Mid-spring

Stormy weather, sort of...

Clematis

It's summer, I think. Certainly feels like it most of the time, which is why the clematis didn't stay in bloom as long as it usually does.

Archangel

Archangel

A rare variety of dead nettle with yellow flowers. Unlike the classic variety, its flowers, though abundant, only last a week. It blooms in full shade.

Some say it's invasive. I didn't notice anything of the sort.

I spent the last two days waiting for rain, but despite stormy clouds the sky is reluctant to release the water it promised. I can only hope the high humidity in the air keeps the plants from wilting for now.

Everything is over-sized, due no doubt to the the rain from previous weeks and the diligence with which I apply organic fertilizer, but so far the result is mostly foliage.

The fickle weather makes me uneasy and restless, as if I forgot to do something important, so I go through the chore list again: weeding, check, planting, check, staking, check, pruning, check, feeding, too much already.

The sun hid behind the clouds, leaving me strangely relieved, and when it came out again I realized what made me anxious: this is the kind of weather my grandfather reviled, sunshine through the rain, because it creates the most favorable conditions for black spot. I wish those storm clouds reached dew point already.

On a happier note, everything is right on schedule, well developed and healthy; we'll probably see flowers on the veggies in a week or so.

Judging by the good start the plants got, this year is going to yield a good harvest, but no matter how much you may want or need a plant to do something it will not oblige a second sooner than its internal schedule dictates. I reached the wisdom to appreciate what they do, not what I wish they did.

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The makings of a vegetable garden

Squash

Even for those of us with a more relaxed attitude towards garden design, a vegetable garden demands discipline. For one, you don't want to question whether the contents of your herb wheel are edible, and vegetable crops are energy intensive enough without unproductive demands on their resources.

The most important task in a kitchen garden is keeping it tidy: weed religiously and trim excessive foliage to encourage produce yield. Avoid diseases promoted by poor air circulation by respecting the plants' spacing requirements.

The optimal width for a vegetable bed is three feet if it has access from one side and five feet if it has access from both sides, this way you can reach easily to clean and harvest and don't have to step on it, which keeps the soil loose and gives the plants a better medium to grow in.

Starting a vegetable bed in any area that does not receive full sun for the entire day is hardly worth the trouble.

Companion planting improves both yield and flavor, so don't miss out on the classic combinations: tomatoes and basil, pole beans and corn, green beans, eggplant and pepper, dill and cabbage and yes, peas and carrots. Lovage, tarragon and marjoram improve the taste of any neighboring vegetables.

Marigolds are a staple of the kitchen garden, because their pungent scent repels damaging insects. They fit in the color scheme beautifully, since most vegetable flowers tend to be white or yellow.

All trailing vegetables do better staked, trained and cleared of excessive foliage. Keep invasive herbs like mint and dill contained by planting them in a buried pot or chimney flue. Respect height hierarchy for visual appeal and easier maintenance.

Prepare the beds thoroughly at the beginning of the season by mixing in a good amount of compost or natural fertilizer, but don't overfeed during the growing season. Let the dirt dry out between waterings to encourage the plants to develop a deep root system.

Be patient and allow the vegetables to reach their peak of ripeness before you pick them, getting that perfect flavor is one of the best things about growing your own garden.

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