This week's 'dig'
Kate at High Altitude Gardening reports a neat thing happening in SLC, UT

You know you're a gardener when...
Blunders with Shoots, Blossoms 'n Roots
Where things either live or die!

Jan 7, 2009

Trowel and Error: 2008

As the New Year is now upon us, I like to reflect on my gardening adventures- including the 'blunders', or especially the 'blunders' so as not to repeat them :)

Now that the seed catalogs are arriving it is always good practice to mull over last year's successes and failures...before I order! It also helps to put on those special glasses I have while reading through all those plant descriptions. You know the glasses I'm referring to- the ones that tone down those glossy pictures, and make the words like 'Can be invasive' or 'Susceptible to root rot' really stand out!

So, going over last year's notes and scribbles, here is the rundown of what I learned- starting with the successes!

Peas can be started indoors- to get a jump start

Now, this may not be news to others, but it is to me. I was so pleased that this experiment was a success! Here in soggy OR, it can be hit and miss when starting your peas. I've purchased the pea starts that have been sold the last few years in the stores and have never really been happy with the results. They never really recovered well after planting, and the harvest was poor. I felt it was probably due to the fact that they have long roots and transplanting can be hard on them, not to mention growing in a pot. I've also seen in recent years special pots that you can get that are deeper- some working like a book, of sorts, that you load with soil and pop in a seed and then close it up. These are all nice, I'm sure, but I thought I'd give starting them in the greenhouse a shot first, before adding to my ever growing supply of gadgets! Here is a list of supplies you'll need, if you want to try it.

  • Plastic pot 8" in diameter
  • 1 paper towel
  • 1 small clay pot- unglazed and 2.5-3.5" in diameter (one without a hole, if you can find it)
  • A cork or some way of plugging the hole in the clay pot
  • Vermiculite
  • Pea seeds
All you do is line the plastic pot with the paper towel, making sure it doesn't come close to the top of the pot- this will stop the vermiculite from sifting through the bottom. Next fill the plastic pot with dry vermiculite to 1" below the rim.

Now plug the hole in the clay pot. If you have cork that can make a tight seal- great. I ended up using some gummy ear plug stuff I had on hand for a plane ride. No, it wasn't used- gross! Whatever you use, make sure it is sealed well- it will be holding water. Next screw the clay pot into the center of the vermiculite, in the plastic pot. The rim of the clay pot should be about level with the vermiculite.

Now water the vermiculite, slowly- any excess will drain out the bottom. Next, fill the clay pot with water.

All that's left is to sow your peas in the vermiculite, about an inch apart. I didn't use innoculant for this experiment, but probably should have.

(good) Accidents can happen!

One of my favorite surprises this year was the red potatoes. It all started with making a new bed. Not a big one- it was say 2-3' wide by about 4' long, just big enough to stuff some bulbs in that I want to take with us when we move.

All I did to make this bed was throw kitchen scraps on it and yard debris, such as grass clippings, and a little regular garden soil. I just continued this for a while and before I knew it there were things growing. The onions were easy to identify, but there were other things growing that I couldn't identify. While weeding one day, my husband asked what I wanted done with that spot- I told him to just leave it, because I wasn't sure what we had in there. So, we just pulled the obvious weeds and left the rest. A little more time went by and while weeding again, I pulled up some of those plants, and what do you potatoes! I've never grown potatoes of any kind, so this was a treat. We managed to get 2 good sized harvests out of this little pile- and they were delicious! Watch this year I'll try to grow them, and they won't be as good!

What a great meal that was- baby red potatoes with a bit of fresh Italian parsley, flat iron steak, and a fresh garden salad...can't beat that!

Fertilizer works...if you use it

Last year I really wanted to see some great flowers on my Clematis. I usually don't use fertilizers that much, organic maybe, unless I plan on testing my soil Ph. No sense in using it if the plants can't take it up- it just ends up in the ground water...and no I'm not a tree huger! I use my compost a lot so I figure my soil is probably about right, but just in case, I choose not to use a whole lot. Well, I decided to put the Clematis on a strict fertilizing schedule, and what do you know...fertilizer works ;)

Keeping eyes and ears open is rewarding

Well, we've had some great creatures this year. They are always a welcomed sight.

And now for the hard lessons- the 'blunders'. These are rewarding in their own way, for if it weren't for our mistakes we wouldn't learn anything :) Learning things through 'trowel and error' makes the lessons learned stick better than just reading something in a book.

Put things away

I can still hear my mom saying this- and I say it to my kids as well. It really is true, if you want to be able to find something easily, find a place for it and put there when you're done using it...yeah, right! I had to do an overhaul in that greenhouse late winter, early spring last year. I remember saying 'Oh, there it is!' way too many times, and half of that stuff belongs in my kitchen! ;)

Never underestimate the weather...especially in OR!

Last frost dates- something I've tried to nail down. Where I live, microclimates in your own yard can be a pain. There is a reason they say to give 1-2 weeks on either side of any given last frost date for your area. Last spring I grew a few things, some for friends too. I was excited when it was time to harden things off. The next thing I knew, I was running out to grab everything and put it back inside the the hail. Needless to say, the few plants that I did plant out in the garden where not very happy with me. I ended up having to quickly wash what few 4" pots I had on hand to pot up the plants in soil blocks, because planting time had to be put off a bit...and then a bit more. Time to get that 4" soil block maker!

I was kinda glad I was unable to grow a whole lot!

Never bring anything in the greenhouse for winter!

Unless I want nothing but problems...nuff said!

The greenhouse will always get hotter than you think it will!

I must have been out there 50 times a day, watering the greenhouse floor, making sure the screening I put on the outside roof hadn't blown off, and watering it too. Time to get some shade cloth! We had record highs last year- I remember leaving OR to go to TX, and it was 103 degrees! I believe that was in May! And speaking of that, on to my next 'blunder'

You can't leave for 2 weeks and expect everything to survive!

When I go to visit my sister in TX I have to remember to not sow anything before I leave, they won't takes water to do that ;). And put any hanging pots I have right by the back door, maybe someone will hit their head on it and decide to water it! And always, there will either be a casualty or your beef steak tomato in the greenhouse will produce it's first tomato of the season...early, or both.

If the tag says 'Can be invasive' pretend it's yelling at you!

I love Gooseneck Loosestrife. I used to love looking at pictures of it in books and magazines. I know it's invasive. And then I found one at Portland Nursery that was supposed to be a safe variety for home gardens. The nice man there told me 'It's wild version is invasive, or can be, but this one was created for the home garden.' I was thrilled! And a little leary. My alarm went off...but the nice man told me...uh huh.

Here it is choking out everything else..

It is beautiful in a bouquet, however.

Well, we're off to yet another year of gardening- and I look forward to it! Hopefully I'll be able to grow more things for family and friends. I'll leave you with a slide show of some more wonderful things that I grew this year.

Happy Gardening!


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