It's been a busy month in the garden & here's what I've been working on:
April 11: Last year we planted an ever-bearing strawberry variety called 'Tri Star' and I was pretty disappointed with it's yield. It was in 2 separate 2'x4' raised beds. So, I pulled them all out of one raised bed and gave a bunch to my friend Blake for his garden. Then I amended this bed with "Bumper Crop" compost and my own custom vegan fertilizer blend. Into this bed I planted 'walla walla' onions (from "bunches"), and direct seeded 'cylindra' beets, 'magenta sunset' swiss chard and 'bordeaux' spinach. I have a burgundy color theme going on! In the other raised bed I left the 'Tri-Stars' because they looked so healthy and lush. I fed them with liquid kelp and decided to give them one more season. Both of these raised beds were also planted with white cosmos to help attract beneficial insects, plus I love how it looks when it's flowering! It's one of my summer favorites. In my "greens & roots" raised bed I did a succession planting and direct seeded carrots, turnips, scallions, and 4 types of lettuce.
April 16: It's the official "first day without frost" in Portland. Though, we know that frost can occur through May. April 15th is an approximate. However, it's a beautiful sunny day and I'm celebrating by spending the whole day in the garden! In my "greens & roots" bed I companion planted several flowers 'tangerine gem' marigolds, 'rocket pink' snap dragons and more 'walla walla' onions (pretty much I'm tucking them in everywhere I can!) The little 'gem' series marigolds are great in a garden of greens and roots, not only for their beauty, their smell that detracts garden pests, but also because they are edible and go great in a home-grown salad! In this bed I have a trellis, which in another month I'll plant with yard long beans. Today I direct seeded cardinal flower, which is a red flowered annual vine in the morning glory family. It should look beautiful mixed with the purple-podded skinny beans both climbing the trellis made of branches. In my "strawberry & friends" raised bed I have strawberry crowns I planted 2 months ago. They are leafing out nicely and I gave them a boost with liquid kelp (surprised?) and companion planted with pink allysum. The arugula and 'french breakfast' radishes are just about ready to harvest so I tucked in some 'florence' fennel transplants and companion planted with pink petunias. On the other side of this bed I planted 'kolibri' kohlrabi and direct seeded 'merlot' lettuce and 'walla walla' onion (that's right, more walla walla's!). The burgundy of the lettuce with the purple of the kohlrabi is going to look awesome. Plus, the kohlrabi will be harvested by the time the lettuce heads are maturing. My future "tomato & friends" raised bed currently has my February planted peas that are coming along REALLY slowly. In preparation for the tomatoes I will plant at the end of May, I amended this bed with "Bumper Crop" compost and my custom vegan fertilizer blend. I also boosted the peas with, guess what?-you guessed it-liquid kelp! In my raspberry raised bed I also amended with a bag of "Bumper Crop," my custom fertilizer blend, and more liquid kelp. The 'Summit' raspberry canes are really leafing out nicely. They look great! I am savoring the thought of eating fresh sweet raspberries straight off the canes. Yummy.
April 22: I have always wanted to grow artichokes for their edibleness as much as their beauty. So, today I planted my brand new "artichokes, herbs & friends" raised bed. This is a 2'x12' raised bed I tried growing tomatoes in last year with not much success because I think it doesn't get enough sun. A few weeks ago I harvested the overwintering mustard greens that were here since last September and amended with "Bumper Crop" compost, and my custom vegan fertilizer blend. I planted 2 'Imperial Star' artichoke plants, and 1 purple heirloom variety who's name is escaping me at the moment. I companion planted the artichokes with white allysum and orange calendula. The calendula are edible and I eat their pretty petals in salad. I also tucked in more white cosmos. This raised bed is on the western part of my yard so I planted a series of 6' tall hollyhocks (alcea) along the back. My friend Margie told me that they are really prone to rust and need good circulation, so this is a perfect place for them where they won't be crowded and there's plenty of air flow between them. I have always wanted to plant hollyhocks, they are one of my favorite flowers! They fondly remind me of sunbathing with Catherine on the meadow in front of the lodge at Breitenbush Hot Springs in late August. Delightful! One of end of this long raised bed I planted some perennial & annual herbs: pineapple sage, 'alba' rosemary (a white flowering heirloom variety), french tarragon, cilantro and italian parsley. On the other end I planted dill and nasturtiums and constructed the bamboo tee-pee that will support the purple, yellow & green pole beans I'll direct seed in mid-May.
April 30: I love sunflowers! They are one of my favorite summertime & autumn flowers. I like to find the room to grow several varieties. Today I direct seeded some into my raspberry bed and my perennial butterfly garden. I also seeded several varieties into coconut coir pots with seed starting mix to give them a jump start before planting them pot and all directly into the garden. Today I cleaned up my perennial butterfly garden which is a bed up against the East side of my house. I planted this bed last June and then it took quite a beating all July-August when my landlord re-sided my house and trampled it to the ground and covered it in lead paint scrapings. It was a mess. Then followed the brutal storm in December that took out my rosemary planted here. To my delight many of the plants are coming back stronger than ever. The centranthus and salvia are both preparing to bloom. The lavender, yarrow and aster are big. And the echinacea, rudebekia, and coreopsis are all beginning to show some new growth. The verdict is still out on the agastache and penstemon. I had a monarda, fleabane, and galardia in pots from last year that I transplanted into this bed today. I also amended with 'Black Forest' compost, my custom vegan fertilizer blend, and a dose of liquid kelp before covering with Whitney Farms 'garden mulch' and watering everything in. Looks good! It's on my agenda to tear out all the bluebell bulbs from one end (that came with the house) and plant something else-maybe more galardia, black & blue salvia, or lecanthemum. We'll see...
Miss Jolie Ann