Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Crunch Time

It's that time again.  Days of running from one part of the garden to another, coming inside for more seeds, wondering how all those weeds got so big in just a few days, scavenging newspapers for lasagna mulching, dragging the hose around to water the newly sown beds and the seedlings still in pots, squeezing in just one more plant, cold drinks, the need for a short haircut, and trying to fob off my extra tomato seedlings on other gardeners.  Tomato seedlings in late May are like zucchinis in mid-July.  No one needs or wants any.  I may resort to setting them out on the curb with a "free" sign.  Evenings bring a second round of work in the cool of twilight after quick dinners.  The calluses are building up on my hands.  We've spotted the first fireflies of the year and gotten our first mosquito bites.  The piles of mulch and compost on the driveway have been growing and shrinking over the last two months as we replenish them on the weekend and use them up during the week.  We got to the bottom of the compost pile last night. 

Yesterday I was feeling so incredibly optimistic about the growing season, and happy with the garden plan for this year.  In the afternoon I planted out starts of winter squash, bush zucchini, melons, lavender, eggplant, parsley, sunflowers, basil, mint, onion starts, and sowed more carrot and turnip seeds.  Then I got the news about incidences of late blight already cropping up, and one of them in my state.  Talk about a downer.  I spoke with our serious gardening friends last night, and they said they're going with the copper fungicidal spray for their tomato plants (approved for use in organic farming).  I may follow suit.  I just don't think I could handle another year of total loss in the tomato department.

In better news I'm also going with serious gardening friend later this week to a U-pick organic strawberry farm.  If I pick more than 10 pounds of strawberries, the price is a mere $2.50 per pound!  I think we could do with some strawberry jam this year, plus some frozen for winter time fruit crisp indulgence.  I have to check on my supply of small canning jars.  I probably don't have enough. We plan to go to a community-wide yard sale in my area the weekend after next.  Specifically I wanted to look for canning jars, plus a few other items.  I may break down and buy a few new ones sooner than that if my supply is very low.  The alternative would be to freeze the strawberries until after the big yard sale, in hopes that I can pick up the jars for a song.  But we're in for some cool-ish weather in the latter part of this week, so it would be nice to get the canning done right away.  Which means that if I want her expert help at making jam, I also need to find time to clean my kitchen some time very soon.  Sigh.

Still to plant are leeks, more chard, more onions, more lettuce, pepper starts, celery and celeriac, a rhubarb transplant, and more seeds of spinach, beets, carrots, arugula, and beans.  It's a good time of year, but man, am I tired.


Ali said...

I feel your pain. Seriously, my aspirin consumption skyrockets at this time of year!

Good luck with the canning jars. All this interest in local foods, etc., has made them scarce here in Maine, sigh. I had to buy some new jars last year.

Good luck with blight prevention!

Wendy said...

I hear ya! There is a lot to do right now. I started planting early, and have been rewarded for my efforts. Unfortunately, because I started early, I've grown a bit lazy and complacent, thinking I still have plenty of time, but this weekend is the big planting weekend here in Maine. Memorial Day is when most people start the garden.

I still have the three-sisters and tons of potatoes to get into the ground. Most of the other stuff has been planted at this point. Thank goodness, because those last few things will be the tough ones ;).

louisa @ Recycle This said...

I'm there with you too. I was ill for three weeks from the last week of April/first fortnight of May so not only have I got all the usual late-May stuff to do, I'm also playing catch-up too! Hopefully it'll be worth it though...

Jennifer Montero said...

I have never managed to make any strawberry jam because I'm a gluttonous pig and eat every single strawberry. It's like a heroin habit but for fruit....

Matt said...

I went picking two weeks ago and hauled away 13.5 pounds of strawberries! I've made seven pints of jam and four half-pints of strawberry-balsamic preserves for use on steaks and salads. I also did what you were thinking of - I filled a bunch of quart-sized ziploc bags with strawberries and froze them for a rainy day.

Anonymous said...

I had to chuckle when I read you had to clean your kitchen. I can do garden or house- this time of year, garden wins hands down, and the house...well, it's a good job any visiting friends know me well!

I am going to have to tidy up though, as a neighbour (well known for complaining about EVERYTHING) has taken exception to my chickens (after 5 years), so I'm inviting the council round first. Don't want them to think I'm a total sloven. Pre-emptive strike-fingers crossed, and all that. It's just what I don't need at the moment!

On the strawberry front, have you tried strawberry and rhubarb jam? They're not as well known as a fruit combo in England as they are in the US, so I'd not tried it before last year, and it was so delicious. Perhaps even nicer than straight strawberry jam, which I wouldn't have thought possible!

Good luck to everyone with blight this year. We didn't even get green tomato chutney last year. I've got my greenhouse now, so I'm hoping that will protect some, and I've also been reading The Edible Garden by Alys Fowler (it was also a BBC TV series, so maybe available online somewhere?) and she says leave outdoor tomatoes alone. Don't prune or defoliate them, as that weakens the plant and creates wounds for infection to enter. I used to do that before I read up on how to be a 'better' gardener, and had less trouble with my tomatoes, so I'm trying that again this year. If blight really strikes, it won't save the plants, but they might be able to fight it off for longer. I'll let you know how I do!

Another blog length post Kate!


Robin said...

I've got all of that and with a 2 month old! Good thing he likes hanging out in the garden with mommy :)
Right now we're racing to get our cherries picked before the birds get them.

Jayme Goffin, The Coop Keeper said...

Lovin' your blog! I posted a comment on your comfrey post as well. I'm in the same boat. Worked in the garden 12 hours yesterday, and still didn't feel like I got Jack Squat done. It's the most wonderful time of the year .......: < >

Kate said...

Ali, I'm the same way with painkillers in spring. I hardly ever go for them the rest of the year, but spring is hard on a gardener's body. Here's to more perennials!

Wendy, our spring here has been unusually early and unusually warm so far. So most of my stuff is already in the ground - unusually early. I just hope the weather doesn't come back to bite us in the ass like it did last year. Hope your planting goes well.

Louisa, illness in April/May would be the worst. So much of these things simply *have* to be done in those two months. I cheated somewhat by buying starts for several crops. But I simply must start my own tomatoes, and the root crops just don't take well to being started in pots or transplanted. So those are all on me or the just don't happen. I hope you're feeling better now.

Jennifer, I plan to pick more than ten pounds, so we'd *better* get some jam out of it. I've also stocked up on organic cream, so that we can triage any "excess" by making ice cream. I'm wicked that way...

Matt, way to go! I'm intrigued by the sound of the strawberry-balsamic preserve. Thanks for mentioning it. What kinds of salads do you put it on? Green salads?

Hazel, good luck with the chicken police. Strawberry-rhubarb pie and jam are well known here. I just got a rhubarb plant to add to our garden this year. So maybe next year we can try making that combination. Thanks for passing along the warning about pruning tomato plants. It sort of conflicts with other advice I've heard for combating blight on tomatoes, but then conflicting advice in gardening is pretty much the name of the game.

Robin, my hat's off to you then! I netted our little cherry tree a while back in hopes of saving the first crop ever, which looks to be maybe 17 cherries.

Jayme, welcome! From your profile description, we could be soul-twins.