Friday, March 9, 2012

Early Garden 2012

The first weekend in March I took a gamble and put in a few rows of my spring/summer garden. Planting this year was less effort and more effort than in years past because hubby has decided that tilling is not good for the soil--I'm not exactly sure why it is not good, but I'm willing to give it a try this year. The garden has had a rough time the last two years, we got some produce, just not very much, so a change is probably in order.

Not tilling meant less effort up front because I never had to wrestle with the tiller, but also more effort because I had to use a hoe to loosen the top layer of soil (I'm not exactly sure if that is okay per hubby's 'new idea', but shhh, I know no other way of getting seeds planted without lovely loose soil). Luckily, over the last 7 years we have worked so much compost and organic matter into the soil, we have a really good base, so I don't think we'll be missing out by not tilling in the amendments I have poured on over the winter (4 bales of straw, a load or two of mulch, a truck load full of composted cow manure, 2 huge boxes of horse manure) All of that is mostly broken down into the soil, the larger chunks I just raked into the path areas.

To make room for the new season, all the 2011 garden hold outs were pulled--mostly just turnips and mint (argh my weedy mint is taking over the back quarter of the garden). There is one row of peas and one row of Kale which will remain along the back of the garden.

We have harvested and eaten turnips all winter and there was still enough left over to fill a child's wheelbarrow.

Garden layout wise we went back to planting in standard rectangular rows instead of the more visually pleasing V shaped planting beds. This was a decision based solely on ease of watering. From the looks of things, we will have another dry year and my #1 concern is making it easy for me to water my garden.

With lovely 70 degree weather I put in a 2 x 20 foot row of green beans (tri-color mixed, Jade, and Contender), a 3x20 foot row of summer squash (round, patty pan, caserta, cocozelle, umm.... 5 varieties in all) and 9 tomato plants. In all honesty, it is probably too early for tomatoes. But it is so hard to resist the flats of lovely plants at the nursery.

March 8 and 9th are cold and rainy, 42 degrees, but with a lovely slow drenching rain. I could do without the cold, but the rain is just perfect to kick off the growing season.

The oregano and parsley are doing great

The aquaponics set up is just so so, there is some nice lettuce and a few swiss chards, as well as the lavender I'm starting from cuttings (the main lavender plant is blooming now)

The hens are loving the longer days and have started laying again with gusto. They also love the 'chicken fort' that Andrew built for them from a cardboard box. He loves that they lay their eggs in their fort.

I did not think I was ready (I'm still bummed we 'missed' our winter) but bring on spring 2012.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spring Signs 2012

It has been a strange and mild winter and early spring here in North Texas. We never got our winter, no snow, no ice, only a few freezing days. In general it has been mild and dry. The weed grass has green up quickly and we've already had to mow twice in February.

My spring bulbs--paper whites and narcissus-- bloomed in mid February. No sign of the giant Amaryllis flowers just yet.

Our big male cottonwood tree has bloomed it's nasty pollen 'pony tails'/ pollen tassels the week of March 1st (not sure what to call the 3 inch long structure that holds the pollen, in our tree, they bloom out bright pink and yellow, then fade to just yellow). As soon as the pollen pods open, the tree is swarmed by birds looking to eat the tiny green caterpillars that are often inside the pods. This means one messy week in our yard. Between the yellow pollen dust, the bird poop and the dropping pods and pony tails, I know to accept a filthy car and to not hang out any laundry on the clothes line. As of March 5th, the pony tails are starting to drop which signals the end of this mess. In the next few days we'll start to see the first green leaves budding out.

So far it is a light year for dandelions, probably because it is so dry. The bees love the dandelions, so I'm hoping we'll see more over the next few weeks--yes, I'm hoping for weeds in my yard. Ha ha.

The Forest Pansy Redbud in the front yard bloomed on March 4th.

The bees have been able to fly for most of the winter. Our local beekeeping friend said that his hive inspection this weekend revealed that his hives were full of honey and he had to add a super. Typically Feb and March are rough times for bees since they have had to live off of their summer and fall honey stores all year. For them to be full of honey means that they were able to fly and collect nectar over the winter and did not have to rely on stored honey as much. This could be a good sign that this will a strong year for the bees.

We are still a full 3 weeks before the average last frost date for our area, but things are looking very spring like out there. So much so, that I've already planted a good portion of the garden on March 4th.