May has been a much expected month. After a mild winter, almost without snow or freezing temperatures, March and April had the worst to come, with severe freezes without snow cover and a few blizzards. But May has seen mostly mild temperatures, the first half was very sunny, mild afternoons but with plenty of night frosts, with some days with very windy and drying causing loss of many seedlings, whilst the second half of May has been very rainy, with a general lack of sunshine.
Still, we have the first flowers of the year: crocus and tulips. Very late for their normal flowering time.
|The first tulips. They flowers last only a short time because of the rainy and windy weather|
Losing seedlings for birds, drying winds and minor frosts
The broad beans and peas have been growing nicely, as well as the different grain crops (barley, oats, rye and perennial rye and wheat). Birds sometimes cause trouble when they go digging stuff for their nests, and sometimes eating seedlings of leeks or peas. How to keep them away? I don't know yet, but the fleece or the cold frame seems to be the best solution.
The seedlings of walking onions, spring onions, leeks, pak choy and kale, have endured the first few weeks after transplant outdoors, under a fleece. However many seedlings (about a third of them) having been lost for ocasional harder frosts or during strong and very drying cold winds. I also lost about a third of the garlic that has rotten during the last two very wet weeks!
The multiplier onions and chives are doing great but they surely cry for warmer and sunnier weather. I have gathered some wood to build a raised bed and cold frame, in our garden beds, but I am not sure how it will end up. Even after decades of experience, I am still an impractical and inefficient gardener. Still I have lots of fun developing skill mistake after mistake. This is my sobering conclusion.
I am now very excited to try perennial crops, rather unconventional, just to overcome the troubles of having to grow always every year, plants from seed trays, which is a lot of work! These are the key for a self-sustainable garden in the Icelandic climate. This is an extremely important insight. Basically, these will be roots like scorzonera, multiplier onions, chives, walking onions, groundnut and chinese yams; pulses like the siberian pea and honey locust; cereals like perennial rye, ricegrass and lyme grass; greens like miner lettuce, good king henry, asparagus, perennial broccoli and crambe; and a few fruit trees and berries.
The big attraction is planned to be the painted mountain corn and siberian tomatoes, but will also include food production from sunflowers, squash and cold tolerant varieties of watermelon and melon. Second is trying to keep the trees I am growing since last year (mulberries, pecan nut, honey locust, etc). These trees were not enjoying being indoors (too warm temperatures, pests, messing up with their natural cycles), so I moved them outdoors but they were burnt during frosty winds, but are still alive. I also bought a 3 year old and flowering "Stella" cherry tree (that I will place in the most sheltered and warmest spot in the garden); its a big gamble whether or not we will be able to have cherries this summer; I also have plenty of flowers ready to plant outdoors (mostly viola, tagetes, clematis), and plenty of turnips and swedes. Some plants will surely be a failure but with so much diversity something will probably work!
|Moving the cold frame around protects young seedlings from birds and cold drying winds|
The largest bets are for several varieties of millet, teff, trying to get an harvest from quinoa, having a larger harvest of amaranth; as well as the experiments with pigeon peas and jícama. The best growing plants are the tiger nuts, turmeric and passionfruits (I have one plant flowering and even setting the first fruit, after 2 years from seed), the worst were the lima and winged beans lost recently for spider mites. Complicated is also to keep the macas, good king henry and chenopodium paudicaule (the non-saponin quinoa) past the seedling stage. I got a new variety of ocas after losing the ones planted in late winter (basically to a lack of sunlight and aphids). I also have stone age wheat, ready to transplant outdoors.
Here at Sólheimar we are proud of continuing our new project, a community garden that will also be based in organic and permaculture principles. We planted raspberries, red clover and mints the other day, in addition to the spring flowers already there, as well as cherry and apple trees that survived since planted last autumn. I hope to carry a few perennials from my garden to the community garden, which will be labelled to any visitor interested in discovering them. As well as some of the broad beans and cereals.
More to follow in soon.