Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Virginia Garden Late May 2012

Square-Foot Raised Beds, May 27, 2012, Southeastern VA

My raised beds are doing better than I ever dreamed. If you want to see what I have planted where, my online garden planner has more details. The asparagus is coming up beautifully, and the beds are coming alive and green with vegetation.

Asparagus Bed
 The beds are mostly vegetables but I interspersed flowers to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. I've put some flowering potted plants near the beds for the same reason. I've already started to harvest some Cherry Belle radishes, both the greens for salads and the roots themselves. The Romaine lettuce is ready for some selective picking of their outer leaves. I've mulched most plants, except the lettuces, since mulch attracts slugs. Most plants have been mulched with a mix of chicken manure, vegetable scraps, straw, and other items from my Compostumbler, but some of the squares of asparagus with white clover. The clover is an experiment. I suspect it is a bad idea, especially since it is the first year for the asparagus. I read in an article that researchers tried this and the asparagus produced thinner spears than the control plants and reduced yields:

 Unsuppressed white Dutch clover established
at asparagus planting controlled weeds and provided
N over time to the asparagus in a Wisconsin
study, but reduced yield significantly. Establishing
the clover in the second year or third year of an
asparagus planting would be more effective.
Experimental asparagus with clover as living mulch

Unfortunately, I sowed the clover with the asparagus in the first year. Everything I've read suggests that Dutch White Clover is a good idea under tomatoes and pole beans, although it does compete with the taller plants for water. Water has been plentiful so far this year so I will allow the experiment to continue. ***Update or 7/18/12: The asparagus has grown in so thick, it has smothered most of the clover for lack of light. I suspect this is just as well. The clover adds nitrogen to the soil, and if it's dead, it can't compete with the asparagus for water in the summer heat we are having. I was afraid the clover would take over my vegetable beds, but it never did.

I read somewhere a recommendation of sowing winter peas and oats in late September over cleaned asparagus beds as a winter cover crop. The Sustainable Agriculture Network recommends winter rye for the same purpose in its free publication, "Managing Cover Crops Profitably."

Squash Bed
Something, either slugs or caterpillars, has been munching heavily on my radish tops. I plan to try some beer traps in case it is the former. The radishes may be acting as a trap crop, however, because whatever the pest is, it has been mostly leaving my young spinach and lettuces alone. I'd much prefer to lose radish greens than the other salad greens. I also tried spraying a little Neem oil on the radishes and on the few lettuces that are seeing damage.
Romaine lettuce

Basil with leaf mulch

Basil with compost

Baby spinach
We have lot of trees on our property. This has both its good and bad points. The main bad point is that we accidentally located the garden in a spot that does not get enough sunlight for fruiting crops such as tomatoes. To give ourselves credit, there are so many trees it is hard to find a truly sunny spot. Don plans to trim trees and limbs to improve the sunlight. He can't do it fast enough for me!

The "up" side to having so many limbs is that they produce lots of leaves. Our oak tree also sheds flowers in the spring (and tons of acorns for the squirrels). Yes, the leaves are a plus! We continually shake our heads at neighbors who bag them up and leave them at the curb.

We have a terrific lawnmower. We can either use it as a mulching mower, and mulch DRY leaves and oak flowers into the soil, or we can use the bagger that comes with the mower to shred the leaves to use as mulch. Right now most of my garden is mulched with compost  or leaves or a combination of both.

Two words of warning: be sure the leaves are brown (dry). Be sure compost is well-aged. Squash and potatoes, however, will grow more easily in less-than-optimal compost than other plants.

So far I love pole beans! This is the first year I've ever grown them, and I love how quickly they grow up the teepee-style trellises I have put up for them. But I wouldn't have planted them so close to the tomatoes if I'd realized how little sunlight my gardens would get. Oh, well.

Tomato, Pepper, and Pole Bean Bed
  Note to self: I have GOT to pay more attention to my garden planner. I originally planned to grow two tomatillos. I think I read they pollinate and produce better that way. I had two growing beautifully. Wouldn't you know it, I pulled one up? Aargh! At least I'll have more room for squash, since I am growing more than I originally planned in the same space. The square-foot method isn't well suited to squashes, melons, etc., although you can try growing them vertically, which is what I plan to do.

I will post some pictures of my flowers planted for biodiversity and attracting pollinators below. Some double as edibles or herbs.
Nasturtiums are spicy and edible

Marigolds are welcome in any garden

Forget Me Nots

Potted Thyme and Cilantro Flowering

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