Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Tagged / garden

  • Oct 11 / 2013
  • 0
family, horticulture

White Spruce and Caragana

I am not sure what “white spruce” is. They all seem green to me… but I was helping an elderly relative pack and was offered a collection of seeds. I was assured these were seeds from the old homestead where a young family grew on the farm nearly a century ago. One item, caragana, I have already planted but it will be good to add some diversity to its gene-pool. I am not sure how long such seeds are viable but even if one grows it will be great. The white spruce came in kits probably distributed during some activity for the old folks. They may be more viable. Then there are the beans, three kinds no less. There are half a pound of them. Surely a few will grow. I will have to segregate them and cover the flowers to keep them pure but I can try to grow some new seeds next year.

According to Wikipedia, White Spruce likes to grow in regions cooler than a mean temperature of 18C in July… That will be hard to meet in my yard… but heavy watering should help. It likes acidic soil, a bigger problem. I could use a few tall trees to give some shade to the new patio during the heat of the day. Deciduous trees would be more effective, I am sure, but I will find a place for a few of these. I can always put any surplus in the corners. The little woman agrees to this. ;-) white_spruce(This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. dmcdevit)

Trees! After 4 years of mud and weeds, and two years of grass and weeds, our yard is converging to a sincere place to live with a good mix of people, trees, flowers, vegetables and grass, lots of grass. I could have birds living in my yard in a couple of years if all goes as planned.

  • Jun 21 / 2013
  • 2


I went shopping yesterday for a few items. One was parts for a water-manifold for the garden. I need several hoses running from time to time and the old manifold just died. It didn’t last long so I will do this right, building it myself. The old one was a casting that looked pretty but the valves literally disintegrated with the bobbins popping out…

I will make the manifold of copper tubing and tees connected to a short length of old garden hose and the existing outlet. I have a large home and a large lot but only two outlets… hence, the manifold. I have a fair bit of material laying around like the tubing but I can’t find enough valves, hence the shopping. Instead of bottom-of-the-line valves, I bought some nice ones with mounting brackets built in and removable packing so the seals won’t be damaged by soldering. They come with a male connector for garden hoses at a 45º angle so my hands and eyes can work together fiddling with the hoses. The plan is to cut the tubing into short sections to fit between the tees and between the tees and the valves. I even bought a cap so the end can be closed off nicely instead of crimping and soldering.

I know I have soldering flux, solder and propane burners around but I have no idea where the flux is. A bit of reading on the web found a patent for a flux based on citric acid (1990), which I have in stock since my northern teaching days and making ersatz soda pop… Basically I need a mix of water and 20-40% citric acid with a thickener to help it stick to the metal just before soldering. Bitter white sauce… I will bore some holes in a substantial piece of wood to mount the valves. A few steel bars into the ground will make it sturdy.

Oops! I had to increase the spacing of the tees. Clearly, I did not make enough room for the valves. I cut longer stubs between the tees.
No more mucking around with hose-connectors for me. I will just leave them connected all summer…

  • Jun 08 / 2013
  • 2

Bad Day At The Office…

Today was not a good day. I was in the process of mowing the weeds when the transmission on my 29 year old John Deere mower locked up. I am not sure whether the transmission actually broke or the sensor of oil-pressure failed. I am just tired of fixing the old thing. It’s time to buy a new machine. Of course, the little woman wants to take charge of that.

An interesting challenge now faces me. Supposing a new machine is bought, how do I get it to my yard? Most of the local retailers are so close, I could actually drive the new machine to my place… It would take about two hours and might save a $50 delivery charge. How to get rid of the old machine is another matter. Perhaps I could salvage the engine which still purrs and use the frame to hold a generator for backup power.

Another failure was the 6 year old string weed-trimmer. The head overheated and plastic melted. It looks like I need a new head and some lithium grease for the shaft. I used to have some at the old homestead but I can’t find it now. More shopping.

Well, with a large lot and dandelions in their prime, bad things come in bunches. With rain expected over the next couple of days, I have to get cutting ASAP…

  • May 30 / 2013
  • 7

Back In The Saddle

Yesterday, having caught up with my seeding, I did other things for my land. I finally got around to fixing the old mower’s deck. The mounting bolts I thought were rounded off were actually coated with grass-juice… I sharpened the blades to increase efficiency. They weren’t as bad as I thought despite hitting so many rocks on my property last year.

Some things were wrecked however. When I went to remount the deck, I discovered that two bolts were missing that supported the deck on one side. I guess the abuse last year loosened the bolts. As I did not have any replacements I did a bit of welding to secure the mount. I also straightened a strut that was bent.

I took it out for a spin and whacked off the first dandelions and the grass itself. This is the first spring after planting from seed. In places the grass is already perfect, lush and dense. A few spots with poor soil or low snow-cover have a lot of growing to do. The thing I liked most is that the quackgrass has really been set back. Large portions of the lawn have none despite a general infection two years ago. Quackgrass hates regular mowing and perennial rye grass just gets bushier.

There are a few places I need to level a bit as the land settled in an irregular fashion after planting and in the drought last year. I need to do a bit of rake and wheelbarrow work. The damned berms are a bigger problem. The dandelions love them and the little woman still has planted nothing there. I am temped to turn them into a paradise for rabbits by planting them over with wild roses… :-(

  • May 26 / 2013
  • 1


About two weeks ago, I began to seed my garden. Recent developments:

  • I have finished seeding corn by hand, one per square foot, 500g of seed…about 4500 kernels. I hope my friends show up to help eat the crop. ;-) I think, next year, I will ask them to help plant it as well.
  • The first sprouts I have seen are corn, radish, rhubarb, asparagus, lilies, rose, and apple. It’s going to be a great year.
  • I still have a bunch of tree seeds and a few onion sprouts to plant.
  • Dandelions got raked over with my battery-powered whipper-snipper.
  • My Dahlia cuttings seemed to have had a setback but it was just a period of low light. I will move them outside shortly to fix that.
  • I have sprouted some unknown bulbs donated by a relative. I suspect they are tulip, narcissus or daffodil bulbs. I have not planted those for years but images on the web seem to match.

Tomorrow, I plan to plant grass seed on a few bare zones/spots and place a bunch of dormant tree-seeds in trays. If I have the energy, I may fertilize the grass and start watering more than the garden-seeds. I also plan to sharpen the blades on the big mower. I have to weld on nuts to the retaining bolts which have been in forever… It seems I work harder now that I am retired.

  • May 02 / 2013
  • 2
food, horticulture

Planting Corn

Last year I had the best crop of corn of my life despite a drought and distraction by renovation of the old homestead. The weeds nearly won…

This year I will change to a smaller patch more densely planted. The strategy is to allow the corn to shade the damned weeds and win. To do that I will change from 30 inch spacing of rows to 12 inches with 12 inches between plants in the row. This will reduce competition between roots of plants which were only 4 inches apart last year. Each plant will be offset 6 inches from the nearest one in the next row. I can cultivate small weeds by hand by straddling a row of corn until they are too tall. By then they will shade the weeds. This gives a density of 43500 plants per acre but they will receive TLC all summer and good fertilization. I will have one low spot but if it floods I will just bail it out. These plants will have no excuse not to produce as water will be close at hand.

No doubt the yield will be more than we can eat but a few parties and putting away frozen and creamed corn could take care of a bunch. Barring tornadoes or hail or some horrible pests… it should be another good year. Last year I was a hero for a couple of weeks… Next week will be sunny and warm, good conditions to prepare to plant by the end of the week.

  • Feb 26 / 2013
  • 0


I am out of excuses not to get out of the house and to make things happen. Today looks like a repeat of yesterday’s weather, sunny and warm.

I put up some more of the greenhouse yesterday. I had to shovel two feet of snow just to walk around in it. I hope to start the roof today. It’s about time because I should have a bunch of seedlings started in a few weeks’ time. At the rate the weather is warming we should have a lot of melting soon. The forecast is two weeks of above normal weather and we may still have a late blizzard but that greenhouse will be ready when I need it.

  • Jan 23 / 2013
  • 0

Gardening 2013

Well, “the little woman” took one look at my roots and seeds order for 2013 and laid down the law. I had to pare things down from ~$600 to ~$100 and mostly stuff we can eat…

Sigh. Project management is not one of her strong suits. She wants to spend a ton of money on landscaping in one fell swoop instead of doing a bit each year. She has no concept of parallel-processing and how many years we have to live compared to how many years it takes to grow a tree…

Oh well. I have hundreds of seeds I have gathered from trees at the old homestead and some gathered from Nature to keep me busy. 2013 is going to be a great year. Unusual things I plan include my first greenhouse and growing mushrooms on the lawn and buried wood. A hedge on two sides of the property will contain good trees for the birds and bees to consider our place sincere: Arborvitae, Caragana and Lilac. Those will have to do for our trees until she gets going.

  • Sep 22 / 2012
  • 3

Gardening Score-card

In some ways this was a great growing season. I have never had such a good crop of corn. In other ways it has been disastrous. My Russian Giant sunflowers took forever to get started and are still not ripe.

Yet there have been pleasant little surprises here and there. Today I started digging carrots. It’s just a miracle any grew. You are supposed to keep the soil moist to get them to sprout but I was watering other things so furiously during a hot, windy drought that they were missed. Somehow, somewhere, they got the idea to grow and I did not even notice. Smothered in weeds and growing in clay so tough the fork would not penetrate were decent half-grown carrots. I guess they jumped at the chance during a rain we had in July. I had given up on them. They were planted in May.

Also, the onions did not do well, but when I was picking them I came upon a little maple tree. I didn’t plant it. It must have ridden in with the fill when we graded. I don’t know what kind of maple it is but most around here are Acer negundo, Manitoba Maple. They are not as sweet as sugar-maples but they will do. It gives me another reason to live ten more years to see that.

Also, most of the junipers died in the drought. I just could not water enough. Must get that in-ground system installed… Still every few feet of the hedge, there is one happy as anything. When the going gets tough the tough get going. Eventually, I will be able to propagate the few proud and brave ones and make a complete hedge.

The weeds did really well as we worked hard renovating the old place. When we move the compost pile from the old place and incorporate it in my garden the soil will be greatly improved. I also will have a greenhouse next spring so the onions, peppers and tomatoes will have a better head-start. I probably will not plant so many beets. More than half are still in the ground and I am tired of pickling. I have about 50L of pickled beets, enough for eating once or twice every day of the year.

The pumpkins produced 14 huge fruits, all sitting on my veranda. I will make a lot of pies this year. I should grow a different variety next year, one that grows faster and is easier to carry. One of the Big Max fruits was so big I had to roll it up a ramp to be able to lift it into the wheel barrow. They barely had time to ripen because the drought slowed them down seriously.

Next year, I should be able to give the garden much more attention because the old place is almost done. There’s just a bit of freight to move and the new owner/occupant can move in. The greenhouse will permit many more seedlings to grow, enough for a perimeter hedge as well as the berms and garden. I have all the material to construct the greenhouse. I only lack motivation as if winter coming were not enough. I expect at least a month of good weather for that project.

The new greenhouse will be a simple square steel frame with a peaked roof and polyethelene covering. I can use it to keep equipment out of the weather, too.