Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Drive by Daniel Pink and the Organic Vegetable Garden

I just finished reading Drive by Daniel Pink. In his book, he examines how success in todays business environment can be motivated by three essential elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Every vegetable gardener I know is set into motion by these same tenants and that drive is seen in our need to nurture, grow and harvest the bounty our gardens provide. Drive is a fascinating look at a way to revolutionize the business world and the essential elements of that revolution cross neatly into the heart felt act of growing our own food.

The first motivational element is autonomy. I see the organic gardening and sustainability movements as a way for us to acknowledge our autonomy and control of our food sources. We have the ability to chose organic versus GMO products, seasonal versus non-seasonal, or canned and dried versus chemically preserved. Growing our food is a huge part of feeling grounded and satisfaction in our daily hectic lives. 

For me, the element of mastery in the garden encompasses the prepping of the soil, sowing of the seeds, nurturing of the plants, harvesting the of the crops, and preserving of the food. When cruising through the blogosphere, I am continually amazed by the information available from bloggers who are well on their way to mastery or have mastered the activities of organic sustainable eating.

Purpose is the final motivating ingredient. All gardeners seem driven by purpose first. We want our families to have healthy sustainable foods sources, reduce our impact on the earth and live a simpler more connected life. What better purpose is there?

Drive is about what has motivated people in business world and how the old practices need to evolve to make the contemporary workplace more meaningful, sustainable and productive. I feel proud that we gardeners are way ahead of the game! 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Trillium and Ants???

We have a several Trillium plants in our yard and I am alway happy to see them bloom.  They have a unique symbiotic relations ship with ants and sometimes mice, both of which are a common sight in the area.  When the seeds in the ovary of the Trillium are mature, the plant secrets a scent that attracts the ants who carry the seeds to their nest and keep them safe in the ant garbage pile for germination.  The Trillium is super sensitive to being disturbed and the recovery time from moving or picking the flower can take as long as seven years. Needless to say, the Trillium plants in the yard get to stay where they pop up.

I remember chaperoning a class of kindergartners on a field trip to a Wilderness Awareness field classroom and seeing the distress on one of the counselors faces when one of the kids triumphantly plucked the flower off a Trillium plant. The patient counselor then politely explained why that shouldn't be done. Luckily a lesson that was etched in my brain.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Plays Well With Others...

I've been doing a little research about companion planting using vegetables, herbs and flowers. The idea is that companion plants will help to promote the health of the soil, protect neighboring plants from pests, and increase the crop yield. Companion plants create a beneficial interaction and form a balanced environment in the vegetable garden. If you want a more information on companion planting click here.

Below is a table of plants that make good partners.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


We planted the pear trees in the spring of 2007 and I have been patiently waiting for the first blossoms to arrive and they finally did! It only took four years, but if all goes well I think there'll be pears this fall. This particular combo tree has Highland, Red Bartlett, Conference, Bartlett and Angou pears. I am soooo excited.  We also have a Bosc tree that seems happy to have just leaves this season.

Seed Sowing Experiment Part 2

Several weeks ago I started an experiment where I planted a packet of snap pea seeds in each of several small containers.  The object is to see if they will successfully sprout, be transplantable into the garden box and then thrive enough to produce peas.  Here is a look at the root and plant density of one containers of seeds I sowed.

I was able to gently tease the pea starts apart and plant them in the garden box.

Just to the right of the peas, I planted the lettuce and swiss chard starts I got at the Seattle Tilth sale. The garden box soil was dry four inches down and I'm extremely happy the famous Northwest rains have returned today.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Vernal Equinox

For the northern hemisphere, today is the Vernal Equinox or the first day of spring.  In the spirit of the new season, I volunteered at the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale where many people were engaging in the ritual of celebrating the end of winter by finding tender veggie and fruit plants to start their gardens. This sale focused on cool weather plants and the really big sale in May will focus on the summer plants.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this event was watching the children that were engaged in selecting the plants they would take home; asking questions about what vegetables the plants would grow and happily holding the selected starts high in the air to show off their new treasures.

These are columnar apple trees. They grow straight up on the single main trunk with no side branching. I like the whimsey of this style of tree an might plant one later in the spring.

And yes, I did bring home some starts: two kinds of broccoli, gourmet mix salad greens, onions and swiss chard. I highly recommend buying plants from Seattle Tilth to support this exceptional organization. Learn. Grow. Eat.

Bulbs Bulbs Bulbs

Yesterday I went to the Puget Sound Dahlia Associations first bulb sale of the season.  I found 34 dahlia bulbs that I needed and took home and many more that I wanted but didn't buy.  Every year I have to remind myself that all the bulbs I accumulate in the early spring need to be planted before they spoil.  Remember I acquired a few at the Northwest Flower and Garden show in February. This season, I'll have about a 100ish dahlia bulbs which will provide beautiful flowers from June until the first hard frost in the fall.

Here are a couple of flowers from last year's garden.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Snap Peas Update

It is amazing to me how quickly the sugar snap peas are taking off in the hoophouse.

The bulk seed experiment.

Seeds planted directly into the soil.

Seed Hunger

I don't know about you but I'm still cruising the seed catalogs. I have plenty of seeds to plant, back orders on the way and feel like I need more more more.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fruit Tree Flowers and a Little Foreplay

I am surprised by what is blooming today on this 14th day of March. The birds are a chirpin' and the bees are a buzzin'. I believe the bees are honey bees. It seems early for them, but perhaps like everything else this season, their just early.

Today I observed a little fruit tree foreplay...

On the Italian prune

and on the Shiro plum

The some of the other fruit trees and bushes were showing their inviting sensual colors today.

Asian pear

Frost peach


salmon berries

and the blueberries

It was a great day to be outside!

Compost...It's a Good Thing

I am very fortunate to have a friend that has yards and yards of horse manure that has aged five to six years and turned into this awesome compost.  It has a beautiful rich dark brown color, is full of worms and completely void of all manure smell.  Can't wait to put it in the gardens.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Seed Sowing Experiment

Last year, I planted sugar snap peas three times. The first two sowings were destroyed by my Ladies and Mitzi the cat. The Ladies dug the plants up to get the worms underneath and Mitzi  pulled the young plants out and tossed them around like a small prey treasures. I was reasonably sure there would be no snap peas last season.

But then, I found snap pea starts at a farm stand up in Mount Vernon and was able to grow a small crop of the delicious green treats. The starts came in a densely packed 4" x 4" container. The exciting part of this story is that I discovered a new way to bulk sow seeds for transplanting later in the spring.

For this experiment, I took a plastic plant containers and added fresh sterile seed starting soil, filling the container to about an inch and a half from the top. I put about a half of a packet of snap pea seeds onto the soil, added a top dressing, watered and placed in the hoop house. Having a warm hoophouse will help the germination conditions for this seed sowing experiment. I love the hoophouse!

Two weeks later

Things Are Sprouting in the Hoophouse

Snap peas are sprouting in the hoophouse.

Planted here is Buttercrunch and Great Lakes lettuce and Olympic spinach. No signs of life yet.

Happy Caroline Raspberries

The Caroline raspberries seem to be adjusting well to the new location.  In early summer, they will fruit on the bottom half of last year's canes and in the fall they will fruit on the top half of the this year's new canes. I have noticed that the deer have been enjoying the delicate new growth.  It looks like a lawn mower has been through some parts of the patch and I wonder if they make things look manicured to be considerate??? 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Relocating the Raspberries

Two of my three raspberry patches were planted running east to west and I noticed that the berries seem to grow better on the south side of the plants.  This winter I decided to move all the plants to the same location and orient them in a north south direction. With a little luck, berries will grow on both sides of the plants.

I decided to put seven feet between each row to make it easier to pick the berries and keep the lawn mowed. I have Caroline plants which fruit in the early summer and again in the fall, Tulameen plants that produce a berries with a sweet rich flavor, and Meeker plants which are heavy producers and the fruit freezes well.

I dug up the plants from here.

I added Hendrikus organic fertilizer to the soil to give the plants a little boost with reestablishing their root systems in their new home.

I must admit I did have a little help digging the trenches for the berries....

Meekers in the first row.

All the plants are moved and so far seem happy with the new home. When the plants fill out this summer they will provide a little shade for the Ladies and it will be easy to toss them berry treats which they completely enjoy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Seattle Tilth's Edible Plant Sale!

Seattle Tilth will be having an Edible Plant Sale on the 20th of this month. It's Tilth's first time for an early spring sale. The speciality this month will be veg starts that will tolerate the cool spring weather and since our winter has been rather mild....I just might have to go and see what appetizing plants I can pick up and take home to plant in the garden. The event is a great place to talk with other gardening enthusiasts about compost, pruning, water saving, seeds planting, hoop house building and any other fun growing topic you can think of. Everyone has a smile. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's 80 Degrees in Here

I checked the temperature inside the hoophouse today and it's 80+ degrees in here. Naturally, being impatient about getting things growing, I've decided to plant the snap peas today.

The Hoophouse

My father gave me a roll of plastic sheeting that he no longer needed. Lucky me! I have the perfect project for this roll of treasure...A hoophouse. I've read about being able to extent the growing seasons by using this easily constructed cover and this weekend I started building my own. Of course I did a little research on Youtube and found this video and this video for some hoop house inspiration.

The local mega hardware store carries all the necessary materials. I'm using 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe, duct tape and some heavy duty clamps I found in the shop.

I started by drilling holes every 4 feet in the bench that runs along the top side of my garden box. I found that a spade drill bit worked well for making the holes.

Slid the PVC pipe into holes.

And within a half an hour, I had the framework finished. I used a total of seven pieces of 10' pipe and secured the top cross members with duct tape. I think nylon ties would also work nicely for holding the pipe in place, but I didn't have any. So hundred mile an hour tape it is.

Using a T-square and a straight edge, I cut the plastic to size and pulled it over the frame.

I used these really nice clamps to secure the plastic.

Now, I'll wait until tomorrow to see how effective the hoop house is.