Monday, March 29, 2010


Even after the most annoying winter, spring comes at last, in some form.  Unless the earth stops tilting on its axis, the sun eventually crosses over whichever latitude line it is for the equinox and our days get longer and at least a bit warmer. 
For us in Denver, that finally started happening yesterday.  Despite a blizzard a week ago and another midweek last week, the sun was out in full force yesterday melting the last dregs of snow off the garden boxes and I could finally get plants in the ground.  I've rejiggered two of my three boxes already - the bottom one will now be a home to perennial crops, and I pulled off the corn fence and put stakes for peas on the middle box.  That latter change may be somewhat temporary - the peas are there in rotation to replenish the nitrogen that the corn sucks up, so after a couple of years, I'll probably put corn in again - although with some sort of protection scheme to allow us to eat it, instead of the squirrels, next time.
We now have in the ground:
8 asparagus crowns (2 year old plants, so we can eat next year)
8 brussels sprouts (4 squares of seeds - no guidance as to spacing in the new SFG book, so I guessed at 2 per square)
1 leftover square of rainbow chard that did not die over the winter
3 squares of onions that volunteered from one I apparently let go to seed 2 years ago (some may be garlic; I just moved everything in together)
14 squares of shell peas
4 squares of lettuce - 3 of Bibb and 1 of leaf
In the process of cleaning up, I found a bunch of carrots that had wintered over just fine and brought them in.  I know from poking at it a few weeks ago that the soil was frozen at least once during the winter, so I'm surprised they're in such good shape, but they are absolutely fine.
The perennial box is exciting for me - asparagus, strawberries, and (probably) some thornless raspberries or blackberries.  I've had strawberries in various locations over the years, and none of them worked all that well.  The bed in the back yard turned out to be the dog's absolute favorite nap spot, the strawberry jar dried out, and I only got about 3 berries from the window box (and I don't think - for sure, anyway - that those plants survived the winter).  So creating a permanent bed away from the dogs may just give us a chance at a real crop - I hope so, anyway.  And I've been wanting raspberries or blackberries for a while, but have never tried them before.
We're also looking at a couple of half barrels for blueberry bushes.  They won't grow in our soil - it's way too alkaline for them - so we have to plant them in a peat-based soil in containers.  But if they work, they'll be my first semi-official edible landscape plants - they're going in a (to be built) bed in the front yard that will probably include lavender and jupiter's beard and russian blue sage and other flowers.
I bought some new tomato supports recently, too.  They arrived Saturday, and are in boxes taller than I am (I haven't had the nerve to open one yet).  If our tomatoes grow anywhere near that tall, it should be a good year.  There are 6 of them; I'm planning on putting 2 out for eggplant (no expectations of 6-foot eggplant plants, but who knows?)
In order to get that nitrogen replenishment going strong, I used pea inoculant on the peas.  Lots of warning labels on that stuff - eye protection, protective gloves, ventilation...  I get that they're bacteria, but are they really that dangerous?
There's a lot still to do in the garden.  My top box needs to be emptied and lined with weed-barrier to keep the dirt from leaking out.  I have plans to put down some mulch between boxes (weed barrier has been reasonably effective, but it's ugly and I keep tripping on the seams).  And we've planted no warm-weather crops yet, so I've only partly finished planting my middle box.  And besides all that, I have to wait on the asparagus to grow out of its first 3 inches of dirt so I can put the rest of the dirt back over the trenches - and that's holding up planting any of the rest of that box (the dirt had to go somewhere, after all).  I really need to turn the compost and see if there's ANYTHING usable at the bottom of the pile.  And we need to reprogram the drip timers and get them going.  And put up the wires on the pea stakes to support the vines once they sprout.  And, and, and...
I love planning for summer - and I mostly love executing those plans, time permitting.  That whole being-gainfully-employed thing gets in the way, but we have our well-lit evenings back and can get things done at the end of the day as well as on weekends.  Now if the snow will just make up its mind that winter is over!