This year the garlic got off to a late start. Most years it is up by the first week of April and nearly a foot tall by May. Not so this year. The spring thaw came later than usual and April was a cold, wet, snowy month. May hasn’t been much better either.
On May 7 the first feeble garlic shoots emerged from beneath their moldy mulch almost 40 days later than in earlier years. The heavy April snows had compacted the mulch into something like cardboard. As the snow melted it soaked the mulch creating ideal conditions for a film of white mold to grow over it. After a few days I decided to lift the mulch off the garlic so that the sun could warm and dry the soil. I also started my tractor and tilled up a wide strip on the west side of the garlic and planted six fifty foot rows of onion sets and a few red shallots. These are starting to come up now.
Lifting the mulch worked and more garlic cloves sprouted leaves. In a few more days almost all the cloves I had planted last fall were up. Now it was safe to mulch again so I spread a thin layer of about 20 wheelbarrow loads of spoiled hay over the garlic and onions. In seven to ten days when the garlic plants are taller I will add another layer of spoiled hay. This will keep the soil moist and cool and suppress weeds.
On Saturday, I tilled the corn patch once more to mix the manure and bedding more thoroughly. On Sunday afternoon, after feeding the sheep their grain and before the rain came, I tilled my potato patch, mulched it with spoiled hay, cut up five pounds of seed potatoes, and marked out the rows getting it all done by sunset. The rain clouds were gone Thursday (we’ve gotten almost 2 inches since Monday) and I was able to plant 200 feet of potatoes. On Saturday I am hoping to plant more potatoes and get the rows ready for my flour corn. The winter squash mounds are done and covered in a thick layer of rotted hay that is almost like soil but it is still too early for the squash which will be planted around June 5. I’m still working on getting the summer squash, string bean, and tomato areas fixed up.
It is finally warm enough by the house at least that I can leave the tomato seedlings outside. I don’t think I will bother selling any this year. The late spring set me back and I could not put any plants outside until May 18 so many of my seedlings did not grow large enough to be worth selling. I will still have plenty of plants for my use and for tomatoes to sell at the farm market later this summer. I tilled under last year’s mulch in the tomato area today but still need to put down a new layer of spoiled hay.
Apple trees and Siberian and Korean nut pine seedlings I ordered over the winter arrived in late March and early April. The plan was to plant them in the thawed ground the day they arrived like last year. Instead, I had to keep them in their shipping boxes and it wasn’t until last week that the ground had thawed enough to dig last week. Even then I had to pour hot water in some holes to melt the ice. On Tuesday this week I repaired the fencing around all the Siberian and Korean nut pines and the apple trees planted last year and put new fencing around this year’s plantings to keep the sheep from eating them. I am planting fruit and nut trees in the sheep pasture to make better use of the limited arable land. In the next few weeks I’m also going to be planting willows along the outside of some fences for a hedge to grow fresh willow branches for sheep forage.
On May 17 last week I picked up my order of thirty basswood trees from the conservation district. So far I have planted 25 trees including 4 in the sheep pasture. It’s been quite a job so far as the roots are over a foot long. The holes have to be dug deep and large just like the ones for the apple trees. I’m mulching these with old cardboard sheets covered with spoiled hay. My hope is that in several years they will begin to flower. Basswood flowers are very fragrant and the honey made from them is prized. But even if no honeybees use them they will still be nectar and pollen sources for wild bees.
The sheep have been wanting to get into their pasture for a couple of weeks now. I have been letting them out to graze for brief periods last week but the grass was not tall enough to leave them all day. On Tuesday (May 21) they got to spend the whole day in the small paddock after a week of only a half hour per day to get them adjusted to fresh food again. On Wednesday, after feeding them a pile of hay, I let the sheep out into the larger paddock for a few hours before sunset. Now they are in the pasture everyday feeding on fresh grass and clover whenever they want. Everyone seems fine and able to handle the fresh grass.