Monday, March 12, 2012

Golden tickets and gardening failures

This is the top of my golden ticket.  I think I'll have to take pictures of it in the daylight, so I can get it to be sharper.  If you click on the pictures, you should be able to see them full size, if you're curious.

Last year I used the free Mother Earth News vegetable garden planner trial to plan my garden.  It was wonderful.  I plotted out my garden on virtual graph paper, but best of all was the golden ticket it gave me to my garden.  This was the planting guide it helped me generate.  I simply told it which zone we're in and listed the plants I was growing, and it told me when to start everything, both indoors and outdoors.  This gardening season, I was planning on it to get my garden going, but I couldn't find it anywhere.

Apparently I didn't look hard enough.  It was in my little drawer with all of my the bottom, neatly folded up in its crinkled little ripped self.  It was like striking gold for my garden.  This is because I have a brain like a sieve for dates and numbers.  I do not remember anything except by landmarks, and numbers are not landmarks for me.  I really needed this, because, as I mentor my brother in his gardening this year, I am encountering some large garden failures already!  My red onion starts are acting weird...they grew fine, then began to shrivel, as if I had watered them too much or too little, though the soil was always the same.

The happier onion starts
My tomatoes were fine until I repotted them into larger containers after starting them.  I can't figure out what did it.  Is it the organic soil I bought?  They were started in the same soil that they were transplanted into.  But as soon as I started putting them in the soil, they began to wither.  I knew I had put them in a week too late and I wondered if that was what did it.  Or maybe it was because someone had cranked our pellet stove and it was dehydrating the plants.  Whatever it was, 2 days after replanting them nearly all of them are shriveled and mostly dead.
My tomatoes before the day of doom.  Maybe they were already going to die?  I noticed they were very moist and that the leaves were curling a little on some of them.  
My proud little Hawaiian chile pepper start
See the cute little basil guys on the right?  On the left are the baby celery plants.
It's devastating to me.  I love our tomatoes every summer and I cannot afford to buy plants at the gardening store. Thankfully, when I found my garden planner golden ticket, it told me I could be planting tomato starts through March and into April.  I have a chance at a fresh start.  Now I'll be gun shy.  I started the new seeds in coco pellets, which are similar to peat pellets, but will also start some in the soil I bought.  These tomatoes are going to join the legions of very well prayed and fussed over tomato plants in the Pacific Northwest, I think.  Standing side by side with my kids, biting into sun-warmed tomatoes outside in our front yard is one of my most favorite things ever.  Last year in the end of fall we had late blight show up in our tomatoes that were in the flower beds.  That means that if the plants make it past seedling stage, we have the problem of putting them in a new location as well.  Container gardening is my plan for them, should they choose to survive.
My happy little peppers.  They withstood the repotting from this egg carton well and are happy in their larger homes.  
  The rest of the seeds I started are doing wonderfully transplanted.  So we will have LOTS of hot and sweet peppers, 2 kinds of basil, some dahlias, cilantro, parsley and celery.  These things really do well started early, so I am glad they are surviving and maybe even thriving.  I tried artichokes for the first time this year, and I've missed the replanting window.  I discovered that I should have planted them directly into my large cups, rather than trying to transplant them from the small starter containers, because I tore off many of their roots in the process.  I didn't realize this until the last few plants. But hopefully those will do ok and we'll have a few artichokes.  Wouldn't that be cool?  Just when I think I've got something figured out in the garden, a new challenge arrises.  It could be predictable, but where's the fun in that?  I guess I kind of like a challenge...that is as long as perseverance, research and a healthy dose of prayer help the garden arrive at a happy ending.  And if it doesn't, the good thing is that there's always another year around the corner.

***Update.  I just realized I wasn't very wise when potting my seedlings...the package of what I thought was organic potting soil was indeed organic potting compost...too hot and acidic for starts.  I burned my tomatoes up I guess.  Today I went and got more coco pellets to start my brassicas and more tomatoes.

back left, blurry:  the artichokes before i crippled them, the dahlias are on the left front and are still doing well, transplanted, the celery is in the middle and the basil on the right.  

One of the first daffodils of the season

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yaaaayyyyy!!! SPRING!

Today was the day we set our clocks forward an hour for daylight savings time, making evening light last a little longer.  It's not long until it's officially springtime according to the calendar.  Western Washington seasons always seem to have identity crises at this time of year.  It'll be hot one day, and I'll be tempted to wear sandals, and pretty soon hail pummels me in my front yard.  We have random snows and lots of rainy and blustery days.  It's as if nature is reluctant to wake up from its nap and is a bit cranky about it.  In the midst of all of this, signs of spring are creeping up all around.  The salmonberries are leafing out.  The cottonwoods are swelling with buds and the nettles are beginning to do their nefarious work.  Our daffodils are blooming, and the red currants, lupines, sedums and columbines are slowly and cautiously opening their leaves, pushing them carefully from branches and soil.  The hazelnuts and alders are decorated with catkins that can't wait to release pollen and the kids are beginning to forget to shut the door.  I even saw a fly very sluggishly walk across my screen.  Hello spring!


Hazelnut catkins, ready to release their pollen
trampoline time!


Excited about a little buttercup leaf

silly face and giddy bliss!
Hello little hazelnut tree!

Better than school pictures!

When I figured out that it was less expensive and more fun to do pictures at my home, I felt so free!  I didn't have to drag all my kids to a portrait studio or get them ready for school pictures, praying all the while that they didn't do the "cheese" smile for the photographer.  This is one of my favorite things about doing portraits for my family and others.  The pictures you get at home or outdoors are so much more genuine and relaxed.  They really allow personality to shine through, and that's what happened during this portrait session with my friend's daughter.  We had a great time walking all over my property and finding new places to pose.

I was trying to copy the trendy style of picture where the sun is shining behind a person lighting up their hair and making haze.  It sort of came through, but I will have to try it again.

reflection...look carefully.  :)
loving the running away!
yep, that was snow on the ground!

The Gerber Baby

A few weeks ago I had a chance to slip away with this little 3 month old girl and her mom to do some quick pictures of her.  The weather was decent and it was dry in the woods.  She's the youngest of ten and is the happiest baby I've met in a long time.  It was easy to make her smile or look at the camera...all we had to do was play peek a boo!  And she looks just like the Gerber baby, so that helps too.  I can't wait 'til summer, when she can sit up and it's warm enough to put her in pretty little dresses!