Last week we finally spotted our first asparagus spear poking up through the mulch. And as usual with asparagus, the first one quickly leads to the second, and the third, and so on. We’re not quite ready to plan a meal around them, but it won’t be long. If you’re not familiar with how asparagus grows, this time of year the roots put up the edible shoots, which are harvested by cutting off at the soil level. For this mature bed, we usually harvest for 6-8 weeks, then we let the rest of the shoots grow into ferns which stay green all summer and fall and replenish the roots for next year’s harvest. A well-maintained bed of asparagus can last for fifty years or more.
My wife also finished mulching the asparagus beds. We used shredded paper in the rows of plants, and cardboard covered with straw between the rows. This will help greatly to keep down the weeds and conserve moisture this summer, as well as add some organic material when the mulch breaks down. Visitors this time of year are usually surprised to see the asparagus patch while it is mostly bare of any growth. Where’s the asparagus? If they come back in summer, it’s a lot different when the bed looks like a jungle with all the fern-like top growth.
Another project accomplished was the landscaping around our house. Only we left this job to the pros. We had half of it done last year, and saved the rest for this year. They used some flagstone stepping stones to give us a path to the screened porch from the yard.
We selected mostly low-maintenance plants like boxwood, nandina, cypress and holly along with hydrangea, azalea, Korean lilac and crepe myrtle to give some color. The ‘Firepower’ nandina we used is a non-fruiting and non-invasive cultivar of this sometimes invasive species. I love the star magnolia tree they planted to replace the overgrown red-leaf plum that was here when we arrived. It is at the front corner of the house, and the star magnolia is usually one of the first trees to bloom around here.
And speaking of blooming trees, on the back corner of the house the Kwanzan cherry tree is just starting to open its blooms. That was a great planting choice made by previous owners, and the tree is always a delight to see blooming each spring. The blossoms look like big pink powder puffs when they are fully open.
In other news, I got spring carrots sown on Friday. I rotate crops around every year, and this time the spot for carrots is a little smaller than last year. That’s all right, you can still grow a lot of carrots in a four foot square raised bed, especially when you grow two crops a year. I covered the bed with Agribon material after sowing, and the seeds should be up in one to two weeks time. I’ll remove the material once the seeds are sprouted.
The spinach is still growing strong, though some of the overwintered plants in the greenhouse have started bolting already. I pulled up those plants and froze the spinach. I have others that were set out this year and they should last a little longer. I also harvested some of the smaller leaves that we ate for a salad one night. I love fresh, raw spinach. I’ve harvested almost five pounds of it so far this year.
Fresh spinach played a starring role in a frittata I made yesterday. It also featured some dried tomatoes and peppers from last year, and some fresh parsley and chives. I soak the dehydrated veggies in water first and they add lots of flavor. I think frittatas are a great way to use whatever garden veggies we happen to have available. I’m sure fresh asparagus will wind up in one soon enough.
On a sad note, English sparrows trashed the bluebird nest. There were five eggs in there, but when I checked on it Saturday there were only three left, and one had been pecked open. The other eggs are gone. I saw at least two male sparrows trying to take over the territory. At least they didn’t trash live bluebirds. In the past I have seen the sparrows kill the young, and then build a nest right over the top of the dead bodies. The bluebirds are no match for the more aggressive English sparrows, who don’t even need the cavity for nesting, unlike the bluebirds who are strictly a cavity nesting bird.
On a happier note, we got the site setup for our new beehive. First we put down landscape cloth and covered that with limestone gravel. Well, technically my wife did that part. The beehive was a joint project for sure, with both of us sharing the duties. Then we set the hive itself on concrete blocks. The nuc of bees we ordered should be here by the end of the month or first of May. It will be nice to have the honey bees back! The lack of them is very noticeable to me after we lost the hive last year.
My thoughts will be with all the runners, families and spectators at the Boston Marathon today. I’m glad I was able to run my marathons in the days before terrorism became another thing to worry about. All I had to think about was getting to the finish line. It will be a different experience going forward, for sure.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of the recent activities here at Happy Acres. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA!