A very up-and-down spring

Ahhhsparagus!
Ahhhsparagus!

I’m not sure what happened to April. I will say a lot happened in April, and it’s time for another re-prioritizing around here. For now, a garden update, to be followed soon by some tips for CSA success, some thoughts on leftovers and food waste, and fiber fun.

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, I started conditioning my straw bales according to the directions in Joel Karsten’s very interesting book, Straw Bale Gardens Complete (the recently updated version of his first book, Straw Bale Gardens). It took some effort to keep up with the watering during that phase, but I am hopeful it’ll be a little less time-intensive from here on out. Here are some progress photos:

Starting the conditioning process. I should have done a better job getting the fertilizer down into the bale.
Starting the conditioning process. I should have done a better job getting the fertilizer down into the bale.
The mushrooms seem to like it.
The mushrooms seem to like it. And why is my bale growing grass? Sigh.
That's better! We planted tomato and pepper seedlings and carrot seeds today.
That’s better! We planted tomato and pepper seedlings and carrot seeds today.

In the rest of the garden, I have some asparagus and herbs that I’ve already been harvesting and a lot of things just coming up. We transplanted strawberry plants from last year’s containers into the black raised bed and then realized the plants hadn’t survived the winter in the containers. So we planted a hill of pie pumpkins and a hill of buttercup winter squash in that bed (see pic below), then promptly discovered some surviving strawberry plants in the ground where the container plants had apparently sent out runners in secret. So looks like we’ll have strawberries to start building a patch after all. I have some greens, snap peas, and a bean plant my daughter started in school in various containers around the yard. Because of the weed and invasive plant situation, I’m liking containers more and more, but that seems a little silly since I have room in the yard for an in-the-ground garden.

IMG_2327
Starting in the foreground: winter squash and pumpkins in raised bed; a bed with a few dye plants; walking onions on the left, 2 of my 4 straw bales on right; weedy bed with repurposed bed frame trellis; raspberries and chives and dandelions and asparagus.

Dandelions, creeping charlie, and grass always crop up in the garden beds but are pretty easy to move. Unfortunately, the creeping bellflower is back and spreading more than ever. My reading about it so far says it’s very hard to get rid, pesticides aren’t even always effective, and it comes back from even very small root pieces. Short version: doomed. For now I am trying to keep it from spreading further by smothering it where I can, using a DIY vinegar-salt-dish soap spray, and digging it up (as an invasive, it goes in the trash, never in the compost). I don’t think it’ll be enough.

My kids and I made a map of the backyard so we come up with some new possible layouts. Today I sat in several places around the yard with my phone and a sun app to figure out which parts of the yard get the best sun. Dreaming about the perfect backyard is really fun.

Chart of sun and shade in possible garden locations.
Chart of sun and shade in possible garden locations.

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