I’m blossoming into my third spring in my current home. After having been without a gardening space for several years and the necessity of getting many other things done at the house in the beginning, I planted a very modest garden that first year. It did not thrive, but I enjoyed a few things from it, especially herbs and peas. I learned we didn’t have much in the way of spring flowers. When I set out to remedy that in the fall with daffodil and tulip bulbs, I tucked in some organic garlic from the farmer’s market and tossed a few extra pea seeds in the veggie space.
My second-year garden was made exponentially better by that simple fall planting and the addition of a summer drip irrigation system. In addition to the garlic, peas, and herbs, I enjoyed many tomatoes and cucumbers, but I never really got into the swing of deliberately and diligently harvesting or focusing my meals on what I’d grown. It was always a supplemental after thought.
That being said, it was a particularly good supplement. I enjoyed fresh tomatoes ripened on the counter all the way until November. It’s early April and I’m still eating the garlic I grew last year. Which says a lot given how much I cook and use garlic.
These early learning experiences – the miracles of fall planting and drip irrigation – combined with my general happiness at home, inspired me to go more all in on the garden last fall. I weeded everything out for the full tidy and built raised beds (from a kit!). I used the opportunity to plant better garlic and experimented further with fall planting and overwintering spring crops. I also transplanted a few of the crops I might have left for dead into the new raised beds.
Quite frankly, I’m stunned by the reward.
We had an unusually warm and mild fall. As such, the transplanted kale and chard rewarded me with several harvests throughout the fall and winter. The garlic came up faster than I would have expected and by November, even the peas had shot up a little something. As the cold frosts came, I realized I better protect my early arriving investment. A simple remay tunnel was built. Somehow, this kept my babies safe from the worst snowstorm the Pacific Northwest had in years!
Now the kale and chard are positively robust with greens that multiply faster each time I harvest. The transplanted onions have provided scallions and will soon offer up those delightful spring onions. Both the fava beans and peas are budding new flowers everyday. I have a scant amount of garlic to use up from last year’s crop and then I get to start finding out what spring green garlic is all about. I’ve enjoyed radishes, mache (a French salad green), chervil (a French herb), and broccoli raab.
I’m learning more about the advantages of getting to use garden crops over several stages – unique vegetables like kale florets (basically flowering kale), pea vine and shoots, spring alliums, scapes, flowers and baby versions of full grown crops. It’s a whole new world of truly in season, organic, fresh vegetables.
Last year’s herb garden rebounded well and most of my plants have returned – many seem twice as large as last year, especially the sorrel plant. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme are at the fair. I was so excited to see the chives, lovage, and tarragon pop up. Mint, lemon balm, oregano. So many choices.
The garden success is so addictive that I built two more raised beds and have big big big plans for summer. Meanwhile, I’ve challenged myself to regularly re-seed for continuous crops, to harvest regularly, and to plan meals around what I’ve got coming in. A key to my success so far has been to wash and sort each harvest thoroughly when I come inside. It’s very exciting and bringing some fresh inspiration to the kitchen.