Thursday, June 30, 2011

Delicious Potager in Full Bloom

I'm cautiously optimistic about the Delicious Potager so far this summer. It looks great. Everything is really green and has lots of blooms. But, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop, though. I can't remember a time when things didn't look generally dissappointing at this point in the growing season. There's a quote about gardening that I can't find right now that embodies the basic principle that no matter how much work you put into your garden, you still be frustrated with it's output. Or something like that. At any rate, the quote certainly resonated with me (but not enough to cause me to remember it exactly).

But looking at my garden at this point, in all it's greeness and anticipation of what will soon be growing (hopefully), I am reminded how much you really get out of it--besides fresh food. You burn an obscene amount of calories spending 30 mintues weeding your garden. It really is great exercise; one I don't have to "talk myself into doing" like the eliptical machine... And, it's so peaceful just to go out and piddle around in a garden.

Over the past couple years, since we did some landscaping to the backyard, I've been building up a flower bed along both sides of the patio. Not only does it have flowers, but it's also where I have my herbs planted. My favorite thing about the beds is that I haven't bought a single plant. Everything growing there was given to me from someone else's garden. Two of the happiest surprises were plants that a co-worker gave me last summer. It was right about this time last year when she gave them to me--not the greatest time to transplant, but they survived. Since I transplanted them from a very mature overgrown bed beside her house in the middle of the summer last year, I had no idea what they'd look like when they started blooming. But they are fantastic!

Here is echinacea that she gave me growing right in the corner of one of the beds. My dad made the sign for me for as a Christmas gift last year. The small plaque in the center of the sign says "Grow, Damnit!" That pretty much sums it up.

The other plant she gave me, and there were actually two of these, is bee balm, which is absolutely gorgeous. These pictures do not do them justice! They can be pink, red or purple, and I had no idea what colors these plants were until about two weeks ago. Both are bright purple. Both bee balm and echinacea are more than just pretty flowers. They have medicinal purposes, which I think is really cool. Maybe one of these days when I get inspired, I'll figure out how to harvest them for tea.

Here's a shot of my actual garden plot. I really wanted to expand the plot in the ground this spring, but we had one of the wettest springs on record. My little tiller won't chew up the yard to make it bigger, so I need to rent a big tiller to do that. I even tried to pull up some of the moss growing below the garden by hand to see if I could get it started enough to go over it with my little tiller, but this turned out to be harder than I thought. We need to do something about the moss, though. The Hubs doesn't seem to mind it. "It doesn't grow, so I don't have to mow it..." is his philosophy, but I think it looks trashy.

Since we never got enough dry weather to till up more garden, the Hubs actually made me another raised bed, which has worked out wonderfully. I might add another next spring, actually. I had two small ones already, which I made to fit some old windows I bought at ReStore, to make into cold frames. They have lettuce, carrots and radishes planted in them now. I've had lettuce growing in them since November! Talk about an extended growing season. There were times this spring when we had so much lettuce, we couldn't keep up with it. But it has slowed down with the hotter weather. It's still producing enough for the two of us though.

Here's a shot of the lettuce beds. It's mostly black seeded simpson, with some mesclun mix. The carrots should be ready in a few weeks. One of the beds has potting soil and compost, and the other has a potting soil-compost-sand mixture, for the carrots.

On the most established side of the garden plot, I have all cucurbits, which are all plants in the squash/cuccumber family.  I have two hills of summer squash. One is regular yellow crookneck and one is Striata d' Italia, a cousin of the zucchini. It's an old heirloom variety of seed that I ordered from Baker Creek Seeds. I can't remember which hill is which, but they are both full of blooms. I'll have to wait until I get some squash to tell them apart. I also have marketmore cucumbers, a hill of jack o lanters (I think that's what they are... can't remember exactly), and a hill of cantelopes. Did you know cantelopes are also in the cucurbit family? I've never tried to grow them before, so we'll see how they turn out.

In my new bigger raised bed, I have two roma tomato plants, a golden bell pepper plant, an anaheim pepper plant and a hill of patty pans. My father-in-law loves patty pans, and is a big gardener himself. He bought the seeds and gave me some to try. Some of the seeds were for yellow and some were for the white variety. The plants in this raised bed are really growing, probably because of the new potting soil and compost I mixed in. I have french marigolds planted throughout this bed. I bought them after a deer snacked on the vegetable plants. I also planted regular marigolds around the garden plot to keep the critters away. I don't know if it's been working, or the deer just hasn't been back. So far, no more damage, though.

On the other half of the garden plot, I have beans and swiss chard. This is the second planting of beans, so they're a bit behind. My granny always said you should have fresh beans by the Fourth of July. Well, not this year. The deer ate the first batch, and ate some of this one, too. I'm not expecting much out of these plants. They are Kentucky wonder. The swiss chard is bright lights. I LOVE swiss chard. The Hubs.. not so much.
I've got several pots around the backyard, also, and even two Topsy Turvies. One has a cherry tomato plant in it, the other has several peppers, all of which I started from seed. They are golden marconi, chocolate bell, and California wonder. I've also got three pots on the patio with tomatoes in them, but they aren't looking too hot. Its probably because the soil in those pots I've used for the past few years. I did add some compost this spring, but not much. And I potted the plants in potting soil in a cow pot, but I guess it just needs a little more. I have one each, Mountain Princess, pineapple tomato, and pink ponderosa. I started all of the tomatoes from seed this year, and all of the peppers, save the ones in my bed with the patty pans.

In a few weeks, I should be getting the first vegeables. Fingers crossed...

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