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Cut stick with a point to easily go in the ground.
Shave off bark for a flat surface.
Use wood burning tool or marker to write name.
Ready to go!

Twig Barriers and Supports

Now is the time to get out and prune so there are lots of available branches and twigs to work with.

Here is a simple barrier made by pushing vertical twigs into the soil and weaving supple branches back and forth to the desired height. This usually lasts for one to two seasons.
Here’s a slightly more complicated version made by stapling vertical twigs to the bottom board, weaving supple horizontal branches then stapling the top branches to a second board. The sides are made from PVC pipe so it’s easy to place the barrier then pick it up and move it around if needed.
Here’s a close up of the branches attached with a staple gun.
You can attache the PVC with a pipe fitting or two screws. I usually pre-drill so the screws easily go through the pipe and don’t split the wood.
Here’s another version made with just vertical twigs. These were attached with chicken wire staples that are pounded in.
To keep it stable it’s a good idea to put cross pieces at each corner.
Here’s a trellis made with four branches and three wreathes.
The bottom wreath is the biggest then each successive wreath is a little smaller until you get the height you need. Attaching them with string or wire makes the structure more stable but isn’t needed.
The top can be tied with string or wire. If you use wire it will last longer.

Balm of Gilead

Balm of Gilead is good for cuts, scrapes and sore muscles.

Cottonwood buds

On a walk yesterday I found a downed cottonwood tree with ripening buds.

To make the balm fill a mason jar half full of the resinous buds then add olive oil to the top of the jar. Cover with a paper towel and stir each day for a few weeks. After that put a cap on and let it sit for two to six months. Once the oil is well saturated with resin strain the buds out and it’s ready to use.

More Baskets!

Here’s how to make another type of basket!

Starting Starting
  • First cut slits in four of the spokes in the center of the spoke.
  • Next make a slant cut on the ends of the non-slitted spokes so it is sharp and pointed.
  • Slide the cut end spokes through the slits in the other spokes.
IMG_3623 This basket has dogwood for spokes and reeds for weaving.
IMG_3588 Next steps
  • Take a long reed, double it in half and loop it around four of the spokes.
  • Line the two ends of the reed up and put the reed on the left over the reed on the right and behind the four spokes.
  • Go around once then divide the spokes into sets of two and go around in a circle always putting the reed on the left over the right reed and behind the next set of two spokes.
  • Do this 3 or 4 times.
  • Next pull the spokes so they are one apart
  • Continue going around in the same fashion.
  • When you run out of reed you can either weave in an over under pattern with one length or double it and continue twisting as you did in the beginning.
Doing the sides. Doing the sides.
  • When it’s time to bend the spokes use pliers and crimp the spoke lightly as each spot you want it to bend.
  • For the top loop each spoke behind the next one then trim the excess.I used some palm and seagrass for variety and texture.

Dogwood, Dappled Willow and Arctic Willow

Time to Plant Onions!

I like to plant when the crocuses are blooming.

I like to plant when the crocuses are blooming.

Why grow onions when they are pretty cheap at the store?  Because they taste better!

There are many different shapes, sizes and even colors of onions and most can be pulled young as green onions.

I like to plant my onions when the crocuses are blooming; they are a cool season crop and do best when planted early.  You can grow onions from transplants, sets, or seeds. Transplants are seedlings started in the current growing season and sold in bunches,   sets are immature bulbs grown the previous year and are the easiest to plant, the earliest to harvest, and the least susceptible to diseases. Growing onions from seed offers a wide choice in cultivars but it’s hard to start seeds here as we have such a short growing season.  You will need to start your onion seedlings indoors.

DSC_2699

Plant with the pointy side up.

If you are using sets then plant them two inches apart, 2-3 inches deep with the pointy side up.  I like to lay them out on the bed before planting as I lose track what I’ve planted where.

I like to lay the onions out ahead of time.

I like to lay the onions out ahead of time.

There are short and long day onions.  Short day onions form bulbs when the days reach 10 to 12 hours long and are better for southern latitudes.  Long day cultivars need 13 to 16 hours and are the ones best suited for our area.

Once I have planted onions I cover them with Reemay less to provide heat than to protect them from the ravenous crows who view my yard as their private pantry.

Using large binder clips keeps the Reemay from blowing away.

Using large binder clips keeps the Reemay from blowing away.

With well prepared soil no fertilizing should be needed.  If onions are in soil that has a lot of nitrogen then you will get great tops but small bulbs.  Onion do like to be watered regularly but are a good crop if you are going to be on short vacations this summer as they will tolerate some gaps in watering.

Harvest onions when the tops turn yellow.  Pull and hang in a dry place until thoroughly dry.  If you harvest them too early or don’t let them dry enough they will rot.  If well dried they will last 6 months to a year.  If you don’t eat them all before then!

Onions are in, peas are next!

Onions are in, peas are next!

Elder Flower Syrup

Sambucus Cerulea or Blue Elderberry Sambucus Cerulea or Blue Elderberry

Elderberries can be planted in the garden soon. For consumption use the Blue or the Black Elderberries instead of the Red Elderberry.

Freshly picked Elder Flowers Freshly picked Elder Flowers

These fragrant white to pink flowers can be gathered, steeped, then the liquid sugared to make a delicious syrup.  If you have the patience to wait, the dark blue berries can be gathered in the late summer to make into a dye, syrup or wine.

Here is a recipe for making a quart of syrup:

Ingredients:

  • 30 elderflower heads
  • 1 quart water
  • 4 cups  sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons or limes
  • zest of 2 lemons or limes
  • 2 tablespoons citric acid
  1. Zest the lemons or limes and put in a large bowl, then the citric acid and lemon or lime juice.
  2. Remove the flowers from the stalk and add to the bowl
Flowers, citric acid, zest and lime juice Flowers, citric acid, zest and lime juice
  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve.
  2. Pour the syrup into the bowl and stir to combine.
Flowers, acids and sugar syrup Flowers, acids and sugar syrup
  1. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it sit for 2-4 days.
  2. Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean jar. Store in the fridge for up to six weeks.
Here is what it looks like after steeping for a couple of days. Here is what it looks like after steeping for a couple of days.
Here is the strained syrup. Here is the strained syrup.

This syrup has a very delicate flavor and scent.  It tastes good mixed with seltzer water or even better with some champagne or vodka.

Here’s more info on growing this useful plant!

A tiny Elder Flower A tiny Elder Flower

Caution: Leaves, stems and unripe berries can cause stomach upset. Just use the cooked berries and flowers for consumption.

For seeds to grow there needs to be the right combination of light, soil temperature, nutrients and moisture.  Here in our cool Northwest climate one of the main things is waiting until the soil is really warm enough for germination to occur. Spring crops need soil temperatures in the 50’s to 60’s while summer crops need temperatures in the high 60’s.  You can raise the soil temperature some by using cloches or other methods to trap heat and warm the soil.

Seasons can vary year to year but a rough guide to use is planting by the holidays:

  • Peas by President’s Day
  • Potatoes by St. Patrick’s Day, (this one is easy to remember)
  • Corn and beans by Mother’s Day
  • Tomatoes, squash and cucumbers by Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday.  (Ok, this one is a bit esoteric – it’s June 8th.)

To get more detailed planting information a great resource is Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide.

Branch Borders

I just trimmed my redwood dogwoods to get basket making supplies and decided to use the larger branches to make a border for a flower and herb bed.

Bed without border.

Bed without border.

 

Cut all the branches to the same length with ends angled to a point.

Cut all the branches to the same length with ends angled to a point.

 

Push one end into the ground and arc the other end over.  Push the ends as deeply as they will go so they don't pop out.

Push one end into the ground and arc the other end over. Push the ends as deeply as they will go so they don’t pop out.

 

I added compost but you can also add bark or just neaten things up.

I added compost but you can also add bark or just neaten things up.

 

 

 

Mulled Wine

What do you do with more than two hundred pounds of plums? Make wine!

We couldn’t do our usual holiday open house this year so decided to bring the party to our friends. Mulled plum wine is spectacular!

We dried citrus in the dehydrator
Pounded whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg into small pieces.
Put the dried citrus and spices into cheesecloth then tied it on the bottles.
Delicious!

Plant Prints

To imprint fabric with leaves and flowers place the plant material on your material, cover with a second layer and pound with a hammer. Let dry then flake off dried plants.

Indigo, calendula and viola flowers placed on cotton fabric.
Pound with a hammer until color comes through.
Here’s the completed print.