On spring’s progress

Yes I realize that ancillary farm concerns like goats, bunnies, and winemaking have hijacked this erstwhile gardening blog of late.  And I do apologize to all who check in to, you know, talk plants!  It’s been fairly boring blogging lately on that score.

Not much to see out here

And, walking around the gardens today over lunch, I realize the outdoor gardens are going to be pretty boring this year too.  Unlike in past years, I am all caught up with my plantings for the end of April, and so everything planted is “up”.  It’s fun saying “it’s all up,” at least to myself…it’s gratifying to see the favas and peas break the soil, and the hopeful, strong spurts of greenery from the potatoes.  But boring!  Easily a third of the beds are dedicated JUST to peas, favas, onions, and potatoes…I would say 20% of all the beds out there are potatoes alone.  Potatoes, at least after their early shoots, are decidedly unsexy garden plants.

Am I expressing a bias?  “SUBSISTENCE FARMING IS NOT SEX-AY.”  The high calorie foods like potatoes, corn and carrots really aren’t traffic-stopping beauties when found in your garden beds.  Sorry.  It’s true.

Lots to see in here

Maybe you just need flowers to be sexy.  There aren’t many flowers from edible plants at this time of year, but at our place plenty of horticultural eyecandy can be found going to seed in the greenhouses.  The low-calorie foods (lettuces, kales, onions) are putting on quite a show!  And, considering that so few of them will be allowed to complete the seed cycle yet still have high value as goat and rabbit food, they’re allowed to go ahead and look their blushing best.

Mike’s Wild Red lettuce (what a hit:  a romaine/looseleaf cross, quite striking really (thanks, Mike!))

Perennial bunching onions doing their seed thing

Nothing like the enthusiasm of 5′ tall sorrel and kale plants

Ruby Red Chard says “don’t hate me because I am beautiful”

But the red sails lettuce says “harvest me already”

Not to be forgotten is the “old” greenhouse, which, while not exactly riotous with flowers, is plenty green

14 responses to “On spring’s progress

  1. We are going to be focusing more on the “boring” root veggies this year as well. Your greenhouse garden certainly does not look boring though. I’m glad that you like the red lettuce, it easily re-seeds itself too.

    The funny thing is that I was just thinking of you the other day when planting the off spring of “EL’s” turnips next to some of that red lettuce…and you should see the nice patch of walking onions (over 50) and scallians I have going now.:) Oh, and “El’s” various garlics are really going crazy.

  2. Well, you could just think of it as mass plantings, like a botanical garden! I used to mix things up more, potager-style, but more and more I do the basic blocks of similar veggies. I think it’s still beautiful though. And there’s always a few volunteer calendula and dill to brighten things up.

    Cool shot of your overall garden, I really like the design. There’s something satisfying and peaceful about the early season where you can still see structure and empty space before the jungle takes over!

  3. This sounds a little bit crazy, as I think I’ve been reading your blog for about 2 years now, but I can’t remember ever seeing a full picture of your main outdoor gardening space. It is GORGEOUS! So neat and orderly! What are your paths covered with?

    • Thanks, Taylor! They’re covered with weeds! Hah. Nah, just woodchips. Need more every 2 years or so…this is definitely a “need them” year. And like Sara said, it’s hard to see the garden most of the year. As it is I am standing on top of a chair.

  4. Trying not to drool… or get jealous :). Two weeks of illness have knocked us back and that freeze last night scared me enough to be thankful I haven’t planted more.

    Do you have any tips on getting things planted with a 3.5 and 1.5 year old? I am thinking building a small contained area for them (at least the youngest) might help for more intricate activities.

    • Oh, Shannon, I could go on and on about my experiences of gardening with my daughter! I started her out at 18 months too. Things that help: their own sets of gloves, boots, kneeler pads and tools: they want to feel like they’re doing something official. Two, a worm-washing station is an absolute must for your 3 year old (a birdbath will do). And three, have them just do what you’re doing, and just make sure you’re explaining what you’re doing. Giving them their own section of garden in my experience doesn’t work (and truly it’s the weediest part of mine) as, like your kitchen, they’re never fully happy unless they’re in YOUR stuff…the play kitchen just doesn’t cut it! And absolutely let them eat and sample whatever they want to eat, dirt on it or no. They get so excited when it’s THEIR peas that come up even if they’re not too keen on picking them all.

      Be warned, though. I had to raise the latch to the garden so my 2 year old wouldn’t eat all the asparagus!

  5. At least I’m not the only one talking to myself in the garden! I look at my beds where things are just getting started and EVERY year I fall for those thoughts that THIS YEAR it will all be manageable. I’ll keep up on the weeds and staking and succession planting and I’m sure you know what happens come July. Ah well, it hasn’t stopped me from dreaming (or planting)!

  6. How beautiful! I love the circular raised bed design – how did you build the bent sides of the boxes though? Are they made from something other than wood?

  7. I love to read about all manner of homesteadding, animal, vegetable and drinkable! I started a batch of dandelion wine right around when you started yours. Is fermentation boring? NO! I even get excited with that. Imagine that?! To me it brings me back to a time when things were done with some elbow grease involved and it makes me feel so accomplished and proud of mine and other’s work.

  8. Sandy In Georgia

    The pictures with the lawn chair in the hoop house is very inspirational for me. I really like the idea of a hot steamy place in the middle of winter here in GA. Of course compared to your winters (originally a Chicago girl) our winters seem weak, but it does get cold for a day or two and I do like it warm. Hmmm….. I think I’m building a hoop house this summer.

  9. Hiya Mike. Your garlic is looking really great too! With luck it will be out of the ground and curing in June by the looks of it. Whee! And it’s funny: I sowed your lettuce outdoors last fall and transplanted the little babies into the new greenhouse. I never bothered to till/mess with that outdoor patch and what do I have? New lettuces that must not have fully germinated last fall! Hardy little suckers! And yeah, those scallions and walking onions are the gifts that keep on giving…hopefully you’ll still like me in 2 years when you’re overrun 🙂

    Sara, you know, it’s funny but I don’t think I have ever really posted many overall shots or even much of the design of the garden. It’s kind of too private or something, even though it really does have a design and I am proud of it. Maybe I am just crazy. But yeah, I do mass plantings too, a sharp contrast to when I first started, when it was beautifully integrated. Sigh. No longer.

    Taylor, like I mentioned to Sara, you haven’t missed anything because I have never really done overall shots! Yeah. Woodchips. A worthwhile endeavor but please ensure you have access to a lot of them: at this time of year I am doing more weeding of the paths than I am of the dingdang gardens themselves!

    Shannon, and what’s with all these freezes, eh? I am glad I haven’t lost anything but it’s a tad disconcerting.

    Andrea, one word: mulch. I mulch the snot out of my beds starting in mid-May, so each bed has about 2-4″ of grass clippings on them for the rest of the summer/fall. Yeah it’s work but it beats weeding and watering!! The only thing that doesn’t get mulched are the beds where I am sprouting seedlings. Oh: and this time of year, I *know*, is the only time of year I can get on top of the weeds. But yeah, you’re not the only one out there talking! At least sometime there’s a chicken or a dog nearby so people won’t think I am totally nutso.

    Hi Annette, actually, those round ends have metal roof flashing (aluminum) forming the inside of the curve. It’s held in place on the outside (path side) by some leftover cedar shingles pounded into the ground. I have to repair them every spring so it’s not the most labor-free solution but I do like the design.

    Liz, exactly! Have you discovered this, though: the more you do the less work it seems or something? I am not exactly sure if I have just gone over to the dark side or if it all seems easy after a while but I love the fact that practically everything we eat and drink has gone through me somehow. And Fermentation Is Exciting (!!).

    Wow Sandy if you were looking for hot and steamy I suppose Georgia would be a great place to land!! Indeed for you I would think that if the thing was well-vented it would be quite workable even in the summer. And yeah, the chairs do get used! They are nice places to land in mid-winter, that’s for sure.

  10. Flowers are overrated; give me overwintered treviso bursting forth any day for pure beauty. I’m inspired by your hoop house, and am trying to figure out where to put one that won’t interfere with the orchard I’m planning or the recreational needs of a certain 5-year-old.

  11. That was me above (the comment above thought I was WordPress.) That URL isn’t live, so ignore it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment over at my place.

  12. Peter, hah, I did figure it was you. And indeed I am very in love with Treviso as well as any other form of radicchio…and endives and escaroles andandand. I would say my most favorite as far as versatility is a red-stemmed Italian dandelion, as I can use it in anything yet its footprint is terribly small in the greenhouse; it simply grows vertically. But I figured you really deserved an attaboy for your take…I have been reading you for a few years and (like everyone else’s blog) I barely ever comment. Oh and as to the greenhouse size. See the one I am making for my mom: it’s fairly tiny so the boy will have plenty of space still. Our 6 year old, however, has plenty of her “things” in my greenhouses. Like all of us, she thinks it’s nice to just hang out in there.

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