The Garden: A Time to Tend, A Time to Chomp!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mental Note to Self: Remember to use that Home Depot gift card on a new set of garden chompers for the garden. You'll need them.

This is what's left of the old set of long-handled garden cutters that I purchased from the Men's Toy Store, aka Home Depot, just about two years ago. Lord knows, I put them through quite the workout while removing this year's artichoke garden. Still, I'm a little disgusted that they didn't last longer than they did.

These chompers replaced yet another pair that had been gifted to me by my father-in-law. I managed to bust those into eensy teensy pieces as well. It's safe to say that I put the chompers through a workout. Don't even begin to tell me about garden chompers that I couldn't possibly break, because I will be the exception to that rule and will bust them into pieces.

I lost the latest pair on this job located to your immediate right. The bits and pieces of artichoke plant greenery that you see in the green waste can came directly from the raised planter bed located BEHIND the green waste can. These bits and pieces SHOULD got into a compost pile, which I will eventually create someday.

It's on the list of "things to do" at this point, along with a lot of other landscaping projects. For now, the remains from this season's artichoke season will go to a compost pile. It just won't be mine. It will go to the Sacramento City Yard instead, which means some other gardener will profit from my cuttings.

I'll be honest. I don't like cutting artichoke plants back to nothing. But it's one of those "jobs that must be done" when artichoke season comes to an end in the Backyard of Bird. Although I personally know of one Elk Grove gardener who is harvesting artichokes in the heat of July (yes, she is!), artichoke season for us ends in late spring/early summer. And the season came to a rather abrupt end this year, thanks to a mid-May jolt of heat.

I normally get the plants chopped back a bit sooner, but I found that our honeybees really went to town this year on the artichokes we left on the plants. Those chokes opened and bloomed and provided a source of pollen, which the bees really seemed to like. So, why not help out mother nature a tad.

Still -- I knew at some point that the plants had to come out. I had to remove every last dead stalk and every last dead leaf from the planter bed. I know this looks fairly barren now, but trust me. In another month or two, the surviving root systems below the soil will give birth to the artichoke plants that will provide next season's harvest.

It's important however, that you remove the dead and dying plants first so you can add some natural fertilizers like a layer of steer manure compost, which is exactly what you see to the left. In time, those root systems will give rise to new plants. And, in fact, that process has already started.

This plant to your right represents a surprise. I wasn't expecting to find it. It was buried under mounds of brown leaves and dying artichoke plants from the previous artichoke season. Once I discovered it however, I carefully cleaned it out, fertilized the area and provided it with a good drink of water.

Seems tough to believe that this small plant will turn into a six foot tall monster by next spring, but that's exactly what will happen. Artichoke plants don't do well in the heat of the summer, at least not where I live, but once the hot weather breaks and cooler temperatures move in with the onset of fall, these starter plants will start to grow at an exponential rate.

I am also operating under a tight time deadline. All of the artichoke plants in my North Natomas garden are planted in one 4X8 bed. We still need to add another, and will use starter plants from the existing bed to populate the new bed. Those starter plants are due at any time, so I'd better get busy with the box building...

I will also need to work on the drip irrigation and alter a few things. The process of gardening is a learning process indeed. A drip system that works well for tomatoes or other garden goodies, doesn't mean it's going to work well for artichoke plants. In my case? The drip sprinklers that I'm current using for this 4X8 bed got clogged as artichoke plants and leaves grew over and around them.

Not to worry. There's an answer for every problem. But, the list of projects to do in ye olde backyard just grew another page or so longer...


Fred Hoffman said...

Bill, two words:
Fiskars 9154 PowerGear 31-1/2-Inch Bypass Lopper

Bill Bird said...

Fred, seven words:

I'll bust those into a million pieces.

Thanks for the tip though. When the gardening inspiration finds out I spent good cash money on something the Home Depot card could have purchased, you will of course step and block that finely aimed iron-cast frying pan, right?