Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year 2015

2014 was a hard year for me because my dad died. Looking back, the garden didn’t do so great either, probably because of neglect at some crucial times. I did manage to get a good crop of garlic, but the potatoes did lousy, the sweet potatoes got eaten by the deer, and the nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tomatillos) were fairly lousy as well. I didn’t get any Black Futsu squash, so I ended up giving away the rest of that packet of seed. I only got one Charentais melon, and no Moon and Stars Watermelons. All the beans did OK.

I’m still trying to figure out how to plant fall crops in August while it’s still hot and not have them fry in the sun or get eaten by caterpillars before it cools down. This year I used the frost blanket left over from last winter as a shade, draped over wire cages. That seems to have helped, but I'm still having trouble with caterpillars eating my greens. I didn’t get any collards this winter because of caterpillars eating them up, and the deer ate up my lettuce. The only green I’ve been harvesting so far is arugula, which the deer don’t seem to like.

All the fruit trees did OK last winter except the Key Lime, which got killed down to the ground. It sprouted back (I sure hope it’s not grafted), but we dug it up and put it back in a pot, where it will stay so it can stay inside in winter. We replaced it in the ground with a Kumquat tree from Costco, which is supposed to be a hardy breed of citrus. Right now it seems to be doing fine, and is covered in ripe fruit.

The good thing about gardening is there’s always next year. If 2014 wasn’t that great, maybe 2015 will be better. I can look back at the mistakes I made last year and try other things this year.

I did finish the raised beds in the front, but I haven’t put landscape fabric and mulch in the paths yet, and the Bermuda grass is really starting to move in. That’s not such a huge project, so I think it’s a realistic goal to get that done this year.

Building a deer proof fence around the front garden is a bigger project that might take more time. Especially since I’ll need my husband’s help with that, and he’s got a lot on his plate too. We also don’t have a new shed yet, but I think that’s higher on my husband’s priority list. In the meantime I’ll just have to keep using wire and deer repellant spray to protect my plants.

Also the To Do List is getting rainwater tanks and installing a greywater system of some sort.

We’ve lived in this house for almost two years now, and it’s become clear that the soil here is just not as good as it was at the house we were renting when I started this blog. I did get soil tests done to get hard data, and they showed the soil here isn’t as good, but also the plant growth shows it. I’ve now grown several of the exact same varieties of plants here as I grew there, and they just don’t do as well. 2010 was a bumper crop of a lot of things, and that was the one year I was gardening there that wasn’t a drought. The main variable here really seems to be location. It’s a shame, really. I think about whatever college students must be living in that rent house now that probably don’t appreciate how fertile that back yard is at all!

The only thing for me to do is just slowly work at improving the soil here. It’s better to have naturally good soil, but soil can also be improved. It just takes time. My husband recently found out about some kind of horse stable around here that is offering free manure to anyone willing to do all the work of hauling it away. That sounds tempting.

Other than that, I need to figure out what I'm going to grow this year, which I think I'll save for another post. I've been spending my break looking over seed catalogs again and again wondering what I should plant and trying to not go overboard ordering more seeds than I need.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Cedar Moon and First Hard Freeze of this Winter

Last night it got down to 29 degrees, the first hard freeze of the winter. It's been a very mild winter so far, since we usually get our first killing freeze around Thanksgiving, not at the beginning of January.

I had one tomato plant survive the summer, and as you can see it is now mush, meaning last night really was our first "real" freeze, not like some of there other nights where it was maybe 31 or 30 degrees for a little while.

The peppers (and citrus trees) are tucked snugly under frost blanket. I've had peppers survive the winter before, so I'm confident I can get these to make it through as well.

The root crops (radishes, carrots, beets, parsnips, and turnips) are doing just fine. Before the cold front we got a good rain that I think really helped.

The Dwarf Grey Sugar peas are even starting to flower, while the Tall Telephone peas are looking good too.

The collards got badly eaten up, but they seem to have missed the kale. The kale is still growing really slowly, but is showing no signs of bug damage.

And I'm getting lots of seed catalogs! I intend to write a post soon about my New Year's plans for my garden in 2015.