Sunday, May 12, 2013

Oh Spring, Where Art Thou? Garden and Orchard Update

This is what my garden looked like at this time last year:

The north half of my vegetable garden, mid-May 2012

2012 had an extremely mild winter which was immediately followed by one of the hottest and driest summers on record. In May, our garden looked great! Just don't ask about July or August...

This spring has looked more like this:

Snow in May! 

The last time it snowed here in May was when my great-grandmother was a young girl. What a contrast to last year. 

The lingering cold has really slowed down everything in our garden and orchard, but although things are growing slowly, the good news is that everything is growing. We have had abundant rain that has put a dent in the drought and things are green for the first time in a long time. That feels good. 


The north half of our vegetable garden, mid-May 2013

The south half of our garden, mid-May 2013

We added another three raised beds to our garden, so our vegetable garden consists of 528 intensively managed square feet. We still have to haul more bags of pea gravel to cover the new pathways. This fall we plan to add the final box to complete the garden and then start the process of doubling each box's depth. 

We follow the Square Foot Gardening method, but have changed things to suit us as we have gone along. The Square Foot Gardening method claims that you only need a 6" deep box, and for many plants, that is true. When there is a drought, however, deeper soil retains moisture a lot better and some plants really appreciate the extra depth.  

We put a lot of effort into starting our own transplants this year. After all the time and energy we poured into that, it was really disheartening when our transplants were subjected to snow and freezing rain time and time again. Even the cold hardy plants like cabbage and broccoli really took a beating, but they are slowly making a come-back. This would have been a great year to have cold frames or row covers set up. Oh well, some other year, perhaps. 

Broccoli to the rear, cauliflower in front

Radishes and cabbages. The cabbage in the front right was one of our original  group
that was planted and got frozen. The outer leaves died off, but it has grown back.
The cabbage to the rear of the photo was one we planted later on.  

Lettuces and spinach in various stages of growth

Forellenschluss lettuce

I love this lettuce! Forellenschluss is German for 'speckled like a trout'.

'Encore' lettuce mix

Doesn't this picture make you want to take a bottle of ranch dressing out to the garden and chow down right there? No? Maybe that is just me. ;)

Strawberry blossoms

'Little Marvel' peas in the foreground, Swiss Chard in the back. We are growing lots of chard
this year for poultry feed.   

These barely visible sprouts may not make the most interesting photo, but they are really exciting to us.
Carrots! Lots and lots of carrots! We have had the hardest time growing carrots. I think the moist,
cool conditions must have been just right for them to germinate.   

Garlic and some of our onions

The only fly in the ointment is our garlic. You can see that it is coming in pretty patchy. All of the cloves have sprouted, but most of them are still tiny. Strange.


Things are slowly developing in the orchard, too.

'Montmorency' cherry blossom

One of our first tasks in the orchard this spring was to install limb spreaders in the trees that needed them.

May 5th - limb spreaders in place, starting to leaf out

It is important to attain a crotch angle (Yes, I just said that! I promise it is a real term!) of around 45 degrees between the limbs and the trunk. This assists light penetration and air circulation which are both important for healthy trees. Limbs with narrow crotch angles are also more prone to splitting away from the trunk under a heavy load of fruit. We will leave the limb spreaders in place until fall when the branches should have set into their new positions.

We also planted four new trees: a 'Stanley' prune plum, 'Surecrop' pie cherry, 'Sunglo' nectarine, and 'Contender' peach. Our orchard now consists of: 1 row each of blackberries and raspberries, 3 blueberry bushes, 3 apple, 3 pecan, 2 cherry, 2 pear, and 1 each of almond, peach, plum, and nectarine trees.

Our new 'Sunglo' nectarine

We have gotten the tree planting method espoused in The Holistic Orchard down to a science. If you want to learn the correct way to plant a fruit tree, check out the post I wrote on the subject here. We'll continue to get practice since our orchard is far from complete. (Insert Hubby Dear's groans as he reads this.) 

Our apple trees were just planted last spring, so I wasn't expecting any fruit this year. Our 'Jonafree' apple tree (the one with the spreaders pictured above) surprised me by going into bloom. 

'Jonafree' apple buds in various stages of development

A king blossom. The king blossom is the one in the center of a cluster of blossoms. It is the one that
will open first and  has the potential to form the largest fruit. 

'Earliblue' blueberry blossoms. 

Our blueberries are also blossoming. We've only had them a year as well, but the bushes are three years old and so this is the first year we could expect a small crop.

Of course our weather has been so wacky, I was worried that these blooms would be killed by frost. We continue to get frost warnings, so I did a little research to find out at what temperature the blooms would be killed. Here is a handy little sheet that summarizes killing frost temperatures for many types of trees.  This is another site just about apple trees and one about blueberries.

The upshot of those articles is that as long as it stays in the 30s, the blossoms will be safe. I just hope temperatures stabilize soon so that we can plant out our tomato and pepper transplants.

Has your spring been delayed like ours has been? What is growing in your garden?


  1. Here is Northern Missouri our spring is pretty late also. Hoping for a more productive summer.

  2. Here in Western Iowa it is late...usually the lilac's are done blooming by now and the Bridal's Wreath has started! LOL We hardly have leaves! Anyway We have about 10 asparagus and 10 strawberries that survived the drought last year! We also have 13 rhubarb plants...I may have been a little to excited about the rhubarb! But when it is free whose going to complain!? We also added 25 babies to our flock 4 geese, 5 duckies, and chickens! Our geese are doing an amazing job of weeding! Mrs. W

  3. I just found your blog and i'm really enjoying reading about all you've accomplished and also seeing the wonderful pictures. I'm not a prepper but I guess you could call me an old fashioned country girl. I always grown a nice sized garden and can and freeze a lot of my produce. My husband and I are thinking about buying the home we live in now..after selling ours in town. Has 40 acres of woods but also a few cleared acres around the house. If we buy I am planning an orchard/raspberry and blackberry bushes and a new garden. I love the look of your raised beds. I think I would like to have a bunch of those and also a traditional plot for corn/popcorn/and potatoes. I'm in Southeastern Indiana..also zone 5. Oh, and there is an old chicken coop here just waiting to be spruced up and filled with some chickens. lol. Anyway, LOVE your blog!