It has been a mild winter (so far) and we are getting started with the garden. It feels good to be back in the garden and thinking about what we will grow this year. The photo shows our raised beds. We have a frame with wire mesh (above and below) to keep birds, squirrels, wood rats, gophers and moles away from many of the beds. Poles and nylon nets also work well, we just made it permanent with the frame and wire. We are not going anywhere.
To the left of the covered beds, we have a few beds for herbs, potatoes and artichokes. The varmints don’t seem to like these plants, so there is no need to cover the beds. We harvest the herbs and potatoes for much of the year. The potatoes never really stop growing and will take over everything if you let them. The herbs often guide much of our daily cooking, if the herbs are looking good, they get used. Even though it is February we have thyme, mint, oregano, parsley and marjoram. Our chives are just coming up. The rosemary grows everywhere (as does the lavender). We will add basil, tarragon and lemon balm later in the year as it warms up. Almost all the herbs grow well, but Tarragon remains a challenge. But the nice thing is we can always keep trying.
The covered beds are where we do much of our real gardening work. The first two beds on the left host our strawberries and blueberries. These are our perennials and they are our most productive plants, by far. The strawberries will start fruiting in spring and go until fall, as long as there is sun. The blueberries will go from spring to summer, but it all depends on heat. If it stays cool, the blueberries will go until July/August. There is a tradeoff here, if we have blueberries in late summer, it means it may not be hot enough for all of our tomatoes to ripen. Such is the nature of a garden.
As for the other beds, we rotate what we plant each year. The only constant is that we make sure to put the tomatoes in a bed where they get good sun. We will plant 6-8 varieties of tomato, with a mix of size, type (sauce or eating raw) and ripening time. Otherwise we will plant the other beds with a variety of melons, greens, beans, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, squash and peppers. As we are in a Mediterranean climate, most of these plants do very well. The melons are a special treat, it still amazes me we can grow melons that are often better than we get at the farmers market. Choosing the melons we will grow is something we do with the kids, as they also get a special kick out of it.
The main work in the beds is fertilizing (we have our compost and use organic fertilizer), checking for soil acidity and the actual planting. We fight some aphids and spider mites on the zucchini and squash, if it is hot. Otherwise it is just constant watering, tending, picking and cleanup. As you might expect, Carolyn has more discipline in her gardening than I, but I am trying to “mature” as a gardener and do my daily work.
Right now we are working on preparing the soil, but we will start planting soon. More posts as we get started!