Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flowering fruits

The fruit trees are all in bloom now. Since I've not had them before, it has been interesting to see the blooming sequence of the different fruits and different varieties. Pears first, followed by one variety of cherry, then peach, plums, more cherries, and finally apples (just coming into bloom now).

Here we go.

Ornamental weeping cherry.

Bartlett pear.



Apple ready to open.

Native cherry trees in the woods are blooming as well.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


We had a work party at our new house this weekend and got so much work done. Most importantly (for this blog anyway), we got the garden rototilled. Went from hard-pan, scrubby grass and weeds, to 12" deep, finely textured soil.

The first pass was the worst; ripping out quack grass, reeds, and all kinds of weeds I can't even identify, was a process.

After 4 passes, with the last at the deepest tilling setting, I'm really happy with the soil tilth. I only found 3 or 4 rocks in the whole garden (!), and no clay deposits, so that is good. I can tell already that what is really lacking is organic materials. Some manure and compost would go a long way. I am planning on sending off a soil sample to my local extension office for a soil report, which will tell me the current chemical makeup of my soil, which will help me determine what I need to do this year to make the soil healthier for the future.

Before we bought the house I researched the soil composition from this awesome government website. You can zone in on your exact piece of land (at least where I live) and get a full report on the soil in that area.

Here are the results for our 5 acres:

Whatcom County Area, Washington

179—​Whatcom silt loam, 3 to 8 percent slopes

Map Unit Setting

  • Elevation: 50 to 600 feet
  • Mean annual precipitation: 35 to 50 inches
  • Mean annual air temperature: 48 to 52 degrees F
  • Frost-​free period: 150 to 190 days

Map Unit Composition

  • Whatcom and similar soils: 85 percent
  • Minor components: 8 percent

Description of Whatcom

  • Landform: Hillslopes
  • Parent material: Volcanic ash and loess over glaciomarine deposits
Properties and qualities
  • Slope: 3 to 8 percent
  • Depth to restrictive feature: More than 80 inches
  • Drainage class: Moderately well drained
  • Capacity of the most limiting layer to transmit water (Ksat): Moderately low to moderately high (0.06 to 0.20 in/hr)
  • Depth to water table: About 18 to 36 inches
  • Frequency of flooding: None
  • Frequency of ponding: None
  • Calcium carbonate, maximum content: 5 percent
  • Available water capacity: Very high (about 12.7 inches)
Interpretive groups
  • Land capability classification (irrigated): 3w
  • Land capability (nonirrigated): 3w
Typical profile
  • 0 to 9 inches: Silt loam
  • 9 to 16 inches: Silt loam
  • 16 to 26 inches: Loam
  • 26 to 60 inches: Loam"
And there's WAY more information than that. Very interesting and useful website.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seedling progress

Seedling are coming along quickly. All of the earliest cool weather starts have been up-potted and, after a week under lights, are now out in the cold frame hardening off. They need a week or two to acclimate to outdoor temperatures.

Brassicas, lettuce, and some seed dahlias in the coldframe.

These peas have been in these small pots for too long - they will be transplanted as soon as the soil is ready.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Up-potting is moving seedlings from a communal, crowded pot to their own private cell, where they get a little more foot room to grow on without competition for light, water, or nutrients.

Start with a pot of seedlings with at least 2 true leaves. Red russian kale in this case.

Roots have made it throughout the entire pot. The soil should be slightly moist and hold together when the pot is slipped off.

Starting at the bottom of the soil cube and working around the perimeter, gently break apart the root ball. Try to break as few roots as possible, you want to make this process as stress-free as possible for the seedlings.

You can see the potential root growth for one little plant after about a month.

Each separated seedling gets potted into its' own cell.

I up-potted all the brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, and kale). One or two weeks under the lights will help them to recovers and begin growing quickly again, then it's out to the cold-frame to harden off for a week before being transplanted outside.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The New Garden

It's a little scary looking at this weedy, barren patch. Not because it can't be turned into a productive vegetable garden (it can, and will), but because it's going to be a hell of a lot of work! As far as I can tell there was a garden in this spot a few years ago, so I attempted to begin weeding and turning over some of the grass that's moved in, but it's just too wet and compact right now. In about a week I'll rent a heavy-duty rototiller and get to work on it. The planned garden will measure about 25' by 60', and consist of slightly mounded, 30" wide beds with narrow walkways between them and two wider wheelbarrow paths bisecting the garden from either side. There are lots of creatures out here, so a 6' deer fence must go up, which will keep out rabbits as well. And that all has to happen before I can transplant or sow anything...

The fruit trees are heavily budded, swelling up and just about ready to begin flowering.

Gala apple.

According to my tree map, this is a Bartlett pear.

On a few of these trees, especially the "plum" trees behind the house, it really doesn't seem like the map is correct. It will be interesting to see these trees set fruit this summer and try to nail down what they actually are...

Found a big rhubarb plant out back by the garden starting to wake up - will make great pie with strawberries!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seedlings are growing.... they are wont to do. I'm behind on them. The earliest cool weather crops (sown 3/17) are at 2 true leaves and ready to be broken up, pricked out, and each given their own little cell. That will happen this week.

Tomatoes (sown 3/21) are growing quickly. In 2 weeks, they'll be up-potted to quart or maybe 6" pots to grow on until it's warm enough to transplant them out.

3 week old tomatoes.

The peppers sown a week after the tomatoes took about 2 weeks to come up - I was about to buy some new seed until I read the seed packet (duh) and saw that they take between 8-25 days to germinate, twice as long as most seed. I should have sown twice as many pots as I did, as last year I didn't get near as many as I could have used. I will try to start more this week.

Eggplant and pepper seedlings.

Kale sown the same time as the peppers has true leaves emerging. I love their prickly little leaves, but I'm not a huge fan of them as a vegetable! For me, kale is really more useful due to its' cold tolerance. I'll be sowing a second round of this hardy veggie in mid to late summer that will hopefully mature by and hold through winter.