Wberefore art thou, O Spring? Come BACK we miss you!
Yes, we were spoiled by the warm weather and now reality sets in – this is Chicagoland, and we hardy souls don’t put our tomato plants out until at least Mother’s Day no matter what. Mine are still under the lights in the basement, repotted and waiting it out until they can be buried in blissfully warm soil up to their necks. Not now.
Not to say nothing is happening in my garden. The peas, spinach, arugula, mache, radishes, and bunching onions are up, as well as a few potatoes – mainly the ones in a container. I hope the others haven’t rotted in the cold and damp. I’ve set out broccoli, kale, onion and shallot sets and all are doing fine.
The biggest excitement for me is mini-clover. I had a lot of bare spots this year and since I am not a fan of grass, I decided to plant mini-clover and let it spread. I have large patches of regular lawn clover and it looks so lovely! Mini-clover is.. small.. and only gets about 3-4″ tall. Combining small delicate stature with deep green color, self-fertilizing super powers, drought tolerance and durability, this could be a real winner. I ordered one pound from outsidepride.com and sowed it on my front lawn and parkway.
I broadcast the coated seeds in roughed up but bare areas on April 24 and it started coming up a few days later. With all the rain we’ve gotten, it’s off to a great start. Hoping it can outcompete undesirables. I can’t let dandelions get a foothold because I wouldn’t do that to my neighbors (whose lawns are seas of perfect emerald green) but I hope they don’t mind clover.
Not bored any longer! Since my last post I’ve been busy starting seeds, transplanting seedlings, hardening off seedlings, planting out cold weather things and complaining about all the rain. I managed to get my spring cleaning done inside (since it WAS rainy) but not outside. I made sure to concentrate on the front yard at least. So many fun tasks await. At least I got all the cold weather seeds planted and some are coming up: radishes, spinach, peas at least. I got the potatoes in (La Ratte, a french fingerling heirloom from Seed Savers) but haven’t seen them up yet. The garlic is looking cheerful and sturdy. Behind that I’ve planted a row of carrots (3 kinds) overseeded with radishes. Usually I plant according to the square foot method, but I just wanted fewer veggies this year. Weird, huh! So I am going for a linear look instead in some parts of the garden. I also planted out my little seedlings of Zebrune shallots and Newburg onions (also from Seed Savers). All surviving well because of the rain here and there. It was gloriously warm for a few days but this week looks to be back to actual spring weather. The daffodils have been spectacular and this year my Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is blooming like mad. I planted little divisions from a friend a couple of years ago. Blue + yellow! Genius, if inadvertent. In my garden, I just fill holes with plants and hope for the best. Combo I like best today: Golden Shadows Pagoda Dogwood with daffodils bringing out the yellow. Ooh.
Last year I decided to put in some chartreuse and it really livens things up. Sorry about the weeds – looks like chickweed is going to have another banner year. You can also see the remnants here of last year’s experiment with a fall planted cover crop – in this case oats – that I will leave as is and plant through. This used to be the “nursery” area but all those plants went over to my daughter’s garden and now, hallelujah, I have space to fill!
I love the way hellebores look when they first come out, but then, as you can see, if you don’t have a light colored flower, they tend to look like indistinct clumps, not too exciting. I am going to move the seedlings (many now) to an area by my walkway so I can enjoy them close up.
Veg Garden update:
Trying a new trellis system this year. The stakes are cut from my Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria), which I coppice every year for nice long stems. I’ll tie string between them as the peas and cucumbers grow up past the fencing.
Temperatures in the high 60s! The gardening bug strikes. What to do?
There are some seeds to be started indoors: onions, parsley and basil for indoor use, violas, sweet peas, and any chile that needs a loooong season to produce, like Chiltepin. This Sonoran desert native, also known as bird pepper, forms an airy 2′ tall profile with little round fruits that are hot, hot, hot. But addictive. One little chile in your salsa and boom! Or crush and sprinkle over vanilla ice cream, which tames the heat a little bit. I have to start these very early, plant them in a spot that gets a lot of reflected heat, and hope that it’s not too rainy. I usually get a handful of chiles from a plant, but every year I hope to do better.
Outside, the hellebores need trimming. Last year’s leaves have served as an insulating blanket, but they do nothing for this year’s looks. Cutting close to the emerging buds will let the flowers show in all their glory. Wish this warm weather, they should be opening soon.