• Activity
  • Votes
  • Comments
  • New
  • All activity
  • Showing only topics with the tag "gardening". Back to normal view
    1. What are you doing in your garden?

      The following are ramblings from my garden. I would love to here the ramblings from other people's gardens. It's spring where I am, and I absolutely love spring! The last full moon (the one in...

      The following are ramblings from my garden. I would love to here the ramblings from other people's gardens.

      It's spring where I am, and I absolutely love spring! The last full moon (the one in February) I call the Angry Goose Moon, because it's around that time that my male goose turns into a monster, and I need to pull out my shield (a garbage bin lid) to move around the yard while warding off his attacks. His change in demeanor signifies the onset of spring for me.

      Some people divide spring into early spring and late spring, but I live in a cool, wet environment that has a very long spring which is why I prefer thinking about the garden in terms of the moon cycle. The beginning of spring is Angry Goose Moon. During this phase, the hummingbirds start visiting, waiting for our native red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) to bloom. Everyday it gets closer and closer (I expect it to be in full bloom any day now). My hated Burkwood Osmanthus (Osmanthus × burkwoodii) begins rapidly trying to turn into a tree, and I'm reminded that I still haven't figured out what to plant in its place as I trim it back down a manageable level. And OMG the freaking cranesbill geranium (Geranium sanguineum) has once again gotten into everything, but I loathe to get rid of it all because the bees love it so much. This year I am being way more ruthless than years pass and have filled several bins of it for the yard waste collectors.

      Usually this is also when I start seeds, but I'll be leaving for six weeks, so the seed catalogues will be collecting dust this year. Instead I'm checking out my propagation efforts from last year. I need to move a beautiful hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) that gets way to big for the area it's in, but I've been afraid to move it case it dies, so last year I took 30 cuttings, which all rooted. It looks like 29 of those made it through the winter. I have no need for 29 more hydrangeas, but I now know I can move the mother plant, and if it dies, I'll have something to replace it with. In the mean time I'll plant the new ones in bigger pots to give away next year when they are more established.

      Last fall I divided up some of the lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) I planted last year, plopped them into 10 pots, and brought them indoors to winter over. It looks like five of them made it. It won't be late enough for me to get them in the ground before I leave, but I will put them into bigger pots and get them under artificial light. Hopefully they will still be alive when I get back.

      I'm not much of a rose fan, but outside my back window is a shrub rose (Rosa glauca) that has beautiful red tinged foliage and purple stems. It only flowers for a short time, and the flowers aren't anything to write home about, but they are followed by nice plump rose hips that I harvest for tea. It is absolutely in the wrong spot with its large growth and overly thorny stems. Last year I took a lot of cuttings of it and some natives roses that inhabit the same area, and it looks like most of them made it. Once they are large enough (another year or two) I'll plant them in a spot where their flesh ripping thorns won't be bothersome, remove all the large specimens, and replant the area with berries (I'm thinking about a mix of blueberry and honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea). Another potting up project before I go.

      I enjoy plant medicine and started quite a few medicinal plants from seed last year. I started a bit late so nothing got in the ground, but it looks like most of them were able to winter over in the potting shed, but not all of them. I sowed 30 seeds of skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) of which only 6 germinated. I was going to move those six into the house to winter over, but I ended up with a spider mite problem in the house from having earlier brought in my toothache plants (Acmella oleraceae) and didn't want them to get infected. Unfortunately none of the skullcap survived. The toothache plants in the house didn't survive either, and I wish I had extracted their medicinal properties before their death, they were certainly large enough. But this paragraph started like it was going to be about wins. The biggest win, the one I'm most excited about, is that all of my mountain meadow arnica (Arnica chamissonis) made it! Their first leaves of spring are pushing through the soil, and their roots are pushing out of the holes of their pots. I don't believe there is a better plant for muscular aches and pains than arnica, and I am looking forward to harvesting it to make salves. I did seed way too many than my garden can hold, so as soon as I determine whether or not they they also are infested with spider mites, I will offer them up for other people to add to their gardens. I'm also excited that all the elecampane (Inula helenium) made it through the winter, though once again I seeded way too many. The added bonus is this plant can tend to be weedy in my locale, so I will only plant a couple down in the weedy medicinal area to let them compete with each other.

      Side talk about garden pests. Besides slugs, which if I allow the ducks to move through the garden, don't damage too much of my garden, my gardens are fairly pest resistant. I spent a lot of time last year moving through it with a magnifier taking pictures and videos of the smaller insects that live among the plants. It's a whole other world living just out of reach of my normal vision! Of particular interest to me were a few of my phlox plants (Phlox paniculata) that had deformed leaves. On closer inspection I saw what I assume is spider mites. A few weeks later, taking video again, I saw what I assume are predatory spider mites, and a few weeks after that the phlox started growing correctly. There are so many predators out there doing "gods" work, and if any of you gardeners are ever bored, I suggest rabbit holing into garden predators.

      I'm rambling, where was I?
      Oh yeah.
      I also use this time to severely prune stuff back that missed my list the year prior. In my culinary herb garden there is a bay tree (whether it's Laurus nobilis or Umbellularia californica I do not know). It's a monster that should not be planted where it is. I know I could hack it it back almost to the ground and it would come back, except that its branches cover my bathroom window in a way that gives me privacy from the cabin on the other side of the creek, while letting light in. It's this constant battle between keeping it small enough that wildlife can't use to get to the roof, yet large enough to afford me bathroom privacy. I just hacked a bunch of it off and I suspect I'll be doing the same again in the fall.

      This place has a lot of problems, and I have to remain vigilant in celebrating the successes and not getting lost in lists of things to do. But there's a lot of beauty in our property, and I do enjoy experiencing it. Angry Goose Moon is the time of year when I am filled with the most hope for the future.

      28 votes
    2. Plants

      Anyone in here interesting in plants (growing, propagating, maintaining, etc). Figure we can get a forum started to exchange tips. On a side note, some of the side categories seem overly broad....

      Anyone in here interesting in plants (growing, propagating, maintaining, etc). Figure we can get a forum started to exchange tips.

      On a side note, some of the side categories seem overly broad. Hobbies for example is going to get pretty bonkers.

      13 votes
    3. Anyone here into growing cannabis?

      Now that it's legal in Canada to grow cannabis, I decided to try my hand at growing a few plants indoors. I started with a simple setup and a couple of seeds in a closet. As I did more research, I...

      Now that it's legal in Canada to grow cannabis, I decided to try my hand at growing a few plants indoors. I started with a simple setup and a couple of seeds in a closet. As I did more research, I slowly started upgrading my equipment and methods. There is so much more to growing good cannabis indoors than I originally thought, and it's become a very interesting hobby for me. There is also a lot of misinformation and pseudoscience out there, which can make it difficult for new growers.

      Anyone else into this hobby? What's your setup like? Anyone thinking of getting into it?

      21 votes
    4. My indoor garden setup

      A few people have expressed interest in my indoor, semi-automated growing setup so here's the lowdown.. In a corner of my workshop is a cupboard with a footprint of 1.6x1.2m, 2.2m high. This is...

      A few people have expressed interest in my indoor, semi-automated growing setup so here's the lowdown.. In a corner of my workshop is a cupboard with a footprint of 1.6x1.2m, 2.2m high. This is insulated with a mixture of glasswool, foam board and expanding foam (depending on what I could install where), and lined with diamond pattern aluminumised mylar (the diamond pattern provides diffuse reflection to avoid hotspots).

      Inside the cupboard I have 750W of full-spectrum LED lighting, a 500W oil-filled radiator, and a small fan to keep air moving around. There's a vent which pulls air from the outside and a extractor fan which also vents outside. Being able to pull cool air from the outside (even in summer) is extremely useful as the lights can put out quite a lot of heat.

      My main growsystem is an Amazon low-pressure aeroponics system, and I've also got some airpots to do some soil-based growing in. Aero on the right, pots on the left. If you're not familiar with aeroponics, it's a system where the plants roots hang in open space and nutrient-rich water is sprayed or misted over them. High-pressure aero uses mist and low pressure uses sprayers. High pressure aero is currently one of the best known ways to maximise plant growth but low-pressure is pretty good too and you don't need anywhere near as much gear like pressure vessels and solenoid and so on. I just have an aquarium pump which drives the sprayers. In my experience aero is considerably more efficient than soil, non-soil media or other hydroponics - but on the other hand it's very twitchy. If your nutrient balance is off or your pH is wrong or worse, you pump fails - things can go wrong very quickly.

      The airpots are totally new to me. People say they're good but I have no idea. I have a mixture of compost, perlite and coco coir to go into them so we'll see how that works out. I'm going to use organic nutrients only on them, I have some seaweed derived stuff which should be good throughout the entire grow process.

      So that's the hardware, now on to the fun bit - the automation...

      On top of the cabinet is a board hosting a Raspberry Pi model A - these days I'd use a Zero W but they didn't exist when I built this. In it's mostly-bare state the board looks like this. Quick explanation - the red board is mains-rated relays which let me switch the connections above it on and off using the Pi. This is where the lights, fan and heater are wired to. The small junction block left of the relays is connected to mains.

      The block up and left of the Pi is 5V, which drives the Pi, the relay control electronics and provides power to the junction block on the right. There are various sensors wired in to that block and connected back to the Pi.

      Wired up on my bench for testing it looks like this, and in situ it looks like this (this was on a previous iteration of the cupboard but it's basically the same now). The orange cables on the left are lights, fan and heater. The black cables top are the sensors.

      Temperature is monitored using five DS18B20 sensors, which are cheap and reasonably accurate serial devices so you can run a whole bunch of them off a single pin on the pi. I monitor my water temperature, the temperature at the plant stem, at the wall, inside my workshop (but outside the cupboard) and outside temperature. The wall/stem temperature is the important one, that determines whether heating or cooling is engaged. I monitor the exterior and interior temperatures to know how effective my insulation is being. If water temperature gets too high I might add an agent which protects against microbial infections that like warmer water.

      I do have a DHT22 humidity sensor but they're hella flaky and it's currently not working. I will replace it at some point but past experience suggests humidity is high whatever I do.

      The Pi has a python script which runs every five minutes. It reads all the sensors, decides what (if anything) to do, then logs everything in a sqlite database. If it's 'night' (which is actually day outside, for temperature management reasons) it turns the lights off, if it's 'day' it turns them on. If it's cold it turns the heater on, if it's hot the fan. There's a bit of smartness where it actually aims for a midpoint of temperature because otherwise it's always aiming for highest temperature then immediately cooling again, then heating and so on - a stable temperature is better for the plants. At 'night' I tend to run the fan to drop the temperature: plants often like it cooler during darkness, get some fresh air in and attempt to lower the humidity a bit.

      There is a web interface which lets me see what's going on - current temperature and status, plus some lovely lovely charts (who doesn't love a nice chart?). I can also turn the lights out from here in case I need to go in an do some maintenance for anything. 750W of LED light is painfully bright, it's much more comfortable (and safer!) to turn them off while topping up reservoirs or changing water or whatever.

      It would be relatively trivial to add sensors for moisture or pH to add an auto-watering or auto-adjusting nutrient systems, but I haven't felt the need to do that yet.

      Happy to do my best to answer any questions anyone has.

      26 votes
    5. Gardeners in da house?

      I've enjoyed the challenges of gardening in zone 5 -6 and zone 10 - 11, and am wondering about others' experience. Climate change, with migrating pests/diseases and more erratic weather, are...

      I've enjoyed the challenges of gardening in zone 5 -6 and zone 10 - 11, and am wondering about others' experience.

      Climate change, with migrating pests/diseases and more erratic weather, are definitely noticeable trends.

      While it's interesting to grow ornamentals and food crops that wouldn't ordinarily be available, it's also disturbing to find falling yields and utter collapses of formerly successful "easy" plants like basil and temperate climate tomato varieties.

      There are limits on how much can be accomplished with purely "organic" controls - I've had to experiment with soil ecology (MycoStop for fungal infections, etc.). Allergenic plants are an increasing problem. There are brand new animal pests where I live as well - iguanas, pythons, and other hot-climate reptiles.

      I'm curious about others' gardening results, and suggestions for improving adaptability.

      12 votes
    6. 2018 Compost Yield So Far

      Cross-posted with /r/composting I'm pretty proud of the results of my first year of serious composting (before this year, my method was, "dump kitchen scraps in a pile and turn it occasionally"),...

      Cross-posted with /r/composting

      I'm pretty proud of the results of my first year of serious composting (before this year, my method was, "dump kitchen scraps in a pile and turn it occasionally"), so I figured I'd share. Here's a picture of the pile, opened up yesterday for turning/dumping fresh kitchen scraps. Closer view, and even closer. As you can see, it still has a ways to go. It consists of mostly kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and oak leaves, and I guess the latter of those takes quite a while to break down. Here's a picture of it covered with a tarp after I was done, yesterday.

      This is actually a combination of eight different smaller piles I worked on throughout the year while I was teaching myself to make compost. The first piles I made were basically just the result of mowing some tall grass/wild plants in the spring--I had thought that since I was mowing up both leaves and grass that the ratio would be just right for composting. I was wrong. Those three piles didn't really go anywhere. I should've added far more leaf matter, kept them wetter, and combined them into one rather than three.

      The fourth pile was a combination of kitchen scraps and leaf matter. I had about a 1/2:1 ratio of leaf matter to kitchen scraps. It turned out okay, but of course, I should've added more browns. The fifth pile (featuring a guest who liked the "fresh greens" that I often went outside to spray onto the pile, if you catch my drift...) started out with probably a 1:1 ratio of browns to greens and ended up with a 2:1 ratio, since I started actually figuring things out. I used both mowed-up leaves and mowed-up household paper waste for my browns, and kitchen scraps and grass clippings for my greens. The pile did end up getting fairly warm. I turned it every 2-4 days.

      The sixth and seventh piles were nothing but oak leaves mixed with grass clippings. I wasn't great about getting the ratios exactly right, but they were both probably close to 1 1/2:1 browns to greens. Both heated up after I turned them, every few days, and turned out great. I think I do have some pictures, but can't find them.

      I started using a tarp with my eighth pile, and that tarp, as well as the increased amount of browns--always at least 2:1--made a huge difference, as previously I had a hard time keeping piles at the right moisture level. Either they'd dry out in the sun or they'd get soaked in the rain. The tarp protected from both and helped insulate the pile, enabling it to get to the right temperature despite being fairly small.

      I tried to follow the Berkeley method closely (other than that I added to it every time I turned it). If I added new scraps, I let it sit for four days; otherwise, I turned it every other day. I started adding pretty much anything to it. One time while I was turning it, I found a dessicated dead robin nearby and tossed that in. There was no trace of it the next time I turned the pile.

      Fairly recently, I combined all of my piles into one, as you saw above. This makes it a lot harder to turn, but it seems to be going well. Instead of making a new pile and letting this one sit, I've continued adding to this one every week, when I turn it (now that it's this big, it's hard to find time to turn it more often than that). I'm not sure if I'll be able to do this through winter. I've been stocking up on coffee grounds from Starbucks (I have maybe 8 bags of them sitting in the garage?) to help me keep it going, but it gets pretty cold here in Michigan. Maybe I should start a new pile in the winter rather than keeping this one going; I haven't decided, yet. I'm happy to hear your suggestions.

      Thanks for reading! Tremendous thanks to /r/composting; everyone there is incredibly helpful, and there are many very knowledgeable folks there. I couldn't have learned this much about composting without them. I've offered them my five invitations, so hopefully we can eventually get the same kind of composting/gardening discussion over here!

      I'm hardly an expert after just one year of composting, but I'm happy to answer any questions you have about my methods, about composting in general, or about how you might get started.

      Now for some bonus pics, just for fun:

      A bear admiring my pile
      That same bear about to destroy a bird feeder... D'oh.
      Compost/Hugelkultur-in-progress (I'm not sure how people find the time to gather enough woody materials/grass clippings to make a hugelkultur all at once!)

      22 votes
    7. Future Greenhouse Ambitions

      I don't have the land to do it yet, but my dream is to build a year-round greenhouse in a back yard, so that I can have green all throughout the monochromatic bleakness of a New York winter. This...

      I don't have the land to do it yet, but my dream is to build a year-round greenhouse in a back yard, so that I can have green all throughout the monochromatic bleakness of a New York winter. This is pretty much a daydream at this point, but I'd like to get some feedback from folks in the know.

      The feature wish-list is as follows:

      • a dug-out trench, shaped like a V with a flat bottom. Thinking something like 12' (or go metric and make it 4m) wide in the middle, with sides at a 60° angle going to ground level (total depth of around 10' or 2.5m)
      • a double-paned glass or plexiglass roof, for insulation and lighting
      • heating elements in the outer layer of roof, for snow and ice removal
      • a space heater, to regulate temperature during the cold months
      • an aquaponics tank (probably using goldfish, but possibly tilapia)
      • aquaponics grow beds lining the angled sides
      • compost-activated biochar beds on the flat part

      The idea would be to run the aquaponic outflow to the top of the sloping sides, supporting herbs, leafy greens, and flowers. The runoff collects at the bottom of the slope, where it is returned to the fish tank. The flat surface would be used for root vegetables and bulbs like onions and garlic.

      I realize that this is a tad ambitious (and that I may just be throwing the biochar bit because I think its cool), but part of why I'm posting this is to get the benefit of collective experience. Any thoughts?

      4 votes