May 20, 2010

May Garden Tour: Where The Fall Garden Was

Last post, I showed you our vegetable garden, but I have also been planting where last year's garden was. The plan is to grow more permanent things in this spot. Here's what it looks like at present...

Beginnings of a perennial gardenNot very impressive. Planted there are daffodils and daylilies on the front border nearest the road, strawberries, comfrey, our almond tree, and the remains of my fall garden. A rough schematic looks like this...

Current layoutOf my fall garden, I've finished harvesting things like turnips, beets, radishes, and carrots.

Carrots were disappointingI didn't get a lot of carrots (okay, I didn't plant a lot) and the ones I did, were plagued by nematodes (root knot). Oh well. At least I'm not planning to use this garden space for root crops again. Still, they were tender and sweet.

I let the turnips go to seed and have collected a bunch of those. I'm still waiting on the radish and broccoli seeds.

Broccoli flowers & seed podsBroccoli plants produce small yellow flowers and long plump seed pods. On top of that, I still get a few small florets to toss into salads too....

Still tender & yummy!
Onions looking statelyThe onions that I thought were so expensive are finally getting ready to flower.

Of the pack of Savoy cabbage plants I bought last fall, three are doing okay, but only one is forming an actual head...

I hope it has time to grow more before it gets too hot.... and it's pretty small. I still have Romaine lettuces too, but no photo of those to show you.

Funny, curving trunk, don't you think?The almond tree we planted last December is doing well. DH thinks the cardboard mulch looks pretty tacky. In my defense, I did cover the cardboard with leaves, but the wind blew them away. If I hadn't held the cardboard down with the bricks, that would have blown away too.

Nitrogen fixer & living mulchOne thing I've done, has been to transplant some of our white Dutch white clover (a nitrogen fixer) around it's base to establish a living mulch. This idea came from Edible Forest Gardens . I've already had to move the cardboard back as it's beginning to spread. Comfrey, which is planted nearby, will also benefit from the clover, and indeed, it is recommended to plant clover in the comfrey patch during its second year.

Young comfrey plantsAs you can see, the comfrey is coming along nicely. This first year I will concentrate on letting the plants establish themselves, which means pinching off the flowers and pruning lightly (the chickens like it). Next year I can begin to harvest the plants for mulch, compost, feed, and hay.

We're looking forward to lots of strawberries!
As tasty as they lookAt the front of the garden, (where I grew green beans last summer), is my strawberry bed, with 50+ plants of two types. At the right of the photo, are daylilies, sending up bloom spikes. I transplanted these last summer, so this will be their first summer to flower.

Even though most of the strawberry flowers are picked off in order for the plants to establish themselves, I've gotten one small handful of Junebearers for one morning's cereal. Next year I'll hopefully get enough to make DH's well loved strawberry jam from our own berries. I had to buy them for that this year.

Another thing I've planted in this garden are the slicing tomatoes I grew from seed in this garden...

No tomato blossoms yet thoughThese are Rutgers, which are reputed to do well in our hot summers. My rationale for putting them in this garden is twofold: 1) easier picking from the back door, and 2) because I'm learning how to save seeds when I plant more than one variety. I figure a little distance won't hurt.

I've also planted popcorn behind the comfrey bed, as the diagram shows, though it isn't up yet. I'm thinking that perhaps this would be the place to plant my saved Kentucky Wonder pole bean seeds, since my sweet corn has made a rather poor showing.

My biggest problem is that annoying weedy wire grass that spreads by stolons and has a tenacious root system. Many of the weeds were taken care of by the heavy mulch I used last year, but this stuff just creeps along the top of the mulched areas. It's trying to take over my strawberry bed...

Nasty weed grass trying to take over my strawberriesYou can also see it in the comfrey photo above. This stuff seems to be a losing battle. I've actually contemplated buying some of that weed barrier cloth in an attempt to smother it out. Has anyone had good success with that? My regular mulching techniques of newspaper, cardboard, leaves, and wood chips don't seem to be helping as much as I wish they would. It makes me understand why folks go to raised beds, but that just isn't something I've been able to convince DH of yet. He couldn't till a raised bed and he loves his tiller! Sigh. There's always something to challenge a gardener, isn't there?

copyright May 2010 by Leigh at


Michelle said...

As you know, similarly challenged by the DH here....

Renee Nefe said...

I'm so jealous. I broke up the dirt in my garden on Mother's day (accidentally poking a hole in the sprinkler system) but luckily I didn't go buy any plants or seeds because we got hit with another snow storm.
I know I need to just buy plants this year (since I didn't start the seeds already) but I sure wish the cold fronts would stop so I don't waste my money.

maggie said...

Okay, the weeds... A raised bed will NOT solve that problem. I have three raised beds and they all get the local versions of what you are talking about, plus the false-strawberry, which is almost as annoying. Also, last year I worked on a master gardener project that involved renovating a butterfly garden at a local park. We were battling mugwort. We pulled tons of it out of the bed, roots and all, turned the soil, and pulled more roots out. Then we put down layer of newspaper followed by a layer of weed block. Mugwort still came through it in places, and when we pulled back the weed block to get them out, there were masses of roots sitting on the soil surface. (A disheartening sight, considering the work we'd put in) Some weeds are just incredibly tenacious and will be a constant battle. That said, it wouldn't hurt to try. Weed block works great on some things. You might try your local freecycle or craigslist and see if someone has any leftover you could experiment with.

In other news... So, you're going for the comfrey-forest-on-the-side-of-the-house look? I like it. Bold, yet sassy. ;D

m said...

It's hard to tell from your images, but it looks rather like couch grass that is troubling you.
As far as I know the answer is to dig it out, but no doubt searching the internet will give an identification and possible solution.
I blogged earlier this week about my hunting down gooseberry sawfly. In fact it is time to hang out some laundry and then settle down to today's hunt!
We have had such warm weather today, that I can hang laundry out at 17.30 and expect it to dry before dark.

Nina said...

Garden challenges this year are because we're starting fresh. We've put in a new garden bed, which still needs more soil and are repurposing a perennial bed. The latter is taking far more work than I had thought. We had a late season blast of cold which slowed things down but even though it has warmed up, I've over-committed myself to other projects, so will be late with the rest of the planting anyway. AT least I've been able to rehome a gazillion Hostas instead of tossing them in the compost.

Kathy said...

I have so enjoyed catching up reading your blog, Leigh. We are still in the time of frosty, cold nights here - my trees are just now starting to leaf out! I think they are trying to tell us it's going to be a cool summer here. Must be all that ash in the atmosphere.
I will try to plant some peas this week, but I won't be able to plant anything else until June, I'm afraid. :(
And so...I live vicariously through you...

Benita said...

I have had wonderful luck using barrier cloth. The hedge that I used barrier cloth around survivied very well, and those that I didn't put the cloth around didn't do so well.

And that cabbage wants to be a Brussels sprout. :)

Sara said...

Well, I got half a plot at the Community garden - and I have no clue as to what I am doing.

Want to plant: beets, brocoli, lettuce, tomatoes, Green Beans, brussel sprouts, carrots...

Leslie said...

I have enjoyed your tour. Things are coming along nicely. I always enjoy seeing other's gardens and I am always impressed by your planning. I am using raised beds for the first time, so we'll see how it goes. Best gardening wishes!

Mama Pea said...

LOVED the garden tour. Reminds me it's probably time I did the same for my blog. Although gardening up here near the frozen tundra, I don't have a lot to show just yet!

Besides the "field garden" we have twenty-six 4 x 8' raised beds and we do occasionally use the tiller in them with no difficulty. But our tiller is a little Mantis so maybe that's what makes it possible.

I think we must have the common comfrey. I used to have it in two rows at the end of our strawberry patch but a couple of years ago moved it to one of the 4 x 8' beds to control the spread.

Thanks again for the tour. :o)

Flower said...

Your garden log sounds familiar! It's not that easy to grow a nice garden. In time you will figure out what works and what doesn't. The grass in the strawberries is a common issue here, too! We just stay at it. Work, work, work!
We keep adding organic matter to the soil and don't plant root vegetables. Cabbage attracts moths...broc. does the same thing. What we are good at growing is: pole beans, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, egg plant, lettuces, herbs, strawberries, and blackberries. Grapes have been added to the mix.
It's hailed here today! Warm weather is around the bend!

Leigh said...

Michelle, I related so much when you first mentioned that. Another thing we have in common :)

Renee, you have certainly had your share of garden-discouraging weather! I'd hoped this year would be better for you. I hope the sprinkler system isn't too bad!

Maggie, I don't feel so bad now. I guess there's no real solution! Weeds are a fact of life :( I'll definitely have to give the weed barrier a test run.

Mary, I tried to identify it earlier, but without success. I'll have to look up couch grass. There are so many "weed" grasses out there that it's difficult to figure it out.

We don't have sawfly here (nobody grows gooseberries), but I don't envy you. I hope your diligence with hand picking pays off!

Nina, that was our challenge last year, starting anew. It's a big task! So many folks are still getting cold weather. I should be thankful for the mild weather we're having. I just dread the summer heat that's around the bend!

Ah but Kathy, you can be enjoying those lovely cool weather crops long after they've wilted away here!

Benita thank you for that. Someone's experience is so much more valuable than a manufacturer's claims!

Sara, hurray! You are going to have a lot of fun this summer. And after all, you're starting the exact same place the rest of us did. :)

Leslie, I'll be curious about how well your raised beds do! I'd really like to give some a try. Maybe for some of my perennials.

Mama Pea, one of those little Mantis's would be perfect for that. Actually we just had to replace our tiller. Dan claims he "killed" the old one from working it so hard to break ground. He's happier with this one though, as it's heavier duty than the one that died. Hopefully it will last longer too because a tiller a year is a bit much!

Flower, I agree, those picture perfect gardens are hard to come by. I figured I might as well dust off the warts as well as the stars. :) I think you're right though, about figuring out the best things one's garden grows and sticking with those. So much less disappointing that way.

Jo said...

Thanks for the garden tour! How did you start your comfrey patch? I have a couple of small patches but I'd like to expand them.

I understand your battle with weeds. Grass is one of the worst to get rid of. Spreads easy, keeps coming back, pushes easily through loose mulch. And very hard to pull out!

Leigh said...

Jo I ordered 25 crowns from a small family business. The were very generous and sent 5 extras. I understand that common comfrey spreads almost too well. I have the Russian variety, which is less prone to spreading. I believe though, that the roots can be divided, so that may be your best bet.

I appreciate your comment about my grass problem too. It's comforting to know that mine isn't a common problem!

Sharon said...

I love your garden. We have that same systemic grass - it's rather alien looking. Forecast is for snow the next three days. I really can't imagine how homesteaders did it.

Robin said...

It's looking so nice over there. I have to say that I felt excited when I saw your popcorn patch plan. hehehe