Tuesday, April 28, 2015


I have two small black bins. One for composting the kitchen scraps and one for holding finished compost. The later was almost empty. In addition I have four pallet bins. Two hold leaves that I collect in the fall and two are for my working compost. I don't keep any of these bins very active. Worms probably do as much of the breakdown as anything else. It is hard sifting compost with the number of worms that proliferate over the summer. Even now when things are cold there are a lot of worms working.

Most of the garden got compost last fall, all except the overwintered kale and spinach beds. I'll need that compost in June when I turn the spinach bed into melons. In addition the kitchen scrap bin gets pretty smelly as it melts out from the winter. Even though it is covered it gets very wet and goes a bit anaerobic. Which means as soon as possible after it thaws I need to turn it. When I turn it in the fall I tend to get nice compost out of the bottom, but things don't break down as much over the winter when it is frozen.

The third pallet bin (left to right) was empty. I started by turning over the second pallet bin into it. When I had a good foot at the bottom, I put a couple of buckets of the kitchen compost on it. Then more of the garden waste from bin two. I repeated that until the kitchen bin was done. I spread the chore over two days. Now it is finished.

Well almost finished. The kitchen bin is finished, but I had to quit turning bin two as I hit ice. The rest of that is frozen. Now that the covering insulation of all the compost is gone I'm sure it will thaw quickly. I'll do bits of it as it thaws out each day. At this point I'm sifting what is there for finished compost. I want to get any bits that are finished sorted out from the sticks and half decomposed material. And I was desperately trying not to kill any worms while I was doing it. I was shocked how many works resided just above the frozen block of compost.

Compost is not the only thing I've been working on in the garden. I've been busy planting a few things. Above is the marjoram. I also planted winter savory. Seeded radishes. And received and planted my Lee #8 saskatoon (also called a juneberry or serviceberry). This morning the only plants that I had outdoors were extras from other plantings.

Which is good since it was time to bring down another flat of plants. These are the last set of baby Asian greens, the Brussels sprouts, and the zinnias. I covered them because it is getting warm enough that the root maggot fly might be out and about. The basil was in that flat too, but I took those plants out and left them upstairs with the six lettuce plants. There are just twelve plants left upstairs. It almost seems like it isn't worth keeping the lights on. I will though until it warms up enough to put the plants outdoors. I don't have any south facing windows. Just southeast and southwest. The lights will be better for them.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Harvest Monday, 27 April 2015

This title might more appropriately be called the lasts and the firsts. The lasts were my storage harvests from last year. Above is the last sweet potato.

I cut them up into fry shapes and roasted them. They are such a lovely mottled lilac before they are cooked. But after cooking they turn dark purple.

I cooked up the last three butternut squash.

Which I pureed. Two got frozen for future use, but one got made into a custard right away for dinner.

I also finished up the last of the carrots. So except for that little bit of frozen puree, I've finished off my colorful storage crops. I'll miss them. And though the garden has started to produce it isn't nearly enough to feed me yet. So I'll be buying yet more from the market until I ramp up later in the spring.

Though I've used up my main storage crops, at least the garden is producing something. This is one week's harvest. It contains the first spinach harvest and the first bok choy harvest. I'm really thrilled to pick enough that I can cook it up for dinner.

After a long winter of no harvests, it seems like a lot. But the reality is that it was just 0.86 lbs which is only about five servings of vegetables once it is cooked up. I try to eat eight a day give or take (since last September before then it was closer to six servings). That many servings comes to about 2 cups of cooked vegetables at lunch and again at dinner. I tend to like fruit at breakfast. It is easy to keep up over the winter. I have my frozen greens (spinach, chard, kale, broccoli) which I eat a cup of at each meal. And I have my colorful storage crops (carrots, squash, sweet potatoes). I eat a cup of them too. So I get some variety. But will I want two cups of greens this spring? I'm not so sure. I suppose I'll find out. If not I'll end up supplementing for a while until I get more of a varied harvest.

Dinner with my first spinach and some of my last squash. And the very rare boxed dinner. Most all my food is made from scratch. Even the mayo for the sauce was homemade. But not the fish sticks. It is my rare "I don't want to make dinner" dinner.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Last Frost

I haven't had a good frost photo in my garden in over a year so that photo is from years ago. This year's weather has been a bit extreme. The winter didn't get all that cold. The low was -3.2F (-20C). That is a pretty typical low here. But the average temperatures were very low this year. I haven't done the calculations for February, but it was probably between 5-10F below normal. And our snowfall totals made the national news. One of the storms was bad enough to be declared a national emergency and get federal funding.

Entry to the garden in February

This was the latest year ever for the garden to thaw out. I didn't test it day to day, but I still had ice in certain spots on April 17th. Though as you can tell from my last post, not all of the garden was frozen at that point or the plants wouldn't be doing so well.

My normal last frost date is in April sometime. For the last years it was the following.

  • 18 April 2014
  • 22 April 2013
  • 7 April 2012
  • 9 April 2011

I'm guessing we have had our last frost already. The long range forecast is for a warming trend and last night we didn't get into the 30s at all. Can you guess which day was our last frost day?

Well if you guessed April 5th you would be right. It has been the earliest last frost I've had yet at this house. I have had some 33F temperatures after that. The latest was the night before last. Sometimes you get a frost at that temperature, but here usually not. The land here is pretty flat all around so colder air doesn't usually flow into the garden. It sure is strange having had frozen soil almost two weeks past my last frost date.

I have a friend who doesn't believe that average weather really ever exists here. We are either in the grips of warm fronts or cold fronts, so either above normal or below. There is something to be said for that point of view. Once the warm front hit in April our temperatures were above normal for quite some time. It made springtime gardening a pleasure. Some years I'm out in my heavy jacket shivering while I plant my spinach. Not this year. On Wednesday our warm weather will come back. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


This week has been below normal in temperatures, but it hasn't stopped the garden from popping up in growth. This is especially true of the spinach in the Circle Garden. A week ago I might have found a leaf or two to pick. Today once it warms up from its low of 34F (1C), I'll get to go out and make my first picking. I'm dancing with joy over that.

The lettuce on the other hand is just sitting there this week. It has made some progress but not enough to want to harvest anything from it. You can tell it has been cold as the Red Sails lettuce is all red. When it gets warmer it will be a lot greener.

Right next to the lettuce are my radishes. They have all popped up. I've thinned them out to about 4". That is enough space for them to grow quickly this spring. I could have left them closer, but I didn't. Impatience for my crops is winning out.

Off in the main part of the garden (going from bed 8 to bed 1), the peas have started to come up. Really I saw the first little green bits a week ago. I see more now, but they haven't really unfurled. They are being slow.

In the same bed but under cover my turnips are coming up. Around them are my Chinese cabbages that are doing well. I like to put the turnips down the middle as the cabbages take up so much space, but when they are young they don't. I'll have to get in and thin those turnips soon. I probably won't give them as much space as I did my radishes. These will mature in spurts over time.

I have spinach coming up in a lot of beds, but the best is the one by the brick path. The beds closer to it are always warmer and it isn't just the bricks. They get more sun here. I can even see little tiny true leaves starting to form. There is good germination in one of the other beds too, but one is being slow about it. The ground was still frozen 4" down in parts of that bed when they were planted. So it is taking a while to warm up. The warmer parts are sprouted but the parts closest to the fence are not. But spinach I've found doesn't rot out easily. So they will be up when the ground is warm enough.

The allium bed is doing very well. The garlic all came up. And the onions that I planted a little over a week ago are starting to break dormancy.

I think the hard winter really hurt the kale. I'm still going to get a decent harvest from the dwarf curly kale as it is so hardy.

The Winterbor kale didn't fare as well. A couple died outright. The tops of all of the plants died. But I cut the dead parts off and the rest of the stems are starting to sprout leaves. I'm not sure what the harvest will be, but I'll at least get some kale raab. But that is weeks away.

And last but not least, my best hope for early harvests - my baby Asian greens. They always do so well in the spring. Except for the few larger plants they were put in a week an a half ago. And even with our cooler temps this week, they have kept growing well.

I have other things in the garden growing too. The carrots started sprouting a couple of days ago. So they have taken two weeks to germinate. Some years it is three. The umbelliferae bed is growing slowly and the fennel has started to sprout. The broccoli and other brassicas are doing very very well under their row covers. The chard is surviving. It survives quite well at these temperatures, but it doesn't like them. It wants warmer weather. Which it will get come Wednesday. It looks like that is the turning point to better weather. At least for a short time.

Friday, April 24, 2015


Beds 1 to 3

Yesterday I added mulch to the garden. I haven't done this in a few years and the paths were getting really muddy. One at a time I weeded the paths, then mulched. The paths are too narrow to use a wheelbarrow to dump mulch on the paths. When I tried the mulch got into the beds. So I used a bucket to carry it in.

Beds 3 to 8

I only put down one cubic yard of mulch. I wish I had more as I could only do the paths between the beds. I would have loved to mulch around the air conditioners, the wide storage area area by the shed, and under the weeping plum.

Circle Garden

But at least the small paths are mulched. Next time I order mulch I'll order enough for the other spots. I think mulch really makes everything look so much neater.

The pile of mulch originally had two cubic yards. The other one will be spread today and goes on the rest of the yard. I don't usually order enough for the whole yard, but we do parts one year and parts another. I know which areas I want to prioritize.

In preparation for that I was moving some of the bulbs around. It isn't a good time to do it as they are ready to bloom (which I cut off), but I had no choice really. The new perennial garden is getting planted. The bulbs came up in the middle of the new cobblestone divider. I need them to be in their final spots.

The daffodils might suffer for the move. But the grape hyacinths seem to be weeds. I just hope I got all of those little bulbs out of the ground or I'll be weeding them out later. I'm sure I missed quite a few as there were so many and some were so tiny. I moved the best bulbs to line the cobblestones instead of being in clumps. We still have one more clump of daffodils to dig out, but today I get my townhouse mates to help me. They will be weeding the rest of the yard and spreading the mulch. I'll play director.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Planting the Chard

I did get out yesterday morning very early to plant my chard. I wanted to get them in before the rain started. The soil in the bed was very dry. Since we were getting rain I didn't worry about it. I didn't water the plants in either. I just left the soil block in its little hole without bringing the soil next to it. The rain washed the soil into the hole for me and watered.

The above photo really shows you how much I'm using row covers this year. I have mixed feelings about it. I really wish I could leave them off, but I know how much better the plants do when I have them. Two of the row covers you see are for the leaf miners (chard and spinach). Many of the leaves would be ruined without them. The leaf minters start laying eggs around mid May, but it varies. The other is over the onions for the onion flies. Even without the flies my storage onions have issues with rotting in storage because of the diseases we have. With the holes the flies make, they wouldn't make it more than a month or two. So I'm continuing to use them and appreciating them. But part of me wishes I could just leave them off.

My MIL flew in on Monday. I had a pile of dirty flats piling up by my back door. Guests are always a good way to get you to clean up things you have been putting off.

Not much is going on for the rest of the week until the mulch comes in on Thursday. I've planted all that I can until the mulch is spread. I do have one plant still on order that could show up - a serviceberry. So I have a couple of days off which is kind of nice as the weather is bad and I've been doing things every day for the garden since the good weather came in.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Harvest Monday, 20 April 2015

Whoohoo! Another harvest. Again it was small.

It consisted of small bits of mizuna, Red Sails lettuce, mache, and chives.

Unlike last week when I had a small harvest and doled it out slowly. This time I had my first garden salad of the year. I ate the whole harvest at once.

Though I'm certainly thrilled to be getting something from the garden, the harvests are tiny. It is hard to imagine in a month I'll be getting enough to feed myself for the most part again. Well as long as I like greens and radishes. Everything is just so small now and I'm waiting for a lot of seeds to germinate.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Most Hated Chore

Everyone has a hated chore in the garden. One of mine is cleaning up after everyone else's cats. I am not a cat person. I do appreciate them catching mice in the garden. They do. Well Molly does at least, who is the townhouse mates' cat. But cats can be a pain. They like to dig and leave their poo all over the place. I always have to put something like netting or bamboo poles on the soil so they don't contaminate it. Cats carry parasites and I don't want that in my food.


Also to encourage them to go elsewhere I give them a spot for it. It is under a small overhang so it keeps the soil dry which the cats like. But after all winter, cleaning up after them is not a fun chore. I was kind and only showed you the after photo. The before was pretty disgusting.

In that above photo you see my hose reel. I got both of them out and connected up. Sometimes it takes me a while to get it done, and sometimes I'm pretty good about it like this year. I think the nice weather has really got me doing my chores in a timely manner.

Yesterday I found some ramps being sold at the supermarket to eat. But they had their roots on them. So I figured I could plant them and see if they grew or not. I didn't get to them yesterday, but did today. I put them under the maple tree with my townhouse mates multiplier onions.

Yesterday the strawberries also came. I tossed them in to the fridge for the night. I only ordered 10 of them. I already had lots in the garden. But they die off over time. So I've been ordering more every year to fill in sections. I tend to like Earliglow as they don't die off as quickly as some others. Whatever diseases have come in, they seem at least moderately resistant to it.

Raspberry bed

And last but not least I got some of the yard cleaned up. I tidied up the perennials. And fixed the raspberry patch. The massive snowfall made the posts lean over. I put them back up and trimmed off the dead spots from the hard winter. They are starting to leaf out. I also noticed they are starting to spread again. They almost died off the year before last due to lack of rain. It isn't that we don't get rain, but that area is to the southeast of the house. A lot of our rain comes in from the northeast. Last year I put up a soaker hose and ran it when we had little rain. Usually raspberries are weeds around here, but I guess they don't like being dry. I'm really happy they are spreading again. I missed the bumper crops of berries.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Planting Bunching Onions

I couldn't believe how beautiful it was this morning. So of course I was out planting again. Up this time was the bunching onions.

I tend to grow these not in blocks but just in flat takeout containers. They don't need a huge depth of soil. And they are just fine with their roots being disturbed. So they don't really need to be treated all that well. I do try to tease out their roots without breaking, but I'm not always successful. I planted them in a row with a space of about 1-2 inches. I planted them about two inches deeper than the grew in the container. This will give them a long white root part, but still they will have lots of green.

You would think that one little row is not all that slow to do, but I put the rest of the bed together too. This bed is getting a patchwork of plants. Beans will take the end foot. So I built a trellis for them. Chard will have one half of the bed so I put together the row cover for that. I made an extra wide one so it could be tall, but it turns out the normal width would have been fine - just barely. I cut off the excess and only left 4" of the part I sewed on. I'll have to remember that for next year. As you can see the onions get a strip down the other side from the chard. And the rows on either side will get lettuce. I'll be rotating this lettuce bed throughout the year. I'll start new plants every three weeks, so the plants will have nine weeks to grow before they have to get taken out for the next set. Or at least that is the plan. I have a tendency to miss my sowing dates. This year I'm putting them on my calendar to try not to miss them.

With that bed planted up there are only two beds left that haven't been touched at all. You can see the bed with the silver tarp in it, just past the white row cover on the ground. Well that had my bamboo in it over the winter. I finally got that opened up and taken off today. That bed won't be sown until mid May. It will have the earliest of the corn plantings.

And just when I had my last hardened off plants in the ground, the next set came out to get some sun. The chard is on the right and I have some perennials on the left. I probably won't keep the chard out here long. The weather is changing and getting cooler and wetter. So I'll let them harden off one more day then probably plant them right before a good patch of rain. Soil blocks don't need to be hardened off as much as other methods. Their roots aren't disturbed at all. And I use a fan in the growing room, so the wind shouldn't bother them. It is just the sun they have to get used to. And we won't get much sun on Monday and Tuesday. So I'm thinking they should be fine.

I will wait on the perennials though. We are going to be getting mulch on Thursday. I don't want the tiny seedlings buried by the mulch. I think it will be safer to plant after the fact.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Today was a dank day. I went out to put in the broccoli plants. And got chased in by the rain. It started a few drops here and there as I was aerating the soil. I put more than broccoli in my broccoli patch. I plant two rows of broccoli that are two feet apart. I've found that three rows are just too close for them to produce well. But that is a lot of extra space especially when they are small. So I put a row of turnips along the outside. One row on each side. Luckily I did this first. The rain held off just long enough. I wouldn't want to get my seed packet wet.

View from my window

As I put in the first broccoli plants the rain started. I stayed out getting wet until they were all in. But I wasn't going to get wet for the row cover. Nor was I going to get my camera wet, so I took a photo of it from indoors. Not a great photo as you can only see some of the 10 plants that went in.

Tall white row covers blocking my view

When the rain let up I put the cover on quickly. Sadly the row covers will block my fence for quite some time and the broccoli row cover stays up all year. The fence will be planted in zinnias which are quite pretty, but only the bees will see them most of the time. Which is too bad as I really enjoy their colorful display.

The garden is really shaping up. The first seeds are up and growing. Above are either the radishes or the turnips. I forgot which ones I put in which rows. Not that it matters. I'll find out when their roots start to pop up. The first of the spinach is up too. The patch by the path. The other patches have colder soil as they get less sun, so they will take a bit longer. No sign of the carrots yet, but then they always take a while. The only transplants ready to be planted are those bunching onions I talked about earlier. I'll do them tomorrow when the weather clears up. It should be a really pretty day tomorrow. But the bulk of the spring garden is in. Which means it is time to turn to other kinds of spring work. Like cleaning up the rest of the yard. I ordered mulch which will be delivered in a week. That will need to be spread. The compost needs to be turned. I think next week I'll be building upper body strength.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Busy Busy Day

This morning I figured I'd get the onions planted. This involves two beds. The first was the storage onion bed. Really it was a bed and a third as the garlic doesn't take a whole bed, so I put the rest of that one in onions. I prepped the bed and planted out the shallots that I had. I made the rows 6" apart but I figured that I would test the in row spacing. Four of the rows got a 6" spacing and three of the rows got a 4" spacing. The rest of the onions hadn't shown up yet. I ordered them from Dixondale* and they said they were shipped earlier in the week.

I put up a row cover over the bed and a half. If you remember I made a special row cover for these so they could be higher. The short row cover that was just a foot high, wasn't even close to being high enough for the onions. I wanted a two foot high cover. I had some old irrigation pipe. It isn't strong enough to be a support for a thick row cover that breaks the wind, but I thought it would be fine for the netting row cover I had. Last winter when I cleaned out the basement I cut them into 8' lengths. Today I pushed them into the soil as far as I could and the row cover was just perfect. (Photos to come later in the post.)

I had to go in to take a phone call. When I was inside I saw the delivery man drop off a big box. It wasn't my onions. It was my perennials for the new front garden. They were from Bluestone*.

I liked their modular system for packaging plants. All the plants were in biodegradable pots which is a huge selling point for me. As you can guess I immediately unpacked them all. And even though the pots were biodegradable (it looks like coir) I ripped most of them off as I don't like such things to wick away moisture. But at least I can compost them instead of having to recycle plastic.

I got out my plan that I made last year. And my measuring tape. I put them in their appropriate spots. Though my plan wasn't perfect. My neighbors behind me (the really nice ones that let me cut down the maple sapling that was growing on their side of the fence, but near the property line that was right on the southern most part of the garden) gave me a gift certificate to Mahoneys (a really nice close gardening center). I went there earlier in the week to buy a support for my sage plant in the circle garden. It only cost 10 bucks. I was going to buy some seeds for next year. But I should never ever walk into a store that sells plants.

I bought a hen and chicks plant and a short sedum. The edge near the driveway and the brick path has the worst soil (lower right). I figure these ought to grow reasonably well there. The plan said some Gallardia would go there, but I think I'll use it as a little river of color though there instead of a large patch.

I only bought three plants for my green path with stepping stones. It might take a little while to get it to spread through the whole thing, but I really think it will be more of a problem to keep a spreading plant out of the rest of the garden than to make sure it fills in.

This perennial garden is only partly planted up. I have other plants growing under lights. Some perennial (two kinds of rudbeckia) and some annual (calendula and zinnia). I also need two more perennials that I don't have. One is a Siberian iris (Cape Cod Boys) which I never got around to ordering. And Moonbeam coreopsis which I totally forgot to get seed for, so I'm just going to walk down to our local garden center and see if they sell it. If not it will be off to Mahoneys again. Though I might end up transplanting some coreopsis from the backyard. It doesn't seen really happy there. It might be more happy in the front.

After a quick lunch which made a good rest break, another package showed up on my doorstep - the onion plants. The red onions were a really nice size. The Copras weren't too bad. But the Walla Wallas were really small. I hope they grow well enough. It looks like they don't count plants. They just give you the same sized bunch. It can have small or larger plants in them. And all of the bundles had way more than they said would be in them.

I filled up that bed that I prepped in the morning. As always Copra - my main storage onion - got the best spot which means farther away from the fence. The other two spit sides of the bed. I had quite a handful of seedling left over. So I put them in the asparagus bed. Most of the asparagus died last year. I'm going to take half of the bed and plant four Brussels sprouts. But they don't need the edge space yet. So I put two rows down the middle and a row on each side of the bed. I put them about 1-2" apart. I'll eat them as green onions in June and maybe into July.

It was a really tiring day. If you have noticed I usually split my work up if possible so I don't do a lot in one day. Especially when I have a full week of gorgeous weather like this week. I want to be out everyday so no need to kill myself on one day. But when plants show up on my doorstep I try hard to get them in right away. I'll wait on the second onion bed that I had planned to do this morning. That is the lettuce, chard, and bunching onion bed. But the bunching onions can wait. Now I just have one more thing to finish today. I have to go out and sweep the front walk as I made a mess of it when I was planting.

*And I haven't received anything from these companies. I'm just a gardener who buys stuff. All opinions are my own. Yadda yadda yadda. If I ever do get anything useful from somewhere I'd let you know. But companies tend to like to offer me things I don't want or can't use so I always turn them down.