I've got to get a post up before the 8th of the month, or I'm going to start looking like a real loser. I don't even have a good excuse this time – I've just been kicked back and enjoying a few weeks free of responsibility. I've been cooking up a storm; it's a complete disgrace that I haven't posted. So I'm making a commitment to myself and my readers: a post a day for the next week. There.
Let's start with the garden. It's doing quite well, considering what a challenge the weather has been this summer. Cold and dry to start – everybody planted late. My main crops went in a full 3 weeks later than usual. It was warm and sunny for a brief period, but it's mostly just rained. My lettuces bolted before they even set heads, then rotted around the bottoms. Most everything else has grown impressively – I had a fine crop of pickling cukes, and the winter squash have been greatly productive. The pepper plants are getting loaded up; even the poblanos (which are hit or miss in this climate) – they seem to love all the rain, and they're flowering like mad and setting a lot of fruit. The tomatoes plants are heavy with green fruit, but if we don't start to get some warm sunny days SOON to start ripening them, I'll be looking at piles of bloated, rotten green tomatoes.
Pictures of the garden and a list of what's in it follow after the jump.
Here's a pieced-together photo taken from up on the deck about 2 weeks ago:
If you'd like to see the that photo really, really big, click on this ImageShack link, wait for the photo to load, then click on the photo. Presto! Giant garden.
The three horizontal beds at the top are the squashes, etc. Left to right: Cornell's Bush delicata, Thelma Sander's sweet potato squash (something new for us this year – I've wearied of kabocha and wanted to try another variety that might be as sticky sweet and delicious as the delicata), and Moringa pickling cucumbers. Each of those beds also has 4 plants of Charentais melons; so far, there are 5 tennis-ball sized babies coming along. If they ripen, it will be a major triumph.
These are the sweet potato squash (they look sort of like albino acorn squash):
I've had a major infestation of cucumber beetles this year, hundreds of them. Partly my fault for not rotating the crop, partly the fault of our early, deep, and relentless snow cover (it insulates the soil where the eggs spend the winter and prevents their dying off). I didn't want to spray poisons, so I picked the beetles, then took to vacuuming them off with the Shop-Vac, but they just kept coming. They really ratted up the vines, which miraculously produced in spite of the damage. I've read up on the little beasts, and I think if I cultivate the soil diligently once it gets very cold (to disturb the eggs and expose them to the cold), and then dust with kaolin (a non-toxic clay product) in the spring, I should be able to control them.
In the 10 vertical beds, left to right:
#1 – beets (Early Wonder, golden, and Bull's Blood), Napoli carrots, parsnips, purple-top turnips, and celery root.
#2 – salad greens: 4 kinds of heading lettuce (butterhead and romaine), mache, and a cutting lettuce mix.
#3 – Savoy cabbage, arugula, broccoli rabe, and second sowings of beets, carrots, turnips, and fennel.
#4 – cilantro (3 successive sowings), basil, Nickel filet beans (2 sowings, the first just now starting to produce!), fennel (which will become Fennel & Sweet Onion Relish shortly).
#5 – shallots and onions (3 varieties of cipollini, plus giant sweets).
#6 – cape gooseberries, a late sowing of Napa cabbage, and cauliflower (heads are about 4" across).
#7 – poblano and jalapeño peppers, Bambino eggplant (a great variety for this climate, especially when we have a summer like this one; the plants are compact and start to produce early, and the fruits are mature when about the size of a jumbo egg.
#8 – more poblanos (yeah, I want a lot of them – for stuffing, and just for having roasted strips of them around to tuck into sandwiches, omelettes, whatever), hot cherry peppers (for pickling!), and Rosa Bianca eggplant, a dense creamy beauty (if it ever deigns to produce).
#9 – true to my word: 6 plants of Jaune Flammée tomatoes.
#10 – 1 Sun Gold cherry tomato, 1 unnamed red cherry, 4 Green Zebra.
I finally wised up on the tomato front and forwent any of the varieties that produce giants – it's just not worth it for the interminable wait and the invariably rot-pocked and water-logged tomatoes. I planted nothing that will get much bigger than a tennis ball, and thank goodness given the season we're having.
To the right of the tomatoes and out of the picture are a large patch of rhubarb and two more beds that were home to this year's garlic. We harvested starting about 3 weeks ago, and it's all bundled and hanging to cure beneath the third-floor deck. Roughly 200 heads (there are 8 – 10 heads per bundle here):
We got a beautiful crop, having planted in pure compost in the fall. 4 varieties – Russian Red, German Extra Hardy, Marino, and an oddball local called Elmer's Topset – all set uniformly huge (and some gigantic) heads.
At left is a head of Elmer's Topset that's nearly 3.5" across. Last year's crop was wimpy and disappointing, and we ran out of garlic around the beginning of April. I'm relieved that this year, even with taking the best and biggest heads for seed, we should have enough pungent beauties (if we store them carefully) to carry us through until next season's harvest.
We're not quite inundated with produce yet, but we've had some mighty fine salads. I've used a few of the big onions, and I picked the first eggplants today. Three cherry tomatoes have come ripe – I ate two and selflessly allowed TJ to have the third. They're...okay. You can definitely taste that they've had too much water – they're ever so slightly insipid. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for sun. In another week, I should be complaining about the excess.
Today I finally got around to sowing more seed (the two beds from the garlic were sitting forlornly empty and there were bare patches elsewhere). So: more beets, carrots, broccoli rabe, beans, salad mix, lettuce, mache, cilantro, basil, and I'm even taking a chance on a second crop of cucumbers. The package says 40 - 50 days; if we have a reasonably warm September, I might luck out. If not, nothing lost.
Here's a salad we had as dinner the other night. From the garden: roasted beets, lightly steamed tiny filet beans, mache; tossed with toasted walnuts, Consider Bardwell goat cheese; dressed scantily with hazelnut oil and just a sprinkling of balsamic and sherry vinegars and a dusting of sea salt and ground pepper. Stay tuned.