Monday, April 21, 2014

Raspberries

This time of year in the garden, no matter where you turn, you will find something in need of attention. And it is a matter of setting priorities. Jenny and I have been focusing on the strawberries these past few weeks and over the weekend we moved on to the raspberries.





Jennifer in the strawberry patch

On Saturday we finished cleaning out the strawberry patch where we discovered a number of small plants that can be transplanted into a recently tilled bed. A fresh crop of starts should be coming this week from Stark Brothers, so strawberries are going to be on the agenda for a few more weeks. 


Over the weekend we spent several hours trimming and thinning the raspberries. We cut out most of the old canes since we can now tell the new growth from the old canes. Each year this berry patch grows thicker and thicker so we really did some major pruning. We left about one old cane in each plant that had substantial growth. You can see the new growth and the old brown canes below. We are still hoping for an early crop, but it may be later this year given how aggressive we were.
  



The new growth should  now get plenty of sunlight and air. I'll spend some time this week transplanting the creepers - those wild young plants that have crept outside of their designated row. If you are looking to add to your raspberry patch, or want to start a raspberry patch and you live nearby, let me know and you can come dig some creepers. 


I hate to compost these new shoots, but we have limited space for raspberries and need to be able to keep them contained and under the shade cover - during the heat of summer. Now - onto some major weeding and prepping beds for annual vegetable crops. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Strawberry Patch - One row at a time

Last fall we cleaned up the strawberry patch quite well – weeding and transplanted runners. I think we increased the patch by two rows with the runners and even had runners to spare that ended up – sadly in the compost pile. Before we got our first hard frost, my sister Jennifer put them to bed for the winter by covering them with piles of straw so they would survive our cold Idaho winter weather. Although strawberries are hardy and relatively low maintenance, they require some special attention in the spring and in the fall. 


I haven't had time to work in the berry patch much this spring, therefore I have left the straw covering the plants even though we've had some warm days. As you can see, green berry plants are peaking out for sunshine and fresh air. We still have a risk of frost until mid-May so I'm not in a huge hurry, but it's slow going. I'm tackling about two rows each evening.  


Cleaning up is is simply a matter of pulling back the straw and pulling out and off any dead berry plant leaves and runners. I even spotted several early blooms, so berries are on their way. 



Although he isn't much help, Ben keeps me company - as always.  





Saturday, April 12, 2014

A is for Asparagus

Our asparagus patch is three years old this spring. This means we will finally have a decent harvest and last night we enjoyed our first meal with home-grown fresh asparagus. It was definitely worth the wait. 


Asparagus spears will start to emerge when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F. After this, growth of asparagus is dependent on air temperature. Early in the season, 7 to 9-inch spears might be harvested every 2 to 4 days. As air temperatures increase, harvesting frequencies will increase to once or twice per day, harvesting 5 to 7 inch spears before the tips start to fern out and lose quality. 



The duration of the harvest depends on the vigor of the plants. Since these plants are young, the fresh asparagus season may last a couple of weeks. However, established plants can produce much longer, as much as 8 weeks. The old rule of thumb is to harvest until the diameter of the spear decreases to the size of a pencil. Then it is time to stop and let them grow, gaining strength for next spring. After harvest, we'll allow the ferns to grow; this replenishes the nutrients for next year's spear production.


The first picking was especially delicious - lightly steamed with butter! We are looking forward to trying out every recipe I have on hand, plus a few jars of pickled asparagus for holiday Bloody Mary's.  

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