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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

Shelter

I keep my outdoor garden clogs on the front porch. They’ve been there all winter with little use. I bought some fertilizer the other day and grabbed my shoes to scoot them over to make room for the 3.5 pound box.

I actually plopped the box down right on top of it. I thought it was a snail. I quickly retrieved the box only to discover it was a little frog.

These typically bright green “tree frogs” – Pseudacris regilla — now called Pacific Chorus Frog abound at this time of year. I love their song which reassures me that they have survived.

This little critter apparently survived my squashing and has remained in the arch between the two shoes ever since. I’ve put out water. I have no idea of its sex or behavior. Usually, I find them in between tiny structural crevices around the house — from whence they shrink or dart upon discovery.

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Yes, it’s been darn cold at night – in the low 20’s. The air’s been so dry that there’s barely any hoarfrost on the ground. But my birdbath had a solid sheet of ice on it.

With the clear skies there’s been lots of sunshine. I feel as if my fellow citizens and I are drunk on light! The neighborhood is abuzz with outdoor activity. I thought I’d take a few shots of the trees while they were still bare.

Here’s my Chinese Elm — always reminds me of a dancer.

With this El Nino winter, the cherry tree is studded with buds.

The little daffodils I bought last weekend are charming in the morning light.

I’ve been out gardening the last few afternoons. American Goldfinch have returned. Tonight I even saw a Townsend’s Warbler — stunning! (here’s a web photo)

Birds don’t lie. Spring’s a coming!

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Out and Afield

We’ve been having spectacular pre-spring weather! I’m catching up on my vitamin D with all this sunshine. Morning temps have dropped to the mid-20’s.

The Master Gardeners do a monthly field trip to wholesale nurseries. We drove south of Portland to the Willsonville / Aurora area — a hot bed of specialty agriculture (tulips, roses, iris — you name it — it’s grown here).

Our first stop was the Little Prince nursery that specializes in ground covers. Seeing vast spreads of the same plant created a lush impression.

We were lead through the greenhouses where the growing and tending processes were explained to us.

The greenhouses themselves presented intriguing patterns.

The cacti were lovely in their intricacy and perfection of form.

We drove south to Hubbard where we toured a specialty wholesale conifer nursery. Both nurseries ship primarily to New York!

Now this is a lot of pots … and the shed was filled to the ceiling with even more!

The skies may have been blue, but the ground was still soggy.

These Alberta Spruce are trimmed into spirals once they’re six feet.

We dined at Luis’ Tacqueria in Woodburn — the best Mexican food I’ve had since my return from Baja. Excellent!! After lunch we had a shopping spree at GardenWorld in Hubbard. Wee-haw!

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My $60 tulip …

I bought several dozen tulips last fall. All but a few were planted in the ground. This is all I have to show for my efforts.

My neighbor has dozens of naturalized tulips. I thought they were a safe bet. But no, the squirrels just thought I’d buried their food.

Then there’s my Sarcococca (sar-ko-KOAK-ka) plant – touted for its “intense” even “piercingly sweet” fragrance. I was advised to plant it near an entry way as the fragrance would overwhelm a 100 foot area.

I must not have the “confusa” cultivar (but rather the “ruscifolia“). For the 2nd year running I can barely detect any fragrance (if at all).

On the other hand, my witchhazel (Hemamelis “Arnold Promise”) is blooming and nicely scented. I still have to put my nose in it, but it has a delicate powdery fragrance — very distinctive and “bewitching”.

The crocus are budding up and the primulas are developing.

Another casualty has been the lovely pink camellia by my front door. It’s been full of plump buds since last summer. But those over-ripe buds proved to be no match for a hard freeze in early December when the temps dropped to 10 degrees at night.

My camellia now has a skirt of plump brown dead buds. So much for best laid plans. As Robert Burns avowed, they “gang oft astray”.

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Winter cover

Last year I tried to plant a cover crop of  Fava Beans … to abysmal failure. I later learned in the Master Gardener program that they’re not suitable to our winters. This year I used a pre-packaged mix of clover, vetch and cereal rye.

Mid-September is the optimal time to broadcast a cover crop. I squeaked mine in the first week of October. Within 2 weeks there was widespread sprouting.

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The weeds are still there but the cover crop is now a good 6 inches high. Maybe they’ll choke out some of the weeds.

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Little Bittercress has come up with a vengeance. Did you know that weed seeds found in Egyptian mummies still sprouted? (!!!) There’s no winning. If you’ve got bare soil … you’ve got weeds!

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Worms!

An email conversation prompted me to make this post. It turns out keeping a thriving worm bin is a bit tricky. I’m learning as I go. This is only what I know so far.

I got my setup from BWCN Farms (I have no idea what the initials stand for). My first batch of African night crawlers died in a freeze last October. I bought a new batch of worms — this time red wigglers — this April. John at BWCN was very patient with my hand-wringing and insecurity.

Here’s how I start a new tray. First off, I mix equal parts (1 scant shovel full each) of dirt and leaf compost. To this I add shredded newspaper and a crumbled egg carton (or other cardboard source). I put the paper goods in a gallon bin and add about a pint of water and slosh it around to make sure the paper soaks up the water.

I stir it all up in the wheel barrel. I add water if it’s needed.
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I keep on pulling the newspaper apart and mushing it up with the leaf/dirt mix. I need to provide a source of roughage (sand or egg shells) in the mix. The worms ingest this and use it to grind up what they eat.

I save my egg shells in a custard cup until it’s full.
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When I have enough I pulverize the shells on a breadboard using the bottom of the cup to grind them up. Some of these pieces are too big, but most will do.
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Since I’m adding a new tray to an existing setup I need to remove the top layers of solid newsprint so the worms can crawl between the old bin and the new one that will go on top. (These bins have mesh bottoms to allow for drainage and worm transit.) I’ll put the solid newspaper back on top of the new ‘top’ tray. This keeps flies out.

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Here’s a look at happy worms in their ‘old’ tray (only 1 month old). Bits of the green can be seen where food was placed. It’s a good sign that worms are in the green stuff. I just sit the new tray right on top of this.

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I only put in about a pint of chopped veggies about every 5 days or so. Usually I freeze the veggies overnight to help break down their cell structure. My worms just aren’t big eaters. Either that or they’re busy “eating” the newspaper and cardboard.

I was told that the most common mistake folks make is putting too much food in the bins. So I check to see that they’ve eaten what I gave them previously before I add more food. Clearly most of my kitchen scraps get composted outdoors.

My worm bin has never smelled and if the top tray is properly covered with solid wet newspaper and the bin lid it won’t get flies either. Last summer when the temps were in the high 90’s I actually brought the worm bin indoors.

I don’t have a picture, but finished worm casings have an unmistakable “coffee grounds” texture. (You can already detect that texture developing in the last photo.) Now that my worms have multiplied, I harvest the worm casings about every 3 – 4 months. It’s in constant flux as the population and seasons change.

So why do this at all? Good question! I guess mostly it’s very fast. The worm casings can be put directly into potting soil (whereas compost has to cure first). I guess another reason is the worms themselves. If you need to add some “biological action” to your soil these guys will do it.

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I’ve been away from this blog for so long, it’s hard to try and catch up.  I’m enrolled in the local Master Gardener program, seeking a part time job (and training to be a Quickbooks ProAdvisor), volunteering and last week I had family visiting.

Where to begin? How about a rainbow across the street?
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Fall colors are happening. More each day. Here’s my “Arnold Promise” witch hazel that I planted a year ago.
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My dogwood and “burning bush” are doing their thing too.
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There, that wasn’t so bad. Wish me luck!

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