Saturday, May 5, 2012

Garden Update

Well... we've got a full fledged miracle in progress outside. It's actually raining. We've had barely any moisture here since February, and I was starting to think it would never happen. Hooray!

Anyhow, since the internets have been filled with garden posts recently, I thought I'd give y'all a quick update.

As you may have gathered, it's been an unusual year so far. I don't know what the statistics say, but this is the hottest and driest spring that I can remember. Last month felt a heckuva lot more like July than April, and we've been having temperatures about 20 degrees above normal since March. I'm trying hard to "go with the flow" but I must admit, things just feel "off" - it's not supposed to be 90 degrees in April and May!

AAAAACCCCCKKKK! I guess I was a tad bit premature in declaring a miracle, as the lovely rain showers just turned into hail (no wonder the Catholic church has such stringent requirements). So far it's only about 1/4 inch in diameter... nothing like the whopper we got back in July.

Well ANYHOW. I guess we'll see what it looks like once the sun comes up, but as of today, this is where the garden stood.

So we'll start with the casualties. The spinach started bolting several weeks ago. Spinach is hard to grow here because we generally get a few hot spells sometime in May, which makes it bolt before it gets a chance to grow any meaningful leaves. So I've taken to planting the spinach in the fall and wintering it over. I just plant it in September and cover it with frost cloth and leave it until spring.

It generally does quite well... it's even survived a few weeks where the thermometer never got above zero. And I even get to harvest a tiny bit throughout the winter.

So this year was a mixed blessing... it was so warm so early, that the spinach started getting MUCH bigger than it usually does... but alas, the heat was too much for it and it bolted in mid-April. That's a new record, but I'm trying to look on the bright side. I'm harvesting it as quickly as possible and then I'll plant some beans and squash there.

I also planted some chard late last summer after the hail storm wiped out my crop. It did so-so - to be honest, I wasn't expecting much since I planted it in August, and I didn't even bother to cover it over the winter. It too is now bolting, but it did provide me with enough small leaves for salads, so I suppose I can't complain.

Plus, I started some new seedlings inside back in January, and they were transplanted about a month ago. So soon they'll be producing.

I got the peas in early. They say that here in Denver the peas should be in the ground by St. Patrick's Day... but it was so warm this year that I jumped the gun by a few weeks. They're doing marvelously, although I fear the birds got some of them. But I planted some more in the empty spots, and they're coming up now, so hopefully that will spread out the harvest a bit. I only plant snow peas and snap peas because the kind that you have to shell just aren't worth the trouble IMHO. Plus, snow and snap peas are really one of nature's most amazing treats!

Note the rather um... unconventional trellis system. In the past I've just stuck more fence sections in the middle, but it made it rather difficult to harvest, so I decided to get creative. So far it's working... but it's not exactly a thing of beauty. Hey, at least I didn't use duct tape!

I started the cruciferous stuff inside back in January, and transplanted the first round about a month ago. Some of the seeds didn't germinate too well, so a second round went in a little over a week ago. I planted a combination of broccoli, kale and collards.

I've had a real mixed experience with cruciferous stuff in general, since it also doesn't deal well with the heat. The problem isn't generally that things bolt, it's that they become totally infested with aphids once the weather turns hot. But I read on the internet that if you mulch the area with dried banana peels it will ward off the aphids. I meant to try this last year but the hail had other ideas. Anyhow, I ate bananas all winter long and dutifully saved the peels... but HOLY MOLY... my "mulch" is pretty darned sparse. Maybe I should go to a smoothie place and ask if they'd give me their banana peels or something! Anyhow, we'll see how it does.

I started the tomatoes, peppers, & eggplant inside in March, and, as usually happens, the tomatoes came up fine, but the peppers and eggplant are straggling. 5 of the 6 tomatoes got so big that the outgrew the little outdoor make-shift greenhouse, so I already put them in the ground with Wall-o-Water plant protectors.

I hope they survived this evening's hail... but otherwise they're doing great.

Some of the cucumbers were also getting too tall for the greenhouse so they've been planted too.

The rest of the cukes, a few squash seedlings, and the two peppers that finally decided to germinate are still in the greenhouse. No signs of life from the eggplant though. Sigh... I may have to give up and buy a plant or two from the nursery.

I've got it's front open so you can see inside.
The garlic patch is doing quite well... I planted it in October.

Note the volunteer squash & peas growing in the middle of it. I'll just leave them there and see what happens.
There are also a few volunteers that escaped harvest last year when the hail destroyed the tops and I couldn't find them. They look almost ready to harvest... I may try digging one up in a few weeks and see what it looks like. I figure it's a gift any way you slice it.

And speaking of gifts. I've got a whole slew of volunteer potatoes.

I have a terrible time harvesting those things. No matter how hard I try, I always seem to skewer a good percentage of them, and clearly I missed some too! Anyhow, this year I decided to try planting them in containers. That way, when I harvest them, all I have to do is dump them over and sift through the dirt. I fear my containers may be a bit small, but we'll see what happens. If all of the container potatoes plus the volunteers produce spuds, it will be a bumper crop!

Then there are the green onions. The green onions were another interesting experiment. I planted them one year and they never came up. But then late that fall they started sending up little shoots. I harvested a few, and the rest wintered over nicely. I was delighted! I sort of have a "fishing" philosophy with harvesting them. I usually dig up a chunk... separate out the big ones, and re-plant the smaller ones. As long as they've got some roots on them, they take really well. I've kept the same batch going for nearly 10 years now!

The main problem facing the onions at the moment is that they are being taken over by oregano! I bought a tiny little oregano plant 15 years ago, having no idea that it could survive the winters. Well, survive it did, and I must say it's rather like an invasive species! Not sure if I'll get to it this year or not, but I'm gonna try to dig at least a chunk of it up and re-locate it someplace where it can grow and spread to its heart's content!

In a few weeks I'll probably plant some basil, beans, zucchini, pumpkins & squash. Although, to be honest, I'm gonna go easy on the pie pumpkins this year since I still haven't finished cooking up last year's harvest!

Anyhow, that's the garden report from here.

How about you? Do you have a garden? How is it doing? I'm actually really curious to hear if everybody else is having the same crazy weather as we are, and how y'all are coping.

MONDAY UPDATE: I know you were all hanging on a thread waiting to hear, so I lust wanted to report that everything survived the hail (whew) and now we've got a nice steady rain falling. So the miracle is back on!


  1. In Ireland, it's changing between lashing rain and hail stones, to freezing winds, back to really really sunny and warm within about 10 minutes. This is happening most days lately. I think we got our summer the end of March. We're paying because we had a really mild winter. I think one day a few weeks ago, we had our four seasons within a half hour - I wish I were joking. Your crop looks so good! Thankfully ours can only really grow in the greenhouse here so things are doing well.

    1. Wow! Your weather sounds as crazy as ours! This morning there are 8 inches of snow just a few miles away up in the foothills! I am seething with jealousy over the greenhouse.

  2. I'll swap you some heat for a little rain. It was the wettest April on record for Vancouver, BC. Every time I set foot in my garden, it rained on me. Sadly, I'm just getting the yard cleaned up to sell the house. Ironically, I'm enjoying being out there for the first time - allergies and all!
    Looking at your pictures, I have huge garden envy. My Dad kept a vegetable garden while I was growing up and one of my greatest pleasures was eating the food fresh from the ground. If I was any closer I would invite myself over for a salad!

    1. Why is it always feast or famine with the rain? Can't wait to hear your plans with the move!

  3. The picture you used of a rabbit pretty well sums up my "garden".

    1. I've been known to threaten to cook the rabbits for dinner... haven't done it yet though.

    2. Ha! One year, a few rejected Easter bunnies got loose in the neighborhood. It started with just one... a male, but he soon found a female and HOLY MOLY! I now understand what the phrase "breeding like rabbits" means! Before long we were completely overrun! I finally trapped them all and took them to an animal shelter. They're really domestic animals... at least the kind that we had were. But I totally understand the frustration...

      Once when I was a kid my mother decided to get creative in the kitchen and cooked rabbit. I remember sitting at the table sobbing uncontrollably. In my mind we were eating Peter Cottontail. That was the end of my mother's culinary experimentation!

  4. We had a hot spell in early April, but since then it's been a bit more seasonal. Until last week anyway. I have mainly only planted cold crops: peas, onions, radishes, carrots and lettuce. This is my first time planting radishes; those puppies went nuts! I think they're the most successful plant I've grown from seed. It's about time to plant tomatoes, cukes and peppers. Yum!

    1. Hey Candi,

      Looks like we might getting some more spring like weather for the next week or so... which is great... it just sort of feels out of order. Winter-Summer-Spring. Sigh.

      I've never grown radishes... actually, I haven't eaten a radish since I was a child, at which point I thought they were totally disgusting. Perhaps I should give them another try... Do you just put them in salads or is there something else you can do with them?

    2. I just eat them plain or in salads. I don't eat a ton of radishes usually, but I thought maybe I would like homegrown ones more. Eh. They taste exactly the same. The seeds germinate like nobody's business however.

    3. Well... maybe I'll pick some up at the market next time I'm out, just to see if my adult "palate" finds them good or still blicky. :)

  5. It was wonderful to stroll through your garden in this way! We're up in eastern Ontario, but have had equally strange spring weather. In March we had a week that was as hot as July; while it hasn't been that hot again (we're getting there again now), it's been unusually dry and unseasonably warm overall. We too now finally have some good soaking rain. We're still pretty new at gardening and it's hard when you can't really look reliably at the weather going on outside the window and the old norms for last frost dates, etc., seem to be moving around.

    1. I'm not sure if it's comforting or not to learn that even the great white north is suffering from unseasonably hot weather. I'm sort of feeling like maybe I moved to Tuscon and just don't remember it!

      Glad you're finally getting some rain too. Hopefully our gardens will pull through.

  6. Looks like you have a great start on the garden. Glad to hear it survived the hail.

    It looks like you're doing a lot with relatively little space. About how many square feet do you have planted?

    I should do an update post on our garden soon, but the unseasonably warm weather has given us a jump on things.

    1. Well... my garden is a mere pittance compared to the big operation you two seem to have going on. I've got 6 raised sections that are about 9-10 square feet each (3x3), then I've got the "big plot" that's about 10 feet by 20, and last year I added the cruciferous plot which is about 5 x 5.

      I sort of try to dig up a big of grass each year and convert it into garden. But truth be told I'm sort of getting to the point where it's hard to eat everything that I produce.

      This year I'm trying to focus on the ornamental stuff in the front yard, which is really not my strong suit. I just tend to lose interest when there's no food reward involved!

  7. I'm very jealous, it hasn't stopped raining where I am in the UK since the start of April, and yet the government are trying to convince us we are on the brink of drought!
    The garden looks great!

    1. I know... let's trade. I'll give you some of our hot dry weather and you can send some rain here... :)


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