One Garden Project Leads Too....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ronald Reagan
Former President Ronald Reagan once remarked that; "Regulations are like spores of a fungus -- they settle anywhere and everywhere and create more spores..."

Now -- despite how you may feel personally about the 40th President of the United States and the 33rd Governor of California (he does tend to elicit the best and worst out of people) -- he could have just as easily been talking about gardening.

Replace the term "regulations" with "gardening projects" and you have a statement that is probably more truthful than Reagan's original quote.

How do I know this? From experience of course!

New Artichoke Bed?
Case in point? The gardening "bed" located to your immediate left. This "bed" is the latest edition to our backyard garden. Constructed from CHEAP Home Depot brand Redwood fenceboard (did I say CHEAP?) -- Venus and I filled this bed with planter mix from Hasties Capitol Sand and Gravel just this past spring (I think the planter mix may have cost more than the box).

What was the new box for? I'm glad you asked. I had intended to move some artichoke plants from the overcrowded artichoke bed to your right -- over into the new box. But there was just one -- small problem.

Overcrowded Artichoke Bed
You really shouldn't attempt to transplant artichoke plants in the spring. I've learned that failure of a project through experience. Nope -- your best bet is to "divide and conquer" in the fall -- after the main artichoke plants have succumbed to the harsh Sacramento Valley summertime heat -- and the root systems are sending up replacements by the dozens.

So -- what to do with the new box then? Venus and I let "the kid" -- nephew Marquitos Stromberg -- plant the new box with a variety of spring seeds ranging from carrots to parsnips and anything and everything in between. Not just any carrots either. Normal carrots are boring. The boy was into those funky carrots called "Atomic Red" and those fancy yellow types named "Solar" or "Sunshine."

The nephew did a better job than I expected. Because when it came time to pull up the nephew's seed starting project -- well -- the wife that is Venus and I encountered one small problem.

Sunshine Yellow Carrots
Call it a monster sized carrot and turnip harvest. When I say monster -- I mean MONSTER. I've never grown carrots THIS LARGE -- nor in this LARGE A NUMBER.

"What am I going to do with this pile of produce now," I wondered. Remember! The original project was to transplant artichokes. Suddenly -- an unforseen gardening project leapt onto Bill Bird's radar screen. Life had given me carrots -- a fair amount of parsnips and some fat turnips hidden in the back.

Lastly -- as I grabbed a whithering basil plant that had clearly reached the end of its season -- a friendly reminder buzzed by my ear. It was a bee. But not just any old bee. It was one of MY BEES -- a bee from the Hello Kitty Hive. And -- as I stared intently as the basil flowers protruding from three fading basil plants -- I spotted another -- and yet another -- and yet one more.

Surprise! You've Got Parsnips!
I suddenly realized that I was about to pull out an important pollen source that bees from my backyard hive were utilizing at the moment. It's the Fall Season folks. Pollen sources are drying up fast. Bees are flying longer distances and in greater numbers in the quest to store up pollen and honey in time for the winter season.

I just couldn't pull those basil plants out -- not now anyway. So -- they stayed -- which created yet ANOTHER garden project for the day.

See what I'm getting at?

The job of transplanting artichokes from one bed to another is actually quite simple. It's almost impossible to kill an artichoke plant. I know because I've tried. They didn't like that one encounter with the lawnmower (a mistake) -- nor did they appreciate a spray-bath of Roundup (another mistake).

Divide and Conquer!
Oh -- sure -- they'll look unhappy at first. But they always seem to bounce back. The scientist who predicted that only cockroaches would survive a nuclear holocaust obviously never had an artichoke plant in the backyard. These things are rather indestructable.

Another tidbit that I've discovered through the years is that artichokes LOVE room. The more you give them -- the bigger they will get -- which leads to larger and more tastier harvests. Many people have asked me how much room an artichoke plant needs and my response has always been; "how much room do you have?" Because an artichoke will fill up that space rather quickly and rampage into other areas where you may not want them.

Clean Bed Ready for Winter!
The best way to remove an artichoke is to remove a portion of the root system that the plant protruding above the ground is attached too. This is easier said than done -- and can require a bit of tugging and maybe a stick of dynamite or two before you hear that satisfying CRACK!

From that point -- you simply move that chunk of root system and plant over to the new bed -- dig an appropriate-sized hole and plant. Make sure the root system is buried under an inch or two of soil -- with the plant still above ground.

How will you know if you've taken the right steps? Trust me -- the plant will let you know. For -- if you return the next morning and find your transplants DEAD and FLATTENED just like this -- you've done the right job.

Unhappy Artichoke Transplants
Seriously! Those plants that had been so full of life and vigor the previous day will droop to the ground and fall over flat. They'll give you that accusing "Why Did You Move Me" look -- and will let you know they were much happier where they had been before.

Don't despair kids! It only looks like you've killed it. In time? New sprouts will begin to emerge from the center of the plant. By this December? I'll have artichoke plants loving our cool Sacramento winter weather. And by next spring? Hopefully -- a record artichoke harvest from not just one bed -- but two.

Two is twice as nice!


bbbbmer said...

Your masthead with Ronald Reagan isn't going to win many friends among the alternative garden set, especially when considering that under his Governorship, California's corporate farming grew astronomically and redefined 'family farms' into a state of oblivion... Probably not the best way to sell your program...

Bill Bird said...

As I mentioned -- he does tend to elicit the BEST and WORST out of people.

This is one of the few blogging sites that doesn't attempt to sell you anything.

There's no advertising here. Nothing to click on. If you like to hear about my massive garden misadventures -- please -- do tune in again.

If not? There are at least one or two million other gardening blogs out there to choose from.

Nicole said...

Almost everything grows in Northern California! I also got "monster" carrots this year and some pumpkins that grew from seed to full size in a couple months.