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Vegetable Garden, May 2014, No. 1

May has been a very busy time in the garden.  The summer garden planting is DONE!  Everything I had planned to grow is either transplanted from seedlings started in the greenhouse or seeded directly in the garden. I am feeling a great sense of accomplishment and yet there are so many more task that could be done.  I ask myself,” Is there no end to the list of things to do?”  A part of me answers “God, I hope not!”

Eggplant, garlic, squash, and peas

I now have about 7500 sq. ft. of garden area.  The new area of about 3000 sq. ft. is in rough shape, needing lime, fertilizer, compost, and deep digging.  I did what I could to get it ready with the time and energy I was willing to put into it.  But the season waits for no one.  In that area, I decided it is better to have a garden planted in soil that is less than perfect than not to have any crop at all this year.

tomatoes and peppers

The tomatoes are in.  They were way too leggy but they are doing OK.  They could look better but they are going to make it.   The peppers are planted and they are looking great!  I lost two tomato plants and had replacements, so I am at full strength!  Both the peppers and tomatoes seem to be starting to grow well.  With 128 tomato plants + 8 seed saver plants and 160 pepper plants + 14 seed saver plants, we should not want for tomatoes or peppers assuming these varieties grow well here.  Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, onions, fennel, kohlrabi, summer squash, winter squash, melons, cucumbers, and eggplant are all in the ground and appear to be thriving.  Chard, radishes, beets, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, bush beans, pole beans, shelling beans, sweet corn,  and peas are all garden seeded.  The radishes, beets, turnips, rutabaga, peas, and bush beans have germinated!

beans, melons, corn, and potatoes

My timing is not well aligned with the seasons yet.  Part of it is due to trying to get so much done, part is due to growing vegetables I have never had the space in which to grow before, most of is just ignorance which is correctable with study and some long rainy winter days sort out the schedule of things.


The weather in the first half of May worked out very well, with a mix of rain and sun.  This has allowed me to plant and work the soil until I get tired and then it would rain so the plants are very happy and I had an excuse to rest.  In the second half of May it has been dry, perfectly warm and the setting sun has been calling me in from the garden.  What a pleasant end to a day of gardening, to come back to the house, crack open a beer, and relax as the sun sets behind the Callahan mountain range.  As I watch the shadow from the ridge race across the valley floor, I think about the accomplishments of the day and start to make the list of projects I should get after tomorrow.

sweet corn

The main garden rows have been lengthened a few feet to align with the new garden area and all of the 10 yards of compost I had delivered last fall is gone.  I have had an additional 14 yards of compost delivered and used a bit of in the new garden area. Over the summer I will incorporate all of it in both garden areas with a priority for the new garden.  I ordered a compost called “mint” compost.  It is very well composted with few large pieces of un-composted material.  I plan to build a 1+ yd storage box for some of the compost.  I can then use this compost along with other material to create a lower cost potting soil.  I plan to get a second delivery of 14 yards of compost called “garden” compost delivered in late fall.  This garden compost is less finished and will be a better product for digging into the garden soil.  I hope to incorporate 7 yards of this compost as part of my fall garden cleanup effort and save 7 yards for spring planting.  The ground is too wet and soft in the spring for the delivery truck, so I need to save some for spring. The closest the truck can get to the garden is about 50 yards from where it is needed. This is due to some barb wire keeping the elk out of the garden that stretches over the gate where the truck would enter.  I plan to change that so I can open that wire when the delivery comes and get the compost much closer to where I need it.


Plan: June

  • Take down the temporary greenhouse structure and move the tables to a better location for summer propagation efforts.
  • Build a “grow out area” for long term shrub propagation in 1 gal. and 2 gal. pots.  I am thinking this should go along the northern edge of the garden near the fruit trees.
  • Have a pole shed built 24’ x 18’ and enclose it myself with my dad’s help
  • Layout the spot for the new location of the hoop house.
  • Turn my focus to the orchard, flower beds, and yard.
  • Start to work on building a walking path around the property



The soil in the new garden space needs a lot of improvement.  My idea at this time is to try to improve the soil in the area where the vegetables are actually planted and will grow and not the entire space.  Then, as those crops finish up this fall, add major amounts of amendments, which can then mellow into the soil during the winter.  Then, in very early spring, test the soil again and make minor adjustments before the summer planting starts.  I suspect this process will be repeated for years to come.

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Funny Things Are Everywhere

Weatherwise, May has been very nice–not too hot, or cold and not too rainy.  Bruce is getting lots of gardening done and I’ve been puttering around–definitely not gardening.

Despite the nice weather, it has been an oddball kind of month, starting with a sudden influx of these—

MayGopherSnake2 MayGopherSnake

Bruce saw this snake out in the garden.  I’m thinking it is a gopher snake which is non-poisonous.  But they sure are long.  They can get to be 7 feet in length, but most are 4.5 to 5 feet.


I found this snake on the east sidewalk of our house on my way to take the garbage out.  After seeing him, I let Bruce take care of the garbage.


We don’t know how this snake got into this predicament.  I was watching a bird out in the yard and he was flipping around something large.  Bruce went out to see what it was and came back with this poor guy.

MayKnottedSnake2 MayKnottedSnake



One evening I looked out the window–looking for the elk–and saw this guy waddling through the brush–


Sometimes I think we are living on the animal superhighway.

Speaking of brush, we finally decided the grass was tall enough and probably should be mowed–at least around the house.  Well, I used to mow the grass in California so I volunteered for the job, using the brush mower.  The first problem was that I didn’t want to have it go in reverse–the mower is so big that it has gears!  Then I thought it was way too slow in first gear, so I cranked it up.  It’s quite a ride when the edge catches on a small tree.  Wheeeee….

In the end, I did about half of the space and Bruce did the other half–then he spent the next 2 days raking and mowing some more.  But it sure does look nice now.



Some guy came out to look at our well and told Bruce that we could water day and night and never run out of water.  I guess Bruce decided to test that theory and watered the grass for days…and then the water ran out.  Oh dear.

It’s kind of strange to have no water.  Bruce called the people who fix wells and she said no one could come out at 9 o’clock at night and that Bruce would just have to “get his pioneer spirit on”.  Ha, Ha Ha!

We went to the store and bought some water for drinking and it was all okay until I realized we had a field full of crops and no water and no one scheduled to come out and fix the problem.  Welcome to farming!

The next day we did get a guy to come out and the problem was that a part of the pump motor power breaker had shorted out because a frog jumped onto it and got fried.  So it was an easy fix and we now have water.

On the “pioneer spirit” side of this event, we learned that the float at the bottom of the criterion, which detects that the criterion is empty and protects the pump at the top from trying to run when there is no water, works as it should. This float almost never gets used so it can go bad and we would never know it until something like this happens. Also, as it took less than 2 hours to fill the criterion, I can estimate that the well is still producing at least 12 gpm (gallons per minute) as it did when it was first drilled.  We now know that all of the components of our water system are operational.  One less thing to wonder (read: worry) about!  (This paragraph is Bruce’s contribution as I have no clue how the well works).

What else?  Oh, Bruce and I have been taking a class every Tuesday since April to become Master Food Preservers.  We are almost done with the class–we just need to do a 5 minute demonstration and do the take-home test.  We’ve learned all about safely preserving food in all sorts of ways–canning, pressure canning, freezing, drying…We also learned how to make sauerkraut.  We then had to make something at home using sauerkraut and bring it in for a potluck.  Can you guess what I made?


Hard to believe, but it’s Sauerkraut Spice Cake.  And it was actually very good.



So, it’s been quite a strange month here, but I have to say–it’s never boring!


P.S.  I am posting this a week after the original write-up–due to a visit from Bruce’s folks, adverse effects of medication and preparing for that demo…but we passed the Master Food Preserver’s Final Exam with flying colors and we both survived the required demo.  Mine was about the kitchen scale and Bruce’s was about how to make Habanero Gold Jelly.  We each got a spiffy name badge made in the shape of Oregon and a cool black apron and of course, the certificate.  Now we need to fulfill 60 hours of volunteer work.  PLEASE don’t call the hotline this year!!  🙂  Thank you, Maureen, for pointing us in the direction of this class–we loved it!