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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Izzy



Master gopher and bird killer she might be, but she's also a colossal bitch compared to her brother.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Quick Links

A few extra garden-inspiration blogs added to my feeds recently, all based in Southern California:
Always on the lookout for more, feel free to leave suggestions below!

On Compost Sifting



Compost sifting. A wheelbarrow, a home-made sieve (chicken wire or similar wire mesh sandwiched between wood, and a good pair of gloves are all that's required. Put the mixed compost on the sieve, and shake it around in the method of your choice until all the large bits are on top, and the proper dirt is in the wheelbarrow. Separates the good stuff from the slow-to-break-down  ingredients like grass stalks - which themselves get reincarnated into quick and nasty mulch for around the summer veg plants or just thrown back into the pile.

It's one of those tasks that should be kind of icky, but at the point that we're doing this, anything that might have resembled food should have broken down already. But just in case: I use the good pair of gloves, the type with a latex waterproof palm to stop any moisture or goo touching my skin. Or bugs - the last thing I want is a nip from a Jerusalem cricket or pincer bug. We're supposed to be composting friends, but they don't really see it that way.

Now that we're almost mid-way through 2011, we have a pretty diverse composting system in use: a death star as the first stop for food scraps from the kitchen, the compost enclave that I use mostly for weeds during the bulk of spring garden-taming, and (currently unphotographed) a new wooden box that Fred built for additional long term composting and mixing.

Safe to say, if something in the neighbourhood is decomposing, it's probably decomposing at my house.

But then, after all the decomposing and sifting and picking out the bugs, you end up with this: a dirt mix resembling finely ground coffee beans that feels silky smooth between the fingers:



So it's worth it. We still have lots of raised beds to complete and fill, so this will give great yield before the end of the year.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Thrifted





[top to bottom: 1) piece of Nemadji Pottery, $1.99 / 2) one of two prints of Comet Hyakutake in 1996, taken from the Ansa Borrego Desert, $0.99]

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Fruits of Spring







[top to bottom: 1) Apricot / 2) Squash (either zucchini or straight neck) / 3) Anaheim Pepper]

And while the garden is mostly lovely up close, far too much of it still looks like this:



We'll deal with it later. By next spring, it should be looking a lot different. That's what I keep telling myself anyway.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Squash Boxes





Two beds, two very different contents - despite the similar plants

The first is what's known as a hugelkultur bed, which sounds fancy, but is basically a bunch of wood scraps from the yard buried in soil - the theory being that wood takes around a year to break down, and replenishes the soil as it would in a more natural, forest environment.

The second is a proper mix of soil, peat moss, steer manure and compost.

Of course, I procrastinated writing this, so the plants don't look exactly like this now, but both boxes contain a zucchini, straight squash and lemon squash. Aside from the soil differences, the first box has green onions planted at the end and clover used as a ground cover crop (bonus: it should be enriching the soil with nitrogen), whereas the second box has a few extra varieties.

Despite the current huge size of the squash in box one (and impending fruit), I'm not sure I would recommend this course of action for using the top of a hugelkultur bed to anyone - the drainage is much less efficient and unlike the plants in the second box, the leaves have been wilting during the 80 degree days we're now getting in SoCal. I think after the growing season is through for these suckers, I'll put root vegetables in there through the winter to break up the soil a little better. What would have been ideal would be potatoes - but thanks to being in the same family, they'll have to wait.

What I would recommend however, is planting squash transplants in the very corner of raised beds - they benefit from the additional vertical support of the wood, and have plenty of space for their leaves to fall over the side. Squash have a tendency to lean a little under their own weight, so while piling the earth high is a good idea, finding as many ways as possible to keep them upright is a great idea. Next March I'll be direct sowing seed into corners of raised beds. This much I know.