We transplanted little baby plants today! Not into actual garden beds, but out of their seedling-starting trays at least. Yay! Now all we need is for the weather to get warm!
Category Archives: 4. April
As I have advanced deeper and deeper into what can be considered “adulthood” I’ve become increasingly cranky about March. In each of the last few years I’ve just wanted March to go away; it’s an annoyingly unproductive month, where winter isn’t fun anymore but spring is still impossibly far away. And now that the time changes three weeks earlier than it did when I was a young, carefree lass? Forget about it. Now we’ve got three miserable weeks of the sun setting late enough that March is just mocking us with how not springy it is.
But this year was different. This year, after a rare (for us) winter that was entirely blanketed with snow, I didn’t mind March. Sure, it was hardly a barnburner for us photography-wise, and sure, it was cruelly warm and crocusy and then BOOM! cold and snowy again, but before I knew it we’d hit March 31 and I hadn’t complained once about it. So what should happen to me immediately after flipping over the calendar to the lovely month of April? Why, of course I’m suddenly losing my mind. Why isn’t it spring yet? Where are the leaves? Why isn’t it warm? And most importantly, why isn’t the garden in full swing?
That’s right — I’ve got a bad case of Garden Fever.
Fortunately, we planted lettuce at Imbolc, so we’ve got at least some crops not too far on the horizon. Look! Lettuce!
It’s not nearly ready to eat, but it’s leafy! And green!
We still seem to be insufferably far away from having regular photo opportunities of veggie leaves wearing jewels of water droplets, though.
I mean, look at how small our peppers are:
And those are the biggest of the pepper seedlings. It’s a sad scene. April, I never expected this from you — I thought you were better than March. Shape up, April, because I want — nay, need to be in full garden swing. It’s not enough to know that someday those baby peppers will be all grown up.
[Posted by Schnookie.]
It’s just the middle of April, and it’s actually really cold here (we sure crashed back down to earth after those 90-degree days at the start of the month), but somehow, our garden is already in almost full bounteous bounty mode. In as much as it can be with only three and a half beds planted with stuff. So on a lazy, lazy Sunday, we took our laziest camera outside to see what kind of documentation we could get of the lush cornucopia of deliciousness.
I’m ready for my salad dressing, Mr. DeMille!
First up, the Imbolc lettuce. It’s looking reasonably good (some of the types already seem to be bolting, actually, without ever having bothered growing into lettuce first), but you know what? We don’t think starting it on February 2 gave it any kind of head start. In fact, we suspect it would be doing better if we’d just planted it directly in the soil as soon as we could work it. This whole Imbolc thing is a big sham. At any rate, the lettuce pictured here could, technically, be eaten now. It wouldn’t be much of a meal, but those are definitely lettuce leaves, and you could even use a fork to eat them. In other words, it’s a bounteous bounty!
In the next bed over, the peas are… not edible yet. Last year we read an article in the New York Times at some point in March that was all shriekingly “OHMyouneedotplantyourpeasRIGHTNOWorthey’llnevergrow“, and like the dupes that we am (see: Imbolc), we fell for it. We raced out to get pea seeds at the grocery store, plunked them in the ground, set up trellises, then waited for an eternity for them to grow, then had to tear them out before they accomplished anything because we needed the bed they were in. This year we vowed not to be so foolish. No, this time around we’d set aside some space for our peas. But we still planted them freakishly early, and they’re still not growing at a pace that suggests they need to be put into the ground in mid-March. All of that said, there is a tendril on the pea pictured here. (The other peas are, well, not as big as this one.)
You will never hear us complain about having peas in the garden, though, because they are so delightfully photogenic.
I’m ready for my butter and ciabatta, Mr. DeMille!
We’ve got rows of radishes flanking the peas, and they are growing like gangbusters. They’re supposed to be 20 days from planting to harvest, and while there’s no way they’ll be that quick for us, they won’t be far off the mark.
We did a terrible job last summer of photographing our garden (for a variety of reasons we’d be happy to whine about at length, but we’ll spare you), so there has been much discussion in the last few weeks here at Maple Hoo of how we need to commit to being better about it this summer. But today was, as mentioned, a lazy day. We’d done all manner of non-fun chores earlier in the morning, and were waiting at low ebb for the hockey to start, and really didn’t want to go out front and have to think about taking pictures. But our garden is being so easy-going lately that it managed to look good when shot with the 18-55mm kit lens without even looking. See? Bounteous bounty!
Continuing the tour around the beds, the garlic is just ridonk. It’s huge. And, we’ve decided, literally edible now. We can commence enjoying green garlic whenever we want to. And not pictured is the riot of herbs growing in the pots around the perimeter. There was mint picked today for mojitos, and the volunteer catnip already needs to be harvested, the new sage is bushy and sweet, and there’s oregano bustin’ out hugely in a pot that we’ve been neglecting for years. If this is how well things are going when we’re not even trying, we can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when we start tending to the plants.
This past week was the first totally beautiful week of the year that wasn’t weirdly out-of-season, and we had high hopes for spending our evenings approaching the spring yardfun at a leisurely pace. Of course, I developed a cold on Monday, and since our yardfun was going to be a three-person job, we ended up spending our evenings taking long, restorative naps instead. Sadly, this meant that we had tons of yardfun to do this weekend, with no leisure to be found anywhere. The life of the gentlewoman farmer is hard, yo!
So, what was on the docket? First up, we had to take the straw off all the beds in the garden.
You can see a big black garbage bin in among our herb pots between the beds in that picture; that’s where we’re growing potatoes this summer. We’ve got two bins, and they needed to be prepped for planting. That meant poking holes in them, putting in a layer of rocks (or, in our case, the bits of pots that broke this winter), putting in a layer of straw for drainage, then putting in a shallow layer of soil for planting. Then we opened up our shipment of potatoes that arrived this week from Seed Savers Exchange and our hearts fell. There were about eight medium-sized potatoes in the box, two of which were rotten. Stupid potatoes! (This was shocking to us — normally SSE is utterly reliable.) And the instructions suggested we needed to cut the potatoes into plantable pieces (about two inches square, with at least two eyes each) and let the cut sides get callused a bit, after sitting for a day or two. D’oh! We were doing yardfun today! Stupid potatoes. Well, we did the cutting, and will do the planting in a few days, assuming they don’t rot. Grumble, grumble, grumble…
Next up, it was time to do some transplanting.
The Imbolc lettuce was rarin’ to go, and we figured it could live in the bed the peppers will be moving into later this summer.
It looks so happy now that it’s got room to spread out!
The onions, which we never bothered thinning, were a tangled snarl of ready-to-not-be-in-the-crowded-little-tray seedlings.
After a little wrestling them apart, a little manhandling them into a bed, a little cussing about how much we hate transplanting onion seedlings, and then a little remembering that the year we direct-sowed them, none of our onions grew, we were done. Transplanted onions are always the least impressive sight of the entire garden season. They look all hearty and oniony in the seedling trays, then pathetic and wimpy in the big beds. Good thing we’ve got the garlic to gaze upon happily, until the onions can get their act together and start looking like real plants.
The other big yardfun job we had to take care of was tidying up the orchard. All of our beloved fruit trees live in unsightly playpens of temporary deer netting held up by six-foot stakes. (Our motto about this ugly landscaping treatment is, “If the township would let us put up real deer fencing, our neighbors wouldn’t have to look at this crap.” Ball’s in your court, Township.) Once a year, we have to straighten the stakes, which spend the next 364 days leaning and drooping and falling over, and then reset the deer netting. We generally have to expand the playpen borders, too, since the trees have this wacky tendency to get bigger. This year we even did some pruning, because, amazingly, some of the trees are too big.
The apple trees are always the first ones in our yard to get green leaves, and some of them were already well on their way today. And meanwhile, the peach trees are practically bustin’ out with blossoms.
We’ve still got two more new trees to plant (a Pineapple quince in a spot we’re expanding the orchard into, and a Whitney crabapple to put into the spot where the Spitzenburg apple died last year), but you know what? That’s going to have to wait until tomorrow. We’re pooped.
[Posted by Schnookie]
There’s not a ton of new or exciting garden news to report here yet, what with this being a ridiculously chilly spring so far. Last year we had no real concerns about the last possible frost date, since we were confident it was over once March was in the rearview mirror. But this year it seems more likely that we’ll have one more crazy cold night before Mother’s Day, so we’re being hesitant to move any of our delicate summer belle plants even into the cold frame, let alone into the garden beds proper. But today was one of those “taste of the season to come” summer-esque days, with the sweltering sun and the temperatures near 90, so we took the opportunity to document the grounds in photograph.
Our peas are still wee little winkies, and we don’t have a lot of hope that they’re going to yield anything before we need the bed they’re in for our pepper plants. We were kind of wishing the potatoes, which have been lagging, wouldn’t sprout so we could keep the peas and move the pepper bed into the failed potato bed, but no such luck. When we went out this morning, sure enough, the potatoes were just starting to poke up out of the soil. We’ll just have to enjoy taking pictures of the peas while they last.
The garlic, meanwhile, is coming in like gangbusters. It’s a veritable forest already, and tonight we’ll be pulling up a few of them to have some green garlic in our Saturday pasta dinner.
Elsewhere in the yard, we’ve got all kinds of blossoming, growing things to be turning the 100 on. Like the azaleas:
And the petunia I got as a door prize (!) at a meeting this week at work:
And the peach trees:
And the apple trees:
Even the dandelions are pretty:
As are the ladybugs:
And inspired by Sarah’s fern photo from last week, we stopped by Boomer’s fernarium in the backyard and took a few shots there, too:
[Posted by Schnookie]
As much as the weather here is trying its hardest to stay on the “chilly” end of the springtime temperatures spectrum, it can’t fool us into thinking summer is never going to come. It might not be warm out, but the sunlight’s getting more and more garden-y, and in our little plant window the seedlings are getting readier and readier to be in the garden.
Our baby onions have all been moved to their bed in the garden (and look typically tiny, pathetic and unlikely to ever amount to anything, as onion seedlings are wont), so now the windowsill is just filled with tomatoes and peppers. Today we finished transferring the peppers from their planter-trays (which were just take-out containers from the place we get frozen ravioli from) into peat seedling pots, and if the first wave of transplants was any indication, they will spend a few nerve-wracking days looking horribly shocked. But after a while, they’ll stop being such drama queens, stand up straight, and start growing in earnest.
Meanwhile, our tomatoes were put into their peat pots a few weeks ago; they’ve even had two days sitting in their trays in the garden, to take the sun, but they’re still a long way from moving into the cold frame. They’re such delicate little things.
They’re also tall enough now that they’re flopping over, because they can’t support their own weight. Man, being a gentlewoman farmer is so much work because these damn plants can’t do even the slightest thing for themselves.
Of course, it’s nothing a few bamboo skewers and some kitchen twine can’t fix — after a few fussy minutes of untangling the leaves and trussing up the wee plants, our tomatoes look sturdier, happier, and even more eager about a summer of giving us tons of delicious rewards for all our labors.
We have recently upgraded from “throw stuff in the ground and see what grows” gardeners to “throw stuff in the ground, then read about how we could have done a smarter job of that, then see what grows” gardeners. Among the things we’ve read about how we could have done a smarter job of gardening have been some tips about pest-repellent companion gardening. Companion gardening is a concept we’ve kind of willfully ignored (although we totally inadvertently stumbled onto the cosmos/corn pairing our first summer, which may explain why we inadvertently managed a really good corn yield), but we’re becoming increasingly freaked out about pests. So when we read that marigolds are kind of a cure-all pest-repellent, and can be easily plopped into the corners of your vegetable beds and then left to work their magic, how could we resist?
This weekend has seen the final uncovering and dirt-filling of the beds, and after doing the not-at-all fun part of that yesterday, today was all about putting in our miracle pest-repellants in preparation for the big tomato-planting next weekend. We bought a handful of different marigold colorways, and then randomly dispersed them around the beds that had room for them.
They’re in the corners of the potato beds, on the ends of the radish/pepper bed, and in the newly-filled tomato and basil beds, ready to be boon companions to our crops.
And if nothing else, they’re a welcome spot of cheerful color amidst all the empty soil and wee, spring-green sprouts.
So we planted four types of potatoes this year, Yellow Finn, All Blue, Banana Fingerling, and Desiree. They’re very distinct-looking potatoes, as their names would suggest; the Yellow Finn is a small, yellow waxy potato, the All Blue is, well, all blue, the Banana Fingerling is a waxy, yellow and elongated, and the Desiree is a red-skinned potato with yellow flesh. Now that they’re all sprouting, what’s surprisingly cool to see is how different their plants all look, too.
First to come up was the Banana Fingerling, and while it’s very potato-y, it has a kind of elegant legginess to it. I’m sure that’s purely coincidental, but I still think it’s cool that a long and graceful tuber has sprouted a long and graceful plant.
The Yellow Finns have been slower to sprout than the others, and right now they look suitably stumpier than the Banana Fingerlings. That will probably change soon, but right now, humor me, okay? I’m trying to run with the idea that the plants are all reflecting the potatoes they’re someday going to grow into.
What’s kind of cool about those two plants compared with the Desiree and the All Blue is that they’re the same color. The Desiree, meanwhile, is definitely veined with a hint of red:
Furthermore, I think the leaves are a little plumper and curvier. Although I’m probably projecting — I am convinced this plant is called “Roselle” (I have no idea why), so I think I’m looking for “Roselle”y traits when I look at it.
By far the coolest thing to happen in our garden so far this year, though, is the sprouting of the All Blues. They grew in blue.
We had visions of totally blue potato plants dancing in our minds for a few days, but as they’ve leafed out, they’ve greened up quite a bit. That said, they’re still a hell of a lot bluer than their compatriots.
So now I’m all excited that the four different plants have such distinct looks, so watch they all end up appearing exactly the same a month from now.
Our onions are starting to look like actual plants now, instead of just seedlings:
And meanwhile, in the next bed over, the radishes are rapidly expanding. Some of them are even growing their second leaves:
What’s sort of hilarious about the radish arrangement is that we laid that whole bed out with a very ambitious design that involved two types of radishes and four types of lettuce. We had concentric diamonds of lettuce, and then chevrons of radishes between them, everything to be direct-sown in successive plantings. Which is all well and good, assuming your seeds actually take. Which the lettuce did not. So now we have chevrons of radishes and big empty expanses where there is no lettuce. Which is probably a good thing, because we completely forgot to allot space in our planning for our pepper plants. Now it looks like we’ll have chevrons of radishes radiating out from a clump of peppers.
Today was a hard-labor kind of day, a day that prompted Pookie to invent the term “yardfun” to trick us all into thinking we were enjoying what we were doing. But no matter how tiresome the work in the yard is, it’s all made up for by the sight of our plants growing in. So we happily fenced trees, dug up weeds, lugged soil and turned beds, because it’s already the last weekend of April — that means our “seedlings” are well on their way to becoming “crops”.
We have had almost no luck at all with our lettuces this Spring, which means we’re complete and total losers, because even the dimmest of bulbs can grow lettuce. But we did direct-sow some radishes a couple of weeks ago to go with our now totally imaginary lettuce crop, and they’re looking very sassy today:
We also direct-sowed a row of scallions in one end of the onion bed, and for the second straight year, were despairing that we’re too incompetent to grow bunching onions. But today, lo and behold, there are three wee little seedlings in the row where we planted dozens.
We’ll try not to eat them all in one place. (And we’re also going to start a tray of scallion seedlings tomorrow, because they were a crazy-good crop two years ago. The regular onions seem to work very well when they’re started and transplanted, rather than just tossed in the dirt, so maybe we’ll have better luck this way.)
The potatoes are in fine form, and we’ve got 17 plants coming up now of the 24 we planted. We’re going to give the remaining seven one more week to show they’re sprouting before plopping a few more seed potatoes into their places. Interestingly, when we went to strip the straw cover off the bed we’re putting the gherkins into this summer, we discovered there was an abundance of volunteer potatoes coming up in there. Obviously, we did a lousy job completely harvesting the crop we had in there when that bed was hosting potatoes last year.
There were no fewer than six potato plants above the soil, and it took some work to get all the way down in the soil to the sources.
Damn, that’s a lot of potatoes we missed. Oh, regrets. Terrible, terrible regrets. As Boomer said as we gazed upon them sadly, “That’s a whole meal.” This year we will be digging down to China if need be, to ensure that we’ve harvested each and every delicious potato morsel from our garden.
Meanwhile, the garlic is growing like a weed…
… And speaking of weeds, we’ve got lovely little violets growing of their own volition in our pumpkin patch. What a nice change from the dandelions and poison ivy that normally live in there.