Ordering Plants On The Internet – Some Tips

It’s that time of year…spring planting.  This year, I have 2 gardens to plant. ( Well, actually 3 if you count the veggie garden,)  The first is a flower garden at my home.  It was started about three years ago, in a crazy attempt to frantically get the yard in shape before my son’s wedding.  It was a beautiful success that first year, but unfortunately, a huge storm came in the night before the wedding and we had to move the whole shebang to an indoor location at the last minute.  Not a single guest saw my flowers…oh well.   Since then, I’ve made a lot of changes and more than a few errors in that garden.  The annuals are now slowly being replaced by perennials, those lovely bushes I planted the first year are now past their prime and annual seeds keep popping up in all of the wrong places.  So really, it’s like I’m starting all over this season.

Most of my plants for this garden are coming from just two places: Annie’s Annuals and Perennials and Breck’s.  In the past, I’ve also had good luck ordering from One Green World for our unusual berries that are now establishing themselves in the yard. I’ve ordered from all of these places many times with good results, so I know I can trust them.

The second garden is at our property in town.  It’s a brand, spanking new, rose garden, created only on paper, so far.  It will live next to a new cottage that we are planning to build there.  I’ve ordered the roses as well as a few hydrangeas for the back yard.  David Austin Roses is the ONLY place that I will ever order roses from again (see my previous post,) and the Hydrangeas were ordered from White Flower Farm, a new vendor for me…fingers crossed.

Buying plants from a brick and mortar plant nursery is always best, but the problem is, I don’t have many of those close by.  In fact, two of the three closest ones just recently closed their doors.  Too bad. The selection from the remaining nursery is very limited, so ordering from an online plant nursery is my only real option.  However, that can be hit, or miss.  There are places that I won’t mention that I would never order from again.  Plants from these places arrived weak and spindly, late, half dead, all dead, or not at all.  (One company actually sent my plants a whole year later than expected!)   When things arrive too late in the spring, then I have to pot them up, baby them through the hot summer, cross my fingers, pray an swish some sage smoke over them, then delay planting them in the ground until late fall.  What a waste of time and effort.  Finding nurseries that you can completely trust to do things right is so valuable.  Here are some tips to do just that:

1. Read the comments.  I realize that plants are perishable things and not everyone has that magical green thumb, so there are bound to be some negative comments.  That being said, if you see a LOT of negatives, back slowly away from the computer screen.  If you see a lot of positives, keep reading!

2. Carefully read all plant descriptions and planting instructions.  You don’t want to buy something that only grows in zones 3-7, if you live in zone 9, or 10.  Nor, do you want a plant that eventually reaches 25 feet tall, when the description told you that it will only get about 8 feet tall.

If you want to get your new plant off to a good start, then definitely read the company’s planting instructions.  I would also suggest that you research the plant online and look for other companies’ instructions and growers’ comments too.

3. High price does not necessarily mean quality.  Just because their prices are up in the stratosphere, that doesn’t mean that they are selling you a “super plant.”  Same goes for bargain basement prices…those are usually left overs at the end of the season and not always in tip-top shape.  In other words, don’t go by price alone.

For example, David Austin Roses are only a dollar, or two more than a few of the other rose growers, but the quality and size are so much better.  I once ordered roses from one of those “other, online, rose nurseries.”  Their roses were more expensive than the DA roses, but the roses arrived weak, covered in black spot and three months late.  I planted them anyway, stripped them of all of their leaves to get rid of the black spot and hoped for the best, but they are still spindly and at least a year behind.  Actually, I think one of them has recently died.

4.  Check to see if the nursery has a promised a precise delivery date for your area.  Most will try to give you some idea, but the really good ones will tell you the delivery date within a week, or two AND they will stick to their promise.  David Austin Roses and Annie’s Annuals and Perennials are absolute experts at this.  I have never, once had a late shipment from them and they always ship at a practical time for my area.  One time Annie’s delivery person could not find my house, so they even called me several times to make sure that my address was correct and acted as a liasion between me and the delivery company.  The really wanted to make their delivery date and I appreciate that.

5.  Ask what soil medium your plants grow in at the nursery that you are buying from.  Boy…I’ve learned this one the hard way.  My virgin soil in my own garden was contaminated with horrible  Devil’s Grass from one of, “those other nurseries,” several years ago.  I’m still pulling the stuff out and probably will be for the rest of my life.  Give the nursery a call and just ask what medium they grow their plants in and if they have any safeguards, or guarantees against pests and weeds showing up with your plant purchase.

6. Make sure that your plant order is trackable.  You would think that this is a no brainer… but no…not all nurseries will track your shipments.  If there is a hang up on the delivery service’s part, at least you can call them with a tracking number and find out what’s up.

7. Ask how they pack your order.  You want to know how the plants will stay fresh and undamaged during shipping.  The great nurseries will take exceptional care in how they pack the plants, carefully making sure that nothing gets jostled about, adding moisture pellets and wrapping, if necessary, and possibly misting them before sealing up the box.

8.  Check their return policy.  It’s tragic when dead plants arrive on your doorstep.  I’ve tried to baby them along, because frankly, it was a hassle to send them back and try to get a refund.  The really good places just credit your account, no questions asked.

That’s about it.  Get out there, have fun!  Garden on!

~ C

 

Happy Summer Solstice!

I love Summer Solstice!  Maybe it is because of the wonderful celebration on this day in Santa Barbara each year, when there is a fun and colorful parade down State Street and a raucous party in the part at the end of the parade line.  I rarely missed it when I lived there.

This is also a time when my gardening chores are at their peak and the results of my months of toil and labor are starting to show.  The flower garden is beginning to bloom and most of the summer veggies are now either in the ground, or still in starter pots and waiting to go in soon.

We have a few bumper crops this  season…grapes, blackberries…blueberries, honeyberries, aronia berries,  just to name a few.  I also really went overboard on the tomato plants this year.  I must have over 70 plants started!  I have a lot of great, hard-to-find varieties such as  Pink Furry Boar, Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye, Pineapple Pig and Black Cherry.  (All bred by  Brad Gates, of Wild Boar Farms, in the nearby, Napa Valley.)  My husband started his own veggie garden this year, so I gave him a lot of my tomato starts, since he has more garden real estate than I do.  We had to order more tomato cages, (actually, sheets of concrete wire that  we roll up into cages,) to accommodate all of the plants.  Needless to say, there are going to be some serious harvesting chores this fall!

Now that summer garden plan is wrapping up and I’m looking ahead to fall plantings.  We’ve ordered a few plants for fall that have just arrived: landscape roses, (Heirloom Roses,) olives, sea berries, blueberries, autumn olive, goumi and gooseberries, (from One Green World, in Oregon.)  I’ll keep them in their pots until we get past the hot weather and the rains start again, then they’ll get planted in our edible display garden, next to the already established, heirloom roses (David Austin Roses,) pomegranates, and Cornelian Cherries (again, One Green World.)

I know…you want to see pix for all of my posts.  I’m way behind in getting those to you.  I promise to have them up in the next few days.

~ C

Hidden Gardens

I recently took a trip to Great Britain, where I visited the Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens, which is nestled in a hidden valley on the Isle of Anglesey, in Northern Wales.  It was absolutely gorgeous and we spent a long, relaxing afternoon touring the grounds.  The gardens are nestled in a canyon and hidden from public view.  It’s only after you drive through some woods and around a few sheep dotted hills do you realize that such a beautiful garden exists.

We visited several other English and Welsh gardens on our trip, but this one completely inspired me.  After I came home, I started thinking about designing my own hidden garden, on a much smaller scale, of course.  I’m thinking of an area on the steep, wooded hillside, with a path that leads down to the creek.  There would be a hidden garden gate to mark the entrance.  In the center of the garden would be a treehouse with screened rooms, so that once we got down there, we could enjoy the surroundings without the mosquitos eating us alive.  There would also be a giant soaking tub with a small waterfall to fill it.  The garden would be filled with shade plants…giant ferns, hydrangeas, hostas, and paths meandering down to the rushing creek.  A pretty foot bridge across the water would be nice too.  Oh…It would be a wonderous place.  I can see it now.

Ahh…but what is in my mind and what I can do physically, are probably two, vastly different things.  Building the paths is going to take some serious muscle and the fact that it is all going down a steep hill, (some would call it a cliff,) only makes it all the more difficult.  It would also have to be fenced in to keep the deer and pigs out.  Large, earth moving equipment would be helpful, but I doubt that would be in the budget.  Still, it’s fun to design it in my mind.  Perhaps one day it will be created.

~C

 

Demonstration Garden, Planning is in the Works

A Demonstration Garden For our Boonville Cottage

I’m planning the demonstration garden for the Boonville cottage as the rain comes pouring down.  I’m stuck inside once again, so why not do something constructive?  It’s been a long, wet winter this year, offering up very few days to get out there and work in the dirt…errr…I mean mud.  We are expecting a few days of sunshine, starting this weekend, so I’m getting prepared.  I’ve got the shovels sharpened and the rototiller primed and ready to go.  Now, I’m drawing up a garden plot, even though the actual cottage isn’t built yet.  No problem, I can work around that.  The time to start the garden is now.

Demonstration Garden Will Educate

Grow Your Own Food
Demonstration garden
Demonstration garden will offer lots of fresh vegetables for our guests.

So, the big question is: What do I want my demonstration garden to demonstrate?  What are the messages that I want to get across?  Well, first off, I want my cottage guests to know that you can plant a garden to feed a family on a small, town-size lot.  We already have a row of twenty, old, apple trees along one fence line and a pear and walnut tree in the back of the property.  We could add a couple more fruit trees, such as a plum, or apricot.  As for other fruits, were planning a mini-vineyard in the front and I hope to put in some thornless blackberries and raspberries somewhere; perhaps along the fence with our neighbor, so that he can enjoy the berries too.  Of course, there will be large, permanent, veggie plots.

Edible Gardens Can Be Beautiful

I also want them to know that a self sufficient, food garden can be beautiful.  Along with flowers and climbing roses, edible landscaping is a must.  Honeyberries, strawberries and aronia berries should go around the house.

strawberries growing in the landscape
Strawberries – part of the edible landscape

Elderberries will work well for a tall, informal hedge that will block off the neighboring fairgrounds along the back line of the property.  Artichokes make nice landscape plants near the house.  I feel strongly that there should be a spattering of medicinal herbs around the lot, either as landscape, or in the veggie plots.

herbs in teh garden
Herbs, both culinary and medicinal, are a nice edition to the garden landscape
Demonstrate Gardening Techniques

Besides the plants themselves, I do want to demonstrate a few of the various gardening techniques.  Organic gardening is a must, but there could be much more than that.  Perhaps one plot could show off Veganic gardening.  Permaculture practices will definitely be part of the landscape.  We could also compare a no-till plot to a double digging plot, or new varieties of veggies compared to ancient ones.  There is a spot in the front of the shed that is always damp and shady, so that would be a good place to show off ferns and other acid-loving plants.

ferns in shade
Fill in the shady spot with ferns and other acid loving plants.

Creating the Garden Plot

So, how on earth are we going to fit demonstration garden in?  It’s not as complicated as you might think.  It’s amazing  how much food one can grow on a tiny, city lot.  (OK…so Boonville isn’t exactly a “city,” but you get my drift.)  Our guests need to enjoy the garden and be right there in the middle of it.  So, I’m thinking of designing it in a semi-circle of veggie plots, radiating out from the house and patio.  There will to be an open area for horseshoe pits and BBQ, and a hammock hidden amongst the plots.  We have to have a table and seating, so that our guests and can relax and enjoy it all.  There also needs to be a sense of privacy…a secret garden hidden from view, so hedges and fences must be considered.

As for the existing shed, it desperately needs a makeover and we’ve already started on that.  We’ve been priming the new exterior walls that will be going up on the backside of the building.  The old ones are just too rotten to try to paint over.  The final color of the shed will be a salmony, “barn red,” with cream trim.  The yellow, Lady Banks roses will climb up the sunnier sides of the building.  This building sits near the front of the property, so it will be a nice, welcoming feature as our guests drive in.

My biggest worry is how I’m going to actually DO all of this.  I’ll definitely need some help.  Volunteers would be wonderful, but I can’t really expect that, since this is a for-profit venture.  I’m sure there are some young people in town that would be willing to work with me on the weekends for pay.  My kids may pitch in once in awhile, but they have jobs and need some days off.  Of course, my hubby is always there to lend a hand…thanks, Hon.

Why a Demonstration Garden?

You’re probably asking WHY I’m doing this.  First, for educational purposes.  The people that I expect will be staying at our cottage will probably be from the city.  I hope that they come away from their stay with us with some courage to try building an edible garden on their own properties.  Therefore, I plan to offer lots of books to read while they are there, as well as a notebook explaining the details of our own garden.  Our guests will also have the joy of eating fresh, wholesome food that is grown right out the back door.

I also wish to produce enough excess produce in the demonstration garden for our neighborhood food bank.  It always surprises me how many people just don’t have enough to eat, even in our little community, where everything appears to be so bountiful.  I could go out and buy canned and prepared foods for donating, but those just don’t hold a candle, nutritionally, to fresh fruits and vegetables.

So, let it rain.  While the storm is howling outside, I’m warm and safe inside, with my plans and promises.  Ahh…armchair gardening is so much fun!  Now, I just hope that I can follow through, roll up my sleeves and do what I say.  Wish me luck.  (Pix are coming soon.)

Garden on!

~ C

 

Veganic Gardening – How Do I Incorporate It In My Home Garden?

“Veganic Gardening”…a step up from “Organic Gardening.”

Veganic Farming and Gardening…why not?

As a life long organic gardener, I’ve always been on the lookout for better, environmental ways to do things.  Each season, as I learn and grow, I try to make at least one small change in my gardening practices that helps to make our food and flora healthier, or soil more fertile and the world a better place.

That being said, my gardening practices aren’t perfect.  I still rely on horse and chicken manure, a gas powered rototiller, some plastic tools and supplies, etc.  I also am not making best use of cover crops and grain production.  As you can see, there’s definitely some room for improvement.  That’s generally, my mode of operation…Set it up and then fix it up.  So, once again, this season I am taking stock of what I am doing now and what else can be done.  Veganic farming has piqued my interest.

Keeping healthy and fertile soil in the garden is my number one priority.  The first thing that I took a look at this year was the use of animal fertilizers.  How could I get rid of them, or at least reduce their necessity?

Chicken and the Garden
Chickens and the Garden, not veganic, but so cute!

Currently, we have a lovely flock of chickens.  Their used straw supplies us with the main source of nitrogen for the compost pile.  We only have about 25 birds, so the amount of nitrogen rich straw that we get is somewhat limited.  However, it does give the compost pile an occasional, nitrogen boost to keep it cooking and steaming, especially through the cold, winter months.  As for the chickens…they’re our pets and we wouldn’t dream if getting rid of them.  They’re old friends.  (Our little, Japanese Bantum, “Mrs. Banty” is going on 12 years old.)

Horse Manure
Horse manure…not veganic either, but it does help improve the nitrogen levels in the soil.

We also still use horse manure once in awhile.  For many years, we owned horses, mostly rescues, so we always had piles of horse sh*t.  The addition of the manure to our garden made a noticeable improvement.  Sadly, our last horse died about two years ago. We’re getting too old and too poor to take in any more horses.  I do miss the ponies, but I also miss that manure.  I guess that I’m not quite ready to give up its use.

This season, someone gave us a truckload of horse poop, which was very generous.  We gladly took it and layered it in the compost heap.  While I’m happy to have it, I always worry about bringing things like this in from the outside, for fear of introducing unwanted, noxious plants.  Hopefully, the pile will heat up enough to kill off any plant intruders.

We’ve already experienced the invasion of daikon, clover, thistle and bind weed that originated from our horse hay of past.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that we’ll ever get those out of the garden.

Thistle in Garden
Nasty Thistle can establish itself in the garden fairly quickly.

That being said, it would probably behoove us, no pun intended, to just get rid of horse manure entirely.  But what do we replace it with?  There’s bat guano…it’s expensive.  Cover crops don’t really do that well over the winter.  They also show up too late in the spring, thereby competing with new crops, and frankly, they’re a pain to dig under by hand.  Their are other commercially prepared meals, but I question their “organic” origin and once again, we have that problem of bringing in more invading plant species.

Grow Comfrey For Fertilizer
Common comfrey can be grown to use for a well-balanced fertilizer.

Comfrey Fertilizer…Totally Veganic

One idea that I’m looking into is growing comfrey for fertilizer.  I’ve read that the leaves, when composted, turn to a perfectly balanced, liquid, plant food.  I need to do some more research on that one.  I may try growing a few comfrey plants in the flower garden this season to test this idea.  It can’t hurt.   (Note: Comfrey should not be ingested by humans, or animals, as it has been shown to be a carcinogen to the liver.)  Supposedly, the large leaves break down pretty quickly, so we should have a steady supply throughout the growing months.

Cover Crops

I’ve found some other great ideas on the Go Veganic website.  One is to rethink the use of cover crops.  I know what I said above, but cover crops, if done right can greatly improve the soil, which is where it all starts.  For one, cover crops can prevent soil erosion and nutrient loss through exposure.  That’s major, right there.  Cover crops can help protect the eco-structure of the beneficial plants, fungi and small creatures, such as earthworms through the winter months.  Maybe, I just tried the wrong cover crops in the past.  I need something that comes up in the cold, wet winter months, dies out early and is easy to till under by hand.  Right now, I just let the native grasses grow over last season’s beds.  Any other suggestions are welcome.

Mulching

Mulching during the growing season is another good practice, which I try to do, but sometimes I just run out of steam.  It means gathering more leaves, grasses, etc. and spreading them out over the young plant beds.  Again, I have the problem of possibly introducing invasive species.  I could use newspaper, or cardboard instead.  I’m not crazy about the inks in the newspaper being added to the garden soil.  Also, newspaper and cardboard are not the most beautiful things to look at, albeit they are practical and in abundant supply.

Mulching and composting with chipped, small wood is a very good idea.  The smaller branches of trees and shrubs harbor the most nutrients.  I also have a huge, over-supply of plants and shrubs that grow in our surrounding forest.  Now…If only I had a chipper/shredder.  It’s on my list.  I suppose that I could rent one, but it would take me an hour to drive to the rental place, an hour to drive it back and then there’s the cost of renting it.  I do wish that I still had an neighbor close by that I could share tools and sage advice with.  Our only neighbor up here on the mountain moved away last month.  I’m missing them already.

mycorrhizal activity, mushrooms, veganics
Mushrooms are a good sign of mycorrhizal activity in the soil.

Inoculating the soil with micorrhizal fungi can boost the garden soil’s ability to take in phosphorus and potassium.  We are already doing this and I do believe it helps.  We also live in a rainy forestland that is full of various fungi growing naturally, so I do believe that our soil is already microrrhizal rich.

Veganic gardening isn’t just about putting things into the soil.  It’s also about carefully using crop rotation to minimize nutrient depletion is also a big help.  I do that…to a point.  I don’t have fifty acres of totally flat, river bottom land to work with.  My gardens are tucked into small, irregular spots of semi-flat, hillside benches.  I only have so much room to grow things and sometimes I have to plant the tomatoes, or kale right where they grew last year, although I try my best not to.  Of course, leaving a bed, or two fallow each year would be nice, but not always possible.

I know…it sounds like I’m just complaining.  Trust me, I just need to go through this doubting, excuse ridden, sad faced process in order to move forward. I mean, really?  Don’t we all?  It’s part of the many, thoughtful ways to finding solutions.  I’m just setting up my, “road blocks,” so I can find ways to knock them down.  I’d love to hear from my readers, so please post your constructive, non-commercial posts. (Trolls, don’t bother.  I’ll just delete your comments.)  In the mean time, I’ll continue to edit this post to give you more information on veganic growing.

Garden on!

~ C

The Great Bee Hunt…Searching For Wild Honey Bees

Searching for wild honey bees…

is a springtime endeavor and spring is just around the corner.  We have high hopes in enticing the wild honey bees into living in more of our small, top bar hives this year.  Last year we were surprisingly successful in starting up a hive in our apple orchard on our property in town.  We didn’t really have to go searching for the bees.  They came to us.  It was probably a swarm venturing off from someone else’s hives nearby.  My husband just nestled his starter hive in the apple trees and dressed it with a few drops of lemongrass oil.  The apple blossoms and lemongrass scents were enough to lure them in.  We now have a growing colony of bees, madly producing delectable honey for next season.  (We’re skipping the first season’s harvest to make sure that the bees have more than they need through the winter.)

wild honey bees in apple orchard
Searching for wild honey bees has paid off. Here’s the new bees enjoying their home in the apple trees.

This year, I’m wishfully thinking that we’ll also garner a hive, or two, on the ranch.

I’d like one near the veggie garden another one at the flower cutting garden, near the house.  We now have new, starter hives are set up in each location, waiting for the bees to get busy and make homes in them.  There are still bees buzzing around in what’s left of the flower garden, which I find amazing, since it’s getting down below freezing at night.  I keep wondering where their hive is and how much happier they would be in a warm, cozy, new hive that’s closer to their pollen source.  It’s time to go on a bee hunt.

swarming bees
Following the swarming bees

Our past attempts a bee hunting have been miserable failures.

Now, we have a book to guide us and give us hunting tips: Following the Wild Bees, The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting by Thomas D. Seeley.  I got the book as a Christmas gift for my husband, but I’ve picked it up a couple of times out of serious curiosity.  I also receive updated reports from the hubby as to what he’s learning about finding wild honey bees.

We’re not done reading the book yet.  So far, we’ve found out that offering a couple of bees a, “three martini,” sugar water lunch can pay back in a mutually profitable, business arrangement between us and the bees.  Basically, what this amounts to is gently capturing a couple of bees in a small, wooden box that dishes up sugar water, allowing them feast and then letting them go.  Hopefully, they will make a “bee line” straight back to the hive to tell the others about their newly found, sugar treasure.  They will then bring back some of their friends for a second helping.  Once we get a parade of bees coming back and forth, we can start following their flightpath back to their hive. This could take many days.  Bees move fast and my eyes move slow.

Once we find the hive, we can start watching it for signs of swarming.  Then, we’ll move our own hive into closer proximity, in hopes that they will choose our starter hive for their new digs.  I suppose that we could also capture the hive and force the bees to live in our space.  We prefer that they set up housekeeping in our top bar hives by their own free choice.

honey bee on flower
Honey bees in the flower cutting garden

Now, you may ask why a mostly vegan like me would want honey bees around.

First and foremost, they are the great pollinators of the world.  I also want to help save the bee populations from a severe die off that has been happening for the last few years. Plus, I want more flowers, fruits and veggies in my garden and their pollination process will make that happen.

Bees in hive
Bees keeping busy in the hive

I also want to raise bees in a more natural and responsible way, than the exploitive, commercial operations.  I feel that it’s better to allow the bees to make their own homes in our hives voluntarily and survive off of their own honey.  We will only take what honey they can’t possibly consume in a season.  We want them to be our friends, not our livestock.  IMHO, if done right, it does not conflict with our own, vegan values.  Besides, we just want a small amount of honey for our pantry.  We’re not trying to get rich off of the bees.

So, I’ll keep you posted on how our bee hunt goes and the growth of our bee colonies.  If you would like more information about beekeeping with top bar hives, please visit: Mother Earth News

~ C

 

New Gardens For The New Year 2017

New gardens planned for 2017.  Already?  Yee gads, I’m still recuperating from Christmas!  Time certainly does not wait!

More Garden Chores In January

As each growing season ends I always think to myself that next year, I’ll cut back on the gardening.  I’m just getting to old to do all of this.  But, as January rolls around and the garden catalogs start to pile up on my coffee table, I begin to feel a renewed energy and optimism.  So, instead of cutting back on my gardening chores, I end up expanding them.  Last year I put in a beautiful, cutting garden and lawns around the house.  This year, I’ve already added a mini, grape vineyard to our food garden, expanded our blackberry patch, as well as enlarged our fruit orchard by adding 15 new trees.  I also plan to put in a demo garden to spruce up our commercial property in town, as well as planting a dozen “Lady Banks” roses.  Over ambitious?  Maybe.  Talk to me about that in August.  Right now, (…sigh…) I just can’t help myself.  New gardens are so inspiring!

Keeping Up With the Compost

The biggest obstacle that I have to growing so much stuff isn’t the initial plantings, nor the tending of the gardens.  It’s generating enough organic compost to keep the plants going through the summer to fall. Right now, I’m creating wheelbarrows full, but in reality, I need truckloads.

I could go out and buy a couple of dump trucks full of compost from our local garden supply, but that’s expensive, especially since they would charge me a pretty penny to haul it up here.  Besides, I don’t know what goes into it.  I definitely want it comprised of organic materials and I certainly don’t want any seeds from invasive species up here.  I have a tough enough time with the wild radishes and bindweed that showed up in the hay we brought in a few years ago.  Call me a control freak, but I need to make my compost myself and be fully aware of just exactly what is going into it.  I should go out and gather leaves this morning, but geesh, it’s cold out there.

Now is also the time to get started

The new, early spring plants like peas, lettuce, greens, broccoli, cauliflower, for the veggie garden have to be started now.  Early flowers for the cutting garden need to go on that list too.  My dear husband made me a seed starting tray out of redwood.  It’s just beautiful!  (Thanks hon, I need about 25 more of these please.) I would absolutely love a greenhouse, but alas, I won’t be getting one this year.  Starting the seeds on the porch is my best option right now.  I may break down and make a temporary hoop house.  They’re ugly as sin, but I’m getting desperate and I just may have the materials for that lying around.  I need the space and warmth for my early starts.

Cleaning Out 2016 Plants

Of course, besides starting new plants, I still need to clean out the old ones.  With all of the rain and cold snaps we’ve had I haven’t been able to get out to the veggie garden, which is still a tangled mess of dead vines and weeds.  There are some perennials in there like the asparagus and artichokes that need cutting back and dividing.  The grape arbor could use a hard pruning, as well as the orchard trees and berries.  This is also the year we plan to put a deer proof fence around the orchard…lots of work, lots of money.

Demonstration Garden Planned in Boonville

Also, as I mentioned earlier, besides my new gardens at home, I’m also planning on putting in a demonstration garden and climbing roses at our bare property in Boonville.

New gardens and updates for shed in Boonville are coming soon
Front of the shed that faces the street. It’s in dire need of an update and new gardens.

It’s about a 1/6 of an acre with about 20 old apple trees and a medium-sized shed structure on it.  The property is a real eyesore right now, so I’m getting ready to clean up the land, paint the shed and plant a pretty garden.  The shed will be “barn red” and covered in yellow, “Lady Banks,” climbing roses.

Lady Banks Climbing Rose, perfect for fence and shed.
The fence and shed will be awash in yellow, “Lady Banks,” roses.

The “Gawd awful,” ugly chain link fence will also get the rose treatment.  The dirt there is OK.  It’s valley bottom land so the soil is not so terrible, but it still needs amending.  (Shewwwwt….Now I need even MORE compost.)  The land is totally flat, so it will be a good place to plant the different kinds of corn we’ve ordered, being careful not to cross pollinate them, of course.  Other summer crops will go in such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and herbs.  It’s starting to sound like I’ve got an native American theme going on, so maybe I’ll stick with that and just go for the summer crops.  Eventually, I’d like the Boonville garden to produce tons of food year round that can be donated to the local food banks.

So, as you can see, I’ve got my dirty hands full all year.  I have a ton of ambition right now.  We’ll see how far I get with my plans for the new gardens.  I’ll be sure to post updates.

Keep on growin’

~ C

 

 

 

The New Grape Vines We Chose…Starting Our Vineyard

New grape vines for our mini-vineyard.
New grape vines for our mini-vineyard.

Ahh…the world of viticulture in California…such a complex maze of analyzing wine, the new grape vines available, their varieties, their growing habits and their ultimate potential.  It’s enough to make one pass out just trying to grasp it all!  Thirty five years ago, I planted a few Pinot Noir grapes in our previous homestead garden.  I don’t know what rootstock they were on, or how much tannins they produced.  I certainly didn’t have any fancy trellis apparatus.  I just let them grow up the arbor.  During those years that I wasn’t overwhelmed raising kids, working and going to school, I simply harvested the grapes, juiced them in my mixer, added a few ingredients and set a carboy of the concoction out on the cool, back porch to ferment.  Many times that wine turned out to be absolutely amazing.  Sometimes it was just some killer vinegar.  I didn’t care.  It was all good.

My, how times have changed.  As I am planning on putting in a tiny, postage stamp, “vineyard,” (it’s literally only 25 vines,) I find that these days, it’s a big, scientific affair.  Are my Pinots Dijons, or Wädenswils?  115s, or 777s?  Is the rootstock resistant to Phylloxera?  Is my soil too acidic…does it have too much clay?  Am I too close to the ocean?  Which trellis system should I go with?  Do I really have to “romance” the vines?  How do I do that?

::::sigh::::

Honestly, that’s just to much to think about for a couple of dozen, little vines.  I went ahead and ordered some plants, but then I got a frantic call from the nursery saying that they only had half an order of one clone of Pinot Noir and apologetically asked if I would accept another clone to fill out the order.  I could hear the gasp of astonishment when I told them that was fine and that I didn’t really care.  Besides, I had a few vines that I’d already planted from last year and I didn’t know what type of clones they were.  They turned out to be Wädenswils.  So now, I have half Dijons and half Wädenswils.  I figure that I’ll be able to compare the productivity of the 2 types and blend their juices together…a crazy, fun, science experiment, so to speak.

New Grape Vines
New Grape Vines, Ready For Planting

The vines have arrived and I’ve been busy getting my mini, hillside site ready for planting.  I can guarantee you that I do not have too much clay in my soil.  In fact, it’s mostly rocks, as my trusty, Mantis rototiller can attest to.  But as I understand it from the dreamy winos, rocky soil is good…very good.  It keeps those vines struggling to get their nutrition and “struggling vines” make the best wine, right?   Yee gads!  Rocky, or clay soil, they’re going in and that’s that.  I’ll worry about the trellis system later.

So now, I’m halfway done with the planting and I’m excited that I’ll hopefully be able to harvest my first wine grapes in 2, or 3 years.  I already have some table grapes growing nearby and they’re doing great, so I have high hopes for my small patch of pinot noir plants.  I’m sure that I’ll never be able to make enough wine from them to fulfill my yearly need, (ahem) but they’ll put a dent in it.  Plus, winemaking is good fun!  I’m already starting to save up wine bottles for reuse…which is also fun.  Cheers!  Here’s to romancing the new grape vines!

~ C