March 18 2024

...What a difference a day makes

And a year worth of days... a trip around the sun... and nothing is the same. We have moved to Corvallis, leaving 2 acres in the Puyallup river valley for 0.3 acres in the Willamette river valley. It's an entire zone south and the difference in blooming times is remarkable. Here we have willows and poplars coming into early leaf, forsythias have been cheerfully brightening borders and hedges for over 2 weeks, flowering plums and early cherries are on riotous display, and just this weekend the magnolias have burst their way to top performing spot on the charts!

We were in Vancouver (BC) and Puyallup this weekend - still chilly winds and only a few stray daffodils on brave display.

I've delayed tomato planting another 2 weeks - and just sowed first batch of orders  this evening. Aiming to deliver to tomato loving customers Memorial day weekend - with robust plants, ready to establish in gardens and flower in early June. Fingers crossed the warmer weather here doesn't push them too fast towards maturity and flower set before delivery.

Sept 3, 2023

...A time of plenty is a time for sharing

The warmth of the sun remains well into September, ripening fruit and drying seed pods. This is the season for preserving - plants preserve their genetic material in seeds and implement strategies to allow viability through till spring. We preserve the nutritious bounty of the harvest to feed us through the winter. And collect seeds for sowing when the winter rains have rejuvenated the soil. 

Seed collecting, preparation and storage are ancient practices used since humans first became agrarians. We have selected and bred plants to please all our senses - taste (and nutrition), sight, smell, and even sound. and to do so in almost any growing environment - hot, cold, dry, wet, bright, shady and so on. This produced, over millennia, a massive diversity of plant forms with built in resilience and adaptability. 

As our modern culture has focussed on monoculture and uniformity, this diversity and resilience have been lost. Less than 1% of all plants known are currently cultivated in mainstream agriculture. This puts our food chain at risk of colossal failure when new forms of disease or environmental pressure arrive - as they inevitably do. There are numerous examples throughout history - almost always leading to human suffering, mass migrations, and violent conflicts. 

The simple solution is to grow a diverse selection of plants on a local scale, preserving and growing successive generations to naturally select for features and adaptations to local changes in climate, pest resistance, and soil characteristics. Trading seeds with neighboring and distant communities, trying out new varieties and cross breeding can add further genetic diversity and adaptations. 

There are several seed companies and organizations leading this essential work - producing high quality seed adapted to local conditions and challenges. Relying on "big box" seed suppliers will get you mass produced seed that is likely not well adapted to your local setting - particularly in the PNW where growing conditions are markedly different from the rest of the continent. Buy seed grown and trialed in your region - and learn the simple skills of seed preservation to use the adaptive ability of your own crops to select for characteristics uniquely and best suited to your microenvironment. 

Below are pictures of tomato seed harvesting and preservation on our property in Washington - Sept 2023. These tomatoes were grown from seed preserved from the 2022 crop. And the seed from 2023 will be used to grow the 2024 plants. 

Selecting best tomatoes off the vine

Best color, vigor, taste and production.

Gathering tomatoes for seed extraction

Labeled paper bag per variety collected at peak ripeness

Fermenting seeds to prepare for drying

Soaking removes gelatinous seed coat and separates viable seed 

March 25 2023

...No one loves a Christmas tree

On March the twenty-fifth

Shel Silverstein was right ... March 25th is definitely not December 25th. But if he had been writing about the garden, it would have been a poem of delight. The sun is finally filling the late afternoons with some warmth, and nights no longer require heat in the greenhouse for the not-so hardy. There's still a chilly wind at times but the flowering plums are on full show. Punching out their shocking pink against the grey browns of northwest winter slumber. 

We took the dogs for our usual Saturday wander in nearby wild spaces. Salix hookeriana catkins filled the low spaces, and close inspection at ground level found burgeoning sprouts of Lupinus perennis, Daucus carotus, and lichen galore. The boys had a lengthy pond swim, only briefly disturbing the ducking about of various mallard and northern shoveler couples. 

Back inside, tomato and pepper seedlings are ready for potting up. To me, the scent of tomato plantlings is spring is an even match for cedar bows in December!