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.
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 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!
I know it’s unwise to count your
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
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! 😀