Summer Solstice Garden Tour 2015

Hello again!
So Summer Solstice has come and gone (and we’re in the long slide towards the dark again, but it’s easy to ignore that when Bountiful Season is basically upon us), and the garden is starting to offer up food that isn’t made entirely of leaves.
This is very exciting, I don’t mind telling you.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to do another Garden Tour post, partially in response to Erica’s (May) photo tour invitation, and partially just because I like showing off. To that end: Onwards!

So my garden, last time I had one, typically looked like a small, vine-choked jungle or leafy stuff. This hasn’t changed.

Raised Bed One - Looking rather more verdant than it did at Beltane.

Raised Bed One – Looking rather more verdant than it did at Beltane. Twenty-Two tomato plans plus a meagre four (alas) squash plants of various types have filled it out nicely.

Raised Bed Two - perennial herbs and fruit, but also annuals (chard, fava beans, some lingering rappini, and SO MANY PEAS) and self-spreaders like Vietnamese garlic and sunchokes.

Raised Bed Two – perennial herbs and fruit, but also annuals (chard, fava beans, some lingering rappini, and SO MANY PEAS) and self-spreaders like Vietnamese garlic and sunchokes.

The prickly, leafy stuff that I’m pretty sure is some weird variety of mustard? I still don’t really have a clue what it is.
Here’s a picture. (It’s starting to bolt, which is fine by me. There’s some rainbow chard in the background). If anyone knows what it is, feel free to fill me in. [EDIT: It’s fucking borage! I’m an idiot…]
The Borage formerly known as Mystery Plant

The Borage formerly known as Mystery Plant

The big, exciting thing in Raised Bed One right now is tomatoes. They’re all tiny and all completely green, but they’re there and setting fruit and everything!
Cherry Tomatoes (either Black Cherry or Sweet Million)

Cherry Tomatoes (either Black Cherry or Sweet Million). One of my two varieties of Sauce Tomatoes are pictured below.

Sauce Tomatoes
I know it’s unwise to count your chickens tomatoes before they hatch ripen, but this at least boads somewhat well for a tomato harvest that is more than “the odd, tiny tomato, every now and then”. I’ve already put in three mini trellises for the tomato plants (and driven about a dozen of said plants into shock by moving them during their flowering time – woops – but they’re recovering, so good for them), and I’ve come to the conclusion that adding at least one, probably two, more would be a good idea. If only for the sake of the cucumber plant (singular) that’s all but burried in tomato foliage.

That vine is about a foot long. The leaves can all fit in the palm of my hand. It’s flowering already.
This is what we call a “bad sign”, folks.

There may or may not be another, light-starved cuke burried under the tomato plants. Either way, if I want to get actual cucumbers from one (or two?) actually healthy-and-thriving cucumber plant(s), I need to lift my tomatoes up and let the cukes get some light. And also, possibly, some miracle grow. I know. We’ll see if it comes to that. (Honestly, though, I’m considering giving it some powdered milk in lieu of a drink. It works for pumpkins, so why not cukes?)
As a side-note, both of my raised beds are due to have some of their leafy greens thinned out significantly (or removed entirely), and I’m thinking I’ll replace them primarily with butternut squash and cucumbers. We’ll see what works. Fingers crossed.
This next picture, to my eyes, just looks like a bit of a jumble. The point is to show off some of my pole beans (not sure which kind they are – not too worried about it, honestly), which are big enough to be twining their way around strings and climbing towards the sun.
Climb, my pretties! :-D

Climb, my pretties! 😀

Not all of my beans are doing this. Since most of Raised Bed One is full of leafy greens (kale, rainbow chard, and that weird prickly stuff… um…) I’ve made sure to plant pole beans in every corner of the bed. The upshot of this, however, is that a lot of my beans are somewhat shaded by leafy greens (or tomato leaves), which I think may be slowing them down. We’ll see. Given how old some of my bean seeds are, I’m honestly just glad that they’re all sprouting.
Lastly, we have my work horses: Squash and Kale.

Red Russian Kale is going to make up a significant part of both our summer salads and our winter (frozen) veggies. The squash is (I think) a mix of “nutty butter” – a bush variety of miniature butternut-type winter squash – and golden straight-neck summer squash (essentially zucchini). Won’t know that for sure until they start flowering, mind you.

I have to admit, I’m really disappointed that I didn’t wind up with a giant forest of winter squash and pumpkins fiercely taking over my annuals bed (and the rest of the yard). Winter squash tends to thrive in my bioregion (and has for, like, a good seven thousand years, maybe more) and I look at it the way other people look at potatoes: super-prolific, easy (and therefore reliable) food crops that will keep for six months or more and ensure that you’re fed through the winter. So I was really looking forward to having enough pumkins and other winter squashes to put up a dozen jars of pumpkin butter, blanch and freeze a lot of diced squash (and maybe some mashed squash, as well, for soup-making and squash puff), and still have enough to just Have On Hand for roasting in the oven or steaming on the stove.
That being said: I’m also kind of glad that what’s come up has allowed (a) space for all those tomatoes, and (b) time to build a trellis (which hasn’t happened yet) for them to climb. None the less, as I mentioned above, I’m strongly inclined to plant out another couple of pumpkin and/or butternut seeds and an extra cuke once I free up some space.
So it’s probably working out okay. I just need to to make sure anything I plant from here-on-in has enough growing season to actually get things done.
Fingers crossed.
By the looks of things, the giant mustard I planted wound up rolling/blowing/washing off the raised beds and ended up taking root in the soil of my actual yard. This isn’t great. The soil isn’t the best for growing stuff in, and leafy greens -partiuclarly members of the cabbage family, such as Mustard – are particularly prone to soaking up lead and other toxins and storing them in their leaves.
Actual Mustard. I think. Not sure what the daisy-like flowers behind it are, though...

Actual Mustard. I think.
Not sure what the daisy-like flowers behind it are, though…

None the less, I hate to see the food go to waist. I’m honestly inclined to do what I did with the Vietnamese garlic, when I first set up my beds, and just transplant one of two of the bigger plants into Raised Bed One. I figure, if I trim off the outer leaves, the inner ones won’t have had much chance to get contaminated, and they’ll probalby be okay. Maybe that’s super-foolish of me, but I’m really inclined to try it. They’d make really nice, slightly spicy cabbage rolls with some of the ground pork in our freezer!
So moving over to Raised Bed Two.
Raised Bed Two, as you may recall, is destined to be (primarily) the perrenials-and-self-seeders bed. This year, that means rhubarb, strawberries, sunchokes, “wild” ginger, Vietnamese garlic, and a lot of herbs (winter savoury, English thyme, sage, Greek oregano, chocolate mint, apple mint, dill, basil, and cilantro).
Rhubarb (gone to seed)
As you can see, the rhubarb has gone to seed (as planned). The basil is pretty heavily shaded by the fava beans and sunchokes, so it’s still (relatively) small – only about four times the size it was when I planted it. You can see the (I think) Greek Oregano starting to flower, beside the basil.
Below, you can see the small forest that is my from-seed cilantro, along with some sage and (I think) winter savoury , in the back ground. Also pictured: One of my two Chinese eggplants (they’re the kind that produce those long, skinny eggplants) and some of my Moasic purple pole beans, which are climbing quite nicely.
Eggplant, Cilantro, and Purple Pole Beans
I’m hoping for a summer of cilanto-tomato-basil salads with black lentils thrown in. Also, possibly, ratatouille. Can you tell?
I’m also enjoying the fact that I have the kind of leafy greens that work well on sandwiches (as in: raw), but are also excellent cooking greens. Yes, yes, clearly this picture of my Rainbow Chard is from Raised Bed One (you can see the tomato flowers in the corner), but since I’ve got it growing in both beds, you can all just cope with that.
Rainbow Chard.  I think it does better in the shade?

Rainbow Chard. I think it does better in the shade?

I love rainbow chard (and ruby chard and, most likely, just plain-ol’ white-stemmed Swiss Chard). I love that it grows like spinach, but is prettier and slower to bolt. I love that the stalks can be saved (like kale stalks, for that matter) and diced and frozen in order to take the place of cellery in a stew or a braise later on. I love that it’s delicate enough to eat in a raw salad or layered onto a sandwich, but hardy enough to withstand a touch of frost. I love that you can stuff it like cabbage leaves or grape leaves, too, even if I haven’t tried that yet, and that you can lacto-ferment the stems if you want to (throw in a bay leaf, and they’ll keep their crunch).
As you can see, my rainbow chard is suffering from some ind of sunburn or something. (I actually have no clue what’s going on there, but it seemed to fare better after a few days of rain and overcast-ness, so I’m guessing it’s a sun situation). I’ll know for next year to make sure I plant them in a shady spot – like maybe a big planter on my front porch, rather than in direct south-western sun. For now, I’m trying to shelter them with tomato plants (working… ish) and trying to harvest them often enough to keep ahead of the burn.
Moving right along.
This next picture is a shot of my fava beans in bloom.
They are gorgeous.
Yes, half the reason I planted them was the need to get cold-tollerant roots into the vast swath of new, high-nutrient soil I’d just trucked in. And, yes, even if the idea of getting actual food from them was basically something I looked at as a bonus, I’m very-much hoping to get a big-enough crop of actual fava beans for both fresh-eating AND blanching-and-freezing as butter beans (in lieu of edamame). BUT I also planted them because their beautiful black-and-white speckled flowers make me smile.
Who doesn't love leopard-print plants? :-D

Who doesn’t love leopard-print plants? 😀

The fava beans are just, just starting to noticeably set fruit. They are a loooooong way from being harvest-ready yet – more or less at the same stage as the tomatoes – but it’s exciting to see them starting to set, and I still love the flowers! If you’re one of those folks trying to food-garden in a place with a pretty hard-core “neighbourhood association” (eugh… so glad I live in a centuries-old, consistently broke, immigrant-heavy neighbourhood. We grow our veggies out front and don’t fucking appologize for it!) this is the kind of bush bean that you could grow and still claim it’s an ornamental. That plus scarlet runner beans (which, I suspect, would make really good dilly beans, actually) plus maybe a trionfo violetto or mosaic pole bean that would give you small, but elegant purple/lilac flowers. (If you grow them interspersed with morning glories, nobody will notice until it’s way too late).
What is ready to be harvested – oh, small miracle of delicate fruit! – is the snow peas! 😀


Don’t get me wrong. Asperagus, when you have it, is a glorious and delicious thing. Earth-offered candy, bright with green and flavour, after the long, long winter of roots and things-in-jars. But it’s peas that I wait for every year. I don’t even know why. Maybe it’s a long-ago memory of eating shelling peas, strait from the pod on the back porch, when I was three or four years old and my mom was bringing them in by the bushel-basket. Or maybe it’s ust because I so rarely get them fresh. Maybe it’s just because they’re the first things to show up as fruit, rather than leaves, shoots, or stalks, that arrives in the garden. regardless, the fact that I brought PEAS in from the back yard yesterday makes me ridiculously happy!
So there you have it. One last picture to show some things off. Yes, that’s a strawberry you see in the middle. Our wee strawberry plants are setting fruit, not much, but some. There’s at least one more where that came from. 😉

Peas, rainbow chard, cilantro, sage, dill, garlic scapes, and one lovely strawberry.
Harvested on June 23rd, 2015.
(Not pictured: The gallon of rappini leaves and “sprouting broccoli” (aka: rappini florettes) that I brought in at the same time).

The nieghbourhood serviceberries will be (some of them) ripe enough to harvest by this weekend, so that’s where my attention’s going to be for the next week, but it’s monumentally exciting to have Actual FOOD coming in from our back yard.
Happy Summer Solstice 2015! 😀

5 responses to “Summer Solstice Garden Tour 2015

  1. Love this garden. We’ve got a ‘salsa’ themed garden and have just let the spinach finally go to seed, so we can have more later. That, onion tops, and the herbs are or only harvest so far, but our squash and tomatoes are all fruiting nicely. Can’t wait!

    • Sweet! 😀
      I think I’m going to have to harvest peas again tonight (or tomorrow morning) which is absurdly exciting for me. maybe chard as well. I’m holding off on the kale, just because I want to bring a giant bunch of it down to Toronto when I go for a visit next weekend.
      I actually did wind up planting more squash. I transplanted the “prickly mustard” (that turned out to be borage) to the front garden – which is all flowers-that-will-take-over-your-yard – and pulled up most of the rappini stalks (kept some in the hopes that, like your spinach, they’ll go to seed and we’ll get a late crop of rappini to keep us is extra fresh greens). Planted butternut squash and musquee de provence pumpkins in their place (fingers crossed that my mostly-old seeds not only sprout, but thrive!) 😀
      Are your squashes summer squash (zuccini, pattypan, etc) or winter types?

      • We have ghost pumpkins and summer squash (which got planted quite late but are fruiting merrily). Watching the little baby pumpkins appear and get bigger every day is an amazing feeling. I’ve never been able to grow my own food, and this year it’s just all come together.

        I made a borage flower mead once. Deliciously sweet. Did you say you were eating the greens? How were they?

      • They’re… meh, honestly. I didn’t enjoy them. It’s part of why I moved them to the front yard. They smell like cucumbers (good thing) and are fuzzy/prickly (not-so-good, but I’ve foraged greens with spines along their ribs, so wevs). They work nicely in a stew and I think they’d be good in a soup. Like make a cucumber soup with a heap of dill, a mashed potato, a splish of white wine (or white wine vinegar) and some yoghurt, but use a metric tonne of steamed borage leaves instead of the cucumber. Combine and hit puree. Might also be useful if you wanted to make tzaziki and didn’t have any cukes?

      • That’s an awesome idea. I want borage for bees and for sweet mead, so I will definitely keep these in mind to try out in place of cukes in some recipes. Experimentation with food plants is awesome.

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