Thursday, March 22, 2018

Quick March Update

I got one Big Important Task done earlier this week before the Pineapple Express rolled in. It was time to cut down the cover crop growing in the solanum bed.

This year I approached the task differently. Usually I chop down the cover crop then dig it into the soil and cover everything up. It's a time consuming task that requires me to pull all the drip lines aside which isn't so easy when each one has to be pulled out of the tangle of greenery. Then I would use hedge shears to chop down the greenery in 3 or 4 passes to make sure it was pretty well chopped up. Then I would go through the bed and dig it all in. Then reset all the drip lines. And finally cover it all up with a layer of cardboard.

This year I skipped the bit about pulling the drip lines and chopping up the greenery and digging it all in. I just chopped down the greenery in one pass and then covered it all up with cardboard. The work of maybe a couple of hours.

Ta Da!

Now I'll wait until about the middle of May when I'll pull aside the cardboard and hopefully find that the worms went to work. Then I'll pull aside the drip lines and dig it all in with my usual amendments. I figure one round of digging is better both for the soil and my back.

I'itoi Onions
One item that I forgot to cover in my last tour was the I'itoi onions growing in the fabric pots that used to contain rodent treats, um, strawberry plants. My poor little I'itois sat in little pots for months while I tried to figure out what to do with them. Then one day when my frustration with the rodents reached the boiling point and I started to toss out just about everything that they like to snack on it occured to me that the pots might be a solution to the I'itoi problem. So far, so good. The onions are growing and the rodents have no dessert.

The tangle of overgrown chard got whacked back. I'll cover more of that on Monday.

Yikes, the last Little Jade napa cabbage absolutely had to be harvested. More on that come Monday.

I've got some Yellow Cabbage Collard plants ready to put out there to replace the Napa cabbage but it's too wet to dig.

That's what it has looked like for the better part of the week. Gray, misty, wet, and fortunately not too cold. The Pineapple Express is an atmospheric river that originate in the vicinity of Hawaii so the temperatures have been mild.

Red Shouldered Hawk
Yesterday while I was doing some work in the garden during a break in the rain I was delighted to hear the kee-yeeear call (click to hear) of a Red Shouldered hawk. Vole Control! It was hanging out in the top of a oak tree just below the garden. And I could hear another one up on the hillside. Stick around my friends.

And speaking of birds, the hummingbird that I thought was a juvenile male Rufous is probably a female. I still can't tell if it's a Rufous or an Allen's, they are very similar and the most reliable way to tell the difference is to check the width of some of the tail feathers. Not likely. Anyway, I spent most of Tuesday working in the kitchen where I had a front row seat to watch an epic battle between a mature male Rufous/Allen's hummer that had showed up and seemed to be showing off for the female. He was putting on the most amazing aerial displays as he fought to wrest and then keep control of the feeder outside the kitchen window. I got to watch bird bill sword-fights with the male Anna's hummers that were trying to drive him off. He would zip around at high speed chasing the other hummers. He would put on a big show and then go chase down the female - like he's trying to show her what hot stuff he was. Unfortunately it was raining all day and my windows were streaked with rain so it was nearly impossible to get even a half decent photo. But I did manage to get one where you can see his iridescent red throat feathers and a hint of the coppery feathers on his belly and sides.

Mr. Rufous/Allen only stuck around for the day (wham, bam, thank you ma'am?), but the female is still hanging around. She seems to be tolerated by the Anna's hummers now. They allow her to sip at the feeder and I've even seen her there at the same time as another female Anna's. It will be interesting to see how long she stays.

Happy Spring!


  1. Cardboard - the gardener's best friend. We save it up all year to use in the garden. The hummers are so amazing to watch, but I can't imagine getting a good fix on the tail feathers. Sounds like you got quite a show from them! My I'itois have been very forgiving about how I treat them. I kept quite a few in pots over the winter to fill in gaps in the ones I planted outside if necessary. I wound up eating many of the potted ones, which gave us a bit of fresh onion during the winter months.

    1. I know, what would be do without cardboard? The I'itois are incredibly forgiving and so tasty too, it's hard to believe that they aren't more widely grown and loved.

  2. I'm glad the hawks have moved in, hopefully they'll take care of some of your rodent problems.

    1. I sure hope so! There's plenty for them to eat around here.

  3. What a great post! So full of good news! Rain! Hawks! Hummers! and cardboard-saving backs and work! Yay!

    1. I guess this is one of my more positive posts of late. Let's hope I can continue on in that vein.

  4. At least we have the advantage of not having drip lines to worry about. The humming bird is lovely. The Pineapple Express sounds like a train!

  5. I'm glad you explained the Pineapple Express - I had never heard of that and was thinking that you were growing pineapples now and I had missed it (lol)!

    Your new cover crop method sure does sound like a lot less work & hopefully it will be just as effective. I've never grown yellow collards but happened to get a packet from Southern Exposure so will be giving those a go this year - it will be a bit strange as yellow is normally a colour that I associate with "greens" that are past their prime.

  6. Love seeing how you prepare your beds - and the cardboard on top of your chopped cover crops is a great idea!
    Have you encounter Charles Dowwing's No Dig garden and farming? He skips the digging in altogether, just applies an inch or so of his own compost in the winter, and plants into that! He's in England, and I'm in a similar climate in Oregon, so enjoy this method.
    I especially enjoy seeing the trials comparing yeild on beds whee he digs in his own compost, layers it on, or layers on municipal compost - the middle bed has the highest held, and least weeds!

    1. I am familiar with no-dig methods but unfortunately it's not possible to do in my beds because the roots of the oak trees growing near the garden make their way into the beds and if I don't dig them out every 12 to 18 months they will completely take over and suck all of the water and nutrients out of the soil. And that's in spite of my having laid down a barrier in the bottom of each bed. All it takes is for 1 root to find a way in and then it grows like crazy.


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