Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Showin Off

The best time to take pictures in the garden is right after a good rain.

Here's our tiny Thai peppers

the squash vine in its glory

the red russian kale, luxurious as ever

a red hmong cuke in it's teenage stage(when it's super yellow)

last hurrah for the purslane---I think I'm going to rip it out later today

close up on an onion braid hanging under my patio umbrella to dry

staking the tomato jungle has helped the okra take off!

this is troubling...a baby melon growing through the fence!

jalapenos are finally coming along thanks to the serious kale pruning

here's all three bundles of onions drying under the patio umbrella!

a long shot of the farm featuring corn and potatoes

a long shot of the farm featuring tomatoes and amaranth

ancient dinosaur forest

here's an orient express cuke coming along! there are at least two more on the vine right now


my chinese cabbage...bitten up but still hanging on

chamomile growing in the cracks of the patio

my blue field corn is getting super tall!

a baby squash!

amaranth from the top. so pretty!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Harvest Catch Up

Today was a very exciting day in the garden---our first tomatoes!

(guest starring in this photo are a couple of watermelon radishes I pulled out of the salad bed that I had forgotten were there.)
The two little tomatoes were twins on the same plant, and I have no clue what kind they are. However, they are extremely sweet and ever so TOMATO-Y. I know most of you have eaten a tomato right out of the garden before so you understand the quality of TOMATONESS that is really only possible with straight from the warm sun tomatoes. This afternoon we also went and got some big burly stakes because the volunteer tomato army has taken over the world. My poor okra and basil were getting choked out and tomatoes were actually joining together across the garden path. Madness. At the end of last year I promised myself that I would space the tomatoes out better this year, but obviously I broke that promise. After some serious stake work by rebby things are looking a lot more tidy.
Earlier in the day, I picked these:

the first two cucumbers I have ever harvested from my own garden! The long green one is an Orient Express and the orange one is a Red Hmong. The Red Hmong vine is extremely prolific---there are at least ten more of those guys in various stages of ripeness on the vine right now. The Orient Express, not so much. I hope I get at least one more. The Poona Khera don't seem to be doing much, sorry to say. Bummed.
So, what goes through my mind when I harvest cucumber and tomato? And then look out the back door and see a big beautiful stand of parsley next to some wild and out of control mint? That's right, it's tabouli time. Garden in your mouth. I didn't have any bulgur so I used couscous and that plus the lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper were the only things in the tabouli that did not come directly from the dirt outside my back door. Yes! I threw one of those watermelon radishes in there too, just for some interesting color and peppery bite. The last of the green garlic I pulled up a month or so ago (thanks to the largess of the Italians who used to own the place) and a small onion bulb went in too. It is the best tabouli ever, because I grew it.
We ate that awesome tabouli with some grilled salmon simply dressed with lemon and dill, and some roasted potatoes. Now, here's a story about the potatoes....
You may remember that I planted a bunch of yukon gold seed potatoes in early spring into trenches because I had read that they don't really respond to hilling and so it would be a waste of a good tire stack to put them in there. So, I planted four rows of seed potatoes alternating with yellow onion sets. Around mid June, the potato plants were looking so spindly and I had a big pile of dirt so I thought--it couldn't hurt to pile some more dirt on, right? So I did.
This was a stupid move.
Turns out that yukon golds really do only produce under the soil level of the roots, so to get to the potatoes just now I had to dig through all that dirt. Stupid. Also, the yield on the yukon golds was ridiculous---we ended up digging up the rest of the patch tonight and I'm gonna say it was an average of one good sized potato for each plant. I know that I might have gotten more if I had left them a bit longer but there comes a time in the garden (and that time is now) when you can't waste space on under producers.
The few yukon golds that we have eaten from the garden have been the most heavenly potatoes EVER. So creamy and buttery yellow and bursting with flavor. So, despite the disappointing yield and sprawling habit, I will probably grow them again next year. Unless one of the other varieties turns out to be more prolific and just as tasty.
I have learned some very important things this year in the garden. I am starting to figure out how to be a better grower of root vegetables. I now know that dragon purple carrots and bulls blood beets are the best for me. This is all part of the learning process.
Other than all that fun harvesting and staking, I baked rebby a blackberry pie from her blackberry bushes today! We have not cut into it yet, but I think it is going to be pretty awesome. I put an R on for Rebby:

Life is good around the ole homestead! The corn is starting to form ears and the beans are all up and the okra is leafing out and the artichokes are getting tall and I am pretty sure I will have the day off to plant squash and broccoli and cabbage and brussels sprouts on Tuesday. I will also need to spend part of the day processing because my fridge is full of kale again and I am going to need to harvest some MORE to keep the peppers from being shaded out. Over abundance is a nice problem to have.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Potato Berries and Bat Houses

So, turns out that potato berries are actually the seed pods of potatoes, and that if you are truly DIY and punk rock you can grow potatoes from SEED you save yourself from these berries, as explained here. (also, OMG what an awesome blog! so glad I found her even if she stopped blogging last year)
I don't think I am that punk rock, but it's good to know.
Now, on to the dilemma of where to put my bat house. It has to be fourteen feet off the ground. I obviously want it near the garden (for pollination and mosquito control) but I don't want it to be too noticeable because our neighbors already think we're weird--don't want to have to explain why I am inviting bats to my homestead. Yes, I should relish the opportunity to demystify bats. But I have to admit I don't really relish it.
Anyhow, so it seems that erecting a pole specifically for the bat house would call too much attention to it. I'd nail it to the black walnut tree but right now it is covered in poison ivy and I am totally afraid of poison ivy. So, it should probably be attached to the house. I don't want it too near a window because as much as I LOVELOVELOVE bats, I don't want any accidentally flying in a window and having babies that can't get out until the spring. So, I was looking at the house today and for the first time ever noticed this:

I don't know what those pieces of wood are actually about but they seem to be the exact dimensions of the bat house and dang it, there goes that magical garden luck again. I'll report back when the bat house has arrived.

Fourteen Beans, a New Mystery, and a Brilliant Scheme

This morning I planted FOURTEEN varieties of beans. Certainly I don't expect them all to be successful, but I kinda let my fancy take me when it came to placing bean orders and well, some of them were just so cute I couldn't pass them up. I've got some pole and runner varieties(which have all been planted around the corn stalks) and a bunch of bush varieties, both fresh eating and drying. Some are ok in both forms, so hopefully I can enjoy plenty of fresh beans in the late summer and then some dried beans in winter. I am most excited for the Mayflower Pole Bean, which is said to have come over on the Mayflower and been maintained in the Carolinas to the present day (and which shares a name with my street!) and the Calyso bush bean, which is the cutest bean ever. It looks like a cow! I'm also looking forward to some straight ahead snap beans---Bountiful stringless(an heirloom green), Cherokee Wax and Romano Gold (yellows)
I did not innoculate any of my beans so I am hoping for the best. Next year I am determined to get innoculant--in fact, I may just go ahead and order it with my winter seed order to make sure I have it on hand.
So, the planting of the beans corresponds to the ripping out of the peas. I plucked my final snap pea harvest today---it was sad, but the hot hot weather does not make for sweet peas. The bed looks totally different now:

More sun for the basils and okra. More room for the BROCCOLI and CAULIFLOWER OMG. I am going to try direct seeding them. I don't have super high hopes but we'll see. The garden this year has been all about incredible luck so maybe it will work out with the brassicas too.
On the incredible luck front, here's a sampling of the volunteer tomatoes:

Clearly, not all of them are going to be black cherry. Some of them definitely are, but I can see three distinct shapes to the baby tomatoes we have going so far. I am thrilled.
Here is something I don't remember seeing before:

These are some kind of fruits growing on my POTATO (specifically Yukon Gold) plants.
I will immediately google this to figure out what is going on, but I was kind of shocked to see them today. What could it mean? Besides this mystery, things in potato and onion world are looking hella good. I think it is going to be time to harvest the first potatoes REALLY soon. I cannot wait.
And now to my brilliant scheme. You may remember my enormous volunteer butternut squash from the last post. Here are a couple of shots now:

It's out of control and has completely taken over the small bed where I planned to plant some brussels sprouts. I had just decided to give in to it and let it have the box when I spied this:

I trashpicked this ladder a long time ago, thinking I would use it for something in the garden. Originally it was going to be for the peas, but then we forgot. Then it was going to be for the beans, but then it turned out that I got more bush varieties than climbing varieties, so I didn't need it. But how about this: I could plant the two ends firmly in the ground, tie it together at the top (in a triangle formation) and then DRAPE this enormous squash vine over it! All the squashes could rest on the ladder rungs. Dude would be up off the ground, giving me actual planting space back! I am so excited and proud of myself for having this idea, but there is no way I am going to try to execute it now in the 80 and climbing heat. But the idea is there, and I think it will work. Huzzah.
I leave you with a few other garden scenes for good measure:
Quickie, the fabulous hybrid corn-

Salad box finally taking off! That lettuce is looking so lucious-

The cucumber vines are starting to climb!

My asparagus is coming back, thanks to some love and compost tea from Rebby-

Two artichoke plants seem to be making it! So excited-

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Early Sunday Garden Photos

For some reason this morning I popped awake at 5:30am with "Doin the Butt" by EU in my head. It didn't seem like it was going to go away, so I thought I would get up and take advantage of the early morning hours. I love my garden at all sorts of times of the day, but early morning when the dew is on the leaves is a particularly magical time. I think I have farming in my blood, maybe.

You have no idea how much this means to me. In fact, after taking this picture I put these guys in a vase so I can admire them for the rest of the day.

Here's the yukon gold and white onion patch. The potatoes are flowering now which means very soon I will be digging them up and enjoying their yellow fleshed goodness.

The other potato varieties are growing like crazy and starting to flower too!

These gorgeous sunflowers came back in the wildflower box. They are flanked by some ornamental kale seed fronds. I don't know if you've ever let kale go to seed but it's a pretty incredible thing. Each of these fronds contains thousands of tiny seeds. Maybe I'll have a kale yard next year!

The snowpeas and shelling peas are about done, but the sugar snaps are just getting started. They are so delicious. Love.

I finally weeded the strawberry patch and tried to train some of the suckers to go in the direction I would like them to go. I have read a very Nancy Drew method is to stick them in the ground with bobby pins...I wonder if I still have any of those around?

Giant mystery squash takes over the world! Seriously, it is taking over the box where we had the spinach, and it is completely shading out some carrots that were planted in there too. I will let it do it's thing in hopes that it is indeed a butternut and I get several pounds of surprise butternut squash like I did last year.

It's flowering!

The salad mix is finally taking off in the salad box by the side of the house, but I planted some out in full sun too just to be sure.

Early Sunday Garden Photos, PT2

Rhubarb! My dad asked for an apple-rhubarb pie for father's day. My rhubarb isn't ready yet (next year) but I am happy to know it's his favorite.

The radishes. These daikons are FINALLY making roots, but the weird heirloom radish mix I planted seem to all start forming roots and then pushing up out of the ground and growing sideways. I don't know what this means.

Here's a tiny pepper on one of the plants we bought from Garden Dreams. I'm not sure what kind it is.

The oregano and sage are totally going to seed already because of the early hot weather. I REALLY need to divide these plants because they are getting overcrowded in their box. Maybe I'll transplant some to the front of the lot.

There will be okra!!!!

Volunteer morning glory. I love this color.

Close up on one of the marigolds. They are humungous!

Behold kohlrabi! I can't wait to crunch into these fellers.

Here's the recently harvested red russian kale, and the sea of dragon carrot tops before I pulled them up. You might be able to just see how they are close to choking out some pepper plants.

Here's a wide shot of the greens post-harvest. Everything seems to be coming back!

My first real successful carrots. These are called Dragon Carrots and they are gorgeous red and very tasty.

Here's my wild and wooly dill patch, with some parsley and cilantro mixed in. I really need to reconfigure this bed because it is super hard to weed without stepping on stuff, especially where my artichokes and asparagus are at the back.

Cucumbers! From the righthand side: poona kheera, hmong red, and orient express, a fast growing pickling cuke. I am excited for them!

Here's a close up of my sweet corn---this is Quickie, a hybrid variety that I grew last year successfully. The corn is just about high enough now that I can start planting beans!

Here's a very closely sown patch of chinese cabbage. I am surprised at how row like it is because I don't normally sow greens in rows. Obviously I am going to have to do some serious thinning. I think I was sowing these seeds right before a rainstorm and going too fast.

Here is the new tire of Caribe purple potatoes I planted. I had so many seed potatoes left over I felt bad, so I started some new ones. I'm excited to see them.

This is what the chard looks like after last Sunday's massive harvesting. Chard will always come back, sometimes better than ever.

I am really excited to be growing some Hopi Blue Field Corn for grinding into flour. This number of corn stalks might make enough for one batch of tortillas, but it is an endangered species and I am happy to help it keep going. And next year if we have the lots for real I am going to grow SO MUCH CORN along the fence.

Blackberries! They're still red, but look how big and lucious they are!

Finally, arugula. I tried starting it two different times in the small salad box where it grew like crazy last year with no luck. Maybe the varieties I have this year need more sun? In any case, I am glad to finally have salad going gangbusters.