Thursday, March 16, 2017

New Beginnings

Spring promises of things to come.  It is around the corner here and with spring comes new chances.  Gardeners are an optimistic bunch.  Every year brings new hope with every seed that sprouts.  We tell ourselves that this will be the year that the garden grows lush and productive.  We will remember to do our succession planting.  We will stay on top of weeding and harvesting!  We’ve spent the cold months plotting and planning and dreaming and now it is time to get out there and make the garden grow!

Of course, there will be challenges, there are always challenges.  But each year the challenges are a little bit less insurmountable. Every year I learn a little bit more about how to successfully grow food in my corner of the world.  Every season will be slightly different.  Some years the rains come until fungi grow better than plants.  In other years, the rain is sparse and the sun is intense and the plants bake.   Gardening is never dull or predictable.  You learn to adapt and do the best you can to the changing conditions. 

Every year I like to try to grow something new.  This year I’m trying some new veggies: celery and mustard, which are completely not adapted to my climate, but that’s why they are a challenge.  Both grow best in cool weather, which we tend to avoid.  It seems our weather is either cold, warm or hot!  I’m hoping if it’s too hot here to successfully grow mustard and celery that they will at least bolt and produce seeds.  I use both of their seeds in pickling banana peppers and in some dishes.  If I end up with plenty of mustard seeds, then I can always make some mustard.  I’ve already started both celery and mustard for spring planting, but if they do not grow well in the spring I may try again in the fall.

In the herb bed, I want to add ginger and turmeric.  There’s a farm not too far from here that sells rhizomes of these and has detailed instructions about how to grow them.  Both are tropical plants, so they are not hardy here.  They require a long growing season and need to be pre-sprouted inside to ensure enough growth to get harvests before the first frost.  I use ginger and turmeric often for curries, so it’ll be nice to have some fresh flavors from the garden.

For permanent additions to my garden, I’m putting in a new bed that will hold asparagus and some perennial onions.  I’ve ordered fifty asparagus crowns: Half Jersey Knight and half Jersey Supreme.  I’ve been wanting to get asparagus planted for a few years and this is the year.  The bed is ready and my crowns should arrive Friday!  It’ll be a few years before I get to enjoy a bounty from my asparagus bed, but I’m sure it is worth the wait.  The rest of the bed will be devoted to perennial onions.  These will be planted in the fall, so I haven’t settled on what I’m planting yet.  So far I’m thinking of Egyptian walking onions and potato onions. 

Another big change for my garden this year is that it has officially become a no-till garden.    I am going into my fourth year at this garden and since I plant directly in the ground, tilling was necessary to break up the soil and turn up the never ending supply of rocks.  Tilling, however, has some negative consequences.  The soil where I live has a considerable amount of clay, so tiling can cause compaction.  Tilling also leads to increased soil erosion and I am especially concerned about this since my garden has a significant slope to it.  Tiling also breaks up the natural soil structure and the ecosystem of organisms.  I’m a bit concerned about whether weeds will be worse without tilling and whether some pests will be able to overwinter and survive better in my untilled garden.  I think in the long run no-till will make the soil healthier, but I may encounter some speed bumps along the way.  I added compost to the beds and instead of tiling; I added plenty of water and covered them with black plastic.  I am hoping this will kill any weeds in the beds and add some warmth to the soil to allow for decomposition. 

For me, gardening is constant experiment.  I’m hoping 2017 will bring some new harvests along with an abundance of my favorites.

Are you trying new things in the garden this year?