garden

Saturated driveway and rainwater runoff

Rainwater Harvesting – Part 1

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Rainwater is such a precious resource! How much do we get, where does it go, and how can we harvest it for later? In Part 1, I review the water cycle, calculate how many gallons we can get off our roofs, and look at different barrel, tank, and cistern options. 

Barefoot in the garden

30 Things that Make Me Happy

30 Things that Make Me Happy – Because we need happy things right now more than ever… so – coming to all of us in the northern hemisphere – here are some sure signs of spring!

Pink Viola

Primer for Planning a Garden for Pollinators

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Although still officially winter, pollinators are already emerging from their winter havens. What will they eat? Here’s what’s blooming in my garden & pointers on planning a garden for pollinators.

Winter Greenhouse under snow

Winter Greenhouse Gardening: Strategies for Survival in an Unheated Space

Definitely still winter here in the PNW! Here are some strategies for gardening in an unheated winter greenhouse and ideas on how to keep your plants alive, no matter what it’s doing out there! Also – here’s what we have going on in the Barbolian Fields greenhouse and some gardening tasks for January. Stay warm!

Backyard-handstand

Garden Overwhelm, Equinox, & Finding Balance

If you are like me and some 19 million other people out there (or more), you might be experiencing Garden Overwhelm. This time of year when night equals day (more or less) is a good time to think about our own equilibrium. This post explores how to get back on track, and when all else fails, your dog just might have the answers. Happy Autumn Equinox!

Daffodils

Spring Blossoms Return! Yay!

Such a busy time of year! Sometimes, though, we need to set aside our To-Do lists and take a moment to breathe in the air of spring. Miracles all around us! I just wanted to share a few photos of some of the spectacular flowers blooming right now. SO gorgeous! So very much appreciated after the deep snows of this last winter! Take a quick look, and then go out in your own backyard and take a moment to wander and linger.

Willow Room needs haircut

The Winter Garden Site Assessment: Gaining Perspectives

Spring is almost here! Yay! But before spring clutters the garden with a bunch of leaves, take a winter garden site assessment to evaluate whether your garden is growing toward your goals. Winter allows us to see the bare bones of the garden – the skeletal infrastructure – and a site assessment at this time can give us new insights into what works and what doesn’t. Identify sectors, look at how growth over the past year may have changed conditions, think about priorities for the coming season. Hooray for spring!

Reflections and raindrops

2018 Highlights; 2019 Goals, Strategies, and New Beginnings

It is that time again to reflect over the year’s ups and downs, an exercise that has become cliché but that can still be quite helpful. It was a busy year! Here is a quick summary of what went down (or up, as the case may be) at Barbolian Fields, along with a few goals and strategies for the coming year. What will 2019 bring? What will we be able to do to make the world a better place? How will we help one another? How will we heal our planet? We can start by getting back to the garden.

Malabar Squash - King Size

Malabar Squash Hunt (Cucurbita ficifolia)

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Malabar Gourd, Malabar Squash, Fig-Leaf Gourd, Pie Melon: There are many names for the Cucurbita ficifolia. No matter what you call it, this is one of the most amazing squashes EVER. Tremendously versatile – it can be used in soups, stews, goulashes, pies, puddings, beverages, and more! Every part of the plant is edible. The biomass is incredible! Join me on this Malabar Squash hunt and be prepared to be amazed!

Green frog on a grape leaf

Garden Chaos – The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story… the late summer garden has turned out nothing like what I envisioned in the spring, but in some respects, is so much more. It’s hard not to get discouraged when once again, I’ve truly lost the battle against grass, thistle, and bindweed. Garden chaos rules, but neatness and control are so overrated, are they not? Here were my “Ah ha!” moments.

Bee on hollyhock

The Return of the Bees and the Dreaded Dearth

The bees have returned! Yay! Here’s the whole story. And with them, responsibility. Do they have enough food? Nectar is suddenly scarce when the fruits are fruiting and the flowers are done blooming. The dreaded dearth can hit a hive harder than winter. What can you plant to ensure they make it through late summer? In this post, I list the main bee plants that we have growing right now, including the bees’ favorites.

Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum

April Garden Survey: To Do or NOT To Do…

It’s another drippy day in the Pacific Northwest. What to do … or not …  that is the question.

April is National Gardening Month. The blogs are full of To-Do Lists on what you should be doing if you had your act together (which is making this overachiever feel like a real slacker). What is truly feasible? How to find balance? Taking an April Garden Survey is a good procrastination technique. In this post, I explain my strategy for this year’s garden (and for minimizing my workload) and take a look around at what is up and blooming.

Indian Plum

On the Wings of March

A garden walk in early March
We find on paths once dry and parched,
Now soaked; the skies have opened up
And pooled in leaves like a tiny cup,
Soft sponges ‘neath the rain of trees
That drip long after a passing breeze
Has chased the clouds on over.
Drip, drip, drip....Read More »On the Wings of March

Solexx Harvester Greenhouse Kit attaches to building

Solexx Greenhouse Kit Sale!

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Solexx Conservatory kit

The Solexx Conservatory kit is made for serious gardeners! Solexx Greenhouse kits are on sale through 4/15/18!

Adapt8, maker of Solexx greenhouses, is having a “tax refund” sale through April 15, 2018. As a Solexx Distributor, I’d like to pass the savings on to you. If you’ve been thinking about getting a greenhouse, now might be the time. In this post, I talk about how much I love ours and the pros & cons of the kit vs. the DIY route.

Turning the Corner into November

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We turn the corner into November. It is amazing how much is still blooming and how many fruits are still available! Here is a quick autumn garden inventory. Lots of pictures of flowers, fruits, fall colors, and cute grandkids – plus an amazing bald-faced hornet’s nest that was revealed after the leaves had fallen!

Victory Gardens for Change

The fact is, the greatest changes come from people, not from government. Now is the time to bring back the Victory Gardens of yesteryear. We can change the world, one garden at a time — together.

Spring Equinox – a Discovery of Miracles!

Dandelions shine like the sun!

Dandelions shine like the sun!

It is, at long last, the Spring Equinox. I love this time of year when each new bud is a discovery.

Cornelian and Nanking cherries, forsythia, daffodils, nettles and purple deadnettles, the first dandelions…

It seems that only yesterday, it was still quite wintery, and on a blustery day, I was picking the sticky cottonwood buds from the nubbly branches that break off in the wind, littering the forest floor, just begging someone to come along and recognize their significance.Read More »Spring Equinox – a Discovery of Miracles!

Seed Order Madness – and Indications that You Might Have ISOD

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Alternate Title: Garden Visions and Realities: Creating a Practical Seed Order – or not.

Seed Order 2016

Do we have enough seeds yet?

I originally wrote this post shortly after Groundhog Day, when we were just praying for a ray of sunshine and a shadow – and here we are now caught in the middle of March Madness, aka the Ides of March, which is called that for good reason. Winds have been howling at 65 mph (I kid you not) and the rain hammers us in torrents. This is how winter quickly melts into spring.

The pre-spring storms give us a bit of time to flip through all the new garden catalogs that have arrived since the beginning of the new year. It is, indeed, the perfect time to create this year’s garden vision and a concrete plan to make it happen, if you have not done so already.

So – tell me – have you placed your seed order yet? Read More »Seed Order Madness – and Indications that You Might Have ISOD

Spring Garlic Woes

Dear Readers:

I have been receiving letters lately from folks worried about their garlic. It is understandable. With great anticipation, we insert these naked little cloves in cold soil, just as the season takes a downturn; we stress throughout the snows and storms of winter as to whether they can possibly survive; come early spring, we are elated when we see their tender tips emerge, apparently unscathed; then we plunge into worry and anxiety when, despite their rapid growth, they show signs of yellowing tips; we scrutinize them for other diseases, insects, “issues;” we feed them, water them, murmur soft nothings of encouragement; we marvel at the beauty of their gangly scapes, waving in the wind; and then with a certain amount of apprehension, we begin digging the bulbs, 9 months in the making, one by one; we cradle them gently, inhale the fragrant aroma as they hang to cure in gentle breezes, and then we, sometimes with great flourish and ceremony but without apology, devour them.

Who needs this roller coaster? We all do! Obviously. But it’s a slippery slope, my friends, very slippery indeed.Read More »Spring Garlic Woes

Cracking the Seed Germination Code

To get your seeds to germinate, you might have to “think like a seed.” Many folks in the Pacific Northwest are starting seeds indoors this month for transplanting later, but some seeds germinate better with a period of cold or fluctuating cold/thaw cycles. They might be better planted directly in cold ground.

Crocus, Frogs, and Bees! Oh My!

LOVE the “firsts” that happen in January! First crocus, alder catkins, croaking frogs! This warm weather has brought out the bees, and they are returning with pollen! And look! The garlic shoots are up! Farewell January. Bring on Spring!

Blooming Rosemary in January!

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Rosemary! Blooming in January! You gotta love this herb! It is a great cullinary plant, medicinal herb, insectary, and more! You gotta grow it!

willow winter

Fruits of December

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Why isn’t the Winter Solstice the beginning of the New Year? Where are the birds & the bees? How many different fruits can we find in the garden in mid-December? Pondering these questions and more…and wishing everyone a season of light and hope!

Caterpillar Slaughter

Large tent caterpillar nestI have squished them with my bare hands, blasted the nests open with a power hose, sprayed them with vinegar, burned them alive with a blow torch, and for those that survived all that, drowned them in soapy water. If you, too, have stood aghast at the havoc they have wreaked in your beloved fruit trees, have vowed to take action, if not declare outright war, and have been somewhat taken aback by their tenacity – yes, we are talking about tent caterpillars – read on. But fair warning: this post is not for the faint of heart!Read More »Caterpillar Slaughter

Early Spring Blooms to Welcome the Bees

Do you keep a record of what is bloom throughout the year? Since we started providing homes for bees, I have become much more aware of what is blooming when – particularly during those months on either end of the warm season, when the weather is unsettled and food for them can be scarce.

It seems many of the first to bloom are some of our natives. Perhaps it is Nature’s way of taking care of her own. Read More »Early Spring Blooms to Welcome the Bees

Spring Equinox: A Tipping Point

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Honeybee on CrocusAhhh! At last! Whether it looks like it outside or not, we are assured that warmth is on its way! We have reached that tipping point: the day of the Vernal Equinox – when day and night are held in equilibrium. Symbolically, it provides a moment to think about balance in our own lives, too – and what we might do to bring tipping scales back into alignment.

Not to worry – I won’t delve deeply into the woo-woo here. Read More »Spring Equinox: A Tipping Point

What Worked – or NOT – in the 2013 Garden

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Winter Garden, Vincent Van Gogh: Buy through affiliate link at Art.com

Winter Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh (it looks like a dark and twisted place, does it not? You needn’t go there.)

It’s Garden Planning Season, and you know what THAT means: deep introspection to determine what worked and what didn’t, because unless you incorporate what you’ve learned into this year’s garden, you will be going forth with an impending sense of doom….

The winter is not that dark. Seriously. Lighten up already!Read More »What Worked – or NOT – in the 2013 Garden

Good Fungi vs Bad Fungi, Molds, Mildews, and Blights

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A reader from Texas posed some very good questions relative to my recent post on the importance of building the soil and, in particular, the essential role fungi play in the process. (Read: To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil)

Specifically – How do you differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys?

She asks, “Don’t we always seem to be spraying trees against fungus?” “What about all the mildew, fire blight, early blight, and other diseases that can take down tomatoes, squashes, and cucumbers seemingly overnight?”

Where do you start?

How do you help one without helping the other?  Or the converse, destroy one without harming the other?

Can you introduce good fungi? And can good fungi fight off the bad ones?

My response started to get a bit lengthy, and I decided it would be better as its own blogpost. Maybe some of the other readers out there can shed some light on this as well.

Rust on Quince Leaves

I am definitely going to try to be more on top of spraying this plant this year with nutritious compost teas, and maybe even something with baking soda. I have a lot of mulch around the base, but maybe it hasn’t had time to break down and feed the soil yet?? I believe this was the Quince. Hope it makes it!

Because I couldn’t agree more on how confusing some of this is! Read More »Good Fungi vs Bad Fungi, Molds, Mildews, and Blights

Solstice, Suntracks, Supermoons, and a Happy New Year!

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Full Moon Rise
Dear Friends,

I thought I might write you all sooner. At the time of the last full moon of the year, for example, would have been appropriate, but the great white orb managed to boldly rise in the cold night sky and then set in quiet serenity the following morning without any website fanfare on my part (although I admit to a certain amount of cavorting in song and celebration, which is usually what happens when I whip out my harmonicas under a full moon….). (Not to draw correlations, of course.)Read More »Solstice, Suntracks, Supermoons, and a Happy New Year!

Favorite Garden Photos of 2013

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The problem with getting a new camera for Christmas in 2012 was trying to sort through over 1000 garden photos! I see I am attracted to symmetry, contrast, and bees! Here are a few of my favorite shots, that STILL can’t begin to capture the beauty and perfection of Mother Nature!

To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil

Orchard path at Barbolian FieldsWe have this old orchard on our homestead – how old is anybody’s guess. The house is over 100 years, so perhaps the trees are as well? How long do they live? It comprises 9 trees (apples, pie cherries, and an Italian prune), and despite its age, produces more than we can use, but not really enough for any kind of commercial enterprise.

The trees, like a lot of neglected orchards, are fraught with a tangle of suckers and twisted branches growing contrary to common sense. Gradually we have been pruning them back into shape, opening the centers to more light, and mowing the grass around and around. We are not ones to spray copper, sulfur, and assorted pesticides; nor have we added any fertilizers. In fact, we have rarely even watered them (they have obviously survived quite well on their own thus far, being situated alongside an irrigation ditch). It has been a learning process for us, too, and sometimes there is only so much you can do. The apples have a lot of scab. Pill bugs and earwigs enjoy them a lot. I think 4 of them are heirloom Gravensteins. They taste great.

And then one day, in reading Michael Phillips’ “The Holistic Orchard – Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way,” I began to realize that the typical orchard, planted in rows and surrounded by grass, produces in spite of the conditions we put them in. The descriptions were painfully familiar. It struck me that with a little help, this orchard could be so much more. Toby Hemenway’s book, “Gaia’s Garden,” was another eye-opener. Obviously, there are simple things we can all do to work with Nature, rather than against her.

Thus began the mission to let Nature “reclaim” the orchard.Read More »To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil

Thanksgiving Connections

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sunchokesThe end of November! How did this happen?  It appears that we were so busy during the flurry of harvest activities and making sure things were getting tucked in before the coming chill, we forgot to look up! The days are not as long, you know; they are gone before you know it! We hardly noticed just how swiftly one turned into another while the sun skated low across the sky. What happened to high noon?Read More »Thanksgiving Connections

Garlic Planting Conundrums, Part 2

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Garlic Planting Conundrums, Part 2, in which we ask, where can you fit garlic in a permaculture landscape, what about companion planting with garlic, and what is the most efficient way to grow really great garlic?

So, in my earlier post, we talked a bit about figuring out where to plant the garlic from year to year, and how it can be a lot of work to break new ground and turn it into something soft and loose enough to grow a well-rounded, firm, disease-free, long-lasting, ultimately flavorful head of garlic, which is what we’re all after, right?Read More »Garlic Planting Conundrums, Part 2