spring is springing

As longtime readers know, my garden and I were uprooted in the middle of the growing season last year. So this is my first spring with the new deck, and even though it’s barely April, I’m itching to get back outside.  There’s still a risk of frost here for a couple more weeks, but I’ve started planting a few hardy veggies and flowers, and cleaning up the wretched mess left over from the winter and hurricane.

One of the few veggies that can withstand these cold temps is broccoli.  I’ve never been quite sure if it would be worthwhile, but it won me over this year by letting my get started playing in the dirt early. I planted four little sprigs of broccoli, which I think should produce one head each, plus some side shoots.  For the time being, I added a few pansies to fill in the larger container, though if they start to crowd the broccoli, I’ll have to move them around. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from gardening, it’s that “pansy” should really refer to someone who’s super tough and can withstand pretty much anything!

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I also cleaned up the chives and repotted them — it really amazes me how they just live and live and keep on living, no matter what I do to them.DSC_0001

I forced myself to wait another week to plant anything more, and so today I added some romaine lettuce, which happily can take the shadier spots.DSC_0008

I also planted some sugar snap pea seeds, which represents my first time growing these and I’m really excited because they’re one of my favorite snacks.  I’m planning to put them on the lower level once they start to get longer, and train them up the side of the deck.  This is also my first time growing anything from seed (well aside from the failed carrot experiment) so fingers crossed! DSC_0010

I also added some herbs, which I may have to bring inside this week, and a strawberry pot full of strawberries.  For some instant color there are a few more pansies, and a new favorite – anemones! The red and purple poppy-like flowers got compliments before I even left the nursery!DSC_0018

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.
~William Shakespeare

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planting time!

As of today, summer is (un)officially here!  I finally got out and spent a few hours cleaning up the garden and planting some veggies. I thought I’d be able to get an earlier start this year since it’s been so mild, but life thought otherwise, and somehow we’re at Memorial Day already!

Earlier in the spring, the garden got a real beauty boost courtesy of the new decking the landlords installed to replace the old rotted out boards. It’s a South American hardwood, and feels amazing on the feet.

I planted annuals and vegetables last year and, especially since they were in pots, I didn’t expect any of them to overwinter so I did absolutely nothing to protect them.  But our winter was so non-existent that a few plants actually did survive.  As soon as the sun warmed up, I started seeing chives, mint, strawberries, and pansies popping up.  The chives and strawberries were pretty well contained, but the pansies seem to have found a way to jump from container to container, and made a great stand in while I procrastinated on getting the real plantings done.

I did manage to start a couple of things early — I planted some romaine lettuce and direct sowed some multi-colored heirloom carrots.  I’ve never grown carrots before, and I’ve heard that they aren’t really worth it, but it seemed fun to try these ones.  I seeded liberally and planned to thin out once they’d grown a few inches.  Unfortunately, many of them didn’t even get to an inch before one of my little furry friends decided they’d make a great breakfast.  There are still a bunch left though, so we’ll see how many of them make it.  I may have to sprinkle some of that squirrel repellent on them, although it really didn’t do much good last year.

Some extra lettuce got planted with a very pretty batch of pansies, though this seems to stunt its growth quite a bit.

Playing a starring role this year are 5 varieties of tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, German Johnson, Black Krim, a Sun Gold yellow cherry, and a red grape cherry (not pictured).

The strawberries I got a from a farm sale last year didn’t actually produce any strawberries, so to give them an extra boost this year I added some ‘Frisan’ strawberries, which have hot pink flowers and fruit throughout the summer. It’s got some good looking berries starting to ripen already!

The chives were pretty ragged after surviving the winter, so I pulled them out and gave them a haircut, and then repotted them with some basil.  I never have enough basil, so this year I planted 7 basil plants…but I’m still thinking of getting more.

And of course, no summer would be complete without copious amounts of zucchini.  This year I only planted 4 green zucchini — last year I had 6, as well as 6 yellow squash.  I started to resent the yellows by the end of the summer, so I thought I would stick to green this year.  But will I regret planting only 4?

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

spring planting time

Despite the minimal success of our vegetable pots last year, I am determined to try again and do better this year.  I’ve been reading and planning all winter, and I’m betting on a few main changes to the strategy this year:

1. NO MIRACLE GROW.  I’ve heard nothing but bad things about miracle grow potting mix from everyone I’ve talked to, and all of our veggies were potted in that last year.  So this year I’m going with the Fafard brand recommended by the local nursery.

2. FERTILIZER. I did nothing but water last year.  The book I have swears by the slow-release fertilizer that you add at the time of planting. Sounds easy enough, so that’s strategy number 2.

3. CHEAP POTS. We went all out last year buying huge pots, but I know I’m still going to want to add some more this year.  I’ve been brainstorming all winter about where one can get super cheap, but still giant, containers to be used as pots.  I was inspired by Pamela Crawford’s container gardening book in which she uses big plastic drink tubs for her veggies – they’re only $5 at party supply stores!  I also found some $4 peat baskets to stuff full of flowers and veggies.

So today was planting day, and as usual I was racing against the sun to get it all done.  Hauling those bags of potting soil up four flights of stairs seemed like enough work for the day in itself!  But here’s a first look at the candidates for 2011!

I’m adding some flowers into the mix this year, to help attract pollinators (shh…I am in denial that this means bees…), and to make things pretty.  the yellow pot in front has some cucumbers, red peppers, coleus, and some pink flowers I’ve already forgotten the name of.  In back are some leeks (which I accidentally bought as a present for Alia because she always makes spinach and fennel soup.  How is that relevant, you ask?  Well, it’s not, unless you think fennel and leeks are the same thing), and some dill, chives, and several kinds of lettuce. The silver bucket was just a convenient place to throw the pansies that were inconveniently planted in one of my large pots because I couldn’t wait to play in the dirt until the frost danger passed.  I expect they’ll die, since I didn’t even plant them, but just sort of threw them in there.  In the white pot I planted an unexpected find – edamame!  I’ve never heard of anyone growing it in a container, but I’m always up for trying something new.  And how cool would it be if I managed to grow edamame?!

My favorite part of the process was making these double-tiered hanging baskets. I cut holes into the sides of the basket and planted cherry tomatoes all around the sides, and then added basil, nasturtium, rosemary, and some coleus to the top.  I can’t believe how much I managed to fit into this basket!

In the second one I planted strawberries in the side holes (picked up at a local farm sale), and spinach on top, then added some sweet potato vine and celosia to fill it in.

This summer’s garden also starring (not pictured): green & yellow pole beans, cucumber, green & yellow zucchini, watermelon (!), two tomato plants, a hanging orange cherry tomato, and black beauty eggplant.