the ravenna girls

we blog!

Average Last Frost February 21, 2011

Filed under: garden,Uncategorized — ravennagirls @ 11:17 am
Tags: , , ,

Bear with me, this is going to be a wordy post. After a full season having a vegetable garden and dealing with one of the crummiest Seattle summers in recent memory, we are spending some time this winter/early spring to do a debrief of how things went in order to determine a strategy for this coming growing season. This post is mostly to sort thoughts and make some plans, so you all might find it completely boring.

We haven’t finalized the list of fruits and veggies we want to grow in 2011, and we need to look at how things went in 2010 to fully decide. Its nice to spend some time thinking of what will pop out of the ground when the sun shines!

Here’s a rundown of last years hits and misses:

1. Raspberries. Awful. We bought some starter plants and waited too long to get in the ground. Not a single leaf grew and we replaced the bed with lettuce.

2. Strawberries. We bought some small starts from the farmer’s market. No fruit the first year, but we think we have successfully over wintered these plants and will get more out of them this season.

3. Snap Peas. These were quite successful and I think we’ll plant more this year. We only planted about 6 seeds last year and our trellis could have been more dense. Maybe a second trellis for a couple other varieties this year?

4. Tomatoes. What a valiant effort. We started them early indoors, but got a grow light on them too late, after they were already spindly little things. We put them outside, and they grew to a significant height but didn’t produce more fruit. Problems were: crappy Seattle summer, not enough light in the backyard, too many plants were overcrowded. This year, we’re pruning the heck out of our backyard to get some more light in there, and we’ll go for quality over quantity in terms of plants.

5. Beets. See above overcrowding. We planted beets right next to the tomatoes, and I think the heavy eating tomato plants sucked all the nutrients out of the soil. The beets didn’t really develop any sizeable roots and we had some problems later in the summer with leaf miners.

6. Leeks. Got muched by Ricky Racoon. All the way down to ground level. Not even worth mentioning.

7. Onions and Shallots. These were both very successful for us and we’ll probably plant a full bed again. We’ve been eating them all winter and they keep so nicely you can never have too many.

8. Cucumbers. Our cucumber crop was great, despite early worries and the crummy weather. Hopefully with a better summer on the horizon we can be even more successful.

9. Potatoes. We had a semi-decent crop of red potatoes. Saw a compact growing trick on the Fiber Farm blog the other day and we’ll be trying this to save some space and get a better harvest.

10. Lettuce, Arugula, Endive. All semi-successful. Will do again, since you can’t go too wrong with the lettuce mixes.

11. Fall Crops: Cabbage, Kale, Chard, Brussel Sprouts, Spinach. Pretty much a big bummer. The Kale did alright, the others, not so much. We had issues with cabbage loopers, and also some very cold temperatures in November which cut off the plants before harvesting.

Overall, the lessons learned ares:

A. We got a start too early last year on some crops and they didn’t develop robust stems and root systems and weren’t as healthy as they could be. PATIENCE is the name of the game (something I constantly struggle with).

B. We need more sun in our garden. The south side of our property is heavily shaded and we need to spend some time thinning that out to get more significant light back there in the spring and summer.

C. Pay better attention to fertilizing. Some of these veggies are hungry little guys and I think we could have more regularly fed them (other than water, of course).

D. Find a solution for pests. This goes for squirrels, racoons, and buggies. We want to keep the garden organic as possible (no one wants to eat or pay for chemicals), but there needs to be a more dedicated effort. Last year it was mostly called hope they stay away. I am going to do some research on companion planting and organic pest solutions to give us a better arsenal.

Whew! We’ll likely be buying some seeds this week or next once we finalize our list, and so I thought the first step would be to address lesson “A” above: Research more on timing.

First, I went to Ed Hume Seeds to check for average last frost information since they are a site dedicated to Pacific Northwest Gardening. The dates they give for Seattle metro are: Average Last Frost (determined from last year): March 22. Safe Date: April 15th. We’re having a less severe winter than “they” predicted, however we had freezing temps several days last week, so we’re not out of the clear yet. For talking purposes we can use April 1st as our target date, and if we have to hold off on planting a week after that, fine.

Next, I went to a link I found last fall that makes a custom Spring Planting Calendar based on date of last frost. You can input whatever your last frost date is, and it will give you a list of milestone dates before and after to keep you on track. Its so handy! So, I put in 4/1 as our average last frost and here’s the outcome:

Eep! Looks like we’re a little bit behind on sowing cool weather crops (spring kale, broccoli, chard, onions, etc.). We’ve been eating a lot of these all winter by virtue of our CSA, so I don’t know how many of these we’ll be pursuing again until next fall. Plus, until we can figure out the cabbage worm problem, they’re a little frustrating for us. Its also about time to sow our tomato seeds indoors (which means we weren’t THAT far off last year).

There is a list of other online calendars in her original post, including one personalized by zip code. The Farmers Almanac link lists the average last frost for Seattle as March 10, but after last year, I’m pretty skeptical of starting that early.

The last question I have for this spring, which will go along with what we decide to plant is how to know whether leftover seeds from last year are viable. There are a couple seed germination tests that sound easy enough, but if we want to get new seeds we need to do it soon, so I am going to look at our seeds and see which might be up for the test and which we will re-buy.

So far the short list is as follows, we’ll update you with what we finally decide to buy and in which form (seed or plant):

Tomato (We might buy starter plants instead of growing from seed)

Lettuce Varieties (Including spinach, arugula, endive, and who knows what else?)

Bok Choy (We have grown to love via our CSA this winter)

Onions

Shallots

Potatoes (Varieties TBD)

Strawberries (overwintered; already in the ground)

Cucumber

Beans and Peas (Varieties TBD)

Beets

Raspberries or Blueberries

Herbs (some have overwintered: rosemary, thyme, need to re-plant basil)

Pumpkins

Anyone have suggestions for veggies we should add or eliminate from this list? Right now its pretty heavy on an August/September harvest so it might be nice to add something a bit earlier.

 

A Look Ahead January 12, 2011

Filed under: house before and afters — ravennagirls @ 3:59 pm
Tags: , ,

It’s the new year. And boy, oh, boy, what a whirlwind 2010 was. I know they say time speeds up as you get older, but I feel like 2010 was even faster than that. Insane. Nuts. Awesome. Amazing. It was a good year, wasn’t it? There was much joy. Travel. Weddings. Babies. Home Reno!

There were also some disappointments: Crummy summer weather (we didn’t really have one), and thus sad tomato plants. Also, my sailor man was stationed 3,000 miles away from home, and we both had some tribulations with our work lives.

But. Here we are. 2011. A prime number, a unique year, and with it: Resolutions! Except that I hate the word resolutions.

I prefer goals. Goals means that you are working TOWARD something. Resolution implies that you set a standard and you either keep it up, or you fail. Goals keep you moving, and give you milestones for success along the way. We both have many personal goals we’ve set for this year, and we have blog, business, and house goals together too. Over the next couple of days we’ll be sharing details on what 2011 will (hopefully!) bring for us, our business, and our house. Its gonna be a good one!

For Today, let’s begin with the Lemon house!

You might remember what we accomplished in 2010:

A complete backyard transformation INCLUDING…

first, a tree removal

the raised beds

the digging and then the patio

the vegetable garden

MOVE IN DAY, JUNE 2009

JUNE 2010

SEPT 2010

And what do we have in store for 2011?

Well, we have a ton of projects we WANT to do with the house.  Like most people, two things stand in our way:  Budget and expertise.  So with that in mind, we plan to tackle some of the projects we already have the supplies for.   Like:

– Finish painting the front porch soffit and front window trim.

– Solve the bathroom ceiling dilemma of 2010 {what dilemma, you might say?  Hopefully no one has noticed, but if you do come over, look up once and your questions will be answered}

– Finish painting the “leftover”  hallways that haven’t received any attention.

– Trim Trim Trim.  Quarter-round is needed in bedrooms, but base molding is completely needed in the kitchen, dining room, and aforementioned hallways.  I am not going to lie, we have not installed trim before.  It looks pretty easy, and Plow-king once got us a nail gun… so maybe it won’t be so bad.

no trim, and that hallway into the craft room needs paint, too!

-Backyard… maintence.  ha.  To start, springtime pruning of bushes and trimming of trees.  We have a few low hanging and dead branches that need to go.  We also have a few areas that need a bit of grass seed.

-Garden.  Our first veggie efforts went fairly well in 2010.  Some veggies worked well, while others were tempermental.  We plan to start this year by composting our current raised beds.  We have enough wood left over to build two new beds so we will be doing that as well.    For 2011, we will not be growing tomatoes in our beds.  Instead, we are going to grow them in pots {which we need to buy/find, any ideas on cheap places?}  Pots will give us two major benefits.  First off, our tomatoes will no longer deplete the nutrients in their bed.  Secondly, they can be mobile-maters!  We can move them around to maximize sun exposure and move them to our back covered porch if it is supposed to rain for days.  Hopefully this will yield better results in 2011.

-Fireplace redesign.  We have some ideas, and some supplies… but we would like to draw and design and get your input before we tackle it!

 

Fireplace, Before Move In

– Second floor. The ultimate goal is to half our “half floor” upstairs be a guest room and game room, as well as organized storage. This will involve fixing the staircase treads, maybe a quick little coat of paint, and some reoganization.

 

A Peek Upstairs

-D wants to make and put up the curtains for her bedroom.  (I have the fabric and rods… just need to do it!)

-Front porch.  This is lofty.  We know it.  This is the project we have very few supplies for and just a lot of potential ideas.  In 2011 we would at least like to work on the design and budget  for it.  Who knows, maybe it will happen?

-General clean up and reorganize the usual spaces… basement, attic, craft room.  Who knows, we might even get brave this year and take a BEFORE photo of the chaos.  : )

Stay tuned for our blog & business goals for 2011, as well as our personal thoughts!

 

Lemon ice! November 22, 2010

Filed under: house before and afters — ravennagirls @ 5:56 pm
Tags: ,

Snow Snow Snow!!!

backyard raised beds out the back window!

I know, I know, if you live in the Puget Sound you are tired of hearing about it…. but I’m excited!!!

Plus we both got to work and got home safely so that is even better!!  And, as if it could not get any better, we also both got home before it got dusky so we could see our house for the very first time in a blanket of white.

That’s right, happy first snow day, Lemon House.  You look even more darling covered in white.

I bet up here in Maple Leaf we have over 2 inches!  The grass is gone, and the roads are covered.  It is not supposed to get above freezing until Thursday, so it looks like we are going to have a white Thanksgiving!! {and tomorrow, brrrrr, only 29 as a high!}

our street!

As for now,  crafting + time in front of the fire + more Christmas music + something warm for dinner is certainly in order!

hmmm, mums...i think fall is over!

 

Flower World USA October 13, 2010

Filed under: house before and afters,shopping — ravennagirls @ 9:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Doesn’t the title of this post make you want to hum along to the Beach Boys? Hang on to that last bit of surfin’ summer? Well, instead, the purpose was autumn plant shopping at a huge nursery near us, Flower World USA.

One of my coworkers belongs to the e-club there, and convinced me to sign up about a year ago. We still hadn’t been, but a couple weeks back i received notification of their fall sale. All grasses (1 gallon sized) are $5! And, assorted other discounts including 50% off bamboo and 20% off japanese maples.

Autumn leaves at the Flower World Driveway. The landscaping at this nursery is pretty spectacular. Ripe for inspiration.

While most of our major garden work is done for the year (save for trying to salvage our poor munched brassica plants), we also know that fall is a great time to get some great deals on perennials and get them in the ground. We planted almost all of our perennials this time last year and they all are doing GREAT. So, off to flower world we went in hopes of snagging some more tall grasses to fill out our screening wall that we talked about here.

Earlier in the summer we bought two starter grasses for this location, a feather grass, and one smaller japanese blood grass. We’ve received a lot of compliments on the bright red hue of this plant, so we thought we’d keep that color going through our new ornamental grasses garden. So, what did we pick up?

Dwarf Zebra Grass: I have been coveting this all summer, but its hard to find! I found some online, but when shipping equals the cost of the plant itself, its just not worth it. Picked up 2 of these puppies. Although the title implies these would be small, they grow to 48″ which is about the size of screening we are hoping to achieve.

Pheasant’s Tail Grass: We picked up a couple of these for their medium height and vibrant orange/red fronds. These will nicely complement the smaller Japanese Blood Grass we planted earlier in the summer. 

Ice Dance Sedge. This is a smaller, crisper plant that will look nie at the front of the bed. Grows to 12″ in smaller clumping mounds.

Japanese Silver Grass: Similar in appearance to Pampas Grass, but shorter and more manageable. Pretty frosty fronds in the fall and winter, which should add some texture to our off-season garden.

Dwarf Blue Fescue: These are shorter clumpy grasses with a beautiful blueish gray hue. More than likely we will plant these in our front yard to contrast the orange sedge we planted there last year. We are going to reconfigure some of the perennials in this area in the spring anyway.

So, at 9 plants times $5, we pretty much will be done filling out our ornamental grass screening wall for $45. score. Also, we picked up tulips and crocuses for springtime color as well as some indoor supplies for the coming winter months. Stay tuned for those projects.

The funniest part was that we didn’t really anticipate buying quite that many plants and edged up wedging them into the back of my Toyota Matrix. It was a pretty funny sight. Like our friends noted later in the evening, it was like driving in the rainforest! Too funny.

 

These will go on the far side of the patio to frame behind the hostas and to integrate with other grasses aready planted to provide a loose screening wall for our lovely fence. We’ll keep you posted on our ornamental grass garden in the next couple weeks.

 

harvest and fall crops August 27, 2010

Filed under: house before and afters — ravennagirls @ 9:12 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Our backyard garden is doing wonderfully!  It must be all the warm weather and sun we are getting.  YAY!

Here is a look at what the yard looks like today:

Dahlias are in full bloom everywhere.

Tomato plants are huge.  Tons of flowers… still waiting on the actual tomatoes though.

Cukes have lots of flowers and a few small baby ones!

Peas are still doing well… they are nearing the end of production though.

Lettuce is still doing great… and we are eating salads a lot.

We have completely harvested all of our small onions and shallots….

(only like 1/3 of the onions….)

Probably the most exciting thing lately is that we have planted our new fall starts that we bought from Cascade Edible Landscapes…..

When we planted them two weeks ago:

 

And today:

Pretty cool!

There are ten varieties of plants…including califlower, brussel sprouts, spinach, radicchio, kale, and a few more things….  stay tuned for when we eat them….hopefully!

 

our august raised bed update August 5, 2010

Filed under: house before and afters — ravennagirls @ 3:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

We have gotten some requests to see what our raised beds look like today…

You can see their progression here and here

Our dahlias in the first bed have all come up.  Two are in full bloom, and the others have buds that should be ready to bloom any day now.

Our second bed has some lettuce, arugula, basil, and tomatoes.  Lettuce and basil are still producing.  We are harvesting the last of the arugula, as it is starting to bolt.  The tomatoes in this bed are short compared to the rest… they were planted a bit late though.

Our third bed has a ton of tomatoes, beans, beets, leeks and a strawberry plant.  Strawberries are done, but the plant is growing still so hopefully it will produce more next year.  Leeks and beets are still growing.  We have been eating a few beans every other day for a while now.  The tomatoes are really doing great.  Evidently this is a rough year for tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest due to the less then average sunshine.  Our plants are large and have lots of flowers… So we have hope that soon fruit will start to grow!!!

The fourth bed is shalllots, onions, cucumbers, and a few more late tomatoes.  The onions and shallots we have been slowly harvesting when we need.  They really could all come out any time though.  The cukes are growing nicely and slowly taking over…

Not pictured are the hopefully bountiful potatoes we planted out back.. …

We certainly have learned a lot with this first veggie attempt.  We are taking note of what works and what doesn’t and will change things a bit for next year.

The second month of the Pac NW summer has just begun though.. and we have high hopes for the remainder of our summer harvest.  We are now preparing for our fall crops.  Instead of growing more plants from seed, we have decided to sign up for a Community Sponsered Plant Start package.  This weekend we will be picking up ten new plants, all ready to be placed in the ground.  These plants should be ready for harvest at the very beginning of the fall or end of September.  More info can be found here.  You can also order starts through Cascadian Edible Landscapes for winter harvest as well!

We will let you know how it goes…

i heart summer.

 

Backyard Part Four: Laying Pavers July 14, 2010

Filed under: diy,house before and afters — ravennagirls @ 8:47 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Finally for the installment to show it all come together! We left off here  with our filled, compacted, and prepped patio base. The purpose of the compacted gravel is to give a nice, solid base so that (hopefully) we won’t see any settling or sinking in the near future. The layer of sand on top is thinner and its real purpose is to give a softer surface for each individual paver to “set”, and to level out on a more local level. So, we spread the sand evenly with the knowledge that we might be moving it around a little as we went.

We chose simple 8″x16″x2″ rectangular poured concrete pavers from Home Depot. Mainly, and I’ll be honest, because this was outright the cheapest option we could find. We’re coming to the end of our “Year 1” budget and looking to do this simply. If you can’t afford to do something REALLY nicely (stamped concrete, flagstone, etc), you might as well go the opposite end of the spectrum and save up for when you can do it. Back in our backyard design post we showed that we were imagining a basketweave pattern, and thats what we ended up sticking with. It gives a nice pattern, but not too crazy. Plus, the best bonus is no cutting of pavers!

Throughout the weekend we  stocked up on pavers a few car-loads at a time (80-90 is about how many fit in the back of either of our cars); we needed 272 total. Then, the best most grueling part of the whole weekend was carrying these from the driveway, up a level of uneven concrete stairs, to the backyard.

And then: began laying. We did the first long row, and the first short row, in order to make sure we had a nice square edge, and worked inward from there.

The three most crucial tools for us during this project were a short level (this we could level each individual paver but also across seams), leather gloves for handling pavers, and a rubber mallet to gently tap each piece to level. Installing the pavers actually went relatively quickly, it took about 6 hours total, but on a sunny summer day it was nice to be out in the back yard about that long.

One suggestion that came from D’s dad was to avoid the plastic and aluminum edgers that hardware stores sell to DIY Patio Installers such as ourselves. These cost about $8 for each 6′ length, which would have ending up costing us about $75. Plus, these have to go in first which is restricting and they don’t last forever. Instead, he suggested we buy a cheap back of quikrete and pour into a trench on all sides. This creates a concrete curb of sorts, but you can leave it low enough so that you can put soil and grass over top. Its a little hard to see in the photo below (the dark gray is concrete and light gray beyond is excess sand), but it was super easy and quick (we left it a little dry and just placed in with our hands instead of truly doing a concrete “pour”. And I have to say, so far its pretty terrific. The edges of the patio are locked in place, nothing is moving, and it cost. . . $3. SWEET DEAL.

 

Here are all the pavers in place for the first time! While the level of soil is at or actually above the level of pavers on two sides, you can see here that the grade drops away from the pavers on the west side of the patio. We left the board in as a sort of form work while the concrete cured, and then swept soil overtop and planted grass seed so now it looks like its inset all around.

The last step is to sweep playground sand in the cracks to keep everything more or less locked in place. We are thinking that eventually we will install some polymer modified sand, which creates a rubbery sandy seal that won’t wash out, but its a meticulous process and we just haven’t had time. So, for now, just plain sand which does have a tendency to wash out in the drizzle so thats a little bit of a drag.

Woohoo! A completed patio. Its obviously not 100% perfect, but for the price and level of effort we are pretty – darn – thrilled with the result. There is some level difference between individual pavers, but it is overall level and sturdy and thats what we want!

Before we show you the dramatic before and after, this is the point where we need to pause a moment to give a HUGE cyber THANK YOU to everyone who has helped us out with ALL of our house projects in the form of labor, Home Depot/Lowe’s/Ace gift cards, and moral support.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

– we really can’t thank you enough. All of your gifts have been so thoughtful and generous, its beyond words.

But now, we can just grill and drink and relax. Come on over any time!

So now for a fun game we like to call Before and After (ha! creative name, right?) From Jungle to Oasis. . .

. . . and hopefully NEVER back again! Now we can concentrate on the final bits of landscaping and finishing some projects on the house itself.