April at The Toy Box. I cannot say that I have been working hard to get where we are this month, I like to putter about for a couple of hours after school every day. Maybe it would be better to proclaim, I have been diligent. Yep, that’s it, I am going with diligent. We have been checking off the jobs that need to be done in the days working up to where we are. Getting trees planted or trimmed, adding wood chips, running flats of seedlings in and out of the weather, protecting them from frost and floods of rain. April is when the “diligence” comes together. We are already eating some of this years salad with the last of last years herbs, leeks and kale.
Just when it seems like Ray can sit back and enjoy the beauty of our Suburban Farm, I come up with another major, pain in his back, plan. This season it involves moving two established SFG’s (square foot gardens) to make room for more BTE (back to Eden) growing areas. As subsistence farmers we want to get as much food from our little bit of land as we are able. I (Debs) started out as a foodie/hobby farmer. Best use of space was not part of my plan.
Winter Sown Artichokes (up-potted)
Seedlings: We have soil blocks of tomatoes waiting to be potted up. I have been saving that job for a rainy day. As of today (April 2, 2016) I am on the last weekend of Spring Break from school. The weather has been beautiful so I keep putting that job off. I am reading that rain is coming. The job will get done. The salad greens (romain and mixed reds) have been planted in the front yard SFG, one of the pots of sweet-pea starts were planted in the front garden. Our broccoli and cauliflower are huge and ready for planting out. (suddenly I am feeling just a little bit overwhelmed).
Swiss Chard makes a comeback
Everett, Washington had a very mild winter. We are not quite safe from a “last frost date” yet so I am still holding my breath. We garden just north of “don’t worry about killing frosts in spring” land. I stand amazed watching winter food become beautiful plants. The Swiss Chard in this picture is one example. Light frosts and heavy rain reduced is to an unappetizing mess that I was sure I would be digging out; but look at it. Instead of digging it out I need to dig out my recipes! We have grown the white stem type of chard ever since we have grown it. I have not learned to enjoy it raw yet so the beautiful colors available have not found a place in my chard patch… until this year. I am looking forward to a new variety labeled “Peppermint Chard”. It looks like it has a red-pink base and white upper stem and veins. Am I the only goofy ol’ woman who gets excited about a different color of chard?
One Artichoke survived winter 2015-16 in our Everett, WA garden. In truth we have had roots survive to send up fresh growth but we have never had a whole plant survive the winter. One hard frost could bring it down so I am trying to not get too attached. But I cannot help thinking how totally kewl to have 2nd season artichokes this summer! I also have a beautiful, thick stand of delicious red celery growing in the same garden. It smells awesome! I have not read any good reviews about red celery yet…. here is mine. YUM.
Leeks and (umm) chicken food
The last of our leeks and celeriac have been lovely! This year the guys did not get out to gather fallen leaves so I never did get leaf mulch piled around my root crops, they were fine. There was only one day that I went out to harvest for a winter dinner that turned into a fail because of frozen ground. The last few leeks I have harvested have had woody centers, a sigh that they are getting ready to bolt so I need to use them as quickly as possible. The garlic I planted last October is beautiful. I made such a dumb mistake.
Green Roman and Valentine Mix Lettuce
I remember Paul Gautschi of the BTE film saying that I should put my very best potatoes right back into the ground for the next harvest; which I did. What I missed is that they will come up the following March, which they have. Mean while I thought the replant of potatoes was a total fail and planted my garlic over the former potato bed. While the potato sprouts are still fairly small, both are doing fine. Last year all of my garlic was volunteer. The garlic I planted was from the best of those cloves. This season I found dozens of new garlic volunteers while cleaning up a bed for early pea plants. I should have plenty of garlic this season (assuming everything goes well in my garden world). We have made so many soups and put up so much stock that we are plum outta garlic already! Lately we have been clipping green garlic with our parsley (another winter survivor) when we make a dish that needs a spicy boost.
Climbing pea and bean frame
For the first time since moving to Everett, I will not be planting my main crop of peas in a SFG. We have a whole system of support to attach to the SFG beds. Back when I planted tall peas in Robe Valley (east of Granite Falls, WA) I quit planting tall peas because they were too difficult to keep upright when the vines were heavy with our famous rain combined with the occasional wind storm. Ray has built a frame for the BTE garden that we have high hopes for. The legs of the frame go a little more then a foot into the ground. I have planted peas on the port side of the frame and plan to plant green beans on the starboard side in late May. There will be a short season when both are growing on the frame, but the peas should be done by mid July when the beans are just taking off. We are hoping for a fantastic harvest (knees bent, fingers laced!)
Fava Bean sprouts
Strawberries are coming up through the wood chips, raspberries are making buds, the logan and marian berry vines are already looking lush. Still no sigh of Asparagus, but I guess it is a little early. I have spotted early leaves of Rhubarb and it is beautiful. The comfrey is fixen to take over the berry beds. I’ve also seen early signs of deer damage. Gurrrr! The fava beans (also known as broad beans) we planted in February are looking great, except for one little problem. The garden looks so empty in February that I tend to plant far too many of , well, everything that gets planted early. Good thing we love Fava beans! (they are not really a reason to drink Italian wine… or so the theory goes).
A living grid in the SFG
A living grid of carrots, radishes, spinach, mixed greens, fennel, scallions, bok choi, and I forget what else; was the plan for one of the tomato beds. Somewhere in the planting, I forgot that I was making a grid and started squeezing in as much as I could. Looking at the bed now, if everything grows, it will be a tight fit but I am sure I can still get those tomato plants growing and keep them happy. Some mistakes are happy accidents. That is what I am hoping for this one.
First, a cuppa jo, then we work
We have entered a time of year when there is a new check list every two weeks instead of every month. We are still looking for a multi-espaliered sweet cherry tree. Does anyone even make those? Beds need to be moved, seedlings planted out, framework put up for the tomatoes, maybe a new tomato tent if we have a sudden cold snap. The pepper bed needs more soil mix and the kitty kover should go over that bed. I really need to get busy on the new herb garden since Ray has terraced the hill side with the stones his mother chose for her porch so many years ago. It just needs a good weeding and the plants I’ve been growing for it. Beet seeds need to go in…. somewhere. So many happy puzzles to figure out.
For as long as this post is, this is the short version of how my garden grows. How about you? Be sure to include where you garden and let me know how you are feeding your self (or making the world a beautiful place with your flowers!) where you live. I hear that the strawberry harvest is already over in Texas.
Debs… who only has time to sit because it is Sabbath. Tomorrow we will be getting out and getting dirty, with joy!