Monday, March 21, 2011

Birdhouse Mania and Into the Garden

I must have a secret love of birdhouses that even I didn't know about, because while rummaging through the gardening tools recently, I came across three birdhouses..."Where did these come from?" was what crossed my mind.

Most likely, they came from impulse purchases at the garden center, which I put away upon getting home and promptly forgot about. Anyway,  a stash like that shouldn't go to waste, so I hung them out.

The northwest corner of my garden seemed like a good place; the houses are facing south/southeast, so they'll get the first rays of light in the morning, and when the leaves come on the trees, that corner of the garden is shady throughout the afternoon.

You can just barely make them out; it'll be fun to see whether there'll be any takers:

I think I'm probably a little late for this nesting season though. Some chickadees already have their nest well underway in the neighbor's nest box.

As for the rest of the garden, I had a nice surprise when I removed the row cover from the main bed. The greens I planted last autumn overwintered pretty well and have started growing again over the last few weeks:

There are some turnip greens, some parsley, a few kale plants, a few collards and a little bit of chard and mustard, as well as a few rows of beets...

and some raddichio.

They've been under 2 layers of row cover and a poly tunnel all winter, and along with the fact that we didn't get a lot of really cold weather, they faired pretty well. I got a pretty good harvest, and should get a couple more before I start spring planting in another 10 days or so. 

The garlic is doing its thing. This is a hard neck variety, and I'm looking forward to garlic scapes, come June:

If you're wondering what all the drinking straws are about, most of them have fallen over, but I stuck them in the soil upright when I planted the garlic to deter the cats from digging there. They seem to love smooth, freshly worked soil, but once there's an obstacle course of straws or sticks, they lose interest. As the plants grow, they become their own obstacle course...if that makes any sense. 

As I mentioned, I'm waiting another 10 - 14 days to plant the bulk of my spring crops, but I've put in peas, favas, and potatoes already. 

I haven't had much success with potatoes in the past.

Two years ago, I built a potato cage, which was fun and rather spectacular, I had high, high hopes, but I got a small harvest.

Last year I switched to these "grow bags", which are containers made out of a thick black cloth that allows some air and moisture circulation. I got a very small harvest.

But, I'm trying again...who knows maybe third time's a charm. Anyone have any potato-growing tips?

The good thing about the grow bags it that they save on real estate in the garden beds.

Hanging bird houses and planting spuds is hungry work. This was a a yummy lunch of curried tofu salad (tofu, curry powder, lemon juice, celery, red onion, green olives, Bragg's aminos, nutritional yeast, 1/2 an avocado and some hot sauce):


  1. Seeing all these photos is making me very anxious to have a garden again — after looking at houses all morning and claiming (half-believing) it will be OK if we find a house without garden space. I'm still very curious as to where you live!

  2. Thanks for the green arrows on the birdhouse photo! How cool to hang them and it will be interesting to see if you get any takers. I know nothing about potato growing. My best friend, Kathy, runs the island nursery and she has promised to help me ease into veggies with things I like to eat and know what to do with when I have them. We shall see. And Andrea, wish you luck on finding just the right house with a garden also!

  3. Your garden looks amazing! I can't wait to get out into my garden- we still have snow on the ground.
    Blessings, Debra
    Raw Vegan Diet

  4. First of all, thanks so much for putting my new blog on your sidebar! I really appreciate it that so many are spreading the word. You rock!

    Second, I'm super jealous that you have stuff growing already. It'll be at least another month here before we can even begin to consider what to grow. So far, everything's looking great by you! So much fun. :)

  5. It's so cool to see these early garden pictures. It makes me think spring really might be coming...somewhere!

  6. Oh, hope to have a garden that produces one day. In the meantime, I have no advice for you. The grow bags seem like a good idea -- I'll look forward to seeing how they work for you!

  7. "it'll be fun to see whether there'll be any takers" lol that was cute:) your open faced sandwiches looked really good!and i cant believe so much is growing already! thats so exciting! fingers crossed on the potatoes...

  8. You have such a beautiful garden! And a nice yield already. It makes me anxious for a space like that of my own some day - all we have right now is one crooked, seedless birdfeeder on the fire escape, and a bag of basil seeds on the coffee table! Not much good they're doing there. Good luck with the potatoes.

  9. I'm envious of your overwintered greens. I also have some birdhouses, nest boxes, which were a xmas present two years ago and still haven't been hung. Must do that today. Great garden.

    Advice on potatoes, don't let them get too dry. There's a lot of water in a spud. More difficult to get it right in bags than in the ground although bags make an easier, cleaner harvest.

  10. How wonderful to see your beautiful garden! It gives me hope that spring is on the way. I'm going to try gardening for the first time this year, and so I don't have any potato-advice. We have lots of animals around where we live. If we do manage to grow anything, I hope they'll leave some for us! :)

  11. It looks like spring to me, hooray!

  12. have a beautifu garden already! I need to be asking you for advise and tips! Tony plowed up a little garden spot for us over the weekend, but there's still a lot of work to be done to it before we can't plant anything. This is going to be our first try at an actual garden. We planted tomatoes and squash in one of your flower beds last year, which was touch and go. I've never had much of a green thumb, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for some good luck this year with our garden.
    I love finding things that I forgot I had. I hope you have takers with your bird houses!
    Neat idea about using the straws to deter the cats. :o)

  13. Andrea

    A garden space is pretty much a must-have for me. But, there's also the community P-patches, if you end up living fairly close to one. Even though the waiting lists can be long, I've heard that they move through them quickly, because when they contact someone for an newly available space and if the person doesn't respond right away, they move on to the next person on the list....that's just what I've heard. Also, container gardening is a good option too if you end up with a sunny deck or patio.

    We're on the west side of Greenlake, sort of Phinney/Greenwood area. Good luck on your house hunt!


    I have my doubts that the houses will get residents, but we'll see...maybe there's a few left out there looking for a place to nest. Also, I think the positioning is pretty important, not sure they'll find these spots ideal.

    Your garden project sounds great, and sounds like you have a perfect mentor!


    Yeah, snow kind of puts a damper on getting out into the garden. Hope it melts soon! That's one thing I like about these parts: it rarely snows, except for in the mountains.


    The Blogs List is a great idea, thanks for organizing it! I hope it thaws out for you soon! A whole month longer seems so far away, but I'm sure it'll come round in no time.

  14. Tami

    Spring is coming for sure; hope it gets to your neck of the woods soon. :)


    I'm sure your gardening ambitions will come to pass! I'm not convinced about the grow bags, but we'll give it another go.


    We have lot's of chirpers around (that's what I lovingly call the birds), so here's hoping for bird squatters and potatoes. :)


    I hope you do have a space for veggies someday! But in the meantime, I bet you can get a nice crop of basil on your window sill. Love the imagery of the bird feeder and the seeds on the table.

  15. CatofStripes

    Thanks for the potato tip! That makes sense, once you start layering on the mulch, sometimes it's difficult to gauge how much moisture there is lower down. I'll try to keep them nice and moist. Wish me luck. :)


    A new garden, how fun! You'll have to keep us posted on what you get up to. We don't have too many veggie-eating critters around here, but plenty of slugs and snails to share with! :)


    I second you Hooray! Spring and Fall are my favorite times of year.


    It was fun to find the birdhouses, like an unexpected present! Good luck with your garden, you'll have to keep us up on what you plant etc. I remember last year, you had a super bumper crop of tomatoes, so I"m sure you'll have a flourishing garden in no time! :)

  16. omg, that is the perfect sandwich!

    I love the birdhouses... I think if I could go on a sightseeing/photography vacation it would be to watch birds.. they are so fascinating.

  17. It must really be warmer in Seattle than I realized. You're a couple months ahead of Northern Virginia. We've got the Forsythia & Daffodils blooming now. Just starting to get a few buds on the trees.

    I've heard of trash bag potatoes, but never attempted them myself.

    Zero luck on the bird houses here too. I think because the birds detected that they weren't stable enough to raise a family.

    Gorgeous sandwich!

  18. Melody

    I bird-watching holiday sounds like fun, and I'm sure would afford many opportunities for photos.


    Yeah, I'm worried about the stability issues with these houses. I don't think they'd fall, but they're a bit wobbley in the wind etc.

    The weather is just starting to warm up here too; those greens were already established when winter set in; I just kept them warm over the winter by covering them.

  19. Rose -- your garden preparations are looking great. Like your birdhouse. I lived in Oregon for awhile and found the weather quite conducive to long stretches of outdoor gardening. -- barbara

  20. At first I thought your birdhouses were so high, but then I realized I was thinking about bird feeders. Tending those would be hard at such high places, but houses definitely need to have their privacy, and you've done a great job. Hopefully, you'll get some tenants. Now, I want some, too!

    I was very interested in your garden. I lost most of my greens due to some frost, and I'm glad you posted the link to the row covers. I think I'll get some this next year. Your greens survived really well. Also, I've never had garlic greens (scapes?), so we'll have to try those too. I've never planted potatoes, but that's on our to-do list. Right now the wind outside is busy knocking down my nectarine blossoms. :-(

  21. Barbara

    I agree the Pacific Northwest growing season gives gardeners a fair run....but growing heat crops is always a challenge.


    Row cover would work great in your climate...if you just get a little frost, this stuff will do the trick. They have different weights. I use the thickest in the winter and the really lightweight ones in summer.

    Can't wait to see your garden this year too! I hope the wind is just blowing the petals off and not the whole bud :(.

  22. I have the grow bags and they work really well. I have been gardening for years and I don't know why but I always get much larger harvests when I buy seed potatoes rather than cutting up something from the store.

  23. Susan

    I was wondering whether there would be a difference the results from seed potatoes and the ones from the shop. I've tried both and didn't get good results, so something else must be amiss too. Thanks for the info. : )

  24. So you use row covers in the warm weather too? Is that to keep the bugs off? I also like your straw idea to keep the cats out. We have a neighborhood cat that's just a bit too familiar with our garden soil, if you know what I mean.

  25. I am so impressed with your garden. I could definately learn a lot from you:)

  26. BlessedMama

    The light weight row covers are meant to keep the insects off, and they work pretty well as long as you make sure there are none already on the plants/soil when you put the cover on. It's kind of a pain to use in the summer because I find that I'm always having to take it off for weeding, harvesting etc. and then putting back on. But it's worth it for deterring things like carrot rust fly and cabbage butterfly.

    I totally know what you mean about the cats. I've tried hot pepper around too, but that dissolves and disappears too quickly. The stick method is the best one I've found so far.


    That's sweet of you say, but believe me, I have a lot to learn too. :)

  27. what a beautiful harvest...everything looks great.

  28. Awesome garden! Good luck with the birdies! :)

  29. I like you advice about where to place birdhouses. Thanks, good ideas. I build birdhouses. You can see them on page four of my website:

  30. Mille and VegSpinz: Thanks for stopping by!

    Vester: I checked out your birdhouses; they're lovely. But, don't take my word on the birdhouse placements...those are just my best guesses! :)

  31. The garden looks great and the bird houses are adorable :-)


  32. I love the bird houses and I am so jealous of your garden! I can't plant anything yet because it is still snowing :(

  33. Thanks Alessandra! :)

    Carissa: Oh, I hope it stops snowing soon. I bet you get nice hot summers there though, great for growing peppers and tomatoes, two things that are a bit of a challenge around here! :)

  34. I am SO jealous of your lovely over-wintered veg (unlike ours, which died a horrible death...)! And I, too, love birdhouses, but unfortunately our feline family (all four of them) are much too agile to risk hanging them up, so I use them as house decorations!

    We have an allotment and John (DH) has said that you should use plenty of water, but make sure the drainage is adequate. And keep earthing up. Those bags look as if there should be three tubers in each.

  35. Hey Penny, thanks for the advice! I planted 5 spuds in each...I should probably take a couple out. :)

  36. Wow! Your garden is really inspiring! I'm really excited to read about your garlic scapes!

  37. Vegan Today:

    Thanks for stopping by!! I'll be visiting your blog soon! :)

  38. Oh, goodness, look at all that green! You would cry if you could see my yard right now, packed with snow and ice and everything either white or brown brown brown. Edmonton is truly the place that Spring forgot this year. Garlic scapes sound fun though...I found collards in one of our markets recently and thought I had died and gone to heaven, ate them every day until I ran out and tomorrow I'm going back to see if they have more!

  39. Zoa

    I hope Spring gets there soon and that you find more collards! :)

  40. Hey, Rose!
    Oh, I love birdhouses (we have a couple of bluebird houses on the property and a birdhouse collection in our bay window), and think that was a very fun stash to find! I hope the avian real estate market is strong, and there are buyers for your "new construction." :-)

    I'm so late with my visit that you've probably done a lot of your spring planting by now. Congratulations on so much successful overwintering, that gives you a great head start! Never heard of the straws trick as a cat deterrent - we have deer, voles and bunnies to contend with, but no cats so I am not versed in how to keep them out of gardens. Do the straws seem to work?

    Potatoes are tricky. We tried growing them here one year but had a very small crop. Robyn has had no luck, and even my dad, who could grow practically anything in his 1/2 acre garden in Maine (famed for its potatoes), had difficulty. Robyn's dad, who lives on the other side of the mountain where it's much drier, always has bumper potato crops. I haven't puzzled out the trick myself, but wish you much luck with your spud harvest! :-)

    Your sandwiches sound fantastic!

  41. Laurie,

    Yeah, not so sure that the avian real estate is so strong! I don't think I made them stable enough, but we'll see, maybe I'll rehang them, and or maybe next year there'll be some residents. Do birds live in yours?

    I haven't done my planting yet...probably in another two or three days. The straws work really well with the cats. As for deer and bunnies, I'm not sure, I guess you could put netting over it...that works for birds, but deer and especially bunnies could just gnaw through it probably.

    Row cover might work...out of sight out of mind or similar..:D I wonder if flashing lights would work...I read somewhere that flashing Christmas lights worked to keep raccoons away from tomatoes.

    Thanks for wishing me luck with the taters.

  42. Funny you should ask, because no - no birds live in our birdhouses. They live in things that AREN'T birdhouses! Nearly every year a little wren builds a nest in our big old (non-functioning) C-Band satellite dish. We used to joke that she liked it there because she could get The Nature Channel and Animal Planet for free. ;-) And for a few years another wren built a nest in a set of windchimes I had hanging under our deck! It had a bamboo pagoda birdhouse decoration above the bamboo chimes, but it wasn't meant to be an actual birdhouse. You couldn't take it apart to clean it and one would think the sound of the clattering bamboo and the swinging motion of the whole thing (talk about unstable!) would deter any bird from wanting to build a nest in it. But she did, and raised several babies (one of which I filmed fledging - s/he landed first on my shirt and then on BW's head! I got some cute photos too - I wasn't blogging then, but I should do a post about them now that I am). One day in early fall after the wren family had left for the season, the wind came up and blew the chimes off their hook and they smashed to smithereens on the patio below. So that was the end of that fun annual tradition, sadly!

    The bluebird houses are built to the persnickety specifications of mountain bluebirds, hung at the height and facing the direction upon which they insist. Every summer two couples start their nests in them, only to be chased off by the barn swallows when they show up, despite the fact the barn swallows nest in our barn, never in the bluebird houses, and one of the houses is quite a distance from the barn. The swallows are just NFH (neighbors from hell).

    Anyway, you never know ~ some birds may like your houses just fine "as is/where is!" :-) You'll have to keep us posted!

    I doubt we'll put in a garden this summer, especially since we'll be gone for two weeks during the critical planting time. Our deer and bunnies have never been much of a problem - the bunnies nibble, but there seems to be plenty for all of us. I've got an agreement with the deer that I'll share the produce with them if they will refrain from helping themselves, and so far that's worked out well! I can't seem to reach any such compromise with the voles or the grasshoppers, however...

  43. Haha, I know what you mean; the critters always have their own criteria! How cute they nested in a wind chime! Sounds like fun actually.

    Yeah, not sure about voles...what do they eat? I always thought they were good in the garden because they eat the poor little slugs and snails. But, I suppose the eat the earthworms too.

    As for grasshoppers....yikes, anyone who can eat a screen door would make short work of a garden, I'm sure. :) I like small grasshoppers, I think they're cute, but I've always had a phobia about the big ones.

  44. I enjoyed reading this post (I actually did read it a week or two ago, but I'm just getting back to commenting!) because this is the first year I'm planting a garden "of sorts." Your raddichio is beautiful. Well, I would put out birdhouses just for the fact I like the way they look, anyway, even if no birds showed up.

  45. Yeah, they're cute (birdhouses) it sort of doesn't matter if no one moves in. :)

  46. Glad to see you were still alive as of four days ago. Just checking in.


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