Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mixed Plate: Spring... Is It Really You...?

It totally felt like one of those suspense/horror movies where the girl (likely a buxom, stupid one) is wandering alone, down some dark hallway/alley/staircase, hears a less than encouraging sound and then meekly says, "Bobby (or some other generic boy name)... is that you?" Murderball ensues with much screaming and buckets of red-dyed corn syrup. I would shake my fist at the movie theater saying, why are you falling for the oldest trick in the book, you dimwitted red-shirt cliche? And yet there I go, doing the food/gardening equivalent, planting stuff early with the meek, mewling call into the darkness: Spring... is that you...? Well, no one said the Prime wasn't just a big dumb boob at heart.

Early signs of spring - a suspense movie in the making! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

It starts out looking promising. You get a few days of consistent sun and the spring flowers are becoming to bloom. The frost-covered mornings seem to have tapered off. You even open your windows on a rare Sunday or two, nearly breaking your fingers from trying to pry the winter-sealed sliding panes loose. Call the ball, Wasabi -- Springtime is HERE! The container plants that overwintered are starting to perk up -- I had a crazy amount of parsley I grew last year and for the most part, they're starting to all come back. I even had some garlic bulbs sprouting some big green ramps, meaning woo hoo, I don't have to buy green onions for a while! I also started a couple of things indoors, like lettuce and basil seeds in peat pots, sitting in a Pyrex baking dish. I have to say, those glass dishes are a seed starter's friend -- they retain heat fairly well, easy to clean for later casseroles, and  just the right height to hold soaked peat pots and cover with plastic wrap to give it a little greenhouse environment to wait for the first signs of life, which we're clearly getting.

The promising conditions made me feel bold enough to get some herb starters. I'd been meaning to replace a dwindling lemon thyme plant (just got regular thyme this time, har-har), spicy oregano, and a couple of rosemary plants. I still miss the giant rosemary bushes I had from before, which sadly died after a particularly harsh winter, and hadn't gotten around to re-cultivating a new live rosemary supply. I wanted to get more herbs, as these would round out our current supply of parsley, lemon balm, sage, spearmint and chives. These are the days I crave, being able to shop your own backyard for supplies, versus going to the store to buy such basic items.

Springtime showers, flowers and herbs from True Value - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I spent a weekend exercising my Garden Muscle, aka the workout that feels like you've done about a million squats for three hours, freshening up our garden beds, removing the black garbage bags I cover them with for the cold months, turning the soil with new fertilizer and mixing the stuff from the composter that was buried underneath last fall. It's not pretty work and you wind up with dirt in the most bizarre and intimate places, but whatever. Happy soil = happy plants. I started using the black garbage bags last year as a weed barrier and something to help keep the soil both warm and moist, just cutting a strip down the center for the plants to grow out of. I'm happy to say the black garbage bags definitely help to keep the weeds down -- only had to de-weed the corners and edges the bag didn't cover this time. The winter barriers performed double duty, as once the soil was amended and heaped into rows for planting, I laid the bags back down, weighted them with stakes or rocks, and just cut new openings for this year's plants to grow from.

Never touch another man's rhubarb - wise words from the Joker - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I got a rhubarb plant for the heck of it, because I know they're hearty and grow well in this area, plus I hope to get some strawberry plants to create a strawberry-rhubarb pie garden. Also on the springtime docket is peas. Lots of them. I soaked the pea seeds overnight and then laid them out between wet paper towels on a plate and covered it with plastic wrap. A few days (OK, well maybe a few too many days) near a window, and the peas will sprout. I let mine get too far, so they got tangled and angrily shot through the paper towel, but as long as you see a little white sprout come out, you know the seed is viable and ready to hit the dirt. After much untangling, I was able to plant two sprouted seed packets of sugar snap peas and snow peas. I know, it's a lot, but I also hope to harvest the thinned pea shoots for at least a week's worth of salads.

Some old, some new, some borrowed, some... green? - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Another item of interest showing some signs of life are Mr. Wasabi's hop plants. We've got about six rhizomes growing in a row by the vegetable garden. He was able to harvest enough hop cones last year for one full batch of beer, and hoping for a bumper crop this year, as it can take a year or two before the vines really mature and start to produce sizeable amounts. This garden will see us drunk, come hell or high water!

What the hell is happening? - Photo by Wasabi Prime

On that note of inebriated relaxation, as all suspense/horror movie cliches go, you're easily lulled into a false sense of security, and in this case, the garden was developing, new growth showing strong beginnings and new plants settling in nicely. And then... the whammy of winter struck us down with some furious whoop-ass. One day of crazy icy rain, hail and big flakes of snow that followed. It wasn't enough to do much, if any damage, but still. Pretty cold, no? And all because someone had to say, "Spring... is it really you?"

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  1. We put our rhubarb in the ground a few days ago, I can't wait until next year when it's ready. We've also got an army of strawberries planted to act as tasty ground cover. These are great photos, can't wait to see when your plants are bigger!

  2. Strawberry rhubarb pie garden! I love it! I may have to copy that idea! I have one lone strawberry plant hanging on from last year.


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