Saturday, May 14, 2011

Garden Growth

Our garden is starting to show signs of life, and I've been meaning to write about it for a while now. No pictures yet, but really the view isn't that interesting unless you're practically IN the dirt. :)

For those of you who don't know about our backyard garden adventures, let me give you a bit of history. We have 2 raised beds, a very enthusiastic strawberry patch, 2 unproductive blueberry bushes, and 2 young fruit trees (apple and peach). We also typically grow a ridiculous quantity of basil so that we can make never-enough pesto. The raised beds have brought us pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, swiss chard, and unanticipated squash (thank you compost pile). We tried planting zucchini, yellow squash and pumpkin last year and were sadly disappointed. It was a learning experience. I never knew about squash vine borers before, and I assumed that plants would know to produce both male and female plants so that fruit, or in this case squash, would occur. I also planted some sunflowers only to have them destroyed by the local wildlife (aka my arch nemesis - the squirrel population).

Having this garden is a great opportunity for my kids to learn about food. They appreciate fresh real food. They learn about the effort that goes into making food. They love watching the changes over time in the garden.

This year we are trying a few new crops and sticking with some past successes. As soon as the ground was workable, we planted romaine lettuce, red chard, and some variety of kale - maybe a red stem? I also took a chance and planted sugar snap peas. I'm delighted to report that all 4 have started sprouting. The lettuce and the kale are doing extremely well. I tried thinning the kale this week, but I may have killed a few plants. I'm going to wait another week or 2 to figure out whether I did and whether I should try more thinning so that the plants have room to grow. The weeds have been annoyingly productive this year as well. Maybe I didn't care as much about weeds last year, but I feel like I have to keep plucking little bits of this and that out of each bed, even when I've just finished weeding.

The other new development in our garden is a much sturdier fence around the larger of the 2 raised beds. Aaron and Caleb built a wood frame and attached plastic fencing to it. Other than spying a small brown bird or 2 in the bed, I think the fence is fairly secure. I'm hoping they will build similar protection for the other bed and for our strawberry patch.

The strawberry patch continues to spread just like the weed it actually is. I gave two peony bushes to my neighbor to make room for the berry plants. She thinks I'm nuts for giving up the flowers, but she is quite happy with the bushes and I'm quite happy with my future strawberries. The strawberries have their first flowers this week, so they need some protection ASAP. I put the net from last year over what I could, but it isn't much of a deterrent nor a true protection since any animal really could figure out that the plants aren't fully covered. The netting we have covers about 1/2 of our plants and not even very well, so we'll have to figure out something better. That said, I'm still delighted to see strawberry flowers! They just look so happy and promising.

Coming up in the next few weeks, we will plant the rest of our crop. We're planning on pole beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I'm still debating whether to try squash again. I would need to clear out a patch for them in the "wild" part of our flower beds, but I do not look forward to that project. On the other hand, I hate having an unused "wild" part of the garden; it looks blah and icky to give it a technical description. I'm also still disappointed in last year's experience, but I suppose this would be a chance to do better. As you can probably guess, I'll keep you posted!

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