Perennial Seed Germination Made Complicated (or rather easy)

Seed Germination Experiment

Perennial seeds, which often have several mechanisms for delaying germination until the timing and conditions are just right, can be difficult to get going. Here are some tips and tricks to wake them up. Also included is my working list of those seeds that like cold stratification, along with general methods for that time-honored “Baggie-in-the-Fridge” method.

April Garden Survey: To Do or NOT To Do…

Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum

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.

Solexx Greenhouse Kit Sale!

Solexx Harvester Greenhouse Kit attaches to building
[caption id="attachment_7514" align="alignright" width="350"]Solexx Conservatory kit The Solexx Conservatory kit is made for serious gardeners! Solexx Greenhouse kits are on sale through 4/15/18![/caption]

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.

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.

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!

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What Worked – or NOT – in the 2013 Garden

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!

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

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!

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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.

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Garlic Planting Conundrums – Part 3

This is my final post in this Garlic-Planting Conundrum series – and by now you probably think I am beating this whole thing into the ground. But I wanted to share a few practical things about figuring out your space needs and preparing the planting area, particularly under less-than-ideal conditions. Now is the time to think about next year, and with some forethought, you can save yourself a lot of work!

In this post I talk about

  • Figuring out how much garlic you should grow and how much space you will really need
  • Mulching and tilling – or not
  • What kinds of tools will help you get the job DONE (and which ones can you throw in the brambles)
  • Alternative planting methods, and do they work?
  • The nitty-gritty of building beds.

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Food Forest Beginnings and Fall Tasks in the Orchard

Grass, to me, is Orchard Enemy #1. I talk about how to get rid of it, how to turn an orchard into a food forest, and what to do to get your orchard ready for winter, thanks to tips from Michael Phillips’ book, The Holistic Orchard.

Three Sisters Corn Patch

Thinking of a “3 Sisters’ Garden”? (corn, beans, and squash together). Can you still plant corn in the Pacific Northwest? I planted June 16 last year, sort of 3-sisters’ style (sort of not). Great results! Read on!