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Growth

A snapshot of my garden on June 6th:

That same spot, one month later, on July 6th:

See what I mean about the weeds?  Yeesh.  You can also see two of my trellising methods for the tomatoes.  Maybe one day I’ll get around to posting about them, you know, when I finish the weeding (hahahaha!).

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I’m sure it is somehow my fault, but this has been a weird year in my garden,  to wit:

I harvested my first tomatoes at the end of June, and I have yet to pick a single squash or bean.  Soooo bizarre.

Look:  Tomato:

And my beans:

Look up at the top of the image- this one is only now sending the first climbing tendril out.  What is up, beans?

Well, actually I’m pretty sure it is because my tomatoes look like this:

while my beans are lost in the weedy mire off to the right and they look like this:

At least they did.  Yesterday I spent a hot, sweaty hour doing some weeding and mulching, which is why that first bean looks so pleased.  I think they will be much happier.   At least they better be, ingrates!

And while I have yet to harvest a zucchini, I will very, very soon.  This 8-Ball looks almost ready…

I have to confess.  The weed situation is OUT OF CONTROL.  It is not easy to reclaim a garden not used for 5 years.  The tomatoes got the earliest TLC, while everything else languished.  The squash, peppers, and eggplants are in bad shape still.  And the weather has been hot, hot, hot these last few days, so I haven’t been able to spend more than half an hour out there during any given block of time.  This is the crunch time, I suppose.  When the weeding and the trellising and the pruning and the harvesting all smashes into you at once and you think WHY O WHY DO I DO THIS?!  Then you eat your first sauteed zucchini or bowl of green beans and you go “oh yeah…”

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Berries, berries, berries.  In other words:  BEST HARVEST EVER!   The cultivated blueberries are ripening, the black raspberries are in full gear, and I am in heaven.  I adore berries.  They are my favorite fruits.  And I buy them exactly never, because I cannot believe how expensive they are (and they are usually gross from the supermarket anyway).  I’ve been going out ever day and harvesting the berries as they ripen.  We don’t have a lot, especially since the blueberries are only starting, so I’ve been freezing my daily harvests until I have enough to make some jam.  At the moment I’ve probably picked about 2 pints. 

Most days I forget to bring a vessel out to the garden with me (as I’m usually running into the garden the moment I get out of my car) so lots of my shirts have berry stains on them now.  Oh well!

I did a lot of weeding last week (though not nearly enough…sigh) so I actually got a nice veggie harvest when I cleared a big patch of Purslane from the base of my watermelon plants.   Wait?  Purslane?  That vigorous weed?   Yup- if you haven’t tried Purslane already, you really should.  I think it is quite tasty, and I hate most greens, and on top of that it is CRAZY good for you.  And it makes weeding a little more fun.   Toss it into a salad, soup, or stir-fry. 

I think Purslane is a particularly beautiful plant- that shimmer isn’t a trick of the light.  The succulent leaves literally sparkle. 

Want to share your harvests?  Go see Daphne!

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First, the ethics.

So just say that there is a stand of magnificent, overburdened raspberry canes about 300 yards from your house.  Say these raspberry canes are behind a stone wall in an obviously disused and abandoned farm, complete with derelict heavy garden equipments and the skeleton of a greenhouse.  Say these raspberries have been picked by no-one.

Say the only way in is guarded by a big old “NO TRESPASSING” sign hung across the only entrance.  What do you do?

While you ponder this, let me thank the raspberry gods for the sprawling nature of their lovely plants, and the builders of the stone wall, who made it low enough for several canes to hang over.

There were more, but 300 yards is a long way to go with these beauties winking at me.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, OUR raspberries (of the black variety) are just starting to trickle in, and I picked the first outliers of the blueberries.  Ok, maybe not the first, because those 7 or 8 got eaten right at the bush this weekend.  Truly, I’m impressed these stayed alive long enough to be photographed.

Asparagus is still growing, though it is certainly slowing down.  We’ll only get a few more harvests out of it this year.  It has taught me one thing, though.  The MOMENT I settle down in a place I know I’m going to be for a while, it will be the first thing I plant.

Want to show off your harvests?  Go visit Daphne!

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So here’s my big, dark gardening secret:  I hate tomatoes.  I mean I loathe them.   I think they are the most repulsive, awful thing in the world.  And oh my, do I hate myself for it.  I want to like them so badly.  They are so beautiful, and healthy, and versatile.  They are easy to grow and a dream to cook with.  And I am so jealous of those of you who love them.  Every year I promise myself “This is the year!  This is the year I will learn to love tomatoes!”  And, alas, it never comes true.

I just think they’re gross.  The texture, the flavor- it doesn’t matter how they are prepared.  Fresh off the vine, cooked to nothingness in a sauce, sun-dried…hell, I don’t even like ketchup!  But I grow them every year, because how can you not grow tomatoes?!  Usually it’s 2 or 3 plants, but then I tell the chef at an Italian restaurant that I’ll grow a garden for him…

We have, and I finally planted the last of them yesterday, 89 tomato plants (Yes.  The unevenness of that number makes me cringe- I think I’ll have to cram an odd one in somewhere just so I can say 90).  EIGHTY NINE.  That is so many tomatoes…so many.  They are still small now, but I know in a month I’ll be out in that garden cursing and weeping as I try to keep up with the trimming and the trellising and the horn worms.  But my screams will not be heard as I am lost forever in a tomato forest!

Anyway, I’m digressing!  When Jeff asked what varieties we should grow I just wrinkled my nose and threw a Totally Tomatoes catalog at him.   He got the message.   He ordered the seeds, his stepmom started them for us, and I had not a care in the world about them until they all made their way over to my house and I stood and looked at them and went “OH MY GOD!  WHY ARE THERE SO MANY!?”

I informed him, nicely of course, that there was no %&^&%# way they were all going to fit, so he said variety was more important.  I chose the best looking 12 or 15 of each variety (or less, if we had less) and planted those.  The rest have been slowly given away (or grown spindly and sad on that same picnic table- WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TOMATOES?!).

We are growing many different varieties this year- I have about a dozen+ plants of each variety, though two have quite a few less.  They are:

Sungolds (of course!)- the ubiquitous and wonderful cherry tomato and one of the few I have ever managed to eat without wanting to barf all over the garden.

Sungellas– a hybrid of sungold that produces “golf ball sized” fruits

Azoychka– a bright yellow Russian variety

Arkansas Traveler– a medium-sized standard red

Rainbow– a large-fruited orange tomato with red spots and streaks

Black– another Russian variety with mahogany colored fruits

Black Sea Man– yet another Russian variety, this one with dark green skin and pink shoulders

Rose (though I only have three of these)- a beautiful pink Amish variety that is similar in texture and flavor to Brandywine (the only tomato I have ever eaten that I actually LIKED).

And finally, a mysterious variety labeled “HR.”  I have no idea what that means- any guesses?

So far there are lots of fruits on the Sungolds and one rather large fruit on the Rose.  All of them are flowering with the exception of the Black Sea Man and the “HRs”  which were the ones neglected until yesterday.  Everyone seems to be really happy so far, with the bizarre exception of a few plants (in totally random locations) that are being nibbled on by some critter.  We have lots of deer out here, but I didn’t think they would do anything to tomatoes- maybe I’m wrong?

The few plants that have been nibbled on are in totally random spots and only three are next to each other.  This happened about a week and a half ago and I haven’t seen any other bites.   Only two or three branches were eaten off each of them (though of course they were usually my main growing branches).  Anyone seen this before with theirs?

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Not much here in zone 6A.   Our garden is almost exclusively hot weather plants- tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, zuchinni, and beans- which makes for a lot of waiting around.  Not that there aren’t a MILLION things to do this time of year (especially when SOMEONE decides it is a good idea to gallivant off to Europe in the middle of May- not that I’m complaining, mind you!), so I can’t say I’m not a little relieved that harvesting isn’t part of my life right now.  I am quite content to try and tackle the weeds and get those last few tomato plants in these days!

We do have a few early crops that are peeking up- the ever-reliable asparagus, the few volunteer strawberries that are many years old, and my potato plants (planted QUITE late)- the foliage of which always cheers me!  So beautiful and dark and lush!

I’ve got three varieties growing- Kennebec, Yukon Gold, and a mysterious variety that I got from my CSA last year.  Not only did it keep for quite some time in less than ideal conditions (they were in a paper bag that fell behind my baker’s rack at least 9 months ago!), but they had vigorous sprouts on them so I thought I’d give them a chance.  Funnily, they are the best growers so far.  Wish I knew what kind they were!

This odd fellow was spotted in my Asparagus patch on Sunday.  Weird huh?

Lots of things are up and growing- beans, zucs, watermelon- but they are only tiny sprouts at this point.

I have a GAZILLION tomatoes (gazillion meaning 90 at last count) with still a few more to go in.  They are all doing well, with the exception of a few who have had their tops nibbled off…GRRRR!  And one of them- the variety of which I cannot remember- even has the first tomato of the season, though it is likely a big one, so the Sungolds will probably beat it to ripeness:

The first tomato is always so exciting to watch!

What’s growing in your neck of the woods?

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Fruit!

One of the BEST things about this little farm is that there is already a lovely berry patch that is well-established.  I don’t have to to anything- just walking through it occasionally while wistfully sighing about the prospect of fresh blueberries.  It’s hard work being a gardener, let me tell you!

The blueberries are covered with rapidly-growing fruit:

The raspberries are laden under their bounty:

And the ENORMOUS Concord grape vine has so many fruit clusters on it I am honestly worried about the strength of the branches:

And if all of this wasn’t enough, the entire swath of plants along the side of the garden is wild blueberries- probably a parcel about 400 x 20 feet.  It is a sea of tiny, delicious bundles of joy:

I have so much to look forward to!

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