Gardening

Garden beds: tomatoes, garlic, herbs & greens

Yesterday was the first Very Seriously Nice Day we’ve had this spring, and I spent a goodly chunk of it outside starting our spring clean up, prepping beds for planting, devising a plan for new garden beds for herbs & greens, and weeding what will become the new squash patch. Progress was made, but this is going to a few days (weeks) to finish.

Weeding and prepping

Moncton is located in Plant Hardiness Zone 5a or 5b (depending how you squint at the map), giving us an average last-frost date of roughly May 20-24. That’s still a month away, but there’s already plenty of stuff we can start planting now, including onions, shallots and leeks (from plants we started indoors); and radishes, spring onions and peas (from seed planted directly in the garden).

Since we can start planting those things now, I focused most of my effort on weeding and prepping those & the asparagus beds since I didn’t really do a thorough job of it in the fall. And lo, the results:

Tomato beds!

In the fall I did, however, properly prep this years’ tomato beds, amending them with well-rotted sheep manure, a few handfuls of blood & bone meal, and a generous scattering of ground up eggshells (tomatoes are notorious for calcium deficiency problems). Last year we also learned that tomatoes should be heavily mulched, so we got a few bales of straw in and just took care of that before the snow fell.

We’re using the “no dig” approach for all of this, so all we need to do now is build trellises and plant the tomatoes right through the mulch. Crazy easy, and the straw will help retain moisture (tomatoes are also notoriously finicky about consistent moisture levels) and suppress weeds. We will, in fact, be mulching everything with straw now, basically forever.

Here’s what the tomato beds currently look like. There are four of them (the bamboo is to hold down the straw since it was windy when I was spreading it out in the fall):

Garlic!

Garlic is a “plan ahead” sort of thing, since it has to be planted in the fall to overwinter in the ground. We planted ours in mid-October, getting new (and much, much better) seed garlic from The Cutting Veg. We planted roughly 420 cloves of 8 different types of organic garlic including:

  • Tibetan (8-10 cloves)
  • Romanian (8-10 cloves)
  • Polish (25-30 cloves)
  • Israeli (35-40 cloves)
  • Former Yugoslavian (55-60 cloves)
  • Sicilian (full bed, 100-110 cloves)
  • Russian (full bed, 80-90 cloves)
  • Persian (full bed, 100-110 cloves)

All of these are hardneck varieties except Sicilian, and you can read more about them over on the Cutting Veg’s Garlic Varieties page. Each planted clove will turn into a full head of garlic. It’s magic!

We planted four beds this year (up from three), and fewer cloves over all, so each bulb will have more space. We’ve also mulched this year (again, with straw), since last year’s crop suffered from a lack of consistent watering, several weeks of near-drought and, frankly, lackluster weeding on my part. I just checked yesterday, and we do have some garlic sproutlings already! Yay! (You have to squint…they’re the little greeny things.)

And finally, the soon-to-be beds for herbs & greens

I’ve been trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a permanent herb garden since we moved in a couple of years ago. After coming up with a few different plans that involved renting a tiller and digging up a bunch of lawn, we realized it would just be much, much easier to just turn the existing flower gardens along the back and side of the house into beds for herbs and greens.

This actually eliminates two problems, since those beds have been basically neglected and need to be renovated heavily either way. We will be creating a new flower bed since we want to have somewhere to put the irises and other perennials, but that will be smaller and out in the full-sun where most of these flowers are going to be happier. Many herbs & greens are completely content in partial shade (some prefer it), so this is a better use for the shady side of the house.

We haven’t done anything to these beds yet, but each is roughly 22′ long and 4′ deep, giving us another ~170 square feet of garden space. I am slightly tempted to tear up another foot of sod along each side, but we’ll see how I feel after actually cleaning up and moving everything.

Pics of the current (sad) state of these beds, so I have something to compare them against later:

Back (south-facing, full sun)

Corner

Side (east-facing, partial shade)

This amount of space should do for a few years, but I am mildly obsessed with herbs and will still probably need to make space for more herb gardens at some point. Also dye plants. Ahem.

That’s today’s update! If you would like to comment or have any questions, you can find me over on Twitter or Facebook.

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