Showing posts with label gardening - weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening - weather. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

In Praise of Hoop Houses

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I sing the praises of our hoophouses a lot.  But I can't help it, having a covered growing space really makes the difference in our food choices, by extending our growing season and allowing us to bring some crops reliably to harvest.  It's common here to spend months growing tomatoes only to have them never even get close to ripening, or when the fall rains come early, you can lose your tomatoes to blight in a heartbeat.

For us the investment in a greenhouse for what some people spend on a family vacation each year was well worth it.  We like to stay home and we like to grow our own food.

Besides growing food crops in the hoophouse itself, we also use the space for starting plants for the outside garden, and for sale.

Ripe peppers are a possibility now with the hoophouse. 

Even though we live in a great berry growing area, I have moved our strawberries inside to keep them safe from the deer.  

 Indigo Rose tomato.

Ripe tomatoes are now a given in quantities large enough to supply us with all the canned tomato products our family consumes in a year.

Greens of all types are a staple - inside or out, but the hoophouse allows us to start cold hardy greens earlier than if we waited to plant outside.

 Greens, greens, greens.  It's pretty easy to eat your greens when they are so beautiful!

To keep costs down we don't the heat the space, but try to fit in crops that just need a little boost in heat or drier space to get started.

A frost nipped the zucchini a little last week, but the plants have bounced back fast with our recent warm spell.

All in all, I really can't say enough in favor of having a hoophouse for a go-along gardening space if you live in a somewhat marginal or short growing season area.  We love ours!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Between Seasons

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

In our garden, we are between seasons.  It started to cool off, but then a little more monsoon rain came along...  So what is meant to be Autumn isn't quite so.  Everything is a bit mixed around, the stone fruit seem to be shedding leaves, growing leaves and budding with pretty blossoms all at once!  The chickens don't know whether to go broody, moult, lay eggs or what!  Soon, the rain will pass and the cooler nights will set everything in order.

Like all transition times, I find the change between seasons a challenge.  This week, the children caught a cold, the long grass and weeds of summer still engulf the garden bed, the abundant tropical fruit and veg have slowed right down, and the temperate vegetables, citrus and other goodies aren't nearly in a glut yet!  We're putting jackets on, taking them off, having a day of dresses and sandals followed by another of boots and jeans.  Eating soup one night, salad the next...

But the blessings of seasonal transition are that we have time to adjust, time to use up what's left of the season leaving, time to make do.  We have to be aware of our surroundings and adapt, flow, accept.

What changes are you embracing right now?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Water water everywhere?

Aurora at Island Dreaming

April showers bring May flowers, or so the poem goes. Except that it hasn't rained here for the past two and a half weeks. This, coupled with temperatures that (as our national newspapers love to keep reminding us) currently rival the Mediterranean, has come to a head over the holiday weekend in the form of long traffic queues heading towards the coast as the whole country tries to make good use of the fine weather.

The garden isn't so keen on what is shaping up to be the hottest April on record. The container garden in our yard is particularly thirsty and our veg plot is requiring a few visits a week just to water. The clayey soil, where it has been left unmulched and uncultivated, has turned to rock hard lumps that throw dust into the air whenever the wind blows. After a wet winter, I didn't expect that I would be dealing with a lack of water so soon.

Our blue planet is remarkably dry, in human terms. According to these UN statistics, just 2.5 % of all of the water resources on earth are freshwater - and of this 2.5%, 70% is locked up in ice and snow cover. We are exploiting the freshwater resources we do have at an alarming rate, extracting groundwater at far greater pace than it is being replenished. At the same time we are degrading the quality of those meager resources we do have in ever more creative ways - salination, acidification and industrial and agricultural effluent are some of the problems that your region may or may not be facing.

Next month we will be installing a couple of water butts on our plot. Hopefully it will rain and they will have a chance to fill up over the coming months. If we have a very dry summer, we can but hope that a hose pipe ban will not be enforced; and that the water butts will have a chance to fill over winter ready for next years growing season. We will be collecting and spreading mulch with abandon over the next few weeks and using the cooler evenings to wander to our plot and water, all in the hope of reducing evaporation and runoff. We might even find a way to capture and filter some of the grey water generated by our household and use it in the garden. These are all tangible actions we can take to conserve the water resources we have and ensure the garden survives a potentially scorching summer.

Much harder to contemplate is the embodied or 'virtual water', in effect the water footprint, of all of the products that we consume. Agriculture takes the biggest share of our annual global freshwater budget at about 70%, followed by industrial production. The domestic consumption of almost 7 billion people accounts for just 8% of global usage. These are issues that clearly cannot be solved by individual action; but reducing unsustainable levels of personal consumption and waste will obviously contribute to the solution.

Back in my part of the UK, this summer could be a complete washout, a repeat of the flooding and holiday-ruining rain storms of recent years. Or it could be very hot and very dry. It might mercifully be somewhere in between. It will certainly be a summer of our household being more mindful of how we use yet another resource that we have otherwise been taking for granted.

Are you water conscious? What issues are being faced in your region? What steps do you take to conserve water?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Quick Garden Checklist

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Our weather this time of year can be this one day.

But the next day it may be look like this.

When we get sunny dry days, even though it is too early yet for planting much in the way of garden, it's a good time to get some of the other things on our garden list done.

Garden Checklist for February in my area:

Divide or move plants like rhubarb, horseradish, hops, and caneberries.

Collect scion wood for grafting such as apples and pears.

Prune grape vines and take cuttings if you want to increase your plants.

Take a quick walk around all your garden areas and remove any junk such as boards, pots, plastic mulch. Basically look for things that slugs can be hiding under. By removing these items before planting you will be exposing the slugs and their eggs that have overwintered with all that protection. Hopefully a frost or two and/or birds will help set them back. If you keep a flock of chickens or ducks this would be a good time to turn them loose in the garden area.

Double check your seeds and order new if needed. If you're finding you had poor germination results last year, it may be a time to revisit your seed storage methods. While freezing is optimum, a dark, cool and dry place works very well, and has served gardeners for years before freezers were ever invented. Many times seed catalogs list seed life in the growing information box - check that out before you stock up on seeds. Territorial Seeds is a catalog that comes to mind.

If you haven't already, order potatoes, onions, and bareroot fruit trees, and berries.

Purchase amendments that you will need when the weather breaks so you can get started right away.

Inspect garden tools and equipment for needed repairs.

Sit back and enjoy your quiet time, once spring has sprung there will be no respite.

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Food Crisis

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Plato said that society is "just a few meals away from babarism." And I guess it is more true in our modern age than ever before. Apparently, the British M15 use a 'four meals away from anarchy' scale to evaluate threats.

I typed 'food crisis 2011' into a search engine and got over 54 million results. Okay, so I don't watch or listen to much news, but I the last person to hear about this?

I don't really understand enough about the global food market, but
it seems like there are predictions of ramifications for all of us this time, not just those nations forced to import food or those having issues growing their own at the moment. It seems everything is so out of balance that the crisis will be felt globally. Usually, because we live in a wealthy country, we seem to just absorb the cost when grain prices double overnight (as rice did a couple of years ago, and wheat has before too). But what about when more than one crop is affected? And what about our neighbours?

It seems to me that there are several causes to consider:
Our government doesn't value the agricultural industry
A lot of our country's farms are foreign owned
Peak Oil
Climate Change (or a lot of bad weather, if you don't subscribe to the climate change theory)

And there are things we can all do:
Eat local - grow your own if you can
Eat less meat (or stick to grass-fed, wild and other, more sustainable, choices)

Food shortages have been an ongoing global issue for much of modern history. But I bet there wasn't over 54 million search engine results until 2011, when the majority of the western world is facing something most of us have only witnessed through the media to date...

How do you feel about the current food crisis situation? What are you doing personally to prepare? What about your local community - is simple, green, frugal catching on?

Further Reading:
Food Security
Local Food
Peak Oil
Climate Change
Transition Network

Monday, 12 July 2010

Continous lettuce harvests

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Lettuce is one of the ubiquitous garden vegetables that everyone is familiar with, and rightly so since it is available in so many colors, shapes, and flavors. Just a quick look at a seed catalog will astound you with the range available. Lettuce has a reputation for being easy to grow and I have to agree, but after growing many varieties for mesclun sales, we had to find an array that would allow us to harvest for 8 months of the year. And even with all the more pungent greens available, when you want lettuce there is no substitute.

volunteer lettuce in the garden.

While everyone probably agrees that lettuce isn't hard to grow during the spring and fall, the hot dry days of summer present a different challenge if you are to have salads every day or at least several times a week.

Continuously picked lettuce looks a little ragged but keeps producing for a longer season.

There are several key points to summer lettuce:

1) Variety selection - look for the key words: slow to bolt, tolerates hot weather, also it helps to peruse seed catalogs for southern states. We had excellent luck with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange seeds.

2) Romaines are very heat tolerant with their stiff ribs and thicker leaves. Our favorites are Parris Island, Jericho, Little Gem and Valmaine. Other heat tolerant leaf varieties that work well with our dry summers and scant irrigation are Anuenue, Simpson Elite, Red Sails, Oscarde, Thai Oakleaf, and Flashy Green Butter Oak to name a few.

3) Once the plants get large enough to harvest a few leaves, pick your salads by taking several leaves from each lettuce plant every few days. This sends a signal that the plant needs to keep growing and not set seed (bolt). This probably extends the harvest of your lettuce plantings by 3 weeks or many times much longer. If you wait until the entire head is harvestable, you risk the chance that a hot spell will stress out your plants and cause them to bolt.

4) And last but not least, practice successive plantings. I seed lettuce every 3 weeks in 6 packs, and plant out transplants. We eat huge salads, so I am planting 18 - 24 plants for 3 people, but you may get by with 6. It's easy to tend to a 6 pack or so, and you know exactly what you have to plant come planting time. Lettuce seeds like cool weather for germinating, so the controlled environment of starting them inside or on a cool porch works very well versus the hot summer sun and warm soil in the garden. When it is time to plant your transplants, evening is a good time, to give the plants a night to recover from the shock of transplanting.

New plantings coming on and almost big enough for a light harvest.

I hope these tips are useful, there is nothing better than a cool, refreshing summer salad!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Stretching the Corn Harvest

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Old-timers' wisdom said to have your water boiling before you go out to pick corn for dinner. With today's super sweet varieties, the sugars don't convert to starch quite as quickly as the old heirloom corns did, so ears of corn nowadays do hold their sweet flavor longer. But nothing beats really fresh sweet corn, straight out of the garden in the summer.

Birds and bees lecture time (hint: for corn, it's wind). Each little piece of corn silk leads down to one kernel of corn on the ear. At least one grain of wind-blown pollen from the tassel on the top of the stalk has to fall on each strand of silk to get a fully filled-out ear of corn to eat. So you have to plant enough corn, in a square block (not just one long row), to get adequate pollination (or, play artificial corn inseminator - shake the top tassels into a paper bag, and then immediately pour out over the silks just emerging below).

But a whole block of corn all maturing at once means feast or famine. You might get a week's worth of fresh sweet corn to eat, more getting starchier by the minute, and end up freezing the rest. Nothing wrong with freezing some - frozen corn goes great in winter soups and chili. But I want weeks of fresh corn, right out of the garden.

So, following the conventional wisdom, I tried successive planting - another short row or two every week. And found that didn't work very well for me. The colder early summer weather around here would slow down the maturing of the earliest plantings, and then the later ones, planted when the weather was a bit warmer would grow quicker. I still ended up with everything maturing at once - it just made more work for me. Sometimes, the latest plantings wouldn't have enough roots to deal with the onslaught of summer heat, and they'd fry instead. And sometimes, I'd get busy elsewhere, get behind on the planting schedule, and then have nothing. Time to figure out a better way.

So I did. I now plant all my corn at the same time, but have my fresh-eating harvest stretching from the end of July into September. Instead of planting the same variety of corn at different times, I looked at days-to-harvest times instead. I start with the upwind-most rows, and plant a 60-day variety. The middle rows in the block fall more around the 75-day range. And then the last rows are the 95 to 100-day ones - enough of those to both eat fresh and freeze for later. If I could count on a long enough frost-free season, there are even 120-day varieties, but getting a harvest from those here would be iffy at best. I help the pollination along on the earliest-maturing varieties, rubbing the top tassel between my hands then dusting them off above the new silks below. Letting the little side-stalks grow, plus the wind, takes care of the later ones.

This same technique can work for other veggies too. I have the earliest leaf lettuces coming along now, the small heads of buttercrunch will be ready a bit later, and the romaines even later. Little round red radishes are ready in just a couple of weeks, the longer french ones a little later, the daikons after that, and then the winter storage ones keep growing into the fall. Differing days-to-harvest instead of successive plantings can mean more eating time, and less work.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Weather not cooperating

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

While most of the US is basking in warm, dry gardening weather, the Pacific Northwest has been receiving storms of winter-time intensity. Snow in the mountains, and rain on the valley floor. Nice to ward off drought, but it makes it a little hard for farmers and gardeners to work their soil and plant crops. I normally am planting my warm season crops by now, but rain almost daily since the first of April has made that nigh on impossible. But living by the calendar has it's drawbacks when it comes to gardening, the weather is too cold to plant many crops anyway - so I can only hope that when it is dry enough to plant, it will be warm enough and the plants will take off.

We had a dry March which allowed me to plant some early cabbages, and various greens, which are really enjoying the cool, drizzly weather, and they are rewarding us with a basket of greens each day for salads and stirfrys.

We have managed to get a few rows of carrots, onions and kohlrabi in, but it is springs like these that make me glad for a bountiful harvest the year before, and the foresight to preserve it. We still have frozen & canned veggies from last year's garden abundance. We used our last storage onion this week, but we still have a few potatoes and winter squash. So we will hang on - warmer times are bound to come...

How is gardening going in your neck of the woods?