Veggie Garden Update

Happy greens

Happy greens

It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks, but Wonder Spouse and I have just about got the vegetable garden where we need it to be. Mostly, anyway. Certainly, the bed of lettuces, spinaches, arugula, and broccoli is doing very well. We’ve enjoyed a number of quite tasty salads. However, as usual, the arugula has already begun to bolt. It’s really too bitter to eat now, and I will force myself to pull it up as soon as the scary weather predicted for the next several days is safely past us.

Coastal Star Romaine Lettuce

Coastal Star Romaine Lettuce

The spring garden was planted later than usual, because our darn temperatures wouldn’t stabilize, and because the ground was too wet to work longer than usual. My greens are doing well, because I started them in the greenhouse and then transplanted them to their bed.

Red Cross Butterhead Lettuce

Red Cross Butterhead Lettuce

But by the time I direct-sowed the beets and carrots, it was already about a month too late. They’ve sprouted beautifully, but the plants are still really seedlings. I am not hopeful that I’ll get much from them unless May high temperatures are much, much lower than normal.

Annapolis Red Romaine Lettuce tastes as wonderful as it looks.

Annapolis Red Romaine Lettuce tastes as wonderful as it looks.

Wonder Spouse’s potatoes are doing well. Here’s what one bagful looked like earlier in the week:

Before the bag was raised to the next level.

Before the bag was raised to the next level.

This past weekend, Wonder Spouse unfolded another third of the bag, filled in around the plants with the rich leaf mold/compost mix he devised, and counseled the plants to produce yet more tubers at this higher level.

Ideally, the stems should sprout new roots and then potatoes along the freshly buried stems. Here's hoping!

Ideally, the stems should sprout new roots and then potatoes along the freshly buried stems. Here’s hoping!

The onion plants I transplanted in mid-March are doing well. I’m trying to be very attentive about watering them. For once, the well we use for the garden is full to the top, so I can be more generous with this precious resource than in recent past springs.

Of course, as soon as the spring garden was in, I began weeding the beds set aside for summer vegetables and flowers. Weather — again — slowed my progress, as did my cranky joints. Alas, this aging gardener has discovered that repetitive gardening tasks are ideally allotted to alternating days, at least if I want to walk upright.

When I saw the weather forecast for this week — basically, an entire week of rain — I knew that the tomato starts in my greenhouse would never last another entire week confined there. So, ignoring my joints and with the help of Wonder Spouse this past weekend, the tomato beds were power-weeded, planted, and mulched.

A weeded tomato bed before planting. It was chock full of earthworms.

A weeded tomato bed before planting. It was chock full of earthworms.

The tomatoes were hitting the roof of the greenhouse.

The tomatoes were hitting the roof of the greenhouse.

It is a very satisfying feeling to step back and admire a well-planted, well-mulched bed. Of course, now I will chew off my fingernails worrying about hail and damaging winds.

Gardeners don't need to go to Vegas to gamble; we gamble on the weather.

Gardeners don’t need to go to Vegas to gamble; we gamble on the weather.

The first summer bed I prepared was for the Fortex pole beans. I think I planted them about two weeks ago, and I may have gotten 100% germination from them. I am excited.

Fortex pole beans in foreground; much of the rest of the vegetable garden behind and beside them.

Fortex pole beans in foreground; much of the rest of the vegetable garden behind and beside them.

I also got my squashes planted yesterday. I start them in the greenhouse, to ensure top-quality plants. Direct-sowing isn’t a terrible option, but when you have a greenhouse, you might as well use it. I transplanted three plants each of two kinds of zucchini — Spineless Perfection, and a new variety for me — Dinja. As soon as they’re tucked in, watered, and mulched, they are covered in their garden fabric tents to prevent insect pests from devouring the baby plants. As I explained here, the fabric comes off when the first flowers open.

Safely tucked beneath their insect-proof tents, the squash plants can focus on unimpeded growth.

Safely tucked beneath their insect-proof tents, the squash plants can focus on unimpeded growth.

I interplanted a few basils and marigolds with the tomatoes, but I have many, many flower and herb plants impatiently waiting their summer homes in my greenhouse. I can’t even think about their relocation until this terrifying weather pattern is past and the ground dries out. My area is predicted to receive 3-5 inches of rain. I’m praying my yard receives the lower end of that range.

Several of the tomato plants were displaying their first open flowers when we transplanted them, so I’m praying that the weather will be kind, and I’ll be devouring fresh-picked tomato fruits soon.

That’s about it for the veggie update. But I can’t close without mentioning the arrival of two species of birds that I associate with late spring — Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Summer Tanagers. The grosbeaks visit for about two weeks every spring and fall on their migrations to their summer and winter homes. My well-stocked feeders are a favored stopover for them.

The Summer Tanagers nest in my region every summer. I rarely see them, but I hear them often. They exchange a chipping call high in the treetops as they hunt for and devour the zillions of caterpillars that feed on the leaves of my canopy trees.

I know summer is nearly here when the tomatoes are in the ground and the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are visiting my feeders.

I know summer is nearly here when the tomatoes are in the ground and the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are visiting my feeders.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the folks in the middle of the country being hammered by tornadoes. It is indeed a cruel twist of Fate that Spring is often as destructive as it is beautiful.

Stay safe out there, ya’ll.

 

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  1. #1 by Lin Celoni on April 29, 2014 - 8:33 am

    Catherine,
    You are doing so well! Thanks for sharing your progress. I am just south of Charlotte – no rain as of 9:30- we are trying to put in a veggie garden at our church for a food bank. Our problem – other than the weather this year- is deer. They already took out a bed of lettuce and spinach,left the ale and chard. Tell me about your net fencing. Or is that just support for your beans and tomatoes. We have NO budget. We seem to be on the South Charlotte Deerway!
    peace,
    Lin

    • #2 by piedmontgardener on April 29, 2014 - 9:50 am

      Thanks, Lin! For many years, Wonder Spouse and I protected our vegetable garden with a single string of solar-powered electric fencing around the perimeter. We placed the wire about two, maybe three feet above the ground. And every year before we turned it on, we put peanut butter on pieces of aluminum foil, which we attached to the electric wire. The deer and other creatures would smell the peanut butter, reach in for a lick, get zapped, then usually they’d leave the fenced garden alone the rest of the season. The shock is more of a surprise than painful to them, but it certainly does the trick.

      A few years back, we did enclose the vegetable garden with plastic-coated chicken wire fencing. We were having serious rabbit issues — they laughed at our electric fence — but the new fence has thwarted them .

      Because your efforts are at your church and for a food bank, I suggest you visit your local garden supply stores and ask for donations for either an electric or mesh deer fence. I suggest you bring a member of your clergy with you on these visits — and make them in person, not on the phone. I used to volunteer with a nonprofit horticultural therapy program that served mothers recovering from drug addiction. I had no trouble soliciting generous donations from garden supply stores when I explained my program.

      Plant-lovers are generous people, I’ve found. And certainly a church-sponsored food bank program is a worthy cause in anyone’s eyes. Good luck with your project!

      Fingers crossed that the scary weather misses us all!

      • #3 by Lin Celoni on April 29, 2014 - 10:27 am

        Thanks so much for the ideas. Can’t go electric as it is next to the pre-school playground! But will look for netting/fencing.
        peace

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