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This Week in the Garden

June 6, 2012

News about Jane:  She continues to improve and Blake is thriving.  I sent a milk sample to the veterinary college yesterday and am awaiting the results to see what we are actually dealing with.  Until then we are just plugging along and back into the milking routine like I never took two years off.  Jane acts like she read the book, she knows what to do, and is a joy to handle and milk.  Blake is as smart as a whip and fun to play with.  But life goes on, and the other part of our food supply are the gardens, which need some serious attention.

We would not be eating anything we grew this year if it wasn’t for the greenhouse.  We had a window of dry weather, but also frosts hard enough to set back the Himalayas, and then its been too wet to plant much of anything since.  Here’s a photo tour of the gardens from this past weekend.  I’ll start outside:

Parsnip seed row.




Carrots for Jane.


Mangels for Jane.


Flint corn with elk track.




Pickling cucumbers.

It’s always been my experience that direct seeding is the way to go with cucurbits, and only in the last three cold springs have I resorted to starting my squash in the greenhouse for transplanting.  It’s also been my experience that cucumbers actually do take colder temperatures than their larger cousins in the squash family, despite reading admonishments (even from my gardening fave Steve Solomon) that cucumbers can’t take the weather.  Well, again, the cukes came through for me, I planted pickling and lemon cucumbers, naked seed pumpkins, and my Sweet Meat squash.  The cukes came up and the squash seed rotted, and to add insult to injury the Carol Deppe Sweet Meat seed a friend shared with me failed to come either, despite the cold tolerance bred into it by Carol.  It’s been cold, 39°F this am and 2.6 inches of rain yesterday!  I am ready for summer or even a warm end to spring, I’m not picky either, just a little more warmth would be appreciated.


However, it is summer-like in the greenhouse.  😀

Hakurei turnip.




Tomato with frost damage.

Detroit Dark Red beets.

Carrots and kohlrabi.








And the best, strawberries with real cream!

30 Comments leave one →
  1. Shirley Wikstrom permalink
    June 6, 2012 10:25 am

    I heard a weather guy on the raido call it Juneuary. He said there was fresh snow on the mountain.

  2. June 6, 2012 10:31 am

    Frosts hard enough to set back the Himalayas – were you talking mountain range or blackberries? Because I don’t think ANYTHING can set back the blackberries… I agree, it sure seems like that was it for spring, that 10 day window. The bounty in your greenhouse is amazing.

    • June 6, 2012 10:36 am

      SSF, I have never seen a spring frost hard enough to fry those buggers, but the new growth was all black, for maybe a day…now they have a firmer resolve 😦

      It’s bad when you have to go in the greenhouse to get warm in late May!

  3. June 6, 2012 11:26 am

    I think I would be making plans to can the elk you raised in the garden.

    My potatoes are flowering and we’re dry as a bone. Second cutting alfalfa is down. I’m way, way behind on gardening though.

    • June 6, 2012 12:14 pm

      HFS, I’m hoping they head for the hills and take the cougars with them! I’ll trade you some rain for some dry! And some hay – we won’t cut until July and as it is, it’s not growing too fast anyway 😦 Might be late July…

  4. jenj permalink
    June 6, 2012 11:30 am

    Your greenhouse looks fantastic, even if the outdoors plants aren’t doing so well.

    How do you pollinate the zuchs in the greenhouse? I’ve had the worst time getting the blossoms to fruit, and all of mine are OUTSIDE!

    • June 6, 2012 12:12 pm

      JenJ, there are lots of insects in there, on warm days the vents are open and if I roll up the sides the insects zip right in! Birds also make it a habit to check what’s going on in there 🙂

  5. June 6, 2012 12:03 pm

    It all looks delicious!
    glad you have that greenhouse to hide in 🙂

  6. Kay permalink
    June 6, 2012 1:15 pm

    I cannot imagine it being that cold in June. Burr… It has been too warm where I live, so we each could go w/ a nice middle of the road. We need rain too, lots of it. I am glad Jane is doing better.

  7. June 6, 2012 1:32 pm

    Can’t wait for strawberries! A few have ripened here but the dang dog keeps eating them before any people can get to them!

    Just out of curiosity, what do you plan to do with Blake? I’ve only been following your blog for about 6 weeks, so my apologies if you’ve already mentioned it. I’m trying to work my way through past posts but there aren’t enough hours in the day!

    • June 6, 2012 2:23 pm

      Becky, ours are being nibbled by a scrub jay that flies in when the vents are open 😦

      Blake will probably become part of the beef herd – that’s usually what I do with the milk cows calf if they are female, otherwise, it is Iceland for the fellas 😉

      • June 7, 2012 5:34 am

        Wait. What?

        Did you expose Jane to a hereford bull? For some reason I thought you AI’d back to guernsey.

        • June 7, 2012 7:32 am

          HFS, No, I exposed her to the AI guy 😉 I wanted a half beef calf, I don’t want a replacement so soon, and I have no interest in selling heifers for milk cows.

  8. June 6, 2012 6:10 pm

    What a fantastic garden, lots of variety and in plenty so you can share.. isn’t it just grand growing your own food.. we also need rain, even the alfalfa field is starting to feel the dry.. but every year is different, no mail order weather I am afraid! c

  9. June 7, 2012 4:18 am

    I am about to plant forage turnips and red and yellow mangels. Any tips or advice on how to grow these from anyone? I have never grown any of them.

    • June 7, 2012 5:15 am

      I’ve never grown forage turnips before, but I do grow mangels which are grown the same as beets, and I’m assuming that forage turnips would be the same as turnips for the kitchen, except variety and how you plant…if you want to graze them in situ you need to broadcast the seed. That should help some 🙂

  10. Mom24boys permalink
    June 7, 2012 10:53 am

    We’re down at the bottom of the “funnel” of the Willamette Valley and all our squash is barely growing but our tomatoes have blossomed and our Oregon Spring variety tom even has 1″ fruits! Our hot peppers are growing but slowly and the beans germinated, put out 3rd set of leaves and are just sitting there! Arg.

    But of course the Himalayan blackberries are having no trouble popping up and growing any- and everywhere. Along with their friends the Scotch brooms.

    Our 6 new apple trees have leafed out fine and one even has a fruit. The 2 new pear are looking good as well. These were all 2 year old culls from a commercial stock grower and were free so any success is a joy.

    However, our established trees are looking pretty sparse, fruit-wise. 20 or 30 plums on one tree, 60-70 on the other; pear has maybe 4 fruits and if there are any fruits on our old apple, I can’t see them.

    We have an agreement with a friend in town to swap our excess produce. He has a small city lot that is completely dedicated to growing food & chickens except for the corner that the trampoline takes up. He is a fantastic grower! Hopefully his warmer yard will give us a bumper crop of cucumbers because ours didn’t even germinate. He also has more variety of peppers that do well in the asphalt warmed climate of Eugene.

    On one hand, the cool weather is discouraging me but then I remember last year…. so cool we only successfully grew kale, 3 meals of green beans and 3 cups of dry beans that we saved for seed for this year. Not one tomato or zucchini, no beets, carrots or radishes, strawberries – maybe 10, 3 plums, no pears, wormy apples.

    This year is already looking good in comparison.

    • June 7, 2012 11:01 am

      Mom24boys, I agree – it’s seeming much better than the last two springs for sure. Our fruit set is amazing – I feel like I can get in the applesauce and dried prune stash now, without feeling guilty. 😉

      Sounds like your barter plan is a great one!

  11. June 7, 2012 4:17 pm

    Everything is looking great!

  12. June 14, 2012 5:56 am

    MoH Greetings!

    When you have a little time(!), I would like to know what compost – plus grit/sand or vermiculite/perlite? – you are using in the seed trays. I seem to be experiencing two issues here in the UK leading to very poor germination. One, inevitably ‘the weather’ – we’re having lots of rain and some very cold N/NE winds (41F yesterday morning @ 05:30). Two, the possibility that commercial compost is becoming ‘cheap’ or ‘poor quality’, especially now that the use of peat is frowned upon.

    I’m keen to know what successful, small-scale vegetable growers are using as seed compost because I think I may have to mix my own in future. Your plants look jolly healthy. (I guess they have it warmer than in my cold frames but…) So, do you have favorite compost mix or mixes?


    • June 14, 2012 7:36 am

      Carrie, I am using a commercial mix but I still find that it needs fertilizer added to give the starts a boost that is not available in the mix even though it states + fertilizer!

      Lots of people mix their own, depending on how much they need. I never use a sterile seedling mix, always potting soil but I do start stuff in the hoophouse and when early in the season I use the heat mats underneath, which really help. I don’t know of anyone making their own that doesn’t use peat, it seems to be just a fact of life that we have to use some of those resources in order to save others. For instance if you are able to grow your own food instead of purchasing high food mile food you saved some fossil fuel. It’s seems we’re darned if we do and darned if we don’t 😦

      • June 15, 2012 6:59 am

        Hi – thanks for the info. Good point: “For instance if you are able to grow your own food instead of purchasing high food mile food you saved some fossil fuel.” On the subject of ‘damned’ :
        The underlying problem here is that, as part of a ‘green’ policy, the UK/EU committed to 80% reduction in peat-based products by 2010. So peat is disappearing (from products) fast… or has disappeared.
        The Black Gold product you use seems like a neatly enhanced version of the John Innes loam-based compost I used to use. And with which I had few problems as long as I didn’t over-water. Now because manufacturers don’t want to use the peat element, we get multi-purpose compost with ‘added John Innes’ – whatever that means?
        Now, nearly all compost you buy here is peat free and has recycled ‘green waste’ in it. (A neighbour said he could almost identify the colour of the carpet that had been recycled into his bag of compost! :-)) ) You certainly need to work it well with your hands to take the lumps out before seeding.
        I am sure that there are better ‘recycled’ seed composts than the one I was persuaded to buy, but now I shudder when I read “contains recycled green waste”.
        A bit of research this morning leads me towards a derived peat product called Moorland Gold [] and the “Nature’s own” growing media based on that sounds promising: but will involve considerable transport costs to obtain a bag or two… Sigh.
        Meanwhile, to pot-on I am locally sourcing bags of vermiculite and perlite to add to my multipurpose ‘green and recycled’ compost so that it can be used without suffocating the seedlings when I water them with dilute seaweed liquid.
        And how green is vermiculite/perlite? Not very. So damned indeed!

        • June 15, 2012 12:13 pm

          Carrie, oh I hear you on the perlite/vermiculite greenness, not to mention the health hazards of using them. I used to propagate dwarf conifers and used perlite exclusively for a rooting medium. Ugh, the dust involved with that stuff, or asbestos with the vermiculite, awful.

          I would worry to about your green waste – there have been lots of herbicide contaminated “green waste” composts here in the US that have done considerable damage, and likewise those same herbicides are used on hay and straw crops so they come through in stronger form in animal manures too. All to get rid of weeds! Last time I looked outside the weeds weren’t the scariest thing on the horizon!

          It’s a tough world to navigate in for sure.

  13. June 15, 2012 1:01 pm

    A final thought on this compost issue: a while ago the chicks (with a little help in the ‘even’ raking department) made some great soil improver using the ramial earth principle. (For those who don’t know, ramial wood = chips from trees and brush, from branches up to about 4 inches in diameter with or without leaves. Search for ramial wood chips.) Maybe it’s back to a longer process of thinly stacking said wood chips and also stacking inverted turf for the loam element? Perhaps experimenting with alternating layers so that one mimics the forest floor to an extent? Having seen that ramial chips do decompose superbly over time, I might do some more research on this. Trapper Creek must have plenty of ramial wood chips over the year? Humm… interesting, eh?

    • June 17, 2012 9:48 am

      Carrie, I’m still on the fence about the whole wood chip thing, seeing that I’m already in a fungi dominated, high acid environment I need to move to a more bacteria laden neutral pH type of growing at least for my gardens and pastures. It’s better for the cows and the garden I think. If I was building a perennial garden definitely the hugel kultur method “wood” be great. But I’m into annual vegetables and I have livestock which sadly is the most important missing component of most garden/farm cropping systems. In our gardens the best material is sawdust/shavings, straw and manure, aged of course either sheet composted or stacked and then applied. I wouldn’t want to attempt much gardening on any scale without my animals to help me 🙂

      • June 18, 2012 2:02 pm

        MoH – I think I’m following but then again… I’m not sure I follow your drift here: “But I’m into annual vegetables and I have livestock which sadly is the most important missing component of my garden/farm cropping systems.” It’s the ‘sadly onwards bit I’m not grasping – I think!
        I’ve experienced that ramial wood chips (inc chipped green leaves), helped by the chickens raking it over and adding to it, decomposed into good stuff for the veg garden – not exactly loam though. So my musing thought process re arriving at a potting compost for the kitchen garden was whether mixing ramial earth with traditionally-made loam (from stacked turves) plus sand/grit of some kind would produce a quality product. (Long process though.)
        Although I can see the two are connected, I wasn’t actually musing about ‘growing soil’ in the agricultural sense of replenishing significant areas of thin top soils/poor grassland, etc, which is perhaps where you were headed? Or?
        Just found this but not read it yet; may be of interest
        All best wishes

        • June 18, 2012 3:13 pm

          Carrie, good catch! I meant to say most not my. I think you’re right on track with the ramial earth as part of the process for making a good potting soil. I think Eliot Coleman has a recipe made from his own screened compost with added grits and meals to bring up the nutrient level. Someday I’ll get to all my refinements, maybe, life seems too short!

          Thanks for the link!

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