April 2015 Garden Tour

I figured it was time for a photo tour of the garden. It’s all pretty brown right now, but we just got a nice soaking rain, so thing should speed up quickly, even with cool temperatures forecasted much of this next week.

This is the view looking at the front of the house from the street. Not pictured (would have been in the immediate foreground) is a bed between sidewalk and street – which all my neighbors seem to think is illegal – planted to snap peas. The bed in the foreground has one rhubarb crown in it and will be planted with the gooseberries and raspberries when they arrive.

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One of many pea shoots coming up. Interestingly, the plots not fenced in, and with poorer soil, seem to be emerging faster. Hoping we get a good crop. Otherwise, I’ll be picking snap peas along with strawberries at Barthel’s come June 🙂

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Better view of the rabbit-fenced quadrant of the yard. Asparagus and strawberries in the bed to the far right. Brassicas in the next bed. Peas in the far left-hand bed. The other beds have strawberries planted in the center as a row, and will get companion-planted with bush beans or salad greens.

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A good view of an asparagus trench I planted on Friday.

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Strawberry crown just barely visible.DSC_0947

Some sadly neglected lettuce still hanging on. Need to do a sowing of greens soon. 2015 (so far) continues my rather poor luck with lettuce and spinach.DSC_0948

Kohlrabi seedling. They seem to be quite happy though diminutive. No true leaves on any yet.DSC_0949

Our one existing (heirloom) rhubarb plant. The genes on this one go back to the family farm I’ve talked about in previous posts.DSC_0950

Survivors of bunnypocalypse. They seem happy though they were quite root-bound when I planted them. Really thinking I’ll go to soil-blocks next year if I can save enough $ for the equipment. (I’ll start with <2″ small dimple for germination., 4″ square dimple for up-potting.)
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Purple peacock broccoli: you are so pretty I keep planting you, but your yields (even including the yummy kale-like leaves) are pathetic!
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View looking west from the back of the property. The long bed on the right will get potatoes soon. (I have the seeds but need to chit them first.) Not easily visible by the side door are beds with rhubarb, strawberries, and the future home of our hardy peach tree. To the left in that lawn space and behind you are a couple more sizeable beds I have not tilled in yet, but will this week. Those beds will probably get fenced in if needed with the remaining materials. Somewhere in that zone will also be our sour cherry tree.DSC_0954

Our not elegant but quite rodent-proof (per city requirements) compost bin. It’s about 2.5 cubic yards, which seems overkill for garden wastes, but I hope to begin experimenting with humanure composting this year if my other family members allow me. Where the wheelbarrow is will more than likely be the future home of our chicken coop in 2016, pending city approval (and funds).

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A lot of folks ask about the costs of growing your own food. Still other blogs convince people to garden by using the same financial arguments. I hate that. As Ben Hewitt very correctly argues in The Nourishing Homestead, the argument itself is a trap. Of course industrial-scaled food makes sense if you weigh the cost to acquire it versus the value of materials (and your time). Granted, food grown in truly healthy soil (mine isn’t yet) can’t be bought at any price.

Gardening is something you have to enjoy intrinsically. Sometimes I imagine myself like the Druid in Kevin Hearne’s series, because I find a connection to the earth to be so powerful. Growing your own food connects you to your terroir in a way nothing else can. Also, in a neighborhood like mine, where it’s quite abnormal, the eccentricity has allowed me to meet many more of my neighbors than ever before. People love talking about it, even when they don’t do it themselves. There’s a huge evolutionary misstep, I think, in our modern fixation with cities and outsourced nourishment – one whose consequences we’re only slowly realizing via the recent resurgence of the ‘back to the land’ movement.

I think I’ll write a separate post on this last bit when I’ve got a few more weeks of use under my belt, but I’m loving my new weeding/cultivation tools. I can weed the entire current garden space in about an hour. Currently I’m doing it every few days because spring always brings the biggest weed pressure, especially in new beds like mine are. I use the wonderful collinear hoe designed by Eliot Coleman to “sweep” the ground, shaving off seedlings before they get established. When I encounter recalcitrant grass and other tougher perennial weeds, I either hand pull, or chop them out with my equally wonderful forged Dutch hand hoe (that’s a lefty model, but of course they have a righty as well), which is a very powerful chopping hoe that I can easily carry in my back pocket (lacking any jean loops) until I need it.

Lots of folks swear by mulch or other smothering methods, but when you have very limited funds and can’t produce (much) of your own, shallow cultivation is a very good method. Plus, it forces you to walk each garden row regularly, constantly keeping an eye on plant progress and health.

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9 Comments on “April 2015 Garden Tour”

  1. Hannah says:

    Love to see gamma’s toys littered among your garden. We’re only doing tomatoes, cucmbers and herbs this year (with our DIY renovation taking time precedence), but our plot is sunny, so I’m hopeful to expand next year.

    Have you had much luck with melons in the past?

    • David says:

      I’ve never tried melons but they are grown locally here, mainly muskmelons. They need 70-80 days for most types. At least here, June is a real mixed bag, but July-September are reliably hot, so I’d probably transplant out no earlier than late June.

      Getting seedlings to 90F for germination requires a heavier duty heat mat than I currently have.

      Why not do summer squash or a bush winter squash like acorn? Those are super low maintenance and awesome.

      Good luck with remodeling! We have a project slated for fall, but not sure if I’ll have enough in savings by then.

  2. flygal says:

    Looks great! I love the potential in the air in early spring. When I lived further north I would broadcast seed spinach during the last of the snow season. By early spring I had reliable germination. Now that I am down south (GA) I toss the seeds out in early winter and hope for a cool spring. This seems to work for me. Following the recommendations on the seed packet always resulted in a poor stand.

  3. Wow! You really squeezed in as much planting space as possible–that’s awesome! It’s interesting that none of your neighbors are following in your footsteps. I’d think once they saw how much you can grow, they’d want to join in. Ahh well, I suppose I forget that most people don’t ascribe to this philosophy… At any rate, looks great!

    • David says:

      No, we’ve got three neighbors with respectable gardens, though we are the only ones doing front yard gardens.

      Once I am more comfortable with the labor on our space with all my other commitments, and also know a bit more about varieties for this area, I am going to approach neighbors and see if I can garden on parts of their lawns.

  4. Linda says:

    You mentioned the planting in the parking strip might be illegal? Are the neighbors telling you this and saying it disapprovingly of what you’re doing? Just wondered if you’ve had any disapproval considering you’re going against the status quo by having a front yard garden and all it’s “messiness”. I ask because of my own upcoming personal situation, of course…

    In May we will be moving to a Salt Lake Utah neighborhood where we bought a house. Almost all the front yards are lawn (yawn) with lawn parking strips. Some neighbors have mentioned having gardens in the back though, so that’s encouraging. They’re mostly LDS I imagine since this is Utah but we are very much not! So very status quo conscious.

    I want to rip out that grass so fast, but don’t want to upset the neighbors, right away at least. We have built-in sprinkler systems, plus the bad part of the median is that part of it is also the neighbor’s! So a real dilemma in how to proceed and how to navigate neighbor relations.

    • David says:

      Linda –

      Comments on the front-yard garden have been very positive. The “is that even legal?” comments about the parking strip seem to come from people not wanting me to waste my time if the city has issues with it.

      My exposure to LDS folks is primarily from what I’ve read, but considering their emphasis on self-sufficiency and food storage I would think many, if not most, would be receptive to food gardens in front. Or at least some sort of eco-lawn or xeriscape garden with a few edibles mixed in. When introducing yourself, maybe walk around and ask whether people would be bothered if you turned your lawn space into primarily a garden – similar to how many chicken or bee-keeping books suggest getting concerns from neighbors addressed before proceeding, no matter what your legal rights are.

      • Linda says:

        They definitely are into the food storage and self-sufficiency but having lived there, I know that appearances count for a lot. I noticed the old Scott’s Lawn Care truck was going around spraying it’s poison on those lawns too, so not happy about that. But the neighbors do seem quite friendly and introduced themselves by coming over or over the back fence so that was a good sign. I’m hoping to win them over to my “subversive ways”.


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