Tiny farming: herbs

Not THAT cold…

Sweaters and tuques in the field

It’s not really as cold as the picture might make it look, but May continues to be an overall chilly one. The hats and extra layers are more a personal preference, but I’ve been wearing a lined flannel workshirt over my regular clothes much of the time. Here, as Lynn and Shannon sort seed for numerous smaller plantings in the herb garden, it’s about 60°F (15°C), cloudy and the kinda damp that can give you a shiver if you’re not a little bundled up. Shannon, sporting an illustrated, ear-flapped cap brought from her travels (it gets cold, especially at higher altitudes, even near the equator), has been back in Canada for less than a month after spending two years on farms in Central and South America, and is still getting used to the local weather. Lynn, in hoodie, vest and classic Canadian cold-weather headgear, was just…chilly! The slowdown in both crop and weed growth from the cold is quite noticeable, still, things are definitely moving along now… Weed watch, and the start of serious WEEDING, is on…

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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! :)

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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

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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

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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…

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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!

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