I thought people might enjoy seeing some pictures of this year’s garden. I spent much of March anxiously gazing out my window into the yard, first wondering if the snow would ever melt, then wondering if it would ever get warm enough to plant anything. Once the snow was gone, I would go out every day (sometimes more than once) to poke at the hard, frozen dirt in the raised bed. Is it thawing yet? How far can I stick my finger in before I hit ice?
Well, as it always does, spring has come to New England. I started planting hardy, cool-season vegetables on April 4th, a few days after I noticed the first crocuses blooming in our neighborhood. I put in fava beans, spinach, radishes, parsley, chervil, and komatsuna. Three days later, I added chives, baby bok choy, red giant mustard, and mizuna.
Here’s a picture, from April 7th. Gardening experts among you may notice that I’m using the square-foot gardening method. Sort of. I don’t bother with a permanent grid to mark out the squares, I just used tomato twine strung around some small nails that I hammered into the frame of the raised bed. I don’t have the complete grid yet in this picture, just enough to mark the areas I’ve planted. Actually, three of the planted squares are not completely delineated by grid. Wonder of wonders, the plants still came up and thrived. The world did not end. (If you’ve ever read Mel Bartholomew’s blog–he’s the founder of the square-foot gardening technique–you’ll notice that he’s quite opinionated about the Only True Way to do square-foot gardening. And about a lot of other things. Others who promote the square-foot gardening approach, like Boston area non-profit The Food Project, are less dogmatic about it.)
The chicken wire is there to keep squirrels from digging up the newly-planted bed. I was too lazy to make a chicken wire cover for both sides. Actually, I already had the one chicken wire cover I made last year (it wasn’t wide enough, so I had to snip wires and twist them together to make a cover that would go over one entire half of the bed).
One week later. I’ve planted more stuff (beets, carrots, Swiss chard, and a second square of radishes). You can see I’ve finished the grid, and covered the second half with chicken wire. You can also see a dusting of cayenne pepper on the southern side of the bed (top). The chicken wire wasn’t quite as effective at keeping squirrels out as I’d hoped. They were apparently able to sit on top of the mesh and poke their miserable little paws through the holes. They do much more extensive digging without the mesh, though. It helps a bit. Like most mammals, squirrels hate the capsaicin in cayenne pepper, so it can keep them out of your garden for a while. Unfortunately, they do get used to it, as I discovered last fall when they were frantically burying hickory nuts among the newly planted lettuces.
You may also notice that the grass is ever so slightly greener in the second photo.
The third photo (below), is from April 21st. We had snow and a hard frost between photos 2 and 3. Yeah. Gotta love New England weather. I’ve taken the chicken wire off the northern side because, although you can’t really see them in this picture (they’re too small), the spinach seedlings are up, and the dirt isn’t entirely level in the bed, so the spinaches (in an area where the dirt was higher) were poking up through the holes in the wire. And I needed to cover up the mustard seedlings in that half (the 4 tiny dots in the row second from the bottom, on the left), since the temperatures were dropping below 30. I just used upside-down drinking glasses. For the side that still had chicken wire, I put a doubled sheet of black plastic over it, resting on top of the mesh, weighted down with bricks. (One of the cold nights was very windy.)
The uncovered spinaches and radishes ended up with a half inch of snow on top of them. But they were fine. And the seeds that hadn’t come up yet did eventually emerge. Except for the chives, but I’m not sure what’s going on with them. The seed may have been too old.
More cayenne pepper, around where I’ve planted the fava beans. Because I really didn’t want to have to replant them, due to squirrel activity. I’m not sure I’ll get a crop to begin with; they prefer temperatures below 70 F, and Boston doesn’t have a lot of days in the spring between when the ground is frozen and when temperatures are well above 70. Also, I don’t think I really get 6 hours of sunlight in this yard, so crops take longer to mature. We’ll see. I really like fava beans, so I’m hoping to get some.
The plastic wrap weighted down by small stones is over the chervil. Chervil needs light to germinate, so you’re supposed to press the seeds into the soil surface. But it’s hard to keep them moist enough. I’m using the Saran wrap to create a mini-greenhouse.
Below, a week later. Even more green grass. You can see the fava beans easily now, in the lower left corner and the one next to it. I’ve taken away the second chicken wire cover, because the beets (which are still difficult to see, in this picture) were poking up through the holes. Also, I’ve switched over from the Saran wrap greenhouse to ones made out of drinking glasses. Some of the chervil came up, so you’ll only see 2 glasses in the chervil square instead of 4. The other glass is covering some newly-sown marjoram, which also requires light. I replanted the chives that never came up, with fresh seed. And I’ve planted a third square of radishes, and some cilantro. Dill, too, but that’s in one of the pots that you can’t see in this view. There’s a bunch of stuff in pots, along the edge of the yard, and on my patio, but I’m just focusing on the raised bed here.
And, finally, a photo from May 5th, 4 days ago. More cayenne pepper, marking sites of past and continuing depredation by pesky squirrels. You can see a lot of changes from the previous week. Things are really taking off now. I’ve been thinning the greens and adding the thinnings to our salads, or just using them to garnish whatever vegetable side dish I’m serving for dinner (microgreens!). I ate a radish, but it really wasn’t big enough. The first square of radishes is growing rapidly, though. I think they’ll be ready next week.
Sometimes I write, too. It would be fair to say I’m more excited about the gardening right now.