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Spring 2019

Rain, Rain, and More Rain

In my last post I brought up the climate and how experts believe the Midwest will change due to current trends, in the future. One thing they mentioned is that Spring will experience an increase in rain, with higher amounts of flooding, and summers will be dry and drought heavy. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Well Friday June 21st marked the first day of summer and I thought it would be interesting to reflect on this year’s spring growing season and share the journey so far.

Towards the end of March the snow finally melted from a difficult February. It was as if winter waited until February 1st and then dumped everything it could on us for one month straight. The size of the snowbank surrounding my driveway created a defensive wall four to five feet high. Come March however, the vegetable garden beds were visible and myself, impatient. The previous fall I spread new compost on top of each of the raised beds and they were now starting to thaw out and break down.

Vegetable Garden – March 2019

By late April I was able to plant cool weather crops, that started from seed in my basement, into the vegetable plot. I will note that timing was crucial as it would rain every other day making it difficult to plant. Luckily, because the beds were not tilled and were full of organic matter from the compost, they absorbed the rain water rather quickly and never became a muddy mess. 

During this time I was fortunate enough to have the chickens, aka the ‘Golden Girls’, return to the garden for a second season. This time they arrived older and much earlier in the year, which was great since we started getting eggs right away.

The Golden Girls

Some of the perennials also began to emerge from hibernation by early May. Flowers like phlox and cherry blossoms as well as vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb began to add color to the garden.  Rain continued to remain heavy during this time which seemed to help everything “pop” and grow full of bright green vegetation.

Phlox

While the garden was just waking up, my wife and I decided to make a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia to visit Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, for inspiration. Seeing his 1,000 foot long garden bed on top of a mountain caused me to dream of future garden expansions of my own. It was pretty incredible to see that some of the vegetable varieties were ones grown during the time he lived there. 

Monticello – May 2019
Monticello Garden – May 2019

When we returned the spring crops had really taken off. The cool weather and abundance of rain created the perfect environment for plants like broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage.

Early Season Broccoli
Recently Picked Lettuce & Young Turnips
Young Brassicas

It may sound like this year has been flawless, but I can assure you that is not the case. A couple of challenges did arise in the form of pill bugs and cucumber beetles. 

When I started noticing holes in some of my vegetable plants, and leaves completely eaten away, I began to worry. Could it be birds, caterpillars, or a return of the rabbits? Upon further investigation it looked to be pill bugs as the culprit. These are those bugs that roll up into a little armored ball when danger is near. To be honest, I want these bugs in the soil. It’s a sign of a healthy soil system, and these are normally one of the good guys. The problem was the fact that their food supply had run out. With a diet of decaying plants and leaves, once eaten clean in the boxes, the next likely source is the lush green vegetables. And that’s what they did. To combat this, I began laying a layer of leaves around my plants. Not only would this allow them to retain moisture better, but it was food for the pill bugs so that they would leave the plants I wanted to eat alone. Problem solved!

Pill Bugs

The second issue has been cucumber beetles. And although you would think that they would only attack cucumbers, that is not true. Squash, zucchini, and ground cherries are also of interest to these pests. They will eat leaves down to a skeleton mess if left unchecked. Unfortunately, until good predator insects show up, my main line of defense is picking them manually and placing them face to face with four predator chickens who gladly rip them limb from limb. Thankfully so far, these are the main challenges our garden has faced.

Cucumber Beetle

Now that summer is here, the garden is in full swing and looks completely different from where we started in March. It has been a wet and cool temperature filled spring, but the plants seem to have enjoyed it immensely. It’s always gratifying to see the progress in such a short time, but also challenging to try and keep up with. That’s what makes this fun!

Vegetable Garden – June 2019

What have you noticed with your garden this Spring? Hit me up in the comments bellow.

About the Author

Geoff has been growing plants and vegetables consistently for the last 6 years and actively experiments with, and writes about, all aspects of gardening.

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