Sunday, June 21, 2015

Garden Project - Creating a path with wood chips


The project today is to keep adding to the bark pathway in my vegetable garden using colored bark that you can usually get on sale during a major holiday. I got mine at Lowe's over Memorial Day weekend when they were selling 5 bags for $10. That is a crazy good price so I bought 10 bags. I haven't had much time to work on this since then so I was happy when I finally did get time. The thing with any project is that the work to put down the bark is minimal, what takes time is the preparation. In this case, I had a badly sloped area that lead down to the main trees. I had just part of a step built so I needed to first finish that chore. Last weekend I left with it looking like this;
Step in progress
I like to use as much recycled or left-over stuff that I can, so this step is kind of awkward in that it is short one large block. These blocks were left-over after building the retaining wall so that is all I have left. I used a smaller brick to the right of the tip large one and filled it in with dirt. Still the slope was pretty bad, so now I started filling in with the natural building material that I have in abundance here, rocks! Building with rocks is like a puzzle, you have to have all sizes and shapes and then start fitting them into the outline so that they lock together.
The board shows where I want the dirt level to be when I am finished

You can see some of the rocks being filled in

Pretty much done! See how they lock together?

Done and now I can level the dirt behind that board
 The thing with the rock step is that you have to be able to walk on it, I know that sounds like an obvious thing, but if I had just started piling up rocks, one step and they would all slide out. So this is about form and function and it can take a long time to get them right. This took me several hours to get to the point where I could start leveling behind the board.
What is the point of leveling and building this step? Pretty easy to explain.. if I had just gone ahead and put the landscape fabric down and then poured on the wood chips, the first rain that came would wash them down the hill. You need a small slope for drainage but that was too big of a difference so I had to fix it.
Next I went around and brought in wheelbarrows of dirt to start the leveling.. another abundant material I have is dirt! Once again it is free except for the labor!
Dirt coming in!

Keep adding it and raking it bring it up

The rest of the area leading to the step - everything is level with a slight slope for drainage

All pretty much smoothed out
Here is the "easy" part... laying out the landscape fabric and then putting the bark on the fabric. Some people use landscape pins to hold the fabric but I don't see the point in that.. I use temporary things like rocks or tools to hold it down while I position it. You will need to have scissors to cut it and make sure you put the right side down.
I start with the section that runs straight down the middle and move off of that for the next piece.

Notice the tools holding down
3 sections are down and cut to fit over any faucets or poles in the dirt
I overlap the fabric which is wasteful I admit. But this stuff is hard to cut especially with this large of an area and really, it is cheap to buy. Plus, overlapping doesn't hurt because it will have more protection to keep weed seeds under the cloth from sprouting.

Bring in the bags of mulch!
 Start spreading from the far side corner and work your way across.. I use a rock rake to move the bark but you have to be careful. I have gotten a little too excited about almost being done and tore the fabric with the rake tines.
One row done
How deep you put the mulch will obviously, determine how far the material will go. I have a about a 6 foot wide area by about 20 feet long. I used all 10 bags for that area because I wanted the mulch to be pretty deep.

Look how pretty all the rocks look when they are cleaned off - notice the bark is level with the board now.
Now I have a path that goes around what will be the main garden bed, if we ever get rain. The next part will be to extend it to the steps that lead into the yard area. This took me about 8 hours of work.. with the bulk of it spent on building the steps. If you don't have to do that, you need to spend time on leveling and cleaning the dirt. It shouldn't be more than a couple of hours if you don't have a bad slope.
Here is the view from my deck looking down on the yard.. oh and see that small, dark area to the right? Yep.. a gopher moved in overnight and is digging a burrow. Dang it!
Pathway around my garden bed, propane tank and asparagus bed.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Kajari Melon & White Scallop Squash - Rare and Heirloom Plants


This year I came across a seed catalog from a company called Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and I even paid $8 to buy it. (

 I know we are in a drought but as a gardening fanatic, it is really hard to resist trying new things so I bought the seeds for 2 plants. (Plus I am an optimist!) I bought seed packets for the Kajari melon and white scallop squash. The melon is rare and the seeds have just been imported from India. The catalog has the story of the years spent trying to find it. While the squash is an American native plant, with records showing it was grown since the 1500's.
Pretty melon!
So I planted the seeds and only 1 of each sprouted.. which led me to make a drastic decision. I knew that I couldn't water them up at the hill house, plus the animals will be after them and they won't stand a chance. I decided to give them to my parents to grow in their yard so that at least I have a shot at getting something from these plants and saving the seeds until the drought is over. Here they are as babies -

Every couple of weeks my mom would go out and take pictures of the plants they have affectionately named Audrey I and Audrey II. These guys grew fast! Here are the plants as of last week, with the squash plant pumping out fruit like you can't believe!
That is 1 plant!

Squash flower

Squash fruit - it is a creamy white squash with a tint of green
And here is the melon now
That is 1 plant!

Baby Melon

Baby Melon
I took the squash home to eat and also some really big ones to get the seeds out of it.. what a mess that is but now I have seeds for next year! I have saved lots of seeds before but wasn't sure about the best way to get these out of the squash. What I ended up doing is cutting it in half but then I cut up a bunch of seeds... 
slicing off the top to get into the seeds

I cut it in half, which wasn't the best thing to do
Then I scooped out the seeds into a strainer.. I started using a spoon but quickly realized that my hands were better at this task because everything was so slippery..
Use your hands - it just works better!

Rinsing them in a strainer
 Then I put them in a plastic container and covered them with water to let them sit a couple of days.

Why I did this is to ferment off the slimy coating they had on them.. now they are out and drying. I have another large squash that I saved for seeds that I am going to let rot down a bit more to see if that helps at all. These seeds weren't very plump which tells me they may need to stay a bit longer in the fruit. It is all an experiment!
And finally, I harvested my garlic and it looks good!

Enough garlic for a year!