Monday Recap: A Busy Month

May is usually one of the busiest gardening months for me, with lots of prep work, planting, weeding and mulching to be done. Last week I started seed for the cucurbits that are going in the main garden area. I prefer to start these in pots or cell flats, which I find makes for better and quicker germination. It also gives me a jump on the growing season. The last few years I have been using Pro-Tray cell flats with 24 cells that I got from Johnny’s. I can get the seeds up and growing for 2-3 weeks, then take the flat right to the garden with me for planting.

cell tray planted with cucurbits

cell tray planted with cucurbits

The greenhouse shelves were already full before I started the cucurbits, and now space is even more limited. I’m using the tops of the cucumber cages to hold extra flats. I can’t leave unprotected flats outside or the deer will eat them for sure. Been there, done that, lost the plants. Some folks just throw bird netting over the seedlings but I think that can damage the leaves when they are young and tender. A cold frame also does a great job of protecting the young plants, but our cold frames are all being used. So I jam all the plants in the greenhouse until it’s time to plant.

flats on top of cucumber cages

flats on top of cucumber cages

Speaking of deer, the local herd usually mows down all the tulips before they get a chance to bloom. This year they missed one red one, and it got to show its colors for us. This is in a bed on one side of our driveway, and the deer have easy access to it as they cross the road. It’s a miracle the tulips have even survived this long. My wife really has the bed looking good, doesn’t she? It will have coneflowers, iris and other perennials blooming later in the season, once the narcissus and tulip are done for.

one red tulip

one red tulip

I got my first harvest of rapini last week. This was from the Cima di Rapa Quarantina variety. I cut the plants back when harvesting and hopefully they will give us another cutting or two before the weather gets too hot. It was a fairly small harvest but enough to give us a taste. I have another non-flowering variety planted called Cima di Rapa Maceratese. I started plants for Sorrento but ran out of planting room this spring.

harvest of Cica di Rapa Quarantina

harvest of Cica di Rapa Quarantina

I cooked up the rapini into a simple dish with potatoes called Rapi e Patate, using this recipe as a guide. I blanched and chopped up the greens first, then browned the cooked Yukon Gold potatoes in a bit of olive oil before adding the rapini and some chopped garlic. The dish was a keeper, and I see more rapini in my future. I didn’t find the greens to be at all bitter, and actually my wife and I both thought they were milder than turnip greens, which we both enjoy eating. Hopefully next time I will have a few more greens to work with.

Rapi e Patate (rapini and potatoes)

Rapi e Patate (rapini and potatoes)

It’s the season for greens here, and the Cima di Rapa is not the only player for sure. I pulled the rest of the True Siberian kale from the greenhouse bed. There was a little over four pounds of it, so we will have plenty of kale for a bit. The overwintered kale was a success in both the greenhouse and the cold frame beds this year, and I am pleased with that. I usually grow kale only in fall, but I planted a dozen or so plants this spring to experiment and see how it does. Our weather usually turns hot quickly, making it dicey with spring cool-season veggies.

harvest of True Siberian kale

harvest of True Siberian kale

Some of that kale went into a dish with the Runner Cannellini beans I cooked up last week. I love beans and greens, and this combo works really well for me. A little balsamic vinegar perks up the flavor.

Runner Cannellini beans with kale

Runner Cannellini beans with kale

I continue to cut the greenhouse lettuce for salads. Last week it was Red Sails. Red lettuces don’t seem to get as red when grown in the greenhouse, but the leaves are usually more tender than those exposed to the elements outside.

Red Sails lettuce

Red Sails lettuce

Another green I’ve been enjoying is spinach. The overwintered Viroflay plants in a cold frame bed have proven to be the longest standing variety this year. Giant Winter was the first to start bolting, with Amsterdam Prickly Seeded next. The Space plants in the greenhouse have also bolted. I have a few new plants I set out on April 11th, a mix of Giant Winter and Viroflay. I could extend the spinach season even further if I spring planted a slower bolting hybrid like Space. I try and have a mix of different veggies to choose from at any given time, and it’s always a balancing act to decide how much to grow of each one.

Viroflay spinach plants

Viroflay spinach plants

The lemongrass stalks I put in water last month are now nicely rooted. I got these for $1.99 a pound at a local grocery, and it surely is an inexpensive way to get lemongrass started. I’ll put a couple of plants in the ground, and we’ll have plenty of lemongrass for tea and other uses. I usually put three or four stalks in each clump or pot, and they will take off in no time. In fall, before the first frost, I’ll dig up a clump and put it in pot for use next winter. If you look closely in the below photo you can see the first new leaf emerging from the base of the stem.

rooted lemongrass stalk

rooted lemongrass stalk

Out in the berry patch, we have a few gooseberries setting on the plants we put out last year. We’ll be lucky to get a handful of berries this year, but in a year or two they should be up to full production.

gooseberries setting on

gooseberries setting on

On the back side of the house, and on the way to the garden we have several dwarf Korean lilac planted. They are blooming now, and the smell is sweetly intoxicating. I have always loved lilacs, and these are more compact than the old-fashioned kind. They are also resistant to the powdery mildew that lilacs often get, at least around here. Another plus is they are deer-resistant, and don’t make suckers.

Dwarf Korean lilac blooms

Dwarf Korean lilac blooms

Last week I mentioned that the new queen bee arrived in her own cage. We checked the hive last Monday, and as expected the queen was out of the cage, so we removed it. The worker bees were busy drawing out honeycomb, and we made our visit brief so as to not disturb them too much. We plan on doing a better inspection either today or tomorrow, where we will look for signs the queen is doing her job and laying eggs.

empty queen cage

empty queen cage

That’s a look at what’s going on around here. To see what others growing and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.

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10 Responses to Monday Recap: A Busy Month

  1. Norma Chang says:

    I too find starting seeds in pots or cell flats makes for better and quicker germination and gives me a jump on the growing season so this year I am starting more seeds in pots or cell flats. You sure are getting a lot of harvest this early in the year. Beautiful lilac.
    Norma Chang recently posted…Harvest Monday, May 4, 2015 – Window Box SpinachMy Profile

  2. Margaret says:

    Look at that Viroflay spinach! I’m still struggling with spinach and, of course, we had some very bad windy weather the week after I transplanted my seedlings and several of them didn’t make it through. Those that are still alive, once again, don’t seem to be growing that quickly. I’m doing some direct seeding now (with pre-germinated seeds), so I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll actually get a harvest from those.
    Margaret recently posted…Sowing EggplantMy Profile

  3. Melissa says:

    Wonderful (abundant) harvests! Everything looks beautiful and, though it may be lonely, your one red tulip sure is gorgeous!

  4. Barbie says:

    That lilac is impressive. Never thought about starting lemongrass that way…must look around here for some!
    Barbie recently posted…Harvest Monday 5.4.2015My Profile

  5. Michelle says:

    Smashed potatoes and greens are a close second to beans and greens around here, well, actually more like third place after toasted bread and greens, but definitely a favorite. Yikes, you’ve reminded me that I’m late getting my cucumbers started. I start them in containers also, they’re much less prone to critter damage that way.
    Michelle recently posted…Harvest Monday – May 4, 2015My Profile

  6. beans and greens, beautiful spinach, and a lovely but lonely red tulip. Another great post, with lots of diversity in your plantings.
    Lou Murray’s Green World recently posted…Peaches and Spot Prawns–but not together!My Profile

  7. Susie says:

    My gosh, you have so wonderful many things going on so here’s a bunch of random comments: lilac is lovely, great balancing act with the cages, I can’t believe you can grow lemongrass that’s fantastic, flower garden is fabulous and yay, “greens” season has arrived!
    Susie recently posted…Harvest Monday: May 4, 2015My Profile

  8. Daphne says:

    Your spinach looks so good. I can’t wait for my spring planted spinach to really get going. The overwintered spinach is good for cooking, but I don’t like to eat it raw. And you are so ahead of me. Our gooseberries are in bloom, but not set yet. The ocean air really moderates our temperatures in the spring and we tend to not get as warm as more inland places. We are getting a warm spell this week though, so things ought to pick up quickly.
    Daphne recently posted…Harvest Monday, 4 May 2015My Profile

  9. Heather says:

    Hi,
    Just wondering if you heat your greenhouse? If not, when do you start your greens? Do you start them indoors? Chicago weather is a challenge and always keeps us guessing! Thank you for your time! Wonderful information, pictures and yummy recipes!

    • Dave says:

      Hi Heather,

      For the most part I do not heat the greenhouse. I have a small electric space heater I use on the coldest nights (usually in January) but it only raises the temps inside about 10 degrees over the outside temp. I start greens for the greenhouse throughout the year. The spinach was planted in the greenhouse in late November, along with the kale. Some of the lettuce we are eating now was planted at the same time, others were planted early this year. I try and have young plants ready to go in whenever I have a bare spot. In the summer, our greenhouse gets too hot for most greens, so I grow cucumbers in the beds. I usually have container grown peppers in there too. I hope that helps!

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