Tag Archives: weather

As promised, part the second

15 Mar

I know it hasn’t really been that long since I last posted, but it seems like so much has happened.  For one thing, it’s unnaturally warm and sunny out, which makes me dread summer for the first time in my life.  If MARCH is like this, what does the normally oppressive July-August season hold for us?  Summer is my favorite time of year, hands down, despite our Carolina weather, but this summer in late winter thing is really not my cup of tea.  I need it to still be cool for a couple of weeks (and not just because I’m not ready to mow the lawn).

I’m still getting in my cool season crops, and would like to give them a chance to produce without simply bolting in the heat and checking out for the season.  In the past week I  have scraped together a few afternoons to work in the garden and have managed to accomplish quite a bit.  I worked more on the raised beds, and fully planted one.  I weeded the much neglected asparagus.  I started seeds for lettuce, bok choy, carrots, turnips, bunching onions, spinach, mustard greens, beets, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.  I also transplanted a boatload of onions and some cabbages.  I dug up everything I wanted to keep from the kitchen herb garden and weeded that area to prep for an herb pyramid I’m putting in.  And I harvested a 10 gallon bin of mixed veggies and made roasted turkey soup.

The raised beds are 10 feet long, 2.5 feet wide and 16 inches deep, which is a whole lot more dirt than I thought.  Especially considering I didn’t actually have any dirt.   I lined the bottom of the bed with heavy cardboard and some old pizza boxes that the recyclers won’t take, then laid in a layer of leaves that were mulching themselves nicely in the side yard, topped that with a layer of chicken litter from the compost, topped that again with some very composted horse manure, and finished with a thick layer of well composted leaf mulch.  No dirt, just very rich growing medium.  I planted 4 varieties of onions into this — from Dixondale – Red Candy Apple, Candy, White Bermuda and Red Creole.  I broadcast radish seeds across the bed and stuck a couple of rows of turnips in one end, just because I had the room.  I figure the radishes will grow so quickly that I can pull them well before the onions need all that room, and pulling the radishes can help keep the soil good and loose for the bulbs to develop.  That’s my theory anyway.  I also planted the onions a little on the tight side, with the idea that I would be pulling some as spring onions, thinning things out enough for the rest to develop into good heavy storage bulbs.  Except for the Red Candy Apple.  The only reason those are in the garden is for pickles.  These pickles.  We blew through all the jars of these I put back last summer in a shamefully short time, and have been missing them ever since.

I tilled up some more beds and worked more compost in, then planted two varieties of carrots, three kinds of turnips, three kinds of beets, spinach, bok choy and mustard greens.  I needed a new hose nozzle, and a trip to the local hardware store also produced two packages of bare root cabbages for transplant.  Those went into the ground this afternoon, in two rows with more onions in between.

Yesterday I harvested onions, carrots, chard, cabbage, and turnips with greens.  Enough to fill a 10 gallon tub.  It’s mostly carrots, and I want to do something exciting and new with them.  I’ve had good luck with pickled baby squash and bread and butter squash, so I was thinking maybe bread and butter carrots.  If I try it I’ll be sure to post about it.

It’s exactly one month until our last frost date here, but already everything is in full bloom.  The flowers at the top of the page are the peach trees in our backyard.  The plums are exploding with flowers, and the apples are budding like crazy.  No time like now for a good old fashioned ice storm so  I’m keeping my eye on the weather, just in case.

And an observation — I’m fascinated by the idea of companion planting and I noticed this afternoon that the favas I planted alongside arugula are doing WAY better than the favas with carrots and radishes.  So the next beans I plant, I will interplant some arugula and see what happens.

Spring was here

19 Feb

Roasted veggies tonight!

I spent a good bit of the last two days out in the backyard, prepping for planting. In short sleeves. It was gorgeous. The kind of weather that people who work outdoors know is the harbinger of bad weather to come. And as I sit here typing, the rain pours down, and we wait for the sleet and snow to settle in for the duration. This is North Carolina, so we won’t have to wait long for warm weather again (probably day after tomorrow), but things are budding and blooming and life is beginning to flourish already after this incredibly mild winter. In doing my rounds I discovered that the peas are finally germinating, there is some fantastically healthy looking spring garlic growing in the compost, all of the fruit trees are budding, and the wild asparagus has already starting sending up spears. Already started sending up spears. I feel like I need to say that one more time, but I won’t. Asparagus is one of my favorite foods, hands down, and to me those first shoots mean that fresh food and green things are here again. I got really excited when I saw that asparagus. And much less so as the forecast turned from rain to sleet to snow.

But we’re not here so that I can complain about the complexities of Southern winters. We’re here so that I can discuss, nay, bragabout what I’m getting done. I of course spent some more time with Hoss, retilling those same beds, trying to grind up as many chunks of clay as possible, and trying to chase the now dormant bermuda grass out by the roots.

Here you can see Hoss, the tiller, and Not-so-Little Joe, the wagon, terrific helpmates in the garden. And yes, the green you see is mostly weeds... The cattle panel trellis is just barely visible in the background.

I starting hoeing up the beds, added some most excellent earthworm-laden composted leaf mulch and horse poop, and laid down landscaping fabric between the rows, (again the fight against bermuda grass). I pulled up plastic from last year that I had left down to solarize a couple of beds, and cleared a bunch of aster and morning glories. I moved the soil bags I used for potatoes last year and started prepping that area for the deep raised beds. And then I pulled some onions, turnips and carrots, and came inside for dinner.

Here is an example of the deep raised bed, looking at an inside corner. The corners are simply held together with framing braces, secured with wood screws. I would recommend not being as chintzy with the brackets. Spend the extra $1.50 and get something bigger. These beds are 10'x2.5'x16".

After dark I continued working on the garden, on the internet. I want to make sure there are lots of enticing flowers for bees, birds, butterflies and beneficial insects, so I am putting in a boatload of seeds for wildflowers, sweet alyssum, roman chamomile, lavender and nasturtiums. I envision a dense border of fragrant and eye-catching flowers along the edges of the garden, drawing in all sorts of creatures that dine exclusively on squash bugs, bean beetles, Colorado potato beetles, cabbage worms, blister beetles, aphids, mosquitoes, and hornworms. I want it to be a beautiful bloodbath. And now I am picturing Snidely Whiplash, tying a hornworm to some railroad tracks, twirling his waxed mustache and giggling gleefully. But I will not come rescue the vine chomping menace — NO! I am only here to tighten the ropes. Now who’s giggling gleefully? And who can disagree that when it comes to pest control, flowers beat the hell out of gloves and a bucket of soapy water.