Garden update 1, 2018

Since getting out of the blogging routine, I haven't mentioned most of the things happening in my personal life-- but I'm remiss to leave out our exciting news that my husband and I bought a house last September. This spring has been a beautiful surprise, as we wait to see what the yard holds. The summer holds potential for a lovely, bounteous garden... if things go right.

We've been lucky to see so many beautiful flowering trees and shrubs-- and unfortunately, I have no idea what most of them are. I can tell you that we have lilacs, Daphne Odora (a plant with the most beautiful scent), many, many varieties of roses, Spanish Lavender, lilies, irises, azaleas, rhododendron, hydrangea, camelia, trillium, lily of the valley, tulips, dahlias, weigela, ceanothus... and some other things I can't identify.

Spanish Lavender
Spanish Lavender lines our front property line along the sidewalk, and while in bloom, it attracts so many beautiful, large bumblebees! As we have so many flowering perennials and anticipate having a productive garden for all our years to come, we've discussed having a beehive in the yard in partnership with friends who live here in town. Our friend is a 5th grade teacher, and he'd like to build the hive, care for bees, and share videos and photos with his classroom of the hive and bees in action.

This spring we also increased our flock of hens by 3-- introducing a Blue Langshan, a Gold Laced Wyandotte, and a Mottled Java to our existing flock of a Red Sex Link (Cathy) and Ameraucana (Ethel). We had a horrible scare when Ethel, our oldest hen now 5 years in age, went under our fence into the neighbor's yard and was attacked by their dog. She had a large bite of flesh removed from her back, but we moved her into our bathroom and cleaned the wound twice a day. In the beginning, we used Blu-Kote and Vetericyn twice daily, but after about a week switched to E3 Medicated Wound Cream and Verticyn twice daily. She recovered, with the wound/scab healing completely after a couple of months. We moved her back outside to the coop with her pal after nearly 6 weeks indoors. The point of this detour is to say that 1) hens are remarkably resilient and 2) we don't want to be in a position where if a hen dies, we only have one left.

Note: Since the dog attack, we have installed a barrier that extends from the bottom of the wood fence into the ground to avoid anything like this in the future.

The Gold Laced Wyandotte (pictured at left below) is Lacy. The Mottled Java (2nd from left) is Bubbles. The Blue Langshan has adorable feathers over her feet, and Tabby named her Patsy, in memory of her old pitbull that died a few years ago. Cathy (age 4) is pictured at the right.

This weekend I planted 7 varieties of tomatoes, and two Japanese eggplants in a bed that was previously empty, except for a single rose plant. We transplanted that rose into the rose garden in the side/front yard.

In the picture below, you can see the bright south-facing wall. I plan to put cucumbers or runner beans there-- can't decide yet. I have another spot where I can put some climbing plants and a makeshift trellis on the fence (with chicken wire).

The previous owner of the home did a lot of work on the house and property, including installing a new privacy fence around the back perimeter of the yard. The fence is wonderful, and just what we need for our huge dog-- but, sadly, it shades the existing raised garden beds. Based on conversations with the neighbors, I don't think these garden beds have been planted in many, many years (possibly over 15 years?) and digging into the soil was a testament to their disuse. The soil was strongly compacted, and had a large amount of clay. To prep the beds, I added garden bed soil mix (top soil, sand, and mulch/compost, basically) and an organic, local compost from Cedar Grove. That lightened them up, but I still have chunks of clay that I need to smash by hand when the soil is wet in the future. 

I'm happy to have garden beds available, but as you can see above, they don't get much light. I intend to build new garden beds over the next year in that bright sunny spot-- and repurposing the area where the current beds are for various berries, rhubarb, etc. I'd like to plant grapes, one vine of a white variety, and one Concord0 somewhere in the yard, and I have plans for a fig tree in the backyard and replacing a young ornamental cherry (that was planted in the place of an old apple tree) in the front yard with a plum tree variety.

Below is a close-up of the bed nearest to the fence in the picture above, after turning it by hand/shovel, slicing through the clay with a shovel, adding soil mixes/compost referenced above, and lots of hoeing, raking, and sweat. In this bed I've planted 3 varieties of sugar snap peas along the fence, and will put up chicken wire as a trellis. In the middle row, I've planted okra-- I think it's a poor gamble, since this bed only get partial sun (and not much, at that). Front row includes 1/2 radishes, and 1/2 row of bush beans from a bag I picked up at an estate sale. I'm soaking the beans overnight to speed/encourage germination... but most likely they'll fail. We'll see! I just thought it would be fine to try out seeds that are older than me.

In other beds, so far I have planted Red Russian Kale, Collard Greens, Sorrel, and Walla Walla Onions. I still have other starts to put in the ground, particularly in an herb garden I plan to put in the side yard by the pear tree-- plus many seeds to sow.


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