Welcome Spring

Edible Garden BeginsToday thin green spinach seedlings popped out of the seed starter soil, a perfect start to Spring. During our late winter snowfall last week,  I planted seeds for our summer kitchen garden.  I found this wire rack at the Goodwill and thought it perfect to hold our seedlings.  This year I plan to make our raised beds more visually appealing with a mix of flowers planted among vegetable plants.  I picked attractive vegetable plants including peppers, eggplants and spinach for our garden below the deck.  I will grow patio tomatoes in pots on the deck to keep them from getting unruly.  I learned my lesson from last year.  My son requested his favorite flower, Forget-Me-Not, so we started those from seed, too. My husband planted garlic last fall, and tall green stalks are appearing around the raised beds already.  They will be harvested in July, so I am hoping they will not detract from the plan to have a more beautiful garden that invites relaxation.  The snow in this photo has melted.  Spring is here bringing many garden dreams!

Snail in Our Spinach Bed

snail in our spinach bed

I found a snail and a slug in our spinach bed yesterday. My son was thrilled to play with these two critters while my husband and I worked in the plot. He made them a little home of sticks, rocks and leaves. I heard him say, “I cracked snaily’s shell by accident!” My heart sank. He was upset at first, but our new hose attachment distracted him. Later, I learned how damaging snails can be to newly planted seedlings. “Snaily” had to go. We just transplanted our tomato, peppers and eggplant seedlings to our garden plot!

Here are a few facts about snails from the Good Bug Bad Bug book. Snails attack young seedlings, lettuce, ripening strawberries, tomatoes and peppers. They will not eat plants with fragrant foliage or fuzzy leaves. To prevent snails and slugs in your garden….keep it clear of garden debris where they can hide and eat decaying plant matter, water garden in the morning to allow foliage to dry before night fall, and remove snails by hand and place them in a jar of soapy water. To protect seedlings from slugs, place pieces of window screening around seedling base (snails detest rough surfaces). Ducks, moles, shrews, garter snakes, frogs, toads and turtles eat snails.

This is the first time we’ve noticed a snail in our garden plot. Did all the recent rain make our plot more attractive to snails? Have you seen snails in your garden?

Turnips and Spinach

We visited our community garden plot at Howard County Conservancy yesterday. We found some treasures in the soft thawed soil.

our winter spinach

one of our many winter turnips
Turnips and spinach are growing under our row covers. Our first experiment of over-wintering our late fall crops worked!  Last fall, I planted lettuce, turnips and spinach seeds a bit late.  We did not have a good fall harvest of these crops.  In November, I covered the growing crops with row covers.   What a thrill to peel back the row covers yesterday to find green turnip tops and purple and white turnip roots, tender dark green spinach leaves and curly bright green lettuce sprouts.  I even pulled weeds out of the spinach bed.  Row covers are good winter blankets for the garden!

Growing in Our Mini Plot

Mini Plot Salad Table Made by My Husband

My husband built a salad table one Saturday afternoon this past spring.  He followed the plans for the Salad Table from the Grow It Eat It Network.  He built it from wood piled in our garage.   After he completed it,  we had a little more space in our garage and a mini plot on our deck.  A variety of crops grew in our salad table this year.  In early summer,  swiss chard, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce and arugula grew in it.   My son helped me pick  the tender leaves.  The table is the perfect height for him to reach and pick without bending over or standing on his toes.   We ate lots of mixed salads and swiss chard this summer. I sautéed the swiss chard in olive oil with garlic, salt  and pepper then tossed with pasta.  Swiss chard is good in minestrone soup, too.

Wild Fennel

The fall crops are now growing in the salad table.  Recently, this wild fennel shoot popped up unexpectedly.  I learned that wild fennel can be an  invasive plant.  It does not have the celery-like stem of sweet fennel.  Its delicate leaves have a strong anise  or licorice flavor.   Clippings of fennel leaves in a salad are a happy surprise to taste buds.  Along with the wild fennel there is spinach, radishes and two mystery greens growing in the table.   The mystery greens are transplants from my husband’s coworker.   Our mini plot’s first growing season was a success.  It grew some gregarious greens!

The Unexpected Sprouts

A clear blue sky, crisp cool air, warm sunshine plus adventure equals a perfect Saturday in autumn.  We headed for our garden plot this afternoon but had a few diversions before arriving there.    We stopped at a pet store and a fall festival.  We went to the pet store to purchase biscuits for our dog and my son discovered a playful kitten.  My son slipped a thin metal wire through the kitten’s cage.  The cat flipped, batted, jumped and kicked at the bunch of cardboard strips hanging at the wire’s tip.  My son roared in laughter.  He did not want to leave the pet store.  We redirected  him with hope of a hayride at our community garden site.    The Howard County Conservancy was full of activities for its fall festival.   We bumped through rolling fields and woods on a hayride pulled by a tractor with wheels taller than my son.   A master gardener at the compost demo gave my son a bunch of pink and blue balloons.  My son slurped honey from a straw and chatted about bees with a woman from the Howard County Beekeepers Association.  We listened to steel pounding on steel as a blacksmith hammered a hot orange metal rod into a fork after heating it in a coal fire stoked by large bellows.  My son said the banging was his favorite.   While my husband and son lingered and asked questions  in the blacksmith shop,  I finally visited our garden plot.

 

Turnip Seedling

 

Our plot is still producing tomatoes, peppers and beans.  I picked two grocery bags full of red and green tomatoes and peppers.  I pulled out and composted three tomato plants that had toppled to the ground.  Our fall plantings sprouted!  Radish, turnip, spinach and lettuce seedlings  now sprinkle the brown earth in unplanned patterns of curving rows, circles, clumps, pairs and triples.  Some extra seeds must have dropped from my hand during planting.  Many seedlings will need to be pulled out to allow more space for underground growth.

Those unexpected sprouts remind me of our day.   Unexpected adventure and fun popped up despite my plans.  Thank you God, for your goodness and for dropping some extra seeds outside my rows of plans.