Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Garden Report: July 3, 2010

Today was a long, hard day out in the garden. We got started at shortly before 10:00 this morning, and I only just staggered in – sweaty, tired, sore, and with a massive swath of dirt smeared across one cheek.

I’ve often wondered how it was that someone could walk around with a big old smear of dirt on some part of them and not, I dunno, feel it or something.

I didn’t feel a thing. I had no idea I had a half-a-dollar-bill sized smear of dirt on my cheek. Awesome.

Anyway! The peaches are starting to get ripe. We knew this, because look what we found when we went back there to peek at them:


Uh-huh. Birds. It’s funny how quickly I’ve gone a bit primal on this; my immediate thought was that I needed to do something about this, and fast. You would have thought the world food supply depended on what I did next, y’all. I was actually worried about the peaches.

And then two things occurred to me. One, the birds are going to get a few no matter what I do. And two, they were only gnawing on the ones on the very top – the ones they could easily reach without having to go to extreme measures like dangling upside down under the little tree or something. The ones underneath those were completely untouched.

While I was inspecting them, one fell into my hand.

And then people damage happened.


Sweet, juicy, tangy…it was on the small side, but it was perfect. (Also, I’m sure I made quite a spectacle walking around with my camera in one hand and juice dripping all over my other hand, and then I kept trying to find somewhere other than my jeans to wipe the juice off, not because I didn’t want to get juice on my jeans but because the jeans were so filthy that it would have made things ten times worse to use them as a towel.)

About this point, I looked up at my little empire. And, you know…wow.


It’s strange to think that not that long ago, it was just a dead lawn…in some ways, it’s even stranger to think of it back when it was a lush lawn. Even though a lawn would be a perfectly rational thing to expect in a suburban backyard, a perfectly normal and automatic sort of thing for someone to do with 30% of their backyard. Or even 100% of it.

Whereas this is…well, kind of crazy.

But it’s a cool kind of crazy. Except when it’s hot outside. Then it’s a too-hot-and-sweaty-but-at-least-you-can-cool-off-and-recharge-with-a-big-fresh-organic-salad-you-grew-yourself kind of crazy.

Behind me here, there is a new small patch of sunflower seeds planted. We decided to go for a sunflower patch, because one of the things I regret is that there wasn’t a good place to put a whole whack of sunflowers this year.

I love me the sunflower seeds. Hopefully, this spot will work for them…it gets a lot of sun right now and isn’t too horribly windy thanks to the narrowing of the fence at that point.

Back in the back forty(yards), the empty space is already starting to see some sprouts of the next round of corn.


While the first round is starting to play coy with us.


No silk yet, but definitely kernels peeking out, here and there. The pumpkins are moving slowly right now, and the pinto beans are having a grand time in there. It’s like a sea within a sea…


There’s some cilantro growing on the outside edges of the corn, and it just erupted with some lacy white flowers.


Eventually, those will get little “fruits” on them – and those fruits will become coriander. I use a lot of both cilantro and coriander, so I’m hoping to restock my spice jar with lots of those little seeds.

The green beans are slowing down a bit. I “only” got a little over two pounds off the bushes today…but guess what?


Blossoms. There will be at least a few more green beans before these bushes give up. Which will undoubtedly sadden their lady friends.


Which is good, because the aphids have found them – big time. Feh.

Meanwhile, their neighbor the zucchini is quietly starting its quest for world domination. Remember that little tiny nothing of a thing? That you had to squint to see last week?


It’s an actual zucchini now. And there’s about six more that are “oh, never mind us, we’re just little nothin’s here…” right now.

It might be a case of sibling rivalry, though. The butternut squash are setting fruit like they’re single-handedly fighting world hunger – and a few of them are getting big.



The vines themselves are also huge. Apparently this is a known thing about butternut squash – the vines don’t fool around. They go nuts. They try to take over every square inch of the whole garden.

But we learned our lesson last year. We’re keeping a very close eye on them, and pinching off the runners as they start encroaching on other beds.

I pulled in some potatoes this week; this is what I pulled out today.


They have much thinner skins than what I’m used to getting at the supermarket, and their texture is a lot creamier – probably because I’m digging these up before the plants are really done-done. Which is a bit of an art form and by the way, your hands get really dirty when you’re digging up potatoes. But it’s an awful lot of fun going after just one or two from the top – like a treasure hunt, or digging for fossils. Yeah, probably more like digging for fossils, because you have to be really gentle and brush the dirt away, looking for that flash of white or red…and then more brushing to see what you’ve found, get an idea how big it is and how much digging down you’re going to have to do to get at it.

I’ve found my hands work best for it, too. Just bare hands, feeling around in the dirt – my fingers can tell the difference between “just dirt” and “wait, I think that’s one of those potato-shoot-thingees.”

The brandywine tomatoes are starting to blush just a wee tiny bit.


The cherry tomatoes are hopping. (This is post-harvesting – there were about ten more little bright red nuggets of juiciness on there before I went picking.)


The yellow striped ones are still green.


I’m trying to be patient, really I am. I know how it will be, with one minute nothing but green tomatoes and the next holy crap, what am I supposed to do with 625 pounds of tomatoes each week?!

Especially with eight more beefsteak and six more “mystery but probably something large” tomatoes in the ground, plus the fifteen surviving roma bushes. I’m going to be up to my eyeballs in tomatoes all too soon…but man oh man, am I ever staring at the pot willing it to boil right now…

The assorted berries are starting to grow a little bit; they’re still awfully slow off the mark, though. I gave all of them a little berry-food today, and hopefully that and the warming weather will give them a firm shove in the “grow faster” direction.

Meanwhile…we harvested everything in the front boxes. And now they’re empty again.


The pak choi was ready and the lettuce really wasn’t quite, but we had two things that kind of hurried us along.

The first was the heat. Lettuce and heat don’t go together, and we’re charging into our three-digit phase fast.

And the other thing was…the cats. That’s right, the @*^&ing cats again. They discovered the boxes and wreaked some havoc in there – tore up a bunch of lettuce, turned one corner into a potty, nibbled and chewed and dug like crazy.

So we got what we could out of them, and tomorrow the husband is going to be installing some anti-cat wire frames just under the dirt. Hopefully they’ll really dislike walking on wires and quit messing with the boxes. And I’ll be planting some summer squash in there, which will make big old hairy bushes that aren’t a lot of fun to brush up against – between those two things, hopefully we’ll keep them out of those boxes.

OH! I didn’t take a picture of it…man I stink…but…one of my sweet potatoes suddenly decided that it would like to live after all! Three of them died outright, a fourth is still undecided, but this fifth one went, “Oh, wait…you know what? On second thought, I think I’m going to go ahead and just take off!”

It’s a small bush right now, beautiful and healthy and happy. And it made me feel happy, even though when I noticed it I had already been weeding / mulching / composting / leaf-mulching / mowing / fertilizing / yet more weeding for about four hours.

At that point, I would have said the only thing that would have made me feel happy was a triple margarita and a big old bowl of tortilla chips and salsa and possibly a professional gardener who could do all the hard, sweaty stuff while I sat in air conditioned comfort hollering instructions to him via walkie-talkie. (None of which I actually have, by the way. My life, she is sad…)

But turns out a suddenly lively sweet potato bush does a good job of cheering me up, too.

Today was one of those days where I had to make up for a fair amount of laziness on previous days – days when I’d stepped over weeds, ignored dead leaves, muttered “…later…” as I walked past something that needed trimming, propping, pruning or pulling.

It was a long day. A hard one.

But still deeply satisfying. A day that felt like it meant something.

Kind of like days spent playing with the kids, or working with animals – both hands fully on life.

Pretty good way to spend it, all things considered.


Anonymous said...

Really love your blog. Just wanted to say that the photo of the corn--those are not kernels, they are the tassles that produce the pollen. The ears of corn will be down on the stalks, not on the top of the plant. The silks are on the top of the ears. One silk thread for each kernel.

Anonymous said...

Sigh ... nothing better than working hard all day long, nose pointed at the ground, one thing at a time - then you look up and see what all that hard work has produced - a clean, tidy, WONDERFUL, EDIBLE garden made by the sweat of your brow. Awesome.
Nancy FP

RM Kahn said...

WOW, is an understatement. We have only had 1 day this Summer that had temps over 85 degrees, so my garden is S-L-O-W to grow this year. But your garden is a sight to behold! (and your manicure too)

Anonymous said...

I aspire to a garden as large and successful as yours. And what I wouldn't give right now for a delicious homegrown peach! :-)