Some updates from Dad’s garden

The raspberry trellises are still standing and the canes are producing plenty of raspberries! The rows still need to be filled out with canes from other parts of the yard, but that job is for a later time.

The hazelnut trees are growing nicely – the two that were bare root (the two on the right below) are doing better than the one that came potted. Dad constructed fences out of tomato cages around two of them to make sure the deer wouldn’t get to them.

The hazelnut seeds however, don’t seem to have done anything.

The hydrangea that was transplanted is growing nicely, and is producing flowers. (The madrone, however, is dead.)

The fig trees are also growing nicely, but unfortunately not producing much fruit.

That’s all for now. I’m still getting settled in California, but I’ll be back with posts about my new “garden” here in the coming weeks.

My Favorite Neighborhood Gardens in Seattle

At the time this post goes up, I’ll be driving down I-5 on my way to San Francisco. The landscape of the Bay Area is very different from that of Seattle. The Bay Area has a lot more desert-like gardens, whereas Seattle has overflowing, lush cottage-style gardens.

One of my favorite evening activities in Seattle was walking around my neighborhood to admire all the front yard gardens. My last week in Seattle, I took photos of some of my favorites.

Many people fill the strip between the sidewalk and the street with flowering plants rather than grass. This example is my favorite every year. This strip is packed with all kinds of flowers: cosmos, zinnias, dahlias… It’s not at its peak yet, unfortunately.
This space is part of a roundabout turned garden and library (the box there is a Little Free Library)
I love a good arbor. Its hard to see, since this photo was taken at dusk, but there are roses growing over the arbor and along the fence.
The terrain is pretty hilly, hence many house of steeply sloped front yards. I’m sure San Francisco proper will have similar gardenscapes, but the part of the Bay Area where I’ll be is pretty flat.
Lastly: Ravenna Park. I guess it’s not technically a garden, but it’s a wonderful forested retreat in the middle of a city. Those people in the photo were looking at….
…owls! There is a family of FIVE owls living in the park. The young ones aren’t shy. I took this photo standing about five feet from the owl.

Bye Seattle! It was a fun four years!

My Last Time at the Community Garden

The place I’ll miss the most in Seattle is the Community Garden and Orchard.

I left Seattle on Tuesday morning. Here are some scenes from the garden taken on the weekend before I left:

The peas were busting out fo their bed
Walla walla onions….

…and red onions about ready to harvest
Sweet peas in bloom
The blueberries had just started to ripen
Squashes were growing nicely on the slope above the raspberry patch
Beans were just coming up in the asparagus beds
Basil had been recently planted and was doing well
Last but not least, the first zinnia bloomed. Not a moment too soon!

Although I’m sad to not be there in person anymore, this won’t be the end of the Community Garden for this blog. Nate is staying in Seattle and will continue to work in the Community Garden, so never fear – there will still be Community Garden updates!

The Final Seattle Apartment Garden

Here is the end of my garden in Seattle:

Lemon trees (x 11?) a begonia I’m trying to propagate, and a snake plant
Pothos, more lemons, and a wandering jew
Geranium leaf cuttings from Nate’s plant
Basil, which I’m leaving with Nate

I’ll be moving to California this coming weekend, and I won’t be taking all (or even most) of these plants with me. California has pretty strict rules about bringing plants into the state, so the majority of these plants will stay with my dad in Portland.

I’ll still have a “garden” in California, but it will be new and different. I’ll be sure to share photos of it along the way.

Summer Camp for The Avocado

Staring in May, I put my avocado plant outside, so it can get more sunlight during the day. Everything I’ve read about avocados says they like being in full sun; the more sun the better.

The spot outside my door gets shade in morning until about noon and then gets bright full sun for the rest of the afternoon until 4 or 4:30pm.

At the beginning of the day, the avocado looks like this:

10 AM

But by 2pm, when the sun is the brightest, it looks like this:

2 PM. So droopy.

It’s drooping! Watering more doesn’t seem to help. I take it inside and it perks back up pretty quickly.

I’m confused. Is this normal for an avocado? Am I giving it too much sunlight? Is there such a thing as too much sun for an avocado? At first I thought it just needed time to acclimate, but it’s been several weeks now, and it still droops in full sun. Perhaps it just needs a few more years of growth; the older leaves don’t droop nearly as much as the newer ones. If anyone as any advice for summering potted avocados outside, let me know.

Despite the drooping, the avocado is growing really nicely. It has nearly doubled in size since March!

March

June

A Balcony Compost Update

Back in May, I wrote about our experiment with apartment balcony composting. We mixed kitchen scraps, dried leaves, and some “starter” compost in a bucket on Nate’s balcony to see if it would turn into compost that we could use for our plants.

Here’s what we started with:

March 28, 2020

Here’s how it looked a month later:

May 4, 2020

And here’s how it looked yesterday:

June 17th, 2020

He has added some more cardboard and egg cartons to it (that’s the brown stuff sticking out at the bottom), just because he had them lying around. The orange peels and apple cores are gone, but some of the eggshells and leaves are still identifiable.

Nate would also like to report that, although he forgot to stir the compost for the last 2 or 3 weeks, there is still no smell. He also found a snail and a worm, in addition to several other bugs, in the compost. How a snail and a worm got to a 3rd floor apartment balcony is anyone’s guess.

So far, this experiment has been a great success, and I can’t wait to use this compost on some potted plants.

Can We Grow Sweet Potatoes in the Pacific Northwest?

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re attempting to grow sweet potatoes in the Community Garden. This is a first for us, and we’re not expecting much.

Sweet potatoes are typically grown in hot climates, like the Southern US. They also require a long growing season. Western Washington is a temperate climate, and we don’t have long hot summers. Good for me… not so good for sweet potatoes.

One of the members of the garden group, John, is really excited about growing sweet potatoes this year, and he’s been doing a lot of research. I ran in to John at the garden a week ago, and he filled me in on the sweet potato plans. He heard about sweet potato growers up in Canada, and figures if they can do it, we can too.

These two mounds are the future sweet potato beds.

We picked a place for them to go in the long beds at the edge of the garden. We mounded up the soil a bit, which, I am told, makes the soil warmer. John has been taking the temperature of the soil every day. He says the soil needs to be above 60 deg F (minimum for the day) to plant. The last I checked with John, we were still below that, and the days and nights haven’t gotten any warmer here since then, soooo….we might be waiting awhile.

John mentioned that, in order to warm up the soil, we could try to cover the beds with black plastic in which we cut holes where the sweet potatoes go. That would not only help to heat up the soil, but would also suppress weeds in the beds. Win-win. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

We have to get the slips in the ground soon. I believe he’s planting a variety called ‘Georgia Jet.’ (I could be wrong – he mentioned several varieties, and I might be mixing these up.)

Georgia Jets. Image from Mother Earth News

They have a relatively short growing season – 90 days as compared to 110-120 days of some other varieties – which works to our advantage here in the PNW. (Dad: You might argue that these are yams, not sweet potatoes, but I disagree. Exhibit A, Exhibit B.)

When I do a google search “growing sweet potatoes in the PNW,” I find a mixture of stories from people who had a good deal of success growing sweet potatoes (examples here and here), as well as some stories from people who had less success (here). Georgia Jet is mentioned frequently on sites discussing growing sweet potatoes in northern climates, such as Canada. The two examples that I cited that were successful used the Beauregard variety and an organic sweet potato from Costco.

Although, I won’t be around to enjoy (or mourn) our sweet potatoes harvest, I’m sure Nate will keep us updated. Right, Nate?

Gloomy June

I don’t have many gardening updates for you today because I haven’t been doing much gardening. We’re almost halfway through June, and I keep thinking its March. The weather has been cold and wet. The highs are in the low 60s, lows are barley 50 degrees, and its been raining nearly every weekend. According to SeattleWeatherBlog.com, we had 60% more rain the usual in May.

We haven’t been able to plant the basil out yet. We also have sweet potato slips for the first time, and we need to ASAP in order to have a long enough growing season. One of our beds of garlic rotted, and we suspect it was because of the cold, wet weather we’ve had.

June-uary is a well-known phenomenon in the PNW; for a more in depth meteorologic explanation see King5 news. It should warm up by July 4th, but by then I will be in California, where it’s 70 and sunny every day.

Raspberry Mosaic Virus?

One of the other members of the garden group thinks our raspberry patch has raspberry mosaic virus.

This is what the leaves look like:

I’ve noticed this in years past, but we assumed it was chlorosis, which looks like this:

Image of chlorosis due to iron deficiency from Gardener’s World

Chlorosis is yellowing of the leaf in between the veins. It is often a sign of iron deficiency, and can often occur places with cool wet soil. This raspberry patch is right next to a sewer drain, and it’s often a bit boggier and cooler than other parts of the garden, so chlorosis/iron-deficiency made sense. I don’t believe we ever tried to do anything to correct the nutrient deficiency — there are so many other things to do in the garden — and it didn’t seem to impact our raspberry yields too much.

But this year, one of the other garden members did some more research and decided it was Raspberry Mosaic Virus.

Raspberry mosaic virus is actually a combination of viruses. The viruses are spread by aphids or nematodes. It is often described as “mottling” or “spots” on raspberry leaves and “curling” or “blistering” of the leaf. Also, the plants will have decreased fruit production. There is no treatment for raspberry mosaic virus, and the only way to get rid of it is to pull out the plants. Here are some images from the internet of raspberries with mosaic leaf virus:

Image from wikipedia

Hmmm… Those pictures don’t look like our leaves. After seeing that, I initially thought we were in the clear. But the more I read about raspberry viruses, it sounds like other viruses (and maybe raspberry mosaic virus too) can also present as yellowing between the veins, just like ours. The image below is from a plant with Bushy Dwarf Virus

Looks pretty similar.

So, how do we tell the difference? How do we know if we should rip out all the plants, or just amend the soil?

According to Which? Gardening, it’s more likely to be the virus if it only affects some varieties more than other, and it’s more likely to be iron-deficiency if it affects all plants equally, and if it happens within the first two or three years of planting. Hmmm….not all of the raspberry bushes in the patch have it, but its hard to tell which plants are of which variety, so I don’t know if some varieties are affected more than others. It’s definitely been more than two or three years since planting, though, so that points toward a virus. I’m not sure any of that was helpful.

I think the best way to tell would be to get the soil tested to determine if there is a nutrient deficiency, but I doubt the garden group will bother with that. Do you have any experience with raspberry mosaic virus or any other viruses? Any advice would be appreciated.

I Just Couldn’t Help Myself

Since I’m moving in less than a month, I’m trying to pare down my belongings. That means getting rid of some of my plants, and not acquiring new ones. But….

…there were extra basil starts leftover from the community garden looking for a home, and I couldn’t say no.

I justified it by telling myself that the basil plants were surplus from the community garden, so they would be going to waste anyway, and it will be nice to have some fresh basil for at least the next couple of weeks, and I can always give them to Nate or my dad when I’m done with them, and maybe, one of them can let the basil plants go to seed at the end of the season, and then mail me seeds to plant. Right? Right.

They don’t look like much right now. I potted them in a recycled plastic spinach carton using scavenged dirt, so I’m not sure how well they will do in this situation. I’m also worried that it might still be too cold here to plant basil. Our nights are barely 50 degrees (sometimes 48 or 49), and I know basil really doesn’t like the cold. Encyclopedia Botanica says not to plant basil until it’s consistently above 50 degrees. I’ve been babying them a bit by taking the “pot” inside at night. I hope it warms up soon. It’s starting to feel like another Juneuary here in the PNW.