Last year my summer garden was just one more thing to make myself feel ashamed about. I was having a hard time dealing with every part of life and my garden reflected that: knee-high weeds as far as the eye could see. To my amazement, we still had a harvest - not anything record-breaking, but a harvest nonetheless! A few watermelons (which were overripe, but the chickens loved them!) that were hidden beneath the weeds, some cheery sunflowers with seeds for the goldfinches to enjoy, and some volunteer lettuce.
When I realized that often my garden will surprise me in just that way, I was able to take some of the performance pressure off myself. My only garden goal this year was this: Have a better garden than last year with less weeds and more harvest. Setting the bar rather low really helped me accomplish more than I thought I could.
A big part of the process of learning to love my garden has been figuring out how to make it work for me. I am not a morning person. Never have been. Likely never will be. Hot summer afternoons are absolutely not the best time to be out in the garden, but I've found that evenings after dinner are just lovely (with a good mosquito repellent... or by coming to terms with being a little itchy). Overcast days like today are also amazing for getting into the garden. I've gotten to the point of enjoying being in my garden and the feeling of productivity it gives me, instead of fretting over the inevitable weeds.
Here's what we have going on in the garden right now.
My tomato plants are various sizes, with the smallest being only a few inches tall and the tallest reaching six feet at its longest point. Some of the larger plants were long overdue for trellising, which I finally put up this week. I use the Florida Weave method of trellising and it works especially well when begun at the right time. I've tried using tomato cages but didn't like them much because: 1. They tend to rust and then you get scratched up by rusty metal. 2. They take up a lot of storage room during the off season and weeds grow up through them and make them difficult to move. 3. They are on the expensive side. 4. You often still will need to buy rebar t-posts to keep the cages standing up. A single tomato plant gets heavy.
My plants that are producing right now are ones I bought as seedlings from the Botanical Garden plant sale in the spring. The variety is Juliet, which is a Roma-type tomato, and it's a super lanky plant that has been giving us a whole lot of 3" red tomatoes. I've also got three Sungold tomato plants producing - these plants were "planted" by our chickens. Last fall we put two of our hens in the front garden area to trample down and eat some of the weeds. We fed the chickens some tomato leftovers and these Sungolds are from those seeds!
This gigantic pumpkin plant has a five foot epicenter and vines shooting out up to 20 feet! This is also something the chickens "planted." I'm not sure the exact variety, but I remember buying the pumpkin last year at the farmers' market. It is some kind of heirloom pumpkin, maturing to about 20 pounds, pale orange in an oblong shape.
Only one of my watermelon plants has thrived, but it seems to be doing decently. This variety is called Sugar Baby and it produces smaller round watermelons. Yum!
In May I planted three varieties of sweet corn: Golden Bantam (an heirloom variety), Silver Queen, and Peaches & Cream. I planted them in the backyard near the pasture in hopes that Batman our Great Pyrenees would scare off any marauding possums, raccoons, or squirrels. So far so good! The ears are tasseling and I hope will be ready to harvest in the next few weeks.
I also planted some green Oaxacan dent corn at the beginning of July; it is about knee-high now. If it grows quickly enough for the ears to develop before cold weather arrives, we'll use it as popcorn.
Butternut squash risotto, curry, pasta sauce, soup... I love it in all of the ways. And am so excited that it is thriving in my garden! There's just one plant growing, but it is HUGE and has at least six squash growing on it in various stages of ripeness.
This was my first year growing these and I had no idea how tall the plants would get! They overshadowed the green beans I planted next to them. I've been waiting for the pods to fatten up so I can shell, blanch, and freeze the beans as edamame.)
Shallots are another cooking staple that I freak out over. They have the most amazing delicate flavor... but are so pricey at the supermarket. I bought these shallots as sets at Home Depot on clearance and now they are almost ready to be harvested. I'm just waiting for the necks to dry out completely before I pull them up and cure them for storage.
We've also got plenty of dill, which is going to seed but I've been using it in quiche, lemon dill chicken, and potato salad. The sunflowers are at the end of two solid months of beautiful blooms, but the goldfinches are loving the seedheads.
What are you growing right now?