Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Tree We Planted Twice

It may seem as though all we do around here is cut trees for one reason or another.  Either they're in the way, or dying due to changes in the land or traffic over their roots.  Or they may just be too scraggly or a messy variety (like Larch... yuck).  When you cut a lawn into a grown up area you are bound to have that.  In the west lawn we have taken out over a dozen scraggly, top heavy ash and poplar.  And that was before the Tree and Water Project 2012 commenced.


As compensation, we try to plant varieties we like in a suitable place as replacements.  Tim was looking forward to planting London Plane trees.  They are a variety of sycamore which have a flakey, varigated bark and a leaf shaped like a maple.

When the new nursery stock arrived at our friend Sandy's nursery, we purchased three, took them home and planted them right away.  One leafed out in a few days.  The rest did this...

When a tree sends new shoots out from the trunk it is making a last ditch effort at survival.  After a month of wait-and-see we agreed that they were dying and needed to be replaced.  Sandy set out to find us a new set of three, and boy did she come through!

Now THIS is what we had in mind!  Tim felt bad that perhaps he had somehow killed these trees.  But we have planted over a dozen trees together and all are thriving.  It was not his planting skills, it was just bad luck.  This is our method:

First I cut and strip the sod in the circle where we will be mulching.  Rings of mulch make it easier to mow around the trees and eliminates potential damage from weedwhacking.  The original ring was about 24" across.  I widened each hole to 60".

The soil in this yard is hard, clay, full of stones and roots from the woods that we have removed tree by tree.  Tim uses the back hoe to loosen the soil.

Then we dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball.

You want the soil at the base of the tree, the level the pot was at, to be about 4" higher than your surrounding lawn for drainage purposes.  Tim lays a long handle across and measures up, comparing this measurement to the height of the pot.

Then we remove the root ball from its container, place it in hole, center and plumb, and begin adding good soil around it.  Depending on what we have to work with we may add some cooled compost.  Tim stomps the dirt firmly in.

When the hole is half full he waters it in well.  You want to remove all airpockets from around the roots.  The water and the stomping fills the voids.  If you wait until the hole is full of dirt before you water it takes more water to reach the roots.

We continue filling in with good soil, and construct what looks like a volcanoe.  The rim of soil will collect water and channel it towards the roots while the tree is becoming established.  Over time it will erode away to a simple mound.  We fill in with mulch, adding only about an inch around the trunk itself.  The roots need to be able to get oxygen and material around the bark will burn and girdle the trunk.

Then we drive one T-Post on the side of the prevailing wind, and another one directly opposing it.  Using scraps of garden hose to cushion the wire and protect the bark, Tim interlocks the wires like so and wires the tree to keep it perfectly upright.

When we are done, we have three beautiful trees landscaped in.

Of the three original trees, two had no root growth at all and were discarded, but the third was sending out fresh white rootlets.  We relocated it in a raised area between our fence and Mike and Shelly's fence which divides the two mowing areas.  We will keep the newly planted trees watered every day or two with about 5 gallons of water each.

The new trees came in these sturdy 20 gallon pots.  The nursery offered to take them back and reuse them to transplant trees in the fall.  Ummmm.... No.  These are my pots, and they already have potatoes planted in them!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fine Gardening Grow Vol. 8

Fine Gardening's special issue of Grow Volume 8 is on newstands now.  I picked up my copy at Tractor Supply, but you can order it online here.   Warning: I ordered Volume 7 from Tauton Press (as I have done before), and this time it came from Nova Scotia or some damned place (no joke).  It took forever since it had to go through customs.  Look for it in town before you resort to that.  All the articles in this issue are of interest to me and I've already wasted some ofice time previewing it.  The "Tips From Readers" section is back which I missed in Volume 7, and there is an entertaining piece on Dangerous Garden Gnomes.  Don't miss it.

In other News:  I pulled out the peas in Bed #1, which I planted March 15th, and planted bush beans in their place.  I got every last pea off those vines and yielded 19 meals for two from two packets of 200 seeds.

Friday, June 22, 2012

How Gardeners Spend an Evening

Last Nights Pea Harvest

...Aaaaand four hours later.

They look quite nice floating in the pot.  I bring water to a hard boil, add the peas, and stir for 3 minutes.

A two person portion is one cup.  I put them in half pint bags, arrange them in a pan, and place the whole thing in the freezer.  When they freeze solid, they will be neat and orderly and easy to stack.

This blog serves as a great gardening diary.  I take many more photos than I share to gauge the garden progress, and through out the year I look back over years past to see what was happening.  The peas are right on schedule.  Last Years Peas were coming on at the same time.  But if you look at that blog from last June, my potatoes are yards ahead.  Well, they should be.  I planted them in MARCH!

This year, the potatoes are almost 3 feet tall and I have hilled them three times to the point that I've run out of dirt.  I also put the spare potatoes in pots which turned out to have a surprising yield last year.  And this year, I didn't kill 90% of them by watering them mid-day and boiling them!

Three weeks ago, the pots were lush and beautiful. 
 I found a perfect "micro climate" for them on the north side of the chicken coop.  There they receive morning and afternoon sun but are shaded from the worst of the mid-day heat.

Last week they were 2 feet out of the top of the pot, and now they are flowering.
I stopped by the nursery and picked up $1.50 worth of the scraps of seed potatoes, and I think I'll root around in my pots (although destroying these beautiful plants saddens me) to get the baby potatoes. Then I'll either replant the pots, or scrounge up some more pots.

I have one more pot of red potatoes that is 6 weeks behind, and this little guy, a sweet potato from a potato a friend of Tim's gave us last year.  About two weeks ago I realised I still had it and it was still firm and edible.  I made a big batch of sweet potato fries for dinner, and stuck the end in this pot.   

So, my first bed of peas is almost done.  Last night's harvest was 13 cups.  Earlier this week, we had a meal of them and I froze the extra portion.  So, that is 15 meals from two, intensely planted, 12 foot rows of peas.  There are enough peas left still developing for at least one, maybe two meals.  This bed was planted in March.  The second bed was planted in succession, Good Friday, and the week after.  It will begin producing in another week or so.  we'll see how the extreme heat affects it's development.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lettuce Pray

Like most of the country, we are in the middle of a heat wave.  With temperatures (outside my gravel garden) hovering near 90 degrees, I am praying for my lettuce.  I am hoping to get another month or so out of it before it turns bitter.

Gardening books advise providing greens with midafternoon shade.  Our good friend Sandy gave me scraps of shade cloth from her commercial greenhouse and I cut a piece to fit over my frost frame.  Will it cool the lettuce?  Or just absorb heat?  Who knows.  The wide open ends provide plenty of ventilation.

My next crop of lettuce is still smaller than a dime.  When the pole beans and surrounding black  beans sprouted, I was taunted by the large amount of empty real estate under each cluster of poles.  Hmmmm... A shady place to plant lettuce?

I tried the same theory last year in the same bed, planting lettuce under the tomato and pepper plant but it never amounted to anything.  I waited until it was too shaded, and the seeds never germinated.  One did winter over though, and sprouted this spring so this year I have a towering teepee of lettuce.  It's a beautiful plant and looks just like a Christmas tree.  I haven't had the heart to eat it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mid-June Garden Tour

Here is a brief tour of this week's gardening highlights.

I came home today to find that Tim had added another garden tool to the Poop Deck Arsenal.  Pretty clever fabricating!

My ornamental plantings are really taking off.  We have two of these vintage galvanised wash tubs.  I had stopped setting them out, firstly because I didn't really have a suitable liner to plant in without ruining the tubs, and secondly because I was afraid of ruining their feet by setting them in the damp mulch.  The brick patio is a perfect location for this charming antique.  This Spring I found some oblong plastic Trugs at WalMart that fill each basin almost perfectly and are just the right height.  They even have handles making them easy to remove and tote around.  Tim drilled drainage holes in them for me.  They are planted with Tunbergia (Black Eyed Susan Vine) and trailing Nasturtium.  In another week or so you won't even be able to see the tops of the trug liners peeking out the top.

My other WalMart find was a brilliant idea.  I am using quite a bit of diatomaceous earth to ward off the slugs (which ate almost all of my cuke transplants last year) but all the containers it comes in are less than convenient dispensers.  You end up wasting a lot of it blopping it about.

When I was shopping for Copper Powder, at the nursery recently, I noticed they had a special powder puffer available for $6 and change.  A quick stop at WalMart scored Ketchup and Mustard squeeze bottles for $1.97.  I put the Copper in the Ketchup bottle.  If I had been patinet enough, I could have recycled some actual Ketchup and Mustard bottles.  Never forget to label your garden products when you remove them from their original containers.

I can now apply an accurate line around each of my squash and cucumber plants to defend against trespassers.

And puff some on the flea beetles to keep them from turning my eggplants into Swiss cheese.

  Diatomaceous earth is simply crumbled sedimentary rock.  If you magnify it, you would find it has a lot of very sharp edges.  It is extremely fine, and gets into all the cracks and crevices and soft spots of slugs and other insects and does gross bodily harm.  Be careful not to inhale it though, or it will do the same to your lungs.  But still, it is a brilliant, non-chemical, organic pest solution.

My lettuce is still in the thinning stage.  We have more lettuce than we know what to do with.  The individual plants I am leaving behind are growing large and robust.  Depending on the weather, there is still another month or before the lettuce begins to bolt.  I have a second crop started which ought to fill in at just the right time.  It's amazing how much lettuce you can raise with a couple of dollars worth of seed instead of wasting the same amount on one bag of salad.

The first planting of peas are bearing a heavy crop and the pods are just beginning to plump up.  We should be eating peas in another week.  We can also begin thinning the garlic soon and using herbs and onions sparingly.

I even have tiny tomatoes.

Despite having a pile of compost and manure in it, the Poop Deck remains the coolest, shadiest spot from which to observe the garden.

Monday, June 11, 2012

June and Counting

My garden is growing faster than I can blog.  We were out of town for a wedding and everything tripled in size while we were gone.  One of the perks of sharing a garden is that you have a built in caretaker when you have to leave.  I rounded up all my containers that require daily watering and put them in the garden so Mike and Shelly could water and keep an eye on them.  I always go through and kill off any questionable looking plants before I leave someone else in charge because I don't want them to feel bad if something dies on their watch!

And since I'm so behind on my own garden blog fodder, here are some pictures from Bob and Trish's garden down the road.  The photos are a couple of weeks old.

The large row garden has just been put in.

They have added several raised beds.  Here the potatoes on the left were put in in March like mine were on an experimental basis.
Gardeners are always learning and evolving.  In addition to the raised beds, Bob and Trish were laughing about the fact that it took them 31 years of gardening to realise they needed a second string to efficiently lay out their double rows of sweet corn!

They have pest problems too and have built removable cages over the most enticing edibles.

Tim and Mike built this rack to keep some tools out on the poop deck.  Finally, those triplicates of everything an find a home and a use.  This rack is welded up out of scraps, bolted to the retaining wall and sprayed with rubberised undercoating to prevent rust.