May Garden Update

Early May finds our garden with some new faces showing up to complement the many different greens that have been feeding us all winter and spring. We have kohlrabi starting to size up, with both purple and white varieties planted. Its unusual shape has earned it the nickname of ‘Sputnik vegetable‘ with some. We love kohlrabi both raw and cooked.

Kolibri purple kohlrabi (click on any image to enlarge)

Some of the radicchio is also heading up. Spring planted radicchio is less certain to form tight heads than when fall planted, but the leaves are still edible. We like it in salads, and the heads are tasty when grilled.

Red Preco radicchio

The Apache blackberries are in full bloom. These upright, thornless blackberries have become our favorite producer. We planted two new varieties this year (Natchez and Ouachita) to see how they compare.

Apache blackberry blossoms

Large blackberry blooms equal large blackberries, and Apache makes big berries. They should begin ripening in late June. Last year we got over 10 gallons of blackberries from our plants. Our new favorite way to use them is to make blackberry leather, which is really yummy.

large Apache blossom

The blueberry bushes are loaded with blueberries. The first ones should begin ripening early next month, and continue bearing through mid to late July. Three of our nine plants were here when we bought this place, and the rest were planted in 2007. The new plants are still not at their peak production.

cluster of blueberries

Black raspberries are coming on too. The red raspberries are everbearing types that will bear in late summer. Planting different varieties with different maturities helps us extend the harvest season. It’s nice to have fresh, homegrown fruit as often as possible!

black raspberries setting on

It looks like we will get a cherry harvest this year, if the birds leave them alone!

cherry tree with cherries

We’ve been mulching the asparagus patch with shredded paper to try and keep down weeds. It looks like a snowstorm has hit!

asparagus bed with shredded paper as mulch


We’ve been getting lots of fat, tasty asparagus spears from these all-male Jersey varieties – almost 14 pounds so far in 2011. Anything larger in diameter than a pencil gets picked. Harvest season will end around Memorial Day, when we will stop cutting the spears and let the ferny foliage grow to replenish the roots for next year.

this spear will be ready later today

The drought last year was really hard on the strawberry beds. I’ve replanted about half the plants, and the new plants won’t make any berries until next year. After the strawberry harvest is over, I’m ripping out one of the three beds to make room for more red raspberries and some rhubarb. Strawberries are great to have, but high-maintenance compared to our other fruits. I’ve threatened to stop growing them entirely, but that hasn’t happened yet. The first berries are turning red about now.

almost ripe strawberry

Back in the vegetable world, I hilled our small potato patch this week. We have about 30 hills planted.

potatoes after hilling first time

The soil also warmed up enough here to start planting tomatoes. I wait until the soil is consistently over 60F to start planting them. I’m planting two plants each in all the cages this year. I got fourteen plants in the ground in the kitchen garden. The main vegetables garden is still a bit too wet to start planting them there.

Sun Gold tomatoes, planted two per cage

Some of the spring planted Asian greens are ready for harvest now. The leaves of some were damaged by our April hailstorm. That’s ok, they’ll still be good in the kitchen in stir-fries and such.

Rec Choi and Yukina Savoy Asian greens, showing hail damage

The Ruby Red chard has stunning red stalks and reddish green leaves. We can harvest it as needed now. This is our first time growing this variety.

Ruby Red chard

And to finish up the tour, here’s a look at the large salad box that I planted with salad greens about two weeks ago. The plants are off to a good start in there.

salad box planted with salad greens

I hope you enjoyed a peek at what’s growing here in early May!


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16 Responses to May Garden Update

  1. Robin says:

    Wow Villager, you are definitely ahead of us here! I’m in agreement with you regarding your zone shifting.

    I have to say that you must keep some strawberry plants growing even if they are high maintenance.

  2. Daphne Gould says:

    I planted my tomatoes already too, which is really early but with all the sun we had the soil was warm. And the plants just took off (they more than doubled in size in two days once they were in the ground). Now I’m looking at the long range forecast and we will get constant rain for a week starting on Sunday. I really, really hope the long range forecast is wrong, because without the sun the soil will cool down a lot.

  3. John says:

    Okay, now I’mm thinking I have to at least try to grow blackberries. Ten gallons in one season would be heaven for me.

  4. WOW. That is a fantastic harvest already! Congratulations – it’s really inspiring to see.

    Sorry to hear about the bluebird nest and eggs and the raccoons!

  5. Ginny says:

    How do you keep the varmints out of the berry bushes? We have wild raspberries (I think) and have never had a single fruit to eat. The birds and squirrels get them before we have a chance.

  6. Katrina says:

    You have quite a variety of things growing! I’m definitely jealous of all your berry bushes.

  7. Mike says:

    Planting some berry plants was in my plans in early spring, but the idea got lost in the bathroom remodel, landscape projects, and chickens. I’ll have to revisit it. The backside of my pond levee is thick with wild blackberries, but it’s not worth fighting the thorns and chiggers to pick them.

    • Villager says:

      We have some wild blackberries here as well. But even though they taste great, it isn’t worth the hassle to me. Ours are surrounded by poison ivy!

  8. Your garden looks wonderful thus far! The raddichio looks good. I planted 2 heads (well, that’s what survived the seeding process). I hope mine turns out okay. I love them grilled also. Yum!

  9. Ali says:

    I see you are planting 2 tomatoes per cage. I am wondering about doing the same with my new cages. Have you tried it before? What should I be concerned with of I do try it, watering, disease, production? I love the idea, as I never have enough space, but don’t want to ruin the crop. Thoughts?

    • Villager says:

      Ali, we planted 2 per cage at the MG food pantry garden all the time, using the same cages as mine. And that was with about 75-80 cages. I tried it last year with several of my cages, and it seemed to do much better than one per cage. So this year I am doing it with all our caged tomatoes.

      The idea is that 2 tomatoes do a better job of filling out the cage and of supporting each other. I tried it last year with Sungold, Sweet Baby Girl, Early Girl, Champion, and Juliet. You might consider giving it a test with a few of yours and see how it does with your conditions. I do leave room between the cages for air circulation, but I’ve always done that anyway. And I do mulch with newspaper before I put the cages over the tomatoes.

      Here’s a photo of the Sungold cage last year that had two plants in it.

      • Ali says:

        I didn’t see any cage around that Sungold 😉

        How much space do you leave between cages? I am thinking I might try this… Mine will be in a row along the fence, with a row of caged peppers in front, all on IRT mulch. Given that scenario, how much space do you think I should leave?

      • Villager says:

        Gosh, I tend to jam things pretty close together. There were six doubled-up cages behind the greenhouse that were planted so the cages touched. Other than some of the more rambunctious growers like Sungold wanting to grow into nearby cages, I had no problems.

        In the main garden though I put the tomato cages in a single row with maybe 8 inches between cages. With my 22″ cages that’s about 30″ from center to center.

        In the MG garden we spaced them a little farther apart, but that was for ease of harvest. That’s another thing to consider. I don’t mind reaching and leaning to harvest, but YMMV. At the Impact garden we just planted, the tomatoes were planted on 3 foot centers, in rows 5 feet apart.

  10. Ali says:

    That is great info, thanks! I will have to think about the harvesting factor, as the will be up against the fence. Assuming, of course, that it ever stops raining and I can 1, plant them, and 2, have tomatoes to harvest. Sigh. Thanks!

  11. meemsnyc says:

    How large is your Apache Blackberry bush? I just bought a cane to plant, and I’m wondering how much room I should allow it.

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