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Farm update May 24, 2019

Farm update May 24, 2019

Tea rows readied 

It has been a very busy couple of weeks here on the farm.  The tea beds are readied and are now in maintenance mode until fall.  The Japanese garden in the retired riding arena is now the object of our attention.  The bamboo forest has been started.  The layout is roughed in and we are creating the overall layout. 

 San Juan Island Tea Farm overall layout

The number of plants is growing and we have settled on what the majority of the species will be.  Cypress will form much of the backdrops.  In the foregrounds there will be rhododendron, azaleas, lavender, Japanese maples and heather.  Once those are placed areas will be filled in with local ferns and boxwood. 

Two Katsura Japanese Maples have been planted in very large pots and will define the entrance to the tea farm, transitioning the garden to the farm.  As we build the garden, we are looking for ways to marry different agricultural concepts.  We love the concept of permaculture and hügelkultur, (hügelkultur is a horticultural technique where a mound constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials is later planted as a raised bed) but, at the same time, want to maintain the manicured look of a Japanese garden.   As an experiment in a large pot planting, we placed Doulas Fir branches in the bottom of the pots and then filled with a mixture of composed horse and cow manure and top soil.  The Japanese maples were then planted on top.  


wood in bottom of large pot hugleculture

The next step was to build platforms to visibly anchor the pots.  I built square frames out of left over Trex decking material and filled the centers with flagstone. 

stone pad build for large outdoor pot

I think it worked out well.  We'll let you know how the hugekultur in a pot turns out.

entrance to farm w/house

entrance to the farm 

Under negotiation is the subject of ponds.  We are considering as many as three ponds that will all feed into each other.  Beginning above the tea farm and flowing into a seasonal trench that will feed a second pond that will in turn feed the final pond that will reside in the Japanese garden.  The first two will more than likely be seasonal while the final pond will be permanent and be integral to the overall garden experience.

 paths in gardenpaths mounds in Japanese garden

It looks like the transplanted pampas grass is doing well and once established will form a great backdrop that will visually segregate the garden from the farm.  The design of the paths is finished and the building of the contours is in process.  Deer fencing has been ordered and is on its way.  This will allow us to plant deer candy safely (things like hosta) and protect the cherry trees, holly and maples from our beloved yet destructive friends.

At the house the wisteria is absolutely gorgeous this year.  Diligent pruning last season has brought about an astonishing number of blooms.  The spring weather on the island has been ideal for the grass and the rate of growth is requiring frequent mowing. 

 wisteria on the arbor

I still have not found the time to rent or purchase a chipper to take care of the branch piles I have in various spots and once the deer fence is installed many more branches will need to be chipped and used as mulch. 

As my sister said “Retired or tired”.  I am going with the later.

Between maintenance and building new, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Greg Gifford, Lead farmer and tractor operator