Mother nature still can't decide between winter and spring. A couple of days ago we had a down pour while the sun was shining. The temperature is a little warmer - but still need a fire at night. I'm hopeful for a long hot summer.
The first time I saw our lot (2.5 acres) it was a bright sunny day in late spring, the sun was almost directly overhead. The property was light, warm and sunny, perfect for gardening. And it is - three months out of the year. What I didn't think about is that the land slopes dramatically to the north. We have about an acre cleared which is surrounded by very tall cedar and fir trees. From late summer to spring the sun is below the tree line. It's beautiful, but creates a space that is difficult to garden. While the landscape is less than ideal for my potager it is perfect for huckleberries! They're everywhere!
The vaccinium ovatum (related to the blueberry) is a beautiful deciduous bush. It has bright glossy green leaves that are bronze on the new growth. The delicate white and pink flowers turn into delicious purple berries by late summer. These bushes grow up to 8-9 feet in the shade, while only 3-4 in the sun.
I'm going to try growing a huckleberry hedge - what a perfect edible shrub for shade or sun and best of all, the deer don't seem at all interested.
One reason why I love macro photography is that can create an image very different than the everyday eye sees. From flower stamen to iridescent bug eyes. Macro photography makes the ordinary, extraordinary. This month Gardening Gone Wild is hosting a photo contest that encourages us to look closer at lighting in our macro or close up pictures. The judge is Alan Detrick, the author and photographer of Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers. I'm excited to keep experimenting with light (and lack of light) in my macro photos!
I'm going to enter the above rhododendron in the contest this month. This was taken on a sunny day late in the afternoon - so the sun was behind the flowers, creating romantic back-lighting and shadows as well as small focused and blurred areas.
I had to "create" some light with the Iris pictures. I wanted to show the beautiful pattern of colors that create the stained glass look.
This was taken on a very bright sunny day where the light was directly on the flowers.
The dandelions were fun. Again, the sun was bright and shining directly on the plants. I love the curly cues and shiny seeds. Very Dr. Seuss.
The ferns are so interesting as they unfold during spring. I didn't notice this bug until I reviewed the pictures on screen.
An oldie but goodie in the wild foods department. Dandelions have been used for centuries as an edible plant. Salad from the leaves, wine from the flower petals, the root is a good for roasting. Teas from the dandelion are thought to help cleanse the blood.
May in the Potager - Or I should say "The Rest of May in the Potager". It's official! We've had the coldest spring on record. One of the challenges of gardening is that you think you have it down and then Mother Nature switches gears and the next summer is dramatically different than the last. After years of gardening (ok, decades) I'm still finding out that I have to improvise, and instead of trying to control and schedule my garden I need to be somewhat reactionary and flexible. The benefit to a cold spring is that, now, if you haven't already, it's not too late to start your garden!
IN THE GARDEN
Sow Inside - Go ahead and sow anything that you want and haven't - why not? It may not be perfect timing but starting the seeds inside gives the plants a head start. Who knows, we may have a long summer. I also like to sow flower seeds inside. I find that I have much better success with transplanting seedlings than I do with the birds and slugs. Start alyssum, lobelia, pansies, violets, calendula.
The Cold Frame - Protect your tomatoes and peppers until we have regular 60 degree weather. Although not typical, plant summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers under a cloche. During these cold springs it helps warm the soil, speeds germination, and will protect the seedlings.
Rhubarb - Take advantage of the spring abundance of rhubarb. While a lot of the garden is still being planted, rhubarb is ready to be harvested. Wonderful for pies, crisps, jelly, chutney and sauces. I like to freeze several batches for late summer treats. I'd like to try a rhubarb sorbet.
Plant a Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden- I've concentrated so hard on growing vegetables that flowers have been an after thought. Plant a butterfly and hummingbird garden to bring color to your potager as well as beneficial insects and pollinators.
Wild Foods; Japanese knotwood, dandelions, huckleberries, thistle.
Nettles - Nettles are now past their edible prime but are perfect for your compost. High in nitrogen they are a compost accelerator. Crushed up in a barrel with water they make an effective, if smelly, compost tea.
Take Inventory - Take a long look at your potager now and note what you'd like to do differently, what you'd like to have in your garden next spring, what worked, what didn't.
IN THE ORCHARD
Spring Cleaning in the Orchard - May is a great time to take stock of what your orchard needs. Young trees may need staking - or do the stakes need to be taken off? Check the level of dirt, it should be just below the graft. Daffodils bloom about the same time as my cherries, so I'm making a note to plant daffodils and hyacinth under the trees to help next year's pollination.
Grow Grapes in a Container - I really would love a big grape vine, but don't have an adequate trellis. Last February I read a wonderful post on My Little Garden in Japan about how to grow grapes vines successfully in a pot. This is a perfect way to grow a fruit that traditionally takes a lot of space and a sturdy trellis.
Start a Bird Journal - Note dates, types of birds, weather, colors. Fill in with some sketches or photos. It's fascinating to see migratory patterns and habits of the year round residents.
Replace Shrubs Around Your House and Garden with Fruit Bearing Bushes Blueberries, Huckleberries, Gooseberries, Rosa Rugosa, Goumi.
IN THE HEN HOUSE
Feed Your Chickens Well - Give your chickens a feed with a little more protein if they're molting. They will also benefit from as much free-range time as possible. When they can't graze give the hens an abundance of weeds and veggie scraps. My hens are still needing crushed oyster shells periodically.
Build a Perch - Chickens love be up high and survey their surroundings. They're amazingly curious and noisy and take their watch-dog duties seriously.
As obsessed as I am about watching these owls - they are equally curious. They show very little fear and, I've heard, can be aggressive if they're nesting. If I move slow and quietly I can get as close as five feet to a perched owl. Several times last summer my husband and I stood at the edge of the forest, listening to the hoots and calls, and all of the sudden an owl or two would glide silently from the depths of the woods and light on a tree branch above our heads, for a better look - at us! During the day they will stay in one place for long lengths of time, sleepy and lethargic. Towards dusk they become a different animal; their eys are even wider, they're quick to fly, and are very talkative and animated.
Last summer was the summer of the owls. We've lived in our house for five years and have always heard the owls in the distance, but last summer a family of three barred owls moved in! Starting in early May these owls were in the trees on the edge of our yard, in the garden, and on the roof of our house for over four months. This month I'll be posting a few of the hundreds of pictures (I literally have hundreds of pictures but they are all similar because the owls sit still for so long - I need more action shots!) and sharing some owl tales. I hope they come back this summer, but so far we've just heard them deep in the woods.
Wow - it's been over a week since I've posted. My intentions and ideas are voluminous and ambitious, then life takes over and it gets hard to balance the have to's and the want to's. Gardening and photography definitely feed my soul when the have to's get overwhelming. Blogging has been a wonderful way to combine my two favorite hobbies. It's been a tool to learn, research and practice both disciplines. I love how my mind will drift to my next blog post or photo that I'd like to capture rather than dwelling on some of my more mundane chores. I've developed the ability to "escape" where ever I am. I've promised myself that I would not attach any stress to blogging and that it would be for fun and not a "have to". But, I'm also learning that the more I post the more fun it is..... Hmmmmm.
One of my goals for balance in my life has been to go for a morning walk. To get outside in the fresh air, see nature, and of course exercise. My favorite place to walk is a large park that has a 1.5 mile walking trail, a gorgeous pond, a large p-patch, and acres of trees and grass. It changes everday - there is always something fun to watch. The other morning was sunny and warm, the red-winged black birds were amazingly busy and loud and so much fun to watch.
Every time this bird chirpped his wings would flare.