How Does My Garden Grow? May 2014


My main garden area: 3 raised beds and some trellises

I have been making progress in the vegetable garden slowly but surely in the month of May. Seeds are sprouting, transplants are taking root, and I am working on garden infrastructure like bean trellises and the new wire fence to keep Freyja from trampling my snow peas. I started planting peas, radishes, and greens in mid-April, but nothing really took off until mid-May, and I finally have some seedlings putting out true leaves: chard, beets, peas, turnips, and icicle radishes. This week, I have started planting warm weather crops like tomatoes, squashes and melons, beans, and the like—hopefully they will survive the hard rain and hailstorms that have suddenly been cropping up every afternoon.


View from the back corner of the garden space


Successive plantings of Swiss chard and beets are coming up quickly


Borage sprouts to the right of my new strawberry transplants

In addition to the tomatoes and squashes, I have also started planting out my herb spiral. It still has quite a bit of room for more plants, but at least this is a start. I’ll be doing some plants in the ground here, some mixed in among the veggies (basil, dill, and summer savory, for instance), and yet more in pots on my back porch rail, so hopefully I will have plenty for cooking this summer, and maybe even over the winter if I can keep the porch plants alive inside.


A few herbs in the spiral now: lemon thyme, marjoram, chives, German chamomile, and gotu kola, as well as garlic chive and chervil seeds


This was a tester: I’ll be growing some perennial herbs on the sunny spots of our north-facing porch railing, and hopefully overwinter them indoors

Part of the delay in planting was caused by our Mother’s Day snow storm, and below freezing temperatures that actually went a day past our historical last-frost date. I had been hoping to spend my Mother’s Day planting warm weather crops and transplanting tomatoes and herbs, but that was definitely not in the cards this year! Fortunately, the sprouts already in the garden, as well as the transplanted strawberries, all survived the cold snap with a little extra protection.


The start of the Mother’s Day storm of 2014

I have also been enjoying exploring the plants that are coming up in the backyard without assistance. We’ve eaten some dandelions already, and I am charmed by all the little early violets and now the strawberries that are blooming in the shade, which someone must have planted in previous years.


Volunteer violets blooming alongside our shed


Volunteer strawberries in a shady spot in the backyard—we’ll see soon how well they actually produce!

I’m also trying to figure out just what this weed is. It is growing like crazy (like a weed, one might almost say!), and my best guess at identification suggests it might be some sort of pigweed, which is an edible plant in the amaranth family. I haven’t attempted to eat any yet because I am not 100% sure—any of my readers care to weigh in? Last summer these plants got to be at least 3 feet tall in the backyard while I was busy nursing a newborn around the clock, so they could be a great source of greens on our plates if they are in fact edible.


Does this look like pigweed to you?


Another shot of our vigorously growing and potentially edible weeds

Another potentially edible wild plant: I suspect this to be lambsquarter, but I won’t be sure until they grow a bit larger. These are cropping up all around the raised beds, and would be a very welcome green if my guess is correct.


Are you lambsquarter?

I have a few starts going that have yet to be planted. I thought I might try my hand at sweet potatoes in containers this year, as I have several very large plastic container, and a nice sunny spot alongside our driveway that is otherwise an eyesore. With any luck, I will fill the planter with lush edible sweet potato vines and maybe even some tubers at the end of the season. I decided to sprout these in advance, and although they took a while to get started, I now have quite a few with good root systems and little leaves developing. We’ll see if this helps speed their growth any this summer.


Sweet potato slips in the making

I also decided to try sprouting some ground cherry seeds that I saved several years back from the community garden. I honestly wasn’t even sure if these would germinate, but they certainly did! They took a while to come up, but now they are putting out true leaves, and seem very happy on this windowsill with western sunlight for the moment. They should be ready to transplant in another week or two at this rate.


The ground cherries are starting to put out true leaves

Finally, I branched out into a new way of using up our kitchen scraps: vermicomposting! My little compost bucket is already full after maybe 6 weeks of use, and I will probably get a second one started, but from what I understand, worms can make short work of kitchen scraps and junk mail, so I thought it would be fun to give it a try. My mom and Theo helped me shred up some paper and cardboard egg cartons for bedding, and I introduced my new pets to their luxury habitat just a few days ago—they still seem to be alive, at least, but of course it is hard to know how much activity is going on in there. Time will tell!


My littlest helper, shredding and moistening paper for the worm bin


Vermiculture bin with damp paper and egg carton shreds, a few food scraps, and my first two dozen worms… vaya con Dios, wormies!

So far it has been a good start to the season. Now that my beds are established, next year I can work on getting things like peas in the ground earlier, and maybe I can even figure out an indoor growing system, a cold frame, or at least some good row covers to help get a jump on the season. I will also have lots more work to do in the front yard, where I am hoping to do some container gardening and establish a medicinal/edible flower and herb bed.

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