It's Spring!

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Well, we did get a frost last night, another one expected tonight, and there's still the usual cold snap in May to get through - but my personal spring signal has popped up.  The asparagus is here!  We'e only had 3 edible spears emerge so far, but that means there's more on the way, and if you get down close to the ground, you can see dozens of baby stalks furring the bed, where they snuck through the mulch last fall and waited until now to pop up.  I hope to find time this spring to transplant them to the orchard - I want more, more, more asparagus, but I can't keep using my hard-earned raised beds for it!  We are getting enough trees in the orchard that we are able to fill in between them with rows of things like prickly pear cactus, raspberries, strawberries, and hopefully soon asparagus.  

I'm in that limbo time between the end of early spring planting, and the beginning of summer planting.  I've gotten all the radishes and carrots started in the hoophouse that I can.  There's certainly some room left, but I've run out of time, and anything else will be cooked by the time it matures, especially carrots.  At this point, the rest of the empty space needs to be saved for the summer crops - corn, melons, sweet potatoes - that will start going in in another few weeks.  

I did get some of my brassicas transplanted from the cold frame into the main garden.  The Napa cabbage babies were getting pretty big, so I moved them into the small hoophouse in the yard where they'll still get the cold protection, and also won't be getting as hot on warm days as in the big hoophouse.  That transplant took some serious bed-prep work - but not as bad as it could have been!  I had known that bed was weedy - it had been empty since the last of the fall radishes in December, so the chickweed was definitely gaining a foothold - and I thought that I would get some alpaca poop onto it and fork-turn it rather than trying to weed and till.  Well, I opened up the cover last week to start that work, and realized that even just fork-turning wouldn't work - the weeds were so thick and tall that they would just poke right up out of the hole they were turned in, and keep right on growing.  The thought of hand-weeding was just absurd!  Instead, we mowed the overgrown path and then actually mowed the bed (I've never done that before!!) and we spread a layer of alpaca manure, then laid chicken feed sacks over the whole bed.  We used the cut grass clippings and weeds from surrounding garden beds to weight the sacks down, then I (despite Liam begging to do this part) took a big butcher knife and stabbed holes in each feed sack to plant the cabbage through.  It all worked well, the sacks will give good water retention and weed suppression for quite a while.  In a few weeks I plan to come back, fold the sacks under at the overlapping edges, and plant a row of corn in between each row of cabbage.  The Napa is a cool-weather plant, so I'd like to get some shade cover there for them before the weather gets too hot.  Since this is in the small hoophouse, there should be a bit of cold protection for the corn as well, so I'm hoping that all works out well.  

I'd also like to get another bed of carrots planted for summer, before my window passes and it'll be too hot by the time they finish.  It's also about time to start prepping for true summer planting - compost and tilling - so that my beds are fertilized and fluffy when it's time to plant eveything else.  We've moved the ducks from their pen of the last couple years, and need to get that amended and tilled, and - very importantly - get the fence rerouted around it, so it's fenced into the garden, rather than still part of the greater yard with full access for dogs, chickens, ducks, geese, etc.  That would be a death sentence for anything I planted there!

Caleb got 9 apple tree seedlings this weekend - really saplings, they're 6' trees, a local fundraiser was selling them for a great price - and just finished planting those this morning.  The rest of the orchard is looking pretty good, the mulberries, plums, blueberries and apple are blooming, the bees are busy, and most everything else is leafing out - the pecans, hazelnuts, elderberry, seaberry, pear, etc.  Caleb and the boys are working right now on digging up the figs.  We have 3 fig trees in the orchard, but I decided they would be better off in the hoophouse.  We have the "Chicago Hardy" variety, which is supposed to tolerate freezes and just grow back from the ground every year, but there are some flaws with this system.  So far, they have never started leafing out until early June, and just manage to ripen a fig or so by October frost.  As a warm-climate plant, they should certainly like the heat they'll get in the hoophouse in the summer, and the extra month of warmth in spring and fall will hopefully be critical to a better harvest.  With just a few extra weeks early and late, we should be able to actually get the whole crop of fruit, rather than watching them freeze and drop off just before they were ripe!  If these 3 do well, I plan to take cuttings of them and ideally propagate a whole row of them in the hoophouse.  Mmm, fresh figs!  If you've never had one, you are really missing out!

Comments

Another wonderful post!

I love how carefully you look at the environment around you and so clearly explain what you're doing and why!

creativity

Great details on what it takes to keep food growing, how much you need to know about your particular micro climate. Good to hear the orchard is developing. Ah, spring!

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