A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Garden Gallery - March 2022

Greetings garden-friends, spring has sprung in the southern Willamette Valley where we live. Daffodils and crocuses are in full bloom. Many of the seedlings Chris planted directly in our greenhouse beds are doing well and Llyn has started the heat-loving seedlings in pots in our other greenhouse. 

This post is comprised of a photo gallery of garden activities for February/March and relevant LINKS from previous posts we've written. Enjoy!

Bed-prep: We continue to prepare garden beds, both inside the greenhouses and out in the fields.

Donn and Chris fluff our raised beds after adding worm compost (made right in the paths of our greenhouses - LINK), coffee grounds and wood-ash - LINK. The soil in these beds is amazingly rich and has great tilth!
Here is one of our outside garden areas for heat-loving annual-plants (for example: squash, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, potatoes and more). We've been fortunate in that there have been long enough stretches between rain-storms for the soil to drain so we could roto-till these beds. This will make it easier to plant later in the spring and manage the weeds. That's a long row of basket-willow in the upper left corner of the picture.

Starting seeds: February is time for starting seeds, directly in the ground in the raised beds in our greenhouses and in pots to be transplanted out later in the season. (Image right): Chris waters lettuce seedlings direct-seeded in the ground. Kale plants in foreground are volunteers that sprouted over winter. We have lots to share. Let us know if you want some.


Carrot seedlings started in early February. Pot of chives at top, right of picture.

Some plants need to be started in pots on a heat-mat in order to germinate. We drill holes in the bottom of the plastic containers our tofu comes in and and start the seeds in them. Here's a LINK to a post about other ways to Repurpose Things for Re-use.

Later, once the seeds have germinated, we'll transplant them into larger containers so they have enough soil to develop strong root-systems.

Transplanting seedlings takes patience but it's a lovely meditation too.

Sometimes we transplant into standard plastic pots...(here are lettuce seedlings in 6-packs)...

...but egg cartons make great containers for seedlings that don't have a big root system such a s lettuce. The seedlings' roots will grow right through the egg-cartons so all you have to do is tear off a section and plant it directly in the ground.

Planting perennials: If the ground isn't too wet or frozen, January through March are all good months to plant out perennial plants including trees, shrubs and flowers. In the winter, these plants are still be dormant in their pots (or bare-rooted if bought directly from a nursery). This year we have added three more apple trees, a quince and two varieties of plums to our orchards. We have an English walnut, several American chestnuts, a fig-tree and lots of yellow willow that we grew from seeds and cuttings that are ready to go in the ground. And, as for flowering perennials we're expanding our Showy milkweed and Echinacea plantings, also grown from seed.

Llyn, planting trees.

Our perennial plant nursery (summer). All these plants grown from seeds and cuttings benefit from a full year in pots to develop their root systems before being planted in the ground. Our nurseries receive plenty of indirect sunlight through the summer but don't like full sun as it can stress them in summer's heat.

In the winter we move perennial-pots into a sunny place protected from the coldest north winds and surround the pots with bags of dry leaves for insulation.

Our new orchard (foreground). We've had to convert some of our garden space into an orchard because we have an invasion of field bindweed/morning glory (Convolvulus arvensis LINK) which can choke many annual plants.

We are also creating areas dedicated primarily to wildlife habitat. The black plastic is lumber-wrap we collect for free from the garbage dumpsters at lumber-yards. It blocks sunlight to the plants below thus discouraging grasses and weeds from growing between the desirable perennial trees, shrubs and flowers and bulbs we've planted. It will be removed after one year and mulched heavily to slow down the inevitable re-invasion of grasses and weeds.

Pruning: Winter is pruning-time for our fruit and nut trees and grape vines.

Chris, pruning grapes. For an excellent grape-pruning tutorial, see LINK below.

Llyn, pruning our 70' row of basket willow (Salix purpurea LINK). We harvest it every year to make living fences, to start more rows of willow along the edges of our land and occasionally to make baskets.

We're making a living fence (above) with basket willow to give us some privacy from our neighbor's yard. the uprights are actually rooted in the ground, planted approx. 8" apart and will live for many years. The horizontal "wattles" are cut fresh from our willow nursery (see above) and woven between the living uprights. They die and dry in place.
Time to plant cuttings and seedlings of perennials into pots to grow out their roots for next year's plantings. Pictured: yellow willow that grows wild along stream beds in western Oregon, and Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea LINK)

All the prunings are piled in a large brush-pile where they dry out through the summer while providing habitat for ground-nesting birds and bunnies. In the autumn, once it's legal to burn again, and animals are no longer nesting, we'll set the pile on fire.

Repairs and organizing:

We finally got around to investing in, and installing brass hose-bibs for our garden faucets. These will last much longer than the plastic ones we had been using and prevent drips/leaks which waste water.

We use the winter to reorganize both inside and outside areas of the gardens. These hose-hangers are made from foot-long shelf brackets screwed into the upright 4"x4' posts with 5-gallon buckets hung on them. We can put a lot more hoses on them and the buckets keep the hoses rounded instead of kinking into tight bends.

Time for repainting all our signs too...

LINKS for early spring: Here are links to posts we've previously written, relevant to this time of year.

Organic Solution to Slugs - Iron Phosphate - Having trouble with slugs eating your early spring plants? We've had great success with iron phosphate (commercially known as Sluggo).

Early spring is time for Mason bees to emerge from their tube-nests. Here's an article written by a local friend of ours who's had great success at encouraging these docile pollinators to thrive on her land.

Here's the best video we've found on how to prune table grapes (and we've watched quite a few!).  Easy, straight-forward instructions which will allow you to confidently go out to your grape patch and tackle the tangle of vines that have grown since last year (or the last time you attempted to prune your grapes). 

On the lighter side... Here is a LINK to a video about Infectious Laughter on a Train


Saturday, March 5, 2022

Corvallis Garden Resource Guide: Goods, Services, and Learning for Food Growing

The print version of the garden guide is back! For more than 10 years, the Sustainability Coalition’s Food Action Team has produced a comprehensive, locally-focused Corvallis Garden Resource Guide: Goods, Services, and Learning for Food Growing. The 2022 guide can now be picked up at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, viewed as a PDF online, or printed in high resolution booklet format.

The guide includes resources for growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, mushrooms, poultry, and bees. It emphasizes organizations and businesses that are local, organic, unique, and perhaps not as well known as they should be. Intended for both new and experienced gardeners, the guide is divided into sections for easy reference.
  • If you’re new to gardening or want to learn new techniques in the off-season, you might want to start with Gathering Knowledge on page 3. “Getting Started” provides a starting point for folks about to turn their first beds. In addition to learning centers offering classes and workshops, the guide lists a selection of locally available gardening books with an emphasis on regional focus and local authors.
  • When it’s time to work the soil and plant the seeds, turn to Getting What You Need on page 7. The local farm and garden centers are one-stop shops, and multiple local and regional companies offer supplies, soil, amendments, seeds, and plants.
  • Gardening doesn’t need to be a solo activity or limited by a lack of space. Growing Together on page 15 includes listings for neighborhood gardening groups and community gardens.
  • When you’re swimming in rhubarb or tomatoes, turn to Harvesting the Bounty on page 17. The listed resources will help you preserve your surplus, donate to those in need, or make a little money at the farmers’ market.
  • Chickens and ducks don’t exactly grow from the soil, but they go hand-in-hand with backyard gardening. If you have a flock or are looking to buy chicks, turn to the Backyard Poultry section on page 19.
  • Beekeeping (page 21) continues to grow in popularity among gardeners wishing to harvest honey and ensure good pollination. For those willing to brave the stings, Corvallis has a local equipment supplier, a bee club, and plenty of learning opportunities.
No matter your level of experience or particular interest, there’s something in the guide for anyone who wants to grow their own food. Pick up your copy of the Garden Guide at the public library - or go straight to the online version at Garden Resource Guide | Corvallis Sustainability Coalition (sustainablecorvallis.org)Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Organic Solution to Slugs - Iron Phosphate

(Updated and re-printed from June 2012) The Monroe Sharing Gardens is located on ground that stays marshy well into the spring - even on a dry year. For the last few years since we've been here, we've had exceptionally wet springs so it can be downright boggy. Add to this the fact that some years we add - literally - tons of leaves, straw, grass and other kinds of organic matter and you've got the perfect environment for slugs to thrive. 
Slug eggs - if you find these in your garden, get rid of them (not in your compost pile!)
In 2011 we had a bad infestation--they decimated lettuce, kale, broccoli, peas -- all the cool-weather crops but even in the heat of summer they never died back and some tomato plants were basically just slug apartment dwellings; all you can eat buffets for the gastropods that make the Pacific NW famous. Buckets of potatoes were too slug-eaten to save and went straight to the compost. We knew that this year would be even worse as we came across underground deposits of hundreds of their small, pearly white eggs, just waiting for the perfect spring conditions for them to hatch.
We moved forward in good faith, figuring that somehow their numbers would balance out and they would join in the spirit of sharing that the gardens are famous for - a little for them, a lot for everyone else. But when we came to the gardens just a day after a team of four OSU students did a massive planting of literally hundreds of lettuce, spinach and broccoli and found two out of the four, seventy-foot rows practically disappeared overnight, we knew we had to find  a solution, and find it fast.

Whole rows of lettuce and broccoli, eaten overnight.
Chris went on-line and searched for organic solutions. We needed to find something that would get the slugs under control without endangering humans or our healthy earth-worm population, the snakes who feed on the slugs, the birds who frequent the gardens, or any other wildlife. There are a lot of folk-remedies out there such as coffee grounds, eggshells, citrus peels and beer-traps. All with only moderate success rates, or unpleasant side-effects (emptying beer traps with decomposing slugs is not a pleasant task!)

So, imagine our great joy when Chris discovered that iron phosphate, commercially know as "Sluggo", is a mineral naturally found in the soil and is non-toxic to humans, worms and other wildlife. The iron phosphate is coated with something that is appealing to slugs, and keeps the pellets from dissolving in the rain (it can last up to two weeks for each application. It's also very easy to use -- you just sprinkle a little at the base of each plant, or in the spaces between the plants. When the slugs eat it, it makes them lose their appetites, or binds up their digestion and they die within a few days of eating it. This also disrupts their reproductive cycle as the slugs aren't around long enough to mature and lay eggs so, theoretically, once we bring the population back into balance, we will need to use far less of the product (or none at all) in future years.

Healthy rows of lettuce.
We have been applying it now for about six weeks and are having fantastic results. In the beginning we had to reapply it every few days to keep up with all the slugs being hatched. Now, the applications are staying uneaten until the product naturally dissolves into the ground.

If you buy the product "retail" you can expect to pay $6.00 - $7.00 (or even more) per pound. So, if you need a lot, look for a wholesale sorce of iron phosphate with a coating. It will be less expensive than buying name-brand products such as Sluggo.

Kept in balance, slugs can be integrated into the garden's natural fauna.
Here is info from another organic farming site (Green Methods)attesting to the safety and effectiveness of Iron Phosphate:  
Iron phosphate (brand name Sluggo), is an organic slug and snail controlling compound that breaks down into fertilizer which has proven itself extremely safe and amazingly effective, even in the wettest of conditions where slugs and snails tend to be most problematic. In fact, based on the copious amounts of positive feedback we’ve gotten over the years, we can say with conviction that this product last longer, works better, and is much safer than the industry standard, highly toxic, metaldehyde. 
This product can be used just about anywhere, and up to the day of harvest on crops. To use it, towards evening simply scatter the plastic-like granules on the ground or in the pots/benches where slugs and snails are found feeding (even in wet conditions). Once they have eaten the bait, they’ll find cover and slowly die. And it is literally as simple as that.

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