Tag Archives: Weather

Long Division and the Great Potato Experiment of 2016

My garden is exactly 10’x20′ in size, 2 plots in the local community garden.  Each bed in  the garden is about 10’x50′-60′ (Can’t remember which it is now but you get the idea.) and contains 5 or 6 10′ long plots.  The long sides of most of the beds are walled in with 2″x12″ boards and the ends are open.  My 10×20 is a fraction of the approx 40’x60′ garden I left in Southern Kentucky but plenty for my wants, needs and amount of free time.  The small size means every square inch counts and that I have to be selective about who gets a spot to put down roots.  Each individual gardener has the ability to amend our spots to our hearts content and as such, some plots end up being taller than the plot next door. This means that 6-8″ on the end of the taller plot is pretty much unusable as water just runs off to the lower beds.  This happens again at the end of the bed where my plot is. This year some of the gardeners have added divider boards and end boards to their plots.  By capping it off on either end that last 6-8″ is usable.  Anita was nice enough to pick up a couple of boards for me as our car is too small to carry much of anything over 6′ long.  It was raining when I arrived at the garden this morning.  Not a hard rain but the gentle rain so common in our area.  Historically I would not garden in the rain but I only get two days off every week and I have to take the time I get.  It didn’t take long to trench out the area for the boards using the narrow hoe.  After all was said and done I figure I’ve gained about 10 square feet at 6″ x 10′ x 2 sides.   I pulled some of the volunteer nasturtiums that were growing in the walkway and tucked them in along the inside of the middle board.  They will look nice spilling over the board later this summer.

The potatoes I planted 41 days ago in 8″ deep trenches are looking AWESOME! The trenches have been filled as the plants grew and they are looking very lush. That being said, if I had it to do over I would have planted them in large containers like the guy over at the Allotment Diary in the UK.  I stumbled upon his video about growing potatoes in containers and will definitely go that route next year if I grow them again. The growing part isn’t what makes containers great, it is the harvesting part. From what I’ve read and been told, harvesting potatoes without cutting into some of them and/or leaving some behind to sprout next year is problematic.  Dan, Mr Allotment Gardener, plants potatoes deep in containers, the way I did in the trenches, filling with compost as they grow. The containers are partially buried in the garden early on so the roots can grow though into the soil below for nutrients and moisture leaving the potatoes to develop in the containers.  Harvesting consists of dumping the entire container onto a tarp and fishing out the little bundles of starchy goodness.  His most recent video shows him harvesting new potatoes from plants in small pots he started 2 months ago. A much easier task when they are grown in containers. If you have any interest in potato growing check him out. I think the environment in his part of the UK is similar to ours here in the PNW.

greens

In other happenings, The lettuce is LOVING the wet and cool weather we have been having. Today after getting the boards in, I harvested red, green and oak leaf lettuce as well as a mess of some mixed kale like greens. The Palco spinach is ready to go but my bag was full. Perhaps tomorrow. Again this year I was reminded that there is really not much to gain by using lettuce transplants. The beds I direct seeded have caught up to the bed with the transplants. I should save my money but I get so impatient in the early spring and want to se SOMETHING green. I had planned to seed some zucchini this weekend but not sure it will like the 50+ degree days we’ve been having. I suppose I could start it under lights inside. There isn’t much of a rush though as I’m not really sure where I’ll stick it yet. I had originally thought it would go where the kale was but I put the chard there. Decisions…decisions.

When Nothing Seems to Do the Trick: Home Grown Gardening Database

Record Keeping

I started this blog to help me keep track of what I planted when, what worked and what didn’t.  I’m not one for keeping notes on paper and at the time I started this I couldn’t find software that I liked that did what I wanted.  I recently looked again as it has been years since I last browsed the offerings. I did like an Android program called Garden Time.   I’m on a trial now and may end up purchasing it but it still isn’t exactly what I am after.   I auditioned a couple of other programs for the desktop rather than the phone and nothing really did what I wanted. I gave up and decided to build a web based version using a mySQL database.  I’ve put together tables for plant types, varieties, plantings etc.  I still have to build a harvest table.  In addition to the blog posts I take photos with my phone whenever I do anything so filling the entries should be fairly easy if I ever get the time to finish it.  I haven’t done any of the coding yet but have most of the variety table filled using a db tool called Navicat.   I’ve also downloaded and imported historical weather data.  Not garden specific but close enough to give me something to play with.  Eventually I’ll probably incorporate info in the tables with the blog somehow even though exactly what that will look like has yet to be determined.

Spring has Sprung

Last year was so hot, watering was pretty much a daily event in the raised beds and Rockfarm. This year many of us are adding some peat moss in hopes of a bit more water retention on those hot days. Hopefully it won’t retain too much water if we have a wetter growing season.

Impatient for some lettuce, I picked up a couple of packs of lettuce from the local garden supply. I opted for a variety of red, green and speckeled. In addition to the lettuce I picked up a 4″ pot of Sorrell. It has a nice lemony flavor and the young leaves are a great addition to salad. Its a perennial so it will be around for some time…I hope.

A half row of peas went in on the end where the garlic was last year. Some folks are adding boards at the end of their plots to hold the soil in. I think I will too.

The spinach I planted last month doesn’t seem to be doing much so I put in another 1’x5′ section of Palco. This variety didn’t bolt as soon as bloomsdale did last year. The leaves are larger and paler than Bloomsdale. They stay tender and tasty even when they get large.

Potatoes were never something I could grow in Kentucky without using boatloads of poison. The colorado potato beetle decimated the crop both years I attempted to grow them. I even tried the Bt that was supposed to work on CPB to no avail. Now this was a number of years back so perhaps things have improved since then. Here at Rockfarm in WA the potatoes I’ve seen growing seem to be doing fabulous so I thought I’d give them another shot. I opted for some Russian Banana fingerling potatoes. I decided to dig a couple of ditches, plant them deep and replace the soil from the trench as they grow. Since potatoes are formed along the stems planting them deep is the way to go.

I ended up pulling the Roquette. It was too bitter for my liking. As with the greens from last year I dug it into the soil and will plant over it later.

The cutting lettuce and mesclun blend I planted last month are coming up nicely. We had a couple of hard rains not long after I seeded the two 1’x5′ beds and I was worried the seed would all be washed to one side of the bed. It appears there was a little condensing of the bed but not too much.

The overwintering kale has shot up and will be ready for a picking soon. This year I want to get it out sooner. Last year I let it go to flower in hopes of getting more leaves and all I ended up with was more flowers. :-/

As expected the Arugula has made itself at home. The few plants I put in the ground last year has reseeded into a thick mat of seedlings. I’ll have quite a harvest in the coming weeks.

Getting Started

Springs are fairly cold and wet here. Not cold like ‘North Dakota’ cold, more like ‘close that fridge door’ cold. When people not from this area think about all the rain they often have visions of torrential downpours, like we used to get in the Midwest US. I did. I heard ‘it rains alot in the PNW’ and the picture I had involved lots of ‘gully washers’ like we used to get in Kentucky. The reality, at least in the past year, has been more of a soft, gentle, ongoing, misty kind of rain. There have been a couple of downpours but those seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Often times I think people don’t really notice the rain here. When the rain starts, hoods go up and people keep doing what they were doing. I don’t own an umbrella. There has only been a couple of times I wished I had one.

Broccoli, Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Lettuce, Radishes, Beets and Peas.
May 11th, 2014

Rock Farm is…well…rocky. As such the beds are all raised. In the Spring Anita sent out an email asking if anyone wanted to go in on a load of compost. I opted in and within a few weeks was toting wheel barrow full loads of black goodness over to my plots.

Kale, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Peas, Beets, Lettuce, Dill, Basil
June 18, 2014

The few weeks time between the time I found out I had a garden spot and planting I did a bit of research. I wanted to go with what I would probably have the most luck with. I talked with fellow gardeners, visited websites, read a book or two on PNW gardening and decided on what we grew as Spring/Fall crops in KY and a couple of Summer crops. In addition to the kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, peas, beets and radishes I would plant carrots, herbs (basil, dill and parsley), bush beans, and tomatoes.

The Spring was a little wetter than normal according to the locals. As such, planting was delayed a bit. After the initial planting, it was almost May before I was able to get much of anything else in the ground.

Global Warming?

still_green

Ok here it is late November and one of the in-ground figs still has leaves. Our average first frost is a month gone. We have had a few light frosts but not enough to take out these die hards.

Now to be fair the fig IS on the south side of the house and there IS a largish bush nearby to offer some protection but it does seem a little late. The container figs have lost their leaves weeks ago.

The jalapeño peppers I picked yesterday are pretty late though. They were grown in a half barrel on the back patio by the north-west corner of the house. They are currently seeded and in a water soak waiting to become hot poppers. mmmmm

 

Finally…Tomatoes

First there was the weather, then there was the broken tiller, then… did I mention the weather? My fool self forgot to empty the gas tank on the tiller last year. So… assuming that all was well I didn’t think to test out the tiller early in the season while it was still too wet to till. Nope, I waited till the day I wanted to get the tomatoes in to try the tiller. Realizing my mistake I tried carb cleaner, disassembling the carburator, emptying the tank etc all to no avail. Of course this was a Sunday and nothing was open.

Several weeks and rainstorms later I picked up the carb rebuild kit at the local mower shop and rebuilt the carb yesterday. I went ahead and added a fuel filter inline between the tank and the carb. It took a bit of tweaking so that the filter wouldn’t interfere with the linkage but I was able to get it worked out. Within a couple of seconds of putting everything back together we were running. Well, sort of. Actually running wasn’t the issue. Stopping seemed to be a problem. It turned out that the cable had seized up and didn’t want to allow the machine to idle. Much 3in1 oil (no wd40 around), cursing and begging and the cable was again working as it was supposed to.

yarden_6-7-09

The tomatoes are in as are three short rows of Topcrop beans. All of the toms and two rows of beans are in a couple of fenced areas. Hopefully the deer and rabbit will honor the chicken wire. Either could get in if they really wanted to. One of the rows of beans were planted outside of the fence as kind of a test. Lets see how long they last. Typically they are removed as they get their first set of true leaves.

The rain we have been getting has really helped everything look great. I just love all the colors this time of year.

A windy Sunday

We were pretty lucky Sunday. We kept our power and there was no major damage to the place. We did lose cable with a large limb fell on the line.

I moved the container plants together and closer to the house. The couple of fig trees with fruit went on the protected side of the house. It is a good thing I moved them as a large branch ended up falling where they were. The raspberry plants were stripped clean of ripe fruit and many of their leaves were shredded and burnt on the edges from the drying winds I guess. We didn’t get but a couple of drops of rain.

Just before the winds came I decided to lower the dead antenna. It had been taken out by a storm some time back (as was the one before it) and it had just been hanging there. The plan was to remove it when we took the A/C out of the window as the removal process necessitates me hanging out an upstairs window. When I heard about the winds that were coming I decided to go ahead and remove it so it wouldn’t blow around and hit the house. I don’t know what they make antennas out of these days that turns them into tree magnets. As it laid on the ground a broken branch landed on it.

The veggies are in

For the most part the vegetables are in. I had planned on getting more done this weekend but I do tend to plan more than I can accomplish. I had to work with the tiller a bit to get it to start. It had some old gas in it from last year. Last spring some time I tried using it and I couldn’t keep it running. I was about done at the time so I didn’t fool with it then. The plan was to take it in and have it looked at before this season. Well the time got away from me and the cars took all the extra money I had sooooo it was up to me. I ended up emptying out the old gas by removing the line from the carb and draining it from the tank. I put some fresh gas in but as I suspected it didn’t start. There was still some old stuff in the lines. I took the air filter off and put a little bit of new gas in directly in the carb and she fired right up. After a warm up and some wd40 in the linkage we were good to go.

I only tilled half the area I usually do. I just don’t have time to keep up with so much and rather than plant it and let it go I will just keep those areas mowed for this season. Today I planted 16 tomato plants – 6 Mr Stripey, 7 Big Beef and 6 Jetsetter. I still have some more BB and a few Celebrity that will need to go in. I am holding them back to see what the deer leave me. I may need those as replacements. I also planted 4 hills of watermelon, some little round guy not sure of the name, a couple of hills of zucchini and 4 rows of flour corn. I picked it up from the Native Seed Search and it is called Tohono O’odham. It is a 60 day flour corn from the south west. Since June and July tend to be dryer here I decided to plant it now. It is supposed to be more drought tolerant than many other varieties. The plan is to plant some beans with the corn once it gets up a little bit. Since I didn’t plant THAT much I may end up hand pollinating.

Yesterday we mowed the lawn and I mowed over about 200 raspberry plants to get my two beds back in shape. I hated to do it but I had offered them to several people and nobody was interested. They would take over the back half of the property if I didn’t keep them in check.

The image above is an Indigo Doll iris that had fallen over onto the Coreopsis next to it. She is pretty. Can you see the little visitor on the right?

The weather station that I put up last week is now connected to the computer and the data is being transmitted to the net. It took some fiddling but it’s all good now. I was doing the transmission from the outdoor unit to the base unit in the house wirelessly but they would lose each other occasionally which would result in a temp reading of 177F. It has been warm the last couple of days but nowhere near that warm. Once I connected them via some outdoor telephone wire there hasn’t been any bad data. Burying the cable was easy enough. I used an edger to cut the slit and a skinny piece of wood to push the cable down into the ground. It didn’t have to go down far just far enough to be out of the way. If you are interested, the page the station transmits to is located at the Weather Underground.

Weather Station

Ok so I was finally able to get the weather station that I ordered from Amazon a couple of weeks ago installed. I paid $44 but it looks like they’ve bumped the price up to $99 as of today. I’ve been looking at the box sitting in my room for well over a week and anyone that knows me knows patience is not one of my virtues. Between the weather (very rainy) and the vehicles (1 new water pump + new rear brakes), today is the first day I’ve had that I’ve been able to get outside and get the post in the ground and get everything hooked up. Now if I could only find that compass I could get the wind thingy to report the correct wind direction. One thing at a time…

I decided not to sink the pole in cement yet as I am not sure it will end up staying where it is. The anemometer (aka wind thingy) is only there temporarily. It will end up on the old antenna mast once I get that mess taken care of. The rain unit will end up on top of the pole so there is nothing blocking it. The temp/humidity sensor is inside the inverted bowls. I used some directions I found on the net, $3 worth of Dollar Store bowls, a little hardware and we are good to go. The idea is to keep the temp sensor out of the direct sun. The bowls have holes allowing air circulation with the sensor in the middle. I’m not looking to be the next Rich Apuzzo so I think this should give me what I need. The temp and rain sensors are the ones I care most about. I want to know how much rain we are actually getting here vs what Williamstown (several miles away) is getting. Knowing the temps will come in handy this fall when the frosts begin.

I have the base unit in the house and right now it is receiving data wirelessly. Yes those are wires on the pole, the anemometer and rain gauge are connected to the temp/humidity sensor/transmitter via wires. I can then go wired or wireless from the transmitter to the base unit. The benefit of the wire is that you get more frequent updates from the sensors but the downside is I have to bury the wire and hope the moles to mistake it for a worm.

New Weather Station on the way

I ordered a new WS-2310TWC weather station from Amazon a couple of days ago. It has a temp/humidity/pressure gauge, a rain gauge and a wind gauge. It will connect to the indoor base unit either via cable or wireless. It comes with software to upload the weather data to your computer and or the internet. The software is for Windows only but I found something similar for free that should work on my Linux box. For $44 its a steal if it works at all. Now I just have to figure out where I am going to set it up.

WS2310TWC weather station from Amazon.

The garden talk is coming up at work in a couple of weeks. Yesterday I picked up some iris and daylilies from one of the attendees. A week ago I was the happy recipient of some African Daisies. We have a plant trade before and after the get together. Anyone with anything to offer up does. The iris and daylilies were pulled out of where a future pond will be. I am excited to see what they are as none of them were labeled. Goodies for Kerry!

Eric picked up a 3 piece iron bench and a couple of chairs that were destined for the trash. He ended up giving me the bench. Too cool. Now I am on the lookout for cushions. I see a quilt, a book and a bench under a shady tree in my near future. Photos to follow.

Today on the propagation bench, I planted some more cukes, took some cuttings from the Scarlet Curls willow to root, repotted many of the tomatoes, divided out the Starbright Zinnias 3 or 4 to a cup and seeded some perennial onions. Some of the cherry tomatoes went outside to get them ready for their new homes in a couple of weeks. I also dug up a little bit of the thyme for the giveaway.

Last spring I ordered two little lilacs from HollyHill Nurseries, a Dwarf Meyer lilac and the Superba below. The plants were quite small when they came, only in 2″ pots but the cost was only a couple of dollars each. They have done great as have the butterfly bushes I’ve also ordered from them in the past. This little Superba has a dozen flower spikes on it and it looks like the Meyer that will bloom next will have just about as many. The scent is out of this world. I moved it to the front porch so we would be able to enjoy the fragrance. I will also move the Miss Kim in the half barrel around to the front of the house when she starts blooming in the next week. Thank God for dollies.

Speaking of Lilacs, there is a gorgeous lilac across from my Chiropractor’s office. Its a deep blue/purple and is absolutely stunning. Nobody knew which one it is but I did some digging on the net and believe I may have found it. I believe it is a President Lincoln Lilac. It is definitely on my must have list now.

by: kerry