Restarting The Kitchen Garden

I wish I could say that year-round gardening is the way of life here. But it has not been true for the last couple of years when several things have – ahem! – come in the way of winter gardening. So it’s spring, and I am planting!

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Lower Garden on March 23, 2014

Why did I not have a winter garden? Catering is busiest in the fall, exactly when I should be starting or transplanting seedlings – and so “free” time is spent harvesting and preserving, not so much planting or watering. Those seedlings I managed to start perished or languished in the rainless falls we’ve been having (no time for watering). The population of moles, voles and mice has exploded over the last two years. And those critters are hungry. Even if they aren’t eating my garden (moles), they still tunnel mightily; then voles and mice use the tunnels for even more depredations.  Root crops – including leeks –  that can stay in the garden and I can normally harvest until after Christmas have been devoured – as well as the roots of parsley, Swiss chard, and cardoons! Besides, this year we’ve had a real winter in Virginia – lots of snow falls, consistent extended cold with many nights well below 10F (-12C) — and a few below 0F (-18C)… Gardening without cold frame was just impossible. The only few thing that survived the rodents and the cold was one (way too small) bed of late hastily planted spinach and arugula under garden fleece  – and the self-sown mache. Let’s be grateful for the mache (and perennial sorrel that just pushing out)!

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And so this year, after the long winter hiatus, the early spring rituals of cleaning out the beds, straightening the sides, digging, raking the soil smooth, setting up the cold frame, breaking down the compost pile, transplanting and sowing, feel even more meaningful.

Early peas and radishes were sowed a week ago when I also transplanted a few lettuce plugs in the cold frame; onion plants went in on Friday; fava beans yesterday and early potatoes today. With more winter weather on the way, every bed got a layer of clean straw and/or a covering of fleece.

Potato was the one crop I was really hesitant to put in since we have more 20 degrees (F) days ahead of us. But the early daffodils just started to bloom, and potatoes should be planted when the early daffodils are blooming. Besides the bed I had in mind has loose, humusy soil (it was the compost pile 2 years ago)  not our heavy native clay (which is too wet to dig right now) . Besides, potato foliage is bothered by cold – the tubers not so much: how many time have I found a new potato plant from a tuber that escaped the harvest and overwintered? So in they went, with a cover both of straw and fleece to keep them snugs over the next few days.

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Placing seed potato in trenches
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Covering seed potatoes with straw & a sprinkling of wood ash
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Raking the earth back over the straw
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Covering the bed with more straw and agri-fabric

It feels so much better!

And we are trapping those mice and voles…


4 thoughts on “Restarting The Kitchen Garden”

  • Khalil, we have not caught any deer yet. Seriously, the electric fence has worked – so far – to exclude rabbits, deer, racoons, dogs & bears, although they do nothing for mice. The wire mesh fence visible on the picture is to keep the chicken out of the vegetable garden. They have a large run all around the garden, between the garden and the electric fence.

    I fed mice and voles plenty last year. I hope to feed them less this year.

  • Ahh Yes the electric fence. No deer just fried toads, and bunnies that have figured the exact trajetory to leap between the electric fence wires. The moles? Voles? or what ever are in the raised beds too the got into the pansies that were planted in pots in the deer proof fence and clipped them off at the dop and dragged them into their holes? Deorative beding?
    Will keep trying.

  • Never had problems with the bunnies – it’s a mesh fence (well actually it’s a double fence: wire fence & mesh fence). Anyway, I think the mesh is too narrow for them. Not too narrow for the mice, as I have seen one shoot through. Yeah, fried toads – that’s one bif downside – but it has not happened very often. Moles & voles now… ggggrrr. I just imagine vole hall with your pansies….

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