Monday, June 10, 2013

Notes from a Northern Garden

Please welcome Jessica Ojala, our guest this Monday while Shari is away!


Here in northern Vermont, I feel like I'm lagging far behind the rest of the country, and even the southern part of the state. The last frost date for my area is June 1, which means my garden is really just getting started. Because of our short season, growing things like tomatoes and melons can be a real challenge. It's always a race to see if you can get any red tomatoes before first frost. Watermelons are even more challenging, and yet this year I planted what is by all accounts a preposterous amount of watermelon. If I get melons and they ripen, I'll feel like I've won the jackpot! If not, there's always the rest of the garden to eat.

 One of this year's biggest highlights is that our young plum trees have finally produced plums! I am over the moon about this, and I'm already feeling fiercely protective of these little fruits. Our plum trees end up covered in Japanese beetles every year and we have to continually pick them off to keep the trees from being entirely devoured. In fact, the Japanese beetle problem is what prompted us to start raising hens, in hopes that the hens would eat the beetle grubs that live in the lawn. We've had our hens just about year so I've yet to discover if this will happen or if it's just a wild fantasy. 

Our asparagus is in its fourth year and doing well, but we've started noticing asparagus beetles. From what I've read, an effective way to combat the beetles is to let your hens range amongst the asparagus and do "cleanup". Since our asparagus is part of our larger vegetable garden, we need to fence it off so the hens will be contained and, with any luck, do some pest control. I can't wait to try it out! I'm also told they like to hang out in the shade the asparagus plants make when they feather out. Has anyone had success with having their hens do cleanup duty in the garden?

 Here's Phiona, aka Phonus Bonus, not quite understanding what it is I'd like her to do.

The strawberries are forming and should be ripe within a few weeks. We are thrilled! We planted 50 Sparkle strawberries last summer and it was hard to pinch off the flowers but this year it looks like we'll be rewarded. We need to put up netting very soon!

What do you do when your four-year-old picks all your prize peonies off the bush, each with only two inches of stem intact? Weep, and then float them in a bowl.

Other than asparagus, we don't have much we can actually eat yet except the perennial herbs. The chives are so pretty when they blossom, and though my kids are picky eaters they will inexplicably nibble on chives, mint, lemon thyme, and oregano right off the bush. I think they enjoy grazing in the garden, which makes me want to plant even more herbs!

Apple mint, new to us this year, is delicious tucked into a glass of sparkling white wine. I'm looking forward to many summer evenings with this drink in hand. Cheers!


  1. I just love your blog. I found it by accident one day and come back every time you update. Keep up the good posts.

    You can find me at my own blog South North South ( Keep in touch. :-)

  2. I hope you get your melons! I planted four plants this year, even though I have yet to have any success the past 2 years in a row (one tiny tasteless melon last year). Chickens seem to be pretty efficient at finding every bug and grub in their path. Your idea to use them for pest cleanup seems like a great one. Beautiful post, Jessica.

  3. thanks for this beautiful post, jess! xox

  4. thanks all!
    abby, last year we grew "cream of saskatchewan" watermelons, and we got two small but sweet and delicious melons. i think that's what whetted my appetite :) i hope you're successful with your hand pollination!