Tomato and escaroleTomato and escarole
Lettuce and kaleLettuce and kale
Winter squashWinter squash
Asparagus frondsAsparagus fronds
Kale flowerKale flower
Wintered-over Brussels sproutsWintered-over Brussels sprouts
Marveille lettuceMarveille lettuce
Swiss chardSwiss chard
Lacinato/dinosaur kaleLacinato/dinosaur kale
Shallot scapeShallot scape
Shallot forestShallot forest
And more garlicAnd more garlic
A lot o' garlicA lot o' garlic
Garlic forestGarlic forest
New strawberry plantsNew strawberry plants
Grape leafGrape leaf
Grape leaf unfurlingGrape leaf unfurling
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Tomato and escarole
  • Lettuce and kale
  • Winter squash
  • Asparagus fronds
  • Strawberries!
  • Okra
  • Coneflower
  • Peaches!
  • Escarole
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Kale flower
  • Wintered-over Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Marveille lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Lacinato/dinosaur kale
  • Greens
  • Shallot scape
  • Shallot forest
  • And more garlic
  • A lot o' garlic
  • Garlic forest
  • Onion
  • New strawberry plants
  • Grapes!
  • Grape leaf
  • Grape leaf unfurling
  • Blueberries
  • Blueberries

This spring has been a whirlwind of activity. It’s almost hard to believe it’s still April, because spring (or summer?) arrived so early in March. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished already, so the growing season is off to a good start.

Our goal was to not add another bed or a lot of new plants to figure out how to deal with, but instead to figure out how to more efficiently manage what we already have.

We’ve also worked on a few major infrastructure projects. We’ll post more on these individually later.

  1. Built a three-bin compost system (aka – the World’s Most Expensive Compost Bin)
  2. Tore out our previous strawberry patch and built and planted a 6′ strawberry tower
  3. Moved one of our raised beds several feet back to better line up aesthetically with the other beds we’ve built, and planted it with more asparagus (yay, perennials!)

These three infrastructure projects have taken the majority of our Sunday time for the last month or so. On top of getting these done we’ve also gotten all of our spring annual plants in – and some summer plants, too.

When the temps hit 90 in March, we took a calculated risk and planted our tomatoes on March 18. We knew there was a good chance of frost between then and the beginning of May, but we hedged our bets by getting our coldframes in place and getting plastic ready in case we needed to protect them from frost.

It’s now a month later, and so far it’s paid off. We’ve protected them from the threat of frost (which never came) a few times, so now we have plants that are a month or two ahead of schedule. It was risky, but I’m excited about the idea of having tomatoes earlier this year. In the past couple of years our plants have started bearing heavily in September, so I really wanted to push it back a lot earlier this year.

We’ve also planted:

  • Sugar snap peas
  • Lacinato/dinosaur kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Escarole
  • Mache
  • Cilatro
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Okra
  • Butternut, Long Island cheese, acorn and spaghetti squash
  • Beets
  • Carrots

We also have our fall-planted garlic and shallots. And in the ground or in containers we still have our blueberry bushes, grapevines, peach trees and lemon and lime trees. The blueberries and peaches already have visible fruit! Crazy.

Here’s to an excellent 2012 season ahead!

11 Responses to “Spring on the Urban Homestead”

  1. Jessica
    25 April 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Gorgeous pictures!

  2. CoMo Homestead
    25 April 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Thanks, Jessica!

  3. Joanna Reuter
    26 April 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    You certainly have the benefit of the urban heat island effect in your favor. We’ve had multiple frosts/freezes in April, and there’s been ice on the chicken water at the top of the hill at least three times this month. One time the ice was so hard I had to use the handle of the scrub brush to break it free before I could even get the cover off. We’ve covered the strawberries and various other crops repeatedly. Everything has made it through fine (big sigh of relief), but we are definitely glad that we didn’t get ahead of ourselves on summer crops. Now, however, we’re about ready to declare it time to set out tomatoes…

  4. CoMo Homestead
    29 April 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Joanna – I think you’re definitely right. We have friends who live near Rock Bridge who have had multiple frosts that we never experienced. It does give us a bit of a head start. Plus we grow almost exclusively in raised beds, which tend to warm up earlier anyway.

    Our Inchelium Red garlic (from your seed stock!) is almost ready to harvest. I’d guess it’ll be ready in a couple weeks. Unbelievable!

  5. Eric Reuter
    1 May 2012 at 9:13 am #


    Garlic is day-length sensitive, not temperature-sensitive. No matter how nice it looks, it’s going to form heads based on the solar calendar rather than the weather. If you harvest it soon, you’re not going to have full heads. Wait until normal time. Best way to judge is watching the leaves die back. When at least half are brown, then it’s time. Generally mid-late June; softnecks like Inchelium tend toward the early end, while some of our hardnecks aren’t ready until July.

    Our plants are huge and healthy-looking too, but that’s not a direct correlation to head size. Do start watching for scape formation by mid-May, as you’ll definitely want to get rid of those to maximize head size (and to enjoy them).

  6. CoMo Homestead
    1 May 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Eric – I have been watching the leaves. The guideline I’ve used for the past couple years is to pull them up when there are at least three brown leaves. The Inchelium is at 2 1/2 right now, while the hardnecks are a little farther behind at 1 1/2 – 2.

    I didn’t know about their day-length sensitivity, but ours do seem to be ready earlier than yours – unless I’m pulling them up prematurely? The first year I grew garlic, I pulled them up over Memorial Day weekend. The heads were full. Last year they were a little later, and I pulled them up mid-June.

    What do you think? If they look ready according to my three brown leaves guideline, is there any risk in leaving them in for a while longer?

    I succession plant after I pull them out, so I’ll admit I am anxious to get them out.

  7. CoMo Homestead
    1 May 2012 at 10:32 am #

    I succession plant other crops, I mean, usually a late planting of sweet corn.

  8. Eric Reuter
    1 May 2012 at 11:07 am #


    One of the reasons to wait until enough leaves have died back enough, is that helps begin the head-curing process. Each leaf is, in essence, one layer of wrapper around the cloves. So if you pull it green and try to cure it, it has a much longer way to go to dry, and may not cure properly. That’s why it’s recommended to wait until at least half are dried in the field, to maximize both head size and curing potential. In a dry summer curing may happen ok anyway, in a humid/wet summer you want every advantage to prevent rot or pests once they’re hung. And, of course, you never know what conditions you’re going to get until afterward.

    Having only grown garlic in our conditions and methods, I can’t truly judge yours. Early heads will likely still be fully formed, but not as big as they could be if you waited. So if you don’t care about the last pulse of growth, and can take the risk of curing properly, perhaps go for it? I’d be interested in what you find; it just goes somewhat against most of what we’ve read from more experienced growers, and our own experiences. There are certainly different considerations and influences on a home garden vs. farm, so whatever works best for you…

    We definitely understand the pressure of succession planting; the early spring is causing some compressed timelines here as well. I think we’ll be transplanting tomatoes into the still-growing radish beds, for example.

    Also, to correct something I accidentally implied above, you won’t get scapes off Inchelium as it’s a softneck. Sorry about any misleading there.

  9. CoMo Homestead
    1 May 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    I looked some more into this and from what I found in a variety of places, garlic is day-length sensitive but is also influenced by temperature. It appears that all things being equal, day length influences bulbing, but higher temperatures can as well. The common thread that ran through most of what I read was that there isn’t a lot of agreement among garlic growers on when is the best time to harvest, so who knows!

    I also didn’t find anything to substantiate my three brown leaves guideline, so I’m not sure where I read that or if I made it up. Most sources do say half the leaves should be brown, or 6-8 at the top should still be green.

    Thanks for your input. I think I probably have been pulling them early. I’ll leave them in a bit longer this year and see if we end up with bigger bulbs.

    No worries on the Inchelium. I grew both hard and softnecks, so I’m not expecting any scapes from it. :)

  10. Eric Reuter
    1 May 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Certainly none of us have grown garlic in a winter/spring like this one. I’d say that, at least, wait on the softnecks until the scapes start to appear on the hardnecks. By then you know your hardnecks still have weeks to go before the plant thinks it’s ready, and given that softnecks tend to be a few weeks ahead, that would be a cue for the earliest reasonable harvest. Do you remember when you’ve gotten scapes in the past?

    Right now our garlic has, at most, one brown leaf. I suspect other factors can contribute to leaf die-back as well, such as fertility or crowding, so it’s only a loose index. To us, the point of not harvesting until the plant starts to dry for maximum storage quality is really important, and that’s what drives our schedule.

  11. Eric Reuter
    1 May 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    We’ve also found that wide spread of disagreement among garlic growers, and I think part of that is very different conditions in different parts of the country. Someone harvesting garlic in a dry area like eastern Oregon or New Mexico will have a much easier time curing their garlic than someone in the humid south, and that could affect their decisions on when to harvest.

    Quantity/infrastructure matters too; it’s easier for a home garden to hang small amounts of heads in a way to let them dry properly than for a farm to hang thousands or tens of thousands in appropriate conditions. I’ve seen some dry-area growers leaving it out to cure in the field, but that wouldn’t work in the humid and unstable Midwest. So I think we’re extra careful to take our time with harvest because of the quantities we raise and the limited hanging space available to us (we tend to have multiple fans on the garlic for weeks to help with curing).

    Long-term experience is everything, as is personal preference and satisfaction with the results…