Wednesday, April 23, 2014

First Look - 2014 Garden

This year I will attempt to document my garden a little better than I have been able to in the past. I have a lot of pre-retirement activities and then I will be looking for a job so I cannot promise I will be successful, but I will try.

If you have been following my posts you know that I have a garden that is about 12'x30'.  I have been amending the soil with compost and tons of mulch over the past ten years or so. It is very fertile and loose but soil needs continuous work to maintain. This past fall I laid down about nine inches of mulched green grass and leaves over my garden. It was so bitter cold this winter that very little of it has decomposed so I won't till it in this spring. I think I will leave it in place as a weed barrier mulch. This will be a first for me so I am interested in how it works out. (You can see the mulch in the below pictures.)

One of the first chores I do, generally in February or early March, is to cut out the old canes in my raspberry patch. This year I was late, just getting to it in mid-April, because I had foot surgery and couldn't walk for two months. Anyway, with the late, cold winter April was not too late. It is not a hard job. I wear gloves and try not to get too scratched as I cut out the old, dead canes. I also tuck any canes back behind the wire so the grass path is kept clear.


If I had to guess I would say that I remove just less than half of the canes in the bed. This opens up the bed so that the live canes are uncrowded and get more sun. I also pull any weeds that are started so I have a clean, tidy patch. I usually run all this through my chipper/shredder but this year I burned the canes.

The next task was to prune and thin my blueberry bushes. Last year the blueberries were out of control. The bushes were too crowded and needed a good thinning. I have always gone by the rule of never trimming more than one third of the mass of a tree or bush so this year I cut out about that much. I wanted to open up the inside of the bushes to get more sun and air and I also need to trim them back to the confines of the raised bed. I have to put bird netting around the bushes when they start to fruit so the branches have to be inside the perimeter of the bed. Next year I will prune them hard again.

Next was the strawberry bed. I completely replanted it last year so this will be the peak year for berries if the extra harsh winter didn't damage the plants too much. Normally I would pull off most of the mulch but we are still getting frosts and I will wait a couple weeks. But I wanted to get the bird netting up to keep rabbits out. There was evidence of rabbits already visiting, some pellets, so this was well needed. You can't see the netting in this photo but it is draped over the white rope. All the higher parts of the plants either froze off or were eaten by the rabbits so all that is there now are mulch-level plants. But they should grow quickly once it warms up.

I had planted a couple spinach seeds in my cold frame in the late fall, curious how they would do. Had it not been so cold this winter I was expecting to be able to pick some now and then but I was not even able to get the lid open because of the huge amount of snow. We got over 70 inches of snow this winter. So imagine my surprise when I opened the lid and saw seven spinach plants happily growing! I will be able to start picking the lower, outer leaves. This was what I did when I lived in The Netherlands; I had spinach and/or lettuce every day for my salads or sandwiches. It gets much hotter in Pennsylvania so it won't last all summer here though.

Next weekend I hope to plant radishes in the cold frame and green peas out in the main garden. The rabbits annihilated my peas last year so I will have to protect them better this year. I have a plan and I'll show you that when I do it.

That's all for now; get out and get your garden started.

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