Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Frustration first: Straw bale gardening....then on to better things.

Its not the technique of Straw Bale Gardening at fault. Its the material sourcing apparently.  Where i live,  i'm smack in the middle of urban and rural.  If i want straw bales i have 2 choices. For cheap (ie. reasonable pricing) i'd have to drive over 40 miles - fuel costs would cancel out the reasonable price.  If i want local i can go to a pseudo "farm boutique" (as in, people who dress and have marriage ceremonies for their hobby animals & mean it) and pay about $10 a bale for their precious straw.  I know that straw should not cost that much. Anywhere from $3-$6 is reasonable,  unless you are a sucker, desperate (like i almost am) or have money to waste.

I don't need perfect, shiny (even certified organic isn't a requirement for me) straw. It can be older, even moldy and someone just wants to get rid of it. I'm going to be soaking it in liquid fertilizer and rotting it anyway. It needs a month to prep and i'm out of time at this point. So maybe this fall i can find someone who just wants to unload some.

Oh,  well.  not really angry, more like annoyed and wanting to just say so.

I think i have certainty of some first time blooming going on this year.

My female "Titan" sea buckthorn may actually be blooming. I got really worried earlier last spring because the male has bloomed for 2 years now - despite being much smaller (and younger) than the female. I was concerned that their bloom time was going to be way too far apart for them to be fertile partners. Searching for photos of blooming female sea buckthorns was extremely difficult but for another blog i follow Seaberry blog .
 and i asked the blogger in that post about it.  Going back to that post today i was able to find that Titan is in bloom and so is 'mister seabuck' (not an official title because it was sold as an unnamed male plant only,  i have no idea if this cultivar has a name or number at all.) Mister seabuck is almost past his bloom i think,  because the brown scales are falling to the ground and are littering a circle around his base.
The visible parts of female Sea Buckthorn flowers are quite hard to see and extremely challenging for amateur photographers to capture. After a lot of pics of blurry plant and crystal clear thumbs i took my fingers out of the way and circled the evidence.

In real life they look almost exactly like the pics on the  Seaberry blog i referenced above.  Here's the male. Hopefully he didn't finish too far ahead and any remaining pollen is still able to get where it needs to go.

Another blooming first.  This is one of the two Carmine Jewel cherry plants i bought in Spring 2012. It was actually the healthier of the two but i had to replant it during summer and then later it got broken by feral cats digging around and jumping on it,  then 5 feet or snow piled on top of it this winter....

But its got flower buds!

The one that started smaller but got more pampered and hasn't been bedeviled by all-sorts is easily 3 times its size.

Its a first-time bloomer too.

(more bad photography)

Last up is a nice bloom from a "Northeaster" strawberry plant that i added just a few weeks ago.  I'm told that i should pick off the flowers this year and avoid letting the plants produce berries. *stomps feet*  Do i really have to?

I'm almost ready for veggie gardening.  My dad ran the tiller through the soil 3 days ago but it rained since then and its too heavy for me to hill up today and i'm busy tomorrow. My plastic sheeting arrived today and so did my liquid fish fertilizer.

Got all of the current seedlings getting hardened off

I'm wicked late getting some things started. I still need to get the melons, cukes and summer & winter squashes started.  I also forgot to start Red Russian kale and almost totally forgot about the okra. I'm behind on some flower seedlings too.

Potatoes are pretty much ready. I'm trying German Butterball (front of pic) for the first time and going with Adirondack Blue once again.

I'm also trying leeks for the first time (off to the left).

This "King of the North" bell pepper wants to bloom already.  If it stays warm i may be able to plant the more tender things in about 10-14 more days.

Well,  there's something else in full bloom today and its making my eyelids stick together.  So,  that will be it for now.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hello again!

One of my last entries included the sentence: "I'm expecting an interesting winter". Or something along those lines. We certainly did.  The yard had about 4 feet of snow in it much of the season with 6-7 foot drifts not being unheard of.

I'm not sure where to start with this next attempt at catching up.

I guess i'll start with whatever pictures i have that are uploaded.

Last spring i replaced the short 6 foot posts i had the grapes trellised on with much taller posts. I think they are 8 or 9 foot now.  Its been too long since i did it.  I had to cut away all the old wire,  prune the vines away then pull the short posts,  then pound the new ones in. I ended up going no further that year because the posts had no hooks like the shorter ones did. I couldn't simply slip the wire into the slots and be done with it. The taller fences only have rounded protrusions. So i had to come up with something and plastic clips or zip ties would not last and metal hose clamps or muffler clamps would add cost far too quickly. So i came up with this:

It gives the wire enough play to be tightened as necessary.

This was during the post replacement:

The comparison in size can be seen on the right side of the pic, just past the stepladder

I got nothing else done with the grapes that year and they had no support through the heavy snow this winter and were a complete mess this spring.

They look much better now and the vines will be running higher off the ground and will make weed suppression much easier:

I also removed the leftmost Edelweiss and gave it away.   You can see all the dead brown grass that was the weed growth that totally got away from me last year.  The tallest wire goes all the way to the top of the posts where it is painted yellow.

So that got accomplished,  finally!

While i was taking care of that,  hubby was helping clear the garden

About a week ago i prepared a new bed and planted 52 strawberry plants for our youngest who adores strawberries.

It was good timing for putting out bare root plants that had broken dormancy in the mail 2 weeks prior,  the following 3 days were overcast with occasional light rain showers.  So,  with the Remay fabric covering them,  they seem to have escaped sunburn.  I bought the "Three Great Strawberries" collection from Burpee. It was 25 of each "Northeaster", "Tribute" and "Earliglow".  They did short me about 5 plants and some were either DOA or too puny to bother with,  but i only needed 52 and gave the rest of the more likely looking ones away.

I also built myself a new seed starting setup out of PVC.  Earlier in the year i was thinking i might build something out of wooden 2x4s. So i did some research and found this website:

Many, many thanks go to this person who shared this design freely and made the simple instructions crystal clear.

I took a few pictures of the build in progress but never did snap a shot of the completed stand- which is currently in use.

I did omit the building of the wooden trays and instead used some leftover hardware cloth (a welded metal mesh) and zip-tied it to the support bars.  The project cost me under $50.00 since i already had the light fixtures, chain and the PVC cutting tool instead of a saw.  ---because we know this isn't my first rodeo when it comes to PVC.

I also learned that one can indeed fit 10' lengths of 1" PVC pipe into a closed Nissan Sentra.  Just like my old Hyundai Accent,  its amazing what a family car can haul if you pack it right. :)

Well i guess that is it for now.  Its a beautiful day outside and is expected to be in the upper 70's.

I hope to not neglect my blog this year like i have for the last 2!