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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
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I've recently moved into a new house, and want to use permaculture techniques to establish a food and medicinal plant garden, while reducing the Bermuda grass lawn, making use of what plants and infrastructure already exist, and keeping in mind that my new house is in an area prone to forest fires and while having a probably irrational fear of black widow spiders creeping into the house and into my bed. I want to reduce use of the previously established irrigation system by half within the next five years, and have a far more productive garden at the same time.

And, since I'm interested in history and the house is at the corner of two streets named after local gold and silver mines active between 1885-1910 or so, I think it would be appropriate to choose plants that were probably available here at that time, although I don't want to be super strict about historical authenticity, it's just something that I'd like to use as a guideline. What would the hotels in the boom-town mining town (now ghost town site) up the hill have planted in their kitchen gardens in 1904? Do I actually like to eat that plant? Yes? Alright, then, I'll try growing it....

Budgetary constraints are quite severe, so progress in establishing various plantings will likely be slow.

I'm attaching a (wildly out of true) plan of the property as it stands today. (And I've mislabeled the horsetail, I now believe it's actually scouring rush.)
A significant space on the edge of the property is technically town land, but householders are required to do the maintenance, and I'm planning on converting what is currently grass/gravel into something more interesting (and less needful of mowing.)

Current plan:

Lay down gravel outwards of house/covered deck area to distance of five feet, for anti-spider and anti-fire effect.
Put in ground cover/lavender/cacti/brown-eyed susan and ?? in edge (town land) spaces and in gravel/dirt portion of driveway (no cacti there, obviously)
Plant fruiting bushes (saskatoon?) near back fence line
remove shrubs at corner of fence, where they're entangled with a hydro pole and attracting cats
Plant spider-repellent plants near house entrances
Comfrey or?
Figure out how to establish sunken plant beds in a yard with an in-ground irrigation system
Plant another juniper bush so the lone juniper I have will be happier (Cedars, Yews, and Juniper are right on property line, am not completely sure they're mine.)
Herbs! Lots of herbs!
And vegetables
Reduce grass/weed/bare earth expanses - maintaining a small (15X15?) grass patch in backyard for dogs, children, and flat-on-your-back star gazing.
grow watermelons. because sharing watermelon with strangers will fulfill a childhood dream.
install rain-collection devices. (research done today indicates I would need to fill a 50 gallon barrel purchased new from hardware store an astounding 1335 times to break even on the purchase price. Obviously need something less commercial.)
Water grass currently in place enough that the neighbours won't think bad thoughts about the project as it slowly takes over
Long term, will need to remove Ponderosa pine, as it leans over the house, and is too close to the structure. Cedars should also go, as they are also too close in case of fire.
Grow apple-or-plum fence at front edge of front yard
Have fun. Learn. Adjust plan. Don't get stressed by this project, which above all should be a positive thing!

I welcome any and all suggestions and questions.

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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
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I did some calculation the other day, and have decided that I will not be too worried about rain collection from the roof at this point. Having taken the average best case with rainfall, and amount collectible from the roof, I discovered that if I could retain 100% of all precipitation in a year, calculating it's worth based on local water prices, I would save at most $34.
$34 is still $34, and if I encounter free water collection containers, I'll implement them, but I'm going to abandon an active search for cheap water barrels for now.
I watched a guy at the hardware store ring through a fancy schmancy $100+ barrel today, and wondered if he'd thought it through, or if he just thought "Oh, saving water off the roof, that's a good thing to do."
So I will be trying to learn more about rain gardens in the next little while.

While at the store, I came across a lone black currant bush, very sad looking (no leaves, in glooping wet soil) - I've planted it, but didn't see any signs of life in the root system. Made it a little depression and stacked rocks around it, still need to lay some mulch. It was a lot less that that guy's water barrel.

Took an inventory of the plants growing in my yard-

Bermuda grass
Cedars
A vine growing on some of the cedars
Pine
Yew
Juniper
An evergreen tree
Dandelions
An unidentified weed
Another
X5-6
Newly identified Scouring Rushes
Spiky plant
Grape (variety unknown)
Newly Identified Periwinkle
bush
moss
another kind of moss
I know there were mushrooms last fall, they're not out now, but probably still there
What is probably wooly lamb's ear but could be mullein

In total, I saw 24 different types of plant growth. I wonder if I can double the number.

Got a book about making wild yeast breads (and other things) from the library. Shall I count any captured yeast in my diversity total?

 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
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The past week has been somewhat frustrating. I was conducting a few experiments, and they haven't really worked up.

First, I was testing how effective scouring rush could be on my pots and pans, and taking dirty-then-clean timed photographs. However, two days ago, my camera card suffered some sort of digital damage, and all my photographs were lost.

Scouring Rush vs. Pot Crud Report:

Oatmeal pot (soaked for an hour to eight hours) cleaned in between three and eight minutes with hot water and rushes
Pan - used for cooking burgers. Clean in under 9 minutes with some soap to cut grease.
Pan - used for frying fish. Clean in under 5 minutes in with a little soap.
Baking pan - post chocolate cake. Clean in under 3 minutes, with only hot soap.

At this point, the photo problem happened, and I gave up recording in temporary disgust.

I've also been trying to make sourdough bread, following Sandor Katz's recipe in Wild Fermentation. I certainly succeeded in capturing wild yeast, but yeast activity was not sustained. I will be trying this again soon, and will be following my own sense of when the starter is ready instead of the rules. Of course, it's stated quite clearly that rules in wild yeast capturing are very fluid, but it's difficult to dare to defy the guidelines on a topic when you don't really have any experience with the subject matter.

Now for the positive developments.

I was able, after a little hunting around, to source portulaca plants, which I will be using in my front yard. I'm not concerned with edibility, because I will be planting these portulaca as ground cover between the irrigated grass lawn portion of the yard, and the road. This area is town property, and gets some foot traffic and the occasional parking/turning car. I have no idea if portulaca can stand getting run over by a truck once a week or so, but I hope to find out. They will also be subject to whatever sand/salt is thrown on the road. At the moment this space is essentially bare, with some little tufts of struggling grass and dandelion. It's either find something that will grow there without extra water, or gravel it over. I got the last sixteen portulaca for sale at the fourth store I visited, I was hoping to find seeds, but no luck there. I could order online, but would prefer not to.
I also found packets of thyme seeds, which I will also be planting in this ground cover area. I know that I will have to water thyme (and the portulaca, for that matter) while it establishes, so I also purchased a big plastic watering can. (The local store was right out of aluminum cans.) I was hoping to find thyme seeds that claimed to be wooly thyme, as this is the variety that a local xeriscape association suggested, but the best I could do was buy a packet that claims to include "multiple varieties." Perhaps one of the varieties is wooly. Again, online ordering would be helpful here, but...

I have one basil plant coming up in a pot, and one coriander. I was very happy to see them.

Also this week, after discovering that the previous-owner dug flower bed is not covered by the irrigation system (!?!) I planted some lavender seed there, with stonecrop as ground cover. Also some cosmos that were an impulse buy from a nursery's discount shelf. I will need to water them by hand, but nearly as much as I would have needed to water the vegetables I was planning on planting there.
Now I'll need to find another place for vegetables, though.
Next week I hope to have some photographs to share.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
111
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As far as plant choices a local kitchen garden would have had, there are a lot of fun places to do research. I've run across many hotel menus by browsing digital copies of old newspapers. And cookbooks were really making their way into middle class families, but more recipes through women' magazines (and free pamphlets from companies like the baking powder and flour manufacturers, although takes off a bit later than your period.) If you can get a hold of earlier editions of the Joy of Cooking (even the 3rd edition has some pretty antique recipes from the authors' childhood, it might give you some ideas.) Also old seed catalogs. There's recent biography of Luther Burbank, who was extremely active in selling plants through his nursery at the that time. He invented the pluot around that time. 1893 was the Chicago world's fair, and loads of interest in exotic plants were trickling back to the middle class. But also the classics of English cottage garden would have been popular.

Some things that come to mind on the edible perennial side

Rhubarb
Leeks or welsh or walking onions (let some flower instead of ornamental onions)
Daylilies (edible flowers, yummy)
Violets, yarrow, thyme, strawberries for ground covers
Gooseberries and currants
Artichokes (I think perennial in your climate)
Breadseed poppies

ornamentals
bearded iris (people would have been able to mail order these)
hollyhocks (said around here to be used to hide the outhouse)
sweet peas (there is a perennial version, also self-sowing)
morning glory (self-sowing)
lilacs
Shasta Daisy (another Luther Burbank introduction)
Asters and mums

Most of these plants can be propagated by division (help your neighbor divide the overgrown iris bed, get free plants) or from neighborhood collected seeds. What a fun project.
 
Ann Torrence
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
111
bee books chicken duck goat trees
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Started a thread on antique seed catalogs, beginning with Luther Burbank's 1921 catalog
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
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Thank-you very much for all the ideas. I have a 1920's cookbook from my grandmother that I might be able to use for a few ideas. Unfortunately the local paper didn't start until 1935, but there is a small museum/archival association building that I've been meaning to visit for some time. Perhaps they will have a menu or two from the old hotels!

I am delving into the digitized seed catalog from Luther Burbank, and, of course, making note of your suggestions.

I did try some onions earlier in the season, but I probably tried too soon, because nothing has come alive. I had rhubarb at my old place, and never used it, so I don't think that's a good fit for me...but I was tempted by strawberry plants last shopping day, they'll probably make their way here.

I hadn't heard of breadseed poppies before (I guess I thought poppy seeds just appeared magically on my bagel.) They have definitely made it on my list of things to look out for.

The other day I took a drive up into the mountains, and said as we drove through the forest "Ah, there used to be a homestead here, we just passed lilacs!" I love lilacs. I've always wanted to have one of my own.
I'm waiting for them to go on sale at the garden centers, though. Or...perhaps I could go back to that mountain lilac border and take some clippings? It was a bit of a drive, unfortunately.

There are yellow flowers growing wild along the roadsides that I initially thought were brown-eyed susans, but a closer inspection reveals that they are not brown-centered. Since I don't know what they are, I don't know how long they've been around here - but as soon as my camera settles down so I can show people what I'm talking about, I'll be launching inquiries!


 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
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It started raining yesterday evening, must have rained through most of the night, and throughout this morning. Last night there was even a bit of lightning. It's the second most rain I've seen here at one time since arriving last summer.
It's rained so much, that I've discovered there are snails in the area, and they try to cross the road after rain like this.
I have a little plastic container out by my new sunken vegetable bed, to try and measure how much watering it gets - and it's nearly filled to the top. I also managed to mostly fill the wheelbarrow I left out yesterday afternoon from digging the bed...now it's a muddy mess.
The rain this morning delayed my new alarm clock, a bird that has been singing me awake each morning for the past few weeks.

I planted a spaghetti squash in the new bed, it was started by seed harvested from a squash grown in Mexico and shipped up here for me to eat...I got the idea of using the seeds from a post here on permies. There is another squash seedling to be planted as soon as I expand the bed and have space. This bed is positioned to hopefully take advantage of hand-watering run off from the flower bed that was here when I arrived. The discount cosmos that I planted in the flower bed last week are predictably suffering. The lavender I planted about this time last week has yet to make an appearance.
The new squash bed is dug about an inch below grade. I used to garden in soil that had a lot of clay, and found digging here very much easier.
It's my first time trying to grow spaghetti squash, although I have grown pumpkin in the past.

I conducted a very primitive soil ph test (it involved vinegar and baking soda) and results were inconclusive. I don't know if a) the test is useful at all or b) if I did it right, but if the answer to both these questions is yes, then I have a balanced ph. My explanation is perhaps the natural acidic nature of the soil is balanced by the alkaline irrigation water.

So far, my portulaca at the front of the lawn is doing well, and I finally identified mystery plants coming up in some pots as green onion tops. I have been throwing 'left over' seeds from in ground plantings into pots, without labeling. Sadly, I've now given up entirely on the green onions I planted in the ground.

At a local thrift store/charity shop, there was a customer appreciation day, and they were selling lavender cuttings in pots for $2 each. They were also holding discount draws, and I snagged a 40% off ticket - which since I was buying some other things, resulted in me getting an essentially free lavender. However, on the bike ride home, it fell out of it's pot a couple of times, and I'm not going to be surprised it it proves to be very unhappy about this treatment. I will at least, have another pot. I'm interested in trying an olla watering experiment in the future, so I'm on the look out for cheap pottery.

I was able to narrow down the identity of a mystery-to-me wildflower growing on the hillsides - I've decided it's either arrow-leaved balsamroot or orange arnica. I'm interested because I hope to transplant or capture seed from a few specimens, eventually.

And I also cut the grass. For some reason, the electric mower had been set to a mid-height cutting setting, which I corrected. It now cuts as high as it can.
There is a patch of the yard that gets misted from the irrigation system but can't be reached by the mower without an extension cord, which hasn't been done yet this year. This was a bit of a brambly area earlier, until I cleaned out some dead bushes, and now it's a neat tiny little wilderness, which put up some blooms this morning after the rain stopped.

I apologize for the giant images.


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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
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It's raining again this afternoon. It rained yesterday, too, but interestingly the closest official weather station (about 20 KM away) reports no precip. yesterday. I have my own personal rain cloud!

Before the rain, I mowed the lawn again, and discovered that there is a little johnny jump-up that was hiding in the grass. It must have been planted by a bird. This week we cut back by about half on the irrigation we were doing to establish grass seed, in order to fill in bare space. And with the rain, some mornings have been entirely irrigation-less. I feel so much less guilty about water use now, although I know that we're still using more then is desirable.
Long term most of the grass will hopefully be replaced by other things, of course, but for now, it's important for getting along with the neighbours to show grass-lawn-ness. Respecting the neighbour's expectations this way seems to be paying off - a few days ago I observed one of the neighbours in their car carefully avoiding rolling over my portulaca planting as they parked on the town space/front lawn.

I had success with wild yeast sourdough - the bread was pretty tough, because I don't really know how to knead dough yet, but I was happy anyway.

Later tonight, I will be testing some homemade ollas for water tightness. I glued and then siliconed some saucers to thrift store clay pots - if they seem to be holding the water (but not too much), I will "plant" one beside this past week's major acquisition - a lilac. It's a Madame Lemoine - a white lilac first sold in the 1890s. I have it at one end of what I hope will be a short line of bushes in the back yard, with the currant bush at the other end. Nothing in between yet, and the currant bush is still just looking like a twig, but progress is progress.
I went to a fancy (read expensive) garden center on shopping day, and picked up a few more seed packets. They had some quite cool plants there, but I exercised heroic restraint. I know it's probably getting a little late in the season for starting big plants from seed, but one packet is basil - I'm really disappointed that as of now I only have on basil plant - but hopefully will have some more soon. I realized that I hadn't yet planted the watermelon seeds I wanted, so I did that this past week. I've been doing a lot of window shopping for different varieties of plants, and running into the "we don't ship to Canada" issue fairly often. Oh well.

Conducted a "real" soil ph test, with a $3 kit. It says my soil is alkaline. Fine with me. I'm more worried about low organic content then ph. I haven't seen a lot of earthworms. Then again, earth worms might not be native to the area.

Rethinking my stance of no-rhubarb. On the weekend I took part in a guided hike, and one of the highlights was coming across an old hill side homestead, abandoned probably in the 1920's or 30's, where there was still rhubarb growing. Now, this was at a higher elevation with more moisture then I get, but it was still really impressive. Perhaps I could come up with some way of making rhubarb palatable. Or I could grow it for trade. It would probably do well around the back of the shed...
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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
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Haven't really done very much this past week. It continues to be rainy - with a "rainfall warning" in effect as I type.

I've installed my first home made "olla" - gorilla glue'd clay pot and saucer - beside the lilac, as planned. It seemed to be working, but right now it's impossible to tell as it keeps raining, so there's no need to water anyway. I have two squash growing, one was planted a day or so before the other, but is obviously getting less sun, since it's now the smaller of the two. I've also planted the one watermelon seedling that took from the seeds planted early last week. (The seed packet may have been two years old.) Watermelon is in my newest bed, along with mystery thrift store seedlings - they're either snap dragons or sweet peas, the lady wasn't sure, and I'm not either - but I think they might prove to be peas, as one or two are getting to look as if they'll want to be tall. The lavender plant from the thrift store is my first fatality. I made the mistake of brushing against it, and half of it just snapped off.

In my herb pots, the chive tops are almost ready to be harvested, and the cilantro and basil have both grown a lot in the past seven/eight days. I also have another mystery herb - I thought it was thyme, but it doesn't look like thyme now, and it's not doing very well. My pots are watered a lot (from the irrigation spray when the system is running, and from roof run off when it rains) so it's possible that it is thyme but it's drowning.

Some wasps are building a nest under the eaves of the house. I'll knock it down sometime when I'm feeling brave. They've chosen to build quite near the kitchen window, and the screen has some gaps.

I'm collecting the sod/soil from the sunken beds beside the shed, it's not enough yet, but at some point it should make enough for a raised bed. Variety is the spice, and all that.
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
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Hurray for chives - my first food harvest of deliberately planted growth. (dandelions, earlier, were my first harvest ever here.) I just snipped the top three inches or so off of the chives in one of my pots to put into a pasta dish. It is quite hot today - over 35C or 95F. Same again tomorrow and the next day, we might just go over 100F. There is still a very little snow visible on the highest peaks visible from my neighbourhood.
I filled up my ollas this morning. (one beside the lilac, and one beside a probably dead currant bush.) Also early this morning I planted a second black currant bush. I had been looking for saskatoon bushes, but expect that I would have to go to a more specialized/expensive nursery to find them, and besides, it's really hot to be planting bushes, but I had this second currant bush waiting for awhile.
One of my potted coriander has surprised me and looks about ready to set seed. I was just going to use the leaves, but if that's what it wants to do...

I also did battle with a paper wasp colony this week, which seems to have been successful. I want to reposition the false "wasp nest" hanger I put up near by, as it's really blowing in the breeze, and I don't think it would fool anyone right now, and might just float away.

There are more johnny jump ups scattered around the lawn, and, after all the rain, there are some mushrooms, although with this stretch of hot and dry I expect they'll not stay long.
My possible peas/possible snap dragons are now snap dragons. Some are blooming. I haven't had snap dragons in a long time. They're nice, if not spectacular. I won't complain about them, the ones that are blooming are planted in the same bed as I planted a lot of lavender seeds, and not one lavender has come up.

The front lawn patch of portulaca was mulched this week, and I also raked a lot of old needles out from under the cedars, some I'll keep, but most of it I'll put out for the municipal compost collection. I was planning on cutting back and thinning the cedars, but didn't get around to it while it was rainy, and now it's too hot for me to wrestle with clippers and saws. But I do want to let more light in through the cedars, because I'm hoping they'll provide a shady but not too shady area for cooler-temperature plants, like lettuce, later this year or next year.

A robin is making her nest - and stealing the moist soil from my pots to do so. I caught her at it a few days ago, and made her a little tray with water on one end and a soil/weed/twig pile building up towards the other end. Plus I let her keep at one of the pots she'd uprooted, and moved the others away. She seemed happy with that arrangement.

Have to cut the lawn again. Seems like it needs a lot cutting, possibly because with the higher cutting height I'm using now, it dosen't take too long to go from the "freshly mown" to "junkyard" look. For now, the yard is being irrigated early every morning. (Before dawn.) However, the town down the road announced irrigation restrictions in the past few days, so I'm not going to be surprised if my town follows suit. Given the way the grass is growing, I might be able to cut back to every other day without any outside guidance. But the squash and watermelon are not growing as fast as I'd hoped, and that might be a lack-of-water issue. I'm now watering them with a can on top of the yard-wide irrigation. It could also just be impatience.
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
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Yucca. I've never seen yucca flowering before.
I was planning on uprooting this yucca plant, since I don't want anything growing right up against the house walls. I haven't gotten around to it - and am now concerned that it might be one of the Adam's Needle yuccas which is flagged as invasive here. This will make it really hard to remove, as the root segments will start new plants. Hopefully what I've got is Yucca glauca (Soapweed yucca) I'm also curious about the yucca moth - apparently there is only one type of moth that will pollinate yucca, and since yucca does not appear to be naturalized here, I wonder if there are any suitable moths in the area. I check for moths by the flowers in the evening, and haven't seen any in the few days since the blooms opened.

This past week has mostly been about maintenance and observing what's happening in the yard. I haven't added any new plants to report. The discount cosmos are probably going to be my second fatality, as they are really not looking good, and more sun and heat is on it's way. My squash plants are happy, and the second currant bush I planted the week before last is, I think, starting to send out new green growth. I'm still not having much luck with lavender. I transplanted some seedlings, and they're just sitting there, not doing anything obvious like growing.

This morning I was at the Canadian Tire (a giant hardware store chain) and visited their garden center, as they were advertising a sale on plants. I was interested in a few plants, but then I discovered that some of them were copyrighted, with big "Propagation Prohibited" labels. The saddest copyright was a sage plant. There is wild sage growing a block from my house. Hmmm, would I purchase improved and copyrighted sage, which I can not legally propagate, or would I walk over to the hillside and get some obviously-perfectly-suited-to-my-location and free to all sage? This is a difficult one.
I ended up not buying any plants, although I might go back in a few days and pick up some legal-to-do-what-you-will-with flowers.
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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
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My neighbours have mullein starting to bloom. I'm hoping that the seeds will drift my way.
I also have volunteer daisies blooming. They're wonderful.
I've planted a third black currant bush. I put it in the same space as the first bush, which I pulled out, as it has never shown any signs of life since I bought it. I've "mulched" it with stones, as I didn't have any dried needles available.
I've lost my grapes. Turns out it's actually Virginia creeper, so I cut it back a lot. I'll keep it on the back of my shed, but might want to grow something else on the side shed trellis.
I've been able to harvest more green onion tops (need to plant more onions next year!) and some cilantro and basil.
Two of my tomato plants are starting to fruit, and one of my squash plants has flowers. It is currently 34 degrees Celcius.

This morning was a bit "permie"

I got up early, to water the plants and walk the dog before it got too hot.
Saw a deer coming out of the high school yard, then leaping into someone's garden.
Chased the deer away.
Home again, I closed all the windows, pulled the blinds, and turned on the a/c - set as high as is comfortable to allow indoor housework.
Harvested some herbs.
After putting in a load of laundry, I gathered some books, flip-flops and other things that are no longer serving a purpose here.
I put out the chamomile brew to brew
Walked downtown to donate my extra goods to the thrift shop
Noted that there were two empty beer cans lying on the boulevard on the way
Went to the library.
Came back the same way so that I could pick up the beer cans - they can be recycled for 10 cents each. After walking along the known beer can street, I deviated slightly, and took another route for the final stretch home. This resulted in finding two more recyclables.
Once home, put the laundry out on the line to dry, put in a second load right away, to be done with running the washer before noon. Clucked at myself a bit for doing two loads, as I realized that I could have probably done everything in one.
Brought the tea back inside.
Deployed the "cold soft drink can" method of body cooling. Didn't actually drink the soda.
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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I did battle with some Virginia Creeper (VC) this morning. A post - oh-no-it's-not-grape! study showed me there are at least six plants in my back yard - four in "bad" places, and it's continuing to try and spread into my neighbour's yard - into their air conditioning unit, in fact. They are not pleased with this. (They took a weed whacker to my yard as a result about two weeks ago.) I've had some success with vinegar killing plants, so I poured some extremely old and bad-smelling cooking vinegar over some vc stumps, after pulling up as much vine as I could. There is a mound of soil/mulch/half composted material/virgina creeper in the yard which is too deep for me to hand pull. I will try to cover it with black plastic and hope to cook everything inside. I expect to have to continue pulling Virginia creeper once a week for the rest of the summer, and probably next year, too. Does anyone know if you can kill Virginia Creeper with alcoholic drinks? We have lots of old booze that we got as gifts, but we only drink wine. I'll probably try soaking re-emergent v.c. with some old whatever it is in the bottle later.
Eventually I will replace the Virginia Creeper on the shed with something native, or an edible vine. (or both.)

Good but stressful news that we will be hosting house guests for much of late July/August. It'll be nice to visit - but there's so much house work I want to get done before they start arriving! I doubt I'll have much time for gardening experiments between now and mid-August.
I did experiment with a solar cooker early last week - it was just a mash of aluminum foil and some cardboard boxes, so I didn't expect it to get too hot - but when I left a thermometer in the middle for about an hour, it fried the thermometer!

I scattered some lettuce seed around beside my lavender plants which are still not growing, and some have sprouted. I know that it's far too hot (90F+) for lettuce, but i am horrible at saving seeds (they always mold on me) so I figured it would be better to get some lettuce-ground cover then nothing at all from the packet. I do want to get better at saving seed in the future.

Also this past Saturday was the local library's annual book sale. Arriving in the last half hour, a "box" was selling for $1.

A small sample of the loot.

Unfortunately the canning book turns out to be mouldy at the back, so it had to be sent to the recycling bin. Also, carrying a whole box back up the hill to my house was not going to happen, so I had to hold back.

Next year - I take the bike and buy more!
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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Squash is fun.
I now have three spaghetti squash growing on one vine, none on the second yet (which is more shaded) but plenty of flowers on the second vine. It's great that the leaves are nice and big and are eliminating weeds underneath themselves. I should have prepared more room for the vines, but I'll know better next year. There are two tomato plants in the squash bed, which I planted believing that they were mostly dead, but they have shown recent vigour. No idea if they'll fruit given that the squash is competing with them.

The tomato plant I have in a pot by my back door is fruiting, and some tomatoes are starting to turn colour. They're cherry sized. This plant (and pot) was an acquisition from the local thrift store. I hope that they will be selling extra plants from their volunteers next spring.

I also have watermelon, which I'd almost given up on, but one plant put up flowers over night. Will there be time for decent sized melon to develop between now and frost? I believe I should have until early October. Should be enough.
The lettuce I scattered last week is growing. I've been watering their bed twice a day, to try and keep them going.
A few days ago I purchased a discounted hens-and-chicks plant, very pot bound. I planted it in the front, and also took some "chicks" off and am seeing if I can get them to root in a cup of water.

The past couple of days, we haven't run the yard-wide irrigation system. I remain confused about the local government's water management - my part of the province is now officially in a "level 3" drought - which means that the province is closing stream/river fishing due to low water flow, and targeting a 20% reduction in water use through voluntary conservation. So the high school in town (which is closed for the summer) has been irrigating it's fields in the middle of the day, and I continue to see the decorative plantings downtown also being watered mid-day. And the farms also seem to irrigate in the middle of the day. There has been no local announcements about water conservation at all. The local paper comes out weekly, perhaps there will be something (anything?!) this week. Late last week, the valley was blanketed with smoke from a wild fire burning across the Canada/US border in a hard to access area. It's over 2000 hectares now, although the wind has shifted and it rained some, so the smoke has mostly departed.

The Virginia Creeper that I doused with vinegar is still alive, but unhappy - it's foliage has turned red.

 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I'm enjoying reading about your projects!
 
Jay Angler
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Rethinking my stance of no-rhubarb.


Rhubarb Streusel Muffin-cake

Whole wheat flour 2 cups
Unbleached flour 1 cup
Granulated sugar 1 cup
Baking powder 2 Tablespoons
Salt 1 tsp
Cinnamon 1 tsp

Mix the above ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Eggs 2
Milk ½ cup
Cooking oil ½ cup
Chopped rhubarb 3 cups

Beat eggs, milk, and oil to blend. Stir in rhubarb. Pour into mixing bowl and stir with the dry ingredients until just moistened. Batter will be thick. Spread into two 8 x 8 pans. Sprinkle with topping.

Topping:
Brown sugar 1 cup
Unbleached flour ½ cup
Butter ½ cup

Put the sugar, flour and butter in the mixing bowl you just emptied. Crumble it together (I use a pastry blender). Sprinkle it over the batter.
Bake 375F for 30 min. With convection oven, reduce temp to 350F after 15 min.

The starting point for this recipe was a Company's Coming Apple Muffin recipe, but I've made considerable changes. I was quite surprised how popular it turned out to be. If I don't have time to make the topping, I use some of my apple crisp topping which I make in large batches and always have in the freezer so I can make a quick apple/berry crumble without having to get a lot of ingredients out. One thing about cooking with rhubarb is to either cook it in a glass pan, or move it out of a metal pan quickly as the acid will damage the pan.
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Wow, this project made it into the e-mail! Thank-you! And thank-you to everyone who is following along, I hope that you enjoy my bumblings!

Harvest -
One of my neighbours gifted me a giant basil plant in a pot - which was more then ready for a big harvesting. I've also harvested my first half dozen cherry tomatoes. They taste really good, but not quite as good as the local organic field tomatoes I purchased at the farmer's market over the weekend. Those were amazing. I've also harvested more chive tops, and cilantro.

Pests -
Something nibbled all along the edges of my lilac bush's leaves in the last 24 hours.
Feral kittens are playing with the springiness of a young juniper tree on the edge of the property. It's very cute, but feral cats?! Poor birds.

Figs? -
At the farmer's market, a guy was selling fig trees! I was tempted to buy one, but I think I need to prepare a space for it - I've read previously that it's just possible to over winter figs here if you have a nice south-facing wall for shelter. I don't want things growing against my house walls, so I expect that if I wanted to grow figs, I'd have to build a mini-wall for it first. Plus, I doubt they were growing figs up here in the late 1890s. For one thing, it was probably too cold.

Lighting -
About a month ago, I decided that I'd had enough with all the CFLs that had been installed in this house before we purchased it. I find the light colour off-putting, and my partner swears that they're not as bright as incandescent. (I find them brighter, but not as warm and fuzzy seeming.) I expect that this is partly generational, and that people who grow up in the future only knowing CFL/led lighting, will find the colour they put out perfectly acceptable, and might find incandescent dim.
So I've removed about a dozen CFLs and replaced with incandescent, which are hard to find locally now - and I've also been putting in LEDs. I figure that yes, there might be LED problems too, but as far as me know right now, they're at least better then CFLs.
I've donated the CFLs to my local thrift shop, because they are still working, and even though they're problematic, I figured it was better to have them used then to throw them out. I still have some CFLs scattered about the house, but they're now mostly in sockets that are completely enclosed (and hard to get into and out of) And there is one outside. I thought I'd leave it like that for now, and replace them as they eventually went out.
One CFL burned out last week, so, wanting to do that right thing, I set it aside on a shed shelf, to wait for a trip to the recycling depot.
Well, the wind blew up a storm, and the next morning I went out to the shed to discover bits of CFL all over the shed floor. This made me extremely unhappy and annoyed about mercury, but I decided not to panic, as the shed is not a hot spot for children or (other) growing things. However, I'm now nervous about the CFL outside, and thinking I should replace it as soon as the opportunity presents itself - changing it will require a ladder.Ultimately I hope to have mostly LEDs in high use upstairs rooms, and incandescent in the basement, where their heat output will be welcome all year around. The other night I had to push a lamp with an incandescent bulb away from me as I was reading upstairs, since the extra heat (on top of 90+F weather) was just too much. On the other hand, the basement always feels cool in the summer, sometimes uncomfortably so, with the difference between upstairs and downstairs being very noticeable. Unfortunately the house is not well designed for natural light, and we have the electric lights on A LOT.
Outdoor electric lights do not fall under the category of historically accurate for my miner's garden project, but I do have a kerosene lamp about here somewhere, and candles. Thinking about generational approaches to lighting, a 1892 miner beamed into the present might be blinded by all my electric lights, although I've read that carbon-arc lights of the time were really bright.

Daisies -
I've started to harvest the seeds off of the Gloriosa daisies that volunteered in the front yard. I'm also planning on scattering a few flower heads over the area I want to seed in the spring, because nature can probably do a better job at preserving seeds over the winter then I can.

Rhubarb Streusel Muffin-Cake -
Sounds so tasty.
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Took advantage on a rare cool morning to mow my grass again today. It took almost exactly two hours. Two hours I could of been doing something else. Like admiring my fruits.

The watermelon plant has agreed that I might just get one watermelon - it's my first self-grown watermelon ever, so I go and gaze at it a couple of times a day and tell it to grow grow grow. At the moment it would fit nicely in the palm of my hand. It already has stripes, which surprised me a little. I thought that the striping would come later, as it ripened, similar to the way that one of my spaghetti squashes is starting to turn yellow.

My dog finds the smell of the squashes very interesting, running over to inspect the squash plant and in particular the fruit whenever I'm not looking. So far doggie hasn't tried to eat them, but it does make me a little worried about other animals being attracted to them. Maybe I just have an unusually curious canine. I've also got some significant ?mildew? growing on the squash leaves now. I know I planted them far too close, and have been trying to keep them somewhat trimmed, but it seems to be a losing battle. Every other night when the irrigation comes on, they get watered from above, and it's predicted to rain today. This can only worsen the mildew situation. Prior to the mildew, I did taste test boiled squash leaves/stems. I would be willing to eat the leaves again, if they weren't covered in grey fuzz. I understand that some types of squash has tastier leaves them others (and that spaghetti squash isn't really on the tasty leaf list. But it tasted okay. Mostly it didn't taste like much.)

One of the tomato plants planted in there with the squash has two decent sized green fruit, the other I think I'll just pull soon, as there is no evidence of fruiting action, and it's just blocking air circulation at this point.
My two cherry tomato plants have been a success, although not a lot of the tomatoes I'm harvesting from them is making it inside. I think that harvest probably be done by the end of this week.

In a fit of madness, I've scattered some peas from the last pea packet for sale at the hardware store. A few have already come up. The lettuce I planted a month ago is doing well, no bolting yet, despite the warm weather, because I've been watering it a fair amount and it is a bit shaded.

As soon as the garbage (and yard waste) collection man comes by tomorrow I'll have reduced my "fire load" by about 10 percent - as I trimmed/hacked off all the dead wood plus living wood under approximately four feet from the cedar trees in my yard. Of course, practically right after removing everything under four feet and feeling good about it, I read that six feet is the suggested height for wildfire safety purposes.

Well, four feet is better then no feet. And I still "should" remove the trees all together, as no amount of trimming will move them significantly farther away from the building.

Next year I plan to plant a few things under the cedar trees, I've been reading about "mouse melons" and might try them, I've kept a few sawed off branches for guide posts, considering strawberries, and I'm also hoping that kinnickinnick will grow there.

The Virginia creeper that got the vinegar treatment is barely alive these days, unfortunately some of it did not get vinegared, and it's fighting back.

At long last I got around to testing my soil for the NPK - it seems both nitrogen and phosphorous is found in abundance, but the potassium levels are on the low side. I have yet to decide on a plan of action to address this.

Another thing that I want to make a note of for next year, is that I didn't see a lot of pollinators around my vegetables and tomatoes when they were trying to set fruit. I'm not sure why this is, unless the paper wasps setting up their nest near by earlier this year scared away the other pollinators. Does that make any sense? It could also be that because my offering were small, most pollinators simply saw no reason to hang around my yard, when they have large gardens and fruit orchards near by. So, I think it'll be beneficial to me to plant pollinator-attractive flowers next year.

I found a wallflower at the store last week. It was a "last one" just like the packet of pea seeds. So I brought it home too, and planted it by the patio. It's a bit dried out looking, but perhaps it will flower next spring.
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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So, yesterday afternoon a big wind came up.
Knocked down some branches off the trees, the mains electricity went out for a second or two, took some roofing off the shed. Knocked over my tomatoes, blew junk around. Huh, I thought, that was a big wind. Guess I'll tidy it up a little later.

About fifteen minutes later, while it was still quite windy, I'm called outside because there's "something I might be interested in seeing."

There are two wildfires burning to the northwest and southwest of my town.

The larger one is believed to have been caused by a lightning strike during the windstorm. It is now at 1500+ hectares and no containment.

The second fire, closer to my property, is also officially unconstrained (although it seems to have been pushed significantly back from my neighbourhood over night) and is at about 300 hectares. It is believed to have been caused by person or persons unknown, coincidentally at about the same time as the lightning strike. (Maybe something fell over in the wind?) So far one house has been confirmed lost.

Within minutes of being called outside yesterday evening, I noted that there was ash falling, and felt I should probably start packing. Fortunately I didn't have to leave the house last night.

One street over my neighbors are still under evacuation. It's quite smokey (although better then last night.) Hoping for significant rain fall, another storm is expected with some trepidation. Helicopters are actively dumping buckets of water from the little local lake as I type.

What was I saying last week about being pleased with myself for cutting some branches off the bushes beside my house?

 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3981
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Stay safe Vera ! My prayers are with you !
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Thank-you, Miles.

Today is much calmer. At this moment, church bells are playing at the end of the Sunday services, while helicopters continue to fly over the town. The fire closest to me is no longer an immediate threat to property, and my closest neighbors were allowed back home yesterday evening. The larger fire farther away from me is still going fairly strong (it looks like to me.) We were lucky yesterday as the predicted second storm failed to show up, and winds stayed mostly calm, the temperature has even fallen a bit.

One of the things that I've remarked to myself in the past couple of days, is that my city-slicker expectation of updates on emergencies from authorities on multiple channels is completely misplaced in a town of 5000. The town had nothing official on their website that I could find, the regional district hasn't updated their information at all today, nor has the provincial fire service, and the best news coverage has been from a guy with his own private news website. There is no local radio station, and of course no local TV. Early on, our only source information was the neighbour with a cellphone contact to some family members who had different views of the situation. The best "news source" of all has been my eyeballs. Billowing smoke with flames shooting up from the top of the mountain three blocks away? Time to put the dog food into the car. Fire officials knocking on doors one block over? Time to stand by the door of the car and wonder where we should go. Smouldering grass on the hillside and the firefighters have packed away the hoses? Okay, we can probably relax.

I have to prepare for more visitors later this week, but I'm of course also going to be looking at what else I can do right now to further reduce the easily-tindered bits of my yard. I envision more tree trimming in the near future! I expect the yard waste pick up this week will be legendary all over town.



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Saturday morning (another side of above fire)
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Sunday morning (farther away, larger fire)
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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So, this week I'm entertaining visitors, and neglecting my garden, although I did chop a bunch of branches in the days immediately following the fires, and trucked them out to the landfill (where they are chipped, and then ?) I saved a few branches for possible hugeling and for supports for plants, but mostly I felt it urgent to get flammables off the property. I still have a little bit that way that I want to do.

I know that there are one or two permies in the southern Okanagan valley in Washington, and I very much hope they're staying safe - there is a big big fire burning in Washington. ("My" fire is completely extinct now, and
my second fire is still going but getting farther away all the time.)

The Washington fire has been sending copious amounts of smoke our way, you'll see the smoke haze in the first attached photo.
We went to the Osoyoos Desert Center yesterday, they have a nice walk way and knowledgeable staff, I picked up a package of showy milkweed seeds in their shop and was able to ask the person who harvested them about germination requirements. It was really nice way to spend an hour or so for only $7/person. First and second pic from the center boardwalk.

What is most urgent in the garden is to stake up the peas I planted - I didn't really expect them to grow, to be honest, as I just threw them in among the watermelon and the lettuce and walked away, but they are growing anyway, I've got some of my saved-from-the-cutting-fest branches shoved in among them to help them out should they find them, but I should spend a few minutes and guide them a bit. I've been harvesting lettuce, and the few tomatoes that have ripened recently.
With two squash plants, I have one plant growing three squash, and the other is all focused on one giant squash. I never see spaghetti squash this big in the store.
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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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I had amazing luck at the local thrift shop this morning. I almost didn't go downtown at all today, and then almost skipped the thrift shop stop.

This is what I found - for 75 cents. - Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest. My copy is pristine. I don't think anyone has ever cracked it open. At the time of it's publication it sold for $29.95 and is now selling on Amazon for over $100! Thank-you, whoever donated this to the shop. Thank-you to the shop for selling it at such a ridiculously low price!
It will join my so-far-small library on local/survival knowledge.

I am ready to harvest my first squash. Just as soon as I use up some more of the food left over from having visitors. We purchased too much food in anticipation, now I'm working hard to ensure that as little of it as possible goes to waste. So far I've only lost two strawberries, but it's a tough battle - I'm all out of freezer space and have some rapidly expiring peaches and vegetables. I don't have a compost plan, so I feel especially pressed to get it all "et up." When I can, I will try out the home grown squash. I'm fairly certain two of the four I have are ripe. For now, I figure storing them in the garden is just as valid as picking them. The mildew problem seems to have been turned back, at the expense of a great number of leaves. The plants are still putting up blossoms!

My lettuce patch has proven to be quite productive. I was able to serve some to my visitors (they were happy about it) and still have quite a lot growing. I will plant more lettuce and earlier next year! Green onions continue to provide, but the tomatoes are really struggling now, as it's been getting a bit cool at night. I'm not sure they appreciated all the wildfire smoke, either. And it's cloudy these past few days. We had a brief hail storm two days ago. My current bushes and lilac bush are also doing okay if not spectacularly. The peas are still growing, and a few of them have started to develop flowers.
The past few days we've had much welcomed rain and cloud, so mushrooms and snails have made a reappearance. also spiders in the house.

The wildfire kindled on August 14th to the southwest of town is still burning. It is now estimated at over 4000 hectares (15 square miles.) And it's now more west then southwest. It remains partially visible from our property - it's amazing how quickly you can get used to things - now I check on it rather routinely in the mornings. Yep, still there, and on with the day. It is not threatening any housing, although some people remain on evacuation alert. It has closed one back road that was quite a delightful ride, and today as the wind is blowing from that direction, we are still getting some smoke up here. Downtown the smoke was hardly noticeable. I'm getting awfully tired of closed windows and the furnace fan running. It's been almost three weeks mostly in "spaceship" mode! But I'm finding that as time goes by, the smoke is actually bothering me more when I go out, even though there is less of it. Just accumulating in the ol' lungs, I guess. The rain has cleared the air a lot, and I'm hoping for more.

I'm debating ordering some fall planting, like more and different onions.
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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The air is at long last clearing. There is still a little smoke rising from the hills, but I am very grateful that the air is clean again. Having lived for a month under smoke and some days at an "air quality health index" rating of 10+ - the highest and worst that it can get on the scale here in Canada- I feel very lucky that I live here and not in a place where terrible air quality is a regular occurrence. It is so much better with clean air.
While the fire on the hill has left large bare patches, I'm amazed that despite the fact that it looked like the entire mountain was on fire over a month, there are still a lot of trees standing up there. I'm looking forward to seeing nature recover the mountainside over the coming years.

I harvested my second spaghetti squash today - the first provided four servings at approximately $200 each - but if this second one provides the same, then we have a great deal of $100/serving of permorganic squash! Totally worth it, right? The squash vine is starting to grow another fruit, which obviously will not ripen before frost, but I'm impressed that it's trying.

I've also started to harvest a few pea pods, and am continuing to harvest lettuce, green onion tops, basil, cherry and grape-sized tomato as they come available. The baby pea pods are delicious, unfortunately I've only been able to harvest four so far!

My lone watermelon is still in the garden, but I don't know if it's still growing - or if it's ripe. I've looked up a couple of places on how to tell when your watermelon is ready, and I don't think it is (it doesn't have a patch on the bottom, and it doesn't smell "watermelony") I also think I might be over watering, I recently read that in some (generally wetter) parts of the country watermelon can be grown without any irrigation at all. And here I've been soaking it almost every day, because it's called a watermelon, and thus must need lots of water. Now I'm worried that if I suddenly cut back on watering it'll have an adverse reaction. But I've had a bit of a revelation about watering recently - in that I've been reminded that initial farming settlements in "the west" didn't exactly have inground irrigation pre-installed when they arrived, and they still managed to grow themselves enough food most years. Now, my town has actually always depended on irrigation, it hardly existed before the irrigation canal was built, but there was no automatic irrigation up in the old ghost mining town gardens that I'm trying to mimic - they had a stream, possibly wells, and must have drawn water, but obviously they didn't need to use nearly as much water as I've been using. I've sort of lost track of that fact this summer. This first year was always going to be the "base line" in terms of water use, now I'm feeling even more ambitious about reducing the water used in the future. Why stop at halving it? Maybe I can reduce it to 1/4 of current use!

Having had such luck at the thrift store two weeks ago, I visited again earlier this week, and picked up a nice long sleeve top for $2.50 instead of the $40 or so it likely first sold for. It looks a little last season, but who cares? And I'm also still on the look out for cheap unsealed clay pots for ollas. One of my ollas cracked, and I had to get rid of it, but the second olla by the lilac bush is still going, and seems to be serving it's purpose. If I could find more unsealed pots, I would get them ready for more olla-ing next year.

I've ordered some seeds, and some nodding onion, but the package hasn't arrived yet. I hope to create an "onion bed" this fall (and add more stuff to it in the spring.)

Patches of the lawn are now volunteer white clover, and I think I've finally communicated successfully to my partner that they can be left alone, not "weeded." I did however have to cut the lawn a few days ago, which damaged the clover. But it's still there! I have also at long last spotted the first self-spreading portulaca plant in the front yard, where I've been hoping it will stretch over and all around a currently-still-mostly-bare-soil-and-gravel "sidewalk" adjacent to the road. It has so far proven far less aggressive in spreading then I'd hoped, but hope remains!

A neighbour brought over some sweet peppers that she said she'd gleaned from farmer's field - he has apparently stated that whatever is left in his fields now is free for the taking since his harvesters have gone home. Also I was given a large shopping bag full of very sweet green grapes. If I knew more about preserving foods, I would have a field day. I will be seeking information on what to do with the almost-ripe grapes immediately!
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Since the weather is getting distinctly autumnal (down to 4 Celcius last night) I've spent the last couple of days harvesting and preparing my garden for winter. I've watched a couple of videos about how important a deep mulch is, especially in places where there is less rain fall, so I've been piling up the needle mulch easily accessible to me. It hasn't caused any problems this summer as far as I can tell, and breaks down fairly quickly. I can see a lot of little bugs in it when it's been on the ground for a few days, but no scary bugs. I had an early fear that using this natural mulch would result in black widow spiders taking up residence in my lettuce patch, which would have very quickly resulted in a return to store bought lettuce, but so far I haven't noticed any spiders enjoying the mulch, just small bugs with many legs and ants. I'm getting the mulch up to about two inches at the moment, which is all that my sourcing allows for now. I also have one currant bush "mulched" with stone around it, and it seems to be doing just as well and perhaps better then the needle mulched bushes, but I'm not convinced this is due to the mulch material, but rather continue to suspect it's a result of the stoned bush being in more sun. However, if it turns out to be the only bush alive next spring, I will reconsider the wisdom of needle mulch bushes.

I planted seeds for nodding onion in one bed, knowing full well that the instructions call for planting in spring, but I thought perhaps it might result in very early onions. I kept back some of the seeds for spring sowing.

I've eaten all the few peas that my late-planted peas gave me. They were good, but there were so few.

At last I remembered to snag a cactus pad from the yard waste of one of my neighbours one night, and have it relocated to a spot on the outer edge of the yard, where it will still receive some spray from the irrigation system. Probably it doesn't need that spray, but I wanted to give it the best chance of rooting that I could, since it doesn't have much time before it freezes.

In a continuation of my thoughts last week about how a lot of things will grow here even if it's not irrigated if the conditions are otherwise right, I came across an old homestead a few days ago where some old apple trees were still growing, although the buildings are complete ruins (at first I didn't even see them.) I did wonder if I could take a cutting, but honestly, I don't know how to do that, and guess that spring would be a better time, anyhow. As with the rhubarb homestead earlier this year, this homestead was further up the mountainside then my house, but as you can see in the photo, it's not exactly in a rain forest.

Since the gardening is almost over, I'm thinking of other "projects" and believe I will take part in the non-consumerist "Buy Nothing New Month" in October - only, I'll be saying "Buy Nothing At All - Except..." except food and medicine. I've done this a couple of times, and it's generally not a big stress for me to go only that long without shopping. I like that I can get other things done in the time I'd otherwise be buying stuff.
So, in preparation for that, I went shopping today, (trying to only buy the things I think I'll really need.) But one of my stops was the lovely local thrift shop I feel like raving about all the time. With a little under $10 I purchased a bicycle load of "stuff" - including a car window shade to be used in future attempts at solar cooking, and a brand new looking herb pot, and a vintage winter touque. I also had a look for insulated boots for Jesse Grimes, but no luck. While I was there, the volunteers put out a sign to politely turn down further donations that day, as the shop was full. Yes, there is so much stuff the second-hand stores can't handle it all, even in a town of only 5000. This is the third time I've seen that sign out.

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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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I hope to write a wrap-up thread for the end of the gardening season in about a week, and then I'll probably spend much less time here on permies.com for the winter. You're fascinating, but I can't spend my entire life with you.
Actually, i hope not to be done in the garden for another 10-12 days! but tonight there is forecast of snow in the mountains above.
I have already ordered myself some seeds for next spring -
and have already discovered that I don't have enough space for planting them prepared. But - seeds! There are so many out there, and I want to grow them all.

So hopefully before the ground freezes I'll have time to do some bed digging for next year, because my experience this spring was that I didn't have enough time between warm-enough-for-planting and too-hot-for-digging to get as much dug out as I wanted. (I'm planting in dug out beds for water collection/retention.)

I ate an unripe spaghetti squash tonight. I never knew you could do that before, but you can.



 
Nicole Alderman
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Vera Stewart wrote:
I've eaten all the few peas that my late-planted peas gave me. They were good, but there were so few.


My fall peas are still producing (I'm west of the mountains), but they aren't giving me that much. I thought that, perhaps, that there is something wrong with my soil or placement, but maybe it's just that fall peas don't do very well!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Vera Stewart wrote:I hope to write a wrap-up thread for the end of the gardening season in about a week, and then I'll probably spend much less time here on permies.com for the winter. You're fascinating, but I can't spend my entire life with you.
Actually, i hope not to be done in the garden for another 10-12 days! but tonight there is forecast of snow in the mountains above.
I have already ordered myself some seeds for next spring -
and have already discovered that I don't have enough space for planting them prepared. But - seeds! There are so many out there, and I want to grow them all.

So hopefully before the ground freezes I'll have time to do some bed digging for next year, because my experience this spring was that I didn't have enough time between warm-enough-for-planting and too-hot-for-digging to get as much dug out as I wanted. (I'm planting in dug out beds for water collection/retention.)

I ate an unripe spaghetti squash tonight. I never knew you could do that before, but you can.


I'm with you on the bed digging. I thought I had planted so much food...only to realize I really need more area to grow. But, man, making garden beds is a lot of work. I'm hoping I can get another one finished before winter, too!
 
Miles Flansburg
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Vera, you have had quite the summer adventure and I have enjoyed tagging along with you here. Looking forward to next summer already !
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Attaching an updated version of my yard plan, to show what it looks like today.
It's easy for me to look at it and not see a lot of progress, but I know from past experience that it's better to start off small then to get overwhelmed and give up.
This year I only had about 12 feet of vegetable bed in production, but I still grew something I'd never grown before (watermelon) and I learned that despite the heat in the summer, I can grow lettuce very successfully. I also established a few fruit bushes that I hope will provide in the future, and identified a lot of plants growing in the yard. (Like the sumac.) There were maintenance tasks, particularly in the spring, which were a drain on time and budget, but should not be such a problem next year. I was able to improve my sense of security within the fire landscape, by thinning and removing some bushes and dead branches, and went through my first official drought summer.
I expect to be able to grow at least twice as many vegetables next year with hardly any additional effort, and perhaps even more, depending on spring weather.

Updated Inventory of Plants Growing in Yard (Overwintering) -

Grass
White Clover
Cedars
Pine
Yew
Sumac
Juniper
An evergreen tree
Dandelions
Yucca
Scouring Rushes
Virginia Creeper
Oregon Grape
Periwinkle
Black Currant
Mushroom
(another kind of) mushroom
Hen and Chicks
Mullein
Portulaca
Cactus (unknown variety)
Madame Lemoine Lilac
Green Onion
Nodding Onion
Thyme
Scotch Moss
Daisy
Showy Milkweed

28 plant types - a 14%+ increase since the spring.

I do not have an up to date water bill showing irrigation expenses for the growing season.

Today, I am planning to grow more squash, tomato, lettuce and watermelon next year, but no doubt my plans will change and develop over the winter.

Thank-you for reading and supporting my progress. Farewell until next April.
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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Hello everyone. I've been working in my yard on and off since mid February, which I find amazing. Winter here has been a joke. I brought my big winter parka with me from the prairie, but I didn't need to wear it once this "winter." Not. Once. I am excited about my second growing season here in the Okanagan. (Hopefully nothing near by will catch on fire this year.)

I pigged out on seed package orders, and have found a few plants to try that I'm especially excited about - a variety of hollyhock that is supposed to have been grown by Thomas Jefferson, Mammoth Sunflowers that I hope will make a sort of fence along the back driveway, leeks, which I've never grown but really enjoy eating..and more watermelon. Plus I'll hopefully be growing most of the annuals I grew last year again.

I'm happy to see that the bushes I planted last year all seem well, even the little runt of a currant bush that I was sure would be killed off by the colder weather. It's still not as vigorous as the others, but it's definitely alive.

Do have concerns about my onion patch - I seem to have lost my nodding onion, and the green onions that were doing well last year have not flourished as I expected from previous experience with green onion. Perhaps they're just waiting for more sun, at the moment they receive a fair amount of shade from the neighbouring house. I was able to use some of the onion for Easter - but had to use some brought in from Mexico to complete the dish I was working on.

I was given two sunchoke roots at the community seed swap and sale that I attended last month, and planted them the next day in a tub outside. However, there is no sign of life from them. I'm not really sure I wanted them, so I'm not particularly upset about that.

Currently I am growing a small pot of Orielles de Diable lettuce in my kitchen, and another little patch under an improvised cloche outside. (It still gets a bit frosty in the mornings here, although the afternoons are t-shirt temperature already.) Interestingly, the lettuce inside grows green, and the lettuce outside is showing as mostly red.
Just in the past week I've started half a dozen vegtables and flowers for seedlings - including portulaca, which I hope to add to those portulaca that will have hopefully self-seeded in the front yard from last year's planting.

Most recently I've been giving the grass lawn a heavy rake, in preparation for scattering clover seed all over it. I've also eliminated some stray oregon grape by a combination of mechanical removal and vinegar dousing.

I still need to dig a flower bed, around where I plan to plant the sunflowers. I know that sunflowers can discourage other plants from growing, but I'd like to try growing flowers under them anyway. All that can happen is they don't grow.

Current Inventory of Identified Plants in the Miner's Garden

Grass
White Clover
Cedars
Pine
Yew
Sumac
Juniper
An evergreen tree
Dandelions
Yucca
Scouring Rushes
Virginia Creeper
Oregon Grape
Periwinkle
Black Currant
Hen and Chicks
Mullein
Madame Lemoine Lilac
Green Onion
Scotch Moss
Johnny Jump Up
Mossy Moss
Wallflower
Stonecrop
Snapdragon (unknown variety)
25 plant species - almost the same as last spring, but this list no longer includes unidentified weeds present.


Mysterious Disappearances - Nodding Onion. It was starting to come up very early this spring, but has now vanished. Also cactus. I've tried to grow cactus from cactus pads a few times now, and the pads just seem to vanish.

Possibly Still Around by Currently Invisible - Puffball Mushrooms, Orange Hawkweed
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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We're having an early mini heat wave + 27Celcius or thereabouts today, yesterday was over 30C (over 80F), but tomorrow will be closer to long term normal temperatures and cooler.

There are a lot of ants around, including in the cracks of the driveway, which might look a little unsightly, but (cross my fingers) they're not exhibiting a particular interest in venturing inside the house, so I'm inclined to let them be. I did knock down (twice!) the beginnings of a paper wasp nest by the kitchen window, in exactly the same place as they built last summer. I have a fake wasp next paper balloon type device hanging right next to the spot - it obviously is not convincing to the determined family wasp. This is also quite close to the back door, so it is not cool to have wasps there.

We are still 18 days away from the average last frost date, but I am planting seedlings out into the wild of my yard. I can't help myself. Some of the things I transplanted into the ground a few days ago already look like they are making roots into the ground, and if there is a frost, I hope I can cover up most of the plants with various box-like objects for the length of time required. The irrigation system guy was here a few days ago to turn the system on, (for reasons of socially-required green grass) and the town's irrigation system season is also open. Seems like growing time to me.

The periwinkles behind my garden shed are very happy, and the Oregon Grape has blossomed. In the neighbourhood, the lilacs are making their seasonal display of blooms - there is one neighbour who has lilac bushes as a fence all around their front yard - it's wonderful. The fruit trees on the orchards nearby have also bloomed.

I dug myself a little flower bed by the patio - it was initially going to be a bed for rhubarb, but as I was digging I kept coming across junk - bits from old christmas lights, broken ceramic, nails, staples, the remains of a cheap ball point pen - I deduce that the previous owners had a tendency to chuck stuff off the patio right there. So I decided that I'd rather plant my rhubarb somewhere less obviously polluted, and planted my Hollyhock seedlings there instead. They have already put up another set of leaves since transplanting. I had only about 50% germination of the hollyhock seeds.

I scattered mustard, more lettuce and leek seeds into the vegetable beds, I believe the mustard greens might be starting to sprout, but I could be seeing weed sprouts instead. I've also transplanted squash seedlings into the beds - these are squash seedlings from seeds I saved from last year's spaghetti squash - I hope that it turns out alright. I'm also watching for the watermelon seeds I saved from last year's melons to sprout - but I see nothing yet. The portulaca I started from seed has "stalled" in it's growth - they sprouted, but now they're not looking like they're getting any stronger. I suspect I may be over-watering them inadvertently as they are in the same seed starting tray as other sprouts - or should I say they're in a tray where I hope there will be more sprouts? I'm waiting on sunflowers, cilantro, the watermelon, and some other things I can't recall at the moment.
I've transplanted some of my tomato seedlings into the vegetable garden, and am keeping some back in case of a hard frost. I have thyme and basil starting to look convincing in pots by the back door. My green onions are growing much better now that it's been warm.

The Jerusalem artichoke roots I received for free at the seed swap have decided to grow - I've planted them out in town space in front of the house by a telephone pole now. They seem (so far) to be very water dependent for growth - they only sprouted after I gave their bucket a good soak, and since transplanting them, they only show vigor after I go to water them. (the next day or the day after they seem a little larger.) This, if it turns out to be a long-term pattern, and not just a case of them needing watering to get their roots down and established properly, is good news. If I can control their growth and potential spread just by not watering them, then fears of sunchoke invasivess will recede in my mind.

Last week I found a small kitten stashed away on my garden shed shelves for the afternoon - Mama cat did come back and take it away later. It was very cute, but it also reminded me to try and remember to keep the shed door closed - kittens on the shelves = acceptable. Snakes = not so much.
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Start-Up Tomato Production Factory
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Oregon Grape Friend
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Two or three days ago I noticed tiny spiders coming out of a can in my return-for-refund bin. Today they made tracks (webs) out to the walls of the garden shed. I suspect they're ready for launching, however, it is raining this evening, so their departure may be delayed until tomorrow and sunshine. (Warning for arachnophobes, my first picture posted today is of the baby spiders!)

My watermelon seeds have failed completely. I understand why the seeds I saved from my own watermelon might have failed, because I may have harvested them wrong and then stored them wrong, but I'm not sure why the seeds I bought from a reputable organic seeds company failed. Anyway, I am now trying to get some hybrid muskmelon to sprout in the garden.
My devil's ear lettuce patch, which I started under a cloche, is doing well. Mustard greens, which are a first time plant for me, are also growing, and I've been taking the odd little leaf off to nibble. They really do taste like mustard!
I've planted out my Victoria rhubarb seedlings - to a space between a driveway and a line of cedar bushes - where they will be shaded from the hottest sun. I had a robin uprooting them for a few days as my keeping the soil moist around them created lovely mud for her to build her nest with. The nest now seems to be complete, as she has quit. The paper wasps that kept coming back to haunt my eaves have also seemed to quit.

Two of the scarlet runner beans that I planted have started to send up leaves, and another two look like they've just sprouted today.
I have once again failed to get lavender to sprout from seed. But I am trying a third time.
My squash seem to have a problem - the bottom leaves are yellow, and they don't seem to be doing any more growing, after starting out so well. It might be that I need to water them more. (Or it might be that I have a nutrient deficiency problem, but I'm hoping it's just a water problem.)
I've got some sunflowers comming up by the side of the house, and the hollyhock continues to grow, too. Snap peas have come up. Leeks have not.

I believe I am done with expanding the vegetable part of the garden for the year, after some more digging since I last reported in. There is still room for future expansion, but I feel I've got enough for now. Next, I want to increase flowers.

On the far side of my shed, into the pile of dirt and branches that has accumulated over the past two years in digging out vegetable beds, I planted three tomato plants as a low-water experiment. I'm watering them once a week, by hand. So far, they look among the most healthy of my my tomato transplants.
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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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A short update today as I'm experiencing internet outages.

It's been raining and cloudy a fair bit, and I'm not complaining. Hot weather is forecast for the coming days. My rhubarb has started to really look pleased in the last few days, I'll have three red stemmed and four green stemmed plants. A few days ago I was weeding around the currant bushes - which are having currants - and I heard a buzzing, looking around I discovered bees and flies and wasps enjoying the flowering sumac. I've purchased a red currant bush to fill in the space in my bush-line. It seems that I had two varieties of cranberry already (?!) and now a red as well as the two black types.

Only one melon seed ever bothered sprouting, and it's not growing very well. I'm also having trouble with some of my tomatoes and squash. However, the peas and beans and onions are doing well - a few of the onions have started to flower, since I can't eat their tops fast enough. I received some decorative grasses to plant from a neighbour.
It seems the white clover is doing battle with pineapple weed in the back lawn. The pineapple weed seems to be winning in the sunniest places, whereas the clover seems to be holding it's own where it gets a little shade.

On a drive to the outskirts of town, I saw marmots!
I continue to harvest a little mustard, lettuce, basil, onion top and cilantro - but not in any substantial amounts at this time.

Today while weeding around the back of my shed, I discovered that a cactus pad I'd laid down last year and believed vanished has actually been doing it's work and has put out a small new leaf. It was wedged into the side of my turned-over-sod-and-stuff pile and a bit covered by twigs and dried grass so I couldn't see it. But it's there! It's alive! I have a cactus!

I've seen the kitten twice today, too. So it's made it so far, even if I kicked it out of the shed.
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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Yesterday I went out to The Grist Mill and Gardens a heritage attraction in Keremeos, a town about 45 minutes over a mountain from my house. Unfortunately despite the advertisement of a working waterwheel powered flourmill, the mill is not actually working at this time (they're working on it!) and the heritage crop garden areas didn't look too cared for - a lot of it depends on volunteers, and not surprisingly, really, it seems like they have more people volunteering to dress up and interpret the site and serve food, then to go out and weed and plant things. Also, it's still only mid-June, and Keremeos is a working farm town, I suspect their primary farm/garden volunteers are busy doing silly things like farming and gardening on their own places. As the summer progresses, I suspect the plantings increase and improve. There is a small apple orchard with something like 20 different apple varieties, according to one of the volunteers who spoke to us, but there is no signage in the orchard! The setting for it is quite lovely. The herb/flower areas were nicely tended, and there was a special father's day BBQ and performance by a local band, The Kettle Valley Brakemen. They sing history.

Despite being mildly disappointed by the lack of weird old crops, and the not-currently-functioning mill, it was a pleasant few hours with the drive, barbecue, "free" musical performance, (there is a small entrance fee to the site) and just being out in the fresh air wandering a historical space and looking at what flowers they did have. I was especially pleased to discover that they were growing anise hyssop, as I have been wondering about how it grows and how much space it needs, etc., and not finding anything useful in my books. And there was a cold storage house, built into the side of a hill, which they use now as a a multi-purpose teaching space, but could easily be made to work again to it's original purpose.

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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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More Grist Mill site photos.

The site includes an old house and store, where they discovered wallpaper dating back to 1897 underneath more modern wall coverings as they restored the building. I think it's still gorgeous after 100 years! I do wonder which poisons went into creating the colour, though...
Also in restoring the building, they removed some of the siding to reveal the original log beam construction...

They have presented some diary entries from the time, including one about wildfire and drought in my valley way back when...somethings I guess don't change too quickly. (we had such bad wildfire smoke last summer that the Penticton airport was cancelling flights.)
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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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The major project I'm planning for next week is to dig for a bumblebee garden bed - I've started another thread seeking advice here.
I might include anise hyssop, especially as I now know what it'll look like.
At the grist mill site, they were growing bugbane. I'd never heard of it before, but I looked it up when I got home, and it seems to be able to repeal bedbugs. I can see how that might be useful, but fortunately it's not currently a problem for me!
I will not include llamas. (There were llamas next to the apple orchard.)

Otherwise, not much to report. It's still cloudier/rainier then it was this time last year, which over all I still think is a good thing, even though the cloudiness is starting to make me a little cranky! I like me my sunshine. It was sunny yesterday, but it's cloudy again today.

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Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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There must be something wrong with my irrigation system, as the grass/clover closest to the main sprinklers are all crunchy.
There was a thunderstorm early this morning, and more rain possible tomorrow, so hopefully that will help. But I still have to figure out what is wrong with the sprinkler.

I've been having some rather spectacular failures in the garden so far this year, and it's sort of getting me down. I am grateful that I don't have to do this to survive. I'll start by talking about the problems, so that I can wind up with some successes.

So the problems right now are -

My squash is very problematic. I planted about a dozen seeds, got half a dozen to sprout, two are growing, the others are very stunted, although the little runts have put up a few flowers. Another problem with the squash is that the two plants that are growing are quite a distance from one another, and while one plant has been flowering every day for the last two weeks or so (it seems) I'm not sure that it has actually been able to set any fruit yet. It may have one. One little pre-fruit looks like it may have been pollinated.

One of my currant bushes, which is the only one "mulched" with stone, is very healthy looking, but did not give me one single berry. The other three currant bushes all gave me a handful of berries each, but are now looking stressed. I am suspecting lack of water, as they are in the area where the irrigation sprinklers seem to be failing.

Did I mention that part of my yard is crunchy underfoot?

The sunroots that I was gifted are either very dead, or very, very, sneaky.

I forgot to water my scotch moss for awhile, so it died.

I have one muskmelon plant, which is flowering. But it's just one. I also have one bell pepper plant. It's also flowering all alone.

Not really a problem, but my wallflower is done blooming, and might be done all together, I think it was a biannual.

The cactus I thought was going to grow for me got knocked to pieces by flying debris during a storm. I put the pieces back in the ground, but I don't think it's alive anymore.

Something is eating my rhubarb. Snails, probably. Also I think birds are stealing my strawberries. Weirdly, the deer don't seem to eat anything. I've watched them walk right past the garden.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my scarlet runner beans are yet to set fruit, but they are growing and flowering. I discovered one that I basically just threw against the fence after running out of trellis space is still alive and growing despite utter neglect. It's small, but fighting. So it's mixed good and bad on the beans. I was really happy to see them start to flower, and then really disappointed when I saw that they aren't actually making beans.

In the stupid error department, I failed to use weed-free soil when potting some new seeds for a 'bee garden' space and was then unable to decide what was weed and what was wanted plant, which resulted in having to toss everything.

Biggest problem? Just not feeling all that enthusiastic about gardening these days.

But! Good things -

I am finally finished digging and dragging branches around for the creation of a  bee garden space. It took me a long, long time, as I was interrupted by rain, high heat, and just tiredness. Now I just have to fill the soil back in and figure out what I can have to plant into it!

I have a lot of snap peas. I have also discovered that my dog likes eating peas off the vine. Well, who doesn't?

My low-water experiment tomatoes are still alive (despite being battered by the same flying debris that got the cactus.) They still haven't set any fruit, though.

The paper wasps have given up on living by the door, and I didn't have to poison them.

One of my sunflowers seems to be about to start flowering. It's about five feet tall. I am excited to see it flower, and I find it amusing to watch the sunflowers follow the sun through the day. Also, I have very visual evidence of sunflower effects on other plants, as I have tomatoes growing in a patch with them - just because I was running out of prepared garden room when I was planting the tomatoes. So I have one tomato plant inbetween two sunflowers, one plant about a foot away, and a third tomato about two feet away from the sunflowers. Tomato plant 1 is smaller then tomato 2, tomato 2 is smaller then tomato 3. But they're all fruiting.

Most of my tomato plants are fruiting. I didn't stake or cage them this year, and they don't seem to mind.

I continue to be able to harvest lettuce. I planted a third set of lettuce seeds that are just starting to come up.

Two portulaca are now flowering in my front lawn.

Green onions are doing well, and I've transplanted some outward to expand the green onion patch.

So far the heliotrope and ornamental grass that a friend gave me are still alive.

The Virginia creeper is not acting as aggressively this year as it did last year. Fingers crossed. Knock on wood. I do intend to eradicate it eventually, but only when I have a plan for substitution in place.

My mustard greens have flowered, and are probably setting seed. There are a lot of little flying bugs who seem to appreciate this, so I'm letting them be, even though I don't plan on harvesting the mustard seed. (It would probably only be a tablespoon or so, I didn't plant very much mustard, I just wanted to see what it looked like, really.)

My hollyhocks are looking fine. Someone sent me some more hollyhock seed, so I'm going to plant some more. It seems to like growing here.

I ate 90% of the basil I grew already. Must grow more next year! (I said this last year, too.)

I planted a couple of roses that I got at Valentine's Day. Half of them died (there were maybe five tiny plants crammed into one little pot.) One has just bloomed one perfect rose flower. And my poinsettia is still alive too. I really hope I can keep it alive all the way through to next Christmas!
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
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Drumroll please....

I am now the proud nurturer of THREE scarlet runner bean bean pods. And two of them have just come out in the past few days, which gives me hope that soon there will be more.

I have also harvested my first tomato of the season, a big yellow beefsteak type called Hawkes Bay.
I have eaten all my snap peas.
I'm planting "pilgrim's" kale in their space. I realize it's probably too early for fall kale, but I'm planting it anyway. It's an empty garden space, it must be filled.

An experiment to see if seedlings (sage and hollyhock) came up faster in coir or peat moss has concluded that peat moss wins. Nothing has come up in the coir.

We got our first water bill including irrigation for the year so far, unfortunately it looks like we're going to use just as much water as we did last year. I'm not really sure why, since it's been raining more, and I've been trying to remember to turn the system off on rainy days. We did have a couple of small leaks in the house, and maybe they've been a bigger factor then I think. (They are fixed now.)

It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps I should be blaming the grasshoppers for the holes in some leaves. New damage seems to be less dramatic then earlier in the season, anyway.

Two of my rhubarb plants suddenly shot up in the last weeks or so, they're looking good. They're green-stemmed, whereas all the red-stemmed ones I have are still just sitting there looking slow and stunted. They're the same variety, just different coloured. I don't know if the colour has any effect on the vigour of the plant, I don't feel like I can draw scientifically valid conclusions from my tiny sample.

I have three bell peppers growing on my one pepper plant, and one cantaloupe has started to form on my cantaloupe vine. AND I have two squash growing now. My garden is definitely looking better then it did two weeks or so ago (and it should, I've been spending about double my usual time out there lately.)
One of my sunflowers is in flower, two sunflower plants are now taller then me. I have daisies from my yard in a vase on my dinning room table, my feet are deeply tanned, the grass was recently mowed, and I'm currently gardenhappy.
 
Vera Stewart
Posts: 242
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
23
bike books dog food preservation greening the desert
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Having abandoned my yard/garden for two and a half weeks, I've come home to discover that it's not all that dependent on me, thanks in part to the irrigation system.

Returning a few days ago, I have been doing a fair amount of weeding, and the weeding confirms the usefulness of mulch, as most weeding was required where the mulch levels were either low or non-existent.

My beans are still not doing particularly well - I seem to have lost a few pods that were starting to form when I left, and while there are perhaps 4 or 5 still growing on the vine, the vines are starting to brown. The trellis suffered a partial collapse while I was gone, and the vines did not get as much water while I was gone as they were previously. The squash growing under one bean trellis is starting to die - the leaves are brown and withering, but, it does look like I will be able to harvest two ripe winter squash from the plant, and one more fruit is growing, which I might use as an "eat it now" squash.

The hollyhock I planted before leaving never came up, and I think I've lost a currant bush to lack of water. A couple of others seem water stressed, but also seem to be improving now that I've returned and given them big drinks.  The rock-mulched currants are the ones that have suffered the most while I've been away, I'm thinking the extra heat reflection from the rocks over the past hot weeks is to blame - just as the extra heat was an advantage earlier in the formation of berries, now it seems to be a potential liability. But as with everything in my garden, I'm only working with a small sample size, so proper scientific experimentation is not really possible.

One kale is growing, I've planted a few more since I returned. I don't really have space yet for a lot of fall planting, because my tomatoes have been doing really well while I've been gone, and I now have a whole lot of ripe to over-ripe yellow Hawkes Bay tomatoes, and my Risentomate plants are still growing, although they don't seem to be turning color yet. I even spy one ripe tomato on my low-watering bed - which gives me hope that it will eventually produce near as many ripe tomatoes per plant as my fully-watered beds have. The low-water tomatoes, aside from not getting a lot of water, are also in shade, which probably slows their ripening, and now, a neighbour's giant, compost-pile-planted pumpkin vine is growing it's way into the low-water tomato area. I intend to go in there and throw the vine back over the fence into the neighbour's yard (unless it turns out a pumpkin is on "my" portion of the vine!) but that area is pretty junky even without giant vines, it also has my scavenged wood pile, and I feel like if I ever encounter a rattlesnake while gardening, it's going to be in there, so I tend to leave going in there until I feel particularly courageous.

I'm pleased to note that the rhubarb and strawberry patch came through abandonment just fine, despite being only marginally covered by the automatic irrigation, and am starting to look forward to a small rhubarb harvest next spring. I also still have lettuce growing, despite everything about lettuce not growing in hot weather, only two plants so far have decided to bolt.

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