Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Fruits of One's Labors

In between travelling the country and the world this summer, I've been keeping a little veggie garden. I built a raised bed, about five by seven, in a spot that gets as much sun as any place in the backyard. I raked all of the backyard leaves into the bed in the fall, so there was ample compost by spring time. I should have turned the leaves into the soil more than I did; that would have given the plants a stronger base to root in , but, as it worked out, it was okay. In the spring, I planted three tomato plants that I had started indoors, a row of peas from seed, four broccoli plants that I had started indoors, several spinach plants from seed, a patch of bush beans from seed, and a row of carrots. I also tried to root garlic, but, that didn't work out so well.

The spring and early summer was very wet and very cold, so things took a long time to really take off, but when they did, several plants REALLY took off. Unfortunately, much of the taking off happened while we were in Italy, so, the garden was pretty hairy when we returned. One good thing, however, was that I had planted most of the garden in plots rather than rows, so a larger surface area of the garden was occupied by crops. This kept the weeds way down.

The tomatoes took off like the vines that they are, and in no time, they have managed to attempt to claim nearly every inch of the airspace in the little 35 square foot patch. Only vigorous caging, staking, and tying has managed to keep them somewhat tamed. But, what I deal with in vine growth pays off in fruit production. Now that the weather has finally warmed up a bit, I expect to be harvesting red, ripe tomatoes well into fall. I am growing a bit impatient, however. A ripe homegrown tomato is probably my favorite food on Earth. I check their status at least four to six times a day!

The broccoli ran away. Only one of the plants made even a half decent head, and that started to yellow up while we were in Colorado. We managed to harvest it, and it wasn't too bad, but, it wasn't peak, it was past peak. the other plants just grew. They are about four or five feet high, and have some really impressive leaves on them, but, no heads at all. I might pull them and replant for fall, but, if I do that, I better do it really soon.

The bush beans also took advantage of our absence to run out into a sort of pole bean type of growth. The variety I bought claimed they were bush beans, but, I think they were half bush, half pole, because these suckers just ran all over the ground, but in a bushy kind of way. As it were, I had to build a fence to separate the beans and the broccoli, since they were getting really chummy with each other. Also, the beans were beset by some sort of leaf-eating beetle that did a number on the fruit, too. We managed to harvest a few pounds of beans, but, they weren't always pretty.

The peas were a pleasant surprise. they were a low growing variety, and they produced a good amount of fruit, but, the vines seemed to wither and die quickly and without notice. I never have planted peas before, so, this was a learning experience for me.

The carrots...well, they didn't go so well, but, that may be because I harvested them too early. They weren't very large. But, I have a new crop in, so, we'll give them more time and see what develops.

The spinach was good, but, like everything else, they started to bolt while we were in Italy. we still managed a harvest of some of the plants, and it was tasty spinach. As well, I have a new crop of spinach in next to the carrots. We'll see what fall brings us.

We also planted some containers with basil, parsley, and two varieties of cherry tomato plants that we got from our CSA (they are already ripe and delicious). I tried to grow rosemary from seed, but none of it sprouted. Bad batch of seeds, I guess.

All in all, it's been an enjoyable season in the garden. Monkey likes to call me Farmer, so, today, while she was holding a wheelbarrow up so I could spread some compost, I called her Farmer's Wife! I hope to take what I have learned this year and make a better garden next year. I might try some new things, I might try some old things in new ways. But, first, I am going to gorge myself on red, ripe Beefmaster tomatoes!


Nuncio said...

Beware of the squirrel...

La Fashionista said...

A fresh, ripe tomato is a heavenly thing. We went tomato crazy at the farmer's market on Saturday and will probably go back for more more more tonight. It's great that you have them growing right there in your back yard! I'm glad you've created a veggie garden as a part of your home!


La Fashionista said...

A favorite childhood memory is eating red radishes from our backyard garden. We barely washed the dirt off and trimmed off the root tips and leaves before eating them immediately out of the garden. Raw, just by themselves. Sometimes we'd put a little salt on the them. (I know my mom would put them in salads too, but there was nothing like eating only the radishes.) This - and my dad's penchant for sharing raw ground beef with me as my mom was trying to cook it - may have contributed to my strong stomach.

I think that memory may be the main reason I still love red radishes to this day. Whenever I see radishes now, I have a strong association with happiness and an urge to buy them.

Ah, the joys of a veggie garden! This is a good memory for me in the middle of this day.

Thanks, Reda!


sunshine said...

I couldn't help thinking your next installment will be similar to Ms. Kingsolver's chapter about living in a red state in her latest book about when the tomatoes finally ripen. Start prepping now!
Our garden sounds similar- except for things ripening while in Italy- - we've been here the whole time.
But I smiled when I read about the carrots b/c we have about a third of our original crop as Avery keeps eating them- despite their tiny-ness. They are an heirloom variety so they are a very pretty purplish color and I've been told between bites that they are very delicious.
Tonight we had beans picked this afternoon with dinner- along with a ridiculous chicken and apple salad. Not too shabby. Summer is good.