We’ve been lucky….so far. Other than one or two gentle overnight periods we have been without a freeze since February. However, nothing is any more established than in years previous, largely due to below average temperatures. Yes, no freezing, but it has still been cold.
The south coast of BC and Seattle recorded their first day above 12C (and first day above 60f in Seattle) in late March. This is in sharp contrast to the previous year, where we hit that milestone within the first few days of January.
So really, all I’m saying is there doesn’t seem to be a pattern here this time of year. I was just looking through posts from this time last year and found a heavy frost on April 11th. Late freezes, early warmth, general “blah,” and hours of sunlight are all in flux. How this plays-out, and whether or not it matters is yet to be seen.
There are repercussions with the bugs: Some arthropods are around all winter, just slower than normal, and some go into hibernation (diapause). When they wake up is sometimes based on soil temperature, air temperature, or accumulated thermal units since diapause began. Others are triggered by day-length or light intensity. So every year is a different year for bugs. Where we can run into problems is when a bird migration or the emergence of a predatory fails to coincide with the emergence or bloom of a particular pest, as is “meant” to be the case. Again, there are so many variables and so many pests and predators, that finding this out may be pointless. We garden and we deal with what comes at us.
Regardless of where you are and what the weather is like, it’s time. Time to get out and garden. I love the excitement and anticipation of the year to come.
Blueberries are about to bloom. Last year, having built a frame and screened-in the developing berries made all the difference in harvest. We went from a handful of blueberries graciously left behind by the birds, to (from what I can tell) every last one. But, between me and the kids, I don’t think any made it back to the house.
The only draw-back of the frame was having to remove the screen to harvest the berries and weed. And while that’s not a huge endeavour, I know me, and I know that those small little hurdles are sometimes all it takes for me to put things off.
Sulphur was added to this bed because of an obvious lack of new growth on the plants, and expectation that it was soil chemistry-related. Other than the availability of water (we’ve had consecutive very dry summers) I am at a loss for what it can be. Weeds are getting under control, and I might just raise the high side of this bed to prevent grass clippings from flying in from the weed-whacking, which surely makes for more weeds.
Long-story-short: High hopes for a yummy blueberry season.
Raspberries: Nothing to report.
Strawberries: Again, we’ve removed the runners and cleaned up the bed. Allowing the sun to reach the soil is likely going to help warm it up and get those berries growing. I owe this all to my wife to weeded the bed, cut out the runners and planted them all to sell later on. Last year we potted 300 and sold them for $0.50 each, giving a bit of a return on the yard. This year we have fewer, but that isn’t the point – the point is filling the freezer and watching the kids eat these from the garden!
Asparagus/Rhubarb: Both doing well. The Rhubarb was given this spot only because some nasty grass was choking it out before. It’s great for an early start, but this is very hot and dry and it struggles all summer. So we may be moving it out, if this happens again.
Big Changes: I have a full-on design change for my rotations. As you know, we’ve rotated beds every year and every bed has been represented by one family of plants. Some of this hasn’t changed; for example, the solanaceas are heavy feeders and are still grouped together, as are the brassicas. So the big change is really meant to help with managing the garden. I’ve divided all plants into two categories: season-long, or “fast-food”. Season-long plants are like the tomatoes and brassicas, and garlic and onions…etc. These are plants where I can set them and (to some extent) forget them. Celery is a great example: It’s already in the bed, and I’ll be cutting off the odd stalk from May until November. All I have to do is weed it occasionally. However, carrots are in the same family, and instead of planting them together, as I have done in the past, I have categorized carrots as “fast-food:” those plants that are successively planted and harvested throughout the year.
So, currently, two beds are brassicas; two are solanacea. One is garlic and one is onions. One is annual flowers (to join the two non-rotating) perennial flower beds) One is amaranth (from that family, beets and spinach are “fast-food” and chard will be with the season-long greens like parsley and celery.) One is for the pea family (and I’m a little undecided on that at the moment, because I also want squash). And four are to be my “fast-food” beds, or as I have named them: “Successive beds.” These will constantly be planted with roots like carrots, beets and radishes, greens like arugula, lettuces, spinach and then some mustard family plants. If I don’t need all 4, one will host my squash and all will be right in the world.
There aren’t a lot of changes to my planting schedule. I did start basil early because they only seemed to grow right before they flowered last year. However, the cool temps and low light have made most of them die in the cold frame. Only a few indoors have done ok…and I needed to give them Micromus Variegatus (the brown lacewing) to knock down some aphids which I likely brought home from work.
Otherwise, everything is on schedule. A few of the beds that were low in soil quantity are being topped-up whenever I have some used soil to take home from work. The great thing about adding soil, is it gave me a reason to finally “double-dig” these beds a second time:
If you’ve followed me a while, you’ll know that I set this up to be a “no-till” intensive-style garden based on the model by Jeavons. So, the native soil was dug down two feet and made loose and what a first year we had! Then, as the soil compacted, yields contracted. So, digging a second time, and now with much more root matter and some compost stirred in, the theory is I won’t have to do this again. But I was shocked at how some of the clay went back to just like the native, hard-packed ground. I feel it is likely I’ll have to do this again….and it’s a lot of work.
Fortunately, I dug up a bed closest to a large fir tree, which had very poor growth last year. And I found the entire bed full of fir roots!! I kid you not. The fine roots were difficult to pierce with the shovel, but when I did get below that (it was all just 4 inches below the surface, presumably to get at my irrigation water) the large branch-roots needed large clippers or a solid couple of blows with the shovel to cut out. I was shocked!
I’m happy to have gotten so many plants into their beds. It’s a huge risk. But, I can always seed them again. The pay-off (should we suddenly get some warm weather) will be a harvest of salad greens within a few weeks. And to me, that means the work has paid-off.