The weather has turned the last couple of weeks and we’ve had a number of days in the eighties and a lot of sun, and the garden is responding to the summer like weather. While we had kale through the winter and some spring garlic to harvest over the past few months, it won’t be long until we get to the busy season in the garden.
With the warmer soil and longer days (sunset isn’t until almost 9PM now), it was time to plant my pepper and tomato plants. While I’d like to some day start those plants from seed, I don’t have a good place for seed starting inside our house, so I buy small plants instead. Because we have a shorter growing season and cooler days than some areas, the hot weather plants need a head start before the soil is warm enough to plant them outside.
Perennials are the darlings of my garden. Once you have them established, it takes such little work to keep them going year to year. A little pruning, a little fertilizer, and some water during the driest months of the year, and otherwise all that’s needed is to pick the fruit or vegetable when it’s ripe. I do enjoy working in the garden, but especially with a job and a toddler, it’s nice to know a good portion of the garden is more or less on autopilot.
At this point in the spring, the perennials ready to harvest are spring garlic, rhubarb, asparagus, and shallot tops. We’ve been going out to pick a bit of garlic at least a couple of times a week, adding it to ramen, teriyaki, tacos, and many other dinners. The garlic is delicious and adds a little extra to whatever we happen to be cooking that night.
The berry plants have started to flower and are covered in bees, which seem to really love raspberry flowers in general. While I don’t plant anything specifically for the bees, the garden has quite a few different flowers they’re attracted to, and I leave the clovers that sprout alone for that very reason. Bees are great pollinators and need all the help they can get, so I’m always thrilled when my garden is humming with bee sounds.
In another month or so, the berry flowers should be over and the berries ripe for picking. I do can a few pints of jam for our personal consumption as well as for Christmas gifts, but the berry bushes are now well enough established that we make sure to invite the neighbors over to pick berries as well. I grew up thinking I hated blueberries, but it turns out I only hate the commercial variety; I adore home grown blueberries.
Plant Purchases In May:
1. Compost: $10.43
We had some side dressing plant fertilizer left over from last year and have picked up a number of bags of coffee grounds from Starbucks so we didn’t need a ton of extra compost, but we did get one bag of generic compost mix and one bag of chicken manure.
We’ve gotten chicken manure directly from friends in the past, but we were too busy in April and I just didn’t coordinate well this spring. Hopefully we can get more this fall that can mature in the beds for springtime planting. You don’t want to eat food grown directly out of fresh chicken or steer manure, so this is something that needs to be planned out 4-6 months in advance of when you plan on harvesting your garden. Our rhubarb especially seems to appreciate the chicken manure.
When I set up a new raised bed or garden pot, I use a simple hugelkultur setup to layer the soil before planting. Before I add regular garden soil and compost, I layer the bottom with larger logs (think firewood), leaves, twigs, cardboard, and other scraps. Not only is this a cheap way to reduce the amount of soil you need to buy, the gradual decomposition of the materials continues to feed nutrients to the soil well beyond the first season. Thanks to this setup, I’ve found I need to add less fertilizer to the soil than if I set up the raised beds more typically with just regular garden soil.
2. Peppers: $14.97
Varieties: Fireball, Hungarian Black, Jalapeño, Mini Bell
We are big spice and hot sauce fans, so we tend to focus on growing hot peppers. In the past, we’ve even grown Ghost peppers, though they weren’t terribly prolific. I’d grow them again, but it’s rare to find a plant for sale, so I’ll probably have to get to growing them from seed before we’ll have them in the garden again.
Since it doesn’t usually get overly hot in the Pacific Northwest, smaller sized peppers seem to do better, and I’ve had zero luck growing full size bell peppers. I know others do, but I have yet to figure out the trick that makes that happen.
3. Tomatoes: $20.97
Varieties: Cherokee Purple, Stupice, Sweet Million, Sun Gold
Cherokee Purple are hands down my favorite tomato variety. They’re reasonably prolific, require less water, and are absolutely delicious. If I were to grow just one variety in a year, this would be it. The other variety that returns year after year is the Sun Gold cherry tomato. They’re one of the best tasting cherry tomatoes, and they are hands down my mom’s favorite, so I make sure to grow enough to gift her some of the fruits. When my parents are back to having their own garden in the future, I won’t gift her any from my yard, but I’ll still plant a few of them for our own consumption.
4. Saved seeds: $0
I had saved some bean and flower seeds previously and we planted them in May as well. While I haven’t gone much down the rabbit hole of seed saving, there are some plants that are just ridiculously easy to save their seeds. Marigolds and any kind of beans are in that group, and all that needs to be done to save them for the next year is to let them dry out on the vine and then save them in a container until you’re ready to plant the next year.
Garden Cost, May: $46.37
Garden Cost, Year: $65.32