Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beans are up

My bush beans are up. It took almost 10 days, it has been so cool. Soon they will be big enough so that I can discern the rows well enough to start attacking the grass. I plan to hoe a lot and maybe put down some strips of black plastic. I planted 30 ft. rows of bush beans and will plant several more rows.

The corn I planted at the same time is not yet up, and the corn I planted a month ago never did come up. I attribute that to poor seed. I got it for free and it was probably packed for 2008. The free carrot seed also did not germinate well. I will replant carrots.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Driveway 'Pavement'

Hi Gardeners. We have chips. I mean a load of wood chips has been dumped at the entrance to the garden. There is probably enough for us to spread out over the mud holes at the entrance and along the road so that we can drive vehicles up the central lane to our gardens. We all need to bring our shovels and all pitch in to get this done ASAP! Then we can be off the road and our of the sheriff's sight. Whoopee! You folks along the front, spread them out along the road. Any excess should be put on the south side of the entrance, well inside so that we can create an off-road parking area there. Be sure to make the filling deep enough so they can be driven on -- at least 8 inches, deeper in the mud holes.

I can hardly wait to be able to bring truckloads of compost to my plot. I wouldn't think of trying to wheelbarrow a truckload of stuff back to the southeast corner.

Planting Corn -- will it grow?

I nave planted about a fourth of my 1/4 acre in sweet corn. We'll see how it will do. I did not do much soil preparation -- just the original plowing and two times over with the tractor rototiller and then once with the hand tiller. I made long furrows with the hoe and then spread the seeds by hand. I planted approximately 4 inches apart and covered with about half an inch of soil. That's a bit close for corn, but I don't expect to get a very high germination rate in this grassy soil, and seed is cheap.
The problem I see is clearly visible in the picture: lots of competition from the abundant grass rhizomes. It seems that the soil here is mostly grass roots. Those thick rhizomes will grow new grass stems and it won't take long. The challenge this year is to kill enough of the grass to let the corn crow. Time will tell.
The early corn I planted 3 weeks ago did not germinate. I dug among the rows and found un-germinated corn seeds. The seed was given to me free and it was probably last year's seed. it lost its vitality over the year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I was at the gardens this morning. We must have gotten over an inch of rain in the last 36 hours. The mud holes at the entrance were fuller than I have ever seen them -- even fuller than last winter. The roadside also contained water and I could not pull off the road very far. As I was returning to my truck I encountered the mail carrier. She was about to call 911 to report my truck parked on the road. I moved it before she could call but I pass this warning on to everyone:

If you park on the road in such a way as to prevent the mail carrier from being able to back out of the driveway of the house across the road, she will report you. If the sheriff is available, he or she will come ticket you. It's probably best to park south of the garden entrance, and as far off the road as possible.

Hey Chris, where are those wood chips? There is a pile of wood chips over by the Dog Park just sitting there. Why can't we bring them to the garden entrance?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tyler's work

Tyler has been working very hard for the past two weekends digging two very long (100 ft) raised beds. He says he has some starts at home to bring to the garden. I hope he has a big greenhouse full of starts.

Seriously, this kind of raised bed will get your plant roots up away from the water table, but still be able to wick the water up to the root zone. Plants need water, but they also need good drainage.

Don't bother with water

The Dugways (in the big, grassy plot) have dug a well in the lowest part of their plot. Smart idea! Now they (and by invitation all of us) don't have to lug water to the garden for those tender young seedlings that need a little extra boost until their roots reach water. Thanks, Dugways. Just dip your bucket in the pool and be careful you don't fall in yourself.

I have dug a couple of wells myself. I had do go further than they did since our ground is a little higher. THis shows just how high the water table is on Ebey Island.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


It raining pretty hard this morning and the garden was pretty muddy yesterday. So I am going to talk about chickens.

My grandfather had a great solution that involved chickens, tilling, weeds and fertilizer.

He had a very large chicken house, at least 200 hens. On each side of the chicken house was a large outside yard, at least as large as the chicken house. Each year he alternated which outside yard the chickens got to use. The other yard was used for vegetables. He got the chickens off the vegetable yard by Christmas so that the rich nitrogen-filled soil would have time to "cool off" before planting.

He did not have to till the chicken yard. He had very few weeds (some blow in on the wind.) He did not have to fertilize, and each fall the chickens got the advantage of any left-over food.

Now, I'n not suggesting that we could do this with 1/4 acre plots, but think about it on a smaller scale.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


We planted things that we want to stick around for more than one year on the edge of our garden so they won't be in the way of tilling next year. Here you see a bed of strawberries and a long row of raspberries and thornless blackberries. The posts are to support wires which will be installed later to support the berries.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I've been concerned how I am going to plant small seeds in amongst the soddy soil in our gardens this year. These include carrots, onions, radishes, etc. I think I finally found the solution. I tried two things: purchasing soil enhancing compost at $10/3cu ft bag and simply sifting the soil that is already in the garden.

I found that the purchased bag was mostly barely composted sawdust that might hold some moisture but would rob the soil of nitrogen as it lay there all summer. I'll use those bags, and we will see what the results are.

The better solution, I think, is to sift the garden soil through a screen of 1/2 inch hardware cloth to remove grass roots and break up the large clods. You can't quite accomplish that with just hoeing. I bought a 3 ft x 5 ft piece of hardware cloth at Lowes and built a frame of 2x4's to support it. It's big enough to fit over my wheelborrow. 1/4 acre is a pretty large garden and I'm going to need a lot of sifted soil.

So I used this device Thursday to sift a load of soil. I got enough in one large wheelborrow load to cover one 3 ft x 10 ft garden bed. That took me about an hour. By comparison, the $10 bag of compost covered only half a bed. So my time was sorth $20 an hour for that little exercise.

Stay tuned to see how these two methods worked.