Garden Notes August 2018: Pumpkin Taming and Rose Training

The garden’s a wild riot this time of year, especially with the tendency a certain gardener has, to let herbs and flowers and veggies set seed to spring up at a later date. I had to get ruthless the other day, and pull out a dozen blooming parsley in the front strip; it was just getting too crazy in there, and the purple bush beans needed room to grow. The deep dark purple beans have been featured prominently recently; we fermented a batch of Purple Dilly Beans at the Santa Cruz Fermentation Festival, and as the day progressed, you could see the purple color leaching out from the bean pods and into the brine, staining the liquid pink as the beans turned green. We also used them in the recipe for a bean salad featured in this month’s journal, where they underwent a similar color transformation. bean saladReally, I think that’s as close to fame as any bean seeded in Ben Lomond has a right to expect. Back in the garden, a fair bit of coriander had finished blooming, and that came out as well, and some borage and a weedy amaranth or five; for all the armloads of green material that I carried out of the area, there is hardly an equivalent amount of space left clear. There is a little bare spot, but I think the zucchini will sprawl into that space given just a week or so, so I will resist the temptation to plant more fast-growing bush beans.

bare spot
I also cleared out a bunch of the bachelor’s buttons, too, from that same small front garden strip. I saved the seedheads of the dark purple variety and scattered them in places I’d like to see purple next year. I don’t officially save the blue seedheads anymore, as they are so plentiful, but I trust they will pop up here and there, in blue perpetuity, like the Cerinthe that try to take over the garden, every year. A lot of the dark purple bachelor’s buttons were harvested for Renee’s wedding, so I took special care to make sure that the remaining seedheads found their way to a good spot. seed headsAh, Renee’s wedding. It was so beautiful. There’s nothing like love to make you feel the love. We used a lot of native plants in the floral design, and the Eriogonum species that grace the garden here (there are several) featured prominently, as did some carrot flowers and yes, even a purple kale leaf or two, and some cardoon flowers, and some dark Opal basil. wedding flowersIt wasn’t clear whether or not the sweet peas would last until the end of July, but they did, oh they did, so we also got to include some dark burgundy, purple-black, and wine-red sweet peas in the wedding bouquets, smelling so sweetly in the morning. We used huckleberry branches with their neat leaves to adorn the food tables and dried lavender and fresh rosemary and blooming oregano from the demo garden, and just a few of the apricot colored roses that line the fence outside the pottery areas at the store. wedding flowersNectarines, peaches, and plums lay on the tables, too, and after the ceremony was over, we took them extra fruits home and made a few batches of jam to give the happy couple. A white peach/ginger/bourbon blend was a particular favorite, but we also made a batch with lavender and lemon peel and rose geranium that turned out pretty special, too. It’s hard to go wrong with summer stonefruit. Just when I thought I was done with peach jam, a coworker brought in an entire flat of peaches from her tree at home. Swoon! Now there will be a peach jam in all the pantries. And maybe some turned into dehydrated fruit rolls, as well...

peach jam
Yes, and speaking of roses that line our fence, we had to perform some major surgery on one Cecil Brunner rose. Cecil is a gigantic, beautiful, sprawling beast of a rose, whose lush growth contrasts with the delicate pale pink sprays of lightly fragrant petals that cover the vine for long seasons of the year. Cecile is meant to sprawl, of course, but we have to balance the needs of both rose and humans; the rose vine is trained to the fence and a tall arbor, so that people can park underneath it, along the street. Cecil has only had a trim, not a proper pruning, for several years, and this year the long, arching vines ended up hanging down in a way that threatened to scrape up some paint jobs, not to mention eyeballs. So I took the pole pruners to ole Cecil, and removed a huge trailer full of rose prunings. Strangely enough, it’s not a bad time of year to prune a rose; it may even encourage a later fall bloom in some varieties. Ideally, a gardener would not remove quite as much as I had to at one time; it’s best to remove no more than 30% at a time, but I had to take 50-60% of the rose off at once. However, I am quite sure that Cecil, with the long-established rootstock, can handle it just fine. In fact, new growth is already starting to sprout from the cut shoots. cecil brunerThe space seems so open without the tornado of green vines and pink flowers, but already I can imagine that in a year, we’ll be ready to prune again. We’ll try not to let it go so long, this time.

Gophers were making the yarrow look just awful. We put up with it for most of the season but finally had to admit that the big brown patch was not inspiring. We cut the seedheads off and scattered the seed in the dry area at the end of the demo garden, where a wild yarrow might thrive. (This particular variety, native to Sonoma county, is especially good at reseeding itself.) We dug up the big patch and transplanted it to another garden; it was not in the right spot, really, and between the Gophers and the fact that it was usually covering up half the path, the time seemed right to make a bold move. The transplant is doing well, and the many offspring that already have popped up in other areas of the garden will carry on its legacy.

yarrow heads
I harvested most of the garlic and shallots before they bloomed (are you surprised that I left just a few to bloom with their purple pom-poms?) When the stalks start to dry, I let the soil dry out for a few days, so that the garlic will have a longer shelf life. Then I harvest the bulbs and hang them to dry in the sun for a day or two. This helps prevent mold issues in the stored garlic cloves, and it’s way easier to just brush off any soil that has stuck to the bulbs, rather than try to wash it off and then dry the bulbs completely. Last year, I made a garlic wreath, but I haven’t gotten that fancy yet, this year. The Moroccan Fermented Garlic Paste recipe turned out so darn well, I may just make a few batches of garlic paste instead. And it’s never hard to find a home for shallots.

The last of the dandelion went to seed, and we were surprised to see it bloom blue, and not yellow! Turns out, the plant commonly sold as dandelion greens is actually technically a chicory! But what’s in a name? A chicory by any other name would taste as bitter.

wild flowers
The border of thyme and alpine strawberries was a wonderful idea if I do say so myself. Those tiny plants make so many red berries! Once all the parsley, coriander, and bachelor buttons were removed, it had just a bit more space to breathe, and the little plants are covered with handfuls of fruit, enough for a little snack every morning, when we go out to check the mailbox and turn on the irrigation system, if necessary.

Tomatoes took their sweet time, but they are finally starting to put out reliable fruit. green tomatoesThe pumpkin threatened to eat the pepper patch, but we staved it off by moving the vine sideways, like a bunch of vegetal lion tamers. Back! Back, you voracious pumpkin! Zucchini keeps hiding the young squash, so that every few days there is another 2-footer peeking out from under the leaves. Thank goodness for Zucchini Relish! and of course the Zucchini Chocolate Cake. I looked up the zucchini cake recipe from our website the other day, and realized that it was one of the first recipes that I’d ever put up for the site. Shot from an old cell phone, in my home kitchen (and not very artfully, I must admit) it took me back to realize how far we’ve come, and all the wonderful things we’ve gotten to make and eat along the way. The photos could be better, but that recipe is still a winner. The garden is different every year, and the harvest, and the tastes that fascinate and excite us change from season to season and year to year. What a ride it’s been, and continues to be! demo gardenThanks for being a part of the journey.

Over to You

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