A Garden For Us All
I love to garden, and I have grown a vegetable garden almost every year since I was in college. Since moving to the farm, getting a flock of chickens, and two beehives, my philosophy on gardening has changed a bit. I don’t garden just for myself anymore, I garden for all of us. I grow lots of chard and kale, more than we could ever eat ourselves, since the chickens love it, and it makes a great treat for them, especially in the late summer when the grass is turning brown and their access to green stuff is a bit diminished. I always leave a few kale plants in the garden over the winter so that we’ll have kale early in the season when the old stalks resprout in the spring. Typically when I pull up the old kale plants I throw them in the chicken yard for them to devour, but this year when I went up to the garden to pull the old kale and put in the new starts, I found myself unwilling to pull the old kale since it had started to flower and was covered in bees. I decided to leave most of the kale for the bees, although I did cut a few stalks to give to the girls since every time they see me walking toward the house from the garden they come running toward me hoping for a treat, and I do like to indulge them with some fresh greens now and again.
The same thing goes for the leeks. I leave the ones that I don’t get around to harvesting in the fall to overwinter, so that I will have leeks to enjoy throughout winter and into the next season. The leek stalks do get a bit tough after a while, so I eventually pull out the old ones and plant new leeks in late spring. This year when I went to pull out the old leeks, I saw that they were about ready to send up their huge flowering stalks which the bees absolutely love. So I decided to try transplanting a few from the leek bed to other locations around the garden so that the bees can enjoy their flowers, and I can get started planting this year’s garden. The artichokes are another plant that I have left in the garden partially for the bees. The variety that overwinters in our region produces fairly small artichokes that take a lot of work for not much reward in the eating department. But the plants are beautiful, the bees love the flowers, and I love seeing the bees gathering pollen and nectar in the garden, so it’s worth the space they take up to have a few plants that are bee magnets in the garden.
So far this spring I’ve planted the potatoes, kale, chard, broccoli, onions, and leeks. The tomato and pepper starts are in the greenhouse and are about ready to transplant into the garden, and the cucumber and squash seeds have been planted and will be ready to plant out in a few weeks. I am hoping for better luck with the strawberries this year. I had allowed the strawberry bed to turn into a dense jungle of old plants, runners, and offshoots last year, and a rodent of some sort set up camp in the strawberry bed and ate a ton of strawberries before they even had a chance to ripen. The good thing about living on the farm is that I have a large space to garden in and even with all the bugs, slugs, and four-legged critters dining on the garden, we still manage to have more than enough for us. I have started seeing a cute little rabbit hopping through the backyard recently, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it started hopping under the electric deer fence and sampling the garden goods. We also have an adorable family of chipmunks that spends much of the day darting back and forth across the back deck, stopping every once in a while to pose cutely on a piece of garden art. The other day I saw a chipmunk on the back steps munching contentedly on something for quite some time before I realized it was a green strawberry! Oh well, as they say, you can’t fight Mother Nature, and I don’t really want to. Sometimes it’s best to just let it bee.