Getting it done, one bed at a time

Earlier in the week, we managed to get the tomatoes and peppers planted and caged. We had to make six more tomato cages, and had to use some cucumber cages for a couple of the peppers. But everything is in and that makes me feel good! Especially because we had rain shortly after.

Of course, since then we have had chilly nightly temps, dipping down into the low 40's, so I didn't feel ok leaving the plants exposed. I couldn't cover them, with those cages. So I decided to swaddle them in towels and blankets. It looks mighty strange, but seems to be doing the job.

I also managed to get one potato crop planted. We made this cage out of hardware cloth (wire mesh) last year, and the potatoes did wonderfully in it, until the deer got to them. So, I'm using it again. Half of our seed potatoes are layered in the bottom with some of the good soil we had delivered last week. 

The basket needs to be lined with newspaper (or burlap) so the dirt stays put, and as the potato vines grow, we'll add more dirt, until finally the entire thing is filled. We'll make another cage for the remaining potatoes, this weekend.

I pulled out the chard, as it was starting to look pretty peaked. This was the "Bright Lights" variety from Renee's Garden.

It sure was pretty, and also tasty, and fed us through the winter and into April. So we'll definitely plant that variety again! This weekend, I'll get some romaine in, where the chard used to be. It's supposed to be warm during the days, but still in the 40's at night for the next week, so I'll probably hold off on everything else until later in April.

Today as I was checking on the chickens, I noticed this interesting guy perched on the dead branch of a sunrose:

Isn't he beautiful? Looks to me like a male Flame Skimmer. Of course we have water in the yard, in the form of a water feature, and also some shallow water and mud pits for bees and butterflies, but I never expected to see dragonflies here. But in researching it, I found that only the dragonfly larvae feed on water bugs. The adults feed on moths, flies, and ants, all of which are in great supply at Poppy Corners. I gotta say, when we increased our plant production, we also increased our insect population, which has increased all kinds of other populations. First I noticed lizards and salamanders everywhere, now dragonflies? Pretty cool. I'd say we've got habitat going, for sure. Are snakes next?

Speaking of habitat, I'm already thinking about fall projects. I know, our spring projects aren't even completed yet, but I've got an idea and I can't shake it. I'd like to replace the tiny bit of lawn we have left with a meadow full of native grasses, flowers, and bulbs. This caused me to get out the books. You know, the BOOKS. Do you have a pile of books like this? The ones you consult when you get a bee in your bonnet? These are my favorite resources:

And this time I went right for "The American Meadow Garden," by John Greenlee. I've spent some time over the last few days re-reading this book and figuring out how it will all work. I'm very excited to try this experiment. But - like I said - this is a fall project, because fall is the best time to plant in Northern CA. The ground is still warm and the rains are coming. (At least we hope they are.) 

Speaking of rain, I suppose you've heard of California's mandatory water restrictions. Our new drip system is basically going to take us down the required 25%. We're thrilled. Of course we'll also continue to use the rain barrel when it's full (as it is right now, hooray!) and cut down our use in the house. We won't water that tiny lawn at all, and I'll let it die in preparation for the fall meadow planting - it couldn't be more perfect.

I think that's all I have to share with you for the moment. I'll leave you with a beautiful flower I found while hiking in Shell Ridge the other day. It took me a long time to identify it - finally I asked East Bay Regional Parks to help me, and they sent me the greatest resource! A website with all the wildflowers of the parks listed by color. And there it was - this purple salsify. A European transplant - but lovely all the same!