It would be an understatement to say that 2014 has been a roller coaster so far. We started the year off with unbelievably low temperatures and mountains of snow. Actually, it started before Halloween and it didn’t let up until sometime in April. These are the joys of gardening in zone 3. May had some decent weather but June has brought constant rain and cooler temperatures. I don’t really expect anything less in June, but it always seems to be a really gloomy month regardless of whether I expect it or not.
Lovage about 3 feet tall at the beginning of June 2014 and my wind chimes
Unfortunately, one of my rain barrels decided to have a hairline crack last night which was causing it to leak. So I hooked up a long hose and drained it in the yard. I hate to lose all of that rain water, but I wasn’t really sure what else to do in the moment I discovered it – I had visions of the barrel exploding and water gushing into my basement. Realistically, that probably wouldn’t have happened, but better safe than sorry, right?
I will give a bit of an explanation on our current garden set up. Our back yard is approximately 40 feet long and 20 feet wide and is south west facing – this is primarily the edible garden. Our front yard is approximately half the size of the back yard and is currently mostly an ornamental perennial garden with a few pots of edibles, but we do have future plans for transforming it into both an ornamental and edible growing space (I’m sure I’ll write about that in future posts). We also have a narrow side yard that is full shade where I grow a few ornamental perennials and keep a few pots of annual flowers. Since we live in a duplex, we only have 3 sides of our house with yard space. We’re also lucky to be involved in our community garden which is conveniently located about a 30 second walk from our house.
June 2014 marks the 9th garden year in our current home. When we moved in, there wasn’t much in the way of a garden. The yard was a typical suburban yard: mostly grass with a few low maintenance perennials in the front yard and I can count on one hand the number of plants that we inherited with the home. The back yard was mostly dead anyway – the previous owner had a big dog. I would say that we actually got lucky with a pretty blank canvas, but I’m not going to. We’ve spent 9 years removing sod, cutting down inappropriately planted trees or digging out old stumps and removing the long spreading roots of raspberry bushes – and pulling out a lot of cement blocks from really weird places. It could have been worse.
Back to the garden this June. I was actually a few weeks late planting my seeds in the ground. In zone 3, the May long weekend usually marks the time it is safe to plant your garden. I actually think this is a lie and I try to hold off longer if I can. I can’t remember the exact date, but I’m pretty sure it was the first week of June before I finally got things planted. This isn’t terrible – I was actually talking to someone recently who said she thinks it is actually smarter to wait until a few weeks later because we seem to get a longer fall than we think we do – and I actually have to agree.
When it comes to planning my vegetable garden I usually aim to try at least one new plant each year. I am now at the point where all of my edibles are started by seed indoors or directly sown into the garden. This year I decided to experiment with some different heirloom zucchinis and growing a butternut squash vertically. I can report right now that only one of my heirloom zucchinis and none of the butternut squash survived the squirrel attacks.
Three Sister’s planting: corn, pole beans, squash
In the back yard I am attempting to grow tomatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, lettuces, kale, swiss chard, garlic, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, a sugar pumpkin, corn, pole beans, and various herbs. I also have a small greenhouse where I attempt to grow things that require a longer season: hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and a watermelon. I have a number of edible perennials in this space as well: rhubarb, chives, mint, asparagus, lovage, lavender, and strawberries. The rest of the growing space is taken up with various ornamental perennials that I have planted to attract the pollinators.
Mixed lettuces as of June 23, 2014
As for plans for the back yard this year, there really aren’t a lot. There is a composting area and “Sod Mountain” in the back alley that requires some attention – I’m sure our neighbors love looking at it. I have learned to appreciate the down time in my garden as it is evolving – it is important to stop every now and then and just live in the space to determine what works and what doesn’t and tweak the plan as necessary. I can often get caught up in the “we need to do everything now” mindset, which I think many other gardeners can relate to. So anyway, June obviously isn’t over yet, but I can’t wait until July when everything in the garden has exploded and I can’t stop complaining about the jungle that has taken over my yard.