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Farm Update May 3, 2019

Spring at San Juan Island Tea Farm

Farm Update May 3, 2019

May showers bring spring flowers.  This adage is a little off this year as April was wet and then dried out.  The grass is green, the horse and cows are munching on nice pasture and I am spending a lot of time on the mower.

On the farm things are progressing.  The new tea plants went into major shock and it looks like we will lose quite a number of them, but time may change that prediction.  We have covered the areas where they are with 70% shade cloth and that has helped significantly.  The upper tea farm has now been laid out and the rows readied for the fall planting. It was a long 10 hours of tilling to get the sod turned in and the rocks removed.

Future bamboo garden at San Juan Island Tea Farm

The Japanese Garden is beginning to take shape with a mound built around one side of the bamboo garden and planted in Leyland Cypress, which I will trim into a hedge as they grow. We have added a couple more bamboo (clumping varieties) plants and the soil has been amended and is ready for more.

 Rock entrance to Japanese garden

The basic shape of the lower garden has been laid out and the path is roughed in.  More of the gravel has been repurposed and we are contemplating doing a hybrid hugelkultur in one area.  This would not be in keeping with the Japanese Garden look, but I think I can do a cover planting this year and then next year move more into the long term plantings.  I am doing it this way as year one of a hugelkultur is when most of the settling takes place.  I have used about half the horse manure compost that has been working for multiple years and will take the one – two year manure and mix with sand and add it to the other three lower garden areas.  If all goes as planned the hugelkultur portion will require little to no water as the decaying materials below will hold the moisture in and feed the plantings above.

We purchased two more Japanese Maples and I was going to build wooden containers for them to live in. however after seeing the price of the cedar we decided to plant them in gigantic pots instead (the garden center had them on sale).  That hopefully will take place soon.

I am getting concerned about water in July and August and am working through some options on how to make good use of the water we have stored in a 10,000 gallon non potable underground tank.  Also there is no electricity in the farm and garden areas so I am looking into solar for pumps, as we are now considering a pond.  This will not be a large pond, but may end up approximately 15'X30' and a depth of 4 feet.  This means we need to move water at a rate of 11,000 to 30,000 gallons per hour (the pond will hold just over 11,000 gallons).  We are not planning on adding fish so that hopefully means we don’t need to move water at the three times volume rate.

Pampas grass planted at San Juan Island Tea Garden

As I mentioned in an earlier update, the pampas grass by our house was taken out and divided and we ended up with more than a dozen new plants, all of which I have in the ground and it looks promising for all to live long lives.  There are now three rhododendrons and two azaleas planted and a couple of large boulders have been moved from other sites on the property to the lower garden.  I am estimating the last boulder to be around 1500 pounds and it was a chore to get it in place. 

Spring is the busy time and there are so many projects it seems that there just is not enough time in the day.  Seven days a week, eight to ten hours a day.  It is tough on an aging body.  Stay tuned for more.  Who will win, the garden or the farmer?