Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's New in the Garden

Here's a bird's-eye view of the community garden only a a couple of weeks after it officially opened. By late summer, it will no longer be a picturesque patchwork of neat garden plots but instead a tangled jungle of vegetables and prairie weeds. Let's zoom in on our plot.
Garden plots on left and right, parking lot in center.
Last year we planted a lot of winter squash. Some varieties didn't make it, but if I remember correctly, we harvested several small pumpkins, a few calabaza (downside: it was a humongous plant for a little produce; upside: it seemed the most resistant to powdery mildew and pests), I think seven sweet dumplings, only one delicata, and three butternuts. Not the yield we'd hoped for, but not too bad. Yet after battling powdery mildew and squash bugs almost all season (for the second year in a row), we decided that 2012 would not be a squash year.

I may do the sweet dumpling squash again, because they are light enough to grow on a simple vertical frame, they're small, and they were delicious. But otherwise, we have a lot of space open without those gourds in our 20x30-foot plot. Some new crops will take their place.

The potato patch. Last year we produced a handful of small potatoes—it was a casual experiment. This year, we bought a 5-lb. bag of red seed potatoes and planted them all! This photo was taken after we had cut the seed potatoes into sections (one or two eyes per piece) and were letting them sit out and callus for a few days, following the instructions on the bag. Yes, that is a pizza box they're sitting on. Reuse, right?

Carrots. We were lucky enough to get another gardener's extra carrots last year, and it inspired us to plant three rows of our own.

More beets! I thought I could plant the beets in stages for a longer harvest period. It got too hot too quickly and only my first round of 2011 beets did really well.  This time, I'm just planting them all at once in a bigger area, and we'll just eat a lot of beets while we can. And hopefully pickles some, too. Then maybe I'll plant a fall crop in the bed in our front yard (no time for late plantings in the community garden before it closes for the season).

Trying harder at the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Because I failed at those last year. So far, our tomato seedlings did great under the grow light, and we just transplanted them outside this weekend. But the peppers didn't even sprout. Is it too cold in our house? Our my seeds old? I think we'll have to buy pepper plants instead of growing them from seed. And I have two very tiny eggplant seedlings. I guess it's not too late to plant a few more seeds and hope the warmer weather induces faster sprouting and growth, because I gotta get those babies outside soon!

The other new stuff in our garden isn't over at the community plot, it's here in our yard. We dug out one more evergreen bush from our front yard and expanded the garden bed. It's now about 10x4 feet. I realized too late last year that the soil there was too acidic for most veggies, probably due to all those evergreen needles composting there. Not much would grow. Len and I have added a lot of our own compost as well as some composted manure we bought, as well as peat moss, to hopefully balance out the soil pH. Just this weekend, I planted a bunch of herbs and lettuce and stuff, so we'll see if the seedlings come out better this time.

Also in our front bed is this mammoth brussels sprout plant, which my parents gave us from their garden. Their climate was a little too warm for the sprouts to develop properly, but ours might be perfect. I know the plant looks mangled and droopy, but it's just too big for itself. It is in fact growing little brussels sprouts right now near the top of each stalk. Here's the thing, though: I think brussels sprouts are supposed to be a late fall crop; I hear they taste best if you wait until after a frost to harvest them. So, will these take all summer to grow? Or, are they developing too early because this was already a mature plant (two or three years old, in fact)? Also, can I keep them cabbage moths and caterpillars from destroying them? (Last year, they ravaged our kale.)

Off to the side of the front-yard garden, grapes! Dozens of grape babies—just like this little bunch pictured below—have formed on our vine, and I am so excited! Perhaps our vine has finally matured—I think it's four years old now, possibly five. It has produced grapes only one other time, and that was two very small bunches of very small grapes. Japanese beetles feasted on the grape leaves last summer, so we'll have to watch for signs of them and kill on sight. I wonder if the bird feeder hanging by the grape vine will attract birds who will then go after the beetles? Or, will the birds just eat our grapes instead?

In our backyard, blueberries! Last fall I planted a nice-sized Liberty blueberry bush. Apparently, optimal fruit production comes from having more than one variety of blueberry nearby. So this spring, I planted next to it a small Pink Lemonade blueberry bush. Then rabbits nibbled on it and made it even smaller. Rgh. I've since wrapped some fencing around both blueberry bushes to protect them from critters, but I don't think I'll see any awesome dark pink berries from that one this season. The liberty, however, has a few clusters of lovely flowers.

We're now growing four kinds of fruit in our yard: blueberries, grapes, raspberries, and strawberries. It's actually six kinds of fruit if you count two varieties of raspberries, two varieties of blueberries, and the future apples (more on that in another post).

Lastly, from the garden, "Hello" from Mr. Toad.

1 comment:

  1. Hooray for your garden aspirations! I can't wait to see what pops up!