Category Archives: Garden

Expanding the yard

I assaulted the westerly laurel hedge today, trimming back a foot or more of growth that was eating into our living and growing space, overshadowing flowerbeds and effectively reducing the size of the patio. Shouldn’t have let it get so overgrown, but last year the folks on t’other side seriously pruned it back (to bare trunks), as it was impinging on their driveway. I left our side alone so that it would have a healthy surface to help photosynthesize the life back into it.

I’m never very satisfied with the appearance, post-trimming… laurels only put out growth on their exposed face, so once you chop through the shiny new leaves you’re into some nasty, shade-dwelling territory that’s seen much better days. Ach, such is life. The nice thing is that they’re evergreen and grow all year long, so by trimming it in early June, I trust it’ll make good use of the long summer daylight and bounce back that much quicker.

As to the fate of the hedge on the south side… I’ve pruned-back the parts I can reach, but we’re going to have to call in a tree service to finish the job. The damned thing must be approaching 20′ tall in places, and suffered some broken and split branches in a wind storm this winter. Topping the beast a good bit lower, and peeling about a yard off its depth is definitely indicated. We should get much more light into the garden after that operation is concluded, though I fear the additional traffic noise we might experience. Shedding so much bulk will reduce the sound barrier that shields us (somewhat) from the busy street.

Still, once it’s all done and the surfaces healed, it’ll be pleasing. A nice, dense rectilinear laurel hedge makes it feel very much like a medieval walled garden back there, and while I admire (and enjoy the lessened effort required of) somewhat wild, “country” landscaping, there’s something very æsthetic about neat rows of vegetables and straight-walled hedges. The organic, stream bed-inspired forms of the flowerbeds beneath the laurels make much more sense, too, when they contrast the sharp-sided backdrop of a well-trimmed hedge.

Garden Happenings

Strawberries Strawberry Banana Cereal Tiger Lilies

Exciting things on the garden front! After a couple weeks of a finding only one or two strawberry du jour ripe and ready for consumption (usually by me), the little strawberry patch has finally come into its own. This morning I picked enough strawberries to generously top two bowls of cereal. We have different varieties sharing the same plot and it is my observation that the Hood variety, while oddly shaped (elongated and ovular) and smaller than the others, is by far the tastiest and most prolific.

The tiger lilies along the hedge are blooming. It seems like ages ago (2002?) that C planted the bulbs in that part of the garden. This may be the first year that blooming stalks have exceeded the number of original bulbs planted.

The spinach, Correnta hybrid, that I planted as seed has emerged. The beans are still sleeping. Our lettuce is lush and beautiful. The pressure is on to consume many salads before the lettuce bolts! C and I have not been cooking at home as much as, perhaps, we should be. Our vegetables are gaining on us.

We planted brussel sprouts this year in the hopes that we wouldn’t have the same aphid situation as before with brassicas. But, as I suppose we knew it would turn out, they are now rife with the squirmy grey critters. Ew. We lean toward organic methods and hesitate to use pesticides. C is on the lookout for a good pepper spray.

Russian Bananas

In addition to the beans and spinach, today also saw the planting of some Russian Banana fingerling potatoes. Buffalo Gardens had some wrinkly seed potatoes on sale when we were in to acquire jute twine for the stringing of the bean trellis. As the half barrel had previously been emptied of its Jerusalem artichokes, it seemed a likely spot.

I’ve only planted three — it’s not a large barrel — probably too many for the space, but given that it’s filled with the choicest compost, perhaps they’ll make out OK.

Spinach Round Two and Fortex Found

C's Bamboo Bean Trellis

C’s Bamboo Bean Trellis

I harvested the spinach that C planted in early May (it was ready to bolt) and replaced it with a summer-lovin’ (“…had me a bla-a-a-ast…”) strain from New Zealand, “Correnta Hybrid” (Territorial Seed). This is our first attempt growing this type of spinach. It doesn’t *quite* get full sun, as it supposedly requires, so we shall see how it fares. I gave it a dose of diluted fish emulsion for luck.

I finally found Fortex (Fedco Seeds) at our local independent nursery, Buffalo Gardens. I also picked up some “French Climbing” beans sold in bulk. This will be the first time that particular bean has been planted in our garden.

C finished constructing a bean trellis earlier today, and has just now finished planting the Fortex and French Climbing. He tells me that the Fortex have been planted on the inside row, and the French Climbing on the outside. Let’s hope it’s not too late for a good crop!

Late Spring Plantings

C and I were inspired last weekend by the unseasonably summery weather and planted a raft of summer vegetable and herb starts:

  • Early Cascade Tomato
  • Black Krim Tomato
  • Yellow Currant Tomato
  • Yellow Crookneck
  • Zucchini
  • Black Beauty Eggplant
  • “Asian” Eggplant (I forget the name, darnit)
  • Spicy Veronese Basil
  • Sweet Genoa Basil
  • French Thyme

We have had no luck finding seeds for the slender french/filet pole beans that we like so much. Specifically, we have our eyes open for Fortex — a string bean we have grown in numerous years with great success.

Kicking off Garden ‘06

Duly diligent, I amended half of the beds and planted some cooler weather veg yesterday. About 20 lettuce starts, a block of spinach, and an equally sizable block of Swiss chard. Chives and a lemon cucumber, too, though it may be a bit early for the cuke. I had a spur of the moment urge to grow Brussels sprouts, so I’ve planted six of them… perhaps this year the aphids will leave them alone, or we’ll have better luck dissuading them. Thing is, even the quick-maturing variety I’ve planted is ~76 days to fruition, by which time we’re well into the first week of July.

Q. What does one plant in July in Oregon?
A. As far as I know, nothing.

Feh, silly old me. Now I’ll have a bed just lying fallow during the hottest months. Too late to plant tomatoes or peppers or melons in it… I suppose it’s just conceivable that I could get a speedy winter squash going in there. Must investigate. Otherwise, it’s a fall salad bed, which does not excite.

The Hudson’s Golden Gem Goes Biennial

I’ve not been paying much attention to the apple trees recently, but have just come in from giving them the once-over and am saddened to report that the Hudson’s Golden Gem has dropped almost all of its fruit. I made a point of thinning it to a reasonable fruit density for a tree of its none-too-advanced age, but that seems not to have mattered. I think there may be three apples remaining on it now.

Fortunately, the Ashmead’s Kernel, which was off last year, is retaining its crop so far. I suppose if I have to have biennially-bearing apples — and I do, since these two are some of the most delicious — it’s preferable that at least one produces a crop in a given year, than to have years of feast and others of famine. Still, I will miss the Golden Gem this autumn. It’s really, really good. 🙁

Fasolds Ahoy!

All of the green beans appear to have germinated healthily, which is good. Still haven’t planted another row, however, nor have I gotten around to constructing a structure for them yet. Perhaps, since the Fasolds have proven themselves, I’ll try my luck with some other, older beans.

Digging through the box, it looks like we have some old packets of: Broad Windsors, Liana Yard-Longs, Scarlet Runners, French Bush, Yellow Bush, and Fortex Pole beans. The hell of it is that the reason none of these have been planted for a few years is that we just didn’t care for them. So, why bother replanting? Bush beans are much messier to tend, are subject to slugs, and the varieties I’ve tried are largely single-croppers requiring succession-planting. Runners didn’t much please my taste buds, and we’ve never had much luck with broad beans. Yard-longs just don’t seem to like our terroir, and underproduce to the point where it’s hardly worthwhile.

I’m thinking limas. Must find some pole limas.

More Planting

Finally managed to get more planted for the summer… June 12th is distressingly late, but it’s been chilly recently, so I reassure myself that I’ve not really lost that much time to lethargy. New today:

  • 16 Fasold pole beans
  • 8 Genovese basil
  • 1 Globe basil
  • 1 “Romanian Ethnic” red/orange sweet pepper
  • 1 “Gypsy” yellow sweet pepper
  • 1 African Kettle gourd
  • 1 “Ichiban” Asian eggplant
  • 1 “Ping Tong Long” Asian eggplant

The Fasolds are a single row of beans, planted with seed saved from summer ‘03. I’m reluctant to plant the entire crop with them in case they don’t germinate well. I’ll pick up a packet of something else to plant on the other side of the A-frame soon, and should make a point of saving from the crop this year to ensure fresh seed. Haven’t constructed the trellis yet, as I judge my bamboo poles due to be refreshed … they’re really only good for 2-3 seasons before they begin splitting and lose their integrity.

The gourd is a first this year … no idea how it will turn out, or just how much room it’s going to require. If it behaves like a giant pumpkin (and I suspect it will) then late summer will see gourd vines spilling out onto the patio and across the lawn. Assuming we get some decent-sized gourds off of it, I plan to make salad bowls. Most crafty, no?