Things are popping in the potager! A couple of small rains have really spurred crops along. For example, last week bed 5d shown above was empty except for the row of mini tulips along the top edge. During the week, the edging marigolds “Hot Pak Orange” were added. The third planting of beans (“Provider”) have not only emerged, but are 3″ tall. The center row has been filled with the last planting of broccoli “Artwork Baby.” And a bonus self-seeded lettuce appeared on the left edge. Sadly, the tulips could not handle the heat surge, the petals fell, so the bloom stalks were clipped. Happily, the “Black Seeded Simpson” lettuce that I sprinkled on the snow back in February are merrily growing and will soon hide the fading tulip foliage, plus provide lots of tasty salads and wilted lettuce meals. Of course there are other lettuces in the potager. One of my favorite mini butterheads “Little Gem” is beginning to form heads. In the upper left triangle is bok choy. The inverted space between the lettuce and bok choy was originally planted with some old “Little Finger” carrots, which never germinated. Recently the space was replanted with “Red Core Chantenay” carrots mixed with “French Breakfast” radishes which are just emerging. Sometimes planting old seed just doesn’t work. The upper right corner was seeded with some really old arugula seed, which came up very sparse. It’s getting late for arugula seeding, so something else will go in that space. The comparison lettuce is “Victoria” shown below, seeded and transplanted the same time as “Little Gem.” The inverted V in this bed is “Patterson” onions grown from seed and transplanted into the bed. Upper left corner is the red-stemmed Italian dandelion, and the upper right triangle is chard “Bright Lights” but only the orange seedlings. I gave all the other colors to the garden club plant sale! Most exciting to me are the first pea blooms. This is “Strike” which is a new, early variety for the grow list this year. It’s the first of four varieties planted April 8th to bloom. Last year’s first pea blossoms opened on 5/17 so it’s apparent that crops are catching up to the “norm” quickly. The two mini-cabbages grown for comparison are beginning to grow nicely. I’ve grown “Gonzales” the past two years and been happy with them. Their small size is perfect for a two-family household and they don’t take up lots of space. The comparison crop is “Katarina” which seems to be a bit larger and definitely a paler green color. Both were seeded and transplanted the same day for trial purposes. However, the number of plants differs because the “Gonzales” seed was leftover so I seeded more in case not all germinated, but they did! I don’t want too many cabbages all ready at once until fall, when I’ll make kraut but I may be making a batch earlier this year. And lastly, my lone “Tangerine” poppy that bloomed last year came back. I’d hoped it had self-seeded generously, but once again there is only one plant. This summer I’ll collect some seeds and give it some help! Overall, I’m terribly pleased with the potager. Already over 8 lbs. of produce has been harvested, compared to 2 1/2 lbs. last year! May is off to a great start, and so is the potager!
Central Indiana is already 3″ behind “normal” rainfall for May. It allowed the farmers to get the planting done, so that was a blessing but once they were finished everyone began looking to the skies. Rain was occasionally in the forecast, but kept going around our area. The unusual heat (it broke a 137 year-old record for high temperature in May!) contributed to the need for moisture. Gardening consisted basically of watering, watering, watering but only in the potager. The rest of the gardens were on their own. Even with watering, plant growth in the potager was slow. But finally yesterday I could feel rain in the air. The wind picked up, and all the plants trembled in happy anticipation! It wasn’t a big rain, only 1/4″ or so and short in duration but any real rain accomplishes what hours of watering cannot. This morning I could “row” the soybeans in the field next door. Plants in the flower gardens that had been droopy were standing tall. As I walked past the Deck Garden to the potager, the combination of “Old Gold” irises and “American” columbine caught my eye. I don’t generally use any red in my borders and beds but I allow this native columbine to self-seed here and there because it always blooms early, providing much-needed food for the hummingbirds who normally return about the time it blooms. And, it’s really not a red-red but leaning toward orange. I like the way the bits of gold in the columbine blooms echo the falls of the iris.
In the potager, I swear the tomatoes, broccoli and cabbages had doubled in size since yesterday! Some of the violas and calendulas that have been dug out by raccoons multiple times and were looking ready to give up yesterday actually looked perky today. Succession plantings of beets, carrots, peas and beans were pushing through the rain-softened soil. The first potato plantings (French Fingerling) were towering out of their pots, so I added several more inches of soil inside each one. The second planting of peas now needed support, so a line of sticks were added. Lettuces that had been limp in the heat despite my watering look crisp and seem to be growing even as I stare, especially the “fancy” ones I picked from Territorial seeds.
Best of all, those glimpses of red had plumped into this first bouquet of radishes from the potager. And it was exciting to see the infant carrots within the same row getting their true leaves. The radishes have done their job of sheltering the carrots well, and will now be harvested to give the carrots more room to grow.
It’s exciting to see the sudden growth everywhere, and even more exciting because today instead of watering, I can plant, seed, weed and deadhead the tulips that surrendered to the heat instead of dragging a hose. What a difference a rain makes!
After a very slow start, Spring is catching up to “normal” although we are still a bit behind. It’s been warm and dry for several days, allowing the farmers to get their fields planted after a late start. Yesterday, I noticed the field on the corner has enough seedlings emerged that I could “row” the corn! In my gardens, the first “Old Gold” iris opened today. It’s not as showy as some of the newer modern ones, but it was a “pass-along” plant from a good friend, so I value it, plus it never seems to be bothered by iris borers! For comparison, in 2016 it bloomed May 1st and in 2017 on May 2. In the potager, the chamomile just opened with its dainty white daisies. I’m not a fan of chamomile tea, but I harvest the flowers to use in a delicious tea bread. These plants self-seeded in the potager’s interior borders, which German chamomile will easily do if it has a sunny, well-drained situation. I let it spread here and there as a filler until other plants fill in, and then pull out excess. I love the Tulip batalinii “Bright Gem” that line the potager’s main path’s edges. They bloomed on March 16, 2016 and on April 19, 2017. They are quite long-lasting and have amazingly large flowers for their total size. To their left you can see the “Penny Orange”violas. Soon, a “Hot Pak Orange” marigold will be added between each viola. On the right, the first “Green Arrow” peas are beginning to climb the fencing. The “Royal Burgundy” beans planted on April 22 are growing nicely now at the left edge of this bed. The newly planted “Strike” beans are just breaking ground on the right in this photo. And the second planting of peas are coming through as well. In the front section of the potager, the diagonal and triangle patterns are beginning to emerge, but better in some areas than others. The “showy” triangle is made of “Little Gem” lettuces that began life in the greenhouse. In another bed, the radishes are beginning to show color and should be ready to harvest soon. Last year the first radish was harvested April 26. Although it’s a late start, I’m not unhappy with this season to date. Last year, we had a killing frost on May 8th that ruined many things, so I’ll take a slow, steady warm-up any time! That’s my “Six” for this Saturday. Visit The Propagator for many more contributions to this meme.
This was the 8th morning in a row that I’ve looked out the French doors to see this! Every day I replant the container, sometimes having to replace flowers that are too damaged to stay. Every night a raccoon digs it all out. Damage is not confined to just this planter, but the other 5 planters on the deck are also targets. They knocked over the smaller ceramic planter near the garage side door and now it’s cracked. And they are not content to just dig in containers. Saturday night raccoons dug out nearly all the things I’d planted earlier in that day in the potager …64 snapdragons, 96 calendulas, a dozen broccoli, several tomatoes and over 40 of the viola edging plants. That was the last straw! So, I set a live-trap, baiting it with popcorn, and caught a raccoon which was relocated far, far away. The next morning all the prior damage was repeated! They even began digging out the shallots that have been in the ground a month! The trap was re-set and baited with popcorn and peanut butter….and another raccoon was caught and taken for a joy-ride. But apparently his friends had another busy night. Look over all the photos again, because that is what I saw this morning, plus all the things I planted yesterday in the potager were lying on the ground. Flats were tipped over. And, they dumped most of the containers that were by the patio doors as well. I’ve borrowed a second trap from my neighbors. This is WAR!
On the plus side…did you see how beautifully green the grass is? And the fact that it is warm enough to even plant the containers is wonderful. See, I’m trying to be positive!
I’m speaking about Mother Nature and Spring, although with good weather I’m catching up a bit as well. Just a few days ago, we were 3 weeks behind “normal” and suddenly it feels like summer has arrived! Things are changing at breakneck speed. The daffodils opened by the dozens. There are many varieties in the gardens. The “earlies” are already finished, and the “mids” are fading, so now it is the “lates” turn to shine. Of this group my favorites are “British Gamble” which began blooming 4/21/18 (4/2/17); Congress 4/25/18 (4/7/17) and Kedron (left) opened 4/24/18 (4/6/16, 4/6/17!) The first hyacinth appeared 4/25/18 (4/9/17) but it’s already gone. Finally, there are hellebores here and there in the Fairy Garden. I think I need to move them to a spot that gets sunlight earlier in the year. And the first tulip opened, “Apricot Beauty” 4/21/18 (4/9/17) to be quickly joined so that all of them are in color at once. Not exactly according to plan, but I’ll take it. The strawberries, gooseberries, white lilac and pear tree that just began flowering yesterday (May 3) bloomed April 15 last year, but at this point I’m delighted to just have any decent weather! As you can see above, the potager’s rows are becoming apparent, especially those baby radish seedlings emerging above. Last year the first radish was HARVESTED 4/26, so that won’t be happening this year. However, those Royal Burgundy beans I gambled on by planting mid-April are springing to life! We’ve already harvested our first spinach for a tasty frittata as well as a variety of herbs on several occasions. The first potato broke ground in its pot and is suddenly 8″ tall! The peas are emerging, as you can see here. The French Tarragon made it through the winter and is growing quickly. I need to take some cuttings, as I’ve learned over the years that these first 2-3″ of brand new growth will root much quicker and easier than later cuttings.Thankfully, the potager is beginning its season of productivity. There’s still plenty to do. In 2016, all the gardens were cleaned, edged and mulched by March 24. Last year they were all done by the mid-April. Although it’s been warmer (finally!) it’s also been raining. In my younger days I’d work despite the rain, but now I choose not to get soaked and miserable. However, on pretty days I’ve worked hard, so that as of today the Front Garden, Front Island, Potager exterior and interior borders, North Island and most of the Deck Garden are cleaned and mulched. Deadheading has already started to take more time, as well as mowing, so no edging has even been begun! There is still half a row of berries to clean. All of the Cutting Garden and Fairy Garden needs cleaning and mulching, and the Addition Garden has been cleaned, but not mulched. Hmmm! I think I’d better get outdoors while it’s not raining. There’s still LOTS of catching up to do!
What a difference a few days of sunshine and warmer temperatures makes, not only in the garden, but in my outlook! There are so many beautiful surprises that it is hard to choose only six! Here’s the first selection. Although the earliest daffodils were battered by winds, snow and hail, these later ones are absolutely perfect! Daffodil “Avalon” below… And Daffodil “Dolly” There are many more varieties, but these are my favorites for this bloom period. Secondly, the first tulips have opened and even though they aren’t exactly the color I expected, I love them anyway. Tulips have such grace and courage, and they are worth the effort of battling bunnies and deer who also love them, but not for their beauty! Three is that it was finally dry enough that I could get a load of mulch. It may not be beautiful, but I was thrilled to finally be able to begin mulching. Remember, I didn’t get fall work done due to my back, so the gardens went into winter in sad circumstances. Getting things tidied and mulched brings me great joy. And in the process of mulching, I discovered number 4, these Muscari macrocarpum “Golden Fragrance.” According to my records, I planted them here two years ago, but this is the first time I remember seeing them. Number 5 is my new plaque for my Lady Cottage, made by my pottery-artist friend Patti Beck. And lastly, another recent purchase is this “Harvest Guard” crop cover purchased just in the nick of time…..the gooseberries in bloom and newly planted things are going to need it…it’s going to go down to 29 degrees tonight! Oh joy!
For more interesting “Six on Saturday” contributions, visit The Propagator, the instigator of this muse and helpful host.
Monday morning was a perfect day for planting. Our forecast for the next 10 days is excellent in terms of temperatures, so the babies were set in their designated places in the potager. Aspabroc (shown left,)”Gonzales Mini-Cabbage,” “Katrina” and “Primero” cabbages, “Majestic” cauliflower, and “Blue Wind” broccoli (not shown) are now in tidy rows spaced between garlic, shallots, or onion sets. Both the “Windsor” and “Robin Hood” fava beans are settled in as well. I think next year I’ll only grow the “Robin Hood” (from Renee’s Garden Seeds.) They are a dwarf, short-maturing variety that produces a crop in our short springs before the heat of summer calls a halt. The plants were already in bloom and because they stay more compact, they don’t require staking or support even here in our blustery winds. If you look carefully, the tips of onion sets are just emerging and there’s garlic in the background in an attempt to foil the aphids that seem to always find the favas no matter where they are planted. The “Windors” have to be painstakingly tied to fencing or supported with bamboo intertwined with string. Of course, the fact that they grew so tall waiting, waiting, waiting for the weather to settle didn’t help any either. They look pitiful now, but they will become robust quickly. I learned last year that the tips of the Windsors need to be clipped (harvested for salads or a quick sautee with butter) to encourage them to fill their pods before the heat sets in. Those of you in better climates may have a longer harvest window. Last year both varieties produced about the same, so I’m thinking “Why bother with the fuss of the Windsors?”
In addition to setting out plants, more seeding was done: short rows of lettuces, bok choy and the first Royal Burgundy beans. I love these beans not only for their taste, but because the seed can tolerate cool soils without rotting and the purple beans are easier to see for faster picking. I’d just finished the last of the seeding on the list when the rain began. Perfect timing. The plants are loving it.
So, today is an indoor day, and as much as I love to garden my old muscles need a rest after three intensive days of unaccustomed movements. And, I have a wonderful book to read. Tovah Martin is one of my favorite garden writers. Since the first moment I held a copy of her “Tasha Tudor’s Garden” in my hands, I’ve been a devoted fan. Her writing is not just descriptive, it’s transforming. I look at things/plants/gardens/life differently than I did before, with more appreciation and knowledge. She is a guide in the world of gardens and gardening. Martin’s newest book, “The Garden in Every Sense and Season” has just become my new favorite, even though I haven’t read to the end. I am savoring every page, and often re-reading sentences or paragraphs that especially speak to me, or that are just truly deserving of another read! As in all of her books, the photography is absolutely exquisite. Many of them are from her 7-acre property that she’s named “Furthermore.”
Growing up in a gardening family devoted to plants, especially scented ones, Martin understands gardeners, our frustrations, our drives, our dedication, our joys. She knows that in the hectic rush of spring planting, mulching and clean-up “we rip and tear with all our might to create the sensational garden of our dreams, and then we forget to experience those sensations.” Her well-chosen words paint pictures, evoke feelings and memories. In Spring she asks “Don’t you want to embrace every single branch that bravely leafs out in defiance of the cruel winter it survived? Spring is the welcome-back season, It’s the sweet nectar we have been anticipating through all those months of waiting. But it’s also the time of year when we suffer the worst case of tunnel vision of the calendar. Spring is a relay race and we act like the sprinters.” How true! I’ve been sprinting so much trying to catch-up for this year’s late start that I’ve missed many of the blooms that have erupted. Designs and plans that were months in the making for color-coordination and well-timed bloom sequences have totally escaped my notice!
If Spring has not yet arrived where you live, if you appreciate a really well-done gardening book, or if you, too, need an occasional rest between garden chores do get a copy of this special, uplifting, eye-opening book. Right now, I’m going to make a large mug of tea, put on my Wellies and raincoat, and go inspect some of the glorious flowers in my gardens before they are gone. I don’t want to miss a thing!
Note: the copy I’m reading is from our local library, but I will certainly be purchasing a copy for my own library soon!