Friday, April 29, 2011

Plant Sale - Sunday!

May Day!  May Day!  Pleasant weather up ahead!  Abort Operation:Hibernate!  Dig out the sundresses, wipe clean the sunglasses, and find that long-lost tube of sunscreen.  It's gonna be a peach of a Sunday!  Get thee to Winona Farms and purchase some fine pepper and tomato plants (and/or herbs, onions, lettuce, etc.)  Sale begins at 11am and will go until 2pm on Sunday May 1st.  Location is 5900 block of SW Taylors Ferry.  Please email me for specific address -  Feel free to peruse the craigslist ad for an extended list of plants, or simply click the 'Plants For Sale' button right above this post.


Miss pdxlisa at Backyard Farm was kind enough to invite me to their plant exchange last weekend (also known as the 70 degree day that spring quickly came and just as quickly left on) and I got to meet some new people and see some new gardening ideas.  I'm always impressed with people and their creativity to do the most with minimum space.  I've got a 1/2 acre to play with, so space isn't an issue (the large trees are another story.)  Things like devising the front yard into an edible landscape are concepts I've heard of and even thought about, but haven't spent much time actually seeing it applied.  It can be such a liberating experience when you see new possibilities in places where it seemed composed and stagnant.  I'm not about to do a whole yard make-over, but a 4'x4' bed this summer seems doable.  It doesn't have to be all roses...  Now, if I could just carve out some more time in the day.  About 24 hours should suffice.


Had my first big sale this week.  Earlier in the winter, a friend of mine got to talking about gardens and specifically peppers.  He was fed up with the past couple years, as the weather and deer had really eaten is green thumb down to a nub.  His demeanor was most certainly apathetic and was leaning against starting a garden this year. 

However, a funny thing happened to him.  He got infected by a familiar bug.  Optimism.  Hope.  That boundless energy that anything is possible.  I like to think I played a small part in it, as I had been planning 2011 as soon as the rains came pouring down in September of 2010.  My enthusiasm was non-stop and the more we talked, the more my friend got excited about the spring.  Up until this year, he left the varieties of peppers he planted to whatever the garden store had ordered from the nursery.  This year was going to be different.  We began pouring over catalogs and pepper varieties he wanted to try.  Instead of being left to the standard varieties that are at every nursery, he would choose exactly what he wanted to grow.

We made a deal - any seeds he bought, I would grow them and he would get as many plants as he wanted from the packet.  He was a driver in the increase in pepper varieties for me this year.  Specifically, the anchos, Valencia, Chichen Itza, Inferno Hybrid, Hungarian Hot Wax, Hot Banana, and Caloro varieties would not have been grown if not for his insistence.  Given that I'm a serial seed buyer, I wholly endorsed this because it meant I was getting free seeds and more fun stuff to grow!

Wednesday, I delivered the order to him.  All told, it was 63 plants, which is my biggest order to date.  It was a very happy day for both of us.  In addition, it freed up some space in my poly tunnel for the last wave of tomatoes I've got coming out of the seed room.  Perfect timing.


I had hoped to be updating this blog a bit more frequently.  Unfortunately, I've been busy potting up plants and rearranging flats and building new greenhouses and poly tunnels to house them all.  I thought that I would sell a few more plants by now, but the weather being what it was, no one was interested in doing anything in the garden, cool or warm season planting.  As such, it's been an ongoing struggle to keep a bunch of plates spinning with more being added each week.  I've had some failures, but so far, I've done pretty well.  I'm always learning and always taking notes on what I'll try differently next year.  All in all, it's been a pretty enjoyable experience.  Not even 5" of April rain can dampen that.

Enjoy the sun people of Portlandia - it is well deserved after enduring such a wet month.  Please drop by on Sunday, even if it's to say hello.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Record Portland Heat Wave

Well, it's a record for 2011, anyway.  Today was absolutely beautiful.  Sunny, kinda warm, and most importantly - no rain!  Tomorrow looks to be even better.  What a lovely way to spend a Saturday - basking in sun.


I often find myself in either garden stores or home improvement stores.  I'm either buying soil or buying stuff to spare my plants from the rain and frost.  I ought to buy stock, as I'm probably responsible for their gains this spring. 

This week, I had made a plan to build a PVC greenhouse frame.  As I was inspecting plastic, I began inadvertently jostling 10' pipe lengths with a guy that was working on a similar project.  As we did a our little dance of grabbing a pole without smacking the other, we started talking about - what else - the weather. 

It turns out he volunteers at an organic farm that supplies fresh produce for Portland-area restaurants.  He said that they are at 50% production this year, compared to normal levels.  On top of that, he had kept weather records in garden logs for the past 30 years and he said that 2011 is the wettest and coldest he has recorded.  In addition to that, my nursery friend is 50% off from normal sales as well. 

Granted, it's somewhat anecdotel evidence without seeing the actual numbers, but I had no reason to distrust either person.  They seem very level-headed and not for much hyperbole.  Whether or not it has been the coldest and/or wettest, I think we can all agree that it's been a miserable spring for gardening. 

Yet, all that can go away with a couple of nice days of sunshine.  Even if the rain looks like it will return next week, that grand day of 70 degree sun is gonna be great.

So...what are you going to do with your Klondike bar of a day?  How about shopping for plants?  I hear Winona Farms has a great selection going on right now.  Lot's of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, herbs, onions, greens, and more.  Besides, you can see what all my investments in Lowes and Home Depot has been good for - all 5 of my greenhouse-like structures.  It's like a science experiment in the back yard.  Seeing which structure does the best and doesn't succumb to the weather.  Good Fun!

If you are feeling a plant shopping spree coming on, I'm located on the 5900 block of Taylors Ferry.  Take peek at the Craigslist ads for the peppers and tomatoes.  Email me if you are interested in plants -


Take care, people.  Enjoy the sun.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

We Regret to Inform You...

...but your plants have died because of your stupidity and laziness.  Okay, I'm probably being a bit harsh on myself.  However, the past week was full of lessons for me and when I lose plants due to my own doing, it's a bit frustrating. 

It all started last Friday with that wonderful sunny day.  I talked about how some plants got absolutely scorched in my mini-poly tunnels.  That was lesson #1.  Don't leave mini-poly tunnels closed in the sun unless you are actually trying to slow cook them.  Even then, there are more efficient ways to do this (not to mention, more enjoyable.)  Still, this one was completely unforeseen and actually caused very little damage.

The next lesson came Sunday night/Monday morning when Jack Frost paid a visit to the house.  When I looked at the thermometer as I headed for bed, it said 35.1 degrees.  A thought crossed my mind that I should put some milk jugs with hot water in them in the poly tunnels as warmth insurance to keep them above freezing thru the night.  Alas, that thought died on the vine, not unlike a good number of tomato plants in the early morning.  I was kicking myself ferociously for that bit laziness.  Lesson #2 - if you think something would be a good idea, especially to keep plants alive, invest the 5-10 minutes to do so. 

Finally, my favorite lesson of the week.  As a fledgling grower, I'm often seeking bags of potting soil.  My default soil is Black Gold Natural and Organic, but I'm always looking for other brands that work too.  On Sunday, I was at a local garden store and was attempting to buy myself a couple bags of soil.  However, that gal at the counter immediately was talking me out of it.  "Everyone's using Bumper Crop these days.  I can't seem to sell a bag of Black Gold."  Really?  With a hard sell like that?  Astonishing! 

Anyway, the whole conversation, while cordial, seemed off to me.  The lady was quite intent on selling me a bag of Bumper Crop (and packages of peas that didn't fit on the seed rack), but is that any different from any other sales clerk?  Still, my instincts were telling me strange things were afoot at the 7-11. 

I bought the bag just the same even though I didn't have that 'sense of comfort' that we consumers so desire.  I thought it would be an opportunity to try out a new product.  It was, after all, highly recommended according to my new best friend, the sales clerk.

As I take it down to the basement cave where I start all my plants, one thing that strikes me is how pungent this bag of soil is.  Sweet, pungent, and quite ripe.  Somewhere in the back of my head, alarm bells are going off like sirens in the Battle of England.  I chose to hit 'snooze' and began to pot up some basil using this new soil. 

Right off the bat, I was skeptical.  There was so much wood product in it that I figured for sure it was going to be horrible for the plants.  I've found that the amount of wood product compost is in a potting soil is directly proportional to how toxic it is for plants.  This stuff certainly would be death to all things green.

I finished up for the night and began recording what I had done.  As I was doing so, the smell from the Bumper Crop was just suffocating.  I grew up on a pig farm in Idaho.  My office had turned into one of the pig buildings I hated to be inside of.  It !#$(!^% reeked!  Bad memories to be certain.

The next day, the smell was even worse.  Un-!#$!%-believably putrid.  I took a look at the basil starts that I had potted with the Bumper Crop and immediately knew what happened.

Now, that is a result!  That's Thai basil with Bumper Crop on the left and Black Gold on the right.  Perhaps some of you know what Bumper Crop is.  I now know that it is a soil amendment/conditioner and is supposed to be used in sparse amounts.  Not as a pure potting soil and never again inside the house.  My poor basil starts...I can just hear their roots melting away in that hot mix of manure.  And this could have been avoided if I would have taken the time to actually pay attention to those warning signs and read the damn label.

Now, I don't think the lovely sales lady had any malicious intent, but what the hell was she thinking?  I was asking for a bag of potting soil and she's selling me on a soil conditioner that will kill anything I pot up in it.  Lesson # 3 - if something seems off, it probably is and it's in my interest to either back away from the item (would you like a pack of our featured peas?) or investigate further (take my head out of the sand).  Even if it means taking the 2 minutes to read the damn label.  Have I said that already?

Ah, farming.  Ain't it the life?

Here's to some weekend sun!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Scorching Sun!

Even though it barely broke 60 today, it was absolutely beautiful.  The kind of day that gives a Portlander hope that something other than wind, rain, hail, and snow can be bestowed upon us.  Rumour has it that the next one comes sometime in July.  I can't wait!

While the sunshine was heavenly, it didn't come without some unforseen consequences on my plants.  After barely staying above freezing  the past couple nights (32.3 at 6 this morning), my starts got the other end of the spectrum in short order.  I built a temporary 'greenhouse' using a 4'x8' piece of plywood, pvc hoops stretched over top, and plastic cover.  Basically, a miniature polytunnel.  It was cheap ($20) and easy (constructed in about 2 hours) and had thus far served it's purpose wonderfully. 

My plants had been very happy underneath the plastic, as they kept out of the rain and most of the wind (I only have remay at the ends of the tunnel to keep air flow in tact.)  That is, until we got a full sunny day.  That polytunnel must have heated up like those old Apollo re-entry capsules.  About 20 plants got fried - all in one spot, curiously.  The plastic must have been stretched so that it magnified the sun in that spot.

At first, I thought it was a partial freeze out, but it didn't make sense that that would happen in the middle of all the plants.  Then I saw the 'high' temperature for my other greenhouse.  94 degrees!  Yikes!  That's steamy, but luckily it had the benefit of a fan to keep the air moving briskly.  The polytunnel had no such instrument to move the air, except for any wind that might blow.  In addition, I placed the polytunnel in the spot of the garden that gets the most sun.  Every other day this year, that was ideal to catch the fleeting 10-15 minute sun-breaks.  Not so much today.  It was a pressure cooker. 

I got home pretty late, so I didn't have time to check out exactly how many plants burned up or even which ones.  I just hope I didn't wipe out a full variety.  That would suck.

Anyway, just another thing to learn along the way.  I never had thought that I could utter the phrase that we got 'too' much sun...unless its the final test to get my official 'Grumpy Old Farmer' card.  I guess it shows that you just never know.

Despite those burned up plants, I've still have plenty available.  Here are the various Craigslist ads.
Greens, herbs, etc
Tomatoes & peppers -
Grafted tomatoes -

Cheers to a beautiful day - hope the weekend is good for y'all.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Indesctructable Chicken

A few weeks ago, I posted about our Rhode Island Red swallowing a chunk of metal and caused her some, well, gastro-intestinal discomfort.  Here is what the x-ray looked like back then.  Take a look near the bottom of the image and that bright triangular shape.  Like a knife, it was.

And, 18 days later, this is what it looks like.

Hardly recognizable.  It's begun to corrode and break down and in the near future will be passed thru her system.  They can be quite a resilient bird - as long as a hawk isn't involved.

Tonight is her first night back in the coop with the other girls.  They've given her a cold shoulder, as chickens are wont to do.  But she's much happier out there than inside.  She didn't like her cage, so this is where I found here after her escape...on a silver platter.

Cheers to healthy chickens.  Now, may she lay a golden egg to pay for the vet bills!  Kidding (kind of.)