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broodings from the burrow

May 3, 2021


notes from the garden: early may
posted by soe 1:45 am

Salad in a Bag

I was sitting on an overturned milk carton at the garden this afternoon, trying to unbraid my purple sage and my violets so I could thin the latter, when the ground under my potato patch started pulsing.

Fascinated, I stared as whatever was approaching from the forest came closer, both curious and slightly horrified by what might emerge.

And then common sense kicked in and I realized I was far more likely to witness my tallest potato plant be sucked underground in a Loony Toons moment than I was to make an adorable new friend. I grabbed my trowel and tapped on the earth, causing my new neighbor to decide to exit via another door.

I’ve always had neighbors in my garden plot. They sometimes place doorways up in the middle of the plot, which I then tuck a rock into the next time I see it. It’s likely a field mouse or maybe a vole, but I suppose it could also be a rabbit or a rat. (The latter is the least likely; they’re far more likely to be found in the compost than in my plot, but I can’t rule it out.)

On the vegetative front, you can see it was another successful harvest week. There’s two types of sorrel, a red leaf lettuce, arugula, and spinach in my spring greens bag.

I have a couple rows of seedlings I need to thin, including one that maybe is bok choy. It’s unclear, and I’ll need to look through the seeds Rudi and I planted to see. My Swiss chard is growing delightfully neon, and I look forward to harvesting my first stalks later this week.

More peas have emerged, so I created some more string latticework for them. The tallest vine is past my knee and growing fast.

The potatoes, onions, garlic, and celery seem to be doing okay. I’ll need to add more compost to the potatoes next weekend (unless my new neighbor eats them all between now and then), and apparently I need to keep an eye on my celery plants for pests.

There are actual berries on the strawberry plants, so I’ll shift the straw around later this week to cut down on the likelihood of slugs. Rudi says he’s also prepared to proffer free drinks to anyone undeterred by that method.

And finally, I planted a basil, a sungold tomato seedling, and a cayenne pepper today. I figure if I buy only a few plants at a time, I have a better shot of getting them in the ground the same day.

Early May Gardening

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May 1, 2021


plans of the nightshade variety
posted by soe 1:47 am

This weekend is the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, which would typically be where I would have picked up a variety of plants for the garden. However, it’s hard to acquire physical seedlings at a virtual festival, so for the second year in a row I’ll be looking closer to home for my summer veggies.

This does mean, though, that we’ve reached the point in the spring where it’s warm enough to put tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, and cucumbers in the ground and expect them to survive. I’ll be excited to check out what farmers bring to the local markets and what the city’s nurseries have to offer over the next couple weekends. Last year we got fewer interesting varieties of tomatoes than I would have found at the festival, but I did end up with those super-long cucumbers.

Having a garden is never boring, that’s for sure!

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April 21, 2021


experiments in the garden
posted by soe 1:50 am

Mid-April Garden

Every year I try to plant new things as an experiment, in addition to past favorites. Sometimes it fails. The single carrot (a seedling from a friend of Rudi’s) and several beet seedlings I put in the potato patch last year disappeared ridiculously fast. But late-season squash finally grew for me, as did those crazy femur-sized cucumbers that showed up weekly in the height of summer. I’ve learned that you can’t plant just one tomatillo plant, even if you think you would only like one plant’s fruits; they require cross-fertilization and having another a few plots away isn’t close enough to cut it. In previous years, radishes didn’t work; peanuts did. I’ve planted broccoli and rabe on several occasions and grown lovely golden beetles each time.

This year, our first experiment is celery. I gave one to a neighbor gardener, but I have five more tucked amidst garlic and yellow onions in a patch I cleared out. So far so good, but they have to make it all the way to the fall.

Anything that’s going to require micromanagement, daily watering in the heat of summer, or pest management other than my flinging beetles away won’t cut it. If it thrive under benign neglect (see all those bunching onions and the sorrel I planted my first year as a gardener), that would be ideal.

Got any suggestions for this year’s experiments?

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April 5, 2021


notes from the garden: early april 2021
posted by soe 1:53 am

In the last week, the garden went from looking like this:

End of March Gardening

to looking like this:

Easter Gardening

Partly it’s because I spent a good portion of this afternoon digging up sections of my bunching onions and shifting them to the fenceline so I could put in the flat of new plants Rudi and I bought yesterday. (I added a couple new herbs, celery, yellow onions, strawberries, and flowers.)

And partly it’s because things are finally really starting to grow.

We have violets:

Violets

We have peas:

Pea Shoots

And we have spring greens:

Sprouts

I love this time of the year at the garden. You can really see the difference at every visit!

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March 15, 2021


notes from the garden: march 2021
posted by soe 1:40 am

Notes from the Garden -- March 2021

I spent several hours down at the garden this afternoon. I raked everything out, pulled aside the straw-like bunching onion stalks to discourage the slugs from eating my strawberries (I assume it will have no effect on the rabbits), marked off the boundaries of the beds, and turned over the soil in the main section.

The sorrel is back (that’s what’s in the front center of that section) and there are still several clumps of onion. The soil is healthy — lots of worms — but I should add some more one of these years, since my plot is sunken compared to the pathway (and therefore prone to ending up with the wood mulch in it).

Several years back, I planted bulbs along the back fence. The mini daffodils (they’re normal-sized heads, but have stems that are like three inches tall) have been the most successful of those, although I also saw shoots for at least one crocus and some tulips.

Notes from the Garden -- March 2021

The mint and rosemary are doing fine. I suspect the lemon balm is also fine; I dumped a bunch of tomato cages on it, but it’s ridiculously hardy. I noticed the purple sage I planted last fall had some leaves on it in the potato patch, so I’ll need to be careful when I put in the potatoes that have gone to seed in my kitchen.

I’m down to only one or two strawberry plants in the right section of the garden, so that will be a top priority in the near future. My peony survived, though, and is looking very cheerful.

Notes from the Garden -- March 2021Notes from the Garden -- March 2021

And a single, adorable leek overwintered. I’ll be saving it for a special dish.

In addition to tracking down strawberry plants (they were virtually impossible to find last year) and planting the past-prime potatoes, getting peas and early greens into the ground are next on my priority list.

Being outside and working in the sun was helpful toward channeling my grief at Jerry’s death into something productive. He and Dan also appreciated gardening and had a very nice collection of plants on their top floor terrace.

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January 24, 2021


notes from the garden: january 2021
posted by soe 1:08 am

January Gardening

My garden looks dead, but it is not. I harvested some rosemary today. There is also still lemon balm and peppermint. My sage has some tiny leaves on it, so I heaped leaves around it to encourage it to think warm thoughts. I believe some of my tiny leeks are still alive, and I definitely saw that some of the greens I’d planted were making an effort, as is the omnipresent sorrel. I pulled down the rest of the bulbless onion grass stalks, which are strawlike, and added them to the beds to protect what’s already been sown and might be growing under the leaf litter I leave as mulch. If I’d been smart, I would have constructed a low tunnel or cold frame earlier in the season to see if I can actually harvest greens through the winter. Maybe next year.

This little pansy, which I planted Labor Day weekend, was also still giving it its all:

January Pansy

I also found several fluffy seeds, which I’m guessing are milkweed. They wouldn’t get to stick around in my plot, so I re-sent them on their windy way.

Fluff

I’ll start to think about planting peas next month. If there’s a warm weekend in February, I’ll get some in then; otherwise, I’ll sow the first round in early March.

I will say that the nice thing about a mid-Atlantic garden is that you don’t have many months where there isn’t something you can harvest.

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