Some rain’s in the forecast

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.

20180221_180410.jpg

Thursday

“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 ­čśŽ
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.
20180221_150148.jpg
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.

Had a big windstorm earlier this week

Seeking plans for (12-foot) hoophouse made with EMT (electrical conduit = metal pipe)

Z has/had been trying to resurrect our little greenhouse from last year – the one that blew over end to end a few times in the first night of the North Bay Fires. Well, it was really windy whichever night that was this week (Monday?). Z woke me up and said there were high winds and that the greenhouse had blown over. I told him he was dreaming and to go back to sleep. He had opened the door and felt warm air swirling around from all directions. We’ve been having low-to-mid 30’s temperatures at night, which makes this unpredicted windstorm extra weird! Ok, extra-extra weird when you consider that not everyone got this windstorm- out of Z’s coworkers, only one, who lives like 8 miles away from us, had had it!

So we need to build a very wind-proof greenhouse. We have no time or energy, so this is a real challenge. I have been thinking it would be a hoophouse. Most of the plans that I see are for PVC, but we don’t think plastic pipes would be strong enough. Z is tempted to buy a poly pre-built greenhouse used online. I dunno about that…

Plant/harvest, repeat

I haven’t been harvesting the peas – it’s time to get them out of there before the bugs decide to migrate to the strawberries. Ok, they’ll do that either way. They’ve reached the stage where every pea is trying to be a seed.

T and I started some seeds tonight – things like tomatoes, etc that most people would have been planting almost 2 months ago. I’m just kind of on my own late timeline. Someday I need to write something up about our cheapo starter greenhouse, but not today. Let’s just say that I take the trays out and leave them on a table in the sun because it’s too hot in there in the daytime. Tonight when I was putting trays away, I broke the clothespin that was holding the bird netting over the door. Sigh! At least the heat wave is ending.

Today Z mowed the area where I want to put the summer crops. First I need to deal with the pea bed and the Chesnok Red garlic. I can’t tell if it’s ready to pull or not. Most people either pull theirs or use a pitchfork. My soil is so hard that I have to dig with a shovel. I dig all around the plant and still usually end up cutting the bulb. Need to develop a better technique. Need to improve the soil!

The strawberries need fertilizing. I didn’t mulch them because 1. I never had the time, and 2. I wanted to compare the sow bug presence when there’s no compost on the ground. It’s a lot better, but the berries are VERY thirsty. They got 1.5 hours of water (through drip tape) yesterday and were dry today. I’m trying to go back to every other day watering as we come out of this heat wave. Gotta let those roots spread.

The cabbage and broccoli (or whatever) that I transplanted this week have had all but one leaf eaten off of them. There’s a thick layer of compost on the ground in that bed.

I did a bit of mowing along the blackberry patch that borders our driveway to make access this summer a bit easier. And, of course, also to check if they’re ripening. They usually start in the first few days of July, but… I harvested and ate 3! I need to figure out a way to hang the harvest bucket around my neck so I can use both hands.

20170622_111913

Longest garden day yet this season!

20170510_194933
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.

20170509_184159
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┬ásoil 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!

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 ┬áleast as a first enterprise). ┬áI 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

I got a new tool!

 

wp-1490508341454.jpg
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?

wp-1490462065361.jpg
last year’s tomato bed. I planted 3/4 of it in peas this week
wp-1490462010241.jpg
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!