Tuesday, April 20, 2010

First taste of spring

I know spring has officially been with us for about a month, and despite the tulips that bloomed in my garden, I can now officially say spring for me has begun. I had my first homegrown salad of the season tonight. Granted most people wouldn't call 10 baby lettuce leaves a salad, but to me it is the symbol of all the tasty things that are to come.
In addition to picking those 10 little succulent leaves, I harvested mint, oregano and parsley. The mint I plan on turning into a julep or mojito in very few minutes. The oregano I plan to dry for a friend who can't keep anything more than plastic plants green, and the parsley I unfortunately donated to the compost pile. It's not that I have anything against parsley, it's just that I seldom have use for more than a handful, and when one cuts an entire plant back by half, it is well more than a handful! I didn't just harvest these plants for the tasty tidbits, I cut them back so that as they grow, they continue to branch out, thereby creating bushy plants rather than tall spindly things, they are sturdier that way. The mums from last summer got the same treatment. I believe I read somewhere that before the 4th of July, mums should have been cut back 3 times to produce the fullest plants possible. I will try this theory and let you all know how it turns out.
In addition to pruning and weeding, I also redistributed the baby spinach and cabbage that are holding down the fort in the main beds until the summer crops go in. The spinach plants have 4 or 5 leaves each and the cabbage are close behind. From the number of plants that have made it to this stage, I guess I had better start figuring out good ways to preserve cabbage!
Some of the summer plants that I started in my greenhouse and window sills aren't doing quite as hot as the plants in the ground. I am not sure what I am doing wrong, perhaps I am transplanting too early or water too much/ too little, but my baby tomatoes are kind of sad looking. Here's hoping enough survive that I can share them, and if not, that Amy has enough extras that a few can move to my garden! The peppers on the other hand are having a field day! And with 4 kinds here's hoping that everybody likes peppers! The flowers are kind of chugging along, I can plant a second round directly in the ground to fill in any holes.
Off to admire the apple blossoms....

Friday, April 9, 2010

April in my garden

This spring I was out earlier then past years and I planted cabbage; early jersey, bok choi, kale, radishes; French breakfast, and snow peas. The cliff flanking my yard is very beautiful its a wash of pastel flowers that I know nothing about. If you can't eat it, I don't plant it. The landlord put in perennials a while back so these are all his fault.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

the first round in the ground

The rain has finally given way to warm days and nights. Apparently we have been privy to living through the wettest March in history 3.5" in 2 days alone. Several times we had a cold snap that caused temperatures to dip down to 29 degrees and I had to find newspaper and row covers to protect the baby lettuce and chard from potential frost. It seems to have worked, the baby plants that didn't get eaten by birds or drowned, look quite healthy ; ) and now that drier days are here, the plants are flourishing.

Lettuce, chard, spinach, peas and cabbage are all great first crops of spring. These plants enjoy cool weather and sun that doesn't beat straight down for hours on end each day. They are also great for people like me who want to cram every bit of productivity into their space. Since all of those crops mature quickly and don't mind cool weather they can be using the space before flowers and veggies can go in, and I will harvest them and thin them as I begin to put the warm weather loving plants in and keep them in around the new baby plants to keep the beds from seeming empty until the plants fill out. Near the end of the season when the warm weather plants are starting to die off, I can plant seeds between the warm weather plants and the process work in reverse.
Besides the obvious benefit of being edible (and quite tasty at that!) I believe greens were created for people like me who can't wait to get out and play in dirt as soon as it doesn't have frost in it. It is also a very simple crop to grow. Lettuce and chard were the first things my mom gave me to grow from seeds. You may not get a great crop from poor soil, but so long as you don't drown them or drought them, you will get an edible result. Over the past 5 years or so, my spring crops have become more and more productive. Last year I think we had salad at least 3 nights a week for dinner without me having to buy lettuce from the middle of April until June! Since one of my beds only gets partial sun, I continued to get a lighter harvest of lettuce and chard through the rest of the summer, and if I had thrown some more seeds in and concocted a row cover/ cold frame, we probably would have been eating it until December like my parents were.

It gave me great pleasure when two of the new gardeners who joined Amy and I for our armchair gardening this year asked me about planting lettuce. I had given Risa some seeds when we had garden night, and when I set my seedlings out, I sent her an email with detailed instructions on how to get her own started. She doesn't have a set up to start them inside which gave me maybe a 2 week head start but otherwise doesn't do much. Maybe when I get sophisticated and get hoops to make mini greenhouses I can get a jump start right in the beds rather than having to transplant the fragile little seedlings.... anyway.... The same day I sent that message out, Lis sent me a message, asking how hard it was to grow lettuce. I copied and pasted my instructions and told her to go to the garden center and pick out a pack or two of seeds that looked tasty. What a great and rewarding way to start gardening!