Friday, May 17, 2013

In the Backyard: My May 2013 Garden Report; or, Why I Haven't Posted Anything in a Couple Weeks

The weather is warm, the trees have leaves on them again, and gardening season is in full swing!  As a result, it's a lot harder to sit at the computer and work on a blog post. Don't get me wrong: I love blogging, but it just feels so good to get my fingernails dirty again. And even if I didn't want to go and work in the yard and I did want to sit here and type, my boys wouldn't let me. If they had their way, they'd both want to be outside all day.'s nice to have the warm weather back.

Anyway, I thought I'd show you what's been going on and what I've been doing in my backyard.

I came. I saw. I mulched.

Confession: I've never mulched my garden before. I had a lot of straw left over from the winter (it's what I used in the chicken tractor this past winter. I bought way more than I needed to last fall.), so I thought I'd give mulching a try this year. Now that I have, I want to kick myself for not doing it in seasons past. Mulch makes gardening easier, period. I don't have have to water the garden nearly as much as I usually do. There are less weeds, too. It's awesome. If you're a newbie to mulching like myself, check out this helpful introduction to the why's and how's of mulching here and here.

Like last year, my milk jug mini-greenhouses are sort of stressing me out. I know for a fact that this method of seed starting works, but the seeds took longer to get sprouting this spring, due to some unseasonably cold temperatures this spring (it snowed here on May 1st!). Almost all of the milk jugs have growth in them (except the cherry tomatoes -- again), but they're still not as big as I would've liked them to be by now. I've got a variety of tomatoes (slicing and paste), broccoli, and herbs (parsley, oregano, and thyme) starting in the milk jugs this year. Keeping my fingers crossed that they'll start growing faster as the days get warmer and warmer.

On Wednesday, I opened our last jar of homemade jam. Since I've become a jam snob and can't bring myself to buy the jam at the store, I've been pretty excited to see the raspberry and blackberry bushes start coming to life. My raspberries even have the beginnings of little flowers on them. They can't come soon enough!

My first planting of greens didn't result in..well...anything. I don't quite know what happened there. But I planted again (lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, mesclun) and it's coming up this time around. Gardening can be kind of weird like that.

Speaking of greens, I'm trying to grow all my kale in a pallet. This one isn't leaning up against my shed like my other one; this one is flat on the ground. I just laid some newspaper down, filled it with grow-box mix, and planted. So far, so good.

I'm also experimenting in that pallet with growing stuff from the ends of vegetables. I've seen ideas for re-growing with the ends of vegetables on Pinterest and figured I'd give it a go with some romaine lettuce. It's not growing super-fast, but it's not dead, either (as you can see in the picture above, there is new growth). I also want to try this with other vegetables, like celery and cabbage. I'll let you know how it works out.

This season I've planted a few vegetables I've never tried growing before. Take beets, as pictured above, for example. I didn't even know I liked beets until last Halloween, when my mom put raw beets on a vegetable tray for our Halloween party. They were surprisingly delicious. I've since juiced them with some carrots and oranges and found that they're awesome! When I make green juice with my boys (they love green juice), I've been adding beet greens to it. How awesome is a vegetable when you can eat the entire thing, leaves and roots? Anyway, I'm hoping that my beet crop pans out.

Another new plant to my garden is cabbage. I bought some seeds to start but forgot to plant them in a milk jug (duh), so I picked up these cute little starts at a nearby nursery for 50 cents each. I have dreams of making coleslaw and sauerkraut (haven't tried that one yet but really really want to) with homegrown cabbage. I'm also giving cauliflower and broccoli a try in my garden for the first time, too.

One thing in my garden I'm feeling particularly excited about is my garlic. It's going nuts! A few years ago, I tried growing garlic but I didn't go about it the right way. I just planted some garlic cloves I had in the pantry and hoped they'd work. They did sprout leaves but when I dug them up, the bulbs were about the size of a walnut; the cloves of garlic were teeny-tiny. This past fall, I ordered bulbs from my favorite seed company, planted in late October and covered them with straw. In late February, I saw little leaves poking out from the straw. Since then, they just keep getting taller and taller. I've heard that homegrown garlic is stronger and more flavorful than the garlic at the store. I keep wanting to dig around them a little and peek to see how big the bulbs are, but I am trying to resist; I'm doing my best to wait another month or two before I do.

No backyard report would be complete without some mention of the ladies.  The three girls are doing fine and laying regularly. Even though I've been collecting eggs from them for almost a year, I'm still not over the happy novelty of getting eggs from the nesting box -- especially when there are three eggs at once in there. The girls seem glad to be able to peck in the green grass again, eat all the dandelion leaves my two-year-old can give them, and enjoy all the snails (grrr) I find in my flowerbeds. I just love having chickens in the backyard, even when they look like they're gossiping about me (as they seem to be doing in this picture).

My garden is looking pretty good and I feel really excited about it. It's a lot of fun.

That said, it's not perfect. And being all about honesty here, I thought I'd post pictures of some other projects and/or frustrations in the backyard.

This flower bed is making me crazy. I took this picture a couple weeks ago and it doesn't look much better since then. What do you do with grass in the flower bed? I'd spray it with weed killer (of the homemade and storebought varieties) but I don't want to kill all my perennials. I've tried digging, hoeing, even pulling the grass out by hand. What would you do?

Another flowerbed frustration: mint. I like mint, but there's no way I could use as much as I get in my yard. The people who lived here before planted mint in the flowerbed. As nice as the people seemed when we bought the house eight years ago, I can't help but curse them every spring when the mint starts coming back. It takes everything over -- the flowerbed, the plants, my grass, anything remotely near it. I can't tell you how often I'll be hunched over it in my yard, pulling at it, and wanting to shake my fist and yell toward the sky, "MIIIIIINT!!!!" (a la William Shatner in The Wrath of Khan). Please, reader, take this as a public service announcement and never plant mint anywhere except in a pot.

I've mentioned on here before that my lawn is a frequent source of frustration for me. Right now, an entire area is covered in dandelions. See how the grass in the top-left is clear? Yeah, that's kind of shows how my lawn looks, dandelion-free then -- BAM! -- dandelions. It's like a dandelion island. It's crazy. You know, every time I go to the store, I see in the produce section bunches of long, fat dandelion leaves and I can't help but think, "Who was the brilliant person who decided to go into dandelion farming?"  Judging from my dandelion patch, I think I'd be a fantastic dandelion farmer.

At least the ladies in the backyard love them. I wonder if they'd like mint...

Even with the weeds, the rampant mint, the dandelions galore, and the slow-starting seeds, May is one of my favorite months. I mean, how can you not be happy when there are lilacs blooming? {The lilacs always remind me of my parents and grandparents' yards and of this song.}

Even our kitty can't help but smile a little now that it's May.

Happy gardening, everyone! What's growing where you live?  

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.


Zareena Koch said...

Thanks for posting! My garden looks very similar to your thanks to a frost a few nights ago, reminding me of why we cannot plant a full garden until June. The milk jugs did not work here as we didn't have enough sun. I have a light table masterful hubby built me but I think I started my seeds too late and they are tinyyyyy. Hoping for best. Im considering regaling the mint to the space between the fence and the raised garden now that you mention containment as a method of control (if only it worked for kids....). Have planted two kinds of lettuce, two kinds of spinach, peas, beans, cucs, brave squash. Things that survived a cruel Nothern MI winter include garlic, parsley and cilantro (who knew?). Still to come in June? Beets, carrots. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs. Thanks for the blog!

Anonymous said...

I think I might have a solution to your flower bed... we wanted to plant some hostas under a tree that had grass growing right up to it. So we laid down newspaper all over the area and threw some dirt on top, we used about 5 layers. Apparently this suffocates the grass. I thought you could just cut the newspaper around what you don't want to kill. If you google this idea I am sure you will find a lot more on it. Your garden brought back this idea.
Hope it helps, and I luv luv your blog.


Heather said...

You know, Shirley, that sounds like a good idea about the newspapers! I mean, what have I got to lose? Thanks for the help and for the nice words about my blog. :)

Kathirynne said...

Don't dig up your garlic until the scapes (the green, leafy part) turn yellowish-brown and die back. Otherwise, your garlic cloves will not be as big as they should be. Also, after you dig your garlic, let it hang to cure in a cool, dry spot for about a month.

Heather said...

I've actually been doing a lot of reading about garlic -- how to grow and cure it. I've also heard the scrapes are delicious, so I've been collecting recipes, too.

Heather said...

Oops...scapes, not scrapes. Darn auto correct...

Kevin Kurkowski said...

It was great to read about someone sharing her love for gardening and getting her hands and nails dirty while doing so! To some, gardening and keeping their lawn is a hobby while there are those who use it for therapy. Whatever suits you, it's always nice to have some greens and flowers in your backyard and feel so close to nature, doesn't it? Congratulations! Job greatly done here! :)
Kevin @ Pro Cut LawnCare & Landscape

Melva Ullman said...
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