Friday, March 14, 2014

Signs of spring on the Hill

     Phil-osophy......... Time is an important component in the balancing act of most avid or would-be gardeners, because there are so many tasks that must be accomplished before the canvas of our garden masterpiece can take on any semblance of color.  And even before that, there are many other things that 'must' be done before we even reach the tranquil gates of our precious garden retreat.  Lets face it, the only real commodity we have in this life is time itself and our ability to reason.  Yet all of us have the same twenty-four hours to allocate towards or away from that which we love or need to do.  You may be thinking, "That's not true! I have to make a living, and I sure don't love my job!"  If that is the case, perhaps you need more time in your peaceful garden paradise to contemplate what you are doing (right or wrong) in life for your subsistence.  It is there in those quiet moments of weeding and grooming that the answers come, but sadly we often neglect those little bursts of creativity for a myriad of reasons.... usually self doubt.  Although our inward voice is always trying to guide us towards a solution, we often ignore those insightful nudgings, feeling inadequate to the task that was inwardly suggested, labeling it as impossible, improbable, or believing others may think it was a foolish idea to begin with.  We are here on earth during this one cycle, it is our personal life's cycle:  so ponder, dream, listen, venture ahead into the unknown, you may find great peace and joy by discarding perceived fears, as you follow those quiet promptings, no matter how they may sound to others!   

     Signs of spring have arrived, at least for today... not too bad for our little garden in the middle of March nestled up here at 3527 feet elevation.  You low-landers living in Kooskia and Kamiah have it much, much easier and unless you have lived up this high these pictures mean absolutely nothing to you!  We have seen 4 feet of snow on the ground in mid March and it is typical for the ground to still be frozen harder than the cider some of my neighbors make....... this is super weather for us!
The red beginnings of rhubarb 

The first leaves of Comfrey

     The bed below not only held our cucumbers last year and a few heads of cabbage it was also sown with onion seed that prevailed quite well through a couple of feet of snow this winter and looks pretty healthy.  Hopefully they will make onion sets/scallions for this year... I have two other beds that are full of them as well.

The little onion blades look fairly healthy

     Those who have been layering chips in their garden to build up the soil may be interested in the following procedure.  While I was in Washington visiting Paul, the 'back to eden guru,' he taught me something that was not revealed on his DVD nor any you-tubes that others made while visiting him, at least not to my knowledge.  He pulled me away from the crowd and walked me over to his strawberry patch and while pointing to them asked me what I saw, "Strawberry plants" was my quick witted reply, "what else" he asked.  I looked and looked and couldn't figure out what he was trying to show me.  Finally he said, "Where are all the runners?"  I quickly noticed that there weren't any.  Wait a minute I said, "How can that be, what did you do?"  Then he told me that he discovered that by covering his strawberry plants with one inch of chips, only the young healthy new plants would emerge the following spring, that way he never again had to replace the mother plant nor cut out all those nasty tangled up runners.  I though this was brilliant because I love strawberries but not the repetitive work that is required each fall and spring to get those delectable little morsels of sweetness.  So I decided to try my hand at using this little trick.

     Below is one of my small beds of strawberries before and after applying wood-chips.  I used green (not composed)  blue spruce chips and needles, because I have learned that green needles produce a greater source of acidity for the strawberry plant (as well as for blueberries) enabling their growth and over all well being, they still need a sprinkling of an inch of compost on top to promote a healthy spring growth.
     Since my plants were already at the top of the existing boards I decided to build new 2X6 risers atop the old ones so that the chips could be more readily contained and would provide additional room for future growth upward and eventual decomposition (building new soil).

It's still not too late to chip, even though the leaves are starting to green-up

Believe it or not those strong new shoots will plough through these chips.

   Also note: To kill weeds and other undesirable plants, or to build soil we should pile on the chips thickly, but in this case we need only enough to deter the older portion of the plant from emerging so that only the strong will survive..... survival of the fittest! 

    My daughter April and I had a great time pulling strawberry runners from among the blueberry plants.  Fortunately the blueberries had been heavily mulched with compost, pine duff, sawdust and augmented with sand over the last couple of years, so the runners came out pretty easy; still, it is the time together that really counts, right!   Like I said, we had a great time day-dreaming out loud.

Heaping up strawberry runners for the compost pile


     We also have some fruit trees heeled in sandy beds that we intended to plant out last year or maybe it was the year before, anyway it seemed that time ran much faster than we did.  No more excuses!

Digging up fruit trees that have had a chance to root is not only time consuming but hard!

     The trees in the pictures above and below 'must' to be planted out this year, which should make a nice little orchard of 55 trees.  Oh yes, those buckets of blueberries and others not seen here have to be put out this year too...  any volunteers? 

Beautiful red bark on the cherry trees

Since our orchard ground is still not prepped, or perhaps even located (decisions, decisions) and because it is unwise to plant bare-root trees in the summer after they have began to leaf out, we decided to utilize some of our old 55 gallon barrels as a transitional habitat for them by cutting them in half.  This makes a good 27 gallon pot, which would cost a small fortune if we had to buy planting buckets of the same size. 

Loads of fun and work

    So take advantage of the good days that might only come once and a while until spring is actually here to stay... if that is even possible here in the banana belt of Idaho!  

Good Luck!!!

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