This Week's Planting

This week we planted three vegetables: asparagus, parsnips, and corn. Our asparagus crowns (Jersey Supreme) came in the mail from Johnny's in the middle of the week, and we were lucky that Kirk was able to get an afternoon off so we could get them in the ground before the rains came today.

Asparagus in an investment in the future. We won't be able to harvest any of it this year, and only a little bit next year, if the stalks that come up are big enough. But the third year, we should be in business with weeks of asparagus in the spring and early summer.

We planted 48 roots like the ones above. We planted ours about 14 inches part in holes 6 to 8 inches deep. Kirk would dig the holes and drop the root in; I'd follow behind with a big handful of compost for each and then lightly cover the holes with loose earth. After they were all in the ground, they got a watering. All that's left to do is add lots of compost each season and wait a year for some asparagus to eat.

Parsnips are much easier. They are flat, papery oval seeds, and all I had to do was sow a 27-foot row of them in front of the peas. The only trick to parsnips is making sure they stay watered while you wait for them to germinate, which takes a few weeks. Parsnips are another investment — they take all summer to grow, and taste best after a frost or two. It's a winter vegetable that you have to plan ahead for by starting in early spring.

Finally, the corn. April 21 sounds pretty early to plant corn — it's three weeks before our frost-free date. But it has been an unusually warm winter and spring, and our oak tree has unfurled its leaves. Here is the view from the hammock, which is when I noticed it the other day:

In case you're wondering what this has to do with planting corn, it's an old farmers' saying that you plant corn when oak leaves are as big as a squirrel's ear. I have heard this attributed to native Americans and as general old-timey farmer wisdom. In Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy it's presented with an ash tree rather than an oak. 

Here's a bit of oak that fell into the lawn, with my foot for some scale. As you can see, these little leaves are about the size of a squirrel's ear (you can trust me on that — I spent a good amount of time glaring at them and shooing them away from the tulips last fall).

I'm taking this as evidence that all the warmth has readied the earth for planting. I put in our first section of corn (a 4x5 foot area of one of our C-shaped beds, with the corn planted at 8 inches apart, as recommended on the package). We are planting a short-season variety called Sugar and Gold that was recommended for northern regions. It's supposed to be ready in 67 days, which means that I just planted our Fourth of July corn. We'll continue to plant sections of that bed every two weeks through July to stagger our harvest of corn throughout the summer and fall. We may not always be able to plant early enough for Independence Day grilling, but this year things are looking good!


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