As promised, today’s post will be a long overdue update on the state of the garden (the last one was back in November, so almost six months ago). That said, there hasn’t really been enough to write a full post about until now because we had such a cold couple of winter months and my spring planting got pushed later than a typical year.

I also didn’t do a great job planning ahead for overwintering vegetables like I have in the past, so there were no carrots to pull up in the middle of winter and the Swiss chard we were eating actually came out of a neighbor’s yard. I really would like to get serious about year round produce though, so perhaps this fall will finally be the year where I set up some hoop houses. Hopefully writing about it here will be the push I need to get them built.

Currently Harvesting

Thanks to both my lax preparation last fall and the longer than typical freezing weather, we’re harvesting less now than we were a month earlier last year. So far, the only think we’ve been regularly eating out of the garden this year is spring garlic.

We purposefully planted one bed full of garlic, and the bulbils I planted a year and a half ago are finally growing big enough this spring that I think they’ll turn into full fledged garlic later on. It’s been a fun experiment, but I think I’ll stick to planting full garlic cloves in the future like normal.

We had also attempted to fully rid another raised bed of the garlic that had been growing there for a number of years in order to rotate the plants and reduce the chance of disease to them. We thought we’d gotten it all, but this spring made it clear that we didn’t get even close to fully eradicating it, so half of the bed is full of spring garlic.

It’s worked out well because we’ve been able to leave the purposeful garlic bed to get large and eventually bulb up this summer while eating the garlic out of the older bed, but we really do need to get them out completely this year, even if it means replacing some of the soil.

Apparently our most prevalent weed in the garden these days is garlic. A tasty, edible weed, but it’s starting to get out of control. It’s even started sprouting in the lawn. Instead of a creeping thyme ground cover to replace the grass, we could just let the garlic spread it seems. Until we mowed the “lawn” and the entire neighborhood begins to reek of garlic.

I had also “planted” some Black Seeded Simpson lettuce last fall (see again: volunteers when I didn’t pick the seed heads quickly enough), but it hadn’t grown large enough to be harvested before the weather turned too cold and it started to get brown and wilted. Oddly enough, it has bounced back this spring and looks awesome and will be eating it soon, something I would expect with kale, but a surprise when it came to the lettuce.

Perennials

I’ve expanded the perennials in the yard over the years and they are the cornerstone of my garden at this point. While I absolutely love some of the annual vegetables that have to be planted every year, nothing beats the simplicity of the ones that come back on their own and only need a little bit of pruning and added nutrients to continue producing year after year.

The rhubarb will soon be ready for an initial harvest, and the asparagus and hops have both pushed through the soil. The raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and hazelnuts all have buds on them, but it will be a while until any of them have ripe fruit. The herbs are returning and the oregano in particular will be ready to have a few sprigs picked for dinners soon.

Once the raised beds are built, the soil is prepared for the long term (I prefer a style called hugelkultur), perennials are the easiest way to garden. With a life filled to the brim and a four year old running around, I don’t have the long hours to spend in the garden that I used to, and I love how productive our yard is without a ton of effort on my part. It may appear that I’m a master gardener, but really much of it runs on its own for a large part these days.

Overwintered Plants

I may not have prepared well this past fall for overwinter harvests, but I did plant quite a few things last fall that are really starting to take off now that the weather is warmer and the days are longer. Other than the fava beans, which were mostly meant to be a green cover crop anyway, everything appears to have come through the snowy weather just fine.

While not large enough to eat yet, the kale, purple sprouting broccoli, leeks, and celery are growing well and some will be ready to harvest in the next couple of months. I also didn’t remove the green onion flower heads early enough last fall, so some of the seeds dropped back to the ground instead of in my containers to save the seed, and I’ve been rewarded for waiting too long with new green onion sprouts. The same is true for my son’s garden bed, which has wildflowers sprouting again from the leftovers from last year, and the bees will be back in droves once the flowers emerge.

Planted and Growing

As I mentioned in the Frugal Five last week, we finally planted the remainder of the potatoes, and we had previously planted some carrots, which have sprouted and are getting their second set of leaves. In another week or two, I will plant more carrots so that we can harvest them in succession through the summer.

Future Planting

As the year is still young in terms of the garden, I still have a lot to plant, and the weather is warm enough that there will be a lot of seeds going into the ground in the next couple of months. I’ve never grown peppers and tomatoes from seed, but I think I will attempt that this year. I also had very few seeds to buy this year thanks to stepping up my seed saving game last summer, plus some seeds given to me by Budget Epicurean.

Cost

Thanks to that seed saving, all my existing perennial plants, and not building any new raised beds this year, I’ve spent very little on the garden in 2019 thus far. I’m debating whether I want to expand and add another raised bed or two or three, but I also like having the open space for my son and his friends to play in, so I haven’t expanded it yet.

If I do, I don’t expect I’ll do more than one more row of garden beds, or perhaps I will switch out the large garden pots I have and build out beds in their place for a more efficient use of the existing garden space. What ends up pushing me to expand is when I find myself partway through the year with too many early plants taking up space that I want for the summer vegetables. Since I filled up an entire bed with garlic and another with potatoes, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the year I decide that I again need more space.

Garden Cost, January: $0.00

Garden Cost, February: $36.61

Garden Cost, March: $0.00

Garden Cost, April: $0.00

Garden Cost, YTD: $36.61

Garden Cost, 2018: $169.64

So far, the only garden expenses I’ve had this year came from a few purchases at the Northwest Flower and Garden show back in February when I purchased seed potatoes and a few other seed packets including the carrots that were planted last month. I had some leftover chicken and steer manure from last fall as well as some other fertilizer, and otherwise I have most of the seeds I will need for this year.

This will change in the next couple of months when I buy a few seedlings and then again once we enter our dry season and I have to start watering the garden, but I’ve found that once I’ve set things up and plant mostly the seeds I’ve saved or have been given from others that the total costs associated with gardening are very minimal.

However, I didn’t track my spending when I was doing the big set up years and paying for the materials to build the raised beds (see this post on that cost – they aren’t cheap!) and buying blueberry bushes and other perennials. If you’re just starting out, there is definitely an outlay of cash to get set up. Long term though, gardening can be considerably less expensive than people make it out to be, as long as you go the frugal route of sticking to what you can continue to grow in future years without having to buy new every time.

Do you have a garden? What’s your favorite thing to grow?

34 thoughts on “Spring Garden Update: April 2019

  1. My favorite stuff is, like yours, the perennial. Our blueberries produce BUCKETS of blueberries every year. I also love spinach because you get multiple harvests. This year, I’m trying to put in garlic in just a spot in my yard – just let it grow and hopefully it will grow kind of wild, with minimal inputs. Your garden is amazing!

    1. Sooooo many blueberries. It’s the best. For whatever reason my spinach always seems to bolt, so I haven’t grown it for a while.

  2. Count me as jealous, and you don’t even have them protected. I put netting and cages around my vegetables in the past and the squirrels and chipmunks either chewed through them or burrowed under the ground and still got my vegetables. I’m happy there’s lots of critters in my neighborhood, but it makes it pretty impossible to grow anything.

  3. Heck yeah! Love perennials, still breathlessly waiting for the asparagus to come up this year. A few blueberry and blackberry bushes look like they’re going to set fruit too. I started TONS of seeds from my large heirloom collection since I finally got my greenhouse, so other than some herbs (which I have abysmal luck with starting from seed) and a few specific plant types I didn’t have seed for, this year’s garden is close to zero cost! I’ve got last year’s compost for fertilizer, and now the quail for manure. Hoping to save seeds from almost everything this year too.

    1. Oh! Had completely overlooked the quail for manure. If only you lived closer…

  4. So cool! Love how little you have to spend on your gardening, too. I used to be part of a community garden in San Diego and enjoyed it. Nothing like something you grew yourself.

    I think you might be on to something with the garlic lawn, too. Who doesn’t love the smell of garlic?

    1. Yeah, once you get things set up and get good at seed saving gardening can finally start being a money saving endeavor.

    1. I don’t track it, and that would be hard to do so because so much gets eaten before it even goes inside – especially the berries and snap peas 😉

  5. What a beautiful garden! I’m enjoying a sneak peak into your cost break down. And like you said, raised beds aren’t cheap so it’s important to think of all the upfront costs vs. annual! This post is very useful to people starting out.

    We’ve done some intense gardening in the past. It’s wise to do it because you love the challenge, NOT because you think it will save you a ton of money (ha, ha, ha)! Or maybe we were just doing it wrong…

    1. Yeah, I don’t even want to think about how much I’ve spent on the garden in the past haha. Convenient I didn’t start tracking until I was well established….

  6. Ha! That bit about using garlic as ground cover was funny! Seriously though, I’m jealous that you’ve been gardening already. I might start next week… if our weather cooperates. (That’s a big IF.)

  7. Ohh… I need to try the hugelkultur beds! We just tore out some bushes in the front yard and I have raised beds going in there (front yard is south facing and gets the best sun!) I am considering what to start planting! So glad it has finally warmed up enough 🙂

    1. They’re the best! It’s amazing how little I have to fertilize even years later because of the slow break down of the big materials.

  8. Now that we have our own house, I am hoping to set up a small garden this year. Of course, I have to wait for four inches of snow to now melt (lol). We have a firepit in the backyard that can’t actually work for fires due to bylaw so that might be where I try out a little herb garden. Keep your fingers crossed for me! P.s. your garden looks amazing and I am very jealous.

    1. What kind of fire laws do you have that you can’t use the fire pit? We have fires in our backyard quite regularly and it’s a bummer you can’t 🙁

      1. It’s a proximity issue. There are laws around how close it can be to wood and to your house. We can’t use the existing firepit because it’s too close to our fence and we don’t really want to disassemble it to move it. We have a moveable firepit that we might try using instead.

  9. Your garden is looking great. I absolutely can’t wait until I can start planting in my garden, which will happen come mid-June. I want to use the hugelkultur method in my garden in the future. I would say my favorite thing to grow is peas, with beans being a close second. They never make it into the house when I harvest them, I just stand among the rows snacking on the peas.

    1. I somehow completely overlooked planting my sugar snap peas this spring! I rectified that by planting some last night, but I’m hoping it doesn’t get too hot too fast for them, because like you they’re my favorite to snack on right in the yard.

  10. That’s one good looking garden, I should do a garden update too. Mrs. T has spent a lot of time in the garden (me mostly just mow the lawn lol).

  11. nice garden. i like perennials too because they’re so easy. i bought some blackberry plants that are enormous and thornless. i bought strawberry plants that weren’t very good and blueberries are tough here. ours will be a little light this year. mrs. smidlap always grows some tomatoes and sometimes from seed, just because she can’t NOT do it with her partly italian roots. i wish i took some rhubarb from my mom’s place years ago. we had it every year growing up and it required zero care.

    1. I’ve considered growing thornless blackberries before, but with how many wild ones there are nearby I can’t justify taking up garden space for them. But the idea of picking them without having to avoid thorns is pretty tempting lol

  12. Love the garden update! We’re starting our first-ever vegetable garden this year. Didn’t leave enough time to do the lasagna gardening approach so we’re double-digging (and boy do my arms feel it). We’re going to try starting everything from seed but will bail and purchase veggie starts if need be. I wish I would have planned for more perennials, but we let the kids pick and predictably, they went for peas, tomatoes and cabbage. The last few days have been great for gardening!

    1. I need to give you some of the seeds I’ve started! Maybe a bit late for some things this year but would be great for fall starts or next spring. Ps – keep forgetting to text you, we’ll be up in your neck of the woods later this month.

      1. I would love to get to the point where we can save seed for future growing seasons. Our library actually has a seed bank but I’m not comfortable using it until I can give back.

        I’m passing through your part of town a few times over the next few weeks. One way or the other, let’s see if we can make it happen!

      2. Sounds good! And again we will be up your way soon as well 🙂

    1. I do adore our yard, and even more so once the garden gets moving along 🙂

    1. Absolutely right! And clearly that’s been my focus over the years 🙂

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