Last week was a very busy week! If you recall, we did May the 4th (be with you) with a Disney at Home day visiting Hollywood Studios. Then, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo, then my birthday, and then Mother’s Day (post coming about that). It’s also been a chilly few days in Central Indiana. We had a freeze warning Friday evening, which is a touch later than our normal last frost date, but has happened at least once before that I can recall in the 10 years we’ve been at the Homestead.
All of which is to say, that we’re not quite as far along as we’d hope to be right now, but are still plugging away very happily on the garden. The raised bed garden is pretty much done. I still need to lay brick edging around the beds and plant bulbs, but we got another truckload of compost Thursday evening and set to mulching everything with a nice thick layer, so all of the important bits are in place. Which means we are moving on from that project. It’s almost planting time for summer crops, so we spread most of the compost in the main garden, which we’d already tilled thoroughly so just had to lightly work it in. We then set-about laying out the garden and raking it up for planting.
You may recall we use a garden planner available online each year to lay-out the garden, and I’d shared the design in a previous garden update. However, now that the raised bed garden is complete, we’ve been looking for ways to unite the spaces and make it all look intentional and continuous. The easiest way to do this is to connect the raised bed garden to the main garden with a path, so we’d begun laying a path in the raised bed garden with this purpose in mind. Well, the path actually points straight down the side of the strawberry beds in the main garden all the way to the gate to the forest.
We can unite three areas of the garden if we simply move our main garden entrance over to the side and add an exit out the back. So, this has necessitated in re-doing the garden plan. Below I’ve pictured the first design plan for this year followed by what we’ve actually laid-out and raked-up now for planting.
It’s almost to scale, give or take a little. The main path from the entrance back to the forest beyond the blueberries lines up better in real life than it does here. I’m pleased with the formal structure the addition of permanent raised beds and blueberry and raspberry bushes give to the space. And we already have a climbing rose and clematis that will grow over an arbor to help unite the two gardens even more. Next year I’ve even thought about adding a shallow border at the front, since I’ll likely take cuttings from the plants in the perennial bed in the raised garden and will want a place to put the new young plants. That would help to really visually unite the spaces even more.
You’ll notice we’re able to get two more kinds of beans into the garden and also added eggplant. I’m not super keen on eggplant, but Brian absolutely loves it and I’ll tolerate it in ratatouille. We also added more strawberries, which is a bonus in my book. With the amount of jam I make (and if I ever intend to sell jam again, which I just might), we’ll need as many as I can fit. I’ve also added new varieties, which is exciting. It’s good with fruit to always have at least two varieties in the garden, and now we’ll have three–two ever-bearers and one June-bearing variety. The June-bearers are little babies I got for not a lot of money, so I’ll likely pinch-off the flowers this year and not let them fruit so that they put their energy into growing nice healthy roots. But, next year, that means I’ll get a larger influx of berries all at once, which will help me make a lot of jam all at once. The other varieties will continue to produce throughout the summer, which will help with eating. 🙂
It was too cold to plant this weekend, but throughout the week I’ll be plugging things in. Because of all the work on the raised bed garden, we’re actually late getting some things in the ground, such as carrots, parsnips, beets, and onions. That’s alright, though, because next Spring we’ll be ready and putting in the very early Spring crops we have normally missed will be so much easier in the raised beds. I already ordered a wide variety of broccoli, lettuces, and greens in delicious anticipation for next year. Succession and year-round planting has always been a weakness in our garden with its old infrastructure, and I’m so excited that between the greenhouse and the raised beds, we’ve vastly improved. I’ll likely still wait a bit on tomatoes, peppers, and chilis, as they do really want a warm soil. It all depends on what happens with temperatures into this weekend.
And lastly in the garden, we started some of the necessary forest management. We do this periodically, but haven’t seriously done it now for too many years–probably around 4. We have a tremendous amount of invasive honeysuckle on our property and in the forest that can choke-out trees and destroy the forest undergrowth as it leeches nutrients from the soil and light from the sun. It’s massive and, for a few years before we started doing the forest management, made the trails back in it impassable. Even though we don’t own the forest (oh how we wish we did! It’s basically our dream property), we’ve taken on the task of keeping the trail clear and pay special attention to the area directly behind our fence. We plan to clear-out all the honeysuckle, restore some forest undergrowth found in the rest of the forest–such as wild garlic, woodland flowers, and ferns–and also plan to grow our own crop of mushrooms back here (look for a post about this in a few weeks).
It’s not an ideal time of year to be doing heavy pruning of large shrubs and trees, as birds are still sitting on unhatched eggs, so we are being careful. But, it’s got to be done for the health of the forest. We can re-use a lot of the honeysuckle wood to build our new garden fence and arbor, and plan to rent a chipper to chip the rest of it for mulch and compost, so nothing will go to waste. The honeysuckle will grow back, as it did over the past 4 years, but we plan to keep on it better. The past 4 years in the Hull Family were pretty hectic, so it’s no surprise this task got away from us.
Now, after all the anticipatory prep work in the garden and all of the holiday and special event food of last week, we’re aching for some vegetables on our plates. So, this week’s meal plan certainly reflects that. I also have been ordering local farm products off of Market Wagon, and have been so happy to have access to local foods and the delightful and seasonal local produce. Last week I treated us to ramps, which we used to have in our forest but I haven’t found recently (I’m trying to propagate it for re-planting, but we’ll see how that goes. I’m dubious it’ll take). Here’s the rundown:
Weekly Meal Plan
Monday: cheese quesadillas and leftover Caribbean rice and beans
Tuesday: refried bean enchiladas
Wednesday: cabbage and mushroom gratin
Thursday: Tuscan white bean and baby kale skillet
Friday: tandoori chicken with basmati rice
Saturday: white lasagna with seasonal greens
Sunday: grilling out a meat of some kind with a variety of side dishes (weather permitting)
That’s it! I’ll have some recipe posts coming-up this week. I actually have quite the backlog going. I’ll also have a post about our Mother’s Day tea. Until then!