A Report from the Garden

I’ve not really mentioned the garden in a while. The more suspicious, cynical souls among you may suspect that this is due to its total failure or destruction or perhaps my growing neglect in the heat of this muggy summer we’ve been having. Alas, bitter ones, that is not the case.

In spite of my own skepticism and unwillingness to declare success on any of the crops we’re growing, the garden is still chugging along at full speed. In fact, because of the ample rain and long, sunny days, it looks like a walking disaster area — at least according to that silly, naïve PLAN that I slaved over for weeks and weeks. Plants are heaping over every single boundary — real and imaginary. Things are so wild and crazy, out there, it’s not really possible to get a full-garden shot anymore.
Let’s see… where to start? Here you can see one of our smaller but varied harvests. We’ve harvested the last of the Great Lakes Lettuce, in recent weeks (pictured, here, you see one of the heads we harvested). That was a pretty big harvest, actually. In truth, it was more lettuce than we could handle all at once, so we gave most of it to friends and neighbors.

I’ve mentioned the tomatoes once or twice over the past few weeks. They’re really kicking it into high gear, right now. Pictured, here, are the Silvery Fir tomatoes and two wee Speckled Roman tomatoes (these two ripened a bit early, they actually get frighteningly large for plum tomatoes). Currently, the Silvery Firs are starting to dwindle down (they’re a determinate variety) while the rest of the varieties are still putting out more blossoms and fruits. I started out the year not wanting to make too many plans for what I pessimistically forecasted to be a small tomato harvest. Already we’ve canned 9 pints of pizza sauce and 28 pints of tomatoes in juice! So much for a small harvest, eh? You’ve already read about the cucumber harvests which led to lots of homemade pickles. The cucumbers have definitely slowed production now that the hottest days of summer are upon us, but we’re still getting a few here and there.

IMG_0986The herbs are all growing by leaps and bounds. I’ve harvested and dried thyme and sage a few times, already. I’ve used our basil — both fresh and dried — many times. I’m mostly drying it, now, though, for use later this year. Onion HarvestWe’re finally getting some chamomile to brew up, too! Even though I’d gone to the trouble of drying it — instead of storing our first harvest — I used most of it to make me and James a pot of tea, last night. Sweet, sleepy sleep tea, that chamomile.

Having passed the longest days of summer (already??!), the onions were ready for harvest just last weekend. They were a ton of fun to grow and every single one of them produced a nice, perfect bulb. Though I have to confess to chopping one up and putting it in some vegetarian quesadillas we had, recently, the rest of them I’m planning to dry for use later. I’ve never dried onions before. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Scarlet Emperor Beans 1Ugh… the beans! These beans just won’t stop with their growing. Even the Japanese Beetles are running out of ways to stop them! They keep blossoming and producing more and more pods. My plan is to harvest them as dried beans rather than pods. I enjoy the extra-beany taste of fresh beans more than I do green beans (though, admittedly, that is a close contest).

The beans, while representing a potential victory, also bring up a pretty significant shortcoming of our garden. Our trellising system has all but completely failed — due to shoddy material, mostly, but also a lack of forethought on my part. The trellises ran into a few problems:

    1. The support posts/stakes were made of garbage, to put it lightly. They are, essentially, a core of some fairly soft metal which is wrapped in a very frail and useless green vinyl coating (which does very little to protect that mystery metal from rusting, by the way). Scarlet Emperor Beans 2
    I don’t recall the brand name or the specific product name, but they are definitely carried at both Lowe’s and Home Depot: DO NOT BUY THESE.

    2. Having shoddy support posts meant that the vertical strings in the middle were easily moved to either side of each trellis, leaving lots of vines nothing to climb up on except for a neighboring vine!

    3. Due to the often aggressive, thunderstorm-driven winds, these shoddy trellises further failed, causing the the bed to look as though someone had fallen into it, flailed their arms in an attempt to right themselves, and then stumbled away, leaving beans and vines all over the place.

    4. I also failed to notice that the supports and vertical strings were not nearly tall enough for either of these varieties of pole beans. Even before they’d started putting out blossoms, they’d already completely scaled the trellising and started looking for more! Note to self: pole bean trellising (regardless of what the seed packet says) should be at least 10ft tall, next year.

To fix the structural issues, James and I bought some very sturdy fencing posts and drove them into the ground next to the ailing, weakling posts and secured them. The bean bed looks a lot less chaotic since we did that.

Sugar Pie PumpkinsIMG_0988

The pumpkins are my little shining stars. They’ve finally stopped moving across the garden at such a frightening pace and seem to be concentrating on making pies — I mean, pumpkins. So far, unless there’s a dramatic development, the Sugar Pie variety is our biggest performer. From three plants we’ve got at least 6 pumpkins of varying sizes and stages of growth.

IMG_0989The Jarrahdales… well, bless their hearts, they’re trying. I’ve lost a couple of the pumpkins due to the vines’ love of finding the worst spots to put fruit (e.g. INSIDE the fencing grid or UNDER a pile of pumpkin vines). The wee pumpkins that were carelessly put in peril by the vines themselves were ruptured and ruined and had to be removed. From three plants I’ve counted only 2 pumpkins that are properly developing, but I’m holding out for a third.

Sheepishly I have to admit that I should’ve only planted, perhaps, ONE of each variety, if not just one variety. But, I was greedy for pumpkins and I had been promised more space, originally. I had fondled these seed packets and daydreamed of a pumpkin harvest since the dead of winter. I couldn’t resist going for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I don’t even want to talk to you about zucchini, right now. One plant — ONE PLANT — has given us frightening amounts of the stuff. Unless you need zucchini to survive, I’d definitely recommend not growing more than one zucchini plant for every two people. Due to a game the plant likes to play with us called “hide and go seek”, we’ve picked two zucchini, in particular, that weighed in at just under four pounds!

The carrot & cabbage bed is moving along at a snail’s pace. I’m thinking the carrots are just being carrots. When growing them in containers, I’ve never had them produce when any packet says they should be, so why should this year be any different just because they’re in the ground and not three stories up in the air? As for the cabbage, I believe the weather may’ve gotten too hot too fast for the developing heads to really form. I’ve got lots of leafing action but not a lot of organization going on in the cabbages.

French Favorite Marigolds 2Lastly, those of you who’ve followed this year’s garden from it’s very beginning may’ve noted that you’ve heard nothing about that little bed where we’d planted a seed mix called “Grandmother’s Cut Flower Garden”. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Little weed sprouts completely overtook that bed — so much that it was impossible to tell which was a weed sprout and which was a sprout of one of the eleventy different varieties of flowers in that mix. I’ve noticed, tucked in amongst the weeds in that bed (which is also home to two very impressive Sugar Pie Pumpkins) a few stray flowers here and there, but it is certainly not the photogenic corner of the garden that I had originally intended it to be. Giant Zinnias 2Our most successful flowers have been the French Favorite Marigolds and the Giant Zinnias.

So, that’s the status of the garden, right now. We’re entering that part of summer where the garden is so wild and independent that all it really needs is a good harvesting every two days or so. This has, thankfully, meant that I’ve not had to make that epic trek out to the garden twice a week. James is able to brave the garden on his own and brings home loads of tomatoes and cucumbers for me to process! (I say he braves the garden, by the way, because the moist summer has given us throngs of giant, pterodactyl-sized mosquitoes.)

Is it crazy that I’m already starting to think about next year’s garden? Never mind, forget I said that.


~ by Jason on August 6, 2010.

3 Responses to “A Report from the Garden”

  1. Hi ya! It sounds like you are really getting the classic garden experience this year thanks to the good rain and hot weather. I find it amusing (but not at your expense) that your garden layout plan has gotten so smudged by the plants themselves. That happens to me every year and somehow, even though I grumble as I push stems out of the paths, I’m grateful. After all, I’m also a control freak and having that regular reminder that everything’s relatively out of my control in nature is rather liberating and humbling (I think you wrote a very eloquent post about that earlier this season) . I’m just so glad you’ve been getting good rain!!! It’s so dry and so hot here. Even with my irrigation system, I can’t seem to get the garden a good deep drink because it’s just so hot and the ground water is gone. Anyway, more tales from my garden to come in an email shortly. Just wanted to comment on this post because it made me smile (like all the others I’ve been reading but haven’t had time to comment). 🙂

  2. Jason,

    I smile every time I read a garden update. I haven’t been able to keep up with your posts these past few weeks, but knew I would eventually go back and read them. Worth the wait! My very favorite line – “I’ve got lots of leafing action but not a lot of organization going on in the cabbages.” You are a man after my own heart – who would have imagined organized cabbages! Thank you so much for sharing the love (and organization) that has gone into your beautiful garden. Soon I’ll be catching up with the recipe posts.


    • Thanks for reading, Margie!

      Incidentally, those cabbages have finally started getting their act together. On Tuesday I noticed the beginnings of small heads forming. Hopefully in an upcoming post I’ll have a picture of at least one head of cabbage!

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