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!

Mar 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday



Happy gardening,


Mar 28, 2011

First it Snowed, then we sowed


I know, I can hear you- very corny…but accurate!

Yesterday it was cold and it snowy pretty good in the am, but it didn’t stick. It stopped and we had a break in the weather ,so Patrick reseeded the small patch of lawn we put in last year (more on that in another post)- I know, right? Lawn? You know my thoughts on it- but it’s only a little patch (now), and it will look nice off the deck- giving us a different ‘room’ so to speak. He added some sifted compost in the bald spots along with the seed and then a light spray with VF-11.

I’ll do some more updates on this when I introduce our new yard.

I did some sowing too- in one of the tunnels and greenhouse; just a few rows of Radishes and Tatsoi in the tunnel. And after harvesting a few things in the greenhouse I started some radishes in there too- time to get another ground bed build in the greenhouse I think.

The berries we purchased a while back are growing well-


Can’t wait to get these planted…

And an update on the Beets and Spinach transplanted the other day. The temps inside the greenhouse (single layer) dropped to 24.8 degrees. So I’m assuming it was a little warmer under the twice tempered tunnel- I hope! A couple of beets don’t look happy, but everything else seems okay- I put the temperature gauge in there today so I’ll be able to record the lows.

Today’s weather was unsettled- like spring is usually. Snow, sleet, rain, sun, clouds, sun- yep. that’s spring.


At lastly, all the seeds started in the 200 cell plug flat are potted up and look nice and healthy!

In this group-

Lettuce- organic ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’, organic ‘Speckles’, ‘Focea’, ‘Salad Bowl Blend’, organic ‘Red Orach’ (only 2 germinated!), and chives.


I hope you spring is going well.

Happy gardening,


Mar 26, 2011

I Can’t Tell You the Importance of the Right Nail!


You’ve heard the saying “The right tool for the right job”, well how about the right nail for the right job? Yep, that’s what I needed and 4-penny common nail- now where do you suppose I put those when we moved? Lucky me! I didn’t have to look far because I was smart enough to put most of my gardening ‘stuff’ in the same place, even as fast as we packed and moved. A nail, in gardening stuff? Let me explain.

When I sow seeds in the 200 cell plugs there is only one way to get them out- a nice nail just barely smaller than the hole in the bottom. One of my many favorite gardening books I read years ago, written by Mark Freeman called Gardening in Your Greenhouse had this advice, and it has continued to be one of the easiest ways to start seeds to date! Great little book. I really need to get some more of these plug flats as only one came with us in the move- the rest were getting cracked because I’ve had them for years.

So ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’ was potted up yesterday. I was going to put them in paper pots, but I just didn’t have it in me to make them. That and I can fit more under the lights with 6 packs. I have more lettuce to pot-up and I may try to fit them in 9 packs. Lettuce is one crop that does better, in my experience, when it is potted up once or twice before setting out- for whatever reason.




I managed to get spinach and beets in the ground in the new tunnel. Now we’ll see if they live! One of the timings will be the right one- but it is all about experimenting this year and keeping really good records- that and it’s a weird year, so much wind and about 8-10 degrees lower than last March. I still need to buy my snap clamps so making the tunnel into a chenille was my best bet to keeping it from ending up down the street!

I said my usual prayer and that is that…I’m sure you all have read my subtitle ‘Where things either live or die’.


I mulched on the ends for added protection and plan on adding more. I want to mulch after the soil has a chance to get some heat- anyone have a favorite mulch for veggies. I have straw, hay, and a lot of pine needles (they take forever to break down and my soil can use some acidic help anyway.) All of them need to be chopped up I think- that will take some time.

These plants are the multi-plant experiment I started a few weeks back. The roots look really good- we’ll see how it goes.

As usual with early transplants, these have been fertilized with a high phos. fertilizer- to get the roots off to a good start in cool soil- even though they’re under the tunnel and the soil is a little warmer there.

I harvested a little bit today too- yummy!

A local produce store wanted to see my Mache, the owner had never heard of it, including it’s various names, so I took her some today. While I was there I told her that I’d harvested some baby spinach, lettuce, and radish too- she asked me if I’d be able to provide her with small bunches weekly with my small bed in the greenhouse or elsewhere- she had to pay a lot for the ones she had and the green tops had to be cut they looked so ragged. We’ve talked before about the possibility of supplying her with various things, once I’m up and running. And she knows I’m still working on soil quality, and experimenting with timing and varieties. It will be exciting to see what comes of it.

Let’s see what else- Oh, I started the second round of beets, and a few broccoli. And the first round of chard.

Nice sturdy soil blocks and yummy beets and chard on the way…guess I better work on more beds! The micro blocks will be sown with some flowers later.

I need to work on generation 2 soil block flats this year as I want them to have more air- which is why I put more space between them in the above group. The roots just gather at the bottom instead of getting air pruned- These wooden flats are Eliot Coleman’s design, but I’ve since seen special flats for the soil blocks at Johnny’s- probably Coleman’s idea, I’m sure. If they’re transplanted in a timely manner they’d be fine, but holding them off in these is not working as well as I’d like.


I hope your seed starting is going well!


Happy gardening,


Mar 24, 2011

Beautiful Day


Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny and windless day- I finally had a chance to get the G1 tunnel up! Yay!

And that is a smaller tunnel under it- only on one of the 30” beds (another experiment). I can’t get floating row cover just yet so 6 mil plastic will have to do for now, which means venting both on warm days- a pain until I get the Remay.

I ended up making a purlin for this first version- I have a different design in mind that would allow venting to be much easier, but that will be our generation 2- right now I just needed something up, so I used what I had. I also made this big tunnel into a chenille  (Coleman books) by adding cat5 wiring in a zig-zag pattern over the plastic- which sandwiches the plastic between the pvc and the wire. This allows me to just push the plastic up along the pvc easily to vent or work. All I need now are some snap clamps and I found a great site to get some from- Click on their retail outlets link to find a supplier nearest you. In the meantime the wire is holding it down well when we have wind- which we did today.



I still have to tie down the ends, but I wanted to water in some crustacean meal I put on the beds.  The sun was out so it felt like tropical heaven in there! I was so tired by the time I finished that I couldn’t get anything sown.

Today’s weather was nothing like yesterday-snow in the morning (just a tiny bit), cloudy, windy, and cold- toward the evening it calmed enough to get at least something sown- so 5 short rows of Mache went in- not much, but it’s a start! I also took the soil’s temperature under the inner tunnel- 40 degrees already; we’ll see what it is early morning. Now to get a regular temp. gauge in there so I can keep track of that.

I also got our strawberry area ready yesterday. We originally wanted to build some cold frames in this spot as it gets sun first during winter and as the suns gets higher in the sky- we’ll get to those cold frames in the fall possibly. Last year I prepared this area with lasagna type layers so it was easy to get it started- I raked the straw off and added some unfinished compost.


I had to do something with this compost because it was in my tumbler and was too full and heavy for me to turn- layer one.

Over this I added newspaper. Then I mixed up 1/2 composted manure and 1/2 peat, greensand, rock phosphate, and a sprinkling of crustacean meal, watering each layer well. Topped it with the straw and in a while we’ll be able to put the strawberries in.

The lettuce is looking wonderful and a lot bigger than yesterday- they grow so fast!


And lastly, our first crocus in our new home! One thing is for sure living in this climate and starting all over has made me appreciate the little things a lot more :)


I hope your crocus are up and smiling-

Happy gardening,


Mar 22, 2011

Happy Spring Update


I hope you are all enjoying the first days of spring! I have to say that our weather is very unsettled- just like spring is supposed to be, but with the added bonus of sunshine :).

We have been fighting windy conditions (thanks a lot La Nina!) and it has been a challenge to get my twice-temperedTerm coined by Eliot Coleman- Four Season Harvest pg. 109 'Evaluating the twice-tempered climate' tunnels up and running! I’d better hurry because the spinach, beets, and broccoli have been hardening off and will need to be planted. These are the multi-plant experiment, and so far I think it’s working.

Their true leaves are getting bigger and bigger- so planting time is not too far off.


Things are growing well in the small greenhouse bed- another experiment. I still need to build the 3rd lid for this bed- so far though things bounce back when it gets really cold.

I thinned and ate some of the radishes and lettuce- Mache will not be too far off and I’ve sowed anther 3 rows of it, although that will probably be the last I sow inside as the greenhouse temps are getting higher and higher during the day and they are a cold weather crop. You can’t see them, but they’ve germinated there in the middle (much better this time, I watered better!)

We ate our first baby radish and lettuce on the 18th- they were tender and yummy!


It’s not much- so why do I bother? Well it isn’t much, but the fact that I started these on the 22nd of Jan. in a zone 5, had –8 degree temperatures, high winds, and lots of wet snow and am still able to have fresh food from my small bed in the greenhouse…is huge! Now just imagine if I were to get a larger, longer high tunnel put up with low tunnels inside- we’re talking food year round even here where it’s cold! I love that and now I know from experience that it will work (thank-you Eliot Coleman!). If I started some crops in late summer, early fall and got them to a certain size they’d just sit there waiting for me to harvest all winter. In fact those crops would just now be finishing up and more would be in various stages of growth- about mid February when things take off.

For now I am going to try building mobile boxes to put inside the greenhouse on the benches- these will be used for the winter crops and will be covered with an additional ‘lid’ (twice-tempered) and then as these crops finish up they will be used as a nursery for outdoor transplants.

Other things I managed to get done recently- an additional shelf of lights in the nursery!

Since we moved, I’ve had to set up the nursery in the garage- and it’s cold. I’m not sure it’s made any difference with germination- but I’m keeping records. I also may have discovered new light bulbs to use- I don’t buy the expensive grow lights, I’ve always used one warm and one cool. Pat and I noticed ‘sunshine’ 5,000K bulbs- we’d never seen these before. It seems to me that they’d be a nice combo of cool and warm. After a little research on some forums it seems that others have used them with great success with their seed starting. Next time I have to replace bulbs (or I get another shelf up :) I’ll try them. Anyone have any experience with these?

I’ve also moved the mini greenhouse inside the bigger greenhouse- not sure why I haven’t thought of this before- this would give me twice-tempered conditions for 8 flats so I’ll be able to move things along better under the lights. I left the only 2 remaining pansies in there night before last- the low inside the greenhouse (not double cover temps) was 30.4 and I woke up to pansies that were not frozen- they are in a 6 pack. We’ll see how it works with lower temperatures tonight and with soil blocks that won’t have the plastic surrounding them. The babies in the greenhouse bed were covered and survived, but they are in the ground- I’m just not sure it would work with a flat of seedlings unless they are in a tray with a lid maybe- then they’d be thrice-tempered ;)- too much trouble? Probably. It will still give me a place to put more flats besides under the lights during the day- the seedling shuffle will be greater- that’s all. Ah the lengths we go to…


The lettuce and chives are up in a 200 cell flat I sowed- still waiting for the red orach to germinate.

I’ll be potting these up into paper pots when they get a little better- I remember when I discovered that leaving these plug flats under the lights, but without a tray below them will allow air pruning of the roots, not unlike the soil blocks. What a revelation! You can read about that here.

An update on the winter sown project…something is growing, but it aint the plants I sowed (yes, mom I said aint!)


I can only imagine how wet they’d be if I would have tried this in Portland. I’ve even opened them up to let them dry a bit. I did see one or two pansies and possibly a fescue- and the dianthus is still growing…through the algae :). This may take a bit of tweaking I’m thinking.


I hope your spring is coming along nicely!


Happy Gardening,


Mar 18, 2011

Waiting for Spring


So today while shopping for food, we found these on sale…

A nice addition to what we planted last year- we’d like to add quite a few berries to our berry area this year.

We came home and then we saw this out the window…

I purchased my plastic today for the tunnel…I was going to start some Mache, spinach, and claytonia…we’ll see.


Spring is so close? Happy gardening,


Mar 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday



Happy Gardening,



Mar 12, 2011

Seedlings and progress


Just an update on the multi-planted seedlings since some of you have asked.

The spinach is making a good showing- germinating slowly but they look good. These seeds are organic purchased locally from Nature’s. It will be interesting to see how they do as spinach normally doesn’t like its roots disturbed and so does better sown directly.

The broccoli, on the other hand, is not doing well. I purchased the seed at a local bi-mart, so no surprise there. I wanted to try a short season variety (even though I try not to use hybrids) since I learned from a friend here that she hasn’t been able to grow it as it goes to seed before she can get a decent harvest. My first thought was my new climate’s short season and so I looked and looked for a short season variety. The only one I could find was a non-organic hybrid called ‘Early Dividend hybrid’- so as a test I thought I’d give it a shot. This variety is harvestable in 45 days. However, 2 experiments in one sowing is not a good idea, so the next sowing will not be sown in multi-plant sets for the broccoli. Maybe they’ll look a little better sown that way…we’ll see.

As you can see the broccoli looks pale, leggy, and germination is spotty. The spinach looks very nice. Live and learn-sometimes you do get what you pay for.

Since this is an experiment, I’ll not be using as much space in the garden as I had planned. And I’ll be off to some seed companies to find an organic, short season, broccoli variety for fall. If anyone has any suggestions for a variety I’d love to hear all about it.

The beets always germinate well. And they should since one seed is actually a few plants- and so with these, I did thin since we only want 4 or 5 in the multi-plant block. ‘Bulls Blood’ is one of my favorites- and the leaves look so nice in a salad. The other variety ‘Ruby Queen’ I received free from Laura over at Modern Victory Gardens- thanks Laura, they’re doing great so far!

Sorry it’s a little blurry. ‘Bulls Blood’ is on the left, I believe. I am considering putting these blocks onto a flat that has holes in the bottom so the roots stop better when the hit the air (air pruning).

Now on to the chitting…

Not sure what I did wrong. I followed some directions online putting them in a bright, but cool location and now the little sprouted thingies are black. It’s been my experience that that is not a good sign, so I moved them out from under the lights and put them where they’ll get natural (not much) light. They did better in my potato drawer in the kitchen! My guess is that they’re compost. I think I’ll go back to the accidental potato way :). If anyone has chitted (sounds funny) and has any advice, I’d love to hear it!

Patrick  and I (mostly Pat, I directed!) managed to get 2 30” beds tilled. I used 3 5gal. buckets of 1/2 composted manure and 1/2 peat for 2 30” beds, 5lbs each powdered phos. and greensand and tilled it in- not too deep. This will be the only time we’ll roto these beds as I really believe that disturbing the soil is not a good idea- it disrupts the soil layers killing microbial life. After this i’ll be using a strong garden fork until I can have a broadfork made or can afford one.

At planting time, I’ll sprinkle on the crustacean meal and some compost that I’ve been working on over the winter. The only other amendment I wish I had was vermiculite, which for this dryer climate, would be a good addition to give this soil good moisture holding capabilities. So now we have 2 small beds ready to receive the plants I’ve started-


I also managed to get some crops started: I sowed these in a 200 cell plug flat (need to purchase more of these or the 288 cell plug flats as this is the only one that survived the move!)

Lettuce: Organic ‘Speckles’
Red Orach
Lettuce: Marvel of Four Seasons- organic
Lettuce: ‘Focea’
Lettuce: ‘Salad Bowl’




And the spring bulb bed is growing beautifully- I just hope the cold temps don’t hurt them…we’ll see.

Happy gardening,


Mar 10, 2011

Wow, Rain…



No working the ground today- they said rain was coming, but usually it’s just a sprinkle when they say that…maybe. Well the ground needs it and I’m sick anyway! Things dry out very fast here- so I’m not concerned. And as I write this the rain has stopped.

After all-

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done.  ~Author Unknown


Um…I don’t think so :)

Happy almost spring!


Mar 8, 2011

Things are growing!


Last week I actually had time to sow a couple things- it always surprises me how fast they come up!

The beets I sowed on 3/4 came up on 3/6.

Broccoli and spinach sown on the 2nd and 3rd, up on 3/6-


The 3rd sowing of pansy- s l o w l y coming up (the second I sowed using the winter sown method and have not come up yet…as far as I know).


I also decided to try chitting potatoes- The only other time I’ve grown them was by accident (read all about it), but I wanted to see how it all worked and if the plants would really be stronger this way. That and I’ve discovered that I LOVE fingerlings, red or yellow, and I’ve also discovered another one called German Butterball- I can get them local and they are grown organically- so I just buy a couple extra and use them for planting.

Things in the greenhouse bed continue to grow and I’ve started some more Mache in there-

I’m hoping to get the outdoor tunnel finished so I can sow more Mache and other direct sow crops as well as the crops I have in the nursery. I did manage to get the rebar in the ground and test out the pvc. I’ll have to remove the pvc to get the soil amendments tilled in, but that’s no problem. This tunnel will cover two 30” wide beds. I plan on weaving the plastic over and under the pvc so I can just slide it up when I need to vent, or work in the beds- we’ll see how it all goes. I wanted them to work similar to the Chenilles (read about them here) I build for smaller tunnels over a single bed, but they had to be sturdier. All I know is here in Central Oregon you need to have a way to protect crops quickly in case a frost hits- this will give me an easy way to do that.

It is so nice that I can actually work outside early in the year here. The day was breezy, but nice as the sun came in and out. I have what I need to amend the soil- greensand, rock phos, some shell meal, peat, and composted manure- now just to get it worked in and let it sit for a couple weeks. And while that’s going on I’ll start another tunnel.


I hope your weather is cooperating as well, and as usual,

Happy gardening,



Mar 7, 2011



Pat and I were just saying the other day that it’s probably safe to assume it’s spring if we see this little guy and the next day there he was, or she!

and a baby too…

Their little cheek pockets are chuck full! (Taken on the 4th)


I believe these guys are very territorial so the baby will move on somewhere else. We haven’t come up with any names yet, so we need name ideas! I thought about Jiffy, because these guys are fast! My daughter likes Cricket, but nothing has grabbed me yet…makes me miss Momma and Peetree from our yard in Portland, but so far here we have a lot more names to come up with! If anyone has an name ideas I’d love to hear them :)

I just hope these little guys really like those seeds…and not my lettuce, etc!


Momma squirrel enjoying the mister on a hot day!

Peetree (see more images here)


As usual…

Happy gardening,



Mar 3, 2011



Today was a beautiful, sunny day. A perfect day to start some seeds, so that’s what I did.

I’m experimenting with a Dutch method I learned about in one of Eliot Coleman’s books called multi-planting. Coleman only uses it on beet, broccoli, cabbage, leek, onion, scallions, and spinach.

I believe he does this in a cold frame, but I wanted to try it in 2” soil blocks to transplant out later. To start, you sow 4 or 5 seeds in one square (for me a soil block) and you won’t be thinning them. You’re growing transplants in groups rather than singles. In Coleman’s book he uses an onion as an example, so I will too. Sow 5 seeds and plan for 4 to germinate. When the onion seedlings are big enough to go into the garden, cut out the blocks and set them out with a spacing of 10 by 12 inches. When you sow singles they are set 3” apart. 4 plants in a clump every 12” gives them the same growing space as when singles are 3” apart. Same total space for each plant and the same yield. The onions just push each other out of the way as they grow and when it’s time to harvest you’ll find them in a little circle instead of a row.

Here is a table of the crops he does this with based on 30” wide beds






Beet 4 6” 3
Broccoli 4 24” 1
Cabbage 3 18” 1
Leek 4 12” 3
Onion 5 12” 3
Scallions 10 6” 3
Spinach 4 6” 3

*Info taken from Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman pg. 101

For my experiment I’m starting with broccoli and spinach. If I was to use it with onions, I’d use the cold frame as they have to grow for quite a while before setting them out and soil blocks might not work. The broccoli variety I’m using is a quick maturing one as some have told me that they haven’t had much luck with it here- it bolts, they said. When you use this method in a cold frame, as Coleman does, you cut out the blocks of plants- so I think the soil blocks will work, we’ll see what happens.

I like the idea of these multi-plants because it’s more efficient to plant 4 or 5 plants in one shot than it is one. Also, I decided to start with broccoli because one of the advantages of growing broccoli this way is that they grow 3 or 4 smaller central heads instead of one big one- I would prefer this as I just cut everything up anyway!

I also used a new organic fertilizer in my soil block mix today. It’s called Jump Start from Happy Frog. It has active soil microbes and is higher in Phosphorus so it’ll give the roots a good start. I’ll be sure to post a product report on this one.

And I purchased some seeds today (surprise, surprise). I just ran to get some more of those broccoli seeds and came back with these too- you know how it goes…they were 50% off…


I just love these colors- The Bellflower ‘peachleaf’ is one of my favorite blues. It is one of the very first plants I grew from seed in the rental we lived in. I think I had the white one too. They are beautiful in a bouquet (remember mom?).

I’ve never grown Foxglove (if you can believe that!) and it was such a pretty pale yellow I couldn’t pass it up…I’m not sure, but I think I actually heard it calling to me in the store! I’ve never grown Jacob’s Ladder either- what a beautiful blue, I just hope it’s true to color. Lupines I’ve grown before, but they were always a mix and never from seed- I really don’t like growing mixes with most things as you can end up with a big mess of mixed color if you keep getting them! They always had problems with mildew in Portland, so I’m hoping it’ll be different here. It seems Lupine takes quite a while to germinate- so if anyone has any tricks or suggestions about starting these, I’m all ears. I guess they’ll have to go into micro-blocks since they take so long. That way they don’t take up too much room.


Happy almost spring!