Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Garden in Mid March 2018

This is a long post since I'm doing an update on pretty much the entire garden. I do like to do a pretty thorough update at least once in a while. It's always interesting to go back a year or a few to see what the garden was doing at a similar time in the past. Last year my garden in the last week of March was in better shape than it is now and that was after having abandoned it for 3+ weeks while Dave and I were on vacation. This year both the birds and the voles seem to be more hungry than ever, probably because of the lack of rain this winter versus a very wet winter last year. This year my garden is an all you can eat green buffet surrounded by a drought stunted landscape.

Longer, slightly warmer, and definitely wetter days of late have been doing some good for the garden and the wild landscape. And even better for parts of the garden was my work on the vole defenses.

Let's get on with the tour...

Bed No. 1

The favas have gone through a growth spurt. They all have multiple stems and some of them have the first flowers showing. The birds have started pecking at both them and the accompanying Golden Sweet snow peas so I've strung long lengths of flash tape along the trellis. It seems to be helping to deter the birds for now but I've got some long lengths of mesh fabric that I can use to cover things up if necessary.

I still haven't cut down the old tomatoes and peppers that linger at one end of the bed. None of them are dead yet, even the tomatoes.

The cage is protecting young Royal Snow and Little Crunch Snap peas. The Royal Snow plants will have purple pods but the foliage has some purple going on as well.

Royal Snow Pea

Pico Pardal Garbanzo
The far end of the bed is where I set out some Pico Pardal Garbanzo plants. They are all getting started under the protection of water bottle cloches.

Bed No. 2

Vole Ville, at least until recently.

It wasn't enough to erect a 2 foot fence of hardware cloth around the bed, the voles figured out how to dig under the fence to get to the goodies inside. I had to put down more hardware cloth around the entire inner perimeter of the bed to cover the soil and go up the outsides of the fence. Then the critters just went around the perimeter and found any gap that I had left and wormed their way through so I then had to go around and plug the gaps. I hope there wasn't anyone around to hear me as I cursed the critters on each of several occasions when I discovered a new incursion and had to waste a load of time making a fix. The water bottle cloches in the foreground are protecting newly set out seedlings of Filderkraut and Violaceo di Verona cabbages.

One of the few vegetables that wasn't to the liking of the voles nor the birds is the Pink Lettucy mustard. This was supposed to fill the gaps between some broccoli plants until the broccoli plants could fill the space. The broccoli was one of the first menu items for the voles/birds so the mustard became the main crop for the space. All the little greenery growing around the mustard is Cilician parsley. I figured out last year that broccoli and parsley are amicable companions, especially the Cilician parsley which is not as large as the Giant Italian flatleaf that used to be my favorite.
Pink Lettucy Mustard
The mustard is starting to bolt so in a few weeks time perhaps I'll be able to try some broccolini plants here.

Pixie Cabbage
The Pixie cabbage plants were also early targets of the critters. The remaining original plant is making a valiant effort to make a head.

Little Jade Napa Cabbage
I will never figure out the whys and wherefores of critter appetites. Why is plain green cabbage so attractive and Napa cabbage growing right next to it a no go? The fluffy looking one on the right hit the harvest basket the other day and we've already consumed half of it. A nice surprise about that head of cabbage is that it wasn't home to a bunch of earwigs which typically love to snack on my Napa cabbages. That cloche next to the cabbages is home to new seedlings.

New Batavia Broccoli Plants
I'm not going to let the critters get the best of me, broccoli is back, in a small way for now. 

Beni Houshi Mizuna
I interplanted Beni Houshi mizuna with the broccoli babies.

One of the reserve cabbage plants that I set out after the first ones got attacked was in turn attacked. Just when I thought it was safe to uncover it the birds decided that it would make a tasty treat. I should just put the poor thing out of its misery and feed the compost.

Pai Tsai Napa Cabbage
 Pai Tsai is a non-heading Napa cabbage. Wish it luck, it's not covered for now.

Syrian Medieval Chard
I know that's a lot of chard, but you have to grow a lot of chard for seed saving purposes if you want good quality genetically healthy seeds.

Ho-Mi Z/Dragon Tongue Mustard and Italian Scallions
The cage in this bed is where I grow smaller vegetables that need protection from birds mainly, but other critters too. 
Fabric Protection for Arugula, Cress, and Radishes
This part of the cage was where I tried to overwinter some peas for early spring harvests. The plants grew ok through the winter and I kept them trimmed back early on by harvesting the tender shoots a few times. But later on the voles found a way to dig into the cage and started to eat the young peas. And then it started to rain and the crowded plants started to get fungal diseases. So I gave up on the peas, sent them to the compost bin, and sowed a bunch of quick producing spring veggies. Arugula, cress, and radishes sprouted quickly under the protection of some lightweight Agribon fabric.

Baby Arugula

Baby Greek Cress

Baby Radish
I learned from experience that beets do not readily germinate in cold soil, if at all. I also learned from experience that beets sown in paper pots and set out in the garden do just fine.

So that's what's growing in another part of the cage.

Baby Golden and Sweetheart Beets

Baby Queen of Crunch (2 puny Tennisball)
 and mature Red Iceberg and Three Heart Butterhead Lettuces

Lettuces I start en masse in 3.5-inch pots and then separate out the little plants and set them out into the garden. I almost always grow heading lettuces now but when I set the seedlings out I space a bunch of them for growing on to full heads and fill the gaps with the extras, usually 2 or 3 of them clumped together, for cutting as baby lettuces.

Red Iceberg Lettuce
Got to eat more salad.

Three Heart Butterhead Lettuce

Bed No. 3

Old Stuff. Mostly.

Compost waiting to happen. What you can't see are ALL THE APHIDS. Bleah.

Old Celery
Old Brussels Sprouts
Still good, just need to get around to harvesting it.

Old Chard, Fennel (resprouting), and Cilician Parsley
Same Old Cilician Parsley
Frost nipped a few times but hanging in there.

Old Nasturtiums
New seeds in process, the old stash is, well, getting old.

Old Speedy Arugula
Slooow. Turning yellow before it's really big enough to harvest. Time to go.

Newish Spinach
Maybe this round will do better.

New Spinach and A Little Parsley Too

Bed No. 4

A wall and a sea of fabric to foil the birds.

Shrouded Frieda Worlds Snow Peas

There is something growing under there. Kodiak mustard, peas, favas, grasses. Soon to be cut down  if there's a long enough break in the drizzle when I'm not doing something else.

I saved some pretty shots for those of you who stuck it out to the end.

This beauty is either an Allen's or a Rufous Hummingbird, I'm guessing an immature male Rufous because there are hints of the spectacular throat feathers sported by the adult male. Its back is mostly orange which makes me think it might be a Rufous because the Allen's tend to have a green back.  My photos aren't very sharp because they were taken at an angle through my dirty dining room window. He has commandeered the feeder outside my kitchen window and is vigorously defending it from the local year round resident Anna's Hummers. It shouldn't be long before the locals get their feeder back, Rufous hummers migrate through here on their way from Mexico to the Northwest so this guy should be on his way north soon.

Ahhh. Mist. Rain. Clouds. Refreshing.

The End.

At last.


  1. When I read your post, I am always quite surprised at the battle you have with the local critters. I am sure that whatever grows around you is nowhere near as tasty as your veg. My plot does not have much growing yet and we are due snow at the weekend. Definitely a colder Spring this year for us.

  2. I have never seen napa cabbage and garbanzo before. Thanks for sharing

  3. Michelle, honestly, I don't know how you do it, fighting the depredations of the rodents daily. You are the eternal Warrior Woman.

    This weather certainly has been great for spring crops. The fava beans have quickly doubled in size. One pod has two lumps in it. When do I pick them?

    The salad lettuce Nevada has also filled out and now I have six beauties ready at once. I better make like the Easter bunny and eat them soon. I read about a new salad paradigm by Carol Deppe. Instead of using heavily processed oils, use oily things like eggs, small canned fish, cheese and olives. For vinegar use lemons, oranges, or sorrel, etc. I add some salt and I must say I like the salads better this way.

    Talking about critter appetites, I have two rapini-type plants growing next to each in the same planter. One attracts aphids, one does not. You bet I'll be saving the seeds from the one seemingly immune to the aphids.

    1. Hah! Warrior Woman doing battle armed with 100 foot rolls of hardware cloth!

      I’m guessing from your latest post that you’ve figured out when to harvest your favas...

      Interesting salad idea from Carol Deppe. I love my salads dressed with olive oil, always extra virgin. All the oils I use are minimally processed. I figure that if an oil has to be refined to make it edible then it probably shouldn’t be consumed anyway. And I’m fussy about vinegar too. I can’t fathom the idea of consuming something like distilled white vinegar, that stuff is barely fit for scrubbing toilets. I do make my own red wine vinegar which is pretty darned good because I use pretty darned good wine to make it. And I squeeze a lot of fresh Meyer lemons for salad dressings too. So I guess I’m stuck in my own salad paradigm.

  4. Ugh - those darn voles!! Last year it was a never-ending battle with baby rabbits that could squeeze through even the smallest gap. So many times I thought I was done - and then I would find more damage so I knew there must be yet another gap that I had missed (or was created). If I was lucky, I would catch one in the garden and then chase them off...which would usually lead me directly to the minuscule gap that I would have otherwise missed.

    Is that a full stalk of Brussels sprouts in one of your photos? It looks awesome, from that vantage - hopefully it's not one of the aphid casualties.

    And your hummingbird photo is amazing - I've never been able to catch one standing still.

  5. Bunny battles preceded the vole wars, although I was probably fighting both simultaneously but didn’t realize it. The bunnies seem to have given up since I surrounded the garden with hardware cloth. I guess they aren’t inclined to dig underneath like the voles do.

    That is a stalk full of miniature Brussels sprouts, runts every one. I’ll harvest them one of these days but the total won’t amount to much. The tops of the plants are aphid factories and I don’t know how infested the sprouts are which is why I haven’t harvested them yet since it may be more trouble than it’s worth to try to clean them up.

  6. I didn't realize how much hardware cloth you've had to use, the wildlife in your area sounds insane. I really hope things are better soon.

  7. It took me a bit but I made it! I love the hummer shots. It's always amazing to me to see them sit still. Mostly I hear them zipping by me outside. In my garden the napa cabbage is always the target of something, usually slugs, sow bugs and cabbage worms - while the regular cabbage stays pretty clean. It will be interesting to see how the Filderkraut does. Are you planning on making kraut with it? I'm always looking for things to ferment!


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