Asparagus Time

Asparagus time is very welcome in our garden. Unfortunately, this time is short when this heavenly vegetable graces our dinner table.  So sad it is coming to a close already.

As you can see, it is a veggie that produces welcome little stocks daily that push up from their root base. We love to go pick these with our little knife. There is no better tasting vegetable that a handful of asparagus stocks picked right from the garden before dinner. We are most certainly spoiled gardeners. By the way, did you know that one of our nations past president, Thomas Jefferson, loved asparagus too? He evidently loved gardening too.

The only problem with asparagus is that it takes a couple of years to get established. It takes a little preparation and patience. You can see the trenches we dug into the garden this year. We planted seed for more asparagus here and will slowly add more dirt into the trench as they grow in height. This encourages lots of root growth. The seeds are from our one established row of asparagus that we enjoy now. When these new ones do sprout and show themselves, they will look like whispy little things.
In a few years we should be able to share with other family members, can or pickle or simply sell at a farmers market. We believe that asparagus is well worth the work involved.

Mystery Blossoms

If a person were presented with this mystery photo, would they be able to guess what it is a picture of? It seems like quite a normal blooming plant doesn’t it?

This plant used to be quite prolific here in the Inland Northwest. However, the Washington state powers to be decided that it was a nuisance, and began spraying to eradicate it.

Fortunately this was not completely successful and these wild guys are becoming more common again. People are able to enjoy the great products made from these berries.

Have you figured out what plant blossom this is yet?

It is good to keep an eye out for these little treasures as you drive or walk around. Look for bushes anywhere from waist high to towering overhead. These mystery berries are well worth looking for.
Okay, these are choke cherries! The choke cherry is easy to find and pick if you look for them. They make excellent jams, syrups, and cobblers. Happy hunting!

Don’t Tell the Chiropractor

Back Aches

Lately, we have been visiting our chiropractor kind of frequently, and just can’t figure out why our backs hurt. Honestly, all we have been doing is a little gardening. Really.

What Have We Been Doing?

fence Gates 01
gate installation 01
fence Gates 02
gate installation 02

We have just finished gate installation, on the new fenceline around our garden. so now we can go in and out without untwisting tie wires. Fiurst, Pete built three gates out of old 2×4’s we had around, then I painted the wood. Next, he attached pieces of the old fence wire and, “Wa La!” Finishing with three gates ready to install. They are loaded up on the tractor and we go on down to the garden to install them.

When I asked Pete, “Would you like some help with that?”

His reply is, “Nah, I got this.”. Let’s see, is that what you would call a macho reply? It doesn’t seem really easy to me. But, for heavens sake do not tell the chiropractor about this.

fence Gates 03
gate installation 03
fence Gates 04
gate installation 04
fence Gates 05
gate installation 05

Each gate is kind of heavy and real awkward to pickup.

fence Gates 06
gate installation 06
fence Gates 07
gate installation 07
fence Gates 08
gate installation 08
fence Gates 12
drive in gate installed closeup

This 10 foot opening is the “drive-in gate” which has two pieces with each one being five feet wide and about eight feet tall. Next is the single walk-in fence further down the hill.

fence Gates 09
gate installation 09
fence Gates 13
walk-in gate installed

North Side of Garden Fence

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Now we concentrate on replacing the north side of the garden. You can tell how bad the old fence was by how many posts are bracing it up. This length of fence is approximately 100 feet long.

N fence leaned into garden
N fence leaned into garden

The first thing we had to do was go ahead and lean the fence into the garden. We are needing room to clear and level-out the ground where we are going to put the new fenceline. Incidently, it amounts to about 5 feet further out and is a much straighter line.

North fence graded
North fence graded

Thank goodness for the Kubota tractor, with the disc implement Pete is able to till the soil and then smooth it out even where we want to put the new posts.

grading north fenceline
grading north fenceline

This picture was taken from inside the garden looking at the big old apple tree.

new N fence
new N fence

Doesn’t the new fenceline look good and straight? Yay! That should keep Bambi out of our garden for quite a few years.

West Side of Garden Fence

West Fenceline (southern)
Southern side of the garden West fenceline

This is the beginning of the new west fence line which is 53 ft in length stretching out from the south side of the garage.

before of west side on the north
northern side of the west fenceline

Here is how the old fence and gate looked on the other side (northwestern) of the garage. We walked in here to pick blueberries or apples.

Old Northwest fence line removed
old fence is removed

We took down all the wire and pulled the old fenceposts/braces down, then smoothed out the ups and downs in the dirt along the fenceline. So, now we don’t have gaps between the ground and the wire at the bottom of the fence to deal with.

One Kubota tractor with a phenomenal operator can move mountains and valleys. I will never doubt the power of a man and his Tonka toy! Prior to the tractor, we left all the hills and valleys just were they were. Unfortunately, we used to have to put old logs at the base of the fences to keep turkeys out. They would come in every gap where the ground was uneven. Leveling the ground before building the fence, could be thought of as an act of forethought and planning. Wow, that is scary isn’t it? Are we getting smarter in our old age?

west fenceline posts installed
New West fence posts installed

This is the west corner going 50 ft. then turning a 45º angle for 40 feet to go around the apple tree. Covering approximately 70 feet before it makes the turn uphill into the northern side of the fence.

Mystery Fence Tool on South Side

Mystery Tool

Can you identify this mystery fence tool and what it is used for?

Fence Tool
Mystery fence tool.

I wonder what part this tool plays in the process of fence building?

Rolling-out 150 feet of wire fencing can be hard on your body. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s easy. First, my legs get tired from rolling out the wire. Then, biceps get a good workout from lifting it up so it is vertical with the posts. Honestly, how many times can you walk up and down a fenceline in a day before your legs wear out? I learned how to straighten the wire. It is required that you pull with all you got, then pull again. Following this, my hands, arms, shoulders, abs and legs are talking to me all night long.

Say hello to my little friend!

Wire Tensioner 01
Wire Tensioner on top wire south fenceline

The Fence Tensioner

I think I am in love. It is an old tool from Pete’s secret stash in the garage. A basic block and tackle assembly with a cogged clamp on one end that grabs the wire, and a dual hook chain on the other side. Pete showed me how to slip the chain around one fencepost, then hook the clamp end to the top wire of the wire and pull the rope. Yahoo! Nail the top in, then repeat for the bottom. This tensioner takes a wobbly crooked fence to a straight line. Sweeeeet!

South Fence
First posts in garden south side fence.
South Garden Fence
Posts for half of the south fence

Now all that is left is to staple the wire three times per post. The south side of the garden is about 150 feet long, with 15 fenceposts.

Loose Wire
Wire loose on fenceline

You can see how the wire is drooping down on the top row of wire before we used the wire tensioner.

Potassium or Potash Soil Testing

soil potassium test supplies
potassium test supplies

A garden’s need for potassium is not so simple to describe. It seems that clay soils “fix” or hold onto potassium, whereas, sandy soils tend to experience severe leaching of their potassium levels. So, the type of soil you have greatly affects the levels you may have. It is important for all kinds of reasons including larger fruit, strong stalks, disease resistance, less wilting and much more.

The potassium soil test is a little more complicated to run. It starts the same with some measured extracting solution in the test tube. Shaken not stirred, then soil settled. Use of an eyedropper to put liquid into a second test tube for the “before” color on the card. Next we count how many drops it takes of the other solution to match the “after” color on the chart. It says to add two drops at a time, then shake and see if it matches but we actually started with eight because our

Out of 10 areas of soil tested all had over 10 drops to even come close to match. For instance, 12 drops equals a “medium-high level” of potassium and we had two of those. 14 drops equals a “medium level” which we had 4 of. A couple 15 drop guys, which are “medium-low” potassium levels and a couple 188 drop results showing “low”.

soil potassium test 02
potassium test 02
soil potassium test 03
potassium soil test 03
soil potassium test 04
soil test potassium 04
potassium test result 05
potassium test result 05

Phosphorus Soil Test

Phosphorous test supplies
Phosphorous test supplies

Phosphorus encourages root development increasing crop yield and resistance to disease. It is important stuff.

Phosphorous soil test 02
Phosphorous soil test 02

This test begins the same as the others with a solution put in the test tube to mix a little of the soil in and shake. Then, after the soil is settled, the liquid is drawn up by eyedropper and put into another clean test tube.

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A different chemical tablet is added and then, the test tube is shaken till the tablet dissolves, making a blue color appear.

Phosphorous soil test 06
Phosphorous soil test 06
Phosphorous soil test 07
Phosphorous soil test 07

We compare the resulting blue liquid to a chart to see what the result is. Results can be anywhere from trace to high levels of Phosphorus.

Phosphorous soil test 08
Phosphorous soil test 08

Nitrogen Test of Soil

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Photosynthesis

The nitrogen soil test reveals information about a most vital link in the world’s food supply. Nitrogen is an integral part of the photosynthesis process. It’s presence in proper levels promotes healthy green “above-ground” growth in plants. Testing for nitrogen helps to determine how much decomposed organic matter, or fertilizers need to be added.

Nitrogen is an element that needs to be replenished in our gardens as it is depleted when we harvest, or rain leaches levels down and when some of it is simply returned to the atmosphere.

soil nitrogen level test trace
soil nitrogen level test trace
soil nitrogen level test zero
soil nitrogen level test zero

Our test results on all ten soil samples showed trace or zero levels of nitrogen in our soil. Consequently, we had to lookup how much nitrogen is needed to be added to the garden for the different crops we have selected. We are glad that LaMotte test kits have little booklets on how to figure all of this stuff out.

pH test of soil samples

pH Level Test Supplies

soil pH test supplies
pH test supplies

Testing for the pH levels shows if the soil is more acid (sour) or alkaline (sweet). Testing involves measuring an amount of test solution into the test tube, then adding soil and shaking. Allow sediment to settle before comparing color to chart.

The correct pH level is the most essential building block for having good crop production. Where the soil is on the pH scale, greatly affects how the microbiology activity (fertilizers) can function. Therefore, we must initially have the pH level right before any thought of other nutrients is even beneficial.

soil pH level 6.0
pH level 6.0

This is the lowest neutral pH range test we had in this testing series at 6.0

soil pH level 7.0
pH level 7.0

This is one of the highest neutral pH ranges in our test batch. All ten test areas fell into the neutral pH range in our garden. It is probably because over the years, we have composted and put lime down as needed.

A pH test measures the acid and alkaline levels and then assigns a corresponding number somewhere between 3.0 to 11.0 as the results.

Neutral pH or Slightly Acidic pH

There are two basic plant groups. One prefers a “neutral range” of pH levels anywhere between 6.0 to 8.0. The other group prefers a “slightly acid soil” in the range between 5.0-6.0.

If soil test results reveal numbers out of these two acceptable ranges, then application of either limestone or alum will be needed to correct it. Remember, to get the pH range right before adding any fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus, potash).