The Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are back, from their winter vacation. Though we will probably have one of our notorious late frosts, I’m prepared for it. Floating row covers are arriving today.
Our dilapidated, abandoned, old garden is suddenly back to life. It still looks like a landfill, with my cardboard box mulch, but we have had two things–enough rain, and endless amounts of chicken manure. Add those two together, and you end up with taters like those in the above picture. They are now on a diet of fish emulsion fertilizer.
Forty something garlic plants should do us for a while. And then there is their cousin.
This is not really a garlic, but the bulb just tastes like one. It is a sub-species of the garden leek, and grows like mad. Many of these were volunteer plants. Now for something completely different.
Fifty something shoots of asparagus from about as many crowns. I know there are more coming. If they freeze to the ground, they will just re-sprout. It has happened before.
Almost eighty degrees today, and freezing temps forecast for Thursday night. Over eleven inches of rain so far this month, with more coming tomorrow. Just another typical Appalachian Spring.
I really could not resist that clickbait headline, but, as usual, I have to de-bunk the gardening experts on the interwebs, who say that you absolutely have to buy certified seed taters, instead of supermarket ones. The trick is knowing what supermarket taters to buy.
It’s really only simple science. Standard commercially grown potatoes are sprayed with a growth retardant to prolong shelf life, namely isopropyl N-(3-chlorophenyl) carbamate (CIPC also referred as chlorpropham). It’s actually a herbicide that was introduced in 1951. Pass me the herbicide coated spuds, mom.
No thanks. Certified organic taters sprout like crazy, as in the one pictured above. I took that photo this morning. The only tricks are good soil, compost, and plenty of water–try 9.8″ of rain in the past ten days. In other words, good growing techniques.
This strapping young plant grew from a foot long sprout from a supermarket potato I planted last year. Eight plants came up from a single sprout. Nothing beats free organic taters.
Maybe free Asparagus does. This one year plant came from some nice crowns I just bought. All it has to do is get fat and happy over the next couple of years.
I really should get rid of all those bi-colored wild violets in the patch, but they’re blooming now. I guess I’m just a sucker for a pretty flower, and possibly for a pretty face.
MJ thinks my cardboard mulch is tacky, but after I read a “gardening expert” on the interwebs who said that cardboard is impermeable to water, which is hilariously stupid, I had to try it. It killed all the weeds around our Asparagus bed.
So I planted my thirty new Asparagus crowns, and decided to give the whole bed a banquet of Chicken manure–composted, of course. You have to feed the veg if you want the veg to feed you.
The next layer was composted crushed egg shells–aka, calcium. The chickens just keep on giving.
Last of all was something that I actually had to purchase–pelletized lime. The good news is that it goes for about ten cents a pound.
Spargelzeit (Asparagus time) cannot get here fast enough.
With apologies to American master Aaron Copland for stealing his title, though I have read that dancer Martha Graham actually named it that, we will have a preview of Spring this week, with four days in the sixties F. My birthday in the middle of the week will be right at seventy degrees F. Time to really start planting.
First project–plant the thirty Asparagus crowns I just got from a seller on fleabay. Strangely enough, these one year crowns are larger than the alleged two year crowns I bought from Amazon last year. Bezos must be jealous of Elon Musk, to send such puny plants. Then the taters go into the ground, precious.
Next is seed starting, and I have plenty to do. Artichokes. which I usually kill by overwatering. and a real United Nations of peppers and tomatoes. I have seeds from several continents, and the total is this: fourteen pepper varieties and eighteen different tomatoes. Thankfully I have enough plastic pots and trays to cover an acre. Being an old farm boy has its advantages.
I’m going to have to make a list of the plants, as I have one seed package of saved seeds which just says “Funky Tomato.” I have to quote the great George Clinton from Pfunk, and my favorite song of his.
When you get up early on New Year’s Day to feed the chickens, and the low temp is 67 F, something is seriously wrong. That something is Anthropogenic Climate Disturbance, aka Global Warming. It’s fine now, but the summer will be when the bill comes due.
There is one constant, however–the wonders of chicken excrement. Americans in general treat chickens like a protein machine, caged, abused, and thrown away and eaten at a very early age. Our flock of eight ramble around all day, eat greens and high protein food, and we get eggs by the dozen. Better, possibly is the giant piles of excrement, which I compost. I am just beginning to use it as fertilizer. It could be the GOAT (greatest of all time.)
Chicken excrement and I go way back. When I grew up on the old farm, that was our main fertilizer, and sometimes the only one. As it turns out, industrial scale chicken production produces industrial scale chicken stuff. We had tons of this stuff at a time, which means we had tons of vegetables, and pounds and pounds of beef–we fertilized the pastures with chicken stuff, and even had to buy a giant stuff spreader to be able to do it.
So the moral for this new year is, what goes around, comes around. I have been fertilizing my mustard greens with chicken stuff, and feed the greens to the chicks, and the egg quality just gets better. I composted my garlic plants (forty in total,) and they took off like weeds. I just layered my young asparagus patch with several inches of compost. I better get the asparagus steamer ready for spring.
This will be the fourth time I’ve planted asparagus crowns, aka roots, and these are two years old, which will give us a good decade of Asparagus spears every spring. This year, however, I have the secret weapon that my family used when I was very young, and that would be well composted chicken manure. We had the finest patch of Asparagus in several counties.
As the temps are to be in the upper 50’s F this weekend, it will be a good time for a labor intensive project. The crowns need to be planted fairly deep, around six inches, and spread out properly. My garden is mostly sand, which means they need to be planted even a little deeper than usual.
I bought these crowns from Amazon for a ridiculously low price, and to my surprise, they shipped from Shanghai, China. Amazon has even outsourced vegetables. I was amused to learn this week that our corporate overlord Bezos had his phone hacked by the Saudi royal family. That will teach him about dealing with other royalty.
I’ll soak my crowns in water tomorrow, and plant on Saturday. To quote the great Wendell Berry,
“Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth.”
Then I will try to find out the Chinese term for Spargelzeit, which is German for Asparagus time.
Pi Day is gone, but Pie Days are here. One of the best meals I have ever eaten was at the French House at the University of Alabama, where we students of French were offered four different kinds of quiche–not surprisingly, I ate some of each one. My favorite was Asparagus Quiche. Here’s one with an all butter Creole Pie Crust.
Crank your oven up to 400 degrees F, as this pie crust goes in uncooked. Break the asparagus at the point where it becomes tough (just try this once, and you’ll get the hang of it). Peel the lower half and cut into half inch pieces. Add the chopped pieces with the cheese into the uncooked pie shell. Mix the cream and egg mixture together, and season. Pour that over the filling in the pie shell, season with nutmeg, and arrange the asparagus spears into whatever Leonardo-esque shape you prefer.
Ok. so there’s some chopped up cooked bacon in there as well. What’s a meal without bacon? Bake at 400 degrees F for at least forty five minutes, until the quiche filling browns. Let the cooked pie rest, and then it’s time to chow down on some springtime.