Herb garden time…

Transplanting parsley

It’s right in the middle of the spring garden rush, for sure. but we’re in that little lull of sorts between direct seeding and transplanting the hardy and cool-soil-germinating crops (brassicas, peas, carrots, lettuce, etc) and waiting on temperature to transplant the more tender guys (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucurbits). This year, for the last three weeks or so, we’ve been cooler by a few degrees than recent Mays, both days and nights, which slows things down a bit more, as I don’t see an advantage in planting out some of the tender stuff early by a week or two, since the extra growth probably wouldn’t add up to much. Sooo, there’s more time now—a longer lull—to concentrate on the kinda B-iist crops (I don’t like putting it that way, but for practical purposes, well, some ARE more important to the overall market garden than others…). That means the herbs and flowers are getting great extra attention: earlier planting, dividing established growths of sage, thyme, oregano, much needed weeding… Today, I did the parsley. There are several varieties, I couldn’t resist seeing how they’d compare. For curly: Krausa Market, Green Pearl, Green River, Green Forest. For flat-leaf: Plain Italian and Hilmar. At the top left of the pic, some chives, up and thriving from last year’s planting, and you can see the well-established grass in the path that is being meticulously forked and pulled, drawing out the runners by hand, sifting with fingers to leave all the top soil. This is what I think of as really hardcore, basic gardening: crawling around, hands-in-the-dirt work, where you’re literally attending to each plant. It’s incredibly relaxing, soothing, really, so much…fun, alone or with others. Of course, this particular approach doesn’t scale up too well! Tiny farming comes in so many shades, degrees, intensities… It’s great! :)

Submerged garlic and root-diving voles

Garlic beds partially submerged

For all of the melt-off’s magical moments—garlic tips emerging and big puddles that look like tiny seas—there are mild melt-off concerns as well. About one third of the garlic beds have been fully submerged for nearly two days now, and may stay that way for 2-3-4 more, especially if it rains tomorrow as promised. (This area usually doesn’t get flooded with runoff, but I should’ve paid attention to the natural gully and not rotated the garlic there, just in case.) I doubt being underwater for a while will affect the garlic, but I don’t know for sure… How long garlic can hold its breath is another thing I’ll soon find out! And elsewhere, I discovered the handiwork of VOLES (it had to be them) in the herb patch. Under cover of snow, they’d neatly excavated 25′ feet of parsley roots, methodically working their way down the double row. These aren’t tunnels, just holes that go down about a hand’s length. Interesting. Another first. And no loss. But could this be population explosion year in the local vole cycle? Last year’s spring lettuce raids in the greenhouse were nothing compared to organized action like this… Good thing they don’t like garlic!

Vole excavation of parsley roots

Herbs return

Overwintered sage and thyme

Sage and thyme don’t look like much as they roll out from under the snow, but they’re good to see. Another chilly day, slightly above zero, but COLD. Still, the sunny days lately have been heating things up, and the snow is slowly receding. It’s pulled back from around the greenhouse, and it’s starting to retreat over the herb patch (that’s sage and thyme at the far end). The REAL melt-off starts tomorrow…!

Snow pulls back from the greenhouse

New rosemary

Rosemary seedlings

Rosemary, seeded 10 days ago, has been coming up over the last couple of days. I’ve heard that germination for this herb can be hard, under 50%. I’ve usually done better than that. This tray is about half started, and more will come…. Ideally, this would’ve been in at least a month earlier, but I didn’t realize I was out of seed. And it’s so slow to grow… Of course, there are still plants out in the field (I never did bring them in), and although chances are slim, I have high hopes for survivors. I dunno, seems to be something a little off between rosemary and me. I’ve frozen potted up plants by leaving them too long in the hoophouse (after digging them up and putting them in nice big pots), I’ve rescued cuttings at the last minute off of the frozen plants, I’ve left plants in the winter field… It’s odd. I love rosemary! What’s going on? :) Anyhow, there will be rosemary…


Flat-leaf parsley emerges

The first flat-leaf parsley has been popping up over the last day. This is Hilmar, a new variety I’m trying for the first time this year, in addition to the regular Plain Italian that’s around every season. Elsewhere in parsley, planted a few days earlier, there are two varieties of curly, Krausa Market and Green River. Altogether, 144 plugs, and I’ll keep two plants per. The quantities are not as worked out as for most of the other crops, because so far, it’s been more of a bonus herb, in CSA shares and occasionally at the farmers’ market. I’ll probably start one more tray of 72, because I have a couple more curly types—Green Pearl and Forest Green—that I’d like to try. Probably won’t need ’em all. I could pot the extra. Anyway, you can never have enough parsley!

Spearmint and the other herbs


The fall season that wouldn’t quit has more or less come to an end. For the last few days, overnight temperatures plunged well below zero, we’ve had hard frosts and some snow, but the ground is far from frozen, and there are apparently warm days ahead (for more tilling, planting additional garlic, harvesting the last of the carrots and beets)! In the herb garden, there’s not much to do, except bring in the rosemary. Flat leaf parsley is in fine shape, doing better than the curly stuff. Sage seems indestructible, thyme and oregano are largely toast above ground, while the tarragon starters seem to be fine—I’ll put them all under a couple of layers of row cover, although the sage, oregano and thyme have come back no problem for the last two years after overwintering right out in the open. Some of the peppermint was killed off, although the roots may be okay. Apart from a few cold-burned leaves, the spearmint, in the picture, is right as rain… Continue reading Spearmint and the other herbs

Return to Jerusalem artichoke

First-season Jerusalem artichoke

Various garden experiments are going on here and there. The new oats and fall rye green manure cover crops are doing well. There are five or six tarragon starters, three divisions from a potted lovage, coriander seed dried on the standing plants… Several varieties of hot peppers have to be given a final performance check. And so on. One I keep noticing and promptly forgetting again is the Jerusalem artichoke, planted so long ago. They’re definitely tough. The fuzzy-textured leaves seem rather delicate and wilt alarmingly without water, but they’ve survived with little weeding and maybe one watering all season, and they’re looking happy now.

Jerusalem artichoke line-up

Another unusual characteristic, compared to almost all of the other veggies and herbs, is how un-uniform they are, at least in this first year, with plants of all heights, ranging from around a foot to over three feet (30-90+ cm). There’s not much variation in leaf size, simply in…height. Well, JA’s supposed to be prolific—we’ll soon see when I check in on the gnarly tubers down below…!