Garden Progress

It’s been a weird season for the garden – we’ve had a lot of rain this year, at weird times. Just coordinating time to work out there and get everything in between the day job and the weather was difficult. But things are beginning to come along nicely, if we did lose a few things along the way. We got the raspberry canes into the back planting bed behind the garage way too late. They’ve never really fully colored up and sprouted new growth, so I’m counting that as a total loss. Same thing for the strawberries. And we never did plant the potato patch, and we only ended up doing a third of the seeds we bought last winter.

But that’s okay – it’s our first year in the house, so there will be more seasons, god willing, in which to get things “right”. Plus, I keep reminding myself that we had to spend significant time and effort actually creating the infrastructure of our vegetable gardens, and we won’t need to reinvent the wheel on that next year. So we can plan, and dive right into the planting.

Quite a few things have worked out though. The orchard hedgerow is growing nicely, and we haven’t have lost any trees, despite some skepticism that the persimmons were essentially dead by the time we planted them. They have all branches and leafed out and seem to be doing well. The blueberry bushes are growing nicely, but they’re crowed in between huge daylilies and the sandbox – we just had to get them in somewhere before they shared the same fate as the raspberries. They will need to be relocated at some point. In the vegetable patch, we have green tomatoes and peppers starting to fruit. The cabbage is tiny and doesn’t seem to want to grow, but we do have some Jacob’s Cattle beans. I’m actually conflicted about the beans – I’ve read and heard that they more you pick, the more they produce, but I was hoping to let them dry on the plant so I could harvest dried beans. So further research needs to occur on that one.

We also have cucumbers, squash, watermelon and pumpkins. They’re all growing decently (though not wildly) except for the pumpkins, which apparently have a growth rate that is slower than pouring molasses. So we’ll see if those amount to anything at all before the season is out.

The real rock stars of this year’s garden are the herb pots on the deck – they are all growing prolifically. I love to go out there and run my hands through them and inhale their amazing scents. The trick will be, as it always is, keeping them alive when we bring them indoors in a few months to overwinter.

So things are growing, but I do need to do a soil test. I have the kit just sitting in a kitchen drawer, which isn’t much helping us understand what our garden needs. We’ve done one application of fertilizer spikes and one of compost tea this season, which seemed to provide the proper encouragement. Our compost pile is still in it’s infancy, and we’ve made some mistakes with it (like tossing in a bunch of evergreen shrub clippings) so we need to get it sorted through and fixed up. We did purchase a compost starter mix to jump start things, but first we have to pull out of all of the verboten things, and I must admit it’s a task I’ve been seriously procrastinating on. But we do need to take care of it, especially as the goal next year is try not purchase any supplemental garden amendments that we can produce ourselves, compost being one.

And we have a day lily problem. They are everywhere on our property. Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty and I like them alright, but they just get huge and are currently in prime real estate where I’d prefer to have edibles. The blueberry situation is the major case in point. But I think I have a solution for this brewing in my mind. Eventually in the front yard we’d like to have a picket fence, set back from the sidewalk by a foot or two so we can have planting beds on both the inside and the outside of the fence. On the outside, I absolutely want to plant a mixture of things, like snapdragons and spring bulbs. But on the inside – what about moving all of the day lilies? We’ve got more than enough to divide them up and almost do the entire perimeter of the front yard. Then we can still enjoy them, and it would also cut back on the amount of grass we have to tend to in the front, while still leaving a large area for Little Man to play in. And then that frees up the back planting bed near the sandbox and garage to give the blueberries proper room, and put in a proper strawberry bed next season. It may just work.

Gardening, In Between Rain Storms

It’s really starting to feel like we have a monsoon season  now in northern Illinois; it rains nearly every day. The day started cloudy and overcast, so much so that I packed our rain jackets and umbrella in the wagon for our weekly walk over to the farmer’s market. Today was the first day that the abundance of early summer made itself known. Prior to today, the farmer’s market has mostly been scallions, spinach, overwintered potatoes and onions, and vegetable starts. Today – every kind of green you could want, fresh herbs, leeks, young onions, rhubarb and tons of other things I can hardly remember. It was a good market day – we came home with cider, kale, scallions, bread, a parsley plant and two basil plants.

After we came home for the afternoon, the clouds cleared and the sun actually came out, so we seized the opportunity to get out into the garden and attend to the plants. The third raised bed we finally topped up with soil, so we today we planted out cabbage, squash, watermelons, and two varieties of pumpkins. The tomatoes, pepper and beans we already planted are also doing well. And we planted the parsley and basil in a planter up on the deck.

And it’s a good thing we did – the rain is back in full force. As I type, I hear the pitter-patter of a steady rainfall, punctuated periodically by terrific crashes of thunder. But at least now this means that tomorrow I won’t have to water!