Work Farm

Blaska Experimental Work Farm
(and penal colony)

Goal this year to raise thickest asparagus spears ever

The head groundskeeper tries to relieve his farm boyhood on 0.38 of an acre in the city of Madison WI. With the help of unlettered field hands singing “Doo wah diddy.”

‘As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.’

— Chauncey Gardner
First killing frost overnight 2 November 21 here in Madison WI. For second autumn the indentured servants are mulching leaves directly onto the lawn rather than raking and bagging. Raise the mower bed — in front a notch higher than the rear — and go slow. A real labor saver AND you are feeding the lawn for next spring.

Where are my beans?

We are reveling in southern Wisconsin’s 90-degree F heat. Don’t you think the Romano pole beans we planted May 12 and May 26 should be up by June 6? Germinate in seven to ten days, says the seed packet. Seeds left over from last year should still be good. To hell with it. Re-seeded June 5 and June 6 but Blue Lake and Kentucky Wonder pole beans. Can’t find Romano anywhere at this late juncture. Soaked them in inoculate for a couple hours. Soaked the row with a garden hose. Madison is way dry.

Lettuce pray

Here’s a bright idea, we think. Laid a fine lace curtain over the Butter Crunch lettuce to keep that cool-season crop from bolting. Weighs almost nothing but provides some breathable shade from the high sun and heat.

Asparagus crop is giving us 6 to 8 spears every morning. Staking up the fronds to feed the roots.

In this heat, leaving the lawn alone. Grass likes cool feet, which is why Ireland is the Emerald Isle. It’s always cool over there. And moist. Our last mowing left a copse of lawn untouched; they are a good inch higher than the surrounding lawn — kind of an architectural / horticultural feature. We’re trying that where the clover is thickest, irregular blobs floating on the lawn. Like the rough on a golf course, these outbursts of clover can serve as hazards for our game of croquet. Go ahead, walk on it. Clover is resilient. We know the bees will be thankful. (More here.)

Any flower take more neglect yet reward with a greater show than the old-fashioned peony? But there’s some new kids on the block including this beauty that really came into its own this year.

This one is Archangel. One of 6,500 cultivars (!) distributed among 40 species. Sissons Peony Garden in Rosendale should be spectacular right now if you don’t mind the speeding ticket. Olbrich on Madison’s east side is closer. Must visit Allen Centennial Gardens at the UW College of Agriculture, 10 Babcock Drive, but you pay for parking. It’s free at West Madison Agricultural Research Station at 8502 Mineral Point Road, Verona. Otherwise, no charge.

Our garden eats well

Posted on April 29, 2021 by David Blaska

The soil is hungry

Growing up on the farm, swear I saw Father taste the soil. Have not inherited that practice but your bloggeur does like to get down and dirty. Back in the day, we had a real live compost pile on the back 40 here at Blaska Experimental Work Farm (and Penal Colony). Every fall the unlettered field hands ran the rototiller over the pile to aerate the discarded kitchen waste. Come spring the rich black soil would be spread over the garden and (especially) the asparagus beds. (Noticed first spears Wednesday 04-28-21).

Sometimes. Then came various construction projects. Pottery-quality clay from the post holes for the privacy fence, leftover gravel, and god knows what else (not that He cares) got dumped on the pile. Let me know if you need free fill.

These days we throw our banana peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, and flower stems directly onto the garden. Even cardboard toilet paper tubes, cut into strips. Almost everything but meat and cat poop. Clean chicken bones? Sure. Over the winter that stuff goes into a bin just outside the back kitchen door. Come March, its stinky contents are thrown onto the soil, then promptly tilled in with our Stihl KombiSystem (one powerhead takes attachments to till, trim hedges, whack weeds, edge sidewalks, prune bushes, etc.)

Who peed on the peas?

Early Spring

April 12: Clockwise: Last fall planted bulbs for purple Iris reticulatum; bloomed on March 28! Love the chartreuse nine bark bush. Bloodroot in the shaded woodland blooms are lasting. prefer the yellow daffodils for show and erect posture.

Diverse lawn

This is the mini clover seed we sowed into the existing lawn May 2020. As you can see, the seed is microscopic. So we scored the ground with the planter and then just broadcast by hand. More here.