Denise Holmes' Koi Pond.

The Homestead Series is a series of programs offered by the Banks Public Library which focus on teaching skills to increase self-sufficiency, create connection within our community, and also to explore some fun new things to do. Today we will take a peek into the gardens of the library staff and find out what is bringing them joy in the spring garden.

This column was originally created for patrons of the Banks Public Library and has been republished here with permission.

Susan is finding joy in her vegetable garden "jungle."

I call the dish in this picture (below) “Garden Fried Rice.” I made it with green onions, Swiss chard, and radishes from the garden. Along with some leftover rice and a couple of eggs from the chickens, it was a satisfying dinner with a negligible out-of-pocket cost. Our garden is not beautiful or tidy; by midsummer, we call it an edible jungle! But over the last 10 years, it has evolved to being a garden that nearly always has some food to offer and that has a wide variety of plants that don’t require annual planting. This winter, we were able to harvest kale and Swiss chard on a weekly basis. (Now the kale needs to be harvested way more than that.) Since March, we’ve been harvesting arugula, green onions, parsley, sorrel, and oregano, as often as we want. The asparagus, rhubarb, and artichokes are also producing. Other things that we will be enjoying over the next few months: strawberries, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, escarole, grapes, and many, many flowers. I love that by planting perennials or allowing annual plants to self seed, we can have a lot of food with very little effort. Of course, we also intentionally plant many things. I planted early in April, and now I’m harvesting radishes, lettuce and spinach. Many varieties of tender greens will mature next, and then snap peas. With the last frost date behind us, we are planting tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and beans. Our garden will never win any beauty contests, but it serves us just right.

Radishes are not my favorite vegetable. I wonder if they are anyone's favorite vegetable. However,  they are one of my favorite things to grow in the garden, and I have learned to love them sliced thin on homemade bread with butter and a sprinkle of salt. The French Breakfast radishes shown here are my favorite to grow and eat. You can plant them while everything is still cold, gray and dripping, and by late April or early May, there they are, peaking their red selves above the dirt, ready to pick and eat.

Lisa's oasis is flourishing

This spring,  I am enjoying the view from my kitchen window. Everything is green and full of life.  My flower beds are full of blooms, and frequented by pollinators. I'm growing several new plants in my greenhouse this year. I have multiple tomato, bean, and  cucumber varieties. I'm also growing zucchini, melon and peppers. I've made my first batch of jam, and look forward to preserving more fruits and veggies throughout summer.  

Michele's suburban homestead is calming.

Spring brings so many garden joys! Walking through the garden and noticing all the vibrant green life, bright blossoms, overwintering garlic, mustard greens, and many herbs bring a calming effect to my life. My dog, Finley, oversees all garden operations and is in charge of bun patrol- the chasing off of a wild bunny that frequents the garden. I get free wood chips and use them for mulch and nothing makes me happier than a crisp, clean freshly edged garden bed! It must run in the family as I remember growing up and my dad taking pride in the rows of vegetables being "straight as an arrow." I encourage the birds and bees in my garden and I have Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Black-capped Chickadees nesting in the yard right now. A Downy Woodpecker was excavating a hole in a rotten section of my filbert tree. I think they abandoned the construction, but it was nice to see them around.

Karyn is cultivating okra plants, chickens, and more.

I love gardening! It keeps me on my toes and I'm always learning something new. Every year I try to plant something new.  This season will probably be my most productive but I've also had a lot of free time lately. We have multiple fruit trees, a green house full of citrus trees and lots of garden space in both the front and back yard. Last week we made temporary garden boxes dedicated for some of my 40+ okra starts. I've also been trying to add more flowers to the garden this year. The more pollinators coming to visit, the better!

Denise finds tranquility by her koi pond.

I'm enjoying the koi pond now that spring has arrived. Below you can see eight of the twelve koi that live in the pond.

Above is my Kerria japonica in full bloom. It's bright cheery color is a great way to greet spring. The snowball viburnum starts right after the Kerria. They are such a lovely combo when they bloom together. We have both kinds of grosbeaks and some house finches at the bird feeder now.  And I saw my first yellow warbler!  The little birds like to come down to the edge of the pond or on to the rocks in the waterfall and take a bath. We are starting to sit on the deck by the pond and just started feeding the fish this weekend, now that the water temp is up above 55 degrees.  They are hungry!  Because of the view of this hawthorn tree by the pond from the deck, I couldn’t stand it any longer - I had to trim up all the low-hanging branches (and thorns)– a three hour, bent-over, getting scratched and poked job, but worth it from aesthetics and for giving some of the plants next to the pond some breathing room.  So now I have a few more battle scars, but a proper price to pay for a better view and healthier plants!  

Outside is Angie's happy place.

Outside is my happy place. My chickens are very big helpers when I'm working in the yard. They enjoy finding all the insects and worms that come with weeding. They therefore reward our family with delicious eggs.

My grandpuppy Rodger comes to visit frequently. He loves being a farm dog when he's here. There are so many sticks to chase and interesting things to roll in. 

At the end of the day, I like to take time for some back porch sitting. It's a great way to unwind and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. 

Wishing you joy in the garden.

We hope you are you finding joy in the simple pleasures of the garden. Of course we selected the aspects of the garden that are joyous to us. Along with the picture perfect, there are the weeds, naughty animals, and failed growing attempts. Despite all that, the garden is a place of comfort and great joy and we hope you find inspiration in the outdoors, too.