Spring Planting

You may remember back at the beginning of this month that I tilled my vegetable garden preparatory to the planting season. Once the garden was tilled, I covered it in weed-blocking fabric, which not only does what the name says, but also helps the ground to warm up so the new plants won’t get cold tootsies. Above is the garden earlier this month, neatly gift-wrapped for the season.

Every year I plant a couple of the same things, and every year I experiment with something new. Last year was corn (a dead failure, but for the dried shocks which made dandy Hallowe’en decorations) and both green and yellow wax beans (big success – I had enough for cooking fresh, making into three-bean salad and sharing with friends).

This year I’m trying three new things. If you’ll look at the photo above, in the far left part of the bed you’ll see some horizontal slits in the fabric. Those are where I planted my shallot sets in early April, the first thing to go into the garden this year.

Today I put in my other two experiments: potatoes and horseradish. I’m a bit sorry I didn’t read up on the horseradish earlier – it’s a perennial, and I would have put it where the shallots went if I’d known that, so I could let it stay in the garden all year ’round. No matter; horseradish roots are cheap (I got two for about seventy-five cents each). To the right is the garden as it stands right now. Starting from the background and working forward are the shallots (now about six inches high). Next are my heirloom tomato plants: one Brandywine (which is a variety I planted last year and liked very much) and one which I know nothing about, which rejoices in the name German Johnson and is a kind of beefsteak tomato. In the next section are three Roma tomato plants, which I plant every year to make fresh tomato sauce and salsa. The peculiar section with the four large, empty-looking holes are where my Yukon Gold seed potatoes went; once their sprouts break the surface I’ll have to start mounding dirt up around them, which is why each is why their planting area isn’t flush with the surface of the weedblock. Closest to the camera is the section in which the horseradish roots went (the open patch closest to the fence), and just in front of that is a rather wan-looking basil plant. Normally my annual herbs go into deck boxes (I’ve planted dill, sage, parsley and lemon verbena), but because the basil can get so big (thigh-high last summer), I usually put it in the vegetable plot.

I’m not quite sure what’s going to go forward of the basil – maybe a jalapeno pepper plant. If you look at the first photo, you’ll see there are two more horizontal plots to fill; those will contain Blue Lake green beans and Yellow Wax beans, and the largest plot next to the fence is going to be for small watermelons (what the grocery store folks have taken to calling a “personal” melon, which cracks me up).

I’d like to point out the difference in the grass around the garden in early April and the grass today. Both photos were taken on a sunny day at about the same time. There’s nothing like that lush spring green, is there?

And for amusement’s sake, I’d also like to share this photo of our back yard, which was taken about a week ago. Again you see the bright green grass, but notice the big tufts of much longer, greener grass encircling the flower bed? John and I had both noticed them but couldn’t figure out quite why they were there; it wasn’t until I remembered that John had rammed tree fertilizer spikes into the ground all around the bed last autumn that I realized that this was Incredible Hulk grass, nourished by the tree fertilizer and growing huge and green before our eyes. John called the display our Crop Circle. I kind of hated to see them cut down when he mowed the lawn last week, but I’m interested to see if they’ll continue to outgrow the rest of the lawn. The disk in the middle of the dogwood is our outdoor thermometer; the black stuff around the dogwood’s trunk is heavy-duty plastic, to keep squirrels out of the tree and the three bird feeders hung there. While I was planting today a mockingbird kept hanging around (I pray it’s not nesting somewhere nearby – they’re extremely defensive of their nests and I don’t wish to be dive-bombed every time I go outside). Its presence reminded me that I needed to fill all the bird-feeders. This is a tough time of year for birds; most of the spring migrators are back in town and breeding, but it’s a bit cold yet for major bug action and not much in the way of seeds and fruit is available yet. As soon as I finished planting, I filled all the various bird-feeders: safflower in the hanging trays, niger seed in its hopper, peanuts in another, and a mix of hulled peanuts, sunflower and millet in the big house-shaped feeder. I’m out of suet; a trip to the Wild Bird Center is in order. No sooner did I go inside than the birds were massing at all the feeding stations.

Grow, you spring things. Grow.

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