Thursday, June 28, 2012

Veggie posts are at GIEI blog

Purslane: Leafy Green of the Year?
I have begun posting my veggie gardening articles exclusively on the University of Maryland Extension's Grow It Eat It blog and will not duplicate those postings here.  A few minutes ago I posted a new thought--that perhaps we should abandon vegetable gardening and just grow weeds.  Here's the link.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tomato Patch: Help Solve My Mulch Problem

My mulched tomatoes, May 31
I have a new problem—living mulch—in the Tomato Patch, and I hope you will tell me how you think I can solve the problem.

I mulched most of my rows of tomato transplants in my usual way—sheets of newspaper covered with a thin layer of straw.  About a third of my plants are mulched just with straw because I ran out of newspaper.

Most years I discover one or two volunteer wheat plants—or maybe they’re barley—in late June or July—from seeds that hitch-hiked in with the straw.  I’ve always pulled those few volunteers without a thought.

'Living mulch,' June 14
This year, however, I have hundreds—no, thousands—of volunteer grain plants—weeds, if you will.  Tomato Patch looks like a newly seeded lawn sprouting in the springtime.  I think some farmer must have harvested his grain before it was fully ripe and much of the grain ended up in bales of straw for sale at a local farm-supply store instead of in a bag of flour or chicken feed.

What should I do?  I can easily hoe the volunteers at the edges of the rows, but how should I attack the living mulch in my rows of tomato plants?  It’s growing on top of the newspaper in places and directly in the garden soil where I hadn’t used newspaper.

Help!  If you have a suggestion, please post a Comment—soon.

I’ll let you know later how I solve this baleful problem—if I do indeed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Deer Country: How Cute, But What Will It Eat?

How cute—a fawn napping in a sunspot in our woods!

Two springs ago I surprised a spotted fawn—or did it surprise me?—as it drank from our spring-fed stream.  I was armed with tree trimmings destined for our woodland compost pile, and that fawn vanished before I returned with my camera.

Last year I remembered to look for a fawn and walked through our woods one early June morning—but didn’t find one.

The last few days I’ve noticed a doe grazing on the lawn near our creek early in the morning and late in the evening.  When I saw her again this morning, I decided to do a slow, methodical look in our woods for a fawn.

I was about to admit failure when white spots on chestnut-colored fur in a sunspot near a fallen tree caught my eye.  I stopped and and smiled—a napping fawn—several weeks old, I calculated, and likely following its mother’s order to keep still until she came back with lunch. 

I retreated to the house to fetch Ellen and my camera.  When we got back to the creek, we paused on the east side while I took a “distant shot” or two.  Then like kids—well, sort of—we hopped from stone to stone to cross the sparkling stream.

Just 10 feet or so from the fawn we paused in silence.  The fawn still napped on its leafy bed, curled like a spotted puppy on a rug by a kitchen door.  I took several more photos before we walked on through the garlic mustard and oriental bittersweet, across our culvert, and up the hill to our home. 

“What will that fawn be eating this time next year?”  I thought.  Pansies, heucheras, and hostas?  Tomato, strawberry, and blackberry leaves?  Sunflowers and green beans?  Chard and beet leaves and lettuce?

Sleep on, babe.  I’ll tend my fences and spray my sprays.  But mind your manners when you switch from mother’s milk to summer salad and don’t jump the fence into our veggie garden.  And remember to avoid mint-smelling greens, especially the ones I’ve sprayed.