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2018 Master Plan: The Driveway Quadrant

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The plan for the final quadrant isn’t very interesting this year:

This entire section will be left fallow. That’s not really about crop rotation so much as it is about making repairs to many of the raised beds in this section of the garden. These were built back in 2011, and after seven years of service, parts are rotting or have warped and come apart where they were screwed together. For example:

To make fixing them easier, we aren’t planting anything here and instead will be able to move all the dirt we need to get at the joints to patch them up. 
Once that’s taken care of (probably in June, after all the planting is complete), we’ll sow cover crop of clover to add nitrogen and generally keep the beds looking nicer for the rest of the season. Next year we’ll choose a different quadrant to repair, thus working our way around the garden until it’s all back in fighting form.

2018 Master Plan: The Workshop Quadrant

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Last weekend was a fairly big planting time for us, and just about all of it happened in the central "C" of the workshop quadrant:

In this central bed we have Swiss chard, early and late carrots, cilantro, mesclun lettuce, head lettuce and spinach. Most of this bed is really only in partial sun once a nearby maple tree leafs out, but that usually works for leafy salad greens to keep them from bolting in the heat. I also used some onion sets as dividers between these plantings to mark the rows.
Across the top of this quadrant are still perennial grapes and herbs. The right side and bottom are largely empty. We have a few repairs to do in these sections, and after that we’ll plant a cover crop of clover to give these beds a rest for the season. That leaves the left side, which is a much-reduced tomato section. Because the area is so much smaller, we’re not planning to do much tomato canning this year, but we should have enough for plenty of fresh eating and frozen salsa.

Happy Harvest

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Though the loss of the bees was very sad, not everything about this winter was a disaster. For example, we had a large bed of winter carrots that happily spent the season underground. In this case, the warm February weather brought on an early thaw and allowed us to access them throughout the spring.
But as we were about to revamp their bed for a new planting of cabbages by April, it was time to dig the rest of them up: 

Carrots that are harvested after enduring freezing temperatures are very sweet, so these are delicious roasted plain or diced into soups. At this point they are purely cooking carrots, though, as their crunch is long gone thanks to the weird free/thaw cycles this year.
So we had a mini carrot festival this month, enjoying them in all kinds of dishes. Ginger Carrot Soup was a favorite:

To make it, Kirk sweated some leeks (another vegetable that we overwintered underground) in butter and added rough-cut carrot chunks to the soup pot, along with slices of fresh ginger a…

Sad Harvest

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When we last looked in on the bees in February, they were doing well. The hive that had swarmed had made it through the winter, and the bees were foraging for pollen during the unusually warm February weather. We even saw the queen when we took a peek, and they had honey stores left. To be safe, we gave them a few extra combs from the hive that had died off over the winter. We figured they had only to get through a few more weeks.

And then March happened.

Temperatures plummeted, and the whole month was far colder than usual — as if February and March had switched places. We went from a high of 76 on February 21 to a low of only 12 on March 18, and it struggled to get above 40 for most the March. The average temperature for the month was 35 degrees.

That was too much cold coming on too fast for the bees to reorganize after they had broken cluster to forage on the warm days during the last two weeks of February. Bees huddle together and beat their wings to produce enough heat to stay a…

2018 Master Plan: The Swingset Quadrant

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Continuing around the garden to the swingset quadrant, we have our planting plan for the 2018 season:

On the left, as always, is the asparagus. It’s not nearly as productive as it once was, so this spring we will try renovating it by resetting the crowns lower in the earth and adding some lime to counteract the soil acidity from a nearby evergreen tree. 
Across the top are perennial grapes and herbs — nothing to see there. 
Along the right side is space for Jenny Lind melons, which is a new variety of small, green fleshed melons. This is an heirloom variety popular among the Pennsylvania Dutch, and we got the seeds on a trip to the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum last spring. There’s also a potato patch.
Along the bottom is a very small length of trellised cucumbers, which will be for slicing. We have tons of pickles from last summer, so we won’t be planting any pickling cukes at all. There’s also an assortment of dill, arugula, beets and cauliflower. 
If you’re thinking that t…

2018 Master Plan: The Patio Quadrant

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We made our garden plan back in February, but I forgot to document it. I was reminded of this when we pulled out the plan to actually start planting. It hasn’t been warm — it’s snowing as I write this — but the ground has thawed and we can get started with our hardiest cool-weather plants.


The leeks we ordered came in the mail, so we had to get them in the ground. We bought transplants instead of doing them from seed this year, and they are about as big around as a pencil — much bigger than the tiny strings we’ve managed to get starting them on our own. These are much easier to work with, and I’m certain they’ll have a better survival rate than our tiny seedlings, so this looks to be a good investment. Behind the cold frame you can see a few of last year’s leeks — these are the stragglers we haven’t harvested yet.
Usually when we plant in March, we’re out of luck when it comes to compost. That’s because the City Yard doesn’t open until April and our pile is usually frozen. Not this y…

Repotting Seeds

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In theory, we should be planting peas and onions next weekend, but this is the state of things in the garden today:

A series of four nor’easters and below-average temps have set us behind schedule for planting. I imagine the snow will be gone by next weekend, but I’m not sure if the soil will be ready to work or if it will be too frozen or too wet or too something else. 
I’m not feeling in much of a rush this year since it’s been so miserable outside this month. The local weather reporters have taken to saying that March is the new February, and they’re right. Since we appear to have some additional time on our hands, I transplanted our broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower seedlings into peat pots:

It should be noted that these seedlings look great this year. I attribute this to more diligent use of our lamp to make sure they were getting enough light on all those cloudy, stormy days:

The brassica is scheduled to be transplanted into the garden in two weeks, but this seems unlikely — mo…