Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Early Spring

The chives are up! They are always my first edible sign of spring, cheerily growing despite frozen ground and wet, chilly air. This year they even beat out my earliest crocus. I have two large chive clumps, both of which need dividing. The soil is still too wet for me to start digging. I want to pot up one of the divisions, so that I can try to winter them over indoors next year. Right now I have only rosemary inside, and I am weary of working it into my weekly menus. Once I can harvest the chives, I will be posting my favorite recipes for my first spring herb. The other chive divisions will be given away or else scattered throughout my perennial beds, as I love the purple flowers. The only caution is their propensity to self-seed, and if you don't deadhead you will end up with many baby chives the next year.

Somehow, I don't mind pulling weeds when they are chives (maybe I can even use them for a "microgreen" garnish). My number one weed nemesis is quack grass. Along with the chives, quack grass is springing up in my perennial bed. I have been aggressively hand-pulling the rhizomes for three seasons, and I have effectively decimated the population. When we first moved in, the whole bed was an overgrown quack-grassy knoll with a dense mat of rhizomes. Thanks to heavy mulching, the rhizomes are now long and easy to grab, and I rip them out with abandon. I think of it as "aerating" the soil in my bed. To hope for complete eradication is folly, mainly because rhizomes lurk on the other side of the fence in my neighbor's yard and also under my two well established spirea shrubs. I would need to uproot my shrubs and maul the edge of my neighbors yard to really get the rhizomes out, and if I leave behind but a few snippets of rhizomes, they will inevitably pop up the next year.

I pulled the mulch off the alpine strawberries, and they look no worse for the wear. At first, I thought one had winter-heaved out of the soil, but it is actually just a dense underbelly of last year's leaf stems. I still can't tell if I needed to mulch them -- they are "alpine" after all -- but it didn't do any damage. The little baby plant that sprung up from fallen seed last fall is still doing well, so I plan to move it elsewhere. If I was nice, I would pot it up and give it away along with my chive divisions, but the berries are so delicious and small that I need every plant I can get. Even if I divide aggressively and the plants seed their little babies every season, I don't think I'll ever have enough for a bowl full of berries!

Finally, I had a longing look at my asparagus bed. Sometimes I get spears by Easter, but nothing is pushing through the earth quite yet. It is always a minor miracle the way the spears rocket out of the apparently dormant ground. There is a thick layer of composted manure blanketing the whole bed, and I have noticed that my habit of heavily layering the compost and manure in this area has raised it noticeably above the adjacent beds. All this care for a plate or two of asparagus, but what delicious plates! And who am I kidding? It rarely even gets cooked and onto a plate, as fresh-cut asparagus is a delicious raw snack. In a plot as small as mine, I focus on quality not quantity, and I would rather my son know the taste of the real stuff in small amounts, rather than enjoy weekly plates of imported spears. The asparagus has the added bonus of being quite ornamental once the harvest is over and the plants fern out. This year I am interplanting sweet peas -- Cupani's original -- to wind up the ferns. Not sure if it will work, but another garden writer wrote about this project enthusiastically. Given that this is the richest soil in my garden, it is a shame not to use it more. So the sweet peas will go in soon, but not before I relish the green snappiness of new-grown asparagus spears.


  1. I am about sixteen miles west of the city and my chives are not even peeking through yet. I hope they are still alive.


  2. Thats great that you already have signs of life in your garden, still nothing yet in mine. How long ago did you plant your asparagus? i read that if you want good harvests from your beds you shouldn't harvest any for at least a year or two, maybe you could try leaving a couple unattended and see if it works any better for next year? anywho..Great read!! Thanks for helping me to believe Spring will come

  3. I have never tasted fresh-cut asparagus, but you're making me want to try. Ditto with the alpine strawberries. They must be great tasting; I keep reading about various gardeners growing them.

    But boy, do I sympathize with the quack-grass dilemma. We grow plenty of that stuff around here. It seems like no matter how much I pull up, there is always more lurking. Some of it grew right up through a 3-inch layer of mulch on the paths last year... and we imagined we'd pulled it all some months before, silly us. ;)

  4. @finding my green thumb...the bed is four years old....but true that you shouldn't harvest the first year if you put in two year old crowns (which I did! -- I splurged!)