It's not ME: it's YOU! 2015 Garden Part 7

You know that famous break-up line: "It's not YOU, it's ME?" Well, after spending the last week in Alaska and Canada, I have come to the realization that all my gardening struggles are not my fault. Well, most of them anyway.

In case you have never been to the Pacific Northwest - let me explain it to you in 5 words - greenest temperate tropical jungle ever! It was mid-May and their rhubarb plants (taller than me by the way!) were already to seed. Their strawberry plants were bigger than mine ever get. Everything was green and HUGE.

I stopped to talk with a Canadian in his front lawn and he said they start planting in January, it almost never gets below freezing, and they get rain like crazy. He showed me plants that were like living monsters. Unreal.

I was depressed. As I walked along the green and luscious streets, I decided I would be moving to Canada. I had already ruled out Seattle (though green and gorgeous) because of the hills and gray weather and Alaska because of it's rocky/acidic soil and complete isolation. So Canada it was.

A quick google search revealed that the entire area I visited (Seattle, lower Alaska, and British Colombia) stood squarely in zone 8. Oh to live in zone 8!!!! A few more google searches and I found a very similar tax structure in Canada versus the United States and a whole lot less freedom. Damn it!!!'s back to dreaming about the usual zone 8 paradise.....California (still high in taxes but for the moment still blessed with American semi-freedom.)

But back to my garden at home...

I fight with my garden every year. There are no weeds because our soil is hard, dead clay. My plants struggle to grow because it's cold, the ground is hard, and I refuse to use chemicals and methods that harm the soil ecology. I want to improve my soil for the long haul - not just strip mine out a few veggies on my way through.

And to top it off - zone 4 has only about 100 growing days per year. Many of them are wasted due to non-freezing but still cold weather. Grrrr!

So seeing the monstrous shrubs, flowers, and vegetables in the Pacific Northwest, I know that it is not all my fault. My area just doesn't get the same rainfall, enough days above freezing, enough sunny/warm days, or naturally loamy rich soil. So be it. I will have to do my best with what I have and realize that I will never have a "magazine worthy" garden.

So since I left for Alaska during my usual planting time, everything went into the garden early. Everything! It was all in by May 10th.

Returning home, it seems that we had weather between 40-60 while we were gone and almost no rain. Most of my plants survived but did not thrive. Some grew little, some yellowed and look like they might actually die soon.

Here are the highlights:

Swiss Chard and Beets with garden marker rock
 These two photos are of Fordhook Swiss chard and mystery beets. Some of the beets are smaller because they were succession planted after my ill-advised transplant attempt during freezing weather killed the first batch.
Swiss chard and beets

buckwheat growing with asparagus
The buckwheat grew shorter than expected but is full of flowers. Stinky, stinky flowers. The asparagus has begun to fern out in order to improve it's crown strength for next year. The buckwheat seeds will be collected and I will chop and drop the stems over the asparagus to add extra phosphorus.

 This is the bed holding chives, leeks, blueberries, parsnips, peppers, amaranth, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, store bought onions and garlic, and fava beans.
cold damaged cucumbers
 The Fava beans championed through the cold weather, but the cucumbers and amaranth are seriously suffering. Peppers are under the plastic bottle tops, corn is limping along, and the bok choy flowered and was ripped out. The parsnips seem to be doing fine, but growing slowly.
mini greenhouse to grow peppers
I had the worst time germinating bell peppers. In the end, I was able to get 2 little plants. It is still cold for them, so I made little greenhouses from empty water bottles and they have survived down to 37F inside. They have not grown much, but they are still alive.
decimated scarlet runner beans japanese beetles
 My scarlet runner beans have been decimated. The only thing I know that does this so efficiently are Japanese beetles. Already? Really?? They are all damaged and probably won't survive. I am going to plant more.

flowering white stemmed pak choi
 All of my bok choy bolted. I kept the two strongest one and tossed the others on the ground (see below left.) They taste bitter and horrid when they start to flower. Oh well. These were my second bolters (the first were tossed 2 weeks ago), so if I save the seeds I am hopeful I can propagate later bolters in the future. These were supposedly white stemmed pak choi. I might try another variety next time.
Heritage raspberries in spring
The raspberries can always be counted on to grow nice and strong. They are a little yellow. Either from the cold or a need for food?

What is going on with the middle blueberry? I pruned it like mad to encourage it to send up new shoots. Has it done so? No! Is it looking sick? Yes! If it doesn't recover, I will swap it out with the rehab blueberry that "died" a few years ago and has been plugging along in the forest ever since. They can swap locales.  Then again - it just might be reacting to the cold weather....
Here is the tomato and flax bed:
It's divided into haves and have-nots
 The tomatoes on the right have been outside since germination. They are the have-nots.

These tomatoes were all started inside and allowed to stay indoors until they were a little larger. They are "the haves." I am hopeful that the gap between them will lesson as it gets warmer.
 Here are the cantaloupe, watermelons and ground cherries They are surrounded by bricks to help retain some heat. It's not very organized. I am rethinking the strategy as it has not helped the tomatoes (see pictures above.)
 The watermelon did NOT like the cold dry weather. They are excessively yellow and have entered a treatment facility - lol
 The watermelons are now under this salad box to keep them warm and moist. Hopefully it will help! A green bean is popping up nearby... Radishes are using the space between the melons until they start needing more room.
 The peas are looking good - but maybe a little thin stemmed? I am never satisfied...
The dwarf sunspot sunflowers are starting to set heads. They are SHORT. And they appear to be making more than one flower per plant. Yippee. I am going to save seeds from the center plant even though I realize it will be pollinated by one of the shorter guys next door.

Here's a quick glimpse into the forest gardens:
 Forest asparagus and strawberries. I also stuck in a few tomatoes. They are still really small. These strawberries are too old and I really need to move this patch and grow some legumes here for a while. Unfortunately, I am out of space and have no where to move them....

Forest strawberries with a Fava bean and some Egyptian onions mixed in. Why not, right?

 Scarlet Runner beans around a homemade tepee trellis. These guys just might make it, though they are getting shaded fast by the big oak trees.  Here's hoping!

Wild strawberries in a bowl
Wild strawberries transplanted from the forest and put into pots.

grocery store potato boxes
My grocery store potato boxes. There are 3, 4, and 3 potatoes in each box. I am in love with these. I am thinking I should plant these in my front planters next year - just for decoration. If we get potatoes - bonus! I use organic potting soil anyway. Look how much better they look than the casa blanca lillies and pansies I planted up front!
Casa blanca lillies - just getting started. Pay no attention to the milk jug watering system! I know it's ugly, ok!

tin can herb garden
 And last but not least - my tin can herb garden. Most of the herbs are starting to grow. The purslane (technically a weed? *center pot*) is doing the worst. Nothing is invasive in this area except raspberries. Sheesh.

I will update again in June - hopefully with good growth news!

Missing from this update - Dill, Fennel, Rhubarb, Black and red summer raspberries from the forest - Squash (butternut and yellow crookneck), radishes, and bush beans in the garden. And all the bok choy that was either eaten or pulled.

More articles from this year's garden:
19 Tomatoes and counting
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes without electricity
2015 Garden Part 1
2015 Garden Part 2
2015 Garden Part 3
2015 Garden Part 4
2015 Garden Part 5
2015 Garden Part 6
Growing Potatoes from the Grocery store 
Growing Espalier Grapes on a Fence
Can Tomatoes Survive temperatures below 28 Fahrenheit?


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