Another up-early-before-it-gets-too-hot-in-the-garden day. This morning my work was in the back yard, in the raised beds. I had already transplanted a few volunteer tomato and basil plants in the front bed. The tomato plants are from the compost bin, where I found two Brandywine seedlings (you can tell them by their leaves), and the basil plants are from the driveway area, where basil has been coming up for a few years from the previous year’s seed.
Today’s mission was to put in the hot pepper plants and basil plants I bought yesterday at Highland Orchards, our local family-owned farm and market. I also wanted to sow some zucchini and pepper seeds before it’s too late.
The raised beds are a bit of a mess — I did not clean up last fall, so this spring they were overrun by wildflowers and weeds, mostly fleabane. Rather than pull out the weeds, I just chopped them down and left the cuttings to serve as mulch until I had time and a plan. About a month ago, I sowed corn in the middle bed, clearing only enough area to plant three rows. But none of it sprouted (old seed, I knew it would be hit or miss), and I got purslane instead. Let this serve as the “before” picture:
In the foreground is the front bed, with the tomatoes and basil protected by chicken wire (plastic fencing), with chopped fleabane everywhere else. Mid-ground, where bricks are piled up, is the middle bed, covered in chopped fleabane and purslane. The back bed is now garden junk and compost, with some tomatoes growing out of the bin on the left. The metal trashcan is also a compost bin — the bottom rusted out. I have let the garden paths go as well — over the years I have spent days digging them out, laying newspaper and cardboard, then covering them over in wood chips, but this year I decided that life is too short for that. Now I just cut whatever is growing at the soil line with a sharp hoe and leave the remains as green mulch. It’s mostly violets and barren strawberry, but also sorrel, fleabane, thistle, purslane, field aster, and grasses. There are a few wildflowers (cardinal flower, monkey flower), which I leave alone, thinking I will transplant them at some point.
It looks a bit better now. Just two small patches of weeds in the front bed. I will clear them for more peppers soon, maybe eggplant if I can find some seedlings or actual plants to buy at this late date.
The middle bed has been cleared somewhat, enough to sow peppers and squash at the ends. Maybe I’ll set up a trellis in the center for a fall crop of climbing beans.
I added some bricks and slate to be able to have one foot in the bed when I plant and harvest. If I ever renovate these, I’ll make the beds narrower so I can reach into the middle.
Check back in 10-14 days to see if anything has sprouted!
We are expecting our third heat wave of the summer (defined, according to the meteorologist on a local news station, as three consecutive days at 90 degrees F. or higher), plus storms rolling in, so I got up really early to garden. Did you know you can get sunburned before 9 am? Now I know, too.
The project is to move the red twig dogwood out from under the birch tree into a sunnier spot. Because the birch canopy is now so large, the dogwood keeps pressing out closer and closer to the street, encroaching on the right-of-way and impeding the view of oncoming cars when exiting our driveway. I thought I’d replace the dogwood with low-growing hosta plants for now to see how they like it in the shade.
But before I could move any dogwood, I had to clear a place for it. The front bed was again covered in — in order of volume: volunteer cherry tomato plants, burdock, nut sedge, red root pig weed, jewel weed, upright sorrel.
And in the back, just tons of tree saplings and wildflower stalks: thistle, goldenrod, field aster, mustard, and another plant I haven’t been able to identify. Luckily, all these pull out pretty easily.
While I was at it, I also moved some purple coneflower from shade to sun.
Still working on fall cleanup. Mostly pruning and weed-scalping. The large bed in front was mostly dormant last season, aside from volunteer cherry tomatoes. That allowed weeds to enter, and as the soil warms this spring, fleabane and red dead nettle have settled in. As did some other broad-leaf, thick-rooted plant, maybe common burdock.
I used my newly sharpened hoe to scalp the greens and raked them to the side into a mulch-like mass (mess). Then spread some shredded leaves. I hope that will suppress new growth until I figure out what I want to do with this bed. I left only a clump of red clover. Many consider it a weed, but I have found in the past couple of years that it doesn’t spread aggressively. It seems to come and go, and the bees like it, so I leave it where I find it.
I pruned the crape myrtle and also cut out a large dead section of the Japanese maple, about a third of it.
The yellow-twig dogwood, which used to creep out into the street, has now turned inward and is slowly spreading towards the lawn. I’m learning how a full-sun garden becomes a shade garden as the trees mature.
Spent a little time in front today, did the following:
- scalped more weeds (flowers, actually, but weeds in bulk, especially where they are growing)
- picked up trash along the road, including a busted rear-view mirror (someone side-swiped either the telephone pole or a street sign in front of the house)
- tidied up fallen branches
- thinned out some dead wood from the yellow twig dogwood
- pulled dried tomato vines off of everything
- pulled red dead nettle (that is a live plant, not a dead one) that has begun to colonize in front, already in flower, a new invader
- sowed spring greens in one of the raised beds:
- red radishes
- mesclun mix
- spent the rest of the time trying to close the gaps in the chicken wire around the raised bed so squirrels have a harder time getting in there — they already destroyed my garlic planting from last fall
2019.03.30. First day out and about in the garden. I got to work on the first patch that caught my attention. The idea was to get at the early weeds before they go to seed.
The low shrub in the center is a Wentworth Highbush Cranberry — actually not a cranberry at all, but a viburnum: Viburnum trilobum ‘Wentworth’. It’s into its third season in my yard, and it seems to be doing OK. I sowed some red Lobelia (Cardinal Flower) along the wall behind it, then mulched with shredded leaves.
I also cut down the overgrown rose by the air conditioner unit and weeded in the bulge. Not exactly weeding, rather scalping, with this, my new, and new favorite, tool:
The roots mostly stay in the soil, which is not so disturbed that more weed seeds are exposed, and the greens can be composted.
I do not have a garden plan this season, so we’ll just have to see how it goes . . .
Adventures in Pesto
You know it’s the middle of winter when you run out of homemade pesto. My mother, of all people (she usually eschews anything green — and that does not mean she chews it, rather she turns it down), has had a hankering lately for basil pesto. I used up an entire log of frozen pesto in December, and now there is none left.
But she wanted pesto, so I looked around for other leaves and vegetables that seemed like they would work to form the vehicle for garlic and Parmesan, which I am almost certain is what my mother was craving.
I found half a bag of spring mix and a head of Boston lettuce from our local family farm and two broccoli crowns from the grocery store. And so I began.
I used the same procedure I would use for basil pesto: shredded the lettuce leaves into the food processor, cut up the broccoli florets into small pieces, added rough-chopped garlic, a little salt, about a 1/3 cup of olive oil…
And a handful of walnuts, chopped… (because I also ran out of pine nuts)…
And processed. Then added grated Parmesan and processed for another 10 seconds. That’s what my recipe book says, and that’s how I do it.
I almost forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. Garnish with more grated Parmesan and broccoli florets, and eat out of a big bowl. And don’t forget to serve Mom.
She liked it!
I bet this would also be delicious mixed with ricotta cheese and used for stuffed shells or ravioli.
Made a new bed. Planted corn (yellow-white hybrid, 7-14 days to germinate, 73 days to maturity). Cleaned up a bit (hard to tell!).
The neighbor sheared the forsythia and exposed a robin’s nest. I tried to keep my distance after taking these pix to let the parents feed their kids in peace.
The last first in the list of firsts (that is, the most recent), is the first mowing of the lawn in 2018 on May 5 (partial).
Also, the first selection of tomato volunteers to encourage.
The first 90-degree day of the year was May 4.
Before that, the first asparagus harvest of 2018 was on April 27, the asparagus having first emerged on April 23.
Shortly before that was the first flying insect sighting — a lazy fly flew in the front door and was easy to shoo out again. (When you garden, you notice when the pollinators show up.)
Maybe a week before that, I gave the American Holly by the deck a haircut — easily cutting out 4/5 of the branches. It has some kind of scale infestation and I decided I’d do a hard pruning to see if I could get rid of the scale. Surprisingly, the part that’s left is blooming like crazy now, so maybe I did more good than harm.