The monthly Picture This Photo Contest sponsored by Gardening Gone Wild has the theme Abundant Harvest. I can’t say we currently have sufficient output from the vegetable garden to qualify for abundant harvest. I could harvest all those Cosmos that I pictured in my previous post but that seems a bit wasteful — to pick all those flowers just for a photo op. So instead, consistent with the GGW guidance, I explored some of our previous harvests.
I went through our many picking basket shots
and the various apple baskets
and the many flower bouquets
and even the wild wineberries that we harvest.
I even looked at the fiddlehead fern salad that we enjoyed in Boston
but I found nothing that so profoundly expressed the theme of Abundant Harvest as this image from the Lake Market in Calcutta. This will be my submission to the October Photo Contest…
To fully appreciate this scene you have to understand that these vegetables arrive in the middle of the Calcutta metropolis from market gardens in the suburbs only by a difficult early morning journey (the traffic is incredible) and then they will all be sold that day (forget about refrigeration) for use later the same day. While Calcutta may not be on everyone’s tour list for the first trip to India I guarantee that a visit to Lake Market will make you think carefully about what you have gained and what you have lost with the demise of the farm/market economy. Most of the crop land around Calcutta is incredibly productive with as many as three crops a year. We toured one farm that was about as big as our own 7 acres and it made us think twice to realize how many people were supported by the same quantity of land in the suburbs of populous Calcutta.
I saw a reference to Summer Fest on A Way to Garden and since this was the Tomato week for that celebration I thought it would be good to talk about the tomato harvest here.
Last week we saw the movie Julie & Julia (Great flick!). It certainly sets a high standard for appreciation of food and it’s preparation (though I probably saw more butter than I’ve eaten in my lifetime). We have currently been relishing our own incoming produce and the many minor variations of cooking everything that’s being harvested. It’s mostly tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, beans, onions, and eggplant. The evening meal is some variation of tomatoes, peppers, squash, onions and eggplant stir fried together in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with garlic and herbs to taste (Beth uses fresh stuff from her herb garden and I tend to grab the dried products off the shelf). For protein we throw in some tofu or chicken meatballs and a little mozzarella cheese. If I’m the one doing the mixing some kind of nuts will be involved (pine nuts, hazelnuts, or walnuts). Every night is slightly different but always delicious. The ritual ends with us lifting the plate to our lips and draining the plate of the last of the luscious tomato-based sauce. Altogether with cutting up this takes two people maybe 15 minutes to prepare and could not be much better.
However, even with this kind of eating we’re not even close to using the produce. Beth cooked up a couple of batches of tomato sauce for the winter this week. This gives her more opportunity to tap into her herb garden. And we’ve been giving stuff away as well. And yet, the refrigerator overfloweth. I feel bad for the folks in the northeast who’ve been hit by blight. We were fortunate that everything was grown from seed and we have had sort of a mixed bag of rainfall — good rain early on and a lot of dry sunny days in July/August — which has had me doing hand watering but it’s been good for the tomatoes and peppers. I don’t think we’ve ever had peppers this nice.
The hot weather has made it less desirable to work in the garden and it is starting to get away from me. But I also know that we are going hiking in the west in a few days so that there is only so much I can do anyway.
With all the flowers in the yard doing their thing with the gay profusion of high summer it’s worth noting that there is that ‘other garden’ where all the veggies are coming into the house on a daily basis. Now that the vegetable garden is fully fenced off from the deer (thanks Benner Gardens) for the first time we are getting yields that are reminiscent of when we first moved here. That is to say more than any two people could possibly use.
Of course even though we relish the taste of the fresh beans,corn,squash, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peas, and so on, it was never just about the food coming in. It’s the whole process of putting seed in the ground, feeling that fertile earth between your fingers (and under your fingernails), anticipating the rainfalls that make it happen, and then seeing the flowers that lead to the veggies. And along the way are all the birds and insects that come with the process.
Over time we have added more and more flowers to the vegetable garden. I guess it was a gradual recognition that a 5000 square ft garden produces more food than we really can use. I mean it’s hard to really justfiy 20 tomato plants… :). We now plant a large cutting row in the garden in addition to the sunflowers, dahlias, and gladiolas which have their own dedicated row. Both contribute to the birds and butterflies that we see in the ‘vegetable garden’.
The cutting row is chiefly zinnias, cosmos and marigolds, but any of the wildflower seeds that can compete with them are encouraged to grow as well.
Now it may be the careful digging of all those rows or just possibly one of the rainiest May-June periods that I can recall but the garden as a whole, flowers and veggies, is growing wonderfully well.
This year I took a good look at the old strawberry row replete with weeds that were very well established. I decided it was time to start a new row. This had two major positives right off the bat. It meant I didn’t have to weed the old row and the weeds would definitely have a slower start on the new row. On the other hand it’s a fair amount of labor to put in a new row if you do it well. So I compromised by putting in a partial row on the theory that even unweeded the old row was going to yield some berries.
I usually plant a double row with 1 foot spacing so even a partial row is 75 plants to be planted by my extensive labor force (me). The ground has to be well-tilled so it has all the usual problems of trying to get plants in the ground around the April rainstorms. I finally got them in about mid-April. And then added pine bark mulch to try to suppress the weeds for a while. I’ve used straw in the past but it’s tough to find bales with no grass seeds.
As it turns out we did get a fair amount of strawberries from the old plants and now the new plants are beginning to yield.
Now a better man than I would have pinched off the blossoms so that the plants could go stronger for next year but I confess to limits in my ability to delay gratification.
The varieties I put in are not particularly special (Earliglow, Allstar, and Sparkle) but hey anything you plant in your home garden is so much better than what you find in the supermarket. And there is nothing quite like picking a hot strawberry and eating it in the garden.
Another daily yield right now is coming from the salad crops. The combination of actually weeding them and the regular rainfall has given us some of the best greens we’ve had in a while.
And with peas and asparagus there has been ample reward to going out to the garden every day… 🙂
We’ve had a series of four warm days and cold nights, bringing the Magnolia into bloom and then burning the flower tips at night. But it’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow which put me into pressure mode to get a lot of planting done this week. The Seneca Hills order arrived last weekend so I planted out 3 Molly the Witch seedlings (Paeonia mlokosewitschii), 3 Primula sieboldii, and 3 Lathyrus Vernus (thanks to a recommendation from A Way to Garden. Based on the size we will be a long time in arriving at a Molly the Witch flower…
I also planted out the two Ninebark shrubs that go by the new Garage bed that covers up the Woodchuck holes and the unsightly blackberries and wild roses.
And today I planted an Moorpark Apricot, three Cherries (Blackgold, Lapins, and Montmorency), a Champion White Peach, and a Royal Filbert to fill-in and rebuild some of the orchard. I also added a grapevine (Golden Muscat) and a Brown Turkey Fig because Henry Mitchell once again in my evening readings said everyone should have a fig and vine. I then tilled two 50′ rows in the garden and planted peas, lettuce, and spinach, leaving some space for succesion planting. And then as one last task before the rain I moved two more Wood Poppies to the forest, along with more Monarda and also a clump of Spiderwort. Tonight I’m tired…
In between I’ve been enjoying some of the fruits of prior years of labor. The daffodils are starting to come in number.
But I have to say that I am becoming very fond of a couple of clumps of small daffodils (Little Gem) that appear in the woods about this time of year. They are very delightful to encounter on a walk through the woods.
And as one last item to share here is one of the Hellebores that was planted last year, a seedling of Betty Rancor.