Friday, October 30, 2009

Fall weather finally arrives

It's not cold yet, but the rain is here. Tonight it is pouring, we are supposed to get half an inch. It's also very windy, with sustained 10 mph winds and gusts of 35 that are expected to reach 50 or 60 mph later tonight. This is normal fall weather for up here.

This picture was taken at about 5 pm a few days ago...

and this was the same time the next day. You could say the weather fluctuates.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Final fall work

Finally was able to finish winterizing the garden this weekend. Our first frost hasn't come yet, and it looks like it won't for a few weeks, so I still had time to get the cover crop planted in the last few beds. I cleared out the beds of beans, tomatoes, and peppers, the last remaining hot weather veggies.

This year my tomato seedlings got a little lanky. When I transplanted them I plucked off all the lower leaves and planted them deep and at an angle, with all of the stem buried to the uppermost leaves. I had read that they would sprout roots all along the stem, and they did! On the far right is the original root ball, with roots that grew all along the stem. I really had to fight these stems out of the ground, so the depth and spread of the roots for each plant had to be many feet.

This is from a few weeks ago, but I picked about this many green tomatoes off the vines as I pulled them.

The eggplant did awesome this year - we had way more than we knew what to do with. I picked the last of them and we'll just slice and freeze it all and try to use it this winter.

This is Hansel hybrid eggplant. Very sweet when picked small. I probably got about 20 this size and 20 half this size, from 4 crowded plants.

The remaining peppers. I will probably not do this well again with peppers unless I grow them under plastic - this summer was just too abnormally good. I picked a grocery bag FULL when I pulled these (I got 3 more bags full over the summer). I also hung two entire chile plants in the garage to dry the peppers - we'll see how that goes.

It's said that almost any veggie that follows a bean crop will do well, and I have to believe it. The beans left the bed in amazing shape - I can only hope the beds will be this nice again in the spring. I sowed crimson clover in these two beds, and filled in all the remaining bare spots in the other beds. Ideally, I would've had compost ready to spread and mix in the top few inches, but I'll just have to do that next spring instead. In the emptied pepper bed, I got my garlic in.

I put in about 125 cloves of Chet's Italian Red garlic. We eat about a head a week (we use a lot of garlic!) and I like to plant twice as much as I think I'll need, to cover losses, to make up for the smaller bulbs, and to have plenty to give away. I bought 2 lbs of organic seed garlic cloves from a local Deming, WA farmer. This variety is a mild softneck with good keeping qualities. Planting in fall after colder weather sets in will prevent the tops from growing, but will allow roots to establish over winter. They'll start growing earlier than if planted in the spring, will grow larger heads, and should finish bulbing by July.

So that will pretty much take care of the garden for this year. I didn't get my cold frames built in time for fall, so I don't have many semi-hardy crops to carry through the winter. I do have purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, carrots, leeks, and Brussels sprouts, none of which need protection over our mild winters. I will build the cold frames this winter and use them next year in the early spring. I have some other projects for the winter as well, including repairing and restoring a few implements for the Gibson, getting to work on a chicken coop for next year, and getting some work done on my old truck I have stored in the shop...It will be a nice change of pace from all the hard work in the vegetable garden this year.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fruit trees in

Woke up to sunshine this morning and got the fruit trees planted. The orchard is expanding into the pasture, and I have at least one more row planned for the future...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Compost turnin'

Not my favorite activity. Every time I do it I wish I had one of those silly plastic compost tumblers (not really). Turning is the only way to know how far along the compost has come, as the outside of the pile generally looks about that same as when it was built. When rebuilding the un-composted parts go on the bottom and in the middle of the pile, and the more finished around it. Turning also serves to oxygenate the pile, allowing the soil microbe colony to continue to grow and feed on the uncomposted material as it is turned into the middle of the pile.

I have 3 piles right now. This is the core of the most recently built pile. You can see that the middle of the pile is fairly well composted, and the outside is still raw hay. This is mostly because I did not water this pile at all after I built it, so the outside dried and didn't decompose, while the middle broke down.

About half way done. Still some recognizable pieces in there, which means it isn't done yet. If you look closely you can see quite a few sowbugs in there - the pile was teeming with them, literally hundreds. That's good, cause they eat plant litter.

After rebuilding the two round piles, I wrapped them in some black plastic I had lying around in an attempt to keep them from drying out. Usually you wouldn't cover a compost pile, because it needs oxygen, but these piles are open on top and built on pallets for air flow from the bottom, so they should be fine. I'll throw the last bits of the garden on top, and let these sit until spring, when the finished compost will be spread in the garden.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ah nuts

Walnuts that is - and plenty of them. A few weeks ago the husks were still shut tightly, but this week they started to open up and release the walnuts from inside.

Got half a grocery bag full. Into the garage to cure...

End of summer work

Spent a few hours on Sunday cleaning up some of the exhausted summer crops, clearing out the beds to sow crimson clover.

Squash and zucchini plants are going south, with powdery mildew moving in pretty quick. Time to yank them and pick what's left. **Edit 10/15/09. I have since learned that in the NW, winter squash should be left on the vine until a hard frost takes out the plant. Our growing season is someimes not long or hot enough to fully mature some winter squashes, so they need to be left in the ground as long as possible to ripen up - right up to the first frost. **

A few overgrown zucchini (growing only 2 plants next year) and about 10 Delicata squash. I grew the bush Delicata's this year to save some space, but I think I'll try the full size plants next year in the field plot, along with some others, like spaghetti and acorn squash.

Last potatoes. They did great this year - a little but of scab and pest damage didn't have too much effect. Mostly I was amazed how 1 little seed potato smaller than a golf ball can turn into 8 or 10 full sized potatoes.

Wireworms! Oddly they were only in one plant out of the four I pulled. I read up on them and found they generally are more of a problem in later picked potatoes. I didn't have much problem with them in the earlier picked potatoes, so leaving them in the ground for too long after they are mature seems a little risky.

They chew their way inside and then the molds and rot move in, destroying the potato from the inside out. On many potatoes they will only do superficial damage and the bad parts can be easily cut out. Use the damaged ones first, as they won't keep well.

Still got a nice bag full! Still only enough to last us a few months, and we ate a lot of potatoes during the summer, so next year I will be growing twice as many plants so we'll have enough to last us through winter.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New trees

We went to a fruit tasting festival at a really cool nursery in Everson, Cloud Mountain Farm, this Sunday. They had 200 varieties of apple, pear, cherry, grapes and other less commonly grown fruit (gooseberries and paw-paw!) for sampling, all grown on-site on their test fields, so guaranteed performers in our climate. Plus they had a buy 2, get one free deal going for their remaining fall stock of fruit trees. I have a list of fruit trees I'd like to add to what we have already, so it was a perfect event to try some of those varieties and maybe pickup a few.

So I didn't get the pick of the litter, but it doesn't really matter since the first few years most of the growth is pruned off each spring anyway, as intial training requires. The tall one on the left is Frost Peach, a semi-dwarf, self-fertile, super hardy (zone 5) variety. It's the only peach that will grow in our climate. It can be finicky its' first few years and must be sprayed for peach leaf curl, but once established does well without much trouble. Next, in the middle, is Conference pear. This is a dessert pear (fresh eating) that also stores well. It can be kept in the fridge once mature for 3 or more months, and brought out to ripen as needed. This one will ripen after the Bartlett we already have, and keep through the winter. Last, on the right, is a Rainier cherry. It's one of our favorite varieties, and will ripen with our later black cherry.

I plan to add a few more trees in the spring or next fall and over the next few years, as we start to learn how much we need to be able to eat some fruit fresh, have extra to can, and some to make cider (and hard cider), without getting so many that they are a pain to take care of. But I think "having too many" is a problem I'll rarely have...