this winter/spring, but I did get a bunch of them out last week. There are still a few that I need to pull/cut out. But the bugs that were in them could still be there. I had a few of the bad bugs, you might remember. Is there a way to search hashtags on a blog? I think that my posts about bugs are under #IPM.

This morning I did some mowing around strawberry and pea beds. The other night I took down the posts from the rest of last fall’s pea trellis. Have not had time to try to wrestle the trellis netting out of the grass. It’s going to be so much work. The plants that I tried to train to the trellis in the heat last week are shorter than all the rest. Hm. We did water a bit on Sunday, so that might be helping the other plants. Maybe I damaged the growing tips when I tried to move them…?

This evening it was back to the strawberries. The ground is now too wet to be able to pull individual huge grass plants out of the ground. Fortunately I had my Felcos with me (I hardly ever use them for some reason) and at least was able to cut 3′ high grass down to 4 inches or so… and I picked about 2/3 of a basket before I was summoned to the house to comfort my sick child. He’ll be home missing a long preschool day tomorrow. I feel bad that I had left a bunch of bad berries along the edge of the bed, intending to pick them up when I finished picking, and never got back to put them into a compost bucket. Sigh! #farmingmum

More rain is coming – are you serious?

We could get as much as an inch of rain on Friday and Saturday?! According to NOAA, on average we get 4 more inches in a rain year (which ends October 1st). We have already had 55.5 inches instead of the average 36. We’ve had enough. Please stop.

I realized that if I were to put a hoophouse over some garden beds so I could have dry beds in the spring, I’d have to dig some serious trenches to redirect water that would fall off the roof… that would almost be better for our 2nd garden, which is in a field that we can’t see from the house, and it’s a pretty wet walk to get out there in winter!

Last day of flower class!

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Part of the garden at Shone Farm

Today (April 1st) was the 3rd and final session of the cut flower production class that I took through the Community Education program at our local junior college. The first two sessions were on the main campus, but this one was in the lab. Most of the class today was about seed starting. We did a little exercise of planting a tray of seeds. The woman I was paired with thought that I worked very quickly (!). I actually heard one of the instructors say something later (during the presentation about harvest and packaging) about how you have to work quickly so you can get more done. 😉

After my inactive morning, I was excited to start prepping my strawberry bed by hoeing the grass off. The soil is still too wet! It was smearing. Our soil is a “sandy clay loam,” and it seems to me that it is a lot heavier than the name implies. I am concerned about my strawberry crowns (bare root plants) since the fridge they are in is only running at 55ish degrees. That should be fine for storing cut flowers overnight, lol. In class, one instructor asked me if I had a cooler. I don’t remember the school farm having had one out in the field, but we were looking at the one that’s there. My answer was: “Ha!” I wish we could invest $10k or $15k into the garden this year. We’d really be able to do a lot.

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Grey Kitty “helping” me to start seeds

I tried starting some seeds today. I planted Dino kale (4 sixpacks, iirc), Red Russian kale (last summer I had White Russian- is that more of a summer crop, I wonder)? – this reminds me that I need another green curly kale), cabbage, broccoli (though it is a fall variety but I can’t resist a broccoli that’s named after the town where I grew up and went to college), some poppies (perhaps too late?), zinnias, lavender, rosemary (mine didn’t make it through the winter. iirc i want to companion plant this with my greens), scallions, and I forget what else. T “helped” and only spilled 90% of the contents of one seed packet on the table. It’s lavender- I would like to be able to try to broadcast it under the pear trees in the garden… Wish me luck with my seedlings, please! I couldn’t get our little cheapo greenhouse’s door to zip closed, and that means that the raccoons could just knock the buckets blocking the door out of the way and check out my trays. Z thinks he got it fixed. I hope so! It would be so cool to grow my own seedlings.

I went to school at the JC fulltime from 2010 until 2012, when I got my Associate’s Degree in Sustainable Agriculture. I took a bunch of Animal Science classes, too, but when I got pregnant I stopped taking classes. It’s interesting to see the changes that have taken place in the garden over the years – things like occultation and the use of broadforks are brand-new from the last year, I think. I also saw some red plastic out there! I wonder if the strawberries are in a new spot…