Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
Wow, I can’t believe how fast the weeks are passing. So much for the days of blogging every day or two! Besides the usual busy-ness of this time of year in my own garden, I’ve been working every other day at a friend’s nursery/garden center for the past month, installing and maintaining some huge new gardens, so I’ve been gloriously immersed in extended hours of hands-on gardening every single day.
In many ways, it brings back the days when I used to be a professional gardener. I enjoyed it then, but I remember it being pretty tough physically. Getting back into it 20 years later, I find it’s actually easier now, maybe because I have a lot more experience, and a good selection of time-tested tools as well. Still, dealing with the intense heat we’re experiencing now in PA is tough at any age, so I’m grateful to be indoors for today.
Between being so busy and dealing with an unusually cool May here, with frost as late as mid-May, getting my garden here at Hayefield planted was a challenge. I finally have pretty much everything in, except some of the summer veggies. Even though the planting ended up being several weeks later than in past years, this heat wave is bringing things on quickly, so I don’t think I lost too much time.
With the high temperatures we’re having, it seemed like a good idea to harvest the rest of the current batch of radishes before they bolted and got tough. Mom and I really enjoy the white-tipped red ‘French Breakfast’, but our new favorite is the pale yellow ‘Zlata’ from Territorial Seed. Admittedly, the color isn’t as striking, but even at golf-ball size, it’s still crisp and sweet, without a strong aftertaste.
One of my most exciting experiences of the past week was finally planting out my potato seedlings. I’d started the pelleted seed of these ‘Catalina’ potatoes back in February, and the seedlings looked great (shown here on May 22), but they haven’t grown much in the past three weeks. I’d been reading some references that said seed-grown potatoes wouldn’t make tubers the first year, so I wondered if it was worth bothering to plant them out. Well, I’m glad I did!
When I knocked the first seedling out of its pot, I was thrilled to see that small tubers (about the side of a bean seed) were already forming! Turns out that each seedling had at least one tuber, and many had two. So I have high hopes of getting some sort of harvest from them this year, if the potato beetles don’t devour them. Here’s a picture of the plants snug in their bed.
Along the straight side of the bed, I tucked in some asparagus peas. I didn’t have tremendous success with them last year, but I decided to give them another try this year. On the other, curved side of the bed, I planted a new experiment: prickly caterpillar (Scorpiurus muricatus) from Seed Savers Exchange. This oddity isn’t grown for eating, but for its fuzzy, curvy seedpods, which people apparently find amusing to pop into salads to freak out unsuspecting family members. I’m not sure why I find that so amusing, but when I read that description, I just had to try it. I’ll definitely report back on this one later this summer.
In a nearby bed, I had missed a few parsnips when I harvested the patch back in March. In one of Piet Oudolf’s books, he includes parsnip as an ornamental, so I decided to let them flower and see for myself. They’re pretty much as I expected: about 5 feet tall, with sturdy stems, bright green leaves, and large clusters of yellow flowers, like a giant dill. They probably would look good in an ornamental border, so I think I’ll try leaving a few from this year’s patch and see if I can move them to a good flowering spot next spring.
Futher down in what I call The Orchard, the fruit crops are coming along in abundance. The grapes seem to have set some fruit, and the ‘Surefire’ cherry and Asian pears are loaded with developing fruits, and even the ‘Methley’ plum has set some fruit ( a surprise since its pollinizer died last year). It looks like I’m in for a good gooseberry crop, as well. Yay!
Of course, the stars of the early-June garden, fruit-wise, are the strawberries. I’d meant to replant my several-years-old patch of ‘Tristar’; the plants fruited this year, but the berries are very small. I don’t mind that, though, because I have loads of good-sized berries from the ‘Sarian’ plants. I grew these from seed last year, and they fruited some last fall, but this spring’s crop has been even better.
I also have lots of ‘Yellow Wonder’ alpine strawberries coming along. I started these too last spring (you can read about that in this post over at Gardening Gone Wild, if you’re interested), and they fruited very well both last year and this year. One packet of seed produced dozens of plants, so I can harvest my fill of the small fruits. It’s a little tricky to find the creamy yellow fruits (certainly not as easy as it is with the red ones), but supposedly the birds don’t bother these, because they don’t recognize the pale fruits as being ripe.
Well, looks like my alpacas could use some special attention at the moment. First a fresh bucket of lemon-lime Gatorade (always a favorite), then time to put on the sprinkler. Ahhh.
Daniel tends to lose interest quickly, so he’s happy to get back into the barn and eat in front of the fan.
And Duncan is happy to have the sprinkler all to himself and become one with the water.
Ten minutes later, he’s ready to retreat to the shade of their new “paca palace.” And I’m ready to retreat back into the house. Whew!