So then, most of our five (or six or seven or…) gardens are now planted. Really, I think I still have a bunch of space in two of my 4×8 foot beds. Maybe even three. I’ve been so pulled away by other things this year that I haven’t given my gardens very much thought. That said, I have made a bunch of new mini-gardens. I turned two strips of fencing into garden beds by tearing up the dandelions that were growing along one fence, and made a de facto raised bed along the back alley, next to the five full-sized raised beds. The strawberry plants that we planted last year in one bed have taken off, and are producing! I’ll add a chicken wire cover to that bed this week so that the raccoons and squirrels can’t eat ’em before we do.
My potato gardens are taking off. Last year, I made potato gardens out of stacks of tires, like this:
That’s a flower atop the potato plant stem, by the way. (Did you know that potatoes had yellow flowers? Neither did I!)
The potatoes have all set radial shoots out from the spot in the tire where they were planted, and I now have to either add more tires (which may have yucky chemicals on them), or improvise. I have a bunch of burlap sacks… and I have ready access to leaf compost. Hmmm…
Basically, with the tires, when the plant gets a foot above the rim, you throw another tire on top, and add dirt or leaf compost. The plant will continue to burrow up, and will send more shoots out in the new tire. By the fall, you could have a few dozen potatoes. All from one little potato that grew “eyes.” Pretty cool.
In the more regular raised beds, today I planted tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper seedlings. I’ve already planted broccoli (and had its leaves eaten by ants or other bugs; grr), onions, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are neat to grow. The plants are huge, or they can get huge unless you lop the neck off the stem once they’re knee-high. If you do that, then the plant will just grow “out” and work on building sprouts. And the sprout that we eat (assuming you like Brussels sprouts) grow on the top of vertex (the shoulder) of the leaf and the stem. We leave them in the ground until just after the first frost, at which time they become much less bitter. And then we freeze ’em. We still have some left from last year’s harvest!
In other beds I’ve planted frost peas and bush beans. Frost peas are climbers, so they’re good along fences. Bush beans will grow about two feet tall, and have long arms on which the bean pods grow. They’re easy and good for kids to harvest. Ditto radishes. They sprout very fast, and kids love to plant the bumpy reddish seeds. I call my daughter my “champion radish seed planter.” She won’t eat ’em, but she loves to plant ’em.
Ahh, I can tell I’m worn out. I did a lot of yard and garden work today, and then sat outside with a fire (and the dog). It was a good night, staring at the dog and petting the fire… which explains why my hand hurts so much!
Brazen commercial plugs: Weber’s Greenhouses at 4215 N. Green Bay Ave. on Milwaukee’s north side, and Sweet Earth Garden Center at 1571 W. Forest Home Ave. on Milwaukee’s south side are both awesome. I’ve gotten a lot of my vegetable seedlings there, and had very good results with them so far. And for real, tell Franz at Weber’s that you know me. He’ll be good to you. And both are good local garden centers that deserve your business.