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:

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

24 thoughts on “Spring Garden Update (May 2018)

    1. Cherokee Purple. Photo from a previous year. It will be a few months before the current plants produce any fruit 🙂

  1. Cherokee purples are SO GOOD (and I was so upset the last time I went to the farmers’ market for tomatoes and the few of them that were left were super soft or had huge spots on them 😭). My parents grow them and I look forward to them every year.

    Dammit now I’m going to be thinking about rhubarb pie all day…

    1. They are seriously THE best tomatoes in the entire world. But also the reason why I can’t do out of season tomatoes.

  2. our garden is suddenly humming along too. we’ve got an enormous grape vine from a previous owner but the fruit is lousy and seedy. it would be a good candidate for a graft of some higher quality eating grapes. maybe next year. i love cilantro but it dies every time and i’ve tried it 10 different ways. hey, y’all enjoy your trip and travel safe. washington d.c. traffic is murder is you can avoid it.

    1. That’s too bad that the grapes are lousy. I’d love a good grape vine. Maybe someday.

      And we are planning on avoiding DC altogether on this trip. DC needs to be its own trip with no driving involved 😉

    1. It’s worked pretty darn well for me so far! It’s amazing how even years later those beds are doing extra well.

  3. Your garden is on its way! How exciting! We started marigolds and sunflower seedlings 2-3 weeks ago. I hope to move them into the ground next week. Also, I planted zucchini in our raised garden bed last week. I’m waiting another week or two to plant the rest. Planting season is such an exciting time of year!

    1. What is it that holds you back from a veggie garden? They really can be pretty laid back depending on what and how much you grow.

  4. Yum, I love spring garlic and just the leaves of garlic in general. We’ve spent ~$5 on compost and $14 on one flat of annual flowers and veggies. I have so many seeds leftover from last year and everything seems to be coming up so that’s been awesome. When you get back from vacation there will be so much growth!

    1. Yeah I’m finally getting low on old seeds after buying WAY too many in years past. I can’t wait to see the growth after being gone for two weeks – hopefully berries soon after that!

  5. Love the spring garlic. When I was growing up my parents garden always had garlic harvested around this time of year and still do today. Those tomatoes looks good as well.

    1. Garlic is the best because we almost always have some from the garden, be it spring greens or cloves in the winter time.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this. Two days ago my landscaper came in and gutted my backyard. Soon I’ll have brick paving and lots of wicking veggie beds. It won’t be on the scale of the urban food forest I used to have, but it’ll be enough to feed us and to keep my hands dirty!

  7. I started a nice garden last year and it went well. There’s something very therapeutic about gardening and tending to plants while watching them grow. Weeding is also very satisfying. But I found gardening to not be cost effective.

    It must have been the way that I was doing it in the planter boxes at my neighborhood’s community garden. Plus, unless I have a lot of land, I can’t grow a lot to feed myself so it mostly was a hobby.

    Unfortunately, the gardeners also empty out the planter boxes every year so we can’t grow long-term trees and bushes like lemons and berries which need a few years before they mature and get good.

    Maybe when we move to have a backyard, gardening will become a sustainable, cost-effective strategy to feed my family and me.

    I certainly like the idea of reducing the plastic bag waste from the excessive packaging we get through Costco.

    1. Yeah, it would be really hard for gardening to be cost effective in a community plot because you have to pay for the space AND can’t set up for perennial plants, which I find to be the ones that make gardening “profitable” for me. Even in the first few years when it was definitely a costly hobby, it was so worth it for the reasons you mention.

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