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Mark Griffin

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since Aug 15, 2018
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Piedmont, North Carolina - 7b/8a
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Recent posts by Mark Griffin

I am going to guess a mouse or some other small rodent.  I had a similar issue earlier in the spring in one of my hugels.  There were several second year parsley plants scattered around and they were doing beautifully, then they randomly began to wilt and die.  Everything else in the bed was happy and healthy. I pulled one of the dead/dying plants.  There was nothing holding it in. What was left of the root 'stump' showed clear signs of being gnawed on and there was a bit of a hole in the bed where the culprit made room for himself.  I've found mice in my compost occasionally, so I am pretty sure a mouse was the culprit.  I haven't had any issues lately, so I assume a neighborhood hawk took care of the problem for me.
I don't know if anyone is familiar with the blog earlyretirementextreme.com. The guy is not a permaculturist in the gardening/homesteading vein, but his whole frugality philosophy is built on systems thinking and design. He pays homage to Paul's eco-levels with his own ERE Wheaton Levels chart explaining different levels of frugality (or not). Of course, one of the premises is that someone at one level will have a really hard time understanding someone's thinking a couple of levels away and will think someone several levels away is absolutely crazy. I believe it is a correct observation.


My neighbor just put his house up for sale.  It is literally twice the size of mine and it is listed for (what I consider) a very large amount.  Working outside in the yard yesterday, I watched the steady stream of people come through to view it.  I found myself wondering what was going on these peoples heads.  Particularly the young couples.  I wanted to counsel them about the 30 (or more) years of working for the man that would result from taking on such a debt burden to live in a large, fancy house in a good location.  But I kept it to myself.  It does have a large sunny yard, which is precious commodity in my area, so maybe someone will turn that into a nice food forest.  I can hope for now, even though it seems very unlikely.

My son suggested we buy it and house a bunch of animals in it.  Interesting proposition, but I am not sure the economics of that would work in our favor. And the neighbors would definitely think we were crazy, though I suspect they already do!
1 year ago
I think your fig may be OK.  It will probably be killed to the ground, or close to it, but if it is pretty well established then it should send up some new shoots.  I have a Celeste fig as well.  Several years ago, when it was only in the ground 2 or 3 years, we had a few days in the single digits, although I don't think we got below 7.  I thought the fig was a goner, too, but come spring it bounced back pretty quickly.  Incidentally, I have a Meyer lemon in a pot that I never did much to protect except put it against a south wall.  I thought it was really dead after that, but as they say it was only mostly dead.  I think it took a year for it to send out a tentative new leaf.  I almost gave up. The rootstock kept sending up shoots, but it was a long while before a real Meyer leaf popped up above the graft.  Plants are amazing!  But, I put the lemon in an enclosed porch for winter now :)

Anyway, as others are saying, protect it now if you can, but I don't know that there is much to do but wait and see.  I hope things get better (and warmer) in Texas soon!
1 year ago
This picture sums up most of my winter projects.  This is the current state of affairs as I sit here and watch a cold drizzle fall...

Most of the wood for the hugel style bed came from two trees which were in the back corner where the wood chips are spread.  Soil is currently in the driveway waiting to be moved in so the bed can be completed.  There are also more wood chips in the front that need to brought back into the corner.  The current plan is for this corner is to become a serviceberry/paw paw guild.  Completing the planning and sourcing for this may be my rainy day activity today.  Any thoughts on that guild are appreciated. That also means that azalea will need to be moved.  It will go over to the other side of the yard where I am working on a hedge style mass planting.  There is no fence over there so that is a big hole for the deer to wander through. You can also see a couple of small brush piles from winter pruning that still need to be chipped. That post to the far left is a part of an undersized trellis holding up some blackberries.  That needs to be rebuilt, and I plan to expand the blackberry bed a bit.

Peas, mustard and bok choy are already sprouting under the row cover.  Some lettuce, radish and parsley were sown under there last week, too. The rest of that older bed needs to be topped up with some fresh soil.  Kale, cabbage and collards are living in the attic under lights and will be needing their outdoor home soon.

Feels like a lot to do and not much winter left to do it in!

1 year ago
I chose a Methley plum because they (supposedly) do not need a pollinator and I don't have room for more than one in my garden.  I only planted it in the spring, so, sadly, I don't have much information for you.  I ordered it from Stark- www.starkbros.com. Don't know if they ship to the UK.  It was a two year old bare root plant and grew very vigorously after I got it in the ground.

I checked out your site and thought I'd share this article, since you are working in a small space, too.  I am trying this pruning method on my plum, so far it is responding well.


1 year ago
I don't do anything very scientific but in my experience figs have been fairly easy to propagate.  I have had success by taking  8 to 12 inch cuttings of 1 year old wood with 3 or 4 leaves and a nice bud on the end .  I generally strip a little of the bark away on the rooting end and then coat with rooting hormone and stick into a container of potting soil. Sometimes I've stripped the leaves and sometimes I've left them.  They fall off anyway, so stripping them is probably fine.  I'll stick three cuttings in a gallon pot to save on materials and space.  If more than one roots, they don't seem to mind being moved around later, but my success rate has been around 30% so the math is on my side at three per pot.  I have only tried rooting at the end of the season, so September/October, but you might not be too late in Charlotte if you go for it now.  I have never tried to root any that were fully dormant.  Although I just leave them outside and keep them well watered, the varieties I have experience with, Celeste and Brown Turkey, are susceptible to the cold when young, so if it looks like it might get below 20F you'd probably want to get them somewhere they'd stay warmer.

Good luck! I have quite a few plants from places that have memories for me and I always wish I'd made the effort to get more.
1 year ago
Ha! Brings back memories of my grandpa in his yard with a .410 shotgun, shooting and cussing the squirrels. And my grandma's squirrel stew!  I don't think my HOA would approve of that method of control or my kids of the stew!

On a sort of related but counter-intuitive note, I had a bird feeder in the yard (and kept it filled) for the first time in a long time.  It seemed there was a lot less pressure on the grapes, figs and berries.  I got good harvests of all without much effort at protection.  Maybe the birds were satisfied with the easy pickings at the feeder.  Of course, it attracts squirrels, too. But they are easy targets sitting on the ground looking for what the birds drop!
1 year ago
There's lots of good stuff already in this post, but I thought I'd throw in a few of my observations.  I have been gardening in the same small spot for about 15 years now and I have learned that I need to rotate crops not only in space but in time, as well. I don't have that much room to move things around, and I have found that I can grow the same things (squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans) in the same place for a certain number of seasons before pest pressure begins to build.  For instance, I grew squash for a couple of years with no issues, then 3 years ago I had an infestation of squash bugs (some of the pictures in this thread brought back bad memories!) so I shut down the squash. No squash until this year and I haven't seen a squash bug yet, despite going overboard on the squash plants. I had hornworms for the first time in a few years last summer, so I don't have any tomatoes this year. We'll see what happens next year.  After growing beans and cucumbers in the same spots for a couple of years, I noticed some kind of worm that was getting in the fruits.  I swapped their locations and haven't had a real issue yet this year.

Brassicas are a problem for me, though.  Some sort of brassica is necessary for a cool weather garden in NC, but the cabbage worms always find them.  Time again is an ally, planting at the right time in the fall and the brassicas will begin to grow but then it will get too cold for the worms and I don't have to squish them or spray the bT. I did notice this spring, though, that a mixed planting of some collards with various herbs, mustard and radish had no worms.  I plan to investigate/replicate in the future.

I have the constraint/luxury of only growing a few things so I have to find ways to make it an advantage.  I am almost tired of zucchini this year and I find myself thinking of fresh tomatoes and homemade salsa already!

2 years ago
My blackberries are in a shady spot.  I worry that they are too shady. They go from about 4 hours of sun in the spring to maybe 1 in midsummer. It's a real edge type setup. The berries are big and juicy, though, similar to the ones in your picture.  Unfortunately, the deer got into them and I haven't harvested many for myself!  The worst part is they ate a lot of the new canes so next year might not be so good
2 years ago
I have tried a few different seed starting mixes and have not noticed much difference in the actual sprouting times.  How the seedlings do after that is a different story, but for sprouting I think temperature plays a huge part in it.  I start my seeds in a protected but not climate controlled spot.  Even with a heat mat for those that need it, I find that some seeds are slower to start than on the package or when direct sown at the appropriate time.  And then there is seed age, too. I am always trying to start older seeds.  Frustrating, usually, but surprising results sometimes...
2 years ago