Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Gardening (Page 1 of 5)

Spring is here!

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Although the weather is still unpredictable (there is a blizzard outside right now), Spring has certainly arrived. Almost overnight, all the buds on the “Mount Baker” lilac turned green.

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The most exciting news is that everything we planted last year survived their first winter. Most of the trees and perennials we put into the ground were baby plants. With record snow fall and cold snaps this winter, I was worried about how many of them would make it. But after a careful check under the mulch, I found almost everything we planted last year has started to come back to life.

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The garlic

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The fruit trees

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Even the newly planted hazelnut trees started leafing out:

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Besides the hazelnut trees, we decided to add a berry garden in the backyard this Spring. To begin with, we ordered five blackberry canes and fifteen raspberry canes.

The blackberry canes

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The raspberry canes

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The new berry garden is located between the flower garden and the house. We have covered the field since last fall with black plastic to get rid of the grass. When the elm trees were removed a few weeks ago, we got yards of wood chips and used them to mulch the berry garden area.

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According to the planting guide, the canes need to be spaced a few feet apart. I used bricks to mark the location of the canes before digging.

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After getting the raspberry canes into the ground, I used flags to mark the canes so the dogs hopefully will not bother them.

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The blackberry canes were planted between the northern fence and the hazelnut trees.

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I also plan to add a garden path around the berry garden and the perennial garden. I laid out the shape of the path with garden hoses, and expanded the perennial garden bed to include the maple tree.

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The new shape of the garden bed works with the garden path much better. I filled the new garden bed with leftover wood chip mulch:

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The leftover concrete blocks make a perfect circle around the serviceberry bush:

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The nut trees and the berry canes added another 1000 sqft of edible garden space to our backyard, in addition to the 600 sqft of veggie garden. With good care, the berry garden should start producing next year, and the hazelnut trees should start producing after three years. I cannot help but wondering what our yard will look like in 5 years, with mature perennials, climbing roses, and fully-grown fruit and nut trees. What about your yard? Did everything wake up? What are you planting this Spring?

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What is Coming to Our Garden in 2019

We have been having dusting of snow and gray days since New Year. I cannot help but craving color, sunshine, and warmer temperatures so I can work in my garden again.

Fortunately planning for next year’s garden can take place inside. New to gardening, it is easy to just pile plants into the landscape. I thought long and hard about how I want the backyard to look eventually, and what I want to get out of the garden besides the view.

To be honest, I started gardening for the edibles. The first things we planted on our property were fruit trees, and our second project was a vegetable garden. Enjoying fresh produce during the summer months I was impressed by how juicy and tasty every was. Right off the vine, our vegetables were cooked with only a dash of salt and still tasted great. We have already decided to expand the vegetable garden next summer. But for long-term, we would like to add more edible and perennial shrubs and trees to our yard.

After discussing with Slav I decided to focus on berry bushes and nut trees for 2019. And here are what’re coming to our garden next Spring:

Raspberry collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry is an easy choice for us. We love fresh berries. During warmer months I drink berry smoothie daily, and in winter we make berry pancakes a lot. Berries are expensive and perishable which make them the best candidate for organic home growing. I chose to get a rainbow of raspberries of gold, red and purple fruit, that matures at different time of the summer, so we can enjoy fresh raspberries from summer to fall. The collection I ordered includes 15 plants, 5 each of Prelude—an early red; Anne—a sweet and golden everbearing; and Royalty— a summer bearing type that can be enjoyed at the red or later, purple stage.

Blackberry

In addition to raspberries I also ordered a type pf blackberry called Prime-Ark Freedom. It is thornless and produces blackberries on its first year of growth. It also offers high disease resistance to rust and strong cold-hardiness, which are perfect for our climate. I ordered 5 blackberry bushes, which will be planted with the raspberries in our backyard and protected from birds and squirrels.

Seascape Strawberry Plants

Seascape Strawberry Plants

We planted 6 strawberries in 2018 in our veggie garden, without knowing anything about the growth habit of strawberries. I did not even know that they are perennials in our climate! It was a nice surprise when I saw them spreading vigorously like mints. By the end of the growing season the 6 strawberry plants multiplied into 20 plants and occupied 4 x 8 sqft space. I decided to add another 25 in the next Spring so we can have enough fresh strawberries for summer.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Gardening is my task in this house, but I make sure to include Slav’s favorite into the garden as well. So far he seems to be interested in plants/trees growing in his childhood home, including hazelnuts. Hazelnut needs cross pollination so you need at least two varieties to produce, especially since there is no other hazelnut trees in our neighborhood. I ordered two bare root dwarf hazelnuts trees and they will be added to our backyard.

Hellebore

The last category of plants I ordered was hellebore, namely Christmas rose. I did not know about them until a few years ago, when I got a cutting from a friend. I planted the cutting in the most unfriendly soil and shade spot under a big pine tree, but the cutting multiplied and gave out the most beautiful flower at the most unexpected time – early January. Being in Zone 5 I am dying to add some winter color and interest, and Hellebore makes the perfect candidate.  Another rare trait of hellebore is that it grows in full shade, which allows me to plant it in more protected area such as under our crabapple tree.

I prefer white, pink, purple to red flowers, so here are the ones I ordered:

Picotee Pearl

Plant-Picotee Pearl Hellebore

Fire & Ice

Plant-Fire & Ice Hellebore

Blue Diamond

Plant-Blue Diamond Hellebore

Phoenix

Hellebore, Phoenix , , large

Painted Doubles

Hellebore, Painted Doubles, , large

Wedding Party Confetti Cake

Hellebore, Wedding Party Confetti Cake , , large

Wedding Party Bridesmaid

Hellebore, Wedding Party Bridesmaid , , large

Wedding Party Dark and Handsome

Hellebore, Wedding Party Dark and Handsome, , large

Aren’t they pretty? To stay within budget I ordered only one for each variety. Hopefully they all survive the curiosity of the dogs and bloom next Christmas.

Among two nut trees, twenty berry bushes, eight winter blooming flowers, and a regular veggie garden, I think I have plenty of work cut out for myself in the new year. Expanding the edible garden and having a steady streams of cut flowers is my garden goal for 2019. Are you thinking about gardening already? What is your gardening goal for 2019?

The Birds and the Bees

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Happy summer everyone! And for those of you who live in the States, happy the 4th of July!

Being in the middle of the week, this July 4th was moderately celebrated. It was breezy and overcast, so I spent most of the day in the garden tidying up. Our salad greens have bolted and were all harvested. Bindweed has found its way into our potato patch – bad! But do not worry, I am on top of it.

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Look! we’ve got beans! It is so satisfying to watch everything grow, and trust me, they grow fast. All the hard work of planting and setting up drip irrigation in Spring really paid off – we have been enjoying a steady stream of fresh greens and cut flowers with virtually no maintenance. 🙂 Just today, I noticed that our potato plants started flowering! It is a good sign that the plants are strong and healthy. It also means that Slav is finally getting his young potatoes.

Potato flowers:

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Our tomato, cucumber, and beans have been flowering for a few weeks and start bearing fruit. It is a lot later comparing to the harvests we had in North Carolina, but given that we had freezing nights in May, these plants are doing their best.

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Our most anticipated harvest is the strawberries. They are doing so well despite of the intense heat and they spread like weeds. I am happy to find that strawberries are perennials in my area – so next year we will plant a whole bed and just let them spread. I am watching these babies like a hawk and try to pick them before birds get them.

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Speaking of birds, Slav and I recently set up several birdhouses and feeders around our yard. Slav is big on bird watching and had feeders outside his bedroom window growing up. So we were very excited to see birds showing up in Spring, including this beautiful American Robin.

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Robins love earthworms and caterpillars, which we have plenty of. To encourage it to stay, Slav installed a birdhouse that Robins known to love on our Southern gable.

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We are not 100% certain about the location, but this is the southeast corner of our house and it is well protected from the harsh northwest wind and winter snow. There is a big Ash tree over this portion of the roof, so it does not get too hot either. I would like it if I were a bird.

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As you can see, the birdhouse is fairly open. Apparently Robins likes to nest on shelves, opposed to in closed spaces.

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In addition to the American Robin, we also see some black-capped Chickadee flying around the pine tree just outside of our living room window. These handsome little ones sing long and complex songs and we just love how perky and agile they are.

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To keep them happy, we put a bird feeder on our living room window, just under the pine tree:

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We were initially worried that they would not visit because the feeder is too close to the house. But guess what? This morning we spotted a chickadee eating out of it, while Roxie and I were in the living room!

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This brave bird quickly got used to the movement inside and just keeps coming. I see it every morning now.

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We also spotted a pair of Mourning Doves in this pine tree. They came a lot in late April, but have since disappeared. Some research tells us that April to early May is the time that male doves show females potential nesting sites, and females will pick one and build the nest. Isn’t that interesting? Just like real estate shopping! I guess our pine tree did not make the cut.

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To make our tree more attractive for next Spring (or procrastinating Doves this year), Slav made a big platform/shallow basket with chicken wires and secured it between the branches in the pine tree. That is apparently all these Doves need for starting nests.

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Chickadees, Robin, and Doves are what we have seen. But what I really want to attract to my garden is Wren. We have zillions of earwigs, which nibble the tender leaves on my plants. They love our wood chip mulch and are proliferating like crazy underneath. Wrens are the biggest earwig eaters and I want them as bad as Denver wants Amazon. We picked the prettiest wren house and Slav mounted it on the crab apple tree, again, shield from the northwest wind and strong afternoon sun:

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I stuffed some cotton balls to the side for birds to nest with. Hopefully we get some Wrens here soon!

To make the backyard more attractive to birds in general, we decided to set up a big bird feeder and a birdbath in our perennial garden.

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This location gets good sun all day and is far from all buildings and other trees in our yard. I’ve learned that being in the middle of an open field helps to reduce predators. Roxie and Charlie are good at chasing squirrels away so we do not need to worry about squirrels getting to bird houses or feeders. Finally! These dogs are useful for something besides cleaning mixing bowls.

Don’t you love the blue bird bath? It was a freebie from a neighbor last winter, and all we did to make it functional was to plug a small leak. It holds decent amount of water which we refresh every evening. Slav put a big rock in the middle for little birds to drink safely. Isn’t he the best?

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We have a good gathering every morning and this one particular visits often:

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The last thing we added to our garden is a bee hotel for leaf-cutter bees. Leaf-cutter bee is one of the native pollinators in Colorado.

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If you have not heard leaf-cutter bees, check them out. They are incredible pollinators and work much more effectively than honey bees. Unlike honey bees, they are solitary bees and do not make honey. They are also very gentle and hardly sting. These bees lay eggs in Autumn, which hatch in early summer. They mostly pollinate summer flowers, whereas Mason bees are the native Spring pollinators in our area (which we will be setting up nests for next Spring).

I first heard about the benefit of native bees from Garden Answer, a channel I follow on Youtube. The host of this channel also gardens in Zone 5b and in a dry climate, so I’ve learned a lot about plants suitable for my garden from her videos. Last year she did a great video on setting up native bee hotels. The process of setting up native bee hotel is 100 times easier than setting up honey bee hives, and virtually maintenance-free. Since we are not interested in making our own honey, native bee hotel sounds like a perfect idea to attract pollinators.

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As you can see, our first bee hotel is really simple. We just got a handful of reed tubes whose diameters are suitable for leaf cutter bees, and dropped them into a light color PVC tube.

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Slav pushed some tree bark in there to make sure that the reed tubing are secure, then hung the whole thing under the shed roof. This spot is sunny but has afternoon shade, and the roof keeps it protected.

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I found this clip of leaf-cutter bee cutting an Ash leaf. How amazing! It happens that the two trees next to the shed are both Ash. I am so looking forward to having these bees nesting in our yard.

Just like this, we are thoroughly enjoying the summer of Colorado. We are blessed with blue sky, beautiful sunsets, and cool evening breeze. Hopefully the feeders, houses, and the birdbath make the birds and the bees happy too. We have seen many birds visiting our feeder, but none of them have nested here yet. I will keep you posted!

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