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Well hello, friend!
I’m beginning this newsletter lamenting the fact that I’m shocked it’s the end of May. And in saying that, I fully realize I have turned into my parents and grandparents in their confusion about where time has gone. I feel like I was just waking up to cold temperatures, and today I’m in a week of the hottest and driest weather we’ve had this year. But that’s the beauty of May in Iowa. Every day is a change and one step closer to summer. The beginning of the month still clings to spring, while the end ushers in the warmer temperatures of June.
May holds all the promise of a perfect summer season, and that’s why I love the month. I planted numerous shrubs, perennials, annuals, and vegetables without thinking of what dry, hot weather could lie ahead. We plant with abandon in May (or maybe that’s just me?), never considering the upkeep that the plants will require. But I think that’s the point. If we always knew the reality of planting a large amount, we’d never do it. Instead, we’ll take care of all these plants and be rewarded with their beauty all season long. The same can be said about life: if we knew every outcome, we’d likely be frozen in place without the opportunity for growth.
But this newsletter is a time to put all of that aside and chat about everything May has brought. Grab your iced drink of choice, and let’s discuss!
Let’s talk about the garden.
Recently, I’ve been mulling over a hypothetical question in my head, a question that some of you have asked: why do I continue to garden? More so, why do I add more and more every year? While I worry the garden may become too large, it keeps me sane. I need to garden, I need to add plants, and I need to feel like I cultivate life. The garden is my lifeblood.
You may already know this about me, but I have an internal running dialogue with myself, asking questions and attempting to stump myself. This isn’t a fun trait, but it has become an excellent way to introspect. And the garden is where I do much of my thinking and dreaming. What else am I supposed to do while standing still, watering plants in the dry parts of the summer?
May is when I finish planting all the vegetables. The threat of frost in my area is over around May 5, so I can plant tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers safely outdoors. Not only did I plant them in my raised beds as soon as possible, but the warm weather that followed made them explode!
About five years after I moved into my home, I began installing my raised beds. Nowadays, all of my vegetables are grown in raised beds, and I love them for two main reasons:
- They have the perfect mixture of soil. I prefer 60% topsoil, 30% organic compost, and 10% perlite (or vermiculite).
- They have significantly fewer weeds. I never till my raised beds, which would bring an endless number of weed seeds to the surface, prompting them to grow. That would defeat the purpose of a raised bed. Instead, I topdress with compost as needed, slowly suppressing weed seeds.
These pros easily outweigh any cons. I don’t feel like raised beds have cons, but if I had to come up with one thing that’s a bit of a downside, it’s that they need monitoring for moisture. And just like containers, raised beds will dry out quicker than an in-ground garden due to wind and the elements.
With this onslaught of warm, dry weather, I have to watch for plants that need water. Anything that is newly planted, was transplanted this spring, or is young, currently needs deep watering (adding enough water so the roots are well-saturated). And with no rain in sight, this will be a (dreaded) summer chore. But the upside is a lot of time for that inner monologue to continue! 😜
You can see all my recent gardening videos on my YouTube gardening playlist. Enjoy!
Let’s talk about food.
We’re getting into the best part of the garden season: the food! While not everything is quite ready yet, four main pieces of produce have been on repeat in my house:
- Asparagus. The asparagus is on its way out, and I’ll soon let it go to seed. But before that happens, I’ve been making my favorite asparagus spring salad as well as our family favorite, creamed asparagus on toast. We had this all the time growing up. Alternatively, if I have a large amount of asparagus, I simply roast it with kosher salt, black pepper, and olive oil and eat it straight from the pan for dinner.
- Radishes. I’ve been picking radishes, which I always use in my spring spinach salad. While radishes are less widely used, the slightly spicy vegetable is a winner in my book. If you want to experiment with radishes, try roasting them! Cut any large radishes in half, season with olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper, and roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 425°F until browned. They’re an entirely new vegetable that you’ll love!
- Lettuce. I often have so much lettuce that I have to get creative to use it all. The pork burgers I recently posted have been my go-to on nights when I’m outside late (this is every night). To use up my produce, I wrap the burger in pieces of lettuce and enjoy the extra crisp green “bun.” I love using what I have on hand!
- Rhubarb. For dessert recipes, I’m still using my prolific rhubarb. One of my favorites is rhubarb buttermilk cake, which Mom and I made together for Mother’s Day. It’s always in my freezer, already sliced into pieces. Word of note: in this recipe, I use salt to draw out the moisture from the rhubarb. The key word in the recipe is Kosher salt, which measures differently than table salt. If the rhubarb seems salty, make sure to check your salt. If using table salt, only use half the amount of Kosher salt in the ingredient list. This is true for any recipe, whether cooking or baking.
Let’s talk about Kip.
For anyone new here, I always include an update about my four-and-a-half-year-old French bulldog, Kip. In 2021, Kip was diagnosed with Meningomyelitis and was paralyzed from the waist down. Fast forward through months of trips to the University of Illinois for treatment and many medications, and Kip is doing fantastic! The immune-suppressing therapies have been a miracle, and he’s happy, healthy, and running all over the yard.
Kip’s condition is always a tightrope of balancing medications with any unforeseen side effects or regression in his diagnosis. Currently, he’s doing the best he ever has, which makes for not much Kip news this month. His monthly-checked numbers are at levels that feel so good and are right where the doctors want them. I’m thankful and feel lucky to have such a strong-willed, happy pup to keep me company both in the garden and the kitchen.
Funnily, I’m working on testing a few recipes that Kip saw me prepare. They’re resting on the stovetop while I type this on my kitchen island. Every so often, Kip comes over to my leg and paws me. He has a questioning look on his face as if to say, “Why aren’t we trying to recipes you made?” And by “we,” he means Kip. It’s super cute and makes me love him all the more. I do spoil him each day with treats, hugs, and kisses so he’s not lacking in affection.
And I think that’s everything for this month of May. I hope you had a great month and that there were at least a few spots of happiness and joy for you. As we move into June, I hope you can relish in the beauty of late spring/early summer (or the opposite season if you’re in the southern hemisphere).
Until we talk again next month, have a great upcoming week!
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