Garden Update, June 2011

A visual update on the progress of our backyard garden from May to June: we are about to go away on vacation for a few days, and even though a family friend will be coming to water, I am a little worried about what we will see when we come back.

As you can see, everything is growing nicely. We have been harvesting lots of lettuce and spinach for salad, although the spinach is starting to get leggy. The first of the shell peas are ready to harvest, the scarlet runner beans appear to be growing at an astonishing rate of something like 3″ per day, and the bush pickling cucumber plants (hidden behind the lettuce in this photo) are starting to bloom. I did lots of thinning and transplanting in June, and the beets and carrots in the first two rows of the top photo are doing very well; I was able to save enough of the smaller beet shoots to transplant a row into our community garden plot, and although everything I transplant seems to wilt back an awful lot, practically everything seems to have survived the process in the long run.

In the second bed is mostly peas and red onions, with some Kentucky runner beans and broccoli for good measure. You can’t really see the broccoli because there were so many plants that I thinned them drastically.

I can’t bear to throw out perfectly healthy plants, so I transplanted a shocking number of thinned broccoli sprouts to small pots, thinking I might put some back in the garden when the peas come out. They are on the leggy side, but seem to be doing fine, a good thing since the ones I left in the garden shriveled up pretty quickly from the heat, and I am not sure if they will make it.

The greens I planted in the herb garden are coming up nicely: chard, mesclun mix and tatsoi. The lettuces were from a two-year old packet and I wasn’t entirely sure if they would cooperate, but you can see I have four rows that are doing very well, much more vigorous than the other two. There is a row of tatsoi on the other side of this garden, but most of that got washed away in a heavy rain we had a week or two back; it poured for about 24 hours and the gutter over the back porch overflowed right into my poor garden. I was able to divert some of the huge puddle with a tarp and some sheets, and the tatsoi was really the only casualty.

In the gap left by the drowned tatsoi, I decided to experiment with a head of living lettuce from the grocery store: this was a hydroponically grown butter lettuce with the roots still intact, and after we cut away everything but the last inch of the plant, I popped it into the ground and started watering it. Within a day, the center of the head had started greening up again, and in less than a week, a good inch or more of new growth has started coming up. We are going to have to call that a 2-for-1 deal and get some more!

Our pepper plants are blooming like crazy. This one is a hot pepper, I think, and our biggest specimen thus far. Just to the left of this plant is a bell pepper that dutifully put out two green peppers, but both of them were snipped off by squirrels once they reached walnut size. To add insult to injury, the second pepper was only taken a few feet away before it was abandoned.

Along with the butter lettuce and a hydroponic watercress plant I stuck in the backyard pond, I also stuck a few seeds from the pantry into eggshell cups. The cumin and caraway have not done anything to date, but the mustard seed sprouted into some very healthy little plants, which can either be eaten for greens or allowed to flower for more mustard seeds. Kind of fun to play around with the seeds in the spice cabinet!

These are the last of the starts that we haven’t planted yet: a few scraggly tomatoes, some tiny eggplants and peppers we don’t have spots for yet, and four cauliflower transplants I had left over from thinning the row at the community garden.

The grapes are making good progress; these are purple Concord-like grapes that my parents use every year to make and can grape juice. The Montmorency cherry tree at the back of the house has green cherries that are just starting to blush, but it is really being attacked by aphids on the leaves and robins on the cherries. We have been dipping branches in soapy water and tying aluminum foil all over to deter the pests, but only time will tell how well it works. I have never really worked with anything but Bing and Rainier cherries, so I am hoping to get a decent harvest of Montmorencys to play with.

And just to bring this post back around to the food, here is the lunch I made after transplanting broccoli: Sauteed salmon belly, beet and broccoli sprouts, with a creamy sauce of lemon and Grana Padano over gemelli noodles.

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