It’s a busy time in the garden, a flurry of mulching and spreading compost, and the smell of crushed tomato leaves as we pinch off the lower leaves to bury the stem deeper into the soil. We sunk a selection of paste tomatoes near the stop sign, a trial of sorts, with all the varieties in the same compost, sun and water, and dug-in fava beans. San Marzano, Amish Paste, and Roma will duke it out for top paste tomato, for this fall’s canning endeavors. We planted a crop of cayenne peppers, too, with visions of fermented hot sauce, and a fermented pepper class we hope to teach in the fall. Of course, our local markets will have plenty of peppers, but we love to see the cayennes especially, with their slender long red fruits like red tongues of flame in the garden.
We enjoyed them growing there...until someone dug them up and stole them out of the garden! The whole dang row. We are taking deep cooling breaths, like the kind you take when you eat too many hot peppers.
Of course, we got the Padrons in too, as they are some of the most cold-tolerant of peppers, and we need plenty of them to satisfy the spicy, salty cravings of all the employees and passers-by. We didn’t start any peppers from seed this year; we’ll miss those Bulgarian Carrot peppers and the other strange varieties that can only be grown from seed. But we’ll make up for it with more space for melons and heirloom tomatoes. Oh, it’s hard, it’s so hard to save space for all the things that are to come. Eggplants and melons are just now showing up, and the lovely long garden space is already feeling full, though there is still so much to plant.
It’s easier to pull the scabiosa this year; there’s plenty, so that helps. A whole patch of bachelor buttons had to come out, too-we’re sorry, bees, but we want to grow beans along that fence. There are plenty of other flowers for you…like the cardoon, that is beginning to send up flower spikes. The cardoon, you’ll remember, is like a giant artichoke, but the flower buds are not edible, so there is no guilt in letting the huge purple flowers bloom and blaze in the garden. The fava beans were all cut down and dug in by mid-May, and half of the peas, too. They were still producing flowers, but the peas had grown smaller, and woodier, and the vines were yellowing; time to pull them out, dig them into the ground, and make room for melons on the trellis. Goodbye peas, it was a good run. But if the melons go on the pea arch, then where will the pickling cucumbers go? (And why, in all my years of writing and gardening, do I still always want to put an extra c in cucumber?!) Ah, the Tetris of the garden, the sense that the season is slipping by and still more plants need to have a place to sink their roots.
It’s a joyful kind of frenzy, the summer planting season. Once the plants are in, we can breathe a little easier, and get back to the sense that the garden is a relaxing, calming place. But until the last of the summer veg go in, there’s that sense of pleasant urgency, a hurry and a puzzle of where and how to fit it all in, while paying attention to what grew where for the last few years. No doubt some keep better records than I do, and there is a real value in a yearly map of the garden, with plant families, notated, in different colors, perhaps, to assist in the rotation of crops throughout the soil, a deterrent to the buildup of pests and soil-borne diseases. We don’t get it perfect, every time, in limited space and varying sun hours, but we do our best, and so far we’ve not been struck with any great plagues, save for the usual suspects: cabbage moth, snails and slugs,
Emptied the compost bin, always a satisfying treasure hunt. There were a few sprigs of evergreen branches at the bottom, a sure way to date a pile back to the holiday season! Since I had used dairy compost on parts, but not all of the garden, I was able to use larger amounts of homemade compost in areas that needed the bulk as well as the rich organic material. The all-vegetable compost that we make at the store is not as high in nutrients as the dairy compost is, but it has amazing body and moisture-retaining capacity, and was just the thing for the far end of the vegetable garden near the pea teepee, where the soil is drier and hasn’t been worked and as intensively gardened as the nearer areas. The compost we made is always full of worms, rich and dark and delicious. It does tend to carry plenty of seeds in it, though, as it does not get hot enough to kill seeds. So we have effectively just planted amaranth, tomatillos, tomatoes, squash, kale, and an assortment of other garden friends whose seeds may have been piled in the compost months ago. We’ll let some stay, and pull the rest. The addition of this latest round of compost, a few yards spread over the area that recently grew brussels sprouts and bachelor buttons, has raised the area into a nice planting mound. The shape of the garden changes a little each year, due to the state of established plants as well as rotating crops, and this “extra” material makes it easy to shape the mounds each year into the most useful configuration. That freshly composted space will be for cukes, maybe. It’s easier to spell with the k, eh?
It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you grow beautiful, sustainable, gardens whether you have sprawling acres of farm or just a tiny plot along the highway. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.