July 2018 Garden Notes: Purple Plants and Plentitude

Zucchini, zucchini. So much seeded up from our layer of compost, and I did not have the heart to pull half of it out. Will it be golden or striped, or crossed with pumpkins to make pumpkini or zucumpkins? Squash is, after all, quite promiscuous when it comes to the exchange of genes. We planted plenty of actual cultivars, too, so we have a glut of squash of all kinds; we are just now learning what the mutant seedlings are. trombocino squashThe climbing Trombuccino is doing well, and the Raven green and the Starship yellow and the striped Romanesco. First tomatoes on the vines, and enough basil for Caprese salads, if not pesto from the garden, quite yet. Melons slowly starting their climb up the trellis. Bean vines abundant, but not too many to harvest, yet; they’ll be here before the month is out. First cucumbers, crisp and green and refreshing, and the multitude of herbs in flower! scabosciaHyssop, lavender, still bachelor buttons and scabiosa, and so many more. The lavender will be harvested for Renee’s wedding, and what we do not use in fragrant bouquets, we will hang to dry in a cool dark place, to make beautiful wreaths with once winter comes. It’s strange sometimes, to think of winter in summer, but really, it’s a lot of what we do here, preserving and preparing for the future. The bees do this, too; I had to apologize to them, as I stood with pruners in hand before the lavender. “There’s plenty of other nectar,” I told them, but they kept on buzzing, even as I cut the stalks low. bees buzzingHarvesting early means the plant will have time to grow another batch of flowers before the season is over. I tried to direct the bees’ attention to the nearby eriogonum, the native buckwheats beloved of bees and butterflies. Those native plants are doing so well, in an area of terrible soil and little irrigation, it is gratifying to see their bounty under such conditions. Also in the area, we have native salvia meliffera and salvia apiana, as well as salvia leucophylla and salvia clevelandii; all are flowering beautifully. Purple erigeron, also native, is doing well, too. If you haven't already embraced them, give these California natives a try. They are versatile, fragrant, beautiful, and provide an abundance of nectar and pollen for honeybees and native bees.

native salvia
It’s sad, but the Gophers got the gorgeous golden rudbeckia that was so prolific last year. Ate it gone, nothing left. Why they waited all year to do so, I have no idea. I miss the bright flare of orange where it grew last year, but this year’s garden palate is more blue and pink and purple. No one told this to the sunflowers, though, which are still reseeding from being planted years ago; they must be on their 4th generation of self-sown giants by now and will open bright yellow and orange right in the wash of purple kale, linaria, and Amethyst and Red Rubin basil. As they should. We have plenty of matchy matchy in the flowers and veg this year; purple beans and purple eggplant near purple tomatoes and purple sweet peas…what can we say, it was a purple planting kind of year. The vast purple cardoon is towering and flowering away, so weighty that it fell over on the replanted cayenne peppers. We staked it back up, seemingly none the worse for the wear. We are also still finding a few stray purple potatoes in the space where we grew them (on purpose) several years ago. I found a whole crop of them last year when I planted the corn, but I was surprised to find these this year, since I hadn’t noticed any foliage. Potatoes do this, and it messes up the crop rotations, where we try to keep solanums away from each other, and grown on different ground each year to minimize disease and pest problems. But we’re not perfect at this, anyway, and it is always a delight to find those deep glowing purple orbs in the soil. Plus, they match the kale and the 2 kinds of purple basil...

garden colors
The paste tomato race is off to an interesting start, with 3 going bonkers and the fourth at still half the size. The cherry tomatoes are rocketing skyward, too, and since we can’t use real fancy tomato cages out in the vegetable garden, we’ll tie the plants to the fence and to bamboo stakes to give them the support they need. Garlic and leeks planted back in the gray of winter, are ready for harvest. We let a few round purple firework heads go to flower, as we always do, but most are ready to be grilled (grilled leeks are delicious! and green onions too, with salt and olive oil…just saying!) or harvested for other uses.

allium flowers
It must be time to light up the grill, again. We’ll pull some leeks from the garden,(and wash them well) and get some more peaches from the Farmer’s Market. Sad to see the end of snap pea season, but really, we’d be fools to complain about anything, just now, in the lush and wild, untidy and beautiful garden, with the traffic rolling steadily by and the faint hum of bees searching out another flower to harvest from, and a sweet purple dusk coming down over the mountains.

Over to You

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