Over a month ago in March, I posted about potato boxes here.
I finally made my own potato box using some great-smelling, left-over cedar I had in the garage. I used a handsaw to cut the pieces down. I collect old, wooden boxes, so I used one as a model and simply copied the design. Then, I made a wood frame to place over my wooden box base. When my potatoes grow, I'll just toss the frame on and add some more soil, or straw, depending on if I can find straw somewhere.
You can't imagine how giddy I feel when I look at my little wooden potato box. Somehow, it's given me confidence to build other things... watch out world. I have a hand saw and I'm not afraid to use it.
** A few days later.
This weekend, I went to buy my seed potatoes and found none at Home Depot. I'm all bummed out because I guess this means that I missed the "window". If I can, I'll buy some online.
June 1, 2012
I love being wrong. It's my favorite.
I realized that I didn't miss the "potato window" when I stumbled across some seed potatoes at a farm store a couple weeks ago. I bought five Yukon Golds, tossed them in and covered them with dirt. They're growing!
At that point in the potato experiment, the vines grew taller and I tossed some dried leaves over them. My hose didn't reach to the planter, so they didn't get much water. Then we had a very un-Seattle stretch of no rain and I flat-out ignored the little buggers.
Around late July, the vines died back and I was feeling pretty bad about myself. I pouted for a couple weeks until I thought, "what the hell? I may as well reach into the dirt box and see what's left of my seed potatoes."
And there they were, just waiting for me!!
Beautiful, firm Yukon Golds. From the 4 seed potatoes (the fifth turned into mush), I think I got about 15-20 potatoes! The kicker, was how amazing they tasted! This is the perfect thing to grow. You chuck some seeds into a box, pour some dirt over it, ignore it and then BOOM! Food on the dinner table.
Next year I'm going all out. I'm going to direct sow possibly and maybe try some different varieties.
Depending on your experience with Wisteria, you love it, or you hate it. Either way, you have to admit that it's a powerful plant.
A single Wisteria in my grandfather's yard grew vines from his deck through his potting shed, ripping out the wood siding, propping the windows and doors open and wreaking havoc. As a kid, it was an important lesson to learn that nature is powerful and just because things don't happen quickly, it doesn't mean there wont be major repercussions.
As an adult, I imagine that my green-thumbed grandpa knew what was going on in the potting shed. He sat out on his deck year 'round and enjoyed tending to his little veggie garden and grape vines. I understand now why he was so proud of those "yucky" onions and radishes. I'd like to think my grandpa made a decision to let the wisteria take over his shed, just to see what would happen.
This weekend, through a frustrating set of circumstances spanning two months, I have decided to prune my wisteria. It hasn't been clipped off the side of our house in a year, and although that may sound romantic, like an english garden... with the beautiful, purple flowers canvassing the side of a large brick home... it's not. The vines creep under our roofing tiles, through our window screens and into our house vents, then they harden into wood branches and their diameter thickens. If it's not trimmed up each year, it can wreak havoc and cause a lot of damage.
I watched this "How to Prune Your Wisteria" video and learned how to get more blooms out of my wisteria.
Tomorrow, I'll drag the ladder out of the garage and risk my life on the rooftop to clip back the wisteria. This summer, I'm sure you'll see lots of photos of the purple flowers, cascading from above.
As an aspiring chicken farmer and emerging gardener, this book was a must-have for me. I held off buying it at the Northwest Home and Garden Show, but I couldn't resist making a special trip to Molbak's Garden and Home for the author's book signing.
Jessi Bloom spoke on the topic of "Creating a beautiful, chicken-friendly yard." I didn't have time to actually stay and listen, but she graciously signed my book before her presentation and I talked to her about kids and chickens for a couple minutes.
I was impressed by her substantial tattoos and eco-hipster glasses. Oh, she's also a certified horticulturalist and certified arborist.
After a weekend of back-breaking, though gratifying gardening, I could barely lift my arms. I had no choice but to snuggle up and devour "Free-Range Chicken Gardens."
I immediately appreciated the layout of the book, including the quality of the photos, how they were placed on the pages and the variance in type sizing. It was easy to read.
Jessi explains what she includes in the book and why, then dives right in, giving directions and introducing terminology so that the reader can later research specific topics on the internet. Like, "what's the closest feed store to my house?"
As an aspiring chicken-owner, I found the answers to most of my questions: What to feed them/ not feed them? When do I put a light in the coop? How high do they fly? How much daily work is involved? What chickens are right for my property/ family/ egg needs? She also discusses how to deal with neighbors that don't like chickens and the responsibility that poultry owners have to keep the coop clean so as not to attract vermin and give chicken-farming a bad reputation.
I didn't seem to find the answers to these questions: What happens if I get a male? Can they stay in the enclosed yard and put themselves to bed, or do I have to lock them up nightly? What if I have to kill one? (There's a "how to" on YouTube.)
Before I read "Free-Range Chicken Gardens" I was planning to have one place to keep my coop and covered run. Now, I think I'll take my time fencing certain areas of my yard before I get birds (Spring 2013?) and I'll have "zones" letting the birds roam freely in a fenced area, while I keep an eye out for predators.
My property is currently open to wild animals. We've seen deer, coyotes, possums, raccoons and the kicker- bobcats! Oh, and also bears... seriously... combing through the trash and pooping in the yard. Anyway, back to the book...
I'm pretty picky when it comes to paying for books because so much information is available online, however, this is a good "go-to" guide with great information on chicken-safe plants, chicken care, coops and all things chicken-gardening related. I'll definitely refer to it when I'm planting in my yard. It also makes a beautiful coffee table book.
Before I start building my chicken fences and designing my coop, I'll study the ultimate chicken book, "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens" by Gail Damerow. Review forthcoming.
In my garden Google searches, I keep stumbling across the same blogs. They seem to be around homesteading, gardening as a family, canning, living off your own land, owning chickens and homeschooling.
If you're a garden nerd, like me, these are fascinating reads:
Mountain Home Quilts
Buckets of Burlap
Thy Hand Hath Provided
and of course Parisienne Farmgirl (She keeps popping up!)
Mother Earth News
A common piece of advice these homesteaders give, seems to resonate with me and my BIG DREAMS.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start homesteading?
A. Start slow and small. This has worked very well for us. Each year, we've increased garden size and amounts preserved based on our confidence levels. Jumping in too fast and taking on too much would have left me stressed and overwhelmed. Keep doing what works well, try a couple new things each year and when you've mastered them (to your satisfaction), move on to the next couple things you'd like to try.I noticed that most of the homesteaders have around 2 acres and with root cellars, canning and freezers, some can feed their family all winter.
Now, I need to get back to researching "how to justify having a goat to my HOA".
Northwest Edible Life posted Back to Eden Film, on Facebook, promising "lots of fascinating info on permaculture/deep mulching and some beautiful gardens to ogle." I immediately clicked the link, but was unprepared to sit and watch a one hour and 43 minute film that promised to solve all my gardening problems with wood chips. While my kids crawled all over me, I gazed, drooling at the gorgeous gardens.
Watching the film, I kind of rolled my eyes when Paul Gautschi repeatedly quoted from the Bible. I wondered, "what's the catch? What are they trying to sell me? The film ended and it wasn't sponsored by Home Depot, or Lowes, or a seed company.
The movie "sells" two things, God and wood chips. I've come to terms with God, so now, I'm looking into wood chips.
Watch Back to Eden here.
I'd like to buy the things I want with a wink and a smile. Sadly, it will not suffice.
Knowing my potager (Kitchen Garden) will be quite an expenditure, I decided to figure out what the base cost is. My two gardens are 5x12 feet, and 1 foot deep... (I'm guessing here... which doesn't help matters.) The whole potager is surrounded with 16" square pavers, surrounded by pea gravel to keep everything looking tidy. The pavers are $4.37 each and I need (want) 60 of them.
There's a breakdown below, but I'm just going to have a breakdown right now. I have too many projects I'm passionate about (my flower garden, chicken run, potager, garden shed) and no staff... I mean, no money to do them all at 150% at the same time!
Potager with NO Bells and Whistles $1,800
Seeds & starts $200?
Potager with SOME Bells and Whistles $1,910
Wood Chips as ground cover $50?
4 24" pavers in center $60?
Seeds & starts $200?
Potager with ALL the Bells and Whistles $3,252+ tax and delivery
60 16" pavers $262+tax
24" paver $60?
30 bags? pea gravel $300? OMFG heavy : (
Weed barrier $30
Lumber $2,000 OMG
American Potager has a new book out on kitchen gardens. The book looks beautiful but it received some unfavorable reviews on Amazon.
"The design chapter starts off on the wrong foot by discussing a potager garden that was never built. Even worse, it was never built in a large urban space with which few of us will ever have to contend, so I fail to see the point. The second garden design discussed, designed for a small restaurant, also has not been built. The third garden is the author's own, now giving me the uncomfortable feeling that the entire book is a vanity project."
Maybe I'll leave the pavers out and just pea gravel around the raised beds... must go think on this.
**Two minutes Later**
I need to separate my lawn from the garden and I'm thinking Boxwoods will do the trick... but I already have flagstone left over from another project, so that would be easy to use... ponder.
I saw the Croc planter below on Pinterest (originally sourced from here and here.) It was so cute, I thought that "up-cycling" old shoes would be fun. (I didn't consider the lack of drainage in old shoes until now... hmm.)
Also, kids can plant something in their old shoes and see what happens. Grab one shoe from each member of your family and have a little representation in the garden. Next year, when your shoe succulents are overflowing, tell your friends to bring an old shoe over and you'll make them a planter. (Either that, or you'll make a fine succulent swimming pool.)
Succulents grow like crazy and they don't take much work. They like hot weather, but even here in zone 5, mine multiply and fall out of their pots every spring.
To do this project, you'll need:
Next year, you can vertically hang the shoes on the side of the house or just leave them in their natural state at the back door. You can act surprised when your guests ask what happened to your shoes.
Quick updates charting my novice and experimental, gardening adventures at home.
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