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Average Last Frost February 21, 2011

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

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Flower World USA October 13, 2010

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

 

The Story of our MGTs… October 5, 2010

Filed under: garden — ravennagirls @ 11:49 am
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…or

Many Green Tomatoes.

Once there was two best friends who grew tomato plants from seeds.  

Their stomaches  dreamed of canned tomato sauce all winter, BLTs galore, salsas and salads all with their little plants.

The tomato plants grew and grew, but slowly.  They soon took over their beds and got flowers.  But summer in the Pacific Northwest was filled with cloudy mornings.  Then it ended with lots of rain.

The rain and clouds slowly killed the tomato plants, now full of green fruit.

 And one day, the two sad tomato-lovers pulled out all the dying plants {and filled their entire compost collection bin with them!} … but they picked the yummy looking fruits.

All green, except for one small yellow one.  The token yellow-mater was cut in two right after this picture… and devored as a post gardening reward.  delish.

 

Even though they were small and green, they were still going to be eaten.   Not how we planned, but there are a whole lot of green tomato recipes out there.  If you are looking for one, click here.

What do you think we did with our MGTs??

 

Garden CHOMP! October 4, 2010

Filed under: garden — ravennagirls @ 1:39 pm
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Meet our resident garden dwellers who LOVE our baby kale and cabbage plants!  {Look at what a pig that cabbage worm is!!!!!!!!!!!!}

They evidently did not get the memo that we would like these plants to grow and then WE want to be the ones eating!

What have we done? 

For starters, most of the summer we have been sprinkling some Slug-O around all of our leafy plants.  This fall though we need to be a bit more liberal with our applications though.  Slug-O is organic and completely safe for all animals … except the slugs.

When we noticed the first sign of the worms, we went out to our favorite nursery and bought some floating row cover.    It is like white fabric mesh.  The plants underneath it can still get air and water from the rain, yet the holes are too small for small bugs to get underneath.

So far.. it is working alright.  I think we still had a few eggs on the leaves when we installed the cover the first time.  But there is definitely progress! 

Hopefully with the sun today all our fall plants will grow grow grow…

 

backyard round-up September 18, 2010

Filed under: design,house before and afters — ravennagirls @ 10:14 pm
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As summer winds to a close and we pick the last of the warm-weather veggies from the garden, I wanted to take a look back to how our patio shaped up after all the work to get it installed. We pushed hard through the spring to lay the pavers, built some garden beds, and planted grass seed to fill in the gaps. Then, the most important step: accessorize!!

Folks have asked where some of our favorite decor came from so we thought we’d post some pics and sources.

The table is our salvaged masterpiece from Smith + Hawken shelving and and IKEA table base. If you like the look but don’t want to DIY, here are some similar options at West Elm or CB2.

Black Enamel fire pit, similar to this one. Ace Hardware

Citronella candle in galvanized pot, a gift from our friend Heather, you can see her tutorial here.

Green acrylic patio chairs, Crate & Barrel.

Turquoise chair cushions, IKEA

Dansk enamel pitcher, Vintage. Find one similar here.

Striped cocktails glasses, IKEA

Solar table lamp, IKEA.

Fruit bowl, CB2

Candle and ceramic tray, IKEA

Blown glass vase, Cargo Portland

Although this Seattle summer wasn’t the best, we had a chance to have several wonderful patio dinners and afternoons of lemonade, surrounded by these bright colorful accessories that we love.

 

harvest and fall crops August 27, 2010

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

 

Simple Veggie Storage August 23, 2010

Filed under: crafty — ravennagirls @ 5:26 pm
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With the infusion of fresh fruits and vegetables this summer (from our own garden and our CSA box), storage to keep these fresh and delicious was becoming an increasingly tricky task.

I saw over on the Juniper Moon Blog that Susan and crew had researched and found that the recommendation for most veggies is to wash and store lightly in an absorbent towel. Susan, in response, whipped up some quick little baggies out of inexpensive IKEA dish towels so they’re all ready to go in varying sizes.

I loved this idea (they’re both CUTE and functional), so i stopped by IKEA one day, picked up 2 packs of towels, and sewed myself some. So far, they’ve been working terrifically. Our greens are staying crisper, onions and shallots staying good, etc. Thanks for the great idea, Susan!

Total cost: $4.