Saturday, April 22, 2017

How I Spent Earth Day

With my hands in the earth! I picked the first asparagus and rhubarb of the year plus some more kale buds:

And carried on planting my greens (and reds) from yesterday - which btw was a gorgeous sunny day for once:

All the mustards, lettuce, kale and cabbages are in now. I had lots of seedlings so this bed is a bit closely spaced but we can always eat anybody who encroaches too much. I garden my Asian greens a little differently from most because I rarely harvest the whole plant. I only pick the tender side leaves until they start to bolt and then I pick the flower shoots, usually before the flowers open but those are good too. They usually keep going for me until sometime in July or even August if I'm lucky. And the picked greens stay good in the fridge for ages. I hope to get a lot of salads and stir fries out of this lot! Yum.

And speaking of yummy flowers I seem to have a lot of violets taking over my pathways:

This variety is Viola riviniana Purpurea Group, aka purple-leaved common dog violet, often mistakenly marketed at nurseries as the rather more rare Viola labradorica, which is native to Eastern Canada as its name might suggest. Instead this species, V. riviniana is native to Europe and is perfectly happy to grow in my hardiness zone 8 garden...and anywhere else it likes! I originally got a few plants from my mother-in-law who warned me that it's invasive. I don't mind. I can just pull out any offenders easily.

And they, like all violets, are quite tasty - a little crunchy with a sweet finish. You can eat the leaves too but I like the flowers better. I'm rather notorious for eating flowers! Other faves are borage (cucumber-ish), bee balm (citrusy), nasturtium (peppery), chives (mildly oniony), and basil (spicy). You can also eat squash blossoms, scarlet runner bean flowers, calendula (pot marigold) petals, and lavender flowers. Sadly nasturtiums and calendulas get really bad black aphid infestations in my garden so I've stopped trying to grow them anymore. I'll have to bug my MIL for some more bee balm too because mine didn't make it through our icy winter but she has plenty still. I think hers are in a more protected spot.

So now I've planted out nearly half of my seedling trays. It's a good thing it started to rain while we were eating lunch! I have a legitimate excuse (besides the head cold that I'm still fighting) to quit for the moment. Besides, the dye garden plants will happily grow in their pots in the greenhouse for awhile longer and the tomatoes are still under the lights in the grow-op until they get too tall to fit. I've finally planted my squashes and cucumbers in there too. Hopefully the weather will warm up sufficiently by the end of May for them to go into their beds. Another couple of weeks from now and I can plant the beans directly. Things are finally starting to feel more normal in the garden after all the crap weather we've had. Although I suppose I shouldn't say anything, should I?

I'm happy that I have my own space to grow a few things. It's obviously not large enough to supply all our needs but at least it supplements the grocery store. Plus the produce is fresher and what I call "nearly-organic". Not all my seed is certified organic and I sometimes use a tiny amount of chemical fertilizer in the grow-op because the other alternative is fish emulsion. Even deodorised, it's just a little too stinky indoors! Once they're outside they get the fish, compost, manure and sea soil. So things are not quite totally organic but very close.

As that famous quote from Arthur Ashe, the African-American tennis player, says:

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

It works for a lot more than just sports, doesn't it?

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