Another garden bed in transition. Cold-hardy green onions have been harvested, and replaced with bell peppers, which require much warmer soil. This bed has several volunteer herb plants, including dill and cilantro, so I left those in place and just put the peppers around them. I may try to fill in with a few more herbs.
I like growing beans. But most types prefer warm soils, so you can’t plant them too early. I did not know until this year, that there’s actually one type of bean that can be planted much earlier because it does well in cooler soils. These are fava beans, also called broad beans, and the specific variety is ‘Sweet Lorane Improved.’ They were on sale, and I couldn’t resist. Here’s how they look so far.
I went a little radish crazy this year.
I’ve never really harvested that many radishes in past years, and looking around my garden last spring I decided I should really plant more. Since they’re cold hardy, and most varieties are ready to harvest after only about a month, they can be in and out of the garden before it’s warm enough to plant say, tomatoes.
So this year I planted radishes everywhere I wanted to put tomatoes (and if you’re having trouble picturing that, I usually grow about 16 tomato plants. )
I planted several types of radishes, but mostly these white icicle type.
And it worked out pretty well. I harvested hundreds of radishes, and now we’ve planted tomatoes in the same space. So, success(ion planting)!
What do you do with all those radishes? There are actually a lot of ways to eat them. Aside from eating them fresh, you can also roast them, but I especially like them pickled.
Just a few photos of perennial flowers from around the backyard.
This one’s a peony, your basic ornamental, which lives in an actual dedicated perennial bed.
This one is comfrey, which is planted all around the apple trees because it’s supposed to be good for the soil.
And this one I’m still wondering about. Did my spouse forget where the iris were planted when he put in this patch of barley? Or was he just trying to maximize the space? Regardless, it is kind of pretty.
I like planting different types of vegetables in the same garden bed, and sometimes I do that on purpose, choosing compatible crops to grow together. Other times, plants end up growing together by accident, and that may or may not work out. Here are a couple of examples of unplanned “companion plants” from my garden right now.
Onions + Dill. I planted the onions, the dill was a surprise. Maybe it shouldn’t have been, because this is where I grew dill last year, and it produces lots of seeds. Anyway, there’s a fair amount of dill coming up between the onions, and that actually works pretty well. The onions will be ready to harvest soon, but the dill will keep growing, so it will have more space when it’s needed. I may also add some additional herbs to this bed once I harvest the onions.
Beans + Borage. I planted fava beans for the first time this year, and am excited to see how they do. Unlike most other beans, they do well in cool soil, so you can plant them much earlier. But that’s not what’s in this picture. This is borage, a cucumber-like herb, that is coming up between the beans. As with the dill, maybe this shouldn’t have been a surprise. That’s where it was growing last year, and it’s an annual, but it produced seeds, and here it is again. Fortunately, the herb isn’t really in the way. There are just three borage plants that came up among the beans, and they happen to be near some other herbs (chives). So I’ll just leave it.
Radishes + Potatoes. And here’s one that really doesn’t work. Last year we grew potatoes in this bed, and apparently we missed a few as we were harvesting because here they are again — shading and crowding out my radishes. The only reason I left them is because it’s just a few potato plants, and I didn’t really need any more radishes. (I planted a lot of radishes this year. But more about that another day.)
It’s been a weird spring, warm, and then cold, and then warm again. What is that doing to the garden plants? Let me share a few photos.
As you can see, this year it snowed in March, which is a little late for this climate. Snow isn’t a big deal for some plants, like kale (top), whose thick, green leaves are remarkably cold-tolerant. But for flowers it can be a bigger problem. The snow came when a lot of ornamental plants, like forsythia (middle) already had blossoms out. And the apple trees (bottom) in our backyard were just sprouting leaves and buds. That’s not as bad as if they had already been blossoming, but still not what you want. So what would happen? We had to wait and see.
So here are the results. As you would expect, the snow didn’t set the kale (top) back at all. It’s huge, and I’ve already harvested a lot of it. Some of the ornamental plants looked a little raggedy after the snow, so I will not embarrass the forsythia by posting a post-snow picture of it, but the plant itself will be fine. Instead, please enjoy these tulips (middle). The green leaves were already poking up when the snow came, but that didn’t bother them at all since they hadn’t blossomed yet. And finally, we got lucky with the timing of the apples. The buds have since produced blossoms (bottom), and are now well on their way to producing little fruitlets. Hooray!
Well, it’s cold outside, and the seed catalogs are arriving, so what can you do? Like everyone else, I’m thinking spring, and starting to shop for seeds. Here are my best tips for how to do that without busting the seed budget. (Always a good goal.)
- Look for bargains online. Many seed retailers have a “sale” section on their websites with reduced prices. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re already placing an order and will be paying that processing and shipping fee regardless. My best bargain so far were the “White Cherry” tomatoes I got last year from Johnny’s for $1. They’re the pale yellow ones in the photo above.
- Visit retailers in the off season. If you happen to be close to a big seed retailer, it doesn’t hurt to check in during the fall to see if they’ve marked down last year’s seeds. Last year we picked up a lot of on-sale seeds during a fall visit to the Seed Savers Exchange headquarters and store in Decorah, Iowa. This past weekend we stopped in at Planters, a terrific seed store in Kansas City, Mo., and got seeds at clearance prices: 50 cents a packet.
- Make a list of what you already have. With a few exceptions, most seeds are good for more than one year, so take a close look at whatever you have leftover from last year, check the dates on the packet to be sure it’s still good, and then write it down so you have it in front of you when you’re buying more seeds. Because who can remember if they already have dill and basil seed? Not me, apparently.
- Save seeds from your garden. It can get complicated, so I would suggest starting with something simple, like heirloom beans. Last year I great my first crop of beans from seeds I had saved. It was pretty cool.
- Check out seed fairs and seed libraries. We have a great local seed fair that I’ve been going to for the last few years. Our library also offers free vegetable, herb, and flower seeds in the spring. It’s a good way to get new seeds you want to try (and the seed exchange is a good place to donate your extra seeds.)
- Shop for seeds with friends and relatives. I started doing this more last year, and it’s really nice. One benefit of combining an online order is that you save on shipping costs. Another is that you can also make plans to share seeds even before you place your order (and then actually divide them up as soon as they arrive.) To be honest, I’m not sure this resulted in me buying fewer seeds last year: I just ended up with a lot more variety because we split so many seed packets. It was great!