Monday, May 24, 2010

headlong into the garden

Is it crazy to plant a Three Sisters garden in a climate that is not especially hospitable to two of the three elements? Is it crazy to put out frost-tender plants before June 1 in Duluth? Perhaps, but what fun is a garden if you can't be a little crazy, and besides, I figure that if there are volunteer squash sprouting in the compost pile, that it is officially warm enough to plant squash (and tomatoes and peppers and etc.) in the garden, which is mostly compost anyway.

My attempt at lasagna gardening didn't really work--I should have put a lot more organic material on top of the cardboard--so this spring I had two big loads of compost delivered from Hobbes at Garden Magic (which, for the locals, I highly recommend: this is beautiful compost) and I planted directly into that. That was in early April, and the cardboard from last fall was still completely intact; now when I dig deeper in the garden to put in transplants, the cardboard is almost entirely disintegrated, and I swear that the native soil underneath looks better than in the rest of my yard, although it doesn't seem possible for the soil to have improved that much that quickly.

Over the past month or so, I have planted round one of my garden, and now everything is in the ground, many of the seeds are sprouting, the spinach is big enough to harvest some baby leaves, and the tomatoes, peppers and squash have all survived their first night outside. The corn and beans of the Three Sisters garden went in late last week, and I though that my biggest challenge to growing corn would be cool summer temps and hungry raccoons, but the corn might not even make it that far: a few days after planting, the little hills looked disheveled, and I think that squirrels or birds dug up a lot of the seed corn already, and in the processed displaced some of the beans. The beans themselves are somewhat experimental; my packet of Kentucky Wonder Pole beans wouldn't cover all the hills of corn, and I didn't want to make a trip to go buy more bean seeds, so I planted some kidney beans and navy beans that I had in my pantry. I have no idea if they'll mature in time, or how many will even grow--I seem to be finding a fair amount of lightly nibbled kidney beans on the surface of the soil.

So! This is what I'm growing this year in my vegetable garden:

Sugar Snap Peas
Gigante d'Inverno Spinach
Forellenschluss Lettuce
Early Wonder Beets
Calabrese Broccoli
Little Finger Carrots
Saxa II Radishes
Lacinato Kale
Bright Lights Chard
Evergreen Long White Bunching Onions
Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
Kidney Beans (from the bulk aisle at the co-op)
Navy Beans (from the bulk aisle at the co-op)
Luscious Sweet Corn
Easter Eggplant
Toma Verde Tomatillos
Celebrity Tomatoes
Roma Tomatoes
Grape Tomatoes
Patio Tomatoes
Jalapeno Peppers
Joe's Long Red Cayenne Peppers
California Wonder Peppers
Banana Peppers
Sweet Slice Cucmbers
Russet Potatoes
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Fingerling Potatoes
Raven Zucchini
Butternut Squash
Cantaloupe (unknown variety; from my neighbor)
Genovese Basil
Elephant Dill
Giant of Italy Parsely
German Chamomile
Lemon Balm
Cilantro (unknown variety; from my neighbor)
Mammoth Sunflowers

All that in a roughly 15 by 30 foot plot. I'm trying to use the space as effectively as I can. The carrots and radishes, for example, are intersown, because the radishes will be in and out in no time and after I pull them there'll be room for the carrots to mature. Because the scallion are so small, they're sown between the rows of other plants (I'll do that for additional plantings of radishes, too). The Roma tomatoes are planted between the rows of spinach; the spinach will be mostly done by late June/early July, so they will be out by the time the tomatoes are getting big. And since Romas are determinate and produce all their fruit at once, depending on when the fruit matures I might even have time for another planting of greens between the Romas in the fall, where the spinach is now. In a few weeks, I'll be putting in additional plantings of carrots and beets in between the peas, so that when the peas are finished in midsummer there will be something else growing in that space.

It seems very large and complicated written out like this, but when I am actually in the garden is feels small and haphazard. And when I look out in the yard all I see is wasted lawn space where I can expand my garden next year.

Monday, May 3, 2010

garden update

The broccoli was up to nine sprouts, but then the next day it was down to four, and the zinnias still had one sprout, but it was a different sprout than the day before. I had deer mice in my mudroom last fall/winter, and had hoped that as the weather warmed up that they had moved on to greener lands, but apparently not.

So the whole sprouting set up had to move to western windows of the front porch, because I don't have a lot of other cat-proof options. At current count, "Elephant" dill has 33 sprouts, lemon balm (no variety name) has 25 sprouts, "Genovese" basil has eight, "Giant of Italy" parsley has seven, the broccoli has five and the zinnia has four. The only seeds that haven't sprouted have been the tomatoes ("Pink Henderson," I don't really know anything about them, they were free) and the moonflowers. I feel bad about the moonflowers, because my grandma has sent me moonflower seeds every year for the past two or three years, and I've never been able to get them to sprout. I have a few left to try. I've been soaking them in water to try to presprout them, and I think that might be the ticket; some of them have little tails unfurling in the water. Now the trick is to keep them growing after I put them in dirt.

Spring has been mild enough that I took a chance and planted my peas and some spinach on April 18, which was probably still a skosh too early, but they're finally germinating now. The spinach ("Gigante d'Inverno") is filling in its rows nicely, although the peas ("Sugar Snap") are a little more patchy. Both my neighbors have either a greenhouse or fancy floating row covers, and I ache with jealousy. Maybe next year I can get fancier. Once the current storm system moves on, I can plant my lettuce, and in another week or two I can put it beets, carrots, radishes and chard.

And when its sunny enough to plant the lettuce, I can also plant the bareroot raspberries I bought from the community garden program on Saturday (attn. locals: they have more raspberries left, and some beautifully huge apple trees too, check out the hillside farmer's market on Wednesday and Saturday). This spring I also mail-ordered some fruit trees from St. Lawrence Nursery (a "Zestar" apple, a "Bali" cherry, a "Nova" pear (which is supposed to be self-fruitful) and two wild serviceberries (Amelanchier canadensis)). I was a bit worried because spring was so surreally early this year that even though they shipped them at the "right" time and I planted them right away that it was still too late somehow, but the apple, cherry and one of the serviceberries have already broken dormancy and are starting to leaf out, and the pear is on its way (the remaining serviceberry looks a bit questionable). It'll be a couple of years until they start producing fruit, but it's really nice to put some stuff in the yard and daydream about the future.