March 14, 2012

March Gardening

March is an iffy month for us. We can get daytime highs bordering 80°F, but still have the potential for frost or even snow. It's easy for one's impatient inner gardener to want to jump the gun and "take a chance." Ordinarily this would be a time of nurturing indoor started seedlings, something I put on hold due to the indoor chaos of our kitchen remodel.

On the other hand, we're still enjoying the harvest from our fall and winter garden.

Lettuce, kale, turnips, and a carrot

And! A first ever for us....

1st ever asparagus

Last year I planted asparagus for the first time, about 30 plants. This is our very first sampling. We won't get much this year, because the plants still need time to establish themselves, but who could resist at least a taste? I have to say it was the best asparagus ever.

In addition there are beets, broccoli, turnips, kale, radishes, carrots, collards, and cabbage collards for the picking, though the broccoli and cabbage collards are starting to flower. I'll let some go to seed for saving, but the rest I cut back mercilessly to feed the goats. They are very hungry for something fresh this time of year and start hollering as soon as they see me coming with a basketful.

Parsnip plant

I checked the parsnips the other day and they look ready to harvest. I tried to grow parsnips last year without success. This time I didn't get a lot, so it will probably be a one or two meal deal, especially since I want to let at least one plant go to seed for saving. The variety is All American, not one usually listed in the seed catalogues. Still, since even some grew for me, it's a keeper. Besides the parsnips, I'd probably better harvest the rest of my turnips and beets as well, before they want to go to seed.

Egyptian Walking Onions

All the onions I planted last fall seem to be doing well. The Egyptian walkers have emerged from their winter's nap and are needing to be mulched. Only about half of the multipliers are growing however.

Last spring's onions are finally making a go of it. They were very slow to grow last year. Maybe that's how I need to do onions, plant sets and harvest a year later. Even so these point to a problem area for me, wire grass....

Onion, strawberry, & asparagus bed, invaded by wire grass

Last spring, I worked very hard to rescue my strawberries from wire grass that was choking them out. I transplanted over 50 plants to a new location. In keeping with my companion group gardening plan, I also planted onions and asparagus along with the strawberries. Well, that wire grass has been trying to claim a corner of my garden and it happened again.

I cannot tell you how discouraging this stuff is. It is invasive, tenacious, and impossible to get rid of. Nothing I've tried has given me the upper hand: tilling, hand weeding, deep mulch, landscape cloth, cardboard mulch. Problem is, I don't know how to learn to live with it. At the moment I'm thinking to harvest the onions, move the strawberries again (the ones that haven't been smothered to death that is), let it go until fall, and then mow the summer's growth of wire grass down. The asparagus comes up before it gets growing, so perhaps I can still get an asparagus harvest every year. How to keep the wire grass from spreading further, is another unsolved nightmare.

On the bright side....

fall planted garlic

I'm very pleased with my garlic. I planted nearly all of last year's harvest, nearly 100 cloves. We use a lot of garlic for both culinary and medicinal purposes, so I'm not sure even this is a year's supply. Still, we'll have some homegrown to enjoy.

Romaine lettuces from saved seed

Having a milder winter was great for the greens. Even my lettuces survived, though they grew very little during the coldest months. I'm thinking if I'd covered them, they might have produced fairly well.

So far this spring I've planted peas, a new to me variety of turnip, Golden Ball, and more comfrey. This comfrey is also in a different spot. Last summer I lost most of the comfrey I planted two years ago. I'm not sure if it was the wire grass that choked it out or perhaps I failed to keep the soil sweet enough, but for some reason it did not like that location. Comfrey is an important protein source for my goats as well as instant compost material. I need it to thrive.

The success of this year's winter garden, plus my experiences of the two previous winters have me thinking about year round gardening in my little corner of the world. I'm seeing that we can indeed eat fresh all winter long. Even in the colder, snowier winters, we can harvest root crops if they're well mulched. We should be eating more of that, so that I don't have to preserve as much of the summer's harvest as I have been. With a row cover or hoop house we could have greens during the colder winters as well. The heat of summer with it's annual dry spell is actually more problematic for me! How to best garden through that, is something I'm still contemplating.


24 comments:

Kristi said...

Very impressive winter garden. We are counting down the days to asparagus. Never thought to plant it WITH the strawberries. Mine is right beside. My strawberries are a weed problem, but as long as I get berries, i don't worry too much about it.

MamaTea said...

You are quite busy! This is the time of year that we in MN have to be careful, too. We're having an amazingly early spring with highs in the 60s to 70s...but we know we can't plant yet because there is STILL that chance of frost or snow. I like seeing what you're doing...it helps me to plan out what I'm going to do at the new farm. I love that you have asparagus! We need to start some here! :)

The Weekend Homesteader said...

I also harvested a small bit of asparagus, even though I planted my crowns last year. I just couldn't help it! It was delicious. Your garlic looks great. I'll have to look for Egyptian walking onions and consider those for planting.

CaliforniaGrammy said...

You are such an inspiration to me, Leigh. I would love to harvest my own asparagus, actually I love harvesting my own "anything!" I just have to make sure the garden beds are protected from the squirrels and deer. But it's my fault I neglected to change the battery in the sprinkler system. And this year we do have an electric fence to go around the boxes . . . it's just getting the gumption to do it!

Jody said...

I love reading about your garden! We're eagerly waiting for our asparagus to poke its head up. nothing yet, but it's great to see yours... such a wonderful sign of spring! Your stuff looks happy and healthy! I'd try to offer some help with the invasive -insert name that must never be spoken here- but I can't help. We follow a simple rule about weeds around here: speak not the name; get not the weed.

Leigh said...

Kristi, I have to admit that lately all I see is the work that needs to be done. But when I sat down to write this post I realized a lot of good things are going on too!

MamaTea, the garden work seems to be never ending, doesn't it! I worked out a companion group garden plan last year and hope to just tweak and rotate the groupings this year. :)

Candace, isn't that 1st asparagus heavenly? I know Shumway sells Egyptian Walking Onions.

Janice, we have squirrels and deer too, but it sounds like yours have declared war on your garden! It does add to the work when the garden has to be protected. I'm sure you'll get it going!

Jody, LOL. We're going to have to try that. Do you think it will work on banishing the unspoken weeds as well??? ;)

Rosalyn said...

Mmmmm asparagus from your garden! It looks like you're busy but also like you must feel so rewarded with so much of what is happening in your garden! I can't wait to get outside with fresh seeds and seedlings this year. :)

Carolyn Renee said...

Year round gardening sounds like a GREAT idea! We had some spinach that survived the "winter" we had here and I was actually snacking on some of it when I was weeding. Wire grass, that's new to me, will have to look it up because we have some nasty invasive grass (other than the bermuda) and I never knew what it's called. Besides a "pain".

Susan said...

I don't recall where you live, but your garlic is so much further along than mine (also planted in the fall). I hope it does well. Your March garden looks so lovely - I am envious that you got an actual crop...

Leigh said...

Rosalyn, busy yes. Behind, yes! A spring garden is certainly something to look forward to, isn't it?

Carolyn, I've never done well with fall and winter gardening, so everything that did well this year is a true blessing. It encourages me to try and do better next year!

Susan, I have to admit that this is absolutely the biggest garlic I've ever grown. Last year's (that I used the cloves from) wasn't nearly this big. Must be all that compost!

Michelle said...

Could you locate a temporary chicken pen over the areas where the wiregrass is plaguing you? they seem to be very efficient at eliminating weeds.

Nina said...

How wonderful to be still harvesting from the fall and winter, and starting your spring garden as well. We're having unseasonably warm weather here, making it very tempting to start planting early. I know we could still have snow and bitterly cold temperatures for another month, so I'm doing yardwork instead. At least it gets one outside in the glorious weather. Hoop house gardening would extend our season, but not for the whole winter. That is exciting to think about though. I'd love one..

tami said...

Love to see posts on how your garden is doing Leah, and it's doing GRAND!

Wish I knew what to tell you to do about the wire grass/strawberry issue.

We are just now preparing the "patch" where our new transplants will go...I suppose I DO need to order them. Paycheck this weekend...and it's gone!

Woolly Bits said...

your handful of asparagus looks quite good, after only one year! I only have 5 plants, so my pickings are rather small, even after several years. but it still tastes nice...
we don't have the wire grass, but instead we have "quecke" (elymus sp.), just as bad. it seeds, it makes runners and no matter how hard I try to get rid of it - it comes back:( I tried to bury old corrug. plastic stripesas borders and they work ok, but only in smaller beds. I don't think it would be practicable on your scale!
I am surprised that your comfrey doesn't grow, though. I just have to drop a tiny bit of root and it grows. well, no, too well! maybe it needs more moisture? I could open a shop with it:)
I started my first sowings this week, we'll see how the coming year will turn out!

Leigh said...

Michelle, the wiregrass is some type of Bermuda grass. It grows in our pasture too, but the chickens ignore it. The goats eat mouthfuls on occasion, but it's not a big favorite.

Nina, it's hard to resist those warm days! It's interesting how gardeners adapt to their various locations. Some folks do extend their seasons quite well with those hoop houses.

Tami, thanks! I agree about those paychecks! Most of ours go to the garden, the house, or the goats. :)

Bettina, your quecke sounds just as bad as our wiregrass. Even Roundup doesn't kill it permanently.

I'd love to have your comfrey. It did get dry in that spot and I had a hard time keeping everything watered well last summer. It was so hot that the moisture evaporated right out of the ground. Here's hoping for a good gardening year for us all!

Tom Stewart said...

Leigh,
As you know the soil here is very poor and I built raised beds to have a garden that would give at least some produce. An added advantage is the wire grass has a hard time getting into the beds.
I build the beds out of recycled wood and I build them on top of sheets of cardboard and mulch like crazy all a round the boxes. Then mix up my own soil (compost, worm casts and a bag or two of top soil). That way there are no weed seeds to start with. But the wire grass tries to come up from underneath.
I also spray the outside of the boxes with vinegar and the grass that does make it, is weak and can be pulled.
Tom

Clint Baker said...

Leigh,
As usual everything is impressive. Its neat how I have been seeing more volunteers this year. Maybe do to the warmer then usual weather. I hope you have a blessed day!

Leigh said...

Tom, excellent idea about spraying the cardboard underlayment with vinegar! Recycled wood is probably the only way to go. I don't know how anyone can afford a large garden of raised beds otherwise.

Clint, thanks! And I wish the same to you.

Poppy said...

Leigh,

I think you are touching on what many of us are feeling right now...SPRING FEVER!!!

I'm so anxious to plant, even talking myself out of it daily!

I'm right there with you...

Carol............. said...

Our Washington State growing season isn't very long and most of the time the beginning of May is a fairly safe time to start so I have a bit to go! You did get me excited!

I planted Egyptian onions two years ago but they seem to be a slow producing plant although interesting....

luckybunny said...

We are ages away from that, but you did get me excited too. That asparagus has my mouth watering!

Leigh said...

Poppy, I'm sure it's been impossible not to get seeing as how beautiful the weather has been every where! I'd still like to plant some indoor seeds, but probably better not as I have no place to put them. :)

Carol, interesting about your Egyptian walkers. This is a first for me, so I'm curious as to how they'll do. I've not done well with bulb onions, so these and the multiplier onions are an experiment!

Donna, I reckon you are! the asparagus was divine. :)

Author Rebecca Mugridge said...

Gorgeous photo's.
Growing food is such an empwering and wonderful experience
Rebecca x

Amanda said...

Love seeing pictures of your garden. We planted yesterday, a little early for our area but there hasn't been a chance of freezing temps for a while now. While we were worried about the temps, it seems like this unexpected rain might mess us up.

Best of luck with all the beautiful plants!