Hoeing Ain’t Easy (Saturday 4/29/23)

Gardening is a bit easier with new knees, but swinging a hoe and pushing and pulling the scuffle hoe is still hard work, and my back is letting me know. I need to get the raised beds weeded and hoed up to get ahead of this afternoon’s rain, though, or I’m going to have more weeds than I can manage. I definitely should have mulched better in the fall, but I didn’t, so I paid the price this morning.

My main goal was to get the grass and the hairy bittercress up. Hairy bittercress is pretty, sure, but when it goes to seed you can’t touch it without the seed heads exploding and thus making sure you’ve got it FOREVER. I’m trying to get ahead of it this year.

I did the asparagus bed by hand because shoots are coming up! I left the red clover since it’s a pollinator favorite early in the season and a nitrogen fixer. I have 10 more asparagus crowns coming next week, Mary Washington and Purple Passion, so I got spots ready to plant those as soon as they come in and have had a long soak in the sink. It is lovely seeing new asparagus shoots coming up! I may have enough this year for at least one meal.

I’m planting more strawberries with the asparagus this year since they are great companions. They’ll also help with weed control once established. I love that I’ll be able to go out and pick enough for just me from last year’s strawberry plants, and next year I’ll have enough to share with friends. I do not generally pick the first year, choosing to let them establish by removing the flowers.

The blueberries look pretty good for this stage in the game. My Elliot bush is looking a little scary, but it’s early yet. Look how the Duke bush is going to town!

There was a moment’s concern when my garden flag did not appear. I found it, where it had blown into a corner and promptly became covered in dirt. I’ll wash it later, but for right now, Bacchus is watching carefully over my freshly hoed up beds.

Once I finished up the raised beds, I was ready to keep going. I pulled the weeds out of the cold frame and redistributed the pea gravel across the bottom. I remember when Dad and I built it, and I think of that lovely afternoon of laughs every time I look at it. I’m ready to get tomato seedlings out to harden off in about six weeks or so. I also cleaned up my drying screen for those end of season herbs! I wash them and put them in the cold frame on a piece of screen, and the heat dries them quite nicely.

I weeded out the herb beds next. I have comfrey coming up from where I cut some off my two big plants last year out in the front bed. I have healthy stands of mint, lemon balm, and anise hyssop already, and I see the oregano getting started too. As is usual I have more than enough chives to share, so if anybody would like some of this pernicious weed please let me know and I’ll be happy to share.

This is just a small representation of the mint bed. When I started out I was naive enough to think I could do different kinds of mint in one bed. Now it’s potluck mint and it’s delicious!

This is anise hyssop. It smells delightful and is a member of the mint family. It makes a very tasty tea that has some medicinal properties. I also throw the leaves into a salad once in a while for a little pop of anise. Pollinators love it as well!

Lemon balm makes me happy. It’s also of the mint family, so it’s a spreader, but it’s a popular plant in the garden with the pollinators who love its pretty flowers. It makes a nice calming tea, and it’s a good one to rub on ankles and other places mosquitoes like to dine since it repels them quite handily.

I weeded my front perennial bed last week during a meeting that could have been an email and I can see it beginning to take shape! The peonies gifted me by two dear friends and the ones I bought myself are starting to come up. Peonies are absolutely of the sleep, creep, leap gang. The first year they get established (sleep), the second year they think about coming up (creep), and the third year they pop up like they’re on fire (leap). I am thinking I’ll have flowers next year which makes me very very happy. Yarrow is going buck wild even from when I weeded around it last week. The butterfly bushes are getting around as well. I fenced in my two purple rose of Sharons last fall and I think that’s helped them look pretty healthy this year since the deer weren’t able to skin them of their bark and their green shoots. I think the white rose of Sharon might be a goner, thanks to the jerk deer, but we’ll see what comes of it this year. I also fenced in the small lilac to give that a fighting chance, because, you guessed it, deer. I sprinkled cayenne pepper around everything I want the deer to leave alone. My perennial bed is full of deer resistant varieties, but if a deer is hungry enough it will eat anything. Just like I’ll eat cauliflower if I’m hungry enough.

It’s supposed to rain hard this afternoon, so I’m putting all of my pots on the front porch to get a good soaking. These are the remains of the winter garden. Soon it will be time to fold up the folding table and take down the grow lights and put them in the garage for the season.

I’ll leave you with a shot of this little garden friend who watched me the whole time I was weeding. I was concerned there was a nest, but I did not find one, thank goodness!

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

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