Backyard Gardening, Year 3: Spring Planning, Planting, and Pests
It's only May, and I already feel behind in my gardening! With three little ones, keeping on top of the garden hasn't been as high a priority as, you know, keeping everyone happy and alive. It's okay, though—as the kids get older, they can help more than they did in year 1 and year 2.
My 4-year-old loves digging. He's been helping transplant our seedlings into the garden beds. Letting him help more means slowing down. It may take ten, or twenty minutes to dig one hole and plant one plant—because he's smaller, moves dirt less efficiently than I might, and pauses to admire the worms as they wiggle through the soil.
Our goal with the garden this year is to replicate the last years' impressive tomato yields (I love tomatoes), provide plenty of greens for salads all summer, and collect herbs for seasonings and tea. So far, so good. But we have a new challenge this year—more on that below.
How I prepared for my third year of gardening
We spend a lot of time in our yard, year-round. As soon as spring hits, I walk through with an eye on the garden beds to see what has survived and what work needs doing. For example: last year's kale made it! Now, we have nice early greens for salads, smoothies, and quiche! I started some new kale plants, which will be big enough to eat about when the old ones go to seed.
This year, there actually wasn't much to do, since we're trying a no-till garden, and had done a decent job in the fall mulching with leaves and spreading out a layer of compost. Last year's new tomato trellises have held up; I might need to buy more twine for supporting the plants. Other than that? We're golden.
The kids and I harvested early dandelion greens for salad. Our oldest remembered the dandelion shortbread we made last year, too, and said we should collect the bright yellow flowers to make it again.
I planned many of the same vegetables and herbs as the past two years: tomatoes (Roma, beefsteak, cherry, three varieties of heirloom tomatoes), zucchini, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, sweet peppers, basil, cilantro, marjoram, parsley, dill, and rosemary. The sage, thyme, lemon balm, peppermint, and oregano are perennials. This year, we also added yellow summer squash (since the zucchini have done so well), additional flowers (delphinium, foxglove, morning glories, California bluebell, columbine—plus the lavender, chamomile, marigolds, and alyssum we planted last year), and tarragon.
We started pepper and tomato seeds in late February again, followed in March and April by the rest. We have a relatively short growing season, so it's only now, in early May, that I can transplant everything into the garden! We're also planning on sowing corn, carrots, beets, and perhaps a few other vegetables now that it's finally warm enough. Corn is a new one for us; I think the kids will find it fun!
Most plants will go in approximately the same locations as last year. I don't have enough space to rotate the plants well; plus, the tomato trellises are a relatively permanent installation. I am going to try moving the cucumbers to a sunnier spot, swapping them with some of the herbs and squash; they just didn't do well the past two years and I'd love to grow enough for pickles.
A new challenge: Garden pests
This past winter, one of our neighbors down the street got two bunnies. They forgot, evidently, that if you have one male bunny and one female bunny, the bunnies will make more bunnies. And if you do a bad job of rabbit-proofing your yard, your bunnies will escape and find greener pastures. Like my yard.
This particular white bunny has decided to call our yard home. Probably because our yard is filled with tasty green leafy things and is not home to any dogs (unlike most of our neighbors). We've been seeing the bunny here for almost three weeks, despite our attempts to (1) return it, (2) no really, please come take your bunny back, (3) chase it away, (4) oops, the bunny is back again, (5) block off all possible entrances to our yard, and (6) how can such a fat white bunny fit through that size opening?
I've seen it squeeze under the fence into an adjacent yard, squish between the posts of our fence and gate, wriggle under the deck, and nibble on our rhubarb leaves. It doesn't get to stay here. I don't want a pet rabbit. (This sounds like the start of a story where we end up having a pet rabbit. I hope I'm wrong, because I don't want it to eat my plants.) I thought we'd gotten all the entrances to our yard, but I saw the bunny hopping around again this morning, so I guess we missed something.
Randy made a joke about stew. I'm still not sure whether he was joking.
Then, literally as I was writing this post, Randy discovered four baby bunnies by our shed. Oh no. Guess that's why the white bunny looked fat.
The saga continued. Later in the day, Randy decided to try to trap a bunny so the kids could pet it. He set up a trap with a crate, stick, and fishing line. Turns out, though, that the bunnies easily fit through the crate's handles, so he made some modifications with duct tape and tried again.
He caught a bunny. We put in a bin and let the kids give it a bunch of grass, bark, and dandelions, plus a cardboard box to hide under. It looked lonely. Randy snuck over to catch another one.
Later, he caught two more, and in the evening (after letting the kids pet the bunnies for a while), returned them all to our neighbor. She was grateful, apologetic, and wondered if we knew anyone who might want to adopt a bunny? After all, she had about 40 of them now.