Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Week That Was

It's been seriously, wildly, balmy this week. Light jacket weather. Flimsy shoe weather. Perfect gardening weather. Hard to believe it's January. Usually it's blustery, cold, windy, frosty, icy, thunderous, rainy, misty, or very very gray and wet. Take your pick. But now - it's like being in the eye of a giant storm: clear, calm, sunny. So of course I had to take advantage of it and get out into the garden. Like any good PNWer. 

Of course! There's always something to do in the garden. Or greenhouse. (Sheila coughs politely and ignores the mess that is the interior of her house)

So without further ado, I present to you:

January in the Pacific North West

(I sound entirely too optimistic, don't I?)

Almost time to take the Squirrel Baffles off the pots of bulbs, although watch, I'll remove them and the little squirrel buggers will go mad, digging and flinging and chewing and shredding.

Ugh. Squirrels have taken top spot in my Compendium Of Irritating Things In The Yard, dislodging Bishops Weed for the first time in 4 years. As a result we are now the possessors of a Squirrel Trap. I am planning on catching them and releasing them on a nearby mountain. Someone I know drowns them. We tried that with a rat; it seemed to take bloody forever before we knew for certain it was dead and we both felt ill after the experience. I don't think I could drown a squirrel. Those lovely, wavy, furry tails. Oops. Must. Remain. Detached. Remember destruction of garden. Digging of beds. Shredding of shade fabric. Chewing of pumpkins, tomatoes, apples, peaches, and lemons. Argh.
Abeliophylum buds. Look at them - they look ready to burst. This otherwise unremarkable shrub has a magnificently light, sweet, scent when it blooms in early spring, although judging by this photo I think it thinks it IS early spring. It is as beguiled by our January as I am.

Someone at a garden centre talked me into this when I said I didn't want to spend $80 on a witch hazel. Initially I put it in the bed by the front door, where the winter box is (another fabulous plant for winter scent), so we could smell it as we come and go, but it crowded the fuchsias so it's on the move again. Right now it's in a pot in the back yard, ready to migrate to the deck, where it will likely appreciate the longer period of sunlight the deck receives.
 This corner edge of the vegetable garden has been re-done at least eight times, the last one occurring two days ago. If you look bottom left you'll see the chunk of rail metal I use as a hose guide. A heavy, unmoveable hose guide is something that comes in handy if you're like me and you tend to drag your hose all over the yard but don't stop to make sure the hose isn't knocking over bricks, shallow ledges, walls, and breaking pretty terracotta pots.

You can see the chunk that one of those moments of inattention took out of the pot in the front, housing a hugely forgiving sedum "Autumn Joy." Directly behind that is one of the most beautiful blues you've ever seen in a flower, the sometimes tender but always impressive agapanthus.
 This arbor was purchased in a rather rash moment at a garden centre sale. It was greatly discounted at this sale, too, and I was unable to resist. That's what I said to Richard, and while he agreed $20 WAS cheap, he added that that might not be such a good thing, terms of longevity and/or stalwartness.

Time, sadly, has proved him correct. It's required a lot of attention on my part, usually after a wind.

Here it is after my latest ministrations. Interestingly, it looks better than it's looked for a few years. I used the long, relatively straight, water shoots I pruned off the Granny Smith as my new arches. I bundled them together, snipped the ends even, used electrical tape to secure them in the middle, then wired each piece to the old, broken struts and eventually wired the entire thing back together.
 At times I felt as though I were doing Horticultural Dentistry of a sort, wiring the broken jaw of my poor abused arbor, restoring it to its former glory, although perhaps glory is too strong a word.
 Here I had to tape the pencil post as the sledge hammer shattered it a bit. I'll let you know how weatherproof electrical tape is. I'm sure I'll be disappointed, but I had no other tape to hand.

Plus, I ran out of wire, so tape had to suffice.

Tip: when commencing Garden Chores make sure you have sufficient supplies. Of everything.

Or you might end up using electrical tape.

And regretting it later.
 The south side of the greenhouse now has two heat mats set up. They are the big, square, heat mats, which can accommodate two trays of seedlings each, but right now I'm using guttering as my seedling trays: kale ('Red Russian'), lettuces ('Esmeralda' 'Conquistador' 'Early Baby Mix') and peas ('Sugar Daddy').

Guttering is incredibly handy for growing small batches of greens. You don't need much soil, the interface between the heat mat and the plastic container is minimal, and it's super easy to transplant: simply slide the length of soil off the tray into the prepared bed (tip: prepare the bed FIRST). The only trick is keeping the soil moist. Let it dry out and your seedlings will be, as they say, toast.

I'm hoping to have a regular variety of lettuces this year, which sounds nice in theory but requires a certain amount of mathematical plotting and planting so one has a constant supply of seedlings to pop into those empty spots.

 Here's a row of peas. As you can see, there isn't much soil in the gutter yet the peas are thriving. I use Sunshine Mix #2 as my soil, amended with a few scoops each of bone meal, rock phosphate, and eggshell. I use a spray bottle to water. I'm pretty miserly with it, to minimize rot and mildew.

This is my favourite garden tool. It's a Japanese pick thingie I bought at Lee Valley, for what, at the time, I thought was an ungawdly amount of money: in hindsight it's been worth every penny.

As long as Richard sharpens it regularly.

Otherwise it's guaranteed to make you swear a fair bit as you hack futilely at the roots of some stupid spurge or the holly bush that keeps reproducing itself all over the garden.

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