Monday, April 18, 2011

Yesterday's Open Garden

As usual, I had a delightful time hosting several groups of delightful people yesterday.

The nicest thing that I learned was that the flowers of Chinese cabbage taste good. I don't usually have said flowers, but this past March 20 a woodchuck ate Chinese cabbage in my cold frame for the first time, so I closed the lid to keep them out. That made it too hot for the plants, and the healthier ones shot up and flowered. The others died. In either case I didn't have nice plants to give to Toni's Kitchen, as I usually do in April. So I kept the cold frame there for yesterday's tour since I've had lots of questions about it.

"What do you do with the flowers?" asked one guest.
"Compost them," I said, wondering what the right answer was and sensing this was not it.
"They taste very good," she said. I handed her one. "Uhm...!"
I tried another. Yes! Then I handed around Chinese cabbage flowers to all venturesome people present, and there didn't seem to be any disapproval as they sampled them.

Another new feature of this open garden was a gardener from Europe with an immigrant daughter serving as translator. She spotted my tiny sprouting sugar snap peas faster than anyone else and exclaimed about them.

My 2-3 inch Sugar Ann peas are dense now and promising a good yield in late May, one of the few impressive things in my woodchuck-invaded garden yesterday. "Will you thin them?" one visitor asked. "No, I plant them pea by pea at two-inch spacing. That's the most tedious job in my gardening, but I usually do it in March when planting anything is exciting. After they are eaten, I will use that space for zucchini." It's near the house, which is why the snow disappeared there for early pea planting.

Much interest was expressed in my wall-of-waters around the tomatoes surrounding the fence where I will plant sugar snaps in late April, the latest that peas are supposed to be planted. By then the tomato plants should be tall enough to protect them from woodchucks. Some are over a foot high already.

The most common question this time was, "What do you do instead of using a commercial fertilizer? Just compost?"
"And a mulch of other people's grass on all the bare spots in the garden." I should have added that I plant winter rye over the winter and when I have them, I add wood ashes to cut the acidity of NJ soil.

One man came at the beginning and wanted to know what I do for grubs. I insisted I don't have any, so he decided to leave without seeing the garden. Fred told me that Nancy said he should use milky spore disease. Oh, my! Yes, the fifth neighbor back on my east side and I shared the price of the smallest purchaseable quantity of milky spore disease and we spread it around both properties. Before that I did have grubs. Poor man! It's hard to remember everything, so I'm glad Nancy remembered. It appears to be a long-term remedy.

Several people asked about what I do for squirrels, and my answer wasn't very satisfactory there either. The woodchucks have made them seem unimportant recently, especially since hawks are now seen picking them up to feed hawk young. May the hawk population thrive!

Questions about rabbits are easier: they can't get over a one-foot fence, and humans easily can.

Today I took the cold frame apart and put it in the garage. Now I'm picking the remaining Chinese cabbage for domestic consumption, and soon I will plant green beans and corn there.

Happy spring planting!


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