When in doubt….prune


It turns out that our winter garden has completely failed. We did get some baby spinach, lettuce, and chard out of it though.

Looking past the disappointment, it was a good learning experience. In the future if we are going to do any winter gardening in the green house I know we need to start much earlier…..and find a cheap way to circulate air, as well as heat it at night. I think that would have made a world of difference. We’ll see next year.

So while anxiously awaiting spring, my only projects are pruning our fruit trees and trying to get my compost right, which is harder then I thought it would be. But that will be another post !

Pruning has been my go to activity for the past few weeks. I am almost willing to say I am addicted to pruning. Our plum tree is fairly tame, and only needs some minor work, but our apple and pear trees are out of control. It has probably been at least 10 years since they were last pruned. The hardest part of the job was actually detaching my neighbors grape vines from my trees. From a permaculture perspective I like having this relationship and interaction between the species, but the vines were creating too much of a tangle and was inhibiting sunlight into the center of the trees. I think its a losing battle though to keep these lovers apart.

Every time I think I am finished for the day I look up only to see more criss-crossed branches and areas that could use some thinning. I have read though that too much pruning too fast could have a negative affect, and that I should leave some for next year. I’ll see if I can control my urges.




Jack Frost is a Jerk….



Winter has come, and in a big way. One freezing night after another.

The greenhouse is not heated, so the plants had to evacuate inside the house. In here they are warmer, but are still not looking anywhere near what we would like. The lettuce is continuing to slowly grow. Emphasis on the word slow.

So now my sights are on other plans, and what we will begin in the spring. What we are most excited about is getting some chickens. We’ve got an 8,000 square foot lot….so we think 4 will be good.

During the winter months we may try my families recipe for home-made kielbasi sausage. We’d also like to try and start making home-made soap. We will see.

Every great mistake starts with a single step……

…or in this case, a few seeds.

Being that we bought our home in late summer, and as busy as we were…there was really no time for gardening. So when we finally got around to the idea we were way behind.

It was early October and I had just listened to a few interesting podcasts about winter gardens. I figured, hey we’ve got a greenhouse, it should be no problem !The people on the podcasts sure made it sound easy anyway.

So after tending to some miscellaneous tasks like pruning and tying up our raspberry bushes which were out of control, I set my mind on the greenhouse.

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Its a nice permanent structure, which seems to have doubled as a chicken coop in previous years. Something it may become again, if this greenhouse thing is a total failure.  It needed some serious cleaning, as it had become a home for some serious weeds and vines. But, before we knew it, it was nice and clean and ready to go.

We got some seeds, some planting soil, on-site compost soil, some planters, and got to work. We planted broccoli, swiss chard, spinach, green onions, and red lettuce.  We didn’t really conserve many seeds and  pored them in pretty generously, expecting to just thin them out later.


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A few weeks went by and things were looking great. Everything had sprouted nicely and seemed to be doing well. Of course I was really proud of my great accomplishment. It wasn’t really until mid November when I started to realize things were not happening as they were suppose to. And that maybe it wasn’t just “set it and forget it” like those gardening guys made it sound. Hmmm maybe they were assuming a certain level of fundamental proficiency in gardening from their listeners. Yeah, they probably were.

Here I am In late November and not much has changed. It turns out I planted the broccoli too deep in a large rubbermade container. They got really really long and stringy.  What I guess is called “leggy”.  They were totally flopped over. I tried some damage control measures such as cutting the sides of the container off to increase the sunlight, and added more soil to prop them up. But really they have not progressed very much since that point. And its been close to two weeks.

Fine, I will accept that our bounty of fresh broccoli all winter is not going to happen. Well at least the chard is doing well.

Or, WAS doing well. It really was looking good for a while. But then suddenly they stopped growing and started flopping over.  They remain looking mediocre and sort of limp for the most part. I though it was a matter of poor air circulation that was keeping the soil too damp, so I started opening the greenhouse doors as much as possible during the days. It does not seem to be helping.

The soil remains damp for a long time and the planters may not be draining well. A quick google search leads me to the problem known as “damping off”.  It sounds like once it starts its hard if not impossible to stop. I will be trying a few recommended home remedies, but don’t have high hopes.

As far as the other veggies….the lettuce and spinach seem to be doing ok, although growing slowly. Which I expect due to the decreased sunlight and temperature of the season. The green onions took forever to show any action. Now I’ve got a bunch of long stringy things in those pots, but think they are probably just weeds. I’m going to leave them alone and see what happens.

I cant say I haven’t learned a few things about winter gardening !

Our Experiment

We are a family living  in South West Portland Oregon, who just bought their first home. Its our goal to get as self sufficient and self reliant as possible……but we are literally starting from scratch.

We have big ideas for our gardening endeavors and have a good space for growing a variety of things. We are lucky in that our home has an apple tree a pear tree, a plum tree, raspberry bushes and strawberries already established.And we’ve got a permanent greenhouse.

Coming from apartment living, this is all new for us.

This blog will be the chronicle of  our mishaps , mis-steps  and disasters….. hopefully sprinkled with some successes.

We are planning for success of course, but understand we’ve got a lot to learn. I’m not really expecting anyone to read this blog…..but if you do, maybe you can learn from our experiences.