sunbathing squirrel

After a week of thawing and carefully biking to work on puddles frozen overnight, then biking home through what were practically small ponds, we’ve achieved 55F/13C! It feels so warm that I have a quilt hanging out on the line to dry instead of indoors on a drying rack. And it feels so warm James and I went out coatless this morning and did some apple tree pruning. Yesterday I did some cherry tree and elderberry pruning. All of them have swelling buds already! The Dashwoods are wandering the garden scratching in the mud looking for seeds and bugs. And my squirrelfriend is sunbathing on the deck. The snow has been melting so fast that by Friday I had a pounding allergy headache, stuffy nose, and puffy, burning eyes. I am now taking my allergy medication daily until October. Yay spring!

Tiny sprouts

My indoor seed starting is going pretty well. I have two tiny ground cherry sprouts. I say encouraging words to them daily when I give them a spritz of water. No arnica sprouts. I don’t know if they are going to sprout or are just slow about their business, but I spritz them daily too. If nothing has popped up by the end of March, their toilet paper tubes will be used to start something else.

Today I added to the TP tube count with cabbage and French marigolds. I did 5 tubes for cabbage and 15 for marigolds because a person can never have too many marigolds in the garden. These marigold flowers are singles and are deep burgundy red and gold. Once they start blooming in summer they just go and go and go right on until frost kills them. We love them and I have no idea why I have never taken a photo. Must do that this summer! It’s super easy to save marigold seeds and start them indoors. They are pretty forgiving plants. Interestingly, the plants are native to Mexico and Guatemala. 16th century Portuguese explorers took seeds with them back to Europe and the flowers eventually became really popular in France. 

I thought I was all done buying seeds but I got an email from a small and growing Minnesota seed company I bought some bean seeds from last year reminding me there is still time to buy seeds. I am also currently re-reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and had just finished reading about the three sisters. I have so many pole beans this year I was facing the prospect of having to build a lot of trellising. Plus I have two kinds of pumpkin and always zucchini. I decided I did not want the squash and beans to be lonely and miss their sister, so bought blue corn seed. 

The blue corn seed is extra special because North Circle Seeds has been working with my CSA farmer, Eduardo, at Sin Fronteras Farm to adapt the seed to grow in Minnesota. So now I will have all three sisters in my garden, which makes me happy. And we will have two ways to enjoy the corn. First, in summer when the kernels are fat and juicy, we will make our own vegan version of elote. I can hardly wait for that! What we don’t eat we will dry and grind into flour to attempt making our own tortillas. I’ve had Eduardo’s tortillas and they are amazing, I only hope ours turn out half as good.

fermenting sauerkraut
Fermenting sauerkraut

And while I was buying the corn seed I also bought some cherry bell radish seed. I love radishes and can never have too much! And should I get a big harvest and can’t keep up with eating them fresh, I am going to try fermenting them. We got a lot of cabbages in our winter CSA and have been turning them into sauerkraut. I have never been a fan of sauerkraut until we made it at home. Instead of being the sad, stringy stuff from a can, it is crisp and zingy and lately I can’t get enough sandwiches with the sauerkraut piled on. So I am interested in fermenting other veg too, radishes especially. When the time comes, I will be relying heavily on our Wild Fermentation “cookbook” for help. I keep thinking that maybe we should invest in some proper fermentation crocks, but we seem to be doing okay without them so far.

Here is something I recently learned about sunflowers that has changed my entire garden plan: they are allelopathic. That means they produce chemicals that are toxic to other plants. It explains why, several years ago, when I tried to do a three sisters type planting with sunflowers instead of corn, nothing really grew but the sunflowers.

And it isn’t just sunflowers, it is other plants in the sunflower family as well like Jerusalem artichokes. I have a big patch of chokes and I noticed last year that the pumpkin I planted near them sprouted, but remained stunted and never flowered. It also explains why I never have to pull weeds in the choke bed. I was wondering for years what was up with that, now I know!

After doing some research, I have decided to create a small buffer between the chokes and the rest of the garden with pollinator plants that are not bothered by the chokes. I have noticed that milkweed is not bothered so I plan to let the milkweed go crazy over there and not feel bad about keeping it from growing in the rest of the garden. Coneflowers are also compatible and there is actually a coneflower growing in the choke patch that I planted before the chokes took over the whole bed. So a few more coneflowers. Grasses are unaffected as well and I am considering trying a clump or two of wild rye grass, which along with being a host plant for the Zabulon Skipper, and a great source of nesting material for birds, I can also harvest the seeds and make flour (seeds are much smaller than annual rye). 

Mint is also allegedly compatible. I have a wild native mint I would like to move and now I know where it’s going to go! I am also going to see if other plants in the mint family will work and will divide up some overgrown wild bergamot and plant that in the buffer zone. 

So suddenly I have gone from not having any experiments in the garden other than new varieties of beans, to having blue corn and a Jerusalem artichoke buffer zone. How exciting! 

I am still a little less than two months (if I am lucky) from being able to actually plant anything outside, but the plans are piling up! 

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12 thoughts on “Springy

  1. Hahaha, it’s true…something about sauerkraut from childhood days was just NOT so tasty. Then again, maybe it was the same but we couldn’t get over the shock of it?! I’m a huge fan of kimchi too, and was interested to learn that (thinking about your last post) about the issue of cabbages not being available to make enough of it. Imagine if white North Americans couldn’t buy ketchup…that would be ALL over the news. (Not that kimchi is the same as a sugar-soaked condiment, but it is super tasty on French fries and patties too.) Enjoy your springyness!

    1. You are another vote for kimchi BIP. I will definitely have to try making some when we get cabbage this year. Interesting there has been a cabbage shortage for kimchi, not something I would have thought about. Ha! North Americans need their ketchup! It’s the fifth food group! 😀

    1. Immersed in spring indoors Brian Joseph. It will be awhile yet before I can do much outdoors other than pruning and there is only so much of that that needs to be done. I hope it warms up for you soon!

  2. Fun stuff! I just planted peas yesterday, and am looking into various vine options to cover part of my chicken run this year (for shade and for good looks!). I’m looking at a native honeysuckle; the chickens would gobble up any beans or other edibles! I’m moving all my herbs out to the two raised beds I put out by the chickens (full sun, inconsistent watering) and I think that will look (and smell!) nice too. No luck with asparagus this year — I suspect the chickens nibbled any sprouts down, dangit. Hoping the herbs fare better; they tend to ignore those.

    1. I hope your peas are doing well! I suspect they are up and growing by now! What did you decide on vines for the chicken run? I had a volunteer morning glory grow on the wire of a corner of the run last summer. The chickens never bothered it. Sorry about your asparagus! I hope the herbs are doing well!

  3. Love reading about your gardening plans! I didn’t know this about sunflowers but that’s great info. I planted sunflowers last year in the front yard but there’s not much there around them. I’ll keep that in mind for the future!

    1. So many gardening plans Laila that it’s probably best I have a small yard! I was surprised to learn about sunflowers, but then it all made sense. I had been thinking it was always something I did that kept plants near sunflowers from growing, so I am relieved that it wasn’t me!

  4. We are also 13C today, what a relief! (even though we’re never as cold as you guys). Regarding fermentation, have you investigated Kimchi? My parents live in east of France where sauerkraut is a regular dish, and I love the Korean version.

    1. I have not investigated kimichi. My fermentation book has instructions on it though! I will have to give it a try with cabbages from the garden this year. 🙂

  5. Woohoo, congratulations on the warmer weather! I am so happy for you! We’re properly in spring down here, I think — I’m nervous to say so lest another ice storm descend! — and I’ve been spending as much time outside as I can in the few weeks before it starts getting unpleasantly hot. Why, oh why, is it not possible to send some of our surplus degrees Fahrenheit your way? 😛

    1. Thanks Jenny! It’s been two steps forward and one step back–we got snow the other day but at least it melts fast! I hope all the severe weather this week has missed you. I would happily send you some of our cooler weather if I could!

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