May Garden Roundup

May 31st, 2010

Looks like our heat and humidity are here to stay.  Our normally cool May ended up as a preview of the dog days of summer.  I even picked green beans today!  Go figure… but the heat has some advantages.  Most of the vegetables seem to really be taking off now, with the presumed advantage of not having as many insects around yet to bother them while they were just starting out.  Kind of  like a head start before the critters appear in earnest.   We’ve already got squash and cucumber blooming now, with nary a beetle in sight. 

Of course the sugar snap peas may have a much shorter season if the heat remains.  But this week they’ve really come into their own and are producing about a pint of sweet pea pods each day.  They practically grow overnight, and are so delicious that you can eat them right off the vine.  And what is it about picking them… no matter how many times you go up and down the rows, you always find another big one or two that you missed seeing before!

Ah, fresh, crispy organic lettuce! The heat shortens the season for lettuce too, but we’re enjoying some nice romaine now. I hope it grows for a few weeks more- I really like the tall, stiff and crunchy leaves for salads and sandwiches.  I’ll bet I could make a nice container area in the shade and plant some throughout the season?

Last year the cherries on our Northstar var. didn’t ripen until the end of June, but they were ready this week! The birds began to feast on them, so we picked the few remaining.   I look forward to the day when we have enough for a pie or two…

The summer squash have even begun blooming already too.  I don’t expect them to set and produce quite yet, and these are actually male blossoms.   I haven’t tried them, but they say you can collect these and fry them up for a tasty treat.   Of course if you did that too much you might not get any squash!   I’ll keep looking for the female blossoms that should come soon.

It’s fun seeing the garden come along. This year I’ve taken to layering straw throughout the garden, and up against the rows. It really helps keep down the weeds, and to retain the moisture in the upper soil.  Maybe that’s basic gardening, but I didn’t expect to use so much.   I’m also pleasantly surprised that I like having it around all over the walking areas.   Is there a downside to using straw? I don’t know, but it’s less expensive than most other options, and anything that helps with weed control is a plus, especially since I’m trying the organic approach without using chemicals in the garden.  We don’t have a hay barn or a good place to store the bales however, so if the straw gets wet before using it starts sprouting grass and such. A project for another day…

Oh, and see my gardening pal?  The boy has been a tremendous help lately.  Do you know he’s even beat me outside early in the morning on several days? ;) He likes to be the first one out there to pick the peas and help with weeding. It’s a little game we play. And he has help too!

The chickens follow us around, and like to see what we’re pulling up when weeding.  Of course I have learned that kids love picking vegetables, but weeds?  Not so much. A little cajoling helps, and this patch is all cleaned up and covered with straw again now. I’m trying to set an example with the caretaking, and to help him learn how our actions and diligence can lead to good things… it’s hard to compete with so many other things that are a lot more fun than weeding though, and I still want to keep it fun. So far the chickens have been happy scratching around digging for worms and eating little weeds themselves. I imagine when they’re bigger they would decimate the garden!

8 Responses to “May Garden Roundup”

  1. Ed

    Picked a handful of cherries off my tree before the birds got to them this past weekend. There were probably a handful I couldn’t reach and I left them for the birds. Man they were tasty.

    I think my tomatoes grew over a foot this past week.

    Back in the day, we used to mulch our garden completely with straw. I don’t remember any drawback other than it wasn’t as pleasant to garden in with bare feet as the cool soil.

    Per Ron’s blog, I am using grass clippings this year which so far, has worked out very well. Plus I don’t have the storage issue you mentioned since it is ready available once a week.

  2. i find mulch to be extremely effective when it comes to controlling weeds. and we heap it on, many inches thick. whenever a tree chipper truck is in the neighborhood, we get them to dump it at our house. free mulch! i think that decomposing chips deplete nitrogen, so there is that factor, but with the high-nitrogen poop from the coop it seems to work. plus it isn’t really dug into the soil.

    the mulch REALLY shows it’s effectiveness during our hot dry summers, holding water very well.

    our garden is sooo far behind…it has been a very wet and cold may. so i enjoy looking at your photos and dreaming of what may be. yet. *sigh*

    my girls are pretty good in the garden. the salad stuff is fenced off so they can’t get to it; the rest the dig around. pretty much the worst they do is step on plants. they have two favorite dust bath spots and i discourage them from creating new ones.

  3. I am super jealous of your cherries! I am doing well with raspberries but I don’t have any cherry trees…and I just bought 3 lbs of cherries last night and holy moley they are expensive! Well done!

  4. My plum tree is going to town as well, causing the whitetails to come up during the night. I can tell by the deer poop on my sidewalk.

    As for your cherries, I’ll wait until you have two pies worth, before I pay you an unannounced visit.


  5. I want to get a couple of cherry trees too. Need to get on that.
    Your garden looks great! I have been using pine straw because it’s abundant here and you don’t have to worry about it sprouting anything but would think straw would be fine too.
    The chickens look great too!

  6. Everything is looking great!

    One downside I’ve had with mulch is that it can provide cover for voles. I have pine voles, and had to do some extensive trapping this spring.

    Another is that it will keep your soil temps cooler, a plus in mid-summer, but not so good for warm-season veggies early on. Our season is plenty long enough here in MO though.

    Finally, squash bugs love mulch. Horrible, nasty, yucky things.

    All that said, though, mulch has an awful lot of pros too. I use tons of oak leaves, which decompose slightly slower than many other kinds of mulch. I’ll do more vole trapping in fall and winter when food is more scarce, and avoid mulching the squash bed to help offset the negatives.

  7. Ed- Good to know about the straw; I like the grass clippings idea, but I tend to mulch/leave it on the ground. Those cherries really are great.
    Chook- What great info… I love mulch, but it usually is not free around here. Goes for around $20-$25 per yard, which is just too high. What a great source you have! Thanks for the chicken info- they seem to like the smaller plants, grasses, lettuce, etc, so I’ll try to keep the good stuff covered. And yes, they were stomping all over the potatoes today!
    Randall- I’ll invite the lot of you if I get two pies worth! Hope you get some of those plums… that might give me an excuse to put venison in the freezer :)
    Annie- Pine straw! I’ve heard that is great, and the acidic nature keeps the weeds down too. Thanks :)
    Ron- Pine voles?! Ah, yes I think I just call them field rats :) Trapping in the garden, oh boy. So far the cats have worked for most critters around here, but we have the burrowing moles instead. But interesting about the soil temps and squash bugs, thanks. I need to incorporate more leaf mulch; I’m curious how the straw and leaf mulch will mix… so far I like the drying nature of the straw on top of things.

  8. Ed

    I mulch my grass clippings (i.e. leave it on the ground) whenever I don’t need them for my garden. Then when I need them, I add the bagger and use it until I have enough. It is a wonderful system, essentially free and scalable to my usuage.

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