Watching and Waiting in the Garden

IMG_5229Nearing the end of July, I’m beginning to notice all sorts of “signs and wonders” in the garden — changes in the plants, signs of their maturity, the ripening of fruits. Admittedly, these changes would be more readily noticeable if I weren’t out there amongst the plants every single morning giving them their necessary drink (anytime you’re ready to take over, Mother Nature, we’re waiting… it’s allll yours!).

When you stare at the same plants day in and day out, you’re able to see the changes so gradually you might forget the beginning of the story — how tiny the seeds were, how quickly or slowly they germinated, their struggles in getting established. If you were to ask me “How’s the garden doing?” I would probably sound less than enthusiastic. In my eyes, the plants have hardly grown and the season is already nearing half over. But reality tells a different story (thankfully).

Even looking at a comparison shot of the garden from a distance is telling! The first photo is a shot from April — early one morning after we’d had quite a bit of frost. Next, our garden just a few days ago.

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So, from bare dirt — filled with rocks, quackgrass rhizomes, and creepy grubs — we’ve now arrived mid-season to a real live garden. I remember walking away from the garden in late May and suddenly turning around to face the plot — my face smeared with mud, my arms covered in no-see-um bites — and saying to James, “I can’t wait to see what this looks like filled with plants. That will make it all worth it.” At that moment, believing there would ever be such a sight — let alone imagining any sort of harvest — took a great deal of faith. What does it say about me as a human being that we’ve obviously arrived at that point and I’m practically blinded to even that slightest bit of success?

We’ve already had the first of a few small harvests…

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These radishes (seeds I received free from Jung’s Seeds) were very quick to germinate and cover their beds producing lots of lush greens and huge roots. Unfortunately, they’re so zesty and spicy we can barely stand to eat them! I guess we’re used to those bland, practically tasteless ones from the grocery store? Whatever the case may be, these will bring tears to your eyes! I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the roots, but the greens I’m planning to add to one of my favorite soup recipes. I’d better hurry, too, because some of the radishes are beginning to bolt in the summer heat.

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Here’s James holding the latest output from our single hill of golden zucchini plants. Is there a difference in taste between green zucchini and golden zucchini? Not really, actually — but aren’t they a pretty color? They do taste like zucchini and are not at all like yellow squashes (even though they do resemble them a bit). We turned the four large ones James is holding here into a very summery pureed soup — a recipe I’ll probably share later this summer. Our first harvest of zucchini, though (a lone, giant zucchini that hid from us) I turned into a batch of our Whole Wheat Zucchini Tea Bread.

Marty’s Garden (our center garden with herbs and flowers) continues to grow and change. We’ve made several cuttings of herbs so far, this season, and some of the slower growing varieties are finally beginning to pay off as well. Meanwhile, the flowers continue to fill in and make for a peaceful space in the center of the busy garden.

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I’m taken by surprise every time a breeze blows through and fills the whole garden with the smell of chamomile. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to grow it in such quantity — and boy is it getting out of hand! We’ve harvested it several times and it just keeps putting out blooms! I’m currently working on a recipe to incorporate some of these sweet-smelling flowers… more on that to come.

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Our tomatoes and peppers are loving this summer heat in spite of the dry weather (thanks in no small part to my daily watering… did I already mention that?). In addition to tons of cheery yellow blossoms, we’re now seeing lots of wee green tomatoes (and some not-so-wee ones too).

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Of course, no garden would be complete without challenges from pests. Our tomatoes and peppers are now being explored by ravenous hornworms. I didn’t notice we’d been invaded until I one day did a double take and saw a giant caterpillar nearly twice the circumference of a tomato stalk just hanging out on a defoliated branch.

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I don’t mind telling you we’ve been quickly smashing these underfoot each time we find one. So far, we’ve found and executed over a dozen… and the carnage continues! Left in the garden, a single hornworm can completely devour a tomato plant in a matter of a few days… unless, of course, he decides to spread the damage out onto several different plants. Fortunately, we enjoy this “Where’s Waldo” like game of “find the hornworm” and our tomato and pepper plants seem to be shrugging off the damage thus far.

How’s the sweet corn coming? In a stunning show of fortitude, the miniature Blue Jade corn is already busy putting out pollen tassels even though the plants (as promised) are only 2-3 feet tall at this point. How heroic!

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As for the big, golden bantam sweet corn, it’s definitely bigger than it was about a month ago, and is thoroughly enjoying the company of the mammoth grey and autumn beauty sunflowers.

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To help with pollination, I planted the corn in staggered rows within the beds and ran the plantings along the northerly side of the garden from east to west in four adjacent beds. I’m hoping this will mean ears full of kernels rather than the spotty cobs you can get from incomplete pollination.

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Our beans are marching along faithfully. The lima beans and cranberry pole beans are taking to their teepees as planned while the bumble bee and bird egg bush beans are growing stocky stems and already putting out blossoms.

Pumpkins, cucumbers, cantaloupes and our squashes are progressing nicely, performing their typical forceful but peaceful invasion of nearby territories. The pumpkins show promise of lots of male and female blossoms to come and we’re eagerly awaiting the baby pumpkins.

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And could it be? Have I finally grown cabbage that forms a head the way I politely ask it to?! If the summer heat and dry weather don’t put a stop to it, this beauty will be soon be tasty colcannon!

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Finally — finally — we’re getting our first poppy blooms. I’ve been eagerly awaiting their arrival. Now, suddenly there are buds everywhere and each day brings a new bloom. Such simple little flowers. I love the color of our first bloom! In another week or so, there should be tons of cosmos and zinnia blossoms to admire, too. Maybe I’ll finally get up the nerve to cut some of blooms and bring them inside to enjoy?

Well, that should have you caught up on how things are going in the garden. I think writing it all down has helped me to come to terms with it too! Each trip to the garden is like a soap opera, action movie, and romance all rolled into one. Is it any wonder so many people get an inexplicable joy from growing their own food?

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~ by Jason on July 25, 2012.

10 Responses to “Watching and Waiting in the Garden”

  1. So beautiful… You guys did *such* an amazing job!! ✿

    • Thanks! It’s gratifying to see the garden taking shape and coming to life from the graph paper & pencil sketch I did last winter. What will be even more gratifying, though, will be lots of tasty meals from the garden.

  2. You are not the only ones enjoying the garden. We pop over to see its progress and enjoy watching beans climb and squash spread out! You have done a really lovely job!

  3. Your garden looks great — the before and now pics should definitely give you a feeling of accomplishment! If you’d like some tips on catching hornworms before they can do much damage, Dorne has made hornworm hunting into a fine science. I am sure he would be willing to share his expertise!

    • Thanks, Shelley. We seem to be having a hornworm lull, now, but we’d definitely appreciate any advice Dorne could give. I like the idea of getting them before they get you.

  4. Looks great! Just can’t wait for our tomatoes to ripen.

    • It is tough waiting for them, isn’t it? I always have this sense of dread, too, as if most of them will be attacked by some last minute pest and all of my plans for canning tomato sauce and making sun-dried tomatoes will be for naught. Fingers crossed!

  5. Wow! It looks amazing! And delicious. What a transformation from April.

  6. OMG, I love your garden. You guys did an incredible job maintaining the garden.

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