May is always a hectic month for me. Here, in the northeast, the gardening season is short and intense.
If you don’t get your veggies planted in time, there will be no harvest. If your first planting (for whatever reason) doesn’t “take”, there often isn’t time to plant it again. “Next time” becomes next year.
So, I generally disappear from life in May. Bills pile up on the counter, dust bunnies proliferate and the laundry basket overflows. I can be found in the garden planting, planting and planting. If I truly looked at our whole garden when it reemerged in April, I would go running and screaming into the house with an “I can’t do it!” swimming in my head. So, I just look at one bed at a time.
- Clean out the leaves and the sticks and the rocks, add soil amendments, fluff, rake smooth and plant.
- Start with the cold-tolerant crops like onions, cabbage, lettuce, Swiss chard, broccoli, peas, beets, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, kale and carrots.
- It's often time to plant the sensitive ones like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, summer & winter squash, basil and sweet potatoes by the time I get around to it.
I keep my seeds in a large glass jar with a tight lid. Seeds don’t like changes in humidity so they are best kept in a place where this doesn’t fluctuate. I always buy more seeds than I need and I actually keep them for about five years. For some reason, this makes me feel secure. Shortages are not things of the past and sometimes seed crops fail. When this occurs, I just look back a year or two. Most seeds will hold onto a viability although not quite as strong. Old seeds I plant denser to make up for this fact. I never forgot reading (I think it was in a Pearl Buck book) that in China the punishment for stealing someone’s seeds is death. To me, seeds represent the possibility and probability of sustainability.
Edible flowers are always fun to grow. I provide a local restaurant with these and they really enjoy the creativity that comes with having lovely flowers to put on the plates. Today I brought over some pink rose petals and chive flowers.
Lettuce is something that I plant all summer long. We like it best when it’s little so every 10 to 14 days, I plant some more. I generally broadcast it (put it everywhere instead of rows) and thin, thin, thin. The earliest thinnings go to the chickens but it doesn’t take long to get edible lettuces.
We often have a problem with cutworms so I save all of my eggshells, dry them out, and place them between the rows. The sharp edges make it hard for these insects to move around.
Cutworms are particularly nasty as they hide underground during the day. They come out at night and take one bite where the plant goes into the ground thereby killing the whole plant. You can have a beautiful row of anything devastated in just a few days. If the eggshells don’t work, I use diatomaceous Earth. This powder is hard on all insects but perfectly harmless to worms and animals. Large transplants get a “cutworm collar” which consists of a small amount of aluminum foil surrounding the stem of a plant about an inch above the ground and ½ inch below it.
This year's potatoes are up and looking quite good.
And, one more look at the lovely blooming roses.
Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family’s vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens.
Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their astrologer!
Celeste's new book on living lightly on the Earth is due out September 25, 2014.