January 18, 2015

January Projects

The greenhouse in the garage
It is January so I recently started most of our seedlings for spring. The little greenhouse I made last winter in my closet got moved into the garage during our recent major clearing out. Last year I just used the enclosed space of the closet plus the closet curtain to keep it warm since the house was relatively warm anyway but now that it's in the unheated garage I needed to enclose it. A quick search for a roll of plastic that I swear I saw last week lead me instead to the box of drop cloths (old sheets). They seem to be working well. Growing in those flats are all the Solanaceae (except for some pepper seeds I got in the mail late) and the early spring planted greens (more of what was planted in the fall). In a week or so I'll start flowers, herbs, warm(er) weather greens, and a few other things.
tomato seedlings under lights

We've spent some time this winter taking down trees. There are a lot of trees on our acre and we aren't people who usually chop everything down but, after a while, trees die. We prefer to leave them standing because it's fantastic habitat for all sorts of creatures (and insects that creatures eat), particularly birds, but when a dead (or dying) tree is near the house or my son's play area we have to take it down for safety. Fortunately, most of the trees we have had to fell are the exotic invasive tallows. There is one pecan tree with significant rot extremely close to the house that is coming down once we get the bees moved out of the base. All these trees mean lots logs and branches. Our branch pile for the birds is already enormous so we're going to grind everything from this round of urban forestry into mulch. Wood from the pecan is great for cooking with not to mention woodworking so we'll save those but the tallows are not good for much of anything. They break down very very quickly and giant logs, within a few years, get so punky you can step on them and crush them to dust. That's a handy trait when you want to get rid of a bunch of logs! So, in a weird hugelkultur variation, we have created some new beds with the usual cardboard on the bottom, then filled with logs, and then densely packed with mulch in all the crevices. I'll gradually add amendments to this and in a few years it's going to be an amazing place for vegetables. 

Greens from this winter's garden in the sink for cleaning.
Last summer we got some tree guys in the neighborhood to drop us off a double load of wood chips. Gradually the pile has diminished but now it's crunch time... we finally had a few frosts and warming weather is 4 weeks away so I need to heavily mulch (and amend) the entire vegetable garden before spring planting. The mulch pile will soon be gone (sad face!) but hopefully the spring leaf fall (yes, we have a spring leaf fall when all the evergreen oaks replace their leaves) will be a good one and there will be plenty of leaf sacks on the side of the road to replenish our mulch pile for the summer. 

We are hoping to put in a few new fruit trees this year. Over the years we have planted 3 figs, 2 mandarin oranges, 1 loquat, and 1 kumquat. I hoping to get 2 persimmons, a plum or two, a limequat if I can find it, a lime, and a red grapefruit. We'll see what we can get a hold of.