By Brianna Wray
the Times 

Gardener's Grove: First harvest

Transplanting starts, laying mulch


Brianna Wray

Gardening is therapeutic, excellent exercise, and even provides a snack.

IN THE WEEDS-Here it is, just after Mother's Day weekend, planting time. We Washingtonians are pretty much guaranteed a frost-free growth season from here on in. (Not so much for friends at higher elevations and/or in Colorado.) It seems as though the garden goes from an idea to a plan to behind schedule practically overnight.

Those plants started indoors can finally spread their roots in the garden beds or pots previously prepared for them. Working with plant starts is incredibly satisfying because at the end of the day there is a very visual representation of your efforts. This year's starts were Walla Walla sweet onions, tomatoes, Anaheim and jalapeno peppers.

With plants like corn, carrots, watermelon, and sweet mini peppers-those that prefer to be sown in place seem to take forever, delaying weeding efforts for weeks. Incorporating a combination of starts and plants sown in place helps keep the anticipation from mounting to a fever pitch.

Having never grown carrots before, it was tough to differentiate it from the weeds until the leaves split off into the familiar shape.

With all my attention going toward the flower beds with their passing tulips and swelling irises, or the garden beds with food, the yard itself has fallen by the wayside.

Seasoned gardeners say a plant is only a weed if it grows in an unwanted location. When dandelions begin to dominate over the grass, one has two choices: mount an all-out attack or decide that this is a dandelion field now.

My landlord, looking over all the yellow dandelion flowers reminded me that every part of the dandelion is edible. Yet, when asked if he was hungry for some dandelion, he declined.

Speaking of things you don't want in your garden, I've managed to keep our cats out with citrus peels and a vigorous sprinkling of red pepper flake, but these deterrents lose potency with every rain or watering. After seeing YouTube videos of cats being startled by aluminum foil on countertops I decided to experiment. With strategically placed aluminum foil, the felines' litter box plans are foiled.

Tell me, whose idea was it to double the size of the garden beds and, therefore, the workload? Mine? You're sure?

But all the work is not without its reward. We have already harvested eight of the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.

This week the buttercrunch lettuce will begin falling prey to lunchtime salad needs and there's at least another week's worth of growing necessary for the bok choy, but boy when it arrives there will be more than plenty. Lesson for next year: stagger plantings by week so that we're not overrun at harvest.

Pumpkin/watermelon challenge update:

As with all things there are ups and downs. I think the watermelon sprouts are coming along. Or the weeds are...whichever. Like carrots, watermelon is new for me.

Pumpkin seeds, not so much. I put the seeds in a wet paper towel inside a plastic bag, and I put the bag in the sun, but no movement yet. We'll just have to wait and see what comes up.


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