Sunday, July 12, 2009

Garden Update and Wonders of Nature

It has been a while since we posted about our garden, so we figured it was time again, especially with the way everything has taken off in the last couple of weeks. You'll have to indulge us as we share our pictures from today. They were taken in the middle of a hot afternoon, so some of the plants were a little wilty, but you can get the idea. First, though, here is a picture of an interesting beetle that hung out on our screen door overnight and half of the next day. Anna and Josie thought it was pretty cool. It actually hissed at us whenever we came near. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but it is about an inch-and-a-half long.

Now to the garden. It may just look like a crazy mass of random plants, but there actually is an intentional order to it (and some intentional wildness). The large plants in the background are kale that we are hoping to get seed from. We planted these plants last year. The seed came from Katie's grandmother, Ginya, in 2002. We are almost out of the seed, and it is nearing the end of its viability, so we wanted to get some more seed. We are not sure what the variety is, but we have never found it anywhere else. The seed pods are just about mature, so we will probably pick them this week. We are anxious to see if the seed is relatively pure. In the foreground is some of the same kale planted this spring. It has already yielded copious amounts (just look further down the page). There are also orange calendula flowers, a sage plant on the front corner, and bunching onions around the border.

This is the same corner of the garden. Toward the top of the picture, tucked in under the kale are beets and swiss chard. The chard will be happy to see the big kale plants go soon.

This is a picture from the other side. In the front corner is some dill. Calendula, beets and cayenne pepper are behind that. The green and purple patch in the middle is our salad mix. There are about five or six different varieties of lettuce growing together. One benefit of having a cool early summer is that we have had an abundance of salad greens. We cut from this patch at least once a week and have more than enough salad. Now that the weather has warmed up, I expect each cutting to be the last and that the lettuce will bolt or turn bitter with the heat, but we harvested yet again today, and it was still just as tasty. When the lettuce does bolt, I plan to leave it so that we can gather seed from it to have our own seed for salad mix next year.

The green mass in the middle of this picture is carrots (more on those later). The plants with white flowers sort of growing over the top of them are arugula. This is arugula grown from our own seed that we grew last year. Now it has gone to seed, and we are almost ready to collect the seed from it for next year. To the right, it is hard to tell, but there are six varieties of peppers, some of which are setting on pretty well, though the plants are a bit scraggly. We need to get some more compost on this area. The peppers are planted amongst another variety of bunching onions. In the front right corner is the mint that we try to keep contained to this small corner.

A close up of some of our peppers.
Our tomato jungle! There are seven varieties of tomatoes growing here. I think the plants all grew about two feet in the last week. With our cool early summer, they are a bit behind, but they are now loaded with blossoms, and have a fair amount of fruit setting on. We are still hoping for a good harvest.

The tomatoes are quite a bit taller than Josie. She will still be able to reach the cherry tomatoes (2 types) that grow right by the path. We can hardly wait. Tucked in around the tomatoes are numerous basil plants, some thyme, and on the far side chives, oregano and garlic chives.

Some cosmos. The seedlings were given to us by a neighboring gardener. They were coming up quite prolifically in her plot, they were self-seeding from last year's plants.

I didn't realize that eggplant blossoms were so beautiful. We have three plants tucked in around the tomatoes. They are looking good right now as long as they don't completely get crowded out by the tomatoes. (If they do . . . I'd rather eat the tomatoes anyway.)

And we can't forget the Three Sisters garden! (The three sisters are corn, beans and squash.)The corn was a little slow getting started (I think again due to the cool early summer). The beans however are doing great. They are Mexican red beans. We grew them last year in a small spot just outside our door. They produced about a pound of dried beans, and we saved enough to plant this 100 sq. ft. area. It is looking like we will have quite a large harvest. It is tough to see the squash in this picture, but it is coming along nicely also after a slow start. I think we will have zucchini to eat next week (a green and a gold variety). We also have cucumbers (2 varieties), three varieties of winter squash and pie pumpkins. In the middle, Anna is standing in her sunflower house. The sunflowers haven't taken off quite like we had hoped but the idea is that as they grow up, morning glories planted in between them climb up and form the walls. It is starting to come along, and Anna had fun playing in it today.

Here is Anna standing by her "fireplace." The largest sunflower was her fireplace where she was frying corn and strawberries. In the foreground is one of our zucchinis.

Soon after we came in from the garden Anna started calling for me to come. She spotted this deer walking through the courtyard. It is not often we see deer in the courtyard. Foxes and raccoons are much more common (not to mention squirrels). This one seemed quite content to hang out for a while, though. That's okay with me as long as it stays out of the garden.
And now for today's harvest:
I was really excited when I pulled these carrots out today. We have never had much luck growing carrots. We will get big green tops that seem to indicate healthy plants, and even the tops of the roots seem big and fat, but then we go to pull them out and they are only about two inches long or forked in three for four directions. So I was pretty excited to harvest these first carrots of the year. My experience with carrots has shown me that a lot has to do with the soil texture. It has to be loose. So getting carrots so much better this year than last indicates that we have done a lot to improve our soil texture in just one year. And 'growing the soil' is my favorite part of gardening.

Some of the swiss chard we ate with dinner tonight.

Some of the bunching onions which went in our Indian lentils and rice.

We harvest this much kale at least once a week. This will be used for tomorrow's dinner.

Our friends Darren and Ruth and their daughter Alex came over for dinner, so it was joy to get to share from the bounty of our garden with them. We had Indian lentils and rice that used onions and mint from our garden, sauteed chard and salad greens with shredded carrot. That's when it is really fun and fulfilling-- growing good food then sharing it with others

We even had a little flower arrangement for a center piece. Calendula, cosmos, mint and cilantro flowers.

And one more picture of Anna at the end of the evening as she decided to decorate her hat with clothes pins. (She's wearing the dress that Mitch made her for Christmas this year. Josie has a matching one. He sewed them without even using a pattern. Quite impressive, really. )


Michelle said...

First of all, YUM! I love the bounty of your little garden. Good work. Please tell me if you want to arrange a playdate with me or my kids so that you can harvest in peace, Katie. Maybe that can be part of what we do when we come to Boulder on Tuesday mornings? That will let you harvest on Tuesday and Saturday, at least.

Second, that big, beautiful beetle looks identical to the potato beetles that have a thriving society at Monroe Farm-they are hard on the leaves of tubers and root veggies, but otherwise uninteresting. Last year, when we were hoeing, early in the season, the kids were able to find potato beetles at every stage of development, from egg to adult!

akamilby said...

Your garden is amazing Katie! It is so prolific, and there is so much growing--I'm in awe. And what a great series of pictures. I love seeing the garden with all you girls in it. It's nice to see pictures of you! You look wonderful, as always. The clothespins on Anna's hat are completely funny. I love her creativity. And speaking of creativity, the dress is amazing Mitch. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the garden photos. I am actually beginning to recognize things. I think you should begin to post some recipes, it all sounds so yummy. I would only skip the hot peppers, I eat green peppers all the time. I am starting to explore with the bunching onions, they add zest to most everything - had them with brown rice, broccoli, tomatoes and avocado the other day. Yummy dinner. Your beetle looks like the ones over here, except all of ours are dark brown. Ours also hiss. Your girls will be good gardeners or already are.
love you,

becky said...

I love garden posts, except that I get slightly jealous : ) Your garden looks amazing-and i know exactly how you feel about getting to cook with and be hospitable with produce that was grown at home...that always makes me super excited! My little garden is not doing so well this year, what with the late start and all but at least it's in place and the soil has been worked a bit, which should help for next year. BUT I do have a thriving little herb garden on the back porch, so maybe next summer I will do a little more container gardening.
I love all the fun hideaways you have planted-how is the bean tepee doing so far? The sunflower house sounds like lots of fun and super beautiful - i hope it works 'cause I love both of those flowers!
Also, Congrats to the Master gardener for successful soil improvement!