With the hopes of keeping a better log of what I am doing in the garden in order to benefit readers and to reflect on next year as I look back, I am officially starting a weekly post on what is going on in the garden.
While things have been blooming here and there over the last few weeks (tomatoes, cucumbers, peas), it has been amazing to see things open up over the course of this week. My zucchini finally got over their transplant shock and have opened up there beautiful big yellow blossoms, which means those large green vegetables are soon to come. I am debating what to do with the first one: baked with some potatoes, carrots, and sausages in one of our favorite savory dishes, or into some bread or muffins for a nice sweet treat. There are going to be many more to follow I am sure! I am the most excited for August when the blueberries arrive, so I can make my favorite baked good of all time: Blueberry-zucchini muffins.
Each of my three kinds of peppers are blossoming as well: jalepeno, Anaheim, and sweet bells (above). Last year we fertilized our sweet peppers at the wrong point and all of their buds fell off leaving only a lot of green growth. We finally got some peppers towards the end of the season, but by then our tomatoes were pretty much done for. I did notice a few buds falling off some of the pepper plants. Does anyone know what this might be caused by? We haven’t fertilized them at all, so maybe it is something else in the soil? Or maybe some sort of pest is getting to them? I haven’t done the research yet, but I am hoping it is something that can be remedied. This year we are really hoping to be able to put them in our salsa along with our own home-grown tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.
Speaking of cilantro, while it is not bolting into blossoms yet, it is pretty much at the peak of its life (as seen above), so I am thinking of freezing it early in some lime juice in order to use later on in our salsa once our tomatoes ripen. The lime+cilantro combination is so wonderful anyway, I thought it would be a great way to preserve the wonderful cilantro flavor. How do others preserve their cilantro? I am also going to let some of it go to seed in order to collect some of the seeds, while also letting it reseed itself for another round of plants.
I mentioned that I love the marigold-basil-tomato planting combination in my garden. This week while I have been trimming the tomatoes and watching as those blossoms turn to fruit (above) and picking off the tops of the basil, the marigolds have decided to open. There is something about marigolds that make me smile. In the front of my house back home we planted some marigolds along the side of the steps leading to the front door and every fall we would pick the hardened seeds pods and distribute them all over the flower bed. It has been 10 years or so and they still come up every year without needing to be replanted.
I feel like the garden has really come full circle now that the peas are in bloom once again. Last year was my first year with my own garden, and I remember the excitement that came along with those first blooms and first fruits of the year. I forgot to give the peas a higher trellis as they threaten to tip over with their heavy yield like they did last year.
I am excited to see how using the pea trellis will work as I doubled it up with my cucumbers (below). This year I purchased a few small-variety cucumber plants that will hopefully be a good variety for pickling. Those have been going pretty crazy, and I have been trying to train them on the part of the trellis where there are no peas. The rest of the cucumbers are slow going (directly seeded as my transplants did not transplant successfully), but that is probably better so that the peas have time to die off before the cucumbers really need the trellis.
Finally, I am pretty excited for the Hale’s Best Jumbo Cantaloupe (below)! They also struggled a little after being transplanted, but have come back and are starting to take off with several blossoms per plant. Andrew and I (and the dogs) love cantaloupe, so we are really hoping to get at least a couple of yummy melons from our plants.
Weeding and Mulching
Along with admiring the new blossoms and how quickly things are picking up, last week was spent weeding. We had gone on a backpacking trip the weekend before and with all the rain we had been getting I was not spending a lot of time in the garden. So I spent quite a few hours last week and over the weekend cleaning things up. The three-sisters plot was a pain to weed, since I left enough room between mounds to walk through and didn’t want to mulch with wood chips (which is what the university supplies for us to use on our paths). I wanted to get another kind of mulch to use that I would be walking on but that would be easier than the wood chips to till into the soil for next year. Last year we used straw between our plants, which worked awesome to keep out the weeds (good!), but also hid the fact that a burrow of rabbits was also growing in our garden (bad!). I also read that straw attracts spiders that can build their webs easily amongst the strands of straw (yeah!). So over the weekend I went to a few garden centers looking for some straw, along with a few other things, and finally was able to pick up a bale. It worked out nicely between the now knee-high corn (it’s not even the 4th of july yet!) and the soon-to-be vining squash.
A month or so ago, a local garden center was closing and were selling everything at 50% off, and we ended up buying a bag of cocoa mulch along with some other things. Amazing! It smelled so great when we first laid it down and has worked amazing at keeping the weeds out of our peppers and tomato plants, not to mention it looks great! We would like to get more (to put between our plants instead of straw), but haven’t found a local place that carries it yet. It would be nice to mulch a few more areas with that rather than the straw, but we will see.
Newly Planted – Tea Garden
Along with weeding and mulching, I also worked a bit on my “new” plot. In May I decided to take on another plot at the garden, this one for another three-sisters planting of popcorn rather than sweet corn, a different kind of dry bean, and pumpkins rather than spaghetti squash. I planted the popcorn roughly a few weeks behind the sweet corn, which I hope will be long enough so that they don’t cross-pollinate. So far things are going well. The popcorn is about 6″ high, so I will be planting the beans and pumpkins this coming week. There was enough room in the plot to plant some other things as well, so I spent sometime on Saturday planting a few more rows of carrots, some kidney beans (seeds donated from a friend), and some beets (which I have never had fresh before). This area gets a decent amount of shade later in the day, so I am thinking of planting my brussels sprouts here, as well as some more cilantro.
I also picked up some Lavender and Lemon Verbena (my new favorite herb) plants from a local orchard that grows herbs, and have started a little tea garden. With my last seed order I had purchased some German Camomile, so I planted that as well on Saturday (a bit late, but we will see if it comes up). There is mint growing everyone along the side of the garden, so I will put some of that in a pot and put that in the tea-garden as well. What else would be good in a tea garden? I have never made herbal tea before, so maybe I should have scoped out some recipes first, but the lovely smells from both the lemon verbena and the lavender were enough to make me want them in my garden. Not to mention the fact that most of the tea I have in my cupboard has “natural flavors” in it, which really startled me. Isn’t tea supposed to be natural already without needing “natural flavors”?
This week our harvest consisted mainly of lettuce that needed to be thinned out and almost the last of our spinach (one small row of a slow-bolting variety is holding strong). The cilantro is ready to go, so that will probably be picked this coming week. Peas are just starting to ripen – they typically last about as far as the garden gate and definitely don’t make it home. I am very excited for when my arms will be overflowing with produce as I make the trek home from the garden.
I find myself wanting to write more and more, but even this weekly update is getting to be quite long. The garden is such an exciting place, and so many things are going on all the time. Did I mention I caught a baby rabbit with a bucket on Saturday? It got released far away with the hope that it was old enough to be on its own, but the thought did cross my mind to make some sort of rabbit stew out of it. I guess I can only capture so much. 🙂