I haven’t written in a while, because the weather has just been too good to stay indoors, and by the time I quit gardening for the day my brain is too tired to compose thoughtful content. I pushed hard, planting mostly but also doing some weeding because I knew the rain was coming and then would be the time to take photographs and write. The day has arrived, and a good soaking rain has brought cloudy skies and relief from a very hot spell. The plants are as thankful for the change in weather as I am, bursting with youthful energy and growing as much overnight as they did in a week of heat. Real rain is magical elixir that cannot be matched by hose watering. The iris are slowly beginning to open. I don’t have a lot of tall bearded iris in my gardens because they just don’t last long enough to justify their space (in my humble opinion, many others think otherwise, and that’s fine. I feel the same about regular peonies, although tree peonies are an entirely different story!) The iris look especially pretty with a sprinkle of raindrops. At least they draw the eye away from the fading tulip foliage. Most years, the annuals have been in the ground for weeks and are already blooming, but not this year. A combination of my late seeding and freezing weather has created a gap. Thankfully, it will fill quickly. So, let’s hurry to the potager and see what changes have been wrought since your last visit. There’s lots of flower there!
Here’s bed 4d, which has the overwintered kale we’ve been eating for weeks. As you can see, it needs to be harvested totally, so the newly planted EarliDew melons are not shaded. See how wet the paths are? Normally, there’d be a new thick layer of mulch, but with “Stay Home” advice, the mulching will wait.
The “Robin Hood” fava beans have been blooming for weeks, but are just now setting pods. I wish they were as big as they look in this photo. Actual size is about 1″ in length! They did not like the week of high 80 and low 90 temps and dropped some blooms, but this cooler, wetter spell should be to their liking.
You may remember that last year we had record rains that lasted all through April and May. Many of the shallots rotted before they were ready to harvest, and I barely had enough to plant this year. I’m crossing my fingers we don’t have a repeat. I think these are the tallest shallots ever grown in the potager. I’m hoping I didn’t put too much compost on so they are growing lots of leaves, but not much bulb. Only time will tell.
On the other hand, last year the Green Arrow peas grew a foot above their fence, but this year they are a foot below the fence top and already blooming. They were a bit damaged by the freak freeze, so maybe it’s to be expected. At least they survived and are producing, whereas the “Sprite” peas totally froze to mush and had to be removed.
Normally by now, there would be tiny “Royal Burgundy” beans setting on the plants, but this year the beans are just germinating, and rather unevenly. The nights in the 20’s were just not helpful, but it was worth the risk. Since there are still rows and rows of canned beans in the pantry, we aren’t in a rush for them to fill the hunger gap. Next to them are the “Katarina” cabbages, the small heads are perfect size for a small family like us. They mature quickly and take much less space that “normal” heads. However, I’ll have to keep a close watch and they Bt spray handy as soon as the rain stops. Today I found several of these…
Yes, they are tiny, but they can quickly produce damage. Luckily I spotted this one while weeding. If there is one, there are likely others and I found several that were the size of an eyelash. I may need a magnifying glass next year!
Making compost the way I do (lazily, no turning and no manure) has its pluses and minuses. The plus is that there’s a 10′ x 4′ bin to use every year with no work except piling the stuff on. The minus is that it doesn’t get hot enough to kill weed seeds, but I’d rather pull tiny weeds as shovel and turn. Most of the “weeds” are actually seeds of plants I grow and throw on the pile after frost, or as they are harvested, so there’s lots of chamomile, marigolds, tomatoes, etc. I also toss the seeding flat contents after I’m done transplanting, so sometimes there are welcome surprises. This week some hollyhocks popped up, so they were moved into the potager’s interior border. Speaking of transplants, there’s still plenty of flats yet to be planted.
Bed 3e will have tomatoes in cages and 4 hills of summer squash soon, but until it’s time to get them in the bed was covered in flats of transplants because the greenhouse and side benches were full. I did plant enough flats to make room to get the edging of nasturtiums planted and two hills of squash. Hopefully the rest of the bed will be cleared soon. Those flats are higher on the priority list than these:
Yes, there are still LOTS of babies to be planted. I haven’t figured up how many have already found their homes, but I’ll do it before the May monthly review. The two flats in front are the latest things transplanted, the French Baby Leeks, which were moved later into the seeding schedule purposely. They just don’t need to be started as early as I’ve done them the past two years. Live and learn! There’s lots of marigolds to be planted but they need to be in bloom so I can sort them by color and group them into plantings. I buy a mix, which is cheaper than buying the three individual colors I want. I do end up with a few red ones, but I give those to my friends, who are happy to take them. There are a few sunflowers left, but most have been planted, and those that remain will be tucked into the Cutting Garden, along with the zinnias sitting on the little round table in the background. And, a few things are waiting for their assigned spaces to become empty.
A couple more meals and this first planting of lettuce (and the kale as well) will be replaced with bush tomatoes. I keep a knife handy, usually tucked in along the bed framework. There are only 3 of the original plants left to harvest. The others (smaller) are actually ones cut weeks ago that have regrown! By the time the tomatoes grow large enough to need the space, the second growth lettuces will have been harvested as well. Succession cropping at its easiest! Meanwhile, there are other lettuces coming on.
The “Little Gem” lettuces are not quite as quick as “Tom Thumb” but almost. They were tucked into the bed where the frozen peas were removed, just to keep the timing for that space as close as possible. Had the peas thrived, they would have come out to create space for parsnips. The lettuce won’t fix nitrogen as the peas would have, so the fertilization will need to be adjusted a bit before the parsnips go in.
Loyal readers may recall the disaster of raccoons destroying most of the strawberries last year. I got the first small picking, before they came, smashed the plants flat and devoured all the berries including the white unripe ones. This year, the 4-panel pea fencing that doubles for tomato cages for the late tomatoes has been fastened over the strawberry beds. Yesterday, I added bird netting over the top, and fastened it down with lathe strips held by C-clamps.
That’s how I’ve been spending my time. The days are just whizzing by. It’s Friday, and suddenly it’s Friday again! Oh, wait…it’s Thursday…I think I’m starting to get the knack for this isolation thing after all! Be safe, be content in your circumstances at the moment. It may be better than all the changes to come.
You mentioned “hills” for your squash. I’ve added just two nice plants of yellow summer squash to my herb garden, and planted them near the base of the sunny side of the bench arbor. The idea is to train the vines up the trellis and tie up loose tendrils to the supports. Let’s see how that works. By the way, cucumbers up the other side!
I’ve been just planting them in ground the last couple of years, and they’ve done okay, but not great. Then my mother mentioned making some hills for her melons, and I decided to go back to making a small mound or “hill” to plant the summer squash this year. I grow mostly the really bush type, although the Ronde de Nice (gotta have a French squash in a potager !) vines out a bit over time, and could be trained up a short trellis. Haven’t planted it yet, so will look for a space. Something dug up and ate the cucumber seeds I planted yesterday! Last year I trialed “Butter Belly” but they didn’t do well. Which yellow squash are you growing?
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You are so busy! It all looks so wonderfully planned out and organized-impressive & a ton of work! When I’m out in my fields I think about your organized space and wonder if I will ever get around to doing something different….I like being able to just shut down the garden, till it under and come back to an empty slate again, but there is also a certain draw to the organized spaces you have. I suppose it all depends on what the goal of the garden is. You guys must eat a lot of lettuce! I might branch out and try some veggies next year-who knows! We’ll see how this year goes in the flower business. Thanks for sharing your updates! Do you test your dirt often? Do you have a test kit at home, or you just know from years of experience what the garden needs?
I tested my soil the first year I was in this area, but haven’t done it since. Since I once did acres of everlasting flowers and cut flowers, I learned the value of a planting of perennial flowers for cutting. They often start earlier than annuals and can provide a lot of interesting material. Many of them are super easy as well…yarrow, anise hyssop and many of the other agastaches, May Queen and Exhibition shasta daisies, coneflowers in an array of colors, valerian, Blue Bedder salvia, verbena bonarensis….I think you would really benefit from planting a mixed row or border of perennial plants to take some of the pressure off! Some of them only bloom for 3-4 weeks, but many of them bloom all summer! I truly enjoy watching you grow and learn. Brings back lots of good memories!
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Thanks for the advice! I was just thinking that I’d make one of my raised beds a perennial garden….now I need to do some research!
May Queen shastas are a great start…blooming here in mid-May and last for weeks. Long, strong stems, and go with almost any other color. So easy and carefree. Yarrow is another great choice, and the gold can be dried for fall bouquets. Coneflowers are also good, but I always feel they are the same basic shape as zinnias and bloom about the same time, so I didn’t grow masses of them for cutting. Rattlesnake master is a great one, and so much easier than globe thistle, and again goes with every other color. You’ll have fun researching…so many choices.
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You’ve been so busy! Such an impressive space- love a potager!
So busy and productive. I am in Australia in a temperate, sub-tropical climate. I look forward to following your garden adventures. 🙂
So you are going into autumn and winter, such as you have in a sub-tropical climate! That’s a great time for planning, searching and ordering all the seeds and plants you’ll need! There are some great gardens in Australia. I’ve never been, but I’ve seen videos and photos. You have some great plant choices! Best of luck, and thanks for reading and commenting.
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