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21 June, 2011

Gardening Post 1

There have been other garden posts here before, but this is the first one lacking a decent title. And by decent, I mean smart-ass, obscure, and/or irrelevant. 

This is my fourth spring gardening in Olympia, and meteorologists say the region is a month or so behind schedule in terms of warming up. Even without the delay, the climate here allows for snow peas, strawberries, and lettuce on the summer solstice, which has blown my southern mind each and every year. Back in Old Virginny, where 90+ temps have become common even in May, the season for these has long since passed, and green is  turning brown.

 This shot is from the roof of my house, looking down into the front yard, which loses some grass every year. The road-side bed has wild strawberries, herbs, camas, a saskatoon, and the usual array of weeds, volunteers (as in, weeds I can use), things I cannot remember, and sprouts trying to fight their way through the strawberry blanket. This was the first bed I carved from the lawn.

At the far lower left is a glimpse of the driveway, along which I planted a row of blueberries in year two. The bright green patch has some strawberries that came to me from a neighbor wilted and unhappy late last summer. They're producing well right now, so much that there are some left for me after the kids have their fill. This be also has burgundy shamrocks that I may or may not have planted, spreading into a nice blanket and providing my youngest with an inexhaustible supply of tangy treats. There's also some mint edging, artichokes, bitterroot, oregon grape,...and of course stuff I cannot recall right now. 

The stone walkway comes from road cuts all over the state. It has taken years to accumulate. Stonecrop from an island up north is filling in the spaces, and is starting to bloom now. I had creeping thyme, but it gets as ugly and invasive as a neo-conservative after a while, and I ripped it out. 

The triangle beyond is mostly new, having been excavated last fall and winter to make room for a meadow full of stuff from east of the Cascades. Violets, lomatiums, sage, blue fescue and other grasses, hawkweed, camas,...and various things that either arrived as seed or stowed away in the roots of something else. Also here: a dwarf Fuji apple, lavendar, more herbs, a dahlia or two, calendula,... I'm not adamant about having a purely native garden. This plot is basically an experiment to see whether the hottest, dryest part of an Olympia yard can sustain things that would be more at home in the sundrenched Columbia plateau. 

The far corner has a sickly cherry tree, a garlic patch, and a circle of snowpeas that form a little fort where my young daughter can sit and snack, hiding from traffic driving by. There's also another saskatoon (like the strawberries, transplanted during that brief window of bad transplanting weather last summer, but in this case refusing to fruit as a result) and a mystery blue or huckly berry. Winters squash and cukes are poised in these beds, ready to take over after the garlic is done. There are also onions and some scarlet runner beans just taking hold. 

Out in the back 40 the mix of haphazard planting and geometric removals of grass continues. Along the fences are berries. A few fancy black and raspberries that I actually paid for, but also some wild himalayan blackberries that I prune into something like temporary submission, thimbleberries uprooted from logging roads, and mystery berries that were set out for free by the road this spring (but which had so little roots that less than half seem to be surviving). 

It's hard to see, what with the grass that I let grow tall and free, but there are three rectangular beds that are the closest thing I have to a traditional vegetable garden. They are more or less 4 by 12-foot beds, the size I can irrigate with a 25-foot soaker hose. Snap peas are producing heavily in one as onions are finally feeling warm enough to grow. There are radishes just beginning to be ready, beets still a ways away, and carrots only now sprouting their first true leaves. Summer and winter squash are planted, ready to fill in as the earlier crops finish. One bed has a variety of tomatoes. At the north end of each bed, where they won't shade everything else out, are hops. Willamette and/or Cascade planted a couple of years ago, and Fuggles a couple of weeks ago. 

The tall stump (footholds cut in it for the girls to reach its perch) is slowly being swallowed by native blackberries that I am experimenting with (a subject you will see here, and probably in future posts). The perimeter of that bed has Quinault strawberries just about to ripen, a native bay, a rosemary bosai'd by the last winter, and mint. Oh, and a lilac, fireweed, iris, and a cool green frog.

Maybe you can spot what's left of the rhubarb in the background, regenerating after harvest. The copse of alder that fills most of the yard has lots more native blackberry, hazelnut (I get withes and bean poles from it, while squirrels and jays hog the nuts), and various woodland plants I've snagged and tranbsplanted. Among these, oceanspray is doing really well, and in a few years should yield some digging sticks (it's other common name is ironwood). 

Not shown is a tiny hoop house with tomatoes and lettuce south of the house, and a more ornamental bed along the fence at the north end of the house, with ferns, red and evergreen huckleberries, and the neighbor's rhodies arching above it all. There's another similar one across an isthmus of grass that has shrubs on a tapestry of groundcovers, most all of which is native.

So there you have it, the basic, dull introduction. More like there I have it. I used to keep a garden journal in Virginia (but the dust with a broken computer, I think), and am a little ashamed that it took me this long to get going again. Are you still reading this? Congratulations. All I meant to do was start keeping track of what's growing, where, and when. You are incredibly dedicated.


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