To sum it up briefly: We can’t keep up with the zucchini. Too hot to do much baking! When we’ve had enough of kale salad, the greens are becoming pesto. There’s been more than enough for that. This evening marked our first harvest of beans, and the Sungold tomatoes are kicking off the tomato season. We harvested the first two three days ago and have had a few more since then. At least we’ll soon be able to use up cucumbers by making gazpacho.
The next debate for the garden: what to plant where the peas have been? A fall crop of peas? Try again with beets? Find a zucchini plant in the clearance section at a garden center and have a fall crop?
Something got into what we thought was our secure vegetable bed (Fort Knox, surrounded by chicken wire with wooden bars at the bottom to keep anything from crawling inside the bottom of the netting). But Friday, we discovered that something — the groundhog? — had gotten in and munched the fading bean plants and cucumber. The only route in, I think, was at a corner where I hadn’t clipped the chicken wire on the hook halfway up the green metal pole. At least the damage wasn’t too bad — most plants were untouched.
Something also got into the bed that has been taken over by pattypan squash. My guess is that it was a deer leaning over because only one side was affected (and the bottom of the netting on the other side was loose, had a groundhog wanted in that way). Given the glut of white pattypans (we’re not quite sure what to do with them, so we always end up picking them when they are super-sized), I guess a bit less squash isn’t a bad thing.
Next time: a full report on can-o-rama, my weekend canning extravaganza that I need more time for!
In the meantime, some of our garden-grown meals from the past two weeks:
We had our first orange cherry tomatoes — maybe those Sungold? Remember that I lost track of what’s what — on Bastille Day. Today we had a few more, plus a couple of other red ones that are going on tonight’s grilled pizza, along with some homemade creole tomato sauce (canned last year, recipe in the yellow Ball’s cookbook, The Complete Book of Home Preserving).
We also dug out a few potatoes. The Pontaic Reds have a few bumps on them — any idea what that could be? The white cucumber is “nice,” the Brit says. And after getting four weeks’ worth of rain in three days earlier this week, I think we’re a few days away from more pattypan squashes. (The squash jungle has taken over the pepper space; not sure we’ll get much beyond the one chili pepper I picked a few days ago.)
The garden surprise? A black eggplant is growing amid all the cucumbers. Did it come via compost? Or did it sneak into a seed pack?
A neighbor came by to pick up some seed-grown tomato plants I’d promised him, got his first look at our five raised beds and promptly pronounced us farmers.
This weekend certainly was a weekend for planting. The smaller of the two tomato raised beds is full — three pairs of seed-grown plants, a Ramapo we got for free at Rutgers Day and a volunteer pair that I figured were big enough to leave alone. Wish I could say what varieties the three pairs are, but I’ve managed to lose the labels. Sun golds? Bloody butcher? I have no idea, only that they are three different types. I’ve got others that need a couple more weeks, I think, and then they will go into the bed for 10, sharing space for a while with garlic. The first tomato bed may share space with radishes for a while. Why not?
All the leeks are now in. We were thrilled to spot seedlings at a local produce shop and bought three four-packs, with at least four seedlings per square, or so it seemed. I haven’t counted but I would guess five dozen. Oh yeah, there are a few still in the basement that we’ve grown from seed. No idea where we will put them. Maybe we’ll wait til the peas have been harvested and have some fresh squares to fill. A nice problem to have!
Peppers are in too. Thanks to another neighbor who bought three four-packs and only wanted two of each, we have sweet, bell and hot peppers. We returned the favor by sharing our cherry hot four-pack. The ninth pepper is Trinidadian perfume, bought at Rutgers Day and is not supposed to be hot.
Next to them are three rosa eggplants, also from Rutgers Day, and a mix of regular green zucchini and the scalloped pattycake variety. I figured I had to plant more than one seed per area just in case, so you know they will all germinate and we will have a glut.
The 12-foot bed, also known as our Fort Knox, is filling up with peas and burgundy beans that we hope the groundhog won’t get to this year, plus some salad greens, three types of cucumbers (glut!), beets, brussel sprouts, collards (though they looked just like the broccoli plants so who really knows?), coriander and lime basil. Other varieties of basil will go in by the end of the week. We probably get some parsley plants too.
Our fifth bed is leek and potato soup — four different potato varieties, plus leeks. Three of the potato types were planted a while ago and the plants look simply huge to us novice farmers.
Here’s a look at the potato plants, about nine days apart:
“It’s only December!” the Brit said as I looked through the Value Seeds site. “What are you going to do in January?”
Let me point out that he is the one who called up the site–and left it up. What was he thinking? Was this supposed to be a test of my willpower? And how did he remember it anyway? I hadn’t bookmarked it.
This is the site that sells Thompson & Morgan’s leftovers for 99 cents a packet or less, plus a flat shipping charge regardless of quantity. We ordered 15 packets of flowers, tomatoes, herbs and vegetables last winter (and opened just about all of them, even used up some packets). The Brit had opened to a page showing deep purple Nicotiana (flowering tobacco)–just the sort of color I fall for. We liked the Nicotiana we grew this year but didn’t get the scent we expected. These seem to promise more. Click.
We ordered a couple other flowering tobaccos that worked well for us this past season, plus two packets of zinnias (I’m particularly excited about the red ones) and some cascading petunias.
I know I just told someone I only plant heirloom tomatoes, and it’s not like I don’t have plenty of tomato seeds already, but I couldn’t resist the sungolds (hybrid cherry tomatoes, billed as incredibly sweet, enough to make children who say they don’t like tomatoes change their mind). I think the black cherry tomatoes are heirlooms, though they aren’t described that way. Click. Click.
Add some white cukes for the Brit and more flowers, a bit of discipline (no burgundy Okra or broken-colored Four O’Clocks) and we got ourselves down to 14 packets and just under $16.
I’m happy to swap seeds from some of the packets (20 white cucumber seeds is more than enough, and I’d like some different types of squash. And 2000 seeds of sapphire trailing lobelia is more than enough too!). Come January or so, I’ll arrange a tomato-seed swap by mail for those who are interested.
We’ve been a bit slow in getting out the spreadsheet (really high-tech graph paper) and figuring out what will go in each square foot of the raised beds and how many crops we can rotate through each square if we’re really organized and diligent. (I was a bit ambitious last year.) Once again, we’re following the square-foot gardening method, planting more intensively per foot and replacing vegetables with others as they’re harvested. As usual, it’s a bit of a juggling act.
Peas were a big hit in 2008; three rows of them, then, alternating with the beans we also liked. The rest of that bed, which was overflowing with tomatoes last year, will be filled mostly with three types of basil, leeks that we’ve started under the grow lights in the basement and some greens that will get the cold-frame treatment. Can’t talk the Brit out of one square of cucumbers; watch for the glut just from that. Hopefully we can time them with the first tomatoes so a lot of them can be turned into gazpacho.
Another bed will have a mix of greens, beets, coriander, some of that rainbow chard, a couple squares of marigolds and nasturtiums to keep down the unwanted kind of bugs. Okra can get another chance since there are seeds left over from two years ago. The new crop to try will be zucchini. Good thing I have a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread. Even three or four plants could produce plenty of baseball bats if we don’t keep an eye on them.
Tomatoes shouldn’t follow potatoes, which makes it hard to grow any potatoes if two of the five beds will go for tomatoes. Scratch them, even though we liked last year’s blue potatoes. Peppers also should be kept away from tomatoes. And they like to hold hands (touch). Put four of the yellow seedlings from our friend among the bed full of strawberries and two rhubarb plants; by the time they really grow, strawberry season will be over.
As for those tomatoes…the big wave of planting will begin around April 1. I’m sure I’ll have a few spares to share.