Good News – the garden is finally alive!
This morning, for the first time this year, I finally got the feeling that the garden was ready to grow.We’ve had such a cold and wet spring this year that gardens simply sat in limbo …, waiting. Yes, the northwest usually has a long, slow spring – but come June 1st and the rains get almost rare, and the temperature begins to creep up daily. Not this year! I didn’t even put my tomatoes in the ground in June this year – I’ve learned to hold them out until the ground temp goes above 60 degrees – if you plant them any earlier, they just sit there and look sad – they will not grow until the soil warms up, so why bother?
Ya’ wanna see? Frankly, I’ve usually done a couple of garden posts by this time, but this year -believe me- there was nothing to show – so I didn’t.
But we’re ready now – for the first time, I walked through the garden and I could tell it was happy. So I got my camera and took some pics – and here they are, along with a bit of narrative – as needed.
Yes, this is my new electric fence – I put it up before I had eye surgery, and before anything was planted in the garden! The deer like my garden – if I don’t do things to discourage them, I’d only have onions, garlic, and squash to eat. Yes, it’s only 2 feet high – how will that keep deer out? Bucks don’t browse gardens – does do. And almost every doe will have fawn with her – she’ll step right over the fence, but the fawn won’t – and they’ll get stung and refuse to follow the doe – and the doe won’t go where the fawn won’t follow.
We’d be fine, if every doe had fawn, but we’ve got one doe that browses by herself – and so I still need netting and “nasty” spray.
Here’s one of the first things I planted this spring – Sugar Snap Peas! They really have been growing for a long time (they don’t mind wet and cold, so they did OK – although they do need a little sun!). But they’re not very tall, are they? Guess why? Yup, it’s my doe visitor’s favorite garden delicacy. I’ll plant some more come September – maybe our deterrents will be working by then.
These are one of the mainstays of my summer garden – Pole Beans. They get their name from the fact that they don’t grow on the ground, and make you break your back picking them – they grow straight up for more than 6′ for super easy picking! I have some heavy plastic netting strung between two sturdy posts for support. I also love these babies because you can plant them two inches apart, and on both sides of the netting. That makes for some dense growth, but it’s kinda fun searching through the thick leaves for the beans. These make very good frozen green beans, and that’s good since they will be producing more than a pound every two days for more than two months – Yeah, we give a lot of these away.
You’re looking at about 25′ of newly planted scallions – I’d call them “green onions” except than only half can be called green, ’cause the other half are really ‘red blush’, a nice red scallion – and this shows a nice feature of a garden; you can grow things that you can’t get otherwise – nice! And these will still be here when winter comes.
You’re also looking at a double row of drip irrigation – I have my garden set up with T-Tape, with emitters set at 8″ intervals – this wide bed is about 20″ across, which allows for the scallions to be spaced six across, and the entire bed gets irrigated by the two lines. Drip irrigation makes watering super easy, and it uses much less water than any other way. The initial expense was high, but this is year 5 that I’ve been using the same lines, and I’ve had very few repairs to do thus far – so the per year expense is actually less than other methods.
This year’s bold garden experiment is this tire – here in the northwest we don’t get all the warmth that almost all the rest of the country gets – that means that things like peppers and eggplant, which love heat, will not grow as well here, unless we somehow get them extra heat. Well, I’ve had other gardeners tell me that using old tires in this way can give the plants the needed extra heat – we’ll find out. Notice that the drip irrigation line runs under the tire, which means that the pepper (Jalapeno) and eggplant (Asian) will have to extend their roots down to get their needed water – that’s perfect because these are plants that need big, strong root systems. I have other peppers and eggplants growing here without tires – we’ll see which ones grow better. Maybe next year I’ll have a garden of tires!
Tomatoes love heat too – and I’ve used this black plastic sheeting for several years now – it works nicely. If you’re thinking these are small, you’d be right. Many of these have been planted two and even three times, because of the cold, wet spring – tomatoes just don’t like cold and wet. I’m hoping for some super quick growth now – but it is possible that it’s just too late. It wouldn’t be the first time that tomatoes just didn’t have enough time to fully mature and ripen. But if we get a LOT of heat from this time on, it may well be enough for a good tomato season.
Although we don’t give it enough credit, lettuce is probably our most cost effective crop each year – and our northwest weather is almost perfect for lettuce. Sandee usually buys those bags of baby lettuce that usually cost $5 or $6. This is an Italian blend planted quite densely, so that it can be snipped with scissors while only a few weeks old – if it’s not too hot yet (like now!), it’ll “come again” before starting to mature and/or get bitter. Every three weeks, we plant another small patch (about two feet square), and this gives us plenty of salad greens all summer, right into fall.
And when you tire of the baby lettuce (and you will!), you may long for some other greens – maybe something with some body and crunch – and so you’ll want to grow some of your seedlings into mature lettuce plants. This is another small patch of garden devoted to lettuce of a larger sort – these are young seedlings just recently planted here to get big over the next month. Notice the one at the top of the pic which has grown into a mature plant, been cut once, and allowed to “come again” – it’s again ready to be cut once more – then pulled and its space given to another seedling – and the cycle goes on.
If you were to ask me what my favorite green veggie was in my garden, I’d have to tell about this one – it’s a Japanese green known as Komatsuna. And here’s why I love it: it grows to this size in 30 days from seed. At about 15 days old, it makes a wonderful salad green. Later, it can be used as spinach is used, or as a stir-fry ingredient in an Asian dish. It has a compact, dense growth pattern, with big spoon shaped leaves, with only a small part of the stem cut off and thrown away. It’s a “cut and come again” plant, which means that when you cut off the leaves right above the base, it will quickly (within 10-15 days) grow new leaves to be cut again – you may even get 3 or 4 generations of new leaves! It will not bolt and go to seed in mid-summer, and it is frost resistant in the fall. I simply don’t know of any other plant with all these attributes.
And if Komatsuna is my favorite garden veggie, this baby is my favorite weed. Do you recognize it? In polite circles, it’s called Lamb’s Quarters. Many old time gardeners in the know plant it in their gardens each year because it’s delicious and loaded with nutrients. But most gardeners know it as a simple weed, and they do what they can to rid their gardens of it each year. To them it’s known as Pigweed.
I was one of the latter last year when I tilled up my best soil in August for my winter garden – before I could get my seeds in there, up popped a luxurious crop of the stuff above. I recognized it as the major weed in my father’s fields in New Jersey when I was growing up – but I had no idea what it really was – so I did research. And what I found out was that this is one of those “un-famous” weeds that somewhere along the way have been domesticated. Actually, almost every one of our domesticated garden vegetables began by being a wild weed. But almost none have stayed around the garden the way Lamb’s Quarters/Pigweed has.
All I can tell you is that if you find some of this stuff growing in your garden, snip a few young sprigs to include in your next salad – or if eating it raw scares you a little, do as the Mexicans do and slip some of the leaves into your next batch of beans.
You too may have a new favorite weed.