My first official day in the garden... March 10, 2012. I must clarify, there have been many days of planning and dreaming and ordering seed over the winter and a couple of actual work days in the garden already this spring. My dear hubby and I moved the straw off all the raised beds a couple of weeks ago and pulled the few weeds that had dared to sprout over the winter. I wanted to let the sunny days warm the soil so my seeds and onion transplants wouldn't jump back into their containers. Another day we (really he) topped off the beds with fresh compost. Last year's attempt at gardening was such a success that we (really, we) built 3 additional beds. Our garden now consists of nine 4 x 4 raised beds, one 4 x 10 asparagus bed, and an overflow available in my perennial beds.
On this auspicious first day of gardening I accomplished the following:
1. Asparagus. Late last fall when we (he :-) cleaned off the bed and the first year plants were rewarded with a blanket of fresh compost and straw to get them through the coming winter. Today I gently removed the straw from my asparagus bed and added 3lb of organic 3-4-4 fertilizer. My handy dandy gardening manual suggessted 5-10-10 but none could be found at my local garden center. I figured 3lb of 3-4-4 was better than 0 lb of 5-10-10. I actually found a half dozen sprouts poking through the soil. Yay!! Proof that some asparagus plants made it through the winter!! Since this is the beginning of their second year, I will watch and tend the bed with promises of our first harvest next year. Sunlight, weeding, and water is all they require.
2. A dose of "Holly Tone" for all the holly shrubs. There are about 20 China Girl hollies that are 18 years old and doing relatively well. Two years ago we also added another 10 China Boys...at least I hope they are boys so we will finally get the pretty red seeds on our girls. Unfortunately, our new hollies are not happy at all. They look a sickish yellow green. According to my master gardener's class, hollies like acidic soil and may do poorly if planted next to a new concrete walkway or driveway where particles may leech into the soil. Well, our driveway is not new BUT the landscaper planted our new hollies over top of a gravel drive. Rather than removing all the gravel, they removed some of the gravel and then brought in enough soil to plant the hollies. My theory is that it has taken two years for the roots to reach the soil below which is tainted by the limestone (basic) gravel. I've called the landscaper who installed the plantings. He said that they probably just needed Osmocote. I obediently dosed them with Osmocote but I think it will be like treating a broken leg with a bandaid. My next step is to get my helpful county extension agent to take a look. Hopefully they can be salvaged. If not, I will have an uncomfortable conversation with my landscaper.
Back to the fun parts.
3. Harvest! Yes, I said harvest. Beautiful, bright, sweet carrots and crisp kale. The carrots overwintered in the garden and are perfect! Today yielded a gallon bag full of the treasure. We will enjoy some tonight for dinner. Another patch is still the size of baby carrots so I left them alone to see if they will continue to grow. The kale is amazing. The plants freeze and thaw all winter and seem not to mind at all. I even cut the frozen kale during a heavy snow and when it thawed in my sink you would never know. I planted it in late September and we have had fresh kale all winter. I read that kale is sweetened by a freeze...very true. I couldn't bring myself to uproot the plants. It would be crazy to pull up big healthy plants just to plant fresh kale seed. Wouldn't it??
4. I practice "square foot gardening" which requires creating a grid of one foot squares over the 4 x 4 beds. Last year I questioned if the grid was really necessary but I am sure glad that I humored the author of the square foot gardening book. With such intensive plantings and planting in succession, the grids make it much easier to create a map and calendar for the garden ensuring that the maximum production of yummy veggies. The "square foot gardening" manual suggests the use of wood strips to create a semi-permanent grid. I use garden twine. I was so anxious to plant but first things first... create my grids.
I loved creating and recreating my planting map during the winter. Deciding which plants need the shade from others. Which plants like the cold of spring and which ones can follow to produce in the heat of summer and which ones will be planted in the fall to carry in to winter again. Three sets of crops in the same space requires planning....and I love it!
5. Organic Seed/ plant sources: Victory Seed Company and Garden Harvest Supply
Today's plantings include:
Carrots, Scarlet Nantes Plant every 3-4 weeks through the summer.
Beets, Detroit Dark Red Plant every 3-4 weeks through the summer
Beets, Early Wonder Tall Top Plant every 3-4 weeks through the summer
Peas, Sugar Snap
Peas, Sugar Ann