As promised: A thorough update of what’s going on in the garden
Days have been low 20’s or high teens with lots of cloud and little bits of rain. Generally, good growing conditions. Plant growth is noticeable day over day right now, and that generally continues for another month until the low humidity kicks in and some plants slow leafy growth to set flowers.
We’ve sold many extra plant starts at the stand, but the regular seller has been bags of greens. We’ve been having fresh salads regularly, and other than having failed to produce a carrot yet, we have, from the yard, enough to start soups, craft salads or simply add something from our garden to any random dish. I even made a wheat beer using our coriander seeds (from last year) and fresh Meyer lemons. But my favourite is dicing up a “Wasabi” mustard leaf and tossing into a finished stir fry to give it that foreign, finishing-touch. (I wouldn’t dare serve it to the kids as it is SPICY!) The greens are starting to bolt, but the strawberries and peas have matured so there may be no interruption in some sort of harvest.
This entry around June 1 is an important one for me. It’s a great bench-mark to see how plants are progressing year over year, and gives an idea of what to expect for the rest of the year. It’s great to see if pests were different or if plants struggled in different beds because of soil, light or water.
We are close to, or ahead of, where we were last year, but almost everything is way behind where it was in 2019. I feel there are two possibilities: Either my soil amending isn’t keeping up and that first year in some of the beds meant they had the best soil, or our late frosts (despite the full sunshine) this year allowed for cold nights to slow the progress of the garden.
Either way, things look healthy. The black cherry oat aphid on my cherry has exploded in the most amazing way. There are tons of predators, so I only released a few aphidoletes to help it on its way (and only because every growing tip was gnarled and I need that tree to have a good growing year, otherwise it will be removed.) Slugs are present, but nothing like last year. Flea beetles are damaging my potato leaves, but whatever eats them usually catches up to them by mid summer. I could add some Dalotia to speed-up their predation, but since I don’t care how the potato leaves look and I rotate my beds I have little concern.
So things are shaping up nicely. Take a look.
Bed 1: Blueberries
There are two large blueberry plants on the far side that were once in pots on my balcony in Vancouver. They never did well after being transplanted. The others were added when the bed was made. The soil isn’t great, but I also accidentally punished them by thinking I’d interplant with things that ultimately outgrew the blueberries. I’ll leave the few buckwheat volunteers to attract beneficial insects, but they’ll be removed before going to seed. If I can get my hands on Sulphur, I’ll be adding it to ensure the soil is acidic enough.
The first year here we got blue berries but all were eaten by birds. Last year, no fruit even formed except for one small cluster on the nearest plant. Just after this photo was taken I build a frame over the bed to screen off the emerging blueberries from the birds.
Bed 2: Raspberries
I’ve since replaced the bamboo uprights with 2×2’s to make it stronger and keep with the theme. I think I made a slight mistake pruning this year. I tied the growth to the highest wires but didn’t cut them there. Instead I let them droop back down or tied them along. (My thinking was: more plant, more berries). However, the canes that are leaning over have become so heavy that they are pulling-in the structure holding the wires. This fall I’ll top the new canes to the top wire level.
I’ve tried to use the space in front of the raspberries to grow parsley. At the time of this picture I had weeded this bed and removed all the new raspberry canes that sprouted up everywhere…even in the grass. It’ll be critical for the parsley that I maintain their glimpse at sunlight.
This bed is currently buzzing with bumblebees. Just like the blueberries, the raspberries seem to be having a good year.
Bed 3: Strawberries
Also having a good year is the strawberries. The winter process of removing runners and spreading out some plants seems to have immediately paid off. We’ve been eating fresh strawberries daily for a while now.
After some mid-week rain, however, small slugs are burrowing into every single strawberry. I’ve placed new straw mulch and a couple of beer traps, but I think the strawberries are still preferable. Last night I took advice from a Facebook garden forum to place a melon rind face down to attract slugs. I’ll check it today and see how it did.
Bed 4: Rhubarb, Asparagus
This is not ideal for Rhubarb. I moved it here to give it a chance to grow weed-free. Eventually I’ll move it back to another bed, and not a raised one so the roots can stay cooler and wetter longer. The asparagus seem to love it so far. Their flowers are also being tended to regularly by bees, which might be due to the borage next door which is very attractive to bumblebees.
Bed 5: Onion, Garlic
I’m impressed with the garlic. Comparing pictures of garlic on June 1 over the last two years, this is night and day. It’s obvious there are some different varieties, but even the small ones tower above what they were last year. I know I selected the best looking bulbs to replant (usually those with the biggest cloves and healthiest skin), but unless I accidentally propagated only elephant garlic I really have no idea why the difference, except that I put them in earlier than normal – late September.
Many people consider that crazy. If you plant garlic too early it’ll not prepare for winter in the same way. Instead it’ll think it’s still rapidly trying to grow for the current season. However, when the plants I leave go to seed, and those seeds sprout, I think it’s a safe time to plant garlic. I think this worked out, but time will tell.
Remarkably, I am about to use the last head of garlic harvested from last year. We’re growing slightly more this year, so hopefully the right amount will be grown to not need to buy it. We almost always cook from scratch and feel we likely average a head of garlic per week. So fifty bulbs or so should do us fine.
Bed 6: Determinate tomatoes
I won’t go into this one much. I’m still waiting to see if I can string-up my determinant tomatoes. My goal isn’t to string them along like an indeterminate, but to better support their weight and keep them off the ground. So I won’t be pruning, just tying. I have tons of doubt. If it does work I think it’ll be an unruly mess of strings. And if it doesn’t, I imagine branches being sliced by the weight of the branch and the thin string or a collapse of the structure. But no tomato cage has worked thus far with the rate of growth/variety I use. Wish me luck.
Potatoes line the edges because the entire bed is only 8 determinate tomatoes. The poppies were there for an early season crop, but have developed late. Now they’ll help the beneficials, but shade the tomatoes when that isn’t really ideal.
Bed 7: Beet family
All of the spinach is now bolting. I’ve started some more to see what I can get out of them in the summer, but this is likely it. My idea is that the amaranth will provide enough shade to cool the spinach below. There is lots going on here. I have no arugula currently. My chard was all eaten to the ground, and the second round of sowing has survived but is months behind. I planted amaranth in two ways but didn’t keep track of what went where. Some started in the 20+ greenhouse and some in the cold frame. Now, at only a few inches tall, some have developed flowers. I suspect the cold start to the year (or cold treatment, or shock of cold after being sown warm) made the plants think they were overwintered and need to flower. I might get two flower periods out of it, which is not disastrous, as they can be used for cut-flowers.
The beets look great. Next year I won’t make distinct sections like this. Instead, I’ll likely try alternating rows to help fill the bed.
Bed 8: Garlic and apiaceae
I’ve yet to weed or mulch this one, but it is one of my favourite. The overwintered celery is about to flower. I’ll leave it if I have nothing else that needs to go in. All the cilantro have bolted and this year’s celery look to be where they should be. Again, the garlic is huge!
Bed 9: Onion, Garlic, apiaceae
This bed is a bit of a waste. The favas were left to seed and parsnips were sown below them. However, the peas are rotting at their base and I’m losing a couple per week.
The two rows of garlic are doing similarly well, but a little smaller. Could be the poor soil, could be variety or water. In the middle were direct sown onions which all sprouted and which were all consumed one night. So the rest of the bed is empty expect for a couple rows of flowers in the foreground.
Bed 10: Flowers
Delphiniums, straw flowers, snapdragons (not visible) and some others. They’ve all shot up in the past week or two and are about to flower. We wondered about the spacing at first, but it seems about right, now.
Central in the garden, but not serving as much of a focal point. This is heavily neglected. I don’t know if it still leaks or if my dogs drink out of it all day, but it needs regular toping up. Now that my kids are bigger, and the risk of them growing is reduced, we may just go to something more natural (and nicer looking.)
Bed 11: Flowers
I’m encouraging my wife to put perennials in these two flower gardens and then we’ll designated one rotating 15′ box to annuals. Hopefully we’ll get there…since she forgot and put perennials in a garden that needs to get turned this winter. There is lots going on here including panicum, asters and gomphrena.
Bed 12: Grasses/Corn
Yellow corn interplanted with beans and a random, healthy poppy. Then Wheat planted with the odd, taller, rye. The grains are on par with each of the last few years. Corn last year was poor, heavily eaten and nearly dead and the corn the year before that was already huge. This year the corn went in a little later than the previous two years, but I think the growth is still behind what was done in 2019.
Bed 13: Grasses/Flowers
Once the birds decided that grains sown in this bed were fair-game, almost nothing came up. There are now some grasses emerging beyond the ornamental corn, but the rest is flowers.
This bed and bed 9 may inherit peppers or other plants that don’t yet have homes. Even though the soil is poor and the fir tree causes these to be very dry.
Bed 14: Brassica/flax
You can barely see the flax by the purple cabbage at the end. I’ll sow them again for successive flowering. Otherwise, there is an assortment of cabbages. On this side of the alyssum (grown for beneficial insects) are cauliflower that just have not grown. Not sure what’s going on. The rest seem happy.
Bed 15: Mustards
If you don’t want aphids, grow this. One third of the bed (5’x5′) is simple white mustard. It is so full of pollinators that you can year it buzzing. And unlike other crops that seem to attract some specific bugs, this just seems to have everything. I watch hoverflies feed here and then lay eggs on aphid plants elsewhere in my yard. It’s pretty incredible.
I also have various other mustards that have bolted but I’m letting them flower. I’ll probably take all the mustards seeds and mix it to make my own mustard.
On the far side I planted some stinging nettle. Stinging nettle usually spreads underground via rhizomes, so I’m not too surprised that these nettles (grown from seed) are slow growing in this first year. It’ll be essential that I dig up all the rhizomes to control the spread of this delicious, healthy, but painful plant.
Bed 16: Indeterminate Tomatoes
My indeterminate tomatoes are dwarfed behind my two rows of potatoes, lingering poppies and a couple tomatillos. I still have hope. The potatoes and poppies are about to flower, so the tomatoes will eventually rise above. Then they’ll benefit from cool roots and full sun.
Bed 17: Lettuces
These lettuces may look small, but we’ve been harvesting bags of fresh greens (like the one pictured) daily – literally. Some on the right are starting to bolt and I’ve seeded some more, but this bed may be short-lived. The sunflowers and the trellised peas are there to shade and cool the bed in hopes of prolonging the season.
Bed 18: Brassicas
Like the previous brassica bed, some are doing poorly here. The middle section is broccoli which have barely grown since being planted months ago. On the right is cabbages which show a little hope but pest damage is visible (suggesting they are stressed). On the far side is a row of kale and then brussels which both seem to be doing very well. This entire bed was tilled with a bit of peat-compost and then top dressed with true yard compost. I’m sure I could fertilize and get the desired effect, but I’d rather just monitor and try to correct naturally in subsequent years.
Bed 19: Beans/peas
Shelling peas and snap peas divide this bed into three sections. In the middle is black beans (just sprouted) and some random leeks, and the two others are chick peas. The climbing peas had a slow start this year, but are in a rapid state of flower and fruit development right now.
Bed 20: Corn/grasses
More of the same: Wheat, seems on par. The corn is random ornamental varieties. They get full sun but seem behind.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the place to plant 10 daisies last year. And it’s not the place for switching have the daisies with equally large lupins. They are beautiful, though!
Fruit tree garden
As promised (previously), I removed the cardboard, aggressively weeded and planted all of our cucurbits. The nice thing about the squash family is that they benefited from the cardboard cover which likely warmed the soil. They exploded in growth when they got transplanted. I didn’t plan on growing as many as I have here, but the months of cover didn’t kill the weeds and (as you can see) the grasses have come up again. So now I’m putting as much in there as possible to try to shade and out-compete the grass (fat-chance, I know.) But it’s nice to see something growing here again.
There are few things nicer than midday, last spring sunshine. Unless, of course, you’re watching it grow your plants.
The mustards, dead centre towards the back are so full of flying insects that from this spot with the naked-eye you can see them swarming around (similar to the borage, bottom left).
Have a happy June!
Where it started: Week 11