Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asparagus & squash - or proof that Peter really meant his wedding vows

So we've grown zucchini and yellow squash every year that we've had a garden. It's kind of the hobby farmer's bread and butter you know? Practically a weed, you're almost guaranteed to get some food out of your plants. And did we ever. Unfortunately, we also got really honking big plants that overtook our beds and crowded out other veggies. So I got the idea in my head that we should clear out the massive brush pile that we inherited with the house, and create a bed where we could let the crazy plants go crazy and grow as big as they want.
Upon further reflection, the pile was not massive when we bought the house. But we've lived here 4 years, and there are a lot of trees that like to drop sticks during rain storms. It was massive by the time we decided to clear it.

Since we're talking about a rather large area, I also decided that we should bite the bullet and put in the asparagus patch that I've wanted for a couple of years.

Now, there's no better kick in the pants to perform physical labor that to have no choice, so back in February, we pre-ordered 25 one year old purple passion crowns from Johnny's seeds. They were scheduled to start shipping to our area in the middle of April, so that gave us almost two months to discuss how we were going to prepare the plot and get rid of the sticks. We discussed buying and/or renting a wood chipper, burning, moving, but suddenly I noticed a box on the porch when I left for work and we still had a big ol' pile of sticks. So we improvised and marked out the asparagus patch the next day, leaving the rest to be dealt with later. Then we started digging. And digging. And digging. By hand.

See, asparagus is planted in nice deep trenches. And the nice long one year old roots need plenty of space to spread out. And I like to complain about my back. Anyhow, my sister came down to visit, and thankfully took Gabriella to visit at our parent's house, so the planting process, went much faster than it would have if she had been here to "help".
See the pile of removed dirt is bigger than me! Ok, maybe I was in the trench but still - this is why Aleve was invented

And I told you it was a massive pile of sticks


After the crowns are spread out over their little hills, you cover the roots with a couple of inches of soil, then gradually fill in the trenches when you start to see growth. Technically, a few places say the gradual fill method is unnecessary, but I found more websites saying to do it than not, so that was the approach we took.
 Also, while I fully intend to let the squash grow as wild as it wants, I did not want to risk it hurting my beautiful little asparagus, so I used some of those handy stick to build a primitive little fence to separate the two areas.

Anyhow, we must have done something right because exactly one week later, we had ...
The same pile of dirt?
No! Look closer ...


And, as you can see in the first picture, an untouched pile of sticks. However, I am lucky to have incredible inlaws who apparently love physical labor with no reward but sincere thanks, and a job that requires me to work every other weekend. Now, I never thought of my work schedule as a plus, but while I was counting by fives, Peter and his parents moved that pile of crap (literally, it seems the previous homeowners preferred to bury construction debris, rather than put it out on the curb for the garbage men), and we went from


Monday, May 30, 2011

How did we get here

By way of introduction, let's flashback a few years to May 2007. Peter and I had spent the last four years living in a funky little house (technically two very little houses connected by a door on each floor) in downtown Baltimore city while I attended pharmacy school at the University of Maryland.
According to my mother (and one should always follow their mother's advice, right?) I simply had to live in a city at least once in my life. Well we did it, hookers on the corner, friends getting mugged, and a corpse discovered around the block and all.
Finally, graduation had come and gone, the house was sold, our stuff was packed and we (and by we, I mean I - Peter would happily live in the concrete jungle until the end of time) escaped to West Chester, Pennsylvania to search for our next home.
I knew I wanted an older home and space for a garden. Plenty of hours spent searching online later and I had found my house.
It would have been the only house we looked at, but we had another showing already scheduled, so we kept the appointment. But, honestly, my mind was made up the minute we pulled up the driveway. Why?
Wood-burning pizza oven, that's why!

So we got my dream house, and it has been a work in progress ever since. We've painted, and fixed, and have only scratched the surface of things we want to do here.
Our second summer, we built two raised beds, added another in the third year, and this year we put in an asparagus patch and cleared a tremendously huge pile of crap to have an area to let squash go crazy.  Thankfully, Peter has gotten bitten by the gardening bug (let's be honest, the more veggie patches we have, the less lawn he has to mow), and Gabriella loves to get her hands dirty, so the edible garden is a family affair.