Yesterday we spent a few hours in the garden doing some spring planting and general tidying-up. The garden looks a bit messy in the winter with its overgrowths of clover and fava beans, but all the rampant growth is a real payoff when we finally get down to work. The clover, favas, and the weeds have helped to distribute and absorb the winter’s plentiful rains. When we pulled up the tenacious clover plants, the soil loosened in the process and we were presented with a soft seedbed. Holly noted that this year the garden soil never became waterlogged, even during the heaviest rains.
We cleared our little southeast plot, about seven by seven feet, and planted several varieties of lettuce in arcs following the soaker hose that is already laid down. It is definitely better to leave soaker hoses where they lay, and we find that planting along the hoselines gives the water to the food plants rather than the weeds, which grow fine in any case.
The lettuce varieties:
Tom Thumb (heirloom minature butterhead)
Cosmo Savoy (a quasi-romaine, so I’m told)
Rouge d’Hiver (reddish romaine of European extraction)
Four Seasons (looseleaf)
And various seeds from last years’ packets around the edges Lollo Rosso, Kagraner Sommer, green Buttercrunch.
Then I planted a few rows of greens in the southwest bed. This bed was planted too late in the fall with an assortment of greens, carrots and beets. Most of the seeds didn’t come up because the days were too short and the weather too cool and damp. So I loosened some furrows and planted the greens. I remembered too late that I should probably dig in some fertilizer, since the bed has not been in favas or clover. Hopefully the seeds will germinate, and once we thin the plants I’ll give them a side dressing of fish emulsion.
The greens planted:
Mustard, Tatsoi spoon
Kale, red Ursa
Kale, Nero di Toscano (the black Dinosaur variety)
There are a handful of plants already growing in this bed that did come up from last fall’s sowing, and from self-seeding: some green and Purple Wave mustards, two small rows of sublime broccoli rabe, and a vigorously self-seeding Black Seed mustard, which has a rough leaf texture and a sharp flavor, but goes well in our current greens mix.
Speaking of which, we’ve been enjoying a wonderfully tasty mix of greens from our eclectic/haphazard selection of plants. We planted some Broadstem chard about a year ago. It took forever to germinate and grow, and was then smothered all summer by a runaway San Marzano tomato, but has flourished since the tomato came out in September. Now there are about five huge plants. There is also a weird mutant Siberian kale which we planted back in September 2003 and resisted pulling because of its odd, deeply cut leaves and its excellent flavor. It is now a strange, stick-like plant, standing about four feet tall with little kale plants sprouting from its nodes, but its leaves are still tasty. So the greens mix is about half chard (including stems if I’m cooking), a handful of Weird kale, and snips from the three mustards (described above) along with leaves and little flowerheads from our many small broccoli rabe plants. Last night Holly made a greens quiche with the greens mix, our homegrown eggs, and a buckwheat crust. It was exquisite.
Also yesterday around the homestead:
–> finally planted our vigorous chayote seedling into the south bed
–> turned both of our very full compost bins
–> made 4 gallons of ginger beer and set it to ferment
–> cooked some (storebought) quail eggs for breakfast, further fuelling my Quail Herding fantasies
All in all, a long-awaited good day’s work.