Monday, July 27, 2009

Veggie garden update: July

To say it's been a weird and wacky summer weather-wise is something of an understatement. I'm loving the absence of sizzling heat waves and stifling sleep-inducing humidity. But my veggie garden isn't, and mine isn't the only one.

I've been following the blogs of my cyber friends in Minnesota, Chicken Mama and Mama Pea, among others, and vegetables everywhere are suffering the same fate -- all show, but no go. In other words, there's lots of growth, but the plants just aren't producing.

We're having mixed success here in zone 5 but I'm trying not to stress over it. Not really. I'm just so happy to be growing something other than pigweed this year.

That said, if we had to rely on our harvest for the winter, we'd be mighty skinny (starving) come spring (September) and my hat goes out to all the farmers who base their livelihoods on such uncertainty. I admire you and aspire to be one of you someday.

But in the meantime, here's an update on my little patch of green since I planted it three weeks ago:

I mentioned that I'd planted 24 tomato plants -- no two heirloom varieties the same and of many shapes and colours. While I'll eventually get around to highlighting these lovelies in their own post (once we start harvesting them), here's a a list of what we're tending in the garden: Money Maker, Mortgage Lifter (see a theme there?), Black Zebra, Black Ruffle, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Paul Robeson (a black beefsteak), Marvel Striped, Yellow-out Red-In (can't wait to see this one!), Dr. Carolyn (a yellow cherry), Mennonite Heirloom, White Queen and Snow White (my daughter's favourites), Mennonite Cherry, Grape, Black Cherry, Thai Pink Egg, Ivory Egg, Yellow Pear, Ailsa Craig (medium-sized red fruit), Silvery Fir Tree, Elberta Peachy, Persimmon (orangey beefsteak) and Green Grape.

While all the fruits are still green, the plants themselves are growing like gang-busters. The black cherry is so tall, I've had to stake the cage to prevent it from tipping over!

The lone red pepper plant is struggling along. I'm thinking there's just not enough heat for the fruits to develop. I tell myself that it's a good thing I didn't "invest" in more pepper plants for this year and to use this as a lesson for next year -- perhaps I'll try them in a small hoop frame or better yet, a hoop house. And I wonder why I have such a ridiculous to-do list.

The strawberries are doing okay. We've only been picking one or two berries at a time but no one seems to mind (they are so sweet and flavourful.) I'd like to establish a proper berry patch next year and add several more plants but five is good to get us started and teach us the ins and outs of growing berries.

The carrots were something of a surprise. I flubbed the planting as the row of seeds got washed away into a bunch (how do you keep those tiny seeds in a row? I've read something about putting a plank over them until they sprout -- does that work?) and they took forever to germinate but they're doing okay now. At least we have enough to enjoy one meal (okay, a small side-dish) with them. Maybe I'll even share one or two with the equines (because they're not spoiled enough already.)

The beets - a specialty mix of four heirlooms (Golden, Cicoggia (with red and white concentric rings), Bull's Blood and Cylinda) are another surprise. Besides getting washed into a bunch like the carrots, they're leafing out nicely. I know they should be ready to harvest now but we put them in late. Again, they'll soon make a nice (and pretty!) side-dish.

The bean plants are a questionable success. Out of 12 seeds only about one-quarter of them germinated and one is climbing well (it's there on the right-hand stake, really.) In fact, it's climbing so well that I've got to extend the starter trellis onwards and upwards.

But we're not getting much in the way of beans yet (market gardeners Ontario-wide would be shaking their heads at this moment -- I mean, that's what is in season!) but there's still time, right? Sigh.

The zukes exploded overnight, well the plant parts did. Only two survived the transplant but wow, did they leaf out -- all the rain we've been having lately certainly helped get them established. Unfortunately, it also turned the one, lonely three-inch-long green zucchini into mush. I'm holding out for more success with the remaining blossoms.

Only one cuke plant survived the transplant (that's when we had our heat and all the seedlings got fried -- great timing, huh?) but it's a bit buried under one of the zukes. I'm not sure if moving it will set it back too much but then again, it's not like it's actually producing anything! I'll keep you posted.

The kids' watermelon is finally leafing out. When we get some more heat I'm hoping to grow at least one fruit -- I'd even take a baby one! In the meantime, the kids are excited to just watch their plant grow.

Ella and I planted potatoes as almost an afterthought -- mostly Russian Blues along with a couple of Banana and French Fingerling -- but they're starting to fill in. I thought having some gourmet/novelty potatoes might help the kids enjoy eating spuds. I mean, how many kids could resist purple mashed potatoes? Mine, probably.

We also planted some sugar pumpkins a bit late but they're starting to grow. Just.

I'm not too, too worried if they don't reach maturity (so she says now) because we have this monster growing out of the compost heap (along with the only vigorous potato plant in the place.)

Leave it to Mother Nature. Thanks, mama.

I only planted a few herbs this year but I'd like to start a dedicated medical herb garden next year. I've got some basil, oregano, chives, thyme and dill in pots by the house but the garden basil is doing great next to the tomatoes (and strangely enough, I'm always hungry for pesto after I'm done my weeding.)

Then there are the mammoth sunflowers that we grew from seed. They're only about waist high (to my height, which isn't saying much) so they still have a ways to go, but I've loved watching them emerge from the ground, leaf out and grow tall. It'll be such a reward when they finally flower.

The nasturtiums are truly the only productive ones in the lot, working hard luring aphids away from the veggies. Now if I could just convince the Japanese Beetles to follow suit! I've been meaning to dress some salad with the flowers but I'm reluctant to take the only colour away from the garden.

I'll be planting some cool-weather crops in the fall (or sooner, if this weather keeps up) as I missed planting them this spring. But for now, that's my garden. It's small and not what I expected but I tell myself I'm gaining confidence, experience and inspiration for what to try next year.

I still don't know what I'm doing half the time and the learning curve is more like a learning mountain. But when I stop thinking about all that stuff and just focus on savouring the smells of growing tomatoes and fresh basil, watching new life emerge from the soil or feeling the warm earth between my toes (yes, I garden barefoot), I am completely and blissfully content.

Now if I could only convince the kids how much fun weeding really is.


Erin said...

Isn't it crazy that north or south, we are all having troubles in the garden this year? I know some people use a glue stick on newspaper, put carrot seed on it, then "plant" the sheet of newspaper. I haven't tried it yet, but will for my late crop. I hear fabulous results with it. Try this address for Annie's Kitchen Garden,
...She has a pictorial about it, and an excellent blog with a good sense of humor! Love the pics of hands and feet...mine look like that too! said...

Thanks, Erin. I love this carrot idea. I would have never thought of making a mat like this but I'll try it too. Thanks also for the blog reference -- I wish one day to garden like this!!!

Mama Pea said...

Hey, girl, thanks for the garden tour! We're all alike; we tend to focus on what went wrong, what we did wrong, what we wish we'd done differently rather than the positives. Even though it may be a little behind, everything in your garden looks healthy. And we learn each year . . . year after year after year.

P.S. Love your toenail polish.

Annie*s Granny said...

Fiona, hello and thank you for visiting my blog! Yes, I have very good luck gluing my carrots to a paper napkin. I find the cheap napkins dissolve into nothing much faster than the newspaper. I just use dots of Elmer's School Glue. 1-2" apart in all directions, and the dampened end of a toothpick to place the seed on the glue. Once it dries, I place the seed mat in damp soil and cover it with a blend of soil and some vermiculite (about 1/4" deep), then cover it with a board. Check often for the first sprouts, and remove the board once you see them. I placed four of these mats side by side just a month ago, and had very good germination. I'll take a photo of the carrots and blog it this week. said...

I love, love this carrot idea! I can't wait to read about this on your blog -- and try it myself!
P.S. Thanks for the follow :)

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