Monday, May 12, 2008

Gardening in North Carolina

See the small sunflowers at the left side of the path leading to the arbor? Planted 3 weeks ago, they are already almost a foot tall.

I recently posted here some news from my sister M about her vegetable garden in Michigan. The following is from my sister-in-law R, who, apart from being an accomplished professional horticulturist, manages to plant a killer veggie garden. Perhaps that's not the right adjective to use when discussing edibles, but you get my drift. R recently moved from rural Maryland to rural Asheville North Carolina, where she is starting all over on a vegetable garden even before the house is ready to occupy. Here's what she's doing these days:

"Yesterday, as an early Mother's Day present, J caged all my tomatoes and expanded the garden by another several square yards--he saw that I was running out of planting space. To accomplish this, he had to move a significant pile of mushroom compost. He roto-tilled a good bit of the compost into our Carolina clay in our continued struggle to improve the heaviest soil I've ever gardened in. When my sister (who does pottery) visited recently, she remarked on the suitability of our clay for making pots.

"I'm growing a couple local tomato varieties--'Granny Smith' and 'Mountain Fresh' as well as two 'Juliet' (a grape type), a few 'Roma II' and 'Beefmaster'--for a total of 14 plants. (with the extra space I may plant a couple more.) My snap peas have started climbing their support fence and my potatoes are up and looking strong. Beans are just coming up as are the squash and chard. Today I need to thin/transplant some lettuce I sowed too thickly. We will have our first picking of sprouting broccoli for dinner tonight and we'll be eating lettuce and spinach from the garden by the end of the week."

Since I don't have pictures of the garden R is planting, here are some of the veggie garden where I volunteer. You can see the "cages" we made from pvc and chicken wire to deter bunnies and other creatures. The grasshoppers can still get in, but the big guys are stumped. Since the pics were taken, the corn is starting to poke above the cages and they'll be removed tomorrow. The critters seem to prefer baby sprouts, so I'm hopeful the corn and other veggies will survive after their protective armor is removed.

What amazes me about R's post or last week's report from M in Michigan is the difference not only in what is planted, but when. Out here in Zone 9, chard (foreground in second picture) is just about the only "cool season" plant remaining in our veggie garden. I am gradually reducing the number of tomatoes I'll plant here, finding that some, like Brandywine, just don't like my soil and/or climate. And mushrooms? Good grief. I thought I was exotic trying potatoes for the first time last year. I have neither the shade nor the water to grow 'shrooms in my yard. And, oh my, lettuce in June? Lettuce has long gone from San Diego home gardens: either harvested by the critters or the gardeners. The the few plants that remain in my yard are bolting beautifully so I can try to salvage some seed for next year. We plant lettuce in November here, to harvest beginning with Christmas dinner salad.

So, what are you growing in your edible garden, and what are you eating at your table now?


greeny said...

HI, weeping sore.
I've got tender baby leaf lettuce mix as well as baby spinach and the thinnings of my beet crop. I grew "White Icicle" radishes which I love! My first crop of shallots and green onions have been tasted as well.
I can't get anything in my garden plot, just my raised bed and whiskey barrel. It's been far too wet. Looks like a late season for my tomatoes and peppers.

kate smudges said...

It's interesting reading of your family's gardening - I can certainly identify with your sister-in-law and the heavy clay soil.

That's what I enjoy about blogging - discovering the differences in gardening from one climate to another.

Annie in Austin said...

I've read about North Carolina's famous schools of pottery, started "because of the abundant local clay". And Waccamaw made pottery down the coast in Myrtle Beach. They make pottery west of here but I can't imagine anyone wanting stuff made from the black gummy stuff in our yard!

Weeping Sore, the cool weather crops are usually done by May here in Austin - we have tomatoes and peppers starting to fruit now. Our squirrels chew through everything - they'd probably eat those cages!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose