‘Winterwunder’ and ‘Arctic King’ sowed indoors January 8

I probably sowed these seeds way earlier than I needed to, because look, they’re two months old and still babies.  Whatever.  They’re fully hardened off – they’ve been outside in their flat along with various alliums and I only brought them in one or two nights when it dipped well below freezing.  Basically, I’ve been dragging my feet on preparing this bed for them.  I needed to rake off all the wood chip mulch that was here, then level the soil a bit and actually add some soil to bring the level up above the rest of the wood chips surrounding it, and I didn’t want to do any of that while the soil was super heavy sticky wet.  So after a couple dry days, I finally did it.

Here’s the bed.  It used to have a 2×6 wood edge around it like all my vegetable beds, and (it took me forever) I finally decided to remove the wood and allow this bed to become a more natural shape which will feel a lot better in the front yard.  This is actually the sunniest bed of all, but it’s also the most visible, and since it’s part of the front yard I like to grow things that look pretty here, like brassicas and eggplants and alliums.

I stood on a car for this

Eventually I’ll move some of those rocks around and shoot for something more kidney-shaped.

One thing that’s good about having a couple of vegetable beds out front is that the ducks don’t come to the front yard unless I’m with them.  So I can safely plant seedlings and not have to fence them off to prevent them getting trampled or eaten.

Oh you’re wondering about all those gallon nursery pots? Hostas, every single one of them.  This is the ridiculous horde of hostas I got at Fred Meyer last summer because they were $2 each and I apparently had $50 burning a hole in my pocket.  These will all go over to Wichita Ave, because she loves hostas, and the north side of her house just begs for a whole bed of them.  Okay I might keep one ‘Sum & Substance’ just because it’s insane and chartreuse.

Other fun tasks for the day included cutting last year’s (mostly) dead stems of Gaura and no I’m not calling it Oenothera yet.

I leave them in place as long as I can stand it because I love this

Grassing.  There is no “weeding” in my front garden.  The only “weed” is grass.  So I grassed.

Bye grass. That’s Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’ and and artichoke which I just adore

The moles, the moles are here.  Hi moles!

I found about 15 of these

But you know what? I’ve decided I’m going to work with the moles, not against them.  I’ve managed to convince myself that they’re the primary reason the lavenders are so happy in this area which has very dense, hard, clay soil.  Moles as soil aerators and creators of better drainage. Sure, why not?

I also took some of that mass of Angelina sedum and threw them around a bit.

sorry bout that thumb

And lastly my neighbor’s Kanzan cherry is about to burst open.  I love this bud phase!


That’s it for today. Stay tuned for some REALLY fun stuff upcoming at Wichita Ave!!

Grafting Tomatoes: update

Did you think this would go super-perfect? HA! Did I? Actually, admittedly, I did.

Turns out, other plans were in store!

Ok here’s the best pic I can come up with:

this looks better than it is

So the success rate on the grafts is exactly 50%.  LAME.

What happened, you ask? I’ll tell you.  The rootstocks failed in that they experienced damping off.  I am nearly certain this was due to me leaving the dome cover on for too long.  Really high humidity and also high temps = they mushed.  The fact that the rootstock stem diameter was generally around 75-80% of the scion stem diameter didn’t help; they had to hold all that up and I didn’t give them stakes initially.

But, whatever, this is why I started and grafted more than I really need.

I started this post on March 8, so two days ago.  It’s now the 10th and things are actually looking even better.

there are 9 successfully grafted plants here

Some of the graft attempts failed completely in that the rootstock rotted and the scion also died. But with some of them, the scions made adventitious roots more or less at the graft point, so where those rootstocks died, I took the scions back off and stuck them in the medium; they’ll re-grow more roots and make it just fine.  These plants are quite flexible.

successful grafts!


In the above photo you can see three successful grafts, and the one shorter plant over on the right in back? That’s a scion whose rootstock died, but it made roots anyway and now it’s going fine after being re-inserted into the cell.

So here they are: 9 successful grafts, and another handful of scions that lost their rootstocks.  They all look pretty good at this point I think.  The tall ones here are the successful grafts and the shorties are the scions I re-stuck.  I realize it’s hard to tell who is tall and who is short; you have to just trust me on this.

In other news, I went ahead and up-potted the remaining tomatoes that are own-root non-graft virgins; a total of 8 plants and one of them is a rootstock which I’ll grow out because science (it’s actually the smallest one in lower right):


And, the peppers!! OMG.


I will have to up-pot those really soon.  They’re all Capsicum annuum cultivars, so I can be pretty loose with them compared to C. chinensis.  They can take more cold, in other words.  On the far left there is a row of eggplants too.

Speaking of Capsicum chinensis, Justin brought me some seeds for super-hots again this year.  I will graft some of these to a set of tomato rootstock seeds I just sowed about 4 days ago (they’re not up yet).  Timing seems key, to ensure that the stem thickness is matched — I hope I’ll be able to nail this; there isn’t much wiggle room with these C. chinensis dudes, since I didn’t get the seeds until February 23.  But hey! We’re earlier than last year.  Here they are:

Super hot peppers: Carolina Reapers, Chocolate Bhutlah, and a Trinidad Douglah x Trinidad Scorpion hybrid.  Very quick germination this year as opposed to last. Not sure why.

I expect eventual 100% germination on these, or close to it.  I’m crossing my fingers that the rootstock seeds I sowed will catch up and when the matching diameter is achieved, I’ll graft at least two plants.

Today, March 10, I also sowed:

  • More lettuce (romaine, 2 varieties)
  • Sweet peas (first time ever growing these!)
  • eating peas
  • celery

And with 70-degree weather coming up tomorrow and the next day I am DYING to do some actual outdoor gardening, as I suspect we all are here in the northern hemisphere! I’m going to set some lettuce and onion/leek/shallot starts out into the front yard.

An afternoon on Wichita Avenue

One of my very best friends lives about a mile from me on Wichita Ave.  Her property is large, about 1/3 acre, and it’s more than she can manage so I help her…  I better do some sort of introduction.  I wish it was June when everything looks amazing but, well, now is now.  I’ll show you around and try to explain some of our goals at the same time.

Generally when I first arrive, this is the view.  This photo was from January; the Camellia is blooming in hamburger shades now and there’s an army of Hemerocallis coming up in the left foreground. We’re facing due east here.

the path to the back goes under a leaning Camellia japonica. Note bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica?) just beyond on the right.

Now I’ve walked about halfway back, and turned an about-face.  Looking west now.

looking back exactly the other way, see the bamboo on the left now? Ok, you have your bearings.

The orange house was built in 1900 and I figure those firs are that old as well.  I love them.  Here’s a view all the way to the back of the property from the back door of the orange house.  Just to the right of the path you can make out a trellis.  What’s on that trellis is a single very large and rather overgrown Concord grape.  We’ll be dealing with that in a bit.   The other structures back there are basically storage and/or art studio spaces.  Looking east again:

Between two firs

Did you get my joke? You better get my joke. If not I forgive you, but you live under a bigger rock than I do.

Ok, moving on.  Just past that grape trellis/arbor thing there are some edged garden beds which have been used at times for vegetables, but we’re working toward all flowers now and maybe like 3 tomatoes.  Sort of a cutting garden where no one ever really cuts the flowers.  Now we’re looking SSE.

Grape arbor is on the far right in this pic. Many possibilities here.  Or lots of work, depending on how you look at it.  I figure both.

Another view from the other side, looking ENE:


Now let’s go back up front. Here’s the view back along the north side of the house from the mailboxes at the road.  Behind the mailbox you can make out some roses on the left.  Among the bright green moss are peonies.  That very large rhody to the right just got up-pruned (by me) the day I took this pic which was I think January 17.  It was previously all foliage down to the ground.

big rhody on right

Further back, here’s another rhody that looks like it’s getting some inspiration from driftwood.  All of its foliage is actually off to the left; the rhody foliage you see to the right is yet another plant.  We’re working on removing all of this ivy and the weedy plum, hawthorn, and hazelnut tree volunteers along the fence behind these rhododendrons.  Sorry ’bout the hose…


So that’s about it I think.

What I really want to see for this property are the following:

  1. I want my friend to have less work to do.  I want her to be able to enjoy her spaces without feeling bogged down by overgrown plants and dying plants and plants that need water.  This is priority #1.
  2. Privacy.  The cyclone fences that surround the place aren’t much to look at, and I’d love to see mixed hedges where something is always interesting, be it flowers, foliage, bark, what-have-you.  A sense of enclosure and of privacy would do wonders for this place.
  3. Removal of crappy plants.  Those plum tree groves have got to go.  As with the ivy.  And the horrible clump-forming grass that dares to trip you all the time.
  4. Inclusion of plants my friend loves.  Bright flowers, interesting textures, the muscular bark of manzanitas… she “gets” plants and loves them all, but I know her favorites.  If I had to summarize, I’d say that if a hummingbird would love it, she’d love it.

Those are the primary goals.  I figure this is a multi-year project, and now you know the starting point.

This afternoon we spent a few hours and pruned four rose bushes, one of which is a very large and old (20 years) hybrid tea that I moved here a year ago from my own backyard (it was in an undesirable location).  I also pruned (lightly) a Hydrangea quercifolia, and the aforementioned grapes.  Rose and hydrangea pruning isn’t much to look at so I only have pictures of the grape before-and-after.

This is a single Concord vine, which hasn’t been pruned at all in at least five years.  Do I even have any idea what I’m doing? No. So ok, let’s go by intuition, because why not? Nothing to lose.


Concord grape, pre-prune.  Gahh look at all that “hair”


Concord grape, post-prune.  I didn’t actually use the ladder at all.

I think it went well! Impossible to photograph but you can get a sense of the volume of grapeness that has been removed.  As I was going along I considered making grapevine wreaths, and at one point decided not to do it, saying to myself “ain’t got time for that shit!” But then I thought of a certain friend of mine who I am sure would have my head if I didn’t twist some of these excellent grapevines into circles.  In honor of that friend (if you’re reading this you know exactly who you are):

grapevine wreaths!

There you go! Now you’ve seen Wichita Ave: The very beginnings.  Stay tuned — I swear this will be breathtaking in, say, 4 years. 😉