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The garden has been a whirlwind and a trial this year. The seeds like peas and kale that I plant in late April didn’t get planted until the second week of May because of snow delays. The cool weather seeds pretty much got planted the same weekend as the warm weather seeds. And just this last weekend we finally were able to finish planting all of our seeds and the plants we bought at the plant sale.

Where to start?

Plant sale crowd

The big plant sale has come and gone. The day was cold but nothing stops rabid gardeners from a deal! We got to the sale around 6:20 in the morning. Yes, you read that right. We were there to stand in line for an entry wristband. The wristbands were handed out at 7. This is how the organizers control the crowds. The wristbands indicate what group you are in and therefore the order you are let into the sale. We were in group three. The sale started at 9 and group three would probably be allowed in around 9:15 or thereabouts.

Off Bookman and I went to Seward Cafe for a hearty breakfast and lots of coffee. My plant list this year was significantly shorter than years past. We are at the point where we have to be more deliberate about our choices because we are running out of room for perennials. We did get two more honeyberries and a chokeberry. The rest was herbs and some prairies grasses and ground covers that we planted in the front yard under the maple tree.

We also got a cranberry to try out. They apparently don’t have to be grown in a bog, they just have to be kept well watered. I expected a bush but they are low growing spreading plants. We planted ours near the rain barrel, close to a water source. We’ll see how it does and if we ever actually get cranberries. I love cranberries and they tend to be expensive, at least the organic ones, so if it does well I might have to plant more. I will let you know!

Plant sale purchases

One plant that is doing well in the garden is the grapevine we planted two years ago now. This is my third try at table grapes. The other two tries the vines did not survive their first winter. This one I planted right next to the south side of the house and I looks like I finally found the right variety and location. Last year we got about four or five small clusters of small grapes. They were more the size of large currants than grapes so we dehydrated them and as raisins they were sweet and delicious. This year, even after the long, cold and snowy winter, the grape is going gangbusters and if it continues we are going to have 20 to 30 clusters of grapes. I am hoping the grapes will be bigger but even if they aren’t, making my own raisins is pretty fantastic.

Sadly, the six-day heatwave we had last week fried all of our little cabbage starts. No purple cabbage for the Dashwoods to discover in the garden this year. On the other hand, the tomatoes appear to be very happy. They are flowering and noticeably taller than a week ago. The last several years have not been good tomato years, maybe this one will be.

First ever rhubarb harvest

We’ve already begun harvesting from the garden. Right now it’s rhubarb, bunching onions/green onions, and chives. Until we figure out how much rhubarb we are going to have and what we want to do with it, We are cutting it up and freezing it. I like the tartness and think a chutney or barely sweetened jam would be delicious. I also have a couple smoothie recipes that have rhubarb that might be fun to try. I gave Bookman a piece of raw rhubarb to taste and he didn’t like the tartness as much as I did. I am not sure what that will mean in terms of eating it — maybe I will get it all to myself and that’s A-OK by me.

The honeyberry shrubs that are a couple years old have berries on them that are beginning to get ripe. There was a dry spell when they were growing so they didn’t get especially large or plump this year. I am picking them and freezing them as they come ripe. There will be enough to put in pancakes or oatmeal a time or two but that’s about it. Though one day, when all five shrubs are bigger, I hope we get so much that our freezer is stuffed full and we get sick of them by the end of summer. These are our blueberry replacements since we can’t get the right acidity in the garden, and while they don’t taste exactly like a blueberry, it’s close enough. And since they look like teardrop shaped blueberries, both the eye and the tastebuds get tricked.

The strawberries have flowered and are beginning to get berries. It looks like it might be a bountiful strawberry year. This makes me very happy since last year was a bad year. We just started a new bed and the old bed only produced a few small berries. Big disappointment. A couple weeks to wait and my mouth is watering in anticipation.

The serviceberry is only two years old but growing strong. Last year we had enough berries to make a batch of muffins. This year I am estimating we will have two to three times as much fruit. If you have never had serviceberries, they are a truly delicious and seriously overlooked fruit. You can eat them fresh off the bush, add them to muffins or pancakes or oatmeal, or make them into jam. Serviceberries are also known as Juneberries, which tells you when they ripen. Last year was the first time we had fruit and I seem to recall it was the end of June when they got ripe. The shrub grows in the chicken garden so I will need to be sure to cordon it off from the Dashwoods otherwise they are sure to discover them and not let me have any.

Does anyone have a flowering quince? I planted one two years ago and it is growing and looking nice but has never flowered and so I have not gotten any fruit. Is it one of those plants that need to mature several years before fruiting? Mine is a Chinese quince that is self-pollinating and about three-quarters of a meter tall. I bet I have years to wait before it fruits, don’t I?

With a heatwave followed by several days of steady, soaking rain and a cool weekend, the garden looks fresh and on the verge of a wild growth spurt. The weeds are already shooting up. With the forecast this coming week for sun and moderate warmth and a chance of rain midweek, I will very likely be a weeding maniac by the weekend.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.