For the past week or so I’ve been getting parts of the garden ready for next year. Too soon, you say? No, says I.
A bed of corn and a bed of bush beans are finished for the season. Not that that’s the end of either vegetable. I planted four beds of corn, each two weeks after the previous, and the two remaining beds will be providing ears of fresh Golden Bantam — a hundred year old variety with rich, corny flavor — well into September.
The bed of bush beans will be superseded by a bed of pole beans, planted at the same time. Bush beans start bearing early but peter out after a couple of harvests. Pole beans are slower to get going, but once they do, they keep up a quickening pace until slowed, then stopped, by cold weather.
Over the years I’ve greatly expanded my vegetable garden, for bigger harvests, without making it any bigger. How? By what I have called (in my book Weedless Gardening) multidimensional gardening.
I thought about this today as I looked upon a bed from which I had pulled snow peas and had just planted cauliflower, cabbage, and lettuce. Let’s compare this bed with the more traditional planting of single rows of plants, each row separated by wide spaces for walking in for hoeing weeds, harvesting, and other activities. No foot ever sets foot in my beds, which are 3 feet wide. Rather than the traditional one dimensional planting, I add a dimension — width — by planting 3 rows up that bed. Or more, if I’m planting smaller plant such as carrots or onions.
Let’s backtrack in time to when the bed was home to peas. Oregon Sugar Pod peas …
Berries are making it harder to get things done around here. Not because they are so much trouble to grow, but because I’ve planted them here, there, and everywhere. Wherever I walk I seem to come upon a berry bush. Who can resist stopping to graze? This year is a particular bountiful year for berries.
I can’t even walk to my mailbox without being confronted. First, there are lowbush blueberries hanging ripe for the picking over the stone wall bordering the path from the front door. The wall supports the bed of them planted along with lingonberries, mountain laurels, and rhododendrons. These plants are grouped together because they are in the Heath Family, Ericaceae, all of which demand similar and rather unique soil conditions. That is, high acidity (pH 4 to 5.5), consistent moisture, good aeration, low fertility, and an abundance of soil organic matter. The small blueberries send me …
Asparagus season has ended here now, after more than two months of harvest. From now till they yellow in autumn, the green fronds will gather sunlight which, along with nutrients and water, will pack away energy into the roots, energy that will fuel next year’s harvest.
In addition to dealing with the weather, the plants have to contend with weeds. I have to admit, despite being the author of the book Weedless Gardening, that my asparagus bed each year is overrun with weeds, mostly two species(!) of oxalis, creeping Charlie, and various grasses. Also weeds parading as asparagus, self-sown plants. This, even though I planted all male varieties. Any batch of male plants typically has a certain, low percentage of female plants. (Still, my garden is weed-less even if it’s not weedless.)
I always wondered about the recommendation to plant asparagus crowns in deep trenches that are gradually filled …
Got a couple of scares in the garden this season. No, not some woodchuck making its way past the dogs and then through some openings in the fences to chomp down a row of peas (which look especially vibrant this year, thank you). And no late frost that wiped out my carefully tended tomato transplants.
The first scare came last week as I looked down on the bed where I had planted edamame a couple of weeks previously. No green showed in the bed, a stark contrast to the nearby bed planted at the same time with snap beans, the small plants enjoying the warm sunshine and neatly lined up four inches apart in two rows down the bed.
Testing edamame seeds
Scratching gingerly into the soil of the edamame bed did not reveal any seeds germinating but not yet above ground. In fact, I couldn’t find any seeds at …
Only a couple of weeks ago I finished planting out tomato, pepper, melon, and the last of other spring transplants, and here I am today, sowing seeds again for more transplants. No, that first batch of transplants weren’t snuffed out from the last, late frost when the thermometer dropped to 28°F on May 13th.
And no, those transplants were not clipped off at ground level, toppled and left lying on the ground, by cutworms. Neither were they chomped from the top down to ground level by rabbits.
I’m planting seed flats today to keep the harvest rolling along right through late autumn.
Looking farthest ahead, I have in hand two packets of cabbage seed, Early Jersey Wakefield and Bartolo. Early Jersey Wakefield is a hundred year old variety with very good flavor and pointy heads, due to mature a couple of months after transplanting. Once those heads firm up, they …
At last night’s appropriately social distanced “zoom” dinner with my daughter, she commented on how tasty my salad looked. “All home grown,” I replied, and held up to the computer screen a leaf of one of the major contributors to my bowl of greenery, Caucasian mountain spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides). “Looks like some leaf you just plucked off a tree,” says she. Yes, it did, but it was as tasty and as tender as any leaf of regular garden spinach.
It’s with good reason that the two “spinaches” are so similar: They’re both in the same family, Amaranthacea, also kin to beets, chard, quinoa, lamb’s quarters, and pigweed.
Caucasian mountain spinach has it over conventional garden spinach in a number of ways, most significantly its being a perennial. I planted it last spring and don’t plan on doing so ever again. Not that making new plants would be difficult. They …
Coronavirus has come, and it will go, but the natural world soldiers on. My dogs, Sammy and Daisy, are as happy as ever, oblivious to the pandemic. My garden will respond likewise, trucking forward and offering a centering point as the world around has its ups and downs.
This week is a very special one in my gardening year; it’s the week I plant peas. April 1st, to be specific. It’s sort of the official beginning of the vegetable garden. “Sort of” because actually have been planting and harvesting lettuce, mâche, arugula, claytonia, kale, bok choy, chard, and celery all winter in the greenhouse.
Not Too Early, Not Too Late
For some gardeners, St. Patrick’s Day is the date for sowing peas. Yes, that is the correct date for pea sowing — in Ireland, Virginia, and other places where I imagine soil temperatures reach about 40° F by that date. Above …
Working from home, I’m used to being homebound. And I like it. Not everyone feels this way, and now COVID-19 has forced this situation on many people.
For anyone who isn’t growing some vegetables, if there ever was a time to start a vegetable garden, it’s now.
A garden will provide pleasant and interesting diversion, some exercise, a chance to be outdoors, the need for less frequent trips to the market, a good family project/activity, and some savings of food dollars. And the experience of — wonder of wonders — watching seeds sprout and grow into plants.
Growing vegetables is easy. Seeds have been practicing sprouting for millions of years. That’s what they do. Sprout. And plants have been doing likewise.
Paying attention to some basic plant needs will make your garden even more successful. As far as soil, don’t worry about fertility or acidity for now. The most important consideration is …
Onions, how do I plant thee? Let me count the ways. I plant thee just once for years of harvests if thou are the perennial potato or Egyptian onion. If thou are the pungent, but long-keeping, American-type onion, I sow thy seeds in the garden in the spring. And if I were to choose like most gardeners, I would plant thee in spring as those small bulbs called onion “sets.” (Apologies to E.B. Browning)
New Old Ways with Onions
Early March brings us to yet another way of growing onions: sowing the seeds indoors in midwinter. This was the “New Onion Culture” of a hundred and fifty years ago, and, according to a writer of the day, “by it the American grower is enabled to produce bulbs in every way the equal of those large sweet onions which are imported from Spain and other foreign countries.” This is the way to …