2021 Spring Garden Tour

I know I have been very quiet here this spring. I didn’t mean to be. I would keep thinking of things I’d like to write down, but then I got so, so busy and picked up by the driving, whirling, greening spring – I couldn’t ever get around to sitting down and writing anything.

So much has happened, that after awhile it’s hard to know where to begin again. We are making a new garden this year – a project we have talked about for many years and never been able to make happen until now. I have filled up the garden space I have, until there is simply not enough room to plant any more of anything, much less grow cover crops to enrich the soil.

My garden has suffered from not being able to run the pigs through all of it before planting again. I could see the difference this year between one side of the garden where I have hand-weeded and re-planted three years in a row (because of delicate seed-saving projects that were still in progress, and would have been disrupted by pigs – in fact they have plowed through electric netting and gobbled things up before), looked stagnant and weedy beside the half that had been plowed by pigs.

I think the animals encourage the beneficial bacteria, and stimulate the soil. Inspired, I asked my friend Adam of Three Rivers Plantation to help me prune my fruit trees. It’s hard for me to do this kind of thing – the pruning, the thinning, the plowing, the killing. I like things to stay the way they are, but change is stimulating to life. Life, one could say, thrives on a certain amount of change.

Our neighbor helped us a lot by plowing our new garden space, which was very helpful to break up the tough grass roots. The big pigs were pretty lazy and hardly did anything in the few weeks we had them there, unfortunately.

So my days have been full to the brim of caring for little animals, and cooking and cleaning and rolling heavy bales of moldy oat hay over the plowed earth. Rose, Clothilde, Ethan, and even my little nephew all helped too! I wanted to cover it as quickly as possible, to help with weeds and keep the bright spring sun from overheating the soil, burning off the carbon and damaging the soil life.

It’s really like starting out with two left feet, starting over from scratch with the garden. I didn’t imagine it would be so hard! I actually drew up a beautiful garden plan, on graph paper, precisely measured out – and I have hardly followed it or even glanced at it (this is why I never bother to do it usually – but I got so excited about a new garden). Because as I was working in the garden, things started to happen. I realized the shadows and light moved differently across the garden than I had thought they would. Things I had thought would work in one location actually worked better in other locations. Sometimes I had more starts than I thought I would, and had to move things around, or sometimes less.

It all is working out in the end, but I am realizing that while I thought I was a pretty good gardener before, it really was that I had a really good garden. All those years of pouring mulch and compost and leaves and hay and manure in made things easy. At least this new garden is too far for the horrible chickens to come and ravage. They would have scratched everything up by now if it wasn’t. The downside is that it is too far for the cats and dogs to keep the wild rabbits away.

I had a hard time with my starts this year. Back in January, when I was starting everything, the hardware store was out of the usual organic potting soil I usually use. So Ethan bought me whatever “normal” organic brand they had – I think it was Miraclegro or something awful like that. And all the starts I started in that soil died. All sorts of things – squash and cucumbers and tomatoes and peppers and flowers. Everything. It germinated, and tried to grow, and then turned yellow and died, even if it was fertlized, transplanted, moved to more sun, less sun, more warmpth, less warmpth, etc. I got a good kind of soil later and started more starts that are doing wonderful – same cold frame, same treatment, same kinds of pots. I think the first kind of soil was contaminated. There are so many herbicides that can show up in animal manure now – I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an issue.

Still, this new garden is coming along well – I have this dream of having four garden spaces one day. One for perennial herbs, one for growing vegetables, one for grains and staple crops, and one to be in cover crops to regain fertility. I would love to plant cover crops and then run the animals in to eat them and drop manure. I am planning to give my first garden a nice, long rest this year under different cover crops.

These pictures are all of my first garden – the new garden is still underway – I will post a little tour of it soon! I had some gardening friends come over a few weeks ago – back when it was in the infant garden stage – mostly little rows of teeny tiny plants, still suffering a little from the transplant, or empty rows seeded with things. They wanted to see the new garden (they requested to see the new garden). They were not very impressed!

Here are the carrots and flower beds about January.
Spring Flower Garden 2
Here is a recent photo.

The interesting thing about taking so long to write again is that I have a lot of pictures to share from different times. Here you can see the growth of the back of the garden. This was where I planted all the flowers this year. The flowers have been so beautiful this year! So many things re-seeded themselves! I am curious what will grow when I’m not here planting it. Already there are big sunflowers, tithonia, cosmos, and zinnias blooming that have planted themselves – as well as some millet!

red poppies
shirley poppies
Spring poppy flowers

The poppies! Oh my goodness, the poppies! They have been so lovely and abundant this year, appearing in all sorts of unexpected corners. I guess someday I might hate them as a weed, but I can’t even imagine it, because they are so beautiful. ( TonyTomeo – if you still read here – I did manage to grow forget-me-nots after all! They are beautiful and did well being planted in fall – thanks for your advice! They are such lovely flowers).

“Wiltshire Ripple” sweet pea. You have to say “Wiltshire Ripple” with an exaggerated fake British accent of course.
Pink dandelions! They had some other name in the seed catalogue, but I can’t find them again. I think I got them from Baker Creek years ago, and have been saving seeds since.
Honey flower – a borage relative. Very attractive to bees, and very pretty with blueish foliage and dainty flowers.

The flowers in general have been so pretty.

Takane red buckwheat
Scarlet Flax

The ruby red buckwheat and scarlet flax – there are lots of blue and red colors in the garden right now.

radish flowers

The grains have almost all been harvested and bundled up – the onions are now on being pulled and dried inside. I had three kinds of barley, and oats, and purple daikon for seeds. The purple daikon often has purple flowers too! The seeds are now almost dry and ready to harvest.

I am also growing oilseed flax. The flowers are so beautiful! They only open in the morning before the day gets hot. I hope I have enough time this spring to try processing the fiber too.

potatoes 4
Potatoes just growing….
potatoes 2
About a month or so later – I love seeing the change in growth.
potatoes 3
potatoes 1

I had a lot of losses to frost this past winter. Anything that died in the frost, I pulled and re-planted in potatoes. They are ready to start digging, and we’ve had potatoes for dinner this past week.

purple carrot flowers

There are also edible things in the garden, not just flowers! Here are the carrot beds, the parsnips and salsify. The Black Nebula carrots have gone to flower, and I’m going to save seed from them. They grew beautifully, and are such a beautiful dark blue. We used them for dyeing eggs this year. They are like beets – they will stain your teeth and hands purple. The salsify is putting out flowers for the first time ever, so I guess I might save seed if I can spare any.

Strawberry plant

We also have strawberries this year! I tried to plant a lot of them, and I bought a big box of 500 bareroot starts leftover from a local organic farm. Unfortunately, they were not in good condition, and only maybe 20 plants were fresh enough to grow (I am of course not very happy about this! I’m planning on ordering my own bareroot plants this fall). Still, that’s quite a bit of strawberries. They are still producing well, even if the chickens have had their way with them early on.

Carruther's Purple Pod
Carruther's purple pod pea

The beautiful purple-podded peas are did well – they are nearly dry on the vine by now. This variety is called “Carruther’s Purple Pod” (I think) from Adaptive Seeds. It’s my favorite shelling pea. The peas themselves are fat and green. It grows well and has pretty flowers, and the purple pods make them very visible and easy to harvest. The green ones can get lost sometimes. It’s been a good year, and we’ve had plenty of peas, and extra to save for drying.

red lettuce
ear of the devil

The lettuce is all bolted now, and I am planning on saving seeds from it. I grew all my favorites this year – Drunken Woman, Ear of the Devil, Red Oakleaf, and some new varieties.

Well, that’s all, folks! Still working – and I have some recipes to share with you soon.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. HI so great to see you have a moment to blog. I totally get the busy so many story happenings. Your new garden area looks amazing how could people not be impressed, I think gardening is like buying a run down house you have to see the bigger picture the potential & take encouragement from those who see it too. What a great neighbour. There was talk around our little town in Spring,(Autumn now), here in Aussie of a batch of contaminated compost (nobodies seedlings grew at all) it is very dodgy business really. Like you we try use what nature provides to make our own compost. I am yet to get pigs I will not be using hot wire netting, lol. Your flower varieties are stunning & little forget me nots are adorable. It must feel so good to have a perennial area. Looking forward to more of your wonderful recipes. Stay well, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! There are so many cycles to gardening – especially if you are saving seeds – this week, for example, this same garden looks weedy and not very flowery – the season has moved on and everything is ripening seeds. Not very aesthetic maybe, but very important! As long as I am getting food or seeds I don’t mind. I sort of enjoy seeing how it changes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. azadkinsiii says:

    Wow. You have been busy and hopefully, the gardens will continue to prosper.

    Our vegetable garden is only 3 raised beds, and we have mixed results, mostly good, but curious why sometimes one year a veggie will prosper, but the next year, nada. We typically buy pacs of small plants from Alachua F&S or Wards, most of the time we have good fresh produce from the garden.

    This year, we have a ‘vegan squirrel’, as we call him, who will knaw off a broccoli or kale or collard leaf, take it up to the fence and eat it. Never seen this behavior before. I’ve tried organic sprays, cayenne pepper, etc., but I think he enjoys the extra seasoning. He hasn’t destroyed a lot, only a few plants. I’m torn between being ticked off and marvel at his behavior. Regardless, we’re still loving out “garden to table” cuisine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s nothing like fresh veggies! Squirrels can be unbelievable destructive! They are a big pest in town – I think out here they have enough natural predators they mostly stay in the trees and don’t like getting out in the open. A friend of mine in Gainesville had to grow her garden incased in hardware cloth – anything else the squirrels would break in and she couldn’t grow anything! Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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