Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wow, tomatoes and potatoes!

Ok, we had a period there with lots of rain and then some drainage issues because the farmer irrigating the meadow next to us had left the water running in the ditch closest to use for rather too long. I didn't have to water at all for at least a week, and certainly the garden looked a little oxygen-starved for a little while there. The rain stopped and the farmer was asked to turn off the water, and we have since been drying out. Unfortunately the combination of the water and the nice warm weather (in the low to mid 80's most days now) have been conducive to the proliferation of mosquitoes. Now when I go out to water, I'm watering my mosquitoes. Management has included getting well dressed before going out to the garden, dashing out for a couple garden chores such as harvesting and planting a couple seedlings, or just avoiding the garden altogether.

As the garden-avoidance approach has been the frequent choice, I found the first ripe pineapple tomato when it was past it's prime on the 26th of this month. I found two Purple Cherokee and two pineapple tomatoes (total weight of 3 lb.s 14 oz.!) that were ready to go on this date and I make a point of this because we have never had tomatoes ripen before October before. We've also never had tomatoes this large or this healthy. My thinking is that we got a jump on the season planting under plastic the way we did. This is also the first week that Cure has had any significant numbers of the heirloom tomatoes for the CSA, so I'm not far behind them.

We harvested our first fingerling potatoes (maybe a pound) this week and they were delicious! These were our first potatoes and the seed potatoes came from Cure Farm.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The New Bed and fall garden!

Finally we finished bed #4. Enthusiasm had flagged on all accounts, easily attributed to the mind-numbing heat for all of July, with the unfortunate addition of potentially West Nile carrying mosquitoes at the cool times of day when we would rather work, such as the early, mid and late evening. Certainly I neglect to mention the early morning, which would have potential, except that this household full of night owls hate to go to bed early, particularly when it's hot in the house by the end of the day and when we can't open up the windows and set up the fans to exhaust the hot air until 10:00 at night, we aren't getting to bed until after 11:00. Of course the really dedicated would be up at the crack of dawn and take a mid-afternoon siesta....

So the work schedule dropped off quite considerably, and as the time was coming to plant the fall garden, and as we needed the bed for the fall garden, we decided to put in a big push and get it done, and we pulled out the last big rock at about 6:30 pm on 8-8-08, picked up a yard and a half of "planter's mix" from a local garden supply, shoveled it out and wheel-barrowed it into the back yard and mixed it into the existing soil remaining in the bed minus the many rocks and gravel we'd removed. At about 10 pm, John and I were planting up most of the bed with seedlings we'd grown; watering, mulching with straw, putting in hoops and row cover for shade and hoping for the best, as we were leaving town for a week and would be leaving the garden in the hands of the boys. We finished up at about 11:30 pm and made our flight without difficulty the next day.

I talked with the boys daily while away, and Russ was watering every day with a little help from Brian. Nearly every seedling survived, although Russ did say that "Some things died..." the day before our return, and as I had no other information than that, I was a little nervous until I had a chance to go see for myself. I had taken the precaution of saving some seedlings in their seedling flats in the shade of the garden beds under the mature plants, and this was a good idea although I didn't have to re-plant more than two or three. The only other problem we've had since involved a rise in our local water table, flooding out the basement of a neighbor and causing the garden beds to stay saturated after a good two-day rain storm that dropped about 2 1/2 inches in two days. I had to go out periodically and dump out the water flooding the seedling flats, and although the established plants looked fine, the seedlings all looked a little oxygen starved for a couple of days. It's drying out gradually now, warm and dry again, and seedlings are perking up today.

Fall garden seedlings planted so far include:
Pac Choy, beets, 3 or 4 types of kale, chard (different types), orach, broccoli (2 types), and collard greens. More to follow as I can make room for them.

I'm presently watching the angle of the sun shift fairly rapidly, and planning the design for my green house. Soon I should pull out the remaining plants (except for Brussels sprouts) in former hoop house #1 and #2 and plant cover crops. I'm impressed with the rate of speed with which the garden changes in character as the season progresses.

The market outside my back door

I've decided that going out to the garden and deciding what to cook with each day, is really a very enjoyable way to "shop". These days I do this every morning, and am doing very little else by way of maintenance or shopping for that matter. Certainly a temporary state- but so very nice just the same. Actually I admit that I continue to transplant fall seedlings into the new bed. I also can't claim credit for all of our vegetables as we have a lovely large share from Cure every week, but I have more than reached my goal of supplementing this share with food from Whole Foods. Staples continue to be a problem, but we'll get there one day.

Meanwhile, I am regularly harvesting:

-Amaranth (one amaranth plant produces lots of greens, even by my standards!)

-Beets (I'm harvesting beets up to 2 inches in diameter with generally lovely tops although not without insect damage now and then)

-Swiss chard (another reliable producer of greens)

-New Zealand spinach (this took a long time and some good hot weather to get going- now it's producing regularly)

-Savoy cabbage


-Bunching onions

-Broccoli (the sprouting broccoli keeps sending up broccoli heads- I've had lots of these from the four plants I planted in the spring)

-Zucchini (almost daily- one good sized zucchini from one plant being marginalized by enormous tomato plants)

-Celeriac tops (We have lots and lots of celeriac. The tops, although fibrous, can be sliced up across the grain and added to add wonderful celery ambiance to salads, casseroles, soups, lasagna, etc.) Later I hope the roots will store well for fall or winter eating.

-Basil, chives, peppermint

Ripening currently:

-Tomatoes: San Marzano, Pineapple, Purple Cherokee, yellow pear. The largest tomatoes look to be about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. All green so far. One spare cherry tomato plant in back bed is ripening tomatoes now.

-Pumpkins: Russ' white pumpkin plant has two good-sized pumpkins and possibly a third coming along.

-Watermelons: Russ has two hanging from a trellis and they might be ready..

-Corn: Russ will determine what he wants to do with his ears of corn. Most stalks are producing two ears.

-Peppers: Not many, but big. Three on one small plant that never seemed very vigorous. The peppers are turning from green to red now.

-Potatoes: Not least of which include bonus potato plants that volunteered in my garden compost bin. These were potatoes that had sprouted in the vegetable bin in the fridge and subsequently composted, and I wouldn't have decided to let them go once I observed the characteristic foliage coming out of vents in the side of the bin, except that I realised that these were from potatoes grown in Colorado that I had gotten in the winter at Whole Foods and were likely locally adapted. Not so Idaho potatoes.... Anyway, the plants are vigorous and lurking inside the compost bin should be some lovely potatoes come harvest time...

-Beans: We have several varieties of beans planted in every location I could tuck them in and most have beans on them. We are planning on letting them dry on the vine and then cook with them in the winter. Cure provides us with more than enough fresh beans this time of year so we have no trouble leaving ours alone to mature and dry. As we've found that the "fresh" dry beans we've grown in our garden and those we've obtained at the farmer's market from Abbondonza have been much better than those we've gotten from Whole Foods given identical treatment (we pressure cook ours), and as the local supply is inadequate, I decided that this would be a protein-rich crop I could focus on producing. Next year I want to put up more trellis for beans and increase my production.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

August in the garden

Gradually the heat diminishes and the garden may by slowing down a bit. The tomatoes, beans, pumpkins, corn and amaranth require regular tending, either in the form of pruning or for trellising. I also weed (particularly for thistles and milkweed) and drag the hose around a great deal as it's been very, very dry.

Savoy cabbages, although beset by cabbage whites and their offspring, are heading well and very tasty. All that heat we had in July may have made their flavor a little stronger, but otherwise we are starting to harvest them now and they are very good.

Beans and morning glories are taking full advantage of the trellises and the corn is almost to the top of the trellis.

Onions, leeks, celeriac and amaranth in bed number 3. I have beets and chard mixed in as well, and although the alliums (onions and leeks) and chard are a little leggy, all are growing well together in their tight quarters.