The sun beams down, and the leaves spread out and reach up. We’ve watered deeply early in the season, so that the roots have burrowed deep beneath the surface, insulating themselves from the heat of the day and the vagaries of surface water. Flowers that began as tight buds are swelling into forms: Squash, tomato, bean. All the work that was done earlier in the season is paying off; there are few weeds beneath the layers of mulch, and tiny black irrigation lines snake everywhere, carrying water close to the roots of every plant. Late June brought a planting of corn, pumpkin, and melons that we had been waiting for; our corn may not grow knee high by the 4th, but then again, it might…Folks from Ohio, where my partner is from, actually laugh at this old adage. Corn’s overhead by the 4th of July, in the grain basket. The corn we planted here is an old heirloom variety, meant for popping rather than fresh eating. It’s meant to please the eye, too, in earthy rainbow shades; dusk, russet, amber, cloud. It all pops off white, of course, but will the colored grains make different flavors? We’ll have to close our eyes when we taste it, to find out. Corn’s a heavy feeder, so the soil was well amended with compost, and we’ll follow it up with some legumes, later, to replenish nitrogen in the soil. Being wind pollinated, corn ought by rights to be planted in blocks, where the wind can blow the pollen from tassel to tassel; we fudged a bit and made a 4x 6 rectangle of the space that was available, and snuck perhaps 4 or 5 more plants in than might have been strictly called for by the spacing chart. Being popcorn, rather than fresh eating corn, the inevitably spotty pollination from such a small patch of corn will be less egregious.
The beans have climbed up the stalks and supports provided; one beautiful purple bean vined its way up to the top of a flowering garlic scape, purple on purple, delight all around. (I have a phone pic of this if you want) This was neither planned nor practical (the garlic will finish long before the bean) but we do not mind at all, it was a vision in purple and a gardener knows to take her victories where they come. The garlic itself is a holdout from harvest a few weeks ago; it was already flowering when I pulled the other bulbs, so I let it continue. Last year we did the same with a few garlic flowers, and this year we found a block of densely seeded garlic starts in just the wrong place. I dug them up and transplanted them, wondering how they’d do, and after a brief recovery period, they thrived, yielding a fine crop of bulbs, the only ones we ended up planting this year. So we don’t know which variety they are, (here’s where better note-taking would come in handy!) but I hung them up to dry, nonetheless. Aren’t they sweet? (also have a pic of the garlic wreath I made with garlic harvest) There were not enough to make a proper braid, so I settled on a wreath. These are a soft neck variety, we can tell that much, so they should store well for several months.
The garden is full of flowers right now, which is pleasing not only to the eye but to the many bees and other insects that make this roadside plot their home. A few broken pots have found their way into the landscape as well; a broken chimenea is pieced back together to create a spiraling coil of herbs, and the base is upturned to create a place where snails will retreat to in the heat of the day. Either we are doing this for the benefit of the snails, or we have plans to harvest them from their hiding place to stop them from ravaging the lettuces…since we like to mulch with straw, among other ground covers, the snails can sometimes get a little out of hand.
The harvest season is upon us, as well, though it has not yet reached its peak. We harvest green (and yellow, and purple, and spotted) beans from bush and pole varieties, although the bush beans are a few weeks ahead of the pole beans. The peas are still producing, despite the heat, and we’re glad we planted that late crop; we weren’t sure if it would bear well, as peas prefer cool weather. The sugar snap peas are awesome, but a purple variety we planted at the same time has produced gorgeous, purple-black pods that unfortunately are not as sweet and tender as the green varieties. The color sure is pretty, though.
The patty pan, tromboncino, zephyr, crook and straight neck yellows, and the classic green zucchini are hitting their squashy stride, and we’ve been experimenting with how to prepare stuffed and fried squash blossoms, too. Our friend (and former employee, Luke) was kind enough to share a cutting of his ground cherry plant, and after some months in the greenhouse and then the garden, we’re pleased to see the little tomatillo-like husks swelling with fruit. A sweet potato slip, another experiment, is struggling along, not happy, but not ready to give up the fight yet, either. The leaves keep scorching, despite what would seem like ample water and not too hot a spot. The white turnips we planted some months ago got pulled for harvest; they had grown so ready that some of them had pushed themselves almost entirely out of the ground! (pic if you want) Unfortunately, many of them had been ravaged by the carrot fly, whose larvae burrow through the flesh of root crops like carrots, parsnips, and turnips. The best defense against this is to protect them as soon as they are planted with floating row cover, to prevent adult flies laying eggs at the base of freshly sprouted crops, but the poor turnips were overlooked in all the excitement of summer planting. Other methods of control include sticky traps (non-specific to the carrot fly), predatory mite treatments, or spinosad sprays... But did we do any of these? We did not. The affected turnips were pulled and those that were not eaten, instead of being tossed in the compost, (which is right next to the turnip bed) were sent to the green waste plant. This way, the adult flies that hatch from the affected turnips will not come back to bother our next round of planting. We’ll plant another round of root crops come the beginning of August, so they can overwinter for a spring harvest. Beets, parsnips, carrots, and turnips are all good candidates for fall planting; the trick is to find or save space among the summer crops, most of which will not have finished fruiting. This year, when the lettuce runs out, we’ll replace it with root crops, as August is just about the worst time to plant lettuce seedlings. We’ll give the soil a nice feeding of potash and make sure it is not too acidic before planting out the roots.
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