Friday, May 31, 2013

Garden Update: After-Blizzard(s) Comeback in May

The Tax Day Storm

After a 2012 Spring that began in February, and a warm 2013 March, it seemed like Climate Change had permanently reset our garden clocks, and it was time to gear up and plant full force.  Colorado likes to build up hopes like this, and then bury them under feet of snow.  Literally.

Three successive storm systems dumped more than 3 feet of snow on Fort Collins, CO in the last weeks of April, or should I say Apruary.  In between each storm, it seemed like we had seen the last of winter, until the new 10-day forecast came out.  Wild fluctuations in temperatures took us from 50s and 60s down to 6 degrees, one particularly harsh night.

Thank goodness we have Wallowaters to protect what we planted early!

Overall, we fared very well.  A few of the tomatoes that had grown out of the top of their Wallowaters had some damage to the leaves, but the plants themselves were in great shape, as you'll see in this update.

So, let's take a tour around the garden, and I'll show you what we've been up to this May.

The Berry Garden is off to a good start, and we've got things going on in all planters.  The look from the West end of the garden is starting to show more green.

Our early lettuce was planted just before the first storm, and there were no sprouts to speak of for those weeks, but they came back strong and we are just starting to see our first edible Lettuce, Spinach, and Kale.

While we thoroughly enjoyed the first Asparagus that came up, we are disappointed to find out that 5 of the 9 clusters are not coming back (so far).  We don't know whether the late cold snap got them, whether they were over watered, or if there is a pest that got to them.  More on this in the future as we figure it out.

The most distinctive feature in this view is the abundant green in the front of the large box (right). That's Arnica taking over, and it's coming back bigger and stronger than ever.  Hard to believe this was a little 2x2 plant we got at the nursery 2 years ago.  In fact, it's coming on so strong, we had to cut out a patch to make room for other plants.  So glad it's in a container!

Blueberries in Colorado are hard to grow (understatement), but we can report that all 3 of our bushes came back this year.  The Duke variety was not looking good most of the month, but it just started sprouting leaves in the past week, and we are happy it's going to make it.  Now we just need it to flower, get pollinated, and produce some berries.  Last year, the flowers came before the bees were out, and we got zilch all season!

Deb didn't want to go big on Broccoli this year, as the plants are so huge, and you really only get a few harvests early - and then they kind of just take up space the rest of the summer.  Well, I talked her into a very small 4-pack, and while we didn't get them in the ground in March/April, it looks like we'll have some good stuff here in June.

Celery is a plant you think you know, but store-bought stuff has taught us to think of it as a bland food.  When you grow your own, the flavors are outstanding, and become a highlight of many dishes and soups.  Particularly soups.  They start out meek and small, but they eventually grow to be behemoths in the garden.  We have two this year, and while they look out of place in the space seen here, they will eventually fill up all this area - with just one plant.  Let them have room to grow, and you'll have an abundant harvest.

We did a test this year on Zucchini with Wallowaters.  We wanted to see if it would speed up germination.  It sure did. In two varieties, we beat one germination by a full week, and the other variety, the non-wallowater seeds never sprouted.

We tried to put some new soil into the Strawberry planter this year because the upper levels had compressed a bit over the past 2 years.  It stunted the growth a bit on the top two levels, but it's no worry - Strawberries are so abundant and spreading that they will overgrow the box guaranteed.  Many many flowers, and hoping to have fruit in about 1-2 weeks.

We love the new Triangle Planter, and how it fits into the garden.  The Onions and Leeks in the rectangle in the foreground will compliment well.

The Triangle Planter has Beets and Carrots this year, and while the Beets are off to a good start, the Carrots are only sprouting slowly.  Now that the weather has warmed, we hope to see them accelerate.

The Triangle Garden features an art piece by Carrie Fecca - a sphere that is decorated with tiles in the shapes of hearts.  It's about 10" in Diameter, and is on a pedestal made by Very Cool Stuff that is solar, and lights up the sphere at night.

The back row will eventually be our Espalier that we've been talking about for years.  We've got the box ready after adding another vertical post (still unpainted), and fixing a blowout on the back side.  The project took longer than anticipated due to the storms, so we are going with Tomatoes in these boxes for the summer (since we had an abundance of plants from seeds this year), and will plant trees (at a discount) at the end of this season.

We are using alternating Green and Red Wallowaters not just for decoration, but also to see which ones lead to better plants.

This is a view from the back yard that include the Golden Delicious Apple tree to the right.  The addition of the Triangle Planter now completes the transition from backyard to Berry Garden, and no longer gives the feeling of separation by a chaotic no-man's land of mulch and half-completed boxes.  

Both Apple trees fared well in spite of the storms.  They wisely held out on blossoming until May, and we were lucky enough to have bees pollinate during the nice weather.  Unfortunately, we just had high winds yesterday that knocked many of the fledgling apples from the trees, so we hope enough survived to finally have a big harvest - it would be our first at this property.  We so miss being able to make Apple Sauce, Pie, and other goodies from our trees.

The original OctoGarden is looking great at the end of May.  A fresh coat of paint has it looking as good as it did it's first season in 2009.  We are encouraged that the design is holding up in it's 5th season, and the long-term looks great.  The wood has finished it's initial warping, and after redoing the soil in two boxes last year, we can report that the paint and plastic used to protect it from the inside is doing it's job - no rotting or deterioration.

In the foreground is the Basil box.  We decided to put 3 varieties into this box this year, as we always have too much Sweet Basil in our 4'x4' box.  Half the box is Sweet, and then the other half is split between Thai Basil and Lemon Basil.

Basil sprouts are just coming up in the last week in May.  We hope to see significant growth in June!

View from the East end of the OctoGarden shows our Peppers and Tomatoes coming up well, and you can see the Garlic rising tall in the center.  Dill and Cilantro have sprouted, and are getting big enough to see from a distance.

Tomatilla sprouts are just starting to come up too.  As you can see, the irrigation is still unsecured in this box, but the water is flowing nicely and getting them ready for summer.

Sunset from the fire pit is one of my favorite views in the garden.  What I haven't figured out yet is how to get the garden to shine with the colors of the sky.  A flash doesn't work.  Ideas?

We had 18 Peppers that were planted before the storms, and have surrounded them with more from our seeds, and some from the nursery.  The wallowaters kept them all in perfect condition, and many have flowers now at the end of May.

Chives are the stars of this picture, with their beautiful purple flowers blooming.  While pretty, they are a threat to the rest of the garden.  We have to clip all of these edible flowers before they spread.  Don't be fooled - they are prolific.

After a great Onion harvest last year, we've dedicated another box to them.  Two varieties in this box, and some more added to the Berry Garden.

Our Cucumbers and Beans have all sprouted, and are just getting past their seed leaves.  It should only be another week or two and they will be climbing up their trellises.

The first 8 Tomatoes are all heirloom from the nursery.  After riding out the freak blizzards in their wallowaters, they have grown to be strong large plants by the end of May.  Already producing many flowers, we hope to have our first ripe tomatoes by the 4th of July.

The other 16 Tomatoes on this side in the Octogarden (we have 36 total Tomatoes this year) are going to stay in Wallowaters for another 2 weeks.  Not only to they help with accelerating growth, they are great protection from hailstorms that could knock them out early.

The OctoGarden at Sunset is my favorite time.  The light in the garden is cool and peaceful, and the trees in the surrounding area still catch the orangeish sunset glow.

No comments:

Post a Comment