|Community Garden Plot on May 18th.|
|Kale and some parsley|
|Perennials: catnip, bee balm, and mint. Garlic behind.|
|Butter bib lettuce plus a volunteer red cabbage.|
|Perennials: sorrel, chives, catnip, and green onions. Plus volunteer garlic.|
|Lovage (from the neighbor) and 13 oz mixed greens.|
|First asparagus of the season.|
The gardening season has begun in Bozeman, Montana and I have lots of news to report. I will have another busy Summer because this year I have three shared gardens plus my little Community Garden plot. I will be gardening at Jim's/The Big Garden again this year for the second year in a row. Sadly, my good friend Jennie has moved away and won't be gardening there with me again. An older couple will be using a small section of it, but most of the 2000+ sqft feet is free for me to use. I have already planted a bunch of it and will be growing lower maintenance crops as well as crops that did well there last year (the soil is completely devoid of organic matter and worms; many crops grew poorly there last year). I'll be growing lots of garlic, onions, peas, cabbage, broccoli, beets, carrots, black winter radishes (first time growing that), parsnips, rutabaga (first time growing that), winter squashes and pumpkins, popping corn (first time growing that), and shell/dry beans (first time growing those, too). Perhaps the greatest benefit of gardening at The Big Garden are the well established asparagus, raspberry, and strawberry patches. Last year Mark and I picked and froze oodles of berries and we still have some left in the freezer. They're great in smoothies. The asparagus began shooting up last week and I've been picking some and eating it every other night. Fresh asparagus is such a treat! It is honestly the best tasting vegetable I've eaten in a while, mostly because its so fresh. This year at The Big Garden I will be mulching around the plants with straw to help prevent moisture loss. I will till the hay into the soil after the crops go by to help to build up the organic content. I will also mulching the pathways with wood chips (acquired in exchanged for asparagus from a local tree worker). The garden already looks much better this year with all of the straw on it. Bare/exposed soil is not good!
I will be gardening at Dede's again like last Summer. Dede's garden has incredible soil and everything grew so well there with little maintenance. Mark and I recently made Dede's garden 200 sqft bigger and another load of compost was delivered and tilled in. We will grow a full away of veggies including tomatoes, potatoes, greens, green beans, carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, and many others. We will also try growing Brussel sprouts and cauliflower (started from seed), which I've never grown before.
I will share a third, new garden this year which is 15 miles from where I live, so I'll only be going there once a week or so. One of the couples that arranges the Food Swaps that I've been going to just had a baby and will not have as much time as usual for gardening. They invited me to garden with them for the Summer to share the work and the produce. The garden is about 1000 sqft feet, has good soil, and will be on automatic watering. We will grow a plethora of different vegetables. They use special black felt underneath the plants and they usually grow terrific tomatoes (Montanans usually struggle with tomatoes because of the harsh climate and cold nights). The tomatoes apparently like the warmth from the black fabric, so I'm excited to see how the tomatoes will grow there. This a great, free gardening opportunity and the couple that I'm sharing it with are super nice.
Lastly, I am growing my 100 sqft Community Garden again, for the fourth year in a row. This is the only garden that I have to pay for. I love this little garden because it is close to my house, plus I have a bunch of perennials in it including chives, green onions (scallions), mint, catnip (can be used as herbal tea and also keeps pests away), sorrel (a lemony-tasting green), and bee balm (a perennial flower). Yet again, I managed to grow greens that over-Wintered, so I am already eating fresh greens in mid-May. Nobody else at the Community Garden has planted anything yet, let alone is eating fresh greens. I am picking two types of lettuce, spinach,and kale (plus the sorrel and green onions). Also, some arugula and Swiss chard survived the Winter, but I picked and pulled those up already to plant new seeds. Two parsley plants survived the Winter (they're a biennial) and the entire garden has been self-seeded with calendula and borage flowers. The borage is literally out of control and will have to be pulled. Luckily, the young tender leaves can be eaten in salads and the older leaves are edible too, but are better dried and used as herbal tea. From now on, all of my salads will be fresh and entirely from the garden. The fresh greens taste so much better than store-bought greens. The radishes that I planted a few weeks ago will be ready to be picked in another week, which will be just in time to put the tomatoes and cucumbers in their place. Unfortunately, a bunch of spinach that survived the Winter died of thirst, because the City only recently turned on the water. Last year, I grew tremendous amounts of spinach and was able to freeze a bunch. Anyway, I only have a little spinach so far this Spring, which is kind of a bummer, but every gardening year is different. Some years are better for some crops than others.
In other news, it is May and I still have some stored, frozen, and canned foods leftover from last Summer. We are still eating at least one or two home-grown foods with every meal. Some meals are still even entirely home-grown/gathered/hunted. With four gardens (three of them free), I hope to put away a bunch of food again this year. I will be selling some of my produce this year to offset my gardening and transportation costs. I will be providing three friends with weekly bags of produce. This will make my food growing/acquiring endeavors totally free (other than my labor, of course)!