Spring clean up on an urban lot

Our front garden bed.  April 2015.
Our front garden bed. April 2015.

Now that Winter seems to be a thing of the recent past, there’s so much happening and needing done in our tiny plot!   It’s such a welcome change for me.  Our last frost day isn’t until the end of May, so it’s still too soon to do to much planting.  There are a few crops that I could start planting – peas, onions, cole crops.  But I haven’t.  Maybe I’ll get some planted over the next few days, before I miss my window of opportunity, but right now, I’m taking an inventory and assessing the damage caused over the winter – what made it, what died, what needs replaced, re-potted, moved, or fixed.

We’ve had a few nice days recently, so I’ve been cutting back the dead stuff, raking the leaves (Yes, some are still on the trees, we have a lot of oaks in the neighborhood.), fluffing up the leaf litter, turning the compost, and doing a small amount of weeding.  That list isn’t very long, the chores aren’t very difficult, and our yard is small, but it’s been a lot of work.  And with my allergies, I tend to limit myself to a few hours a day.

One of the new Toad Houses.
One of the new Toad Houses.

Today I planted a paw paw tree and some cranberries that I had ordered in the fall; they arrived on Friday, via the post.  I also discovered that the bitter cold of this past winter didn’t harm the horseradish – as a matter of fact it seemed to have loved the winter!  It was so large rooted, that it broke the pot (the -20F temps probably helped crack it too)!  I really liked that pot.  Since it split the pot in two, I used the halves to make toad houses in the front and side yard.  There really wasn’t much to “making” the toad houses, I just plopped the halves in the beds like a tunnel.  This way, both me and the toads get to appreciated the pot, at least for a few more years.

Strawberry beds, April 2015.
Strawberry beds, April 2015.

I also discovered that my strawberries survived the winter!  I was worried about them because they are in raised beds and I have frequently lost many strawberry plants when the winters were as cold as this last one was.  This past fall, after I used the cornstalks as decorations, I placed the corn stalks over the strawberry beds to serve as insulation.  It seems to have worked quite well.  When I uncovered them just a few days ago, I tossed the stalks onto the compost pile.  I think those stalks have served me well – corn, decorations, insulation, and compost!

I suspect that the Jasmanian Devil may have eaten the garlic that I planted in the fall.  My onions in the same bed have greened up nicely and survived the winter, but I’m not yet seeing any garlic sprouts.  All winter long, the dog liked to stand in the very same bed.  I thought she was eating the Brussel Sprout stems, but now I’m not so sure.  Also, there are little holes where the garlic should be.  To me they look like snout holes.  The evidence doesn’t look good, but it may yet be too early for them to sprout.  Let’s hope that’s the case.

Earlier this week, I received my last issue of Urban Farm.  It was my last issue because the magazine is no longer going to be published.  They will still have on-line content, but not a print magazine.  I was very saddened by the news.  I know the magazine fills a niche market, but I didn’t expect it to be such a small niche.

As an urban gardener, I looked forward to this magazine each month.  I only have a fraction of an acre, but I still manage to grow strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, elderberries, blueberries, herbs, and seasonal produce.  Sometimes I don’t grow, or manage these items very well, but I attempt it anyway.  I’m also always looking into ways to make our urban lifestyle more sustainable, and energy efficient, but so often articles about a sustainable lifestyle apply to, or are written by, a homesteader or someone living on a large plot of land and/or in a very rural setting.   That means that often those articles are full of information, but it’s information that still needs adapted, reformulated, shrunk down, recalculated or simply doesn’t work for someone in my situation.  Having a reference that was dedicated to growing a portion of our food, and attempting a sustainable lifestyle on a tiny city lot, was a valuable resource and it will be missed, at least by me.

Today, I unfolded our folding Adirondack chairs, and put a bench back on the back porch too.  So for now, I’ll sit out there re-reading back issues of one of my favorite magazine, contemplate my urban garden, rest after working in the yard, and get some Vitamin D.   The yard’s looking a bit tidier, a bit more green, the trees are just about to leaf out, and there’s something to be said for getting your Vitamin D naturally.  Here’s to a lot more natural Sunny D! 

Our hanging baskets are old bike helmets.  This one is for succulents.
Our hanging baskets are old bike helmets. This one is for succulents.