Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is Wednesday, April 22nd this year. It’s also the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

Typically on Earth Day, kids, families and individuals celebrate our planet Earth by planting trees while wearing “Earth Day” t-shirts (oh, the irony). Those community service projects won’t be happening this year, but here are some other things you can do:

  1. Stay home – don’t drive anywhere.
  2. Don’t dry clean your nice work clothes.
  3. Have a zoom meeting instead of traveling to an in-person meeting.
  4. Eat what’s in your fridge and pantry to reduce food waste.
  5. Cancel your vacation to France and visit the Louvre online for free!

You’re already doing all of those things, you say? Great!

Kidding.

If you are looking for things you can do to celebrate, take a look at EarthDay.org’s 22-Day Earth Day Challenge. Each day in April leading up to Earth Day, they put out small “challenges” or suggestions of things you can do to help the earth. Examples include, switching to green power in your home, reading suggestions to expand your knowledge of climate issues, and committing to Vote Earth.

50th Anniversary Global Advisory Committee | Earth Day

I’m curious to see how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect global carbon emissions. I think most people anticipate that CO2 emissions will drop, but by how much and whether the change will last is anyone’s guess.

Emissions from transportation (flights, commuting, etc) will go down in the short term. But when this is all over, will people continue to work from home and have zoom meetings rather than drive into an office or take business flights to meet in person? Yet to be seen.

People are also reducing food waste by using up what’s in their fridge and pantries before going to the store to buy more. This is another upside that will hopefully become a habit that will outlive the coronavirus.

On the other hand, what about disposable products? Putting aside all the masks and gloves and other PPE that is being used these days (it’s necessary, I know), a lot of grocery stores and coffee shops are no longer allowing people to bring their own bags, containers for bulk items, or mugs for coffee. I understand why it wouldn’t be smart to have baristas handling multiple reusable coffee mugs, but it seems to me that reusable cloth grocery bags can still be used safely. I almost always use the self-check out, and bag my own groceries, so the cashiers aren’t touching my bags. In fact, I’ve continued to bring my own bag, and no one has stopped me. I worry that the progress we’ve made recently in encouraging people to use fewer single-use items will go out the window. After this is over, people will have gotten out of the habit of remembering to bring their cloth bag or reusable mug. Plus, there will probably be lingering fears and germophobia that will dissuade people from using reusable products.

If history is any indication, COVID-19 will be but another mere blip in the upward trajectory of global climate emissions.

Covid-19 and climate change - The epidemic provides a chance to do ...
Source: The Economist

Let’s hope something better comes from all this.

It Was Too Good To Be True

Well. The horsetail is back again. The north blueberry patch – the one we spent several work parties weeding and covering with newspaper and bark chips – has horsetail again.

We hadn’t seen any horsetail the past few weekends, so I was optimistic that maybe – just maybe – all that weeding and mulching had done some good. But of course not. It’s back again.

Nate and I spent a couple of hours on Sunday weeding that blueberry patch. Hopefully we can stay on top of it this year. Persistence persistence persistence.


It was a beautiful day out, and, while we were weeding, four other members of the garden were there working in shifts to plant the zinnia hedge.

The zinnia hedge prior to planting

This space separates the garden from the sidewalk/street, and so its nice to have some flowers out there for everyone to admire. We get a lot of compliments on the zinnias. Several passersby today said they couldn’t wait until the flowers were up: something for us all to look forward to.

Zinnias: planted and watered in

Gardening Podcast Recommendations

Since WA state has had “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” orders in place, I’ve been taking a lot of walks around the neighborhood. While, on my walks, I often listen to podcasts — usually gardening podcasts.

For those of you who also enjoy podcasts, here are some of my favorites.

The Joe Gardener Show

This podcast, by Joe Lamp’l, “the Joe in Joe Gardner,” is a well-produced and informative podcast about a range of topics. Joe is a professional gardener and has a show on PBS called “Growing a Greener World,” so he really knows his stuff and is also able to put his gardening knowledge into a format fit for an audience.


Plantrama

C.L Fornari and Ellen Zachos are garden writers who have created a well-produced, interesting, and entertaining podcast. Unlike the Joe Gardener Show which has a single main focus for each podcast episode, each episode of Plantrama covers a handful of diverse topics in short segments.


Encyclopedia Botanica

The creator of this podcast is now, sadly, not putting out more episodes at the moment, but it’s still a great one and worth going back to listen to the archives. The host, Hilary Dahl, is a Seattle-based professional gardener, so many of her growing tips are particularly suited for me.


The Organic Gardening Podcast

This podcast is produced by Garden Organic, a non-profit that promotes organic gardening in the UK. They put out a podcast once a month that covers a potpourri of topic similar to Plantrama. You’ll need to have your British English translator handy when listening


A Way To Garden

Of course Margaret Roach’s podcast is going to be on this list. Many of her podcast episodes are interviews with experts on very specific subjects, such as composting, ferns, or orchids. In addition to flora, she is very interested in the fauna of gardens, in particular, birds and bugs, so there are quite a number of episodes on those topics as well.


Happy listening!

If I had my own vegetable garden this year…

At the moment, I don’t have a backyard in which to grow vegetables. Additionally, I’m moving to a new state in the middle of the summer, which throughs another wrench in this year’s garden plans. Nevertheless, a favorite pastime of mine (and a form of self-torture?) is dreaming about which vegetables I would be growing.

Now, this is not my *dream* garden obviously…the list of vegetables (and varieties of those vegetables) that I want to grow in my backyard someday is extensive. But if I could just grow a few vegetables this year, these would be the ones I would pick.


Walla Walla Onion
Boston/Butterhead Lettuce
Zucchini
Sugar Snap Pea
Sungold Tomato
Butternut Squash
Winterbor Kale
Lemon Cucmber
Beet

This was really hard. I considered leeks, potatoes, carrots, rhubarb, asparagus….sigh… someday.

What would you grow in your garden?

The Community Garden is Looking Good!

As we continue to be under strict social distancing orders in the state of WA, Nate and I worked at the community garden on Saturday morning alone again. We continued weeding the blueberry patch – the half that is still thick with weeds. We didn’t make a ton of progress, so I don’t have cool before and after photos to show you.

Instead, I’ll show you some of the other things growing in the garden. The garden members have all been working in the garden at different times throughout the week to keep things going. I think we accomplished more this week than we normally would with our usual two-hour Sunday work party, perhaps because people are spending extra time in the garden these days to keep busy and take their minds off of the current global situation. Also, since we’re not able to socialize, we’re more focused on the task at hand.

The asparagus beds, weeded, mulched, and staked out.

The asparagus beds (photo above) are looking really good! At the beginning of the season, these beds were so overrun with weeds that we couldn’t tell what was bed and what was path. Some of the other members of the community garden spent a lot of time weeding them and then mulching them up with more soil and compost to get them to this state.

The asparagus are coming up!

And so are the horsetail (sigh). There was bit of a snafu with the horsetail in the asparagus bed this week…someone mistook horsetail for asparagus and asparagus for horsetail. They pulled out the asparagus and left the horsetail! Oops.

Note: this is horsetail (kinda looks like asparagus, I suppose)

Fortunately, the mistake was caught that same day, and the asparagus was replanted with extra mulch, so (fingers crossed) it wasn’t too badly damaged.

In the raised beds, the peas are looking good and the onions are slowly growing.

Peas
Onions

We’ve also planted lettuce, beets, and carrots (carrots not pictured).

Lettuce
Beets

The rhubarb is growing rapidly! Soon enough we’ll have rhubarb to harvest, and I can’t wait!

Update on the Citrus Seeds!

It’s been 26 days since I planted/chitted the citrus seeds, and the update is….well…mixed.

None of the seeds that were planted directly in soil have sprouted yet.

One of my chitted blood orange seeds rotted.

The seed at the bottom of this image is just soft white mush inside a seed coating

But….. one of the chitted Meyer Lemons has sprouted! Hooray!

A sprout!

The photo above is from 3 days ago. Nine days prior to that, I had removed the outer shells on the Meyer Lemons, after seeing no changes to the seeds for 14 days.

This, according to Plant Parenting, is called scarification.

While most annual vegetable seeds do not require pre-soaking or any special preparation for germination, seeds of some natives, perennials, and fruits with hard coats will require a bit of extra work on your part, whether it be a longer chitting/soaking period, scarification, stratification, or inoculation with rhizobium bacteria…. Seed scarification involves scraping away part of the hard coating to expose the seed to water and gases that trigger germination. In the natural environment, temperature, soil microbes, and even fire can break down seed coats. Animals eat seeds, which are then exposed to stomach acid which breaks down the seed coat.

Planting Parenting by Leslie Halleck

She has some very interesting suggestions for how to scarify seeds.

I just pulled off the seed coating using my finger nails. It’s hard to know if the scarification helped, or if the seeds just needed more time…

Now that I have a sprouted seed, I need to plant it! But how soon do I plant it? Should I plant it right away, as soon as I see a sprout? Or do I wait for the sprout to get bigger?

I couldn’t find any consistent solid guidance on this, so I decided to wait for the sprout to get a little bigger. Here it is two days after I first noticed the sprout (yesterday):

It grew a tiny bit more.

I decided to plant it at that point. I put it in the same pot as the direct-sown Meyer lemon seeds. As you can see there is no growth of the other Meyer Lemons (at least from what I can see above the soil). After planting the seed, I covered the pot again with a plastic bag to keep the humidity in, and crossed my fingers.

What is this flowering hedge?

I go for a lot of walks around the neighborhood these days. The other day, I came across this bright flowering hedge on one of my walks:

These tiny orange flowers are so pretty, but what is it?

After a number of other google searches, I came up with Darwin’s Barberry! Hmmm…interesting…. This plant gets its name from Charles Darwin, who first discovered it in South America.

The flowers will eventually develop into berries, which are edible and (FYI, Dad) apparently high in nutrients!

Berberis darwinii – PlantRight
Image from: https://plantright.org/watch/berberis-darwinii/

But don’t get too excited — it’s not native to the PNW, and, in fact, it’s considered an invasive species in some areas, such as New Zealand. PlantRight.org says it’s on the “watch” list of potentially invasive plants in California, and suggests planting Oregon Grape (Mahonia) instead, which is also in the Barberry family. The Oregon State University website doesn’t mention anything about it being invasive in Oregon or Washington, but they do point out that it’s not native. Too bad.

Oregon grape is fine, I guess….I just don’t particularly care for its bright yellow flowers ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What Is Oregon Grape? Uses and Side Effects
Image form: healthline.com
Tall Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium | Native Plants PNW
Image from: nativeplants.com

Work in the Blueberry Patch Continues: Newspaper and Wood Chips

Whew! I am tired. I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon after spending 4 hours this morning pulling out more horsetail from the blueberry patch at the community garden and then laying down a thick layer of newspaper and wood chips.

Here’s what the blueberry patch looked like when we left it last week:

After pulling out any horsetail that had sprung up since we were last there, we laid down newspaper — 4-6 sheets thick — and then a 4-5″ thick layer of wood chips.

Since the blueberry patch is enclosed in a wire mesh cage, we have to hand carry all the wood chips in using 5 gallon buckets. This is no easy feat. Nate filled two buckets at a time with wood chips from a pile sitting at the far end of the other blueberry patch, and carried them over to me. I weeded the blueberry patch as we went, and then laid down the newspaper and woodchips.

It took us four hours, and by the end, we were exhausted.

But here’s how it looks now:

We’re so proud!

This next photo is perhaps a better perspective.

Left side: Not weeded Right side: weeded, Newspapered, and wood chipped

This is where we ended – we only did about half of the bed. The blueberry bushes are mostly only planted that half (I’m not sure if that was intentional or not — I wasn’t part of the garden group when the blueberries were originally planted). In the other half, we’ve planted squash in years past, but last year it was just too overrun with weeds to do anything with it.

Our main goal this week was to mulch around the blueberry bushes. Mission accomplished! We are exhausted, but doing projects like this is my favorite way to spend a day.

Maybe next week we’ll try to tackle the weeds in the other end of the bed….

Making A Bushier Avocado

My avocado plant is growing pretty tall, and everything that I’ve read about avocados tells me I should cut down the stem to encourage side shoots.

I tried this once with a different avocado. Something that I read said that once it gets to be about 6 inches tall, cut off the stem to encourage side shoots. I tried that, and this is what happened:

Not exactly what I had in mind.

I ended up giving that avocado to my dad. It’s doing fine, but just looks a little funny with the kink in its trunk.

So, with my current avocado, I decided *not* to cut it off when it got 6 inches tall.

….But then….the peer pressure got to me. It seems like everyone says you should prune it to encourage bushier growth. And I do want a bushier plant.

This excerpt is from Plants from Pits (it’s not my favorite book, but I got it from the library before COVID-19 happened, and now the libraries are closed, so I’m working with what I’ve got):

My tree now has 14 leaves, so I decided today is the day to prune it.

Eeek

Be brave…

Blurry again. My camera is focusing on the wrong thing.
I’m trying to take a picture of the plant, obviously, not the side of my neighbor’s house.

I initially just took one leaf and the top off, like the book said. But Stuff You Need to Know says “Prune the tree in such a way to leave many leaves, but prune enough above a leaf so that there are budding areas around the stem.” There were two other leaves very close to the cut I made, and I’m not sure there were any “budding areas” around the stem up there.

So, I took off a little more:

That should leave plenty of stem with budding areas, right? Let’s hope so.

Here’s the final product:

Do you think my avocado tree will ever look like this?

Community Gardening Alone

Since we, in Washington State, are under orders to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” the gardening group is not having weekly work parties. But the garden must go on. So, we are all working individually in the garden at separate times, when we can. There is planting to be done, and weeding as always.

Last Saturday, Nate and I worked on weeding the blueberry patch.

The empty garden.

I’m not used to being in the garden by myself.

Here is the blueberry patch we were working in. See those funny green stalks sticking out of the ground? That’s horsetail. It grows super fast and spreads like crazy, and can practically drown the blueberry bushes by the end of the summer if we let it.

Below is a photo of the other blueberry patch. It used to have tons of horsetail too. We spent several work parties last spring pulling horsetail out of there, and then laying thick layers of newspaper and bark chips on top. We had to pull out a spattering of horsetail throughout the summer, but – at least so far – there’s not a single horsetail coming up here this spring, so all that work was worth it. (Those little green shoots in the mulch that you see are quackgrass, which is a-whole-nother story.)

We spent about two hours weeding that day.

Nate pulling horsetail

And here’s what it looked like when we were done:

Ahhh…so satisfying….

We need to get some newspaper and bark chips laid down here soon, otherwise that weeding will be all for naught. Hopefully we can get started on that this coming Saturday.

P.S. Dad – apparently horsetail is edible.