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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?