No one would ever call me an optimist. I can find the down side to ANYTHING. But growing asparagus can make even me believe in the impossible.
Just like the experts advise, for two weeks we snapped off every single sign of life from the plants and gobbled them up, and when only a few teeny-weeny scraggly stragglers were coming up, we declared the harvest over.
Pessimism strikes. Surely we'd killed the plants, sapped them of all their energy, and the scraggly bits were going to shrivel and die, and the roots that hadn't sent up any final stragglers were already dead. It was absolutely impossible that they'd survived.
Asparagus, however, has more faith in itself than I do. New spears emerged from every single plant, even the one we didn't know existed, buried at the far end under mounds of weeds.
Spear by spear, I'm recovering a sense of optimism.
The asparagus harvest is over for the season. The plants had been neglected for several years, so they're unevenly productive. What we got was excellent -- sweet and tender enough to eat raw (which is what happened to most of it, although I did steam a few of the tougher stalks over a rice pilaf for dinner one night).
I'm guessing we got about two dozen spears. I have no idea how to attribute that toward our total harvest. Very few made it to the kitchen for cooking, let alone weighing.
If we're ever going to figure out how close we came to our 141 bushels needed for our vegetable self-sufficiency this year, we're going to need more detailed conversion tables. I suspect we're going to have to create our own, though, if it's a matter of converting "X spears of asparagus" to "Y bushels."
Since we're aiming for financial recovery in the garden, I just love volunteers -- the plants that grow from compost or simple self-seeding. We've got two plants that are probably in the squash/melon family that sprouted about a month ago and are growing like Jack's beanstalk. We also have a couple that I'm pretty sure are butternut squash seedlings, since they sprouted in the area where we composted last fall. Whatever they are, we have plenty of room, and it's like getting free (and often care-free) plants.
We also have another kind of volunteer -- Paul -- who tilled the two extra-weedy beds that we'd almost given up on. Okay, so he was volunteered by someone else, but he was great about it and generous with his time and energy and tiller.
Despite all the planning and the investing and the science, really, it's the volunteers that make a difference in the recovery garden.
We had a frost warning last night, but, while it was definitely chilly, there was no actual frost.
Memorial Day is early this year (25th), but planting weather is arriving late. With night temperatures predicted to be in the 40s and 50s this week, I'm reluctant to put the tomatoes out yet, even though the holiday weekend is the traditional planting time for them.
It's peak preparation time for the garden. Lots of digging and clean-up work without much immediate reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done.
The garden had been somewhat neglected for a few years, so brambles and wild grapes and weedy trees have formed a hedge all around it. I like the privacy that it offers for the urban garden, but the wild things have gotten out of hand and are blocking the sun, so we've been cutting them back and piling up the debris in massive heaps all around the yard. The paths need redefining, and the beds need turning, and the compost needs spreading.
Bit by bit, the prep work is all getting done, though, and it's starting to look like a real garden. Even better, it's starting to produce food. Not really quantifiable amounts, but asparagus has been eaten, the branches of sage have been collected before they could flower, and chives have been added to dill bread.
The onion seedlings have settled in nicely and resumed growing as if they'd never been transplanted, the sugarsnap peas are sending out runners to grab onto the fence, and the dill and swiss chard have sprouted. We have some volunteers that I thought were butternut squash, but now that the true leaves have come in, I'm not sure what they are. And we have some other volunteers that I'm pretty sure really are butternut squash.
We burned some garden debris the other day, in a barrel that was still mighty hot when we were done.
The night turned damp and chilly, and I had visions of the bunnies collecting around the barrels filled with red-hot coals, wearing fingerless gloves and holding their paws up to the heat. Or maybe, as my co-gardener suggested, singing campfire songs and making s'mores.
Some people are natural-born mothers. Me, not so much, but my neighbor and co-gardener definitely is a mom.
She, along with her husband, have raised a couple great kids. She mothers me, her co-workers, her boss, pretty much everyone she comes into contact with. She adopted two of the kittens we found, and is mothering them to the point of teaching them to swim backstroke while giving them their first bath.
She even mothers the garden. We have a somewhat shady, largely abandoned corner where a solid stand of garlic has established itself from the bulblets that form on the top of the stalks (that are supposed to be cut off, according to experts, but we never seem to get around to it). The plants are so thick it looks like a putting green.
Today, we were working in the garden (because a mom's work is never done), when we noticed some weeds were flanking the volunteer garlic patch. The garden's mom went after those weeds with a hoe and a vengeance. The garlic patch is safe now, all tucked in with a bit of landscaping fabric between them and the closest weeds.
The lilacs are at peak, despite heavy rains and cold temperatures.
My first experience with really healthy lilac bushes was when I was in college. There were lilacs outside certain dorms, and in the spring, I could have navigated the curvy, hilly campus blindfolded, guided just by their fragrance.
Okay, okay, it's just an excuse to share a cute kitten picture. Although, she did kinda' sorta' come from the garden -- she'd been living in my yard, just out of reach, for weeks, until we caught her tonight. She's going to the vet in the morning and then to a nice, loving home.
When did "weather" become synonymous with "bad weather"?
Forecasters now say things like, "Don't get used to the mild temperatures; we've got some weather coming." By which they mean "bad weather." Not just a change, but a negative change. No one ever says, "It's been tough with sub-zero temperatures lately, but don't worry -- there's some weather coming."
The thing is, any gardener knows -- we've ALWAYS got weather coming. Sometimes it's plant-friendly weather, sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's people-friendly weather, sometimes it's not. But it's always weather, and it's always here and it's always coming.
The last few days' weather has been rainy and chilly. Not people-friendly weather, but it's just what the garden needs right now.
Good or bad, though, it's always weather, and it's always on a gardener's mind.
Here in the northeast, our peak growing season is mere 90 to 100 days, from the end of May to the beginning of September.
I've read about, thought about, daydreamed about maximizing and extending that season. About the only thing I've actually ever done is mix radish and carrot seeds together, the idea being that the radishes germinate and mature much faster than the carrots, and as the radishes are pulled, they automatically space the carrots properly.
This year, though, I'm committed to carrying through on things like succession planting. We have an early crop of lettuces growing in assorted containers (where we can cover them in the event of unexpected cold weather). The greens in the picture are a mesclun mix, but the seeds are somewhat old, so only a few of the varieties are germinating.
We also have some new, single-variety plantings, of Black-seeded Simpson and a red-leaf lettuce, much like Red Sails.