On Saturday, my daughter and I were out in our garden, milling around, checking stuff out, they way we often do, when we saw our dog Chester over at the base of the apple tree. He was barking and acting funny. I thought maybe he treed something. Maybe the neighbor’s cat, maybe even a groundhog. For a second I was full of dread that maybe he had treed a raccoon in the middle of the day.
Upon further inspection we found that he hadn’t treed anything at all, but instead he was just alerting us to the presence of a strange visitor—some kind of carrier pigeon, taking a break from its journey from who-knows-where to who-knows-where. So of course I ran to get the camera. My daughter decided his name was Morry.
Our garden is looking pretty good these days. Raised beds, deep straw mulch, and trellises have made such a difference in the amount of work I have to do out there. In the past, this time of the year was make-or-break time. One false move, one slight hesitation, and the garden would be completely over run by weeds, crippled by under-watering, or overgrown by runaway cucumbers of squash plants. But this year, everything seems to be under control. The deep mulch takes care of the weeds; the raised beds with drip hoses and mechanical timer take care of my watering problems; and that trellis gives the cucumbers something constructive to do with their time.
We made our first jar of pickles yesterday. We’ve blanched and frozen 11 family-sized servings of beans. I planted potatoes in straw mulch which makes it really easy to just reach in a grab a few when you need them without disturbing the whole plant or digging up the soil. And the zucchinis are basically relentless. But what my family waits all year for are the tomatoes. Any day now.
The bean teepee is also a big hit at our house. It provides nice shady place to escape the summer sun. And as an added bonus, volunteer pumpkins are making their way to the top.
I had given up on my carrots, thought they were a no-show. But after weeks and weeks of worry, I finally spotted them, tiny and green, right where I planted them. Go figure.
It was another extremely productive weekend for me. I finished building my raised beds. I added five new beds this year. Digging, digging, and more digging. Glad I’m done.
I built my fence, but still have to finalize the gate. Right now, I just lean it on the fence posts. I also made a few beds around the edges of the garden, in which I planted nasturtium, calendula, cosmos, parsley, and mint. And I started some marigolds and basil in pots.
The collards and the chard we planted last weekend have germinated. My bok choy, kohlrabi and Brussels were being eaten alive by slugs but I put coffee grounds around each plant and the slugs are gone. I found one potato beetle on my potatoes. I squished it.
My next venture will be to mulch the paths between the beds. I think I’ll use wood chips. Should I rent a chipper or just go buy a truckload of chips? If I chip the wood myself, I’ll know exactly where the wood comes from.
The other thing I need to work out is my watering system. I mentioned earlier in this blog about making some kind of custom drip hose system by cutting up old hoses and new fittings. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m looking forward to the plant sale this weekend at the Rodale Institute, but am more excited about planting what I buy there in my new raised beds.
And finally, I’m happy to say we ate our first spinach salad from the garden last week: Baby spinach, olive oil, and Locatelli. So good.
We made progress this weekend. With the help of my wife Heather and daughter Iris, I built two more raised beds, and got three of them filled with a nice mixture of soil and compost. We planted six broccoli plants, as well as chard and collards by seed.
So far, here’s what’s in the ground:
Heather started building a trellis for the peas. The garden is well on its way now. But there’s still lots to do. I’m going to build one more raised bed. I’d like to get some woodchips with which to mulch the paths.
We also planted a bed of wild flower seeds over by the old crabapple tree. The poor tree—it used to a beautiful sprawling weeping crab apple, but last year in early April, an ash tree on the edge of the woods fell and took most of the crab apple with it.
Tags: raised beds
I wonder if it would count as working from home if I didn’t come in tomorrow, stayed home, and finished my raised beds. I have two of them built, one of which is partially double dug. The other is just a frame. I intend to build three, maybe four more of these.
I know I should probably use something longer-lasting then untreated pine 2×10s, but that’s what I bought, so that’s what I’ll use. I know if I had an uninterrupted 8 hours I could get all the beds ready to go. I don’t think I’ve ever had an uninterrupted 8 hours ever in my entire life.
I can’t complain. It’s only April and I have a lot planted already. The peas were first. Then the potatoes and spinach. Brussels a few weeks ago.
Monday morning I planted my kohlrabi, bok choi, and arugula. I bought these cool weather crops at the Rodale Institute’s plant sale last Friday. I also bought some broccoli, mint, foxgloves, and a columbine.
My potatoes are out of the ground already, and we might be eating baby spinach in a week or so.
The thing I’m very excited about is my pumpkin patch. I haven’t planted it yet, but I’ve cleared a spot up in our meadow for it. It’ll be more of a squash patch. I’ll have lots of winter squash up there. Delicata, butternut, maybe acorn. Might even throw some beans and corn in for the 3 Sisters effect. Haven’t decided if I’ll put my summer squash in this new squash patch, or down in one of the as-of-yet un-built raised beds.
And of course there will be pumpkins—big ones, little ones, orange, white, maybe even blue. I love pumpkins. Not sure why. One of my dreams is to grow giant pumpkins. You know: Prizewinners. The kind you could carve out and live in if you had to. The kind you could float down a river in. That’s what I’m talking about. Giant pumpkins.