Friday, May 1, 2015

An Upstate garden in the spring

Although I may dream of turning our backyard into an urban farm, we are still a long ways from the amount of produce coming out of Ēriks and Linda’s or Eliza's gardens. It would be nice to reap more from what we sow, but I’m realistic with the amounts of work, space and sunlight required and also know that in the heat of the Southern summer even a few days away mean a plant-sitter is necessary. However, I am proud of what we have accomplished in our 2.5 years here: starting with the construction of the raised beds and planting of the berry bushes, then the installation of another bed on the front end of the yard, finally a new bed leading all along the side of the house. The newest bed was a good spring project and I’ll be covering that in a later post because it’s such an easy project that really opens up a multitude of options, but today on the 1st of May I want to share our spring garden.

The two beds within the wood chip area that also contains the boys’ play area are a work in progress, as I’m slowly learning what can and cannot tolerate the levels of stress (from soccer balls and rowdy play) and shade that they receive. The one next to the shed gets more sun, and so the rosemary and iris my neighbor separated for me are filling out beautifully. The second one is in the shade a large portion of the day, and so far the only things that have survived are monkey grass and the Latvian mint. This might be a perfect spot for the mint as it is easy to corral, and it can tolerate the abuse (even being dug up a couple of times by well-meaning assistant gardeners) and still yield a harvest for mojitos.

The berry bushes are doing really well, and we’ve had a nice steady harvest of raspberries and blueberries for a daily snack the past two summers. I think this year there will be even more raspberries, and someday I hope the black currant will start fruiting. I hope to separate out some raspberries this fall to plant on the other side of the house next to the blackberries, and then we’ll have a nice berry patch in an area that’s not suited for much else at the moment. The muscadine grapevine we planted last year is growing like crazy this spring, and hopefully we’ll have enough berries for me to make a batch of jam.

The raised beds are really a potpourri, as I’m slowly learning what will and will not do well. Potatoes and sweet potatoes have really been pounded by grubs, so I had already decided not to plant any this summer when a few new plants came up from forgotten pieces still in the ground. I don’t have the heart to pull them up just yet, so I’m allowing them to grow until the cucumbers and onions I have planted there need the space. The radishes ended a couple months ago, and the kale and carrots are reaching the end of their days; they overwintered well, and have been producing for us almost all winter. The snap beans have taken off (although I might have planted them a little late this year) and are already climbing the strings above the trellis, and we planted fewer tomatoes in hopes they would produce better. The giant celery weed my mother planted thinking it was parsley has been transplanted to the new bed – we’ll see how it does there. I just have very little use for it, and hope the parsley and basil I planted in its place will not immediately bolt (although that has been my experience with it, as well as with cilantro when planting in the spring).

Friends brought cucumber and squash to plant in the new beds, and in addition to the zucchini and watermelon we are attempting there, we’ll have a good idea of our options next year. Since there is so much space, I planted a whole bunch of other things as well with the idea that it will help determine what can and can’t grow in the unique conditions of the new bed; peas, a tomato, parsley, dill, pepper, sunflowers and marigolds. The limiting factors are sunlight (only mornings) and heat (next to the brick wall). So far the best immediate result has been from the strawberries I transplanted from our raised beds into the pallet garden we built last year.

There are still a few things we would like to accomplish this year. I would like to finish the bed around our big tulip poplar alongside the porch that in the interim contains a few seed bombs from our Earth Day celebration. Meanwhile Roberts wants to construct a potato box – one that dirt can be added to as the plant grows and then layers removed as the potatoes are harvested. With the amount of soil required I’m not sure this will be the optimum solution for our yard, but in the meantime in attempt to avoid the grubs I’ve planted a few spuds in a different bed. And there is the matter of the other side of the house that currently has the lone blackberry and a forsythia that didn’t bloom this year; the challenge on that end is that water isn’t easily accessible and sunlight is limited.

What is in your garden this spring? For my friends up north, have you started planting yet? Do you have any grandiose plans for your yard this year? Please share, I love hearing your plans, suggestions and ideas, as it provides me with inspiration and energy!


  1. Please don't blame the celery "weed"(?) enitrely on me...! You were along when we got it. Luckily the blueberry bushes we got at the same turned out to really be blueberries!
    And I certainly wouldn't be offended if you liquidated the celery weed - I don't like and don't eat celery. But I thought RJK did? With peanut butter? Or cream cheese and raisins?

    1. It would be one thing if it was actually celery. From what I understand, it is an herb - the leaves taste like celery. I've certainly never seen enough of a stem to eat it like celery.


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