Thanks to a rainy day, I am taking the time to write about my garden instead of being out in it! May was a fabulous month for gardening. I took a smattering of vacation days many of which were host to very summery weather, so I had more time than usual to plant. Paul and I started the month off with a visit to the Friend's School Plant Sale, where we got a lot of the starter plants we wanted for this year's garden.
Combine that with the plants I grew from seeds indoors, the seeds we planned to start directly in the ground and a few extras from Mother Earth Gardens and we were all set to get things in the ground.
Except for some time spent weeding, there are a few parts of the yard that take care of themselves. Like our shaded rock garden. The vinca I planted last year is thriving.
A few plants the previous owner planted are maturing and blending nicely.
Most of the transplants I have acquired from the yards of friends and family have taken to their new locations nicely, like these coral bells.
And these peonies! I finally have peonies! I have two bushes from my grandma's yard via my Aunt Audrey that were transplanted last fall. They weren't sure what colors they dug for me, so I am really excited for them to bloom this year. It'll be my version of the red carpet at an awards show. "Oh! What is she wearing? That color is beautiful! Just look at those petals!"
I am not sure if I mentioned it here yet, but we had the huge silver maple tree in our yard taken down over the winter. It was damaged during the storm last summer and had become too much of a liability. We had thought we would be able to use the base of the tree for the coop, but zoning wouldn't allow it. So, now we have this oozing maple stump that the bugs love. We are going to have to do something about it, but we aren't sure what we'll do yet.
The raspberry patch will likely be even happier now that the tree is no longer throwing shade over part of the patch. I've finally gotten my pruning strategy worked out for the patch and I put a dose of turkey manure fertilizer on it, so I am expecting a good raspberry crop this year.
The apple trees will also benefit from a bit more sun. I had hoped to prune them this spring but upon doing some research, I learned it is best to prune them in the winter. So, I will let them go this year and plan to do a big pruning job next winter.
We also purchased a new, enclosed, outdoor compost container from the city in preparation for the chicken manure we will be composting. I have a lot to learn when it comes to effective composting. I've got the indooor vermi-composting down, but our existing outdoor compost pile is a poorly maintained heap. I'll have to add "creating properly balanced compost piles" to my list of things to read up on. Feel free to share any great resources or knowledge you have in the comments. I hear a mixture of greens and browns is in order as is proper moisture levels and frequent aeration. Do you really have to do that or is dumping compostables as you have them and neglecting it a viable strategy?
The sweet woodruff I planted inside a ring around the apple trees is thriving. The 3 starter plants I placed inside each ring has nearly filled the space and flowered after just one year.
As for our main vegetable garden space, we are trying some different strategies this year. Leading into the season, we drew up plans that took advantage of companion planting.
We combined the trellises that used to lean against the fence into the configuration they were originally intended to be used (A frame) and planned rows of peas along the outside, a cucumber hill in the middle, quick growing greens (arugula, spinach, radish) beside the center mound and sunflowers at each corner. We have 2 sets of that configuration with a different type of cucumber in the center of each one. We also paired rosemary with bush beans and carrot seeds with tomato plants. Stand alone arrangements happened for purple tomatillos, purple pole beans, hops, and collard greens in this part of the garden.
In this shot of the same area of the garden, you can see the rings that Paul planted his hops in. So far squirrels have destroyed 2 of the 3 plants so this year might have to be called a learning experience. We will have to come up with some ways to protect the buried rhizomes and sprouts next year.
After reducing my rhubarb patch, it is still too crowded! I will have to be more aggressive when it comes to dividing the plants next year. I am also trying a new plant in a space next to the rhubarb: horseradish! I hear it can be quite a spreader, so I just put in one bare root to start the area out.
In addition to a different configuration for planting, we also skipping tilling this year in favor of broadforking the soil in the areas we planted. It seemed pretty effective, so we might be investing in this tool. We have been renting a tiller but the place we rent from went out of business. We found a different place to rent a broadfork and are using this year as a test run for that technique. It definitely felt good to turn the soil without killing so many worms! And, even though the broadfork is a manual tool, it felt a lot easier on our bodies than the gas tiller does.
The annex area of the garden beyond the rain garden/flower area is being put to heavy use this year. We have broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, tuscan kale, blue curled scotch kale and red chard planted in that area. I planted it pretty tightly so we will have to access the broccoli and brussels from outside the fence and the greens from the walking path and a few strategically placed bricks.
I am a really big fan of the straw/hay mulch. Too bad the straw bale gardening trend caused the price of a bale to double this year! I still bought it, though because it really does cut down the weeds and reduces the need for watering as often. A nice bonus is that the dirt from your garden stays in your garden instead of gluing itself to the bottom of your shoes.
The spring onion patch close to the house has been replenishing itself each year. I am usually pretty forgetful about using them but this year I have been trying hard to get more use out of it. It is the first crop I get each year, followed closely by chives and rhubarb. I also planted a few nasturtium plants between the tomato plants. I hear they are a good companion for tomatoes. I haven't had the greatest luck with nasturtiums the past two years, so I am hoping this year they fare better. If they do really, really well, I might pickle some of the seeds. They are like capers when pickled.
Since we don't have any dogs in our backyard this year, we expanded our growing spaces a little. There are a few tomato plants and nasturtiums in the wooden frames near the deck and a few things in pots on the benches (basil, 3 kinds of mint that will eventually go in a raised bed and 4 shiso plants).
After I get a few more things done in the front yard, I'll share some photos of that, too. Thanks for spending some time with me in my garden.