We decided to take down the raised beds. We were both frustrated by the ongoing battle against the Trees of Heaven that kept growing up through everything. Chuck had put serious effort into getting the roots out of 2 or 3 of the beds last year. And it helped. But, it wasn’t a cure. And the asparagus couldn’t win.
So, Chuck sold the cinder blocks and we’re letting the grass grow in. Of course, this has been THE best year for the asparagus.
He put 2 100-gallon watering troughs in the part of the hazelnut ring where the bushes don’t grow, filled them with compost and planted salad in one and tomatoes in the other. The tomato varieties are ‘Cherokee Purple’, ‘Rutgers’ and ‘Golden (something)’. The yellow ones are cherry sized and ‘Rutgers’ is supposed to be sandwich sized.
I got another watering trough and transplanted the asparagus. Wrong time of year. I know. But, the cinder blocks were gone and the roots were exposed all around the edges. And they aren’t dead. There were even 4 edible stalks last week. So, I remain hopeful.
There has been snow in April the last 2 years. So, we’re holding back. There is a threat of near freezing/potential snow this weekend. It was 84ºF on Monday.
We have 6 types of tomatoes in the grow room/pantry/attic/3rd bedroom waiting until the end of April to go in the ground. There are Better Boys for sandwiches, Cherokee Purple for salads, Golden Jubilee and Hawaiian Pineapple yellow varieties for Chuck, Grape and Indigo Blue cherry sized varieties for both of us. (I don’t dislike the yellow ones. He’s just particularly fond of them.)
I have 4 jalapeno plants waiting, too. We’ll plant Brandywine okra, Delicata and Pattypan squash and Hamby pole beans directly into the raised beds.
The new Martha Washington asparagus is coming up nicely. I’m hoping for a nice crop next year when we can finally harvest from the raised bed.
We have taken apart the herb bed and used the blocks to edge the front flowerbed. We didn’t have enough blocks and Lowe’s isn’t carrying that style anymore. So, I filled in gaps with stones from the disassembled labyrinth. It needs mulch.
I am expanding the little planting area around the well. A circle has been requested. Cannas will be moved from the side of the house to that bed when I have the grass dug out.
Chuck has been removing the grass-laden mulch from the outer ring of the defunct labyrinth. When we take up the ineffectual weed barrier, it will be seeded with clover. When I finish tweaking the front, I’ll manage the second ring that we intend to use for herbs and flowers. I’ve already got resurrection lilies and foxgloves transplanted there.
We decided the dismantle the labyrinth because it was a pain in the ass to maintain and it almost never got any use. In the entire time it was here, I don’t think 25 people have walked it. But, we couldn’t just take up the rocks and let it go back to lawn because it has a hazelnut hedge around 2/3 of the outside.
Since there is going to be a circle in the middle of the back yard one way or the other, we decided to make it a bull’s-eye. The center will still be mulched and keep the benches. The first ring will get the herbs from the disassembled herb bed and whatever flowers I want that flourish in blistering sun like lilies, irises, foxgloves, crocosmia. I don’t know what else. The next ring will be low maintenance clover. And then, the hedge.
We decided that we really don’t need more hazelnuts, even though that means the circle of the hedge will be uneven. So, today, we added 5 new blueberry bushes. Like the hazelnuts, they will be naked in the winter. And we look forward to the fruit. (We’ve never had too many berries in life.)
We found one variety of blueberries at Lowe’s and 3 at Mebane Shrubbery. We already had one of those (Climax) by the fence. So, we have 3 Brightwells, a Powder Blue and a Tifblue.
Yes. I am gloating a little bit. There is a little lettuce plant growing by the compost bucket in the middle of the bed, one growing in the bed by the wall and a couple growing on the ground outside the bed. We’ll be eating lettuce until we turn green.
I took a picture of the new asparagus bed. But, right now it’s just dirt.
The old bed has been swallowed up by honeysuckle and overshadowed by a mimosa tree. It was never as enthusiastic a producer as I had hoped. And when I finally looked up how to grow asparagus in NC clay instead of taking the advice of someone gardening in another part of the state, I learned that asparagus likes sandy soil that drains well. I had essentially planted it so that it would drown.
Lowe’s has Mary Washington crowns for sale, 5 in a box. I bought 5 boxes and returned 2. 15 crowns seem well spaced in the 40″ X 87″ bed. I put 2 bags of mushroom compost on top of them. Since the beds are raised, drainage isn’t going to be a problem.
Chuck planted lettuce in the 5″ x 6″ holes around the outside edge.
I started Beauregard sweet potatoes a couple of months ago and have put 3 slips in my raised bed this morning. I put 3 eyes of a Yukon Gold Irish potato in the other end. I stuck the rest of the eyes in empty-ish places along the iris/blueberry fence row.
I had already planted nasturtium seeds in the holes in the cinder blocks along one long and one short side..
5 Arkansas Little Leaf climbing cucumbers have gone in the center holes on the other long side. 6 bush cucumbers have gone in the other holes, 3 at each end. One of the Arkansas Little Leafs didn’t sprout. But the Mexican Sour Gherkins are volunteering in their holes. I have 4 bamboo poles in holes and I have a bottom row of string ready for the cukes to begin climbing.
I have pulled my carrots so I can plant 2 rows of the Glass Corn popcorn seeds I managed to produce last year. I’ve put them in the middle of that bed. The garlic needs to grow another month or so, so I’m leaving it alone. I”ll put the jalapenos in there when they are bigger. There are 4 spindly plants in little pots, right now.
Chuck’s carrots are bigger and more consistent, so I’ll make a huge dessert this afternoon with my multicolored ones. I hope they keep the colors when they cook. Purple okra doesn’t.
The sunchokes are coming up like crazy, so the bees should have a nice treat this Fall.
Roses and kiwis are putting out new growth.
Dill seeds are sprouting in the herb bed.
Columbines are blooming in the front.
We have bitty plums forming and one peach.
Lilacs will not be blooming this year. Their buds froze.
Iris buds are popping up, And one has even opened.
I always have some “fingerling” sweet potatoes left over from a harvest. In 2013, I was able to bake them and have 5 cups of sweet potato ready to use later. In 2014, the harvest was slim and there were only a half a dozen.
As I left them lying around waiting for an inspiration for what to do with them, one started to sprout. So, I stuck it in a jar of water with some toothpicks and it is making green. When they are 3 of 4 inches tall, I’ll pop them off the potato and straight into the water to form roots. Then, I’ll have them ready for planting after the last frost.
Now, the rest have little sproutlets. I wonder who I can give them to.
I have decided that the cucumbers that look like teensy watermelons have to be eaten fresh or made into sour/dill pickles. They just don’t work with sugar.
The jar on the right is dill pickles.
The jar on the left is sweet pickle raisins that are too hard to use in anything. I tried simply pouring boiling sweet pickle solution over them rather than going through the “tenderizing” procedure that ordinary cucumbers require. That was no more effective than using the original method I learned from my grandmother.
I don’t really care for fresh cucumbers. I don’t hate ’em. There is no spit-that-out-it’s-nasty reaction. I just tend to eat around them in salads. But, I do love them pickled. My paternal grandmother’s sweet pickles are the best in the world, hands down. But, pickling in general is a new trick I am learning.
I have a coworker who is a pickling god and he has inspired me to experiment. I have pickled jalapeños and banana peppers and those have turned out well. (Equal parts vinegar and water, boiling poured into jars stuffed with peppers, lidded and flipped over to seal as they cool.)
A couple of years ago, I saw pictures online of some bitty cucumbers that look like thumb-size watermelons. On investigation, I learned that they are called Mexican sour gherkins. I got a packet of seeds and Chuck put them in one of the raised beds this summer.
Two important things to know about these cucumbers. One, they are climbers. Two, they will consume your garden given half a chance. They tried to eat the bed they were in and when I tried to lift them up to some bamboo poles that Ursula brought me, they were putting out extra roots. Next year, they get something to climb on from the beginning.
When I tried pickling them, I didn’t take the tininess into consideration. I turned them into sweet pickle raisins. And, no, you cannot use those little rocks for anything. I think that if I will put boiling sweet pickle solution on them and leave them a little while, they will work.
I did make dill pickles with them and they are tasty. I stuck a couple of cloves of garlic in a couple of half pint jars that I had filled with whole cucumbers, shook about a tablespoon of dried dill in each one and poured boiling 50% vinegar over them. A couple of weeks later, I took a jar to my dad and we tried them out.