In the Garden, year 3

Some people have asked me if I've been planting, yet. No, I say, well yes, a little. Chicago's weird because every year there's a warm spell sometime in April, and it's tempting to start seeding. But the more seasoned gardeners know—there is always one more snow in April. Many wait til mid-May to plant, or start indoors.

I'm trying to keep a better record this year using pictures and garden plans. Last week I put in some arugula, bok choy, cabbage, and kale (cold-hardy greens) and started a few flats of broccoli (good as microgreens while thinning) and eggplant, pepper, tomato. In front will be prairie and I'm planting grasses now, it's even a little late for that but we'll see. Failure in the garden is only a short way away from success.

 These clary sages survived winter. Fluffy but tough.

These clary sages survived winter. Fluffy but tough.

I worked and as a wwoofer up in southern Washington right on the Washington-Oregon border for a couple of weeks many years ago. This was a young organic farm, maybe 3 years old, and Larkin there at Green Angel Gardens told me that it took about five years before a farm became a really working farm. While there I learned a lot about cover crops and how vile roosters can be. Since I bought my home in 2014 I've remembered what he said, and find that each years' work really does build on the last in a very satisfying way when you're working with the land.

 Nettles survived the winter too. Rock stars in the garden and the herbal medicine box. They love this wet spot near the drainage pipe. They will spread but I've planted the mustards and hardy greens here to keep them at bay, that and aggressively harvesting them.

Nettles survived the winter too. Rock stars in the garden and the herbal medicine box. They love this wet spot near the drainage pipe. They will spread but I've planted the mustards and hardy greens here to keep them at bay, that and aggressively harvesting them.

The key over the past three years has been Soil Redemption, and setting up some perennial fruits—a peach tree, raspberry and blackberry bushes, and strawberries. Young fig and calamondin trees grow in pots. 

The soil is very soft this year because of the work of previous years, and productive plants finally outnumbering weeds and grass. This year I've only bought some seeds, a few bags of organic soil, sand, and a couple of straw bales. Leaves captured and spread out in the garden in the fall are now mulched into the soil.

I will add some worms which I'm currently trying to trap in the garden using half of an old squash. There's a compost bin (rn a compost pile finishing in the sun) so food waste is taken care of that way. The worms will help that process, and I am sure be good guests.

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Not a great pic but my neighbor dropped off four trees ready for Arbor Day. Two dogwoods (white and flowering), a Sweetbay Magnolia, Eastern Redbud. Accidental continuing farming, year three.  

Emily Johnson