IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!

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Spring has sprung and that means it’s time garden like I’ve never gardened before. This past week, I officially planted the Bill J. Dunn Memorial Garden and Emporium for the summer.

Even though I work from home most days now, I find myself with limited time. So I started the garden gradually, over about three days. That also meant going to the nursery to pick up supplies three days in a row, not that I mind. It was much better going in the middle of the afternoon of a weekday than on the Saturday of the safe planting week, aka PANDEMONIUM AMONG THE GERANIUMS.

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This year, I refreshed my five 4’ x 8’ raised garden beds with the compost I’ve been making all winter, mixed in the Paulino Gardens sheep dung, peat moss, and compost formula, and covered it all with topsoil. Then I planted my seeds and transplanted my baby plants. Here’s this summer’s lineup:

Raised bed 1: ALL TOMATOES ALL THE TIME. I’ve got a Sweet One Hundred, a San Marzano, an Early Girl, a Big Beef, and a Juliet. The San Marzano and Sweet One Hundred did great last year, so let’s hope the others step up their game.

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Raised bed 2: Herbs and other low-lifes. (Get it? It’s the bed with the lowest hanging sun shade, so I want to plant short things to fit under it.) My oregano from last year survived the winter and sprang back to life! In addition, I’ve planted rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, and soon, thyme (the nursery was all out when I went so I have to go back). Keeping the herbs company are the lettuce and spinach and the return of the Lobascio Family Italian Garlic (thanks Harriet).

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Raised bed 3: Peppers and kale and squash oh my! This year I cheated and bought a giant mature green bell pepper plant from Paulino Gardens. DON’T JUDGE ME. I hardly get to enjoy my bell peppers when I grow them from plantlings because they take so long, and this year I’m determined to eat the hell out of them. I also got a little cherry bell pepper plant, which will produce nice little round red sweet peppers. And of course, the Russian Roulette of any home garden: a jalapeño plant. Will it be unbearably spicy? Will it be disappointingly mild? NO ONE KNOWS. THAT’S WHY IT’S FUN. They’re sharing a bed with the kale and the first of two squash plants.

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Raised bed 4: Cucumbers and squash, together at last. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I can only assume that cucumbers and zucchini are harboring major veggie crushes on each other. I’m playing matchmaker and planting them in the same bed this year. Plus, my cucumbers never have enough room and I know the zucchini plant is hardy enough to survive cucumber’s strangling vines. Oh yeah, also green beans. (I have no qualms about making you an afterthought, green beans. You are the vegetable of last resort.)

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Raised bed 5: Tubular tubers! This is where I’ve got my radishes, turnips, beets, and carrots growing. If you’ll recall, the dog acquired a taste for carrots last year. This year I have no plan for protecting them from him, but I’m open to ideas. Please submit them to mydogisacarrotthievingliar@casafickbonne.com.

“But wait, Mrs. Fickbonne!” you are now most assuredly saying. “Something is missing! What about the corn?”

Ah yes. Corn. My gardening white whale. If you’ll recall from previous summers, I am engaged in a multi-year science experiment to get corn right. And each year I get a little bit closer to perfection. Or at least… edible plant life. The bar is low, you guys. The bar is low.

This year I had a brilliant epiphany (if I do say so myself). Our front yard is an embarrassment to nature. It’s a slope of weeds crying out for a retaining wall, and every time it needs to be weed-whacked I curse the gods of local city ordinances.

Why not do something productive with the front yard?

So I turned it into a corn patch.

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Or rather, I turned the only semi-level section of the front yard into a corn patch. This involved digging out the first six inches of dirt or so and removing them to the backyard for use elsewhere. Then I tilled down another six inches or so until everything was nice and loose. Then I added a metric butt-ton of soil and compost from Paulino Gardens and topped the whole thing off with hay. Corn is a very water-hungry plant, so the hay will help the soil retain moisture during the hottest months.

Corn is also a very communal plant. It needs to cross-pollinate like whoa in order to produce ears. Part of my decision to move it to the front yard stemmed from my suspicion that in a single 4’ x 8’ bed, it wasn’t cross-pollinating enough. So my area in the front is much larger, with room to plant nine rows of eight plants each. There’s room to extend the corn patch next year if it does well this year. But first it has to prove itself.

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I’m super excited for the corn patch. Not only does it make an ugly thing (my front yard) beautiful, but it will shield our porch from a view of the nearby intersection. I planted Silver Queen corn, which is supposed to be one of the most delicious yet hardy varieties. It will grow tall and strong, and give us a much nicer view from the porch.

But that’s not all! Once the corn stalks sprout and get strong enough to handle a little disruption, I’m going to run a homemade soaker hose through their patch. Stay tuned for a how-to guide on the soaker hose.

So that’s the Bill J. Dunn Memorial Garden and Emporium, summer 2018! In a month or so, I expect to be eating lettuce and spinach by the fistful. If you’re nice, I might even share some with you.

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