Sunday, June 2, 2013

Spring Garden - Peas, lambsquarters, strawberries, cut flowers


Last year I left this basket out, wondering what food might interest Beren. Kale, strawberries, or elderflower. Strawberries, I thought, would be the hit. He chose the scissors.

Two trips to the garden today... one right after breakfast, the second after a trip to Belle Mead Co-op to buy organic slug bait (slugs are our worst nursery pest) and a flat of annuals for a cut flower garden for Beren. [Debbie, if you're reading this, they only had regular cucumbers.]

In the morning, we picked lambsquarters, which are abundant right now. We're eating a nice serving for breakfast for the past couple weeks. Lambsquarters surround all of our cultivated crops, especially the squash and cucumbers. I've been harvesting concentric circles around each seedling. Beren calls them "kawtahs"or "yams." He pulled a jewelweed ("jewahwee"), and told me it was "kawtahs". I showed him the differences - rubbing the juicy jewelweed stem on our skin and pointing out the dusty purplish tops of lambsquarters. He seemed certain of his plant identification skills.

Garlic edges these beds of squash and lambsquarters, but I think the garlic will be harvestable next year. I planted it late. Horseradish also is peppered through this bed.

Dill is coming up and the kale is finally getting bigger. Beren gnaws on both raw. Feeding a toddler is a task, so I spend time thinking of ways to encourage him. I praising his taste, as well as being a good example and asking politely if he will share his delicious harvest. We search for peas, with me leading the game with ridiculously exclamatory statements about our efforts. "Gasp! Can you believe we found another pea!" I would have been yanked from Star Search for my performances. Often times, I just let him ramble, and quietly observe what he eats while I harvest, weed or water.

I have abandoned hopes of producing enough to can and freeze. This year's garden is all about my son, well, mostly. I have worked to make it a place that welcomes him. Together, we planted his favorite vegetables - green beans, cucumbers, peppers, peas. Only a few pea vines came up in his beds - he tamped the seeds down really, really well, using his feet. I created narrow footpaths in the cold frame, so he could have his own bed to walk in and drive trucks through. All other beds are "no feet". I'm encouraging him to use "his pincers" when he harvests, rather than his whole hand. But, when an entire plant comes up, I try to bite my tongue or offer just a little guidance.

One day he purposefully stomped all over the peas as I weeded them. I was upset and angry, knowing that he was being mean and that he would one spring day he would enjoy the peas. He's little and young, and being spiteful is new. Maybe not spiteful, but definitely letting me know something was up. When this happened, I decided to sweep him up and nurse him.

We sat in the the garden path, and I said, "It is a tough day. Momma works a lot with plants, doesn't she? She loves you more than plants." He nodded. He wanted my attention, not weeded peas.

And so today, the pea vines are surrounded by many, many weeds, but we enjoyed pea pods as long as my very closely clipped thumbnails.

On our second trip to the garden today, we planted marigolds, snapdragons, zinnias, celosia, globe amaranth, and petunias that Beren and I picked out. I had planned to plant a cut flower garden and so in early spring, I sowed zinnias and celosia in flats. Only three zinnias survived, making today's trip to Belle Mead Co-op necessary pleasure. The marigolds, possibly the most humble of our selection, made me smile. I love their smell.

I pulled a row of onions to make room for the colorful flowers. Beren took several gnashing bites of the thick green onion leaves. I was amazed, though before he was eating solids, our doctor had mysteriously told me, "He's an alliums person."

We had incorporated several loads of leaf compost into the garden this spring, so we could actually dig sizable holes with our hands. Please raise your beer and toast my soil, because this is the Sourlands, not farm country. I showed Beren how to remove the bound roots and toss the clump away. Both activities were quite fun. We have a nicely planted row of flowers. Now, let that heavy rain come.

I also left the bird netting off the strawberries, so Beren could easily harvest. Our patch is diminished from previous years - the soil is terrible. Each year we lose some plants to frost heave. We hardly weed there. Jared scalped the top third of one of the beds by pulling a garden cart through the bed early in the season. And last, we have never done the daughters-mothers replanting project. The plants were put in many years ago. Nevertheless, Beren finds a few strawberries each time he looks.

Last year he ate the entire fruit, which sometimes included the leaves. This year, he takes a single bite and tosses it. The latter is an imitation of me tossing away the leaves. Since the patch is so slim, I've been chasing after his strawberry projectiles and eating them myself. "Hey, you can eat more than one bite," I say. Bite, toss, bite toss.

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