Garden update June ’12

You know how when you first start out gardening, it seems like EVERYONE knows more than you do and seems to enjoy effortless, months-long harvests of magazine-worthy produce while you dutifully water and weed your scraggly plants only to end up with one misshapen, partially ripened tomato by early September? No? Was that just me? In any case, it’s been three years since we bought our house and started gardening in earnest, and I’m still learning. My refusal to buy pricey starts and sets and grow everything from seed probably doesn’t help, but each year our yield is slowly improving, and the variety of plants we have success with is slowly expanding. Take a look at what is and isn’t working for my brown thumb so far this year.


This is our strawberry patch (and compost), which grew from two little starts I got from a friend in 2009. It needs intensive weeding, but last year it yielded 3 pounds of strawberries, and looks to exceed that this year, so long as we’re able to get to them before the slugs do. (A few from today shown above.)

We started with just a few seed potatoes (red- and purple-fleshed), and they’re already starting to fill up the enormous box we set up for them. We had similar success with Yukon Golds last year, so my hopes are high.

Starting tomatoes in the greenhouse.
I’m a notorious too-early tomato planter, but this year I started seeds in the house, transferred them to the greenhouse in early April, and planted them in the ground at the very end of May. Now we’re about to get our first sungolds (we’ve also got pineapples and Cherokee purples), despite the fact it’s still raining with temperatures struggling to reach the mid-60s. I’ll count that as a win.

Rainbow carrots.
Another win for the greenhouse. Despite an early setback with slugs, they came back like gangbusters. (Yes, I know it’s this is a pathetic amount of carrots, but given that they’re 50 cents a pound at the store, they’re kind of in the why-bother category anyway. I just think it’s fun to pull them out and see what color you get.)

Rosemary, sage, thyme and mint. Here’s a tip, folks: DON’T EVER plant any of these things in a raised bed intended to be shared with other plants. As you can see, these guys have not only taken over the bed, but most of the surrounding area as well. (Struggling for a piece of the action in there somewhere are an overwintered Yukon Gold plant slowly being killed by flea beetles, two tomatoes, some onions, celery, and bolting daikon radish.)

Sort-of worked:

I kept the raspberry bush in the greenhouse this year for the first time, and while it leafed out and blossomed very early, it didn’t get very big or particularly fecund. I’ll probably plant it in a bigger container and keep it outside next year.

Assorted winter squash.
Some of the squash plants are in the greenhouse, some are in pots waiting to be transplanted, and some are in the ground. The ones in the ground are doing great. The others are not.

Peppers (bell, poblano, pasilla, cayenne, and jalapeño).
I have never, EVER been able to successfully grow peppers in Portland. This year I started them from seed in the greenhouse instead of indoors. Some are still in there and some are in the ground. My fingers are crossed, but my expectations are low.

Snow peas.
The chickens initially destroyed the peas when they were little shoots, so these two plants were the only ones that made it. They’re producing an awful lot, but again, there are only two of them. (In the foreground are some anemic-looking squash plants.)

Didn’t really work:

I’ve got three kinds of lettuce going outside—red oak-leaf, mesclun, and this regular green lettuce. I may as well be rolling out a welcome mat for the slugs with flashing neon signs and no cover charge. Lettuce might be an indoor Aerogarden-only crop in the future.

To be fair, this (the tall thing to the left) is one of three rhubarb plants in the yard, and one is doing very well, but this one bolted. As did the sorrel next to it. The oregano, however, seems to be having no problems. (The rest of the bed is mostly onions, plus some wax beans that are just starting to get going.)

Eaters of strawberries; destroyers of peas, beets and spinach.
OK, so the chickens are technically working, given that they’re laying eggs and all (at least, the larger two are; I still haven’t figured out the purpose of the smaller one’s existence, other than a court jester of sorts for both us and her roommates), but they’ve been so destructive, despite our elaborate attempts to keep them out of the edible portions of the yard, that they’re no longer allowed outside their run. This means they subsist mostly on $27-a-bag layer pellets, which they need every couple months. So yes, at this point it would be cheaper to buy eggs at the store. But we love them anyway.

13 responses to “Garden update June ’12

  1. Slugs will drown in flat beer. Put it in a shallow bit of tin foil set in a depression in the garden. Either that or dump salt on them.

    • I’ve tried the beer; unfortunately, it’s still raining so much that it sloshes out or dilutes before it can work its magic. I also never see the f*&ckers, so I can’t pick them off or otherwise kill them individually. Other things that have not worked: coffee grounds, hair around the base of the plants, iron phosphate pellets.

  2. Beautiful garden!! You are so not a beginner, judging from all of that. I crown you “expert.” Yes, herbs will take over. I “plug” herbs as companion plants around other producers that mutually like their company. Except mint of any kind. *hiss* Only in pots they go or they will take over!

    For slugs and snails, sprinkle one of these around the base of each plant — wood ash, hair (cut some from your dog, or save from a hair dresser), or diatomaceous earth (powdery plankton remains, used for pool filters, get at Wal-mart). Slugs have one, sticky foot. Crawling over any of those is like walking on glass. Ouch!! They’ll retreat and go munch somewhere else. Totally works. Swear. Just make sure they can’t easily crawl from one plant (touching leaves) to the other. ‘Cause they will. Slowly. Purposefully.

    Happy Gardening, little lady! And Happy Preggos, too. 🙂

    • Thank you so much!

      I’ve tried the hair, and not only did it not work, it had the unfortunate side effect of making the plants all look like they had pubes. Wood ash (the same as you get out of the fireplace?? Because we have a ton of it) and diatomaceous earth, however, I have not tried. We don’t have any Wal-Marts here in the People’s Republic of Portland, but there are enough local garden shops around that I’m sure one of them has it. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Your garden looks great! You are officially no longer a beginner! Try crushing some of those eggshells around the base of your plants to ward of the snails.

  4. even cheaper one of those bricks of yeast from costco (use the one you’re using now and buy a new one to use) mixed with a tiny bit sugar and water makes an incredible slug bait. just put a wad of it in a pan and let the rain water it down. I also put a wad of it in some 2 liters tipped on it’s side with some water- then they crawl in and drown. Those bricks of yeast are less than 2 bucks and I’m on my 3rd year using a half used old one.

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