2008 GARDEN REPORT:
Thanks to an early wave of warm weather, our garden season enjoyed an early start in late April this year. Usually we have a friend rototill, but I decided to forego tilling in order to get a head start on planting. It seemed like a good tactic, since many grower-friends say that tilling disturbs the soil-based organisms. I decided that I would see what, if any, difference we experienced by not tilling this year.
As it so happened, after planting, the cold, spring rains came. These rains have become part of our Maine weather pattern for about four years. Prior to this time, our springs were what most would consider normal in terms of light rains and gradually warming temperatures. As these new 'monsoon' rains descend upon the state, they are accompanied by cooler, if not COLD, temperatures. Those looking for spring are thus 'dampened' in their spirits by the torrential downpours and forced to yet keep the furnace running or the wood fire burning. In our case, we had to burn wood until late May. So it was that spring came, though ever so reluctantly. In the long run, I believe we earned every inch.
Due to the weather, the greens I had planted so enthusiastically germinated sporadically. Hence, I had the pleasure of replanting them, an exercise that I consider a chore. Nevertheless, it was a labor of love since greens are my favorite part of the garden. I planted a wider assortment of greens this year, all of which came from FedCo Seeds. I enjoy using their seeds partly because their selections are numerous, the company is close by, we know the owner, their prices are the most reasonable, and most of all, their catalog is one fantastic read: a real work of Maine journalistic art. If you have never seen or read a FedCo seed catalog, give yourself a treat by signing on. It is both informative and entertaining. Back to gardening...
Once I replanted all my greens (varieties of kale, chard, endive, chickory, lettuce), our seedlings arrived. We have friend who graciously grows our seedlings for us. We used to grow our own (in the dining room window), but the process eventually became unmanageable. It was soon evident that the dining room was not meant to be a greenhouse. Thus, we were happy to farm out the seedlings to someone else. This year we once again had many trays of plants: several lettuce, raddichio, herbs, tomatoes, tomatillos, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, and Asian greens. The latter were an added surprise. Researching our catalogs, I discovered the Asian greens were similar to broccoli.
After accomplishing the herculean task of planting all our seedlings, the rains descended again sometimes on a daily basis. The weather patterns proved to be like the semi-tropics. In some ways, it was refreshing; but in other ways, gardening became difficult. Weeding was a challenge. However, with the rain softening the soil, I was able to weed at record speed between rain showers. Then I put down straw mulch to keep in the moisture and discourage the growth of more weeds. I chugged along to accompligh my mulching mission, so that I could sit back for awhile and watch the garden grow.
Well, grow the garden did, however slowly. The beets were stubborn and did not want to germinate. The heavy rains were no doubt responsible. So, I ended up replanting the beets a few times. When I thought I had the beets under control, I realized that the flea beetles were taking their toll on the kale, arugula, and collards. I was not happy. Though I used row covers to discourage, if not prevent, such an infestation, the tactic did not work. For the most part, the arugula was as good as ruined and the collards were bearly hanging on. I replanted, hoping for the best; but as of this writing, only a sparse few collards survived and the arugula was a wipe out. Though these losses were a disappointment, I am at least happy to have some collards as evidence that I tried!
As our garden matured, my greatest dismay set in: ugly, giant weeds were surfacing through the straw mulch. I was devastated. All my hard work and best intentions were dashed to pieces. The weeds did not pull out easily from the straw. They were tenacious, nasty, and ugly. I resigned myself to letting them be, because I had more important work to do in tending the garden.
It is now the end of July and the summer is once again slipping by. Overall, our garden is growing well. The greens are lush and plentiful. Our kale has survived its early encounter with flea beatles. I'm glad the kale won. It's a joy to go out into the garden and pick our daily meals. It's fun, easy, and doesn't cost anything. Besides, it's healthy. There are definite benefits to having a garden...
If I were to score our garden for this year, this is the assessment I would presently make:
1) New varieties of kale grew well
2) I was able to grow endive and chickory!
3) Our raddiccio is gorgeous!
4) We have more blackberries and raspberries than ever
5) Our herbs are HUGE
6) Our St. John's Wort has been blooming profusely for over a month
(great for making a medicinal oil)
7) Few slugs considering the amount of rainfall
1) No arugula (my favorite)
2) Only a few collards
3) Disasterous weeds, seeds of which
most likely arrived in the straw ( I have registered a complaint with the supplier)
4) The upper garden appears to be a wipe out, due to the salt/calcium chlorate used by the town in its winter road maintenance. This loss accounts for about 1/3 of our garden.
5) Two ground hogs, but trapped (thankfully)
6) Too few flowers. Our zinnas bowed out early in the season. I don't know why, but I miss their smiling faces.
As the season continues, we invite you to stay tuned. There are signs of tomatoes on the vines and the tomatillos are displaying their little 'japanese-type' lanterns. Soon there will be fruit to pick. We can't wait, but we must. In the meantime, we are busily eating...and eating well!