Ready for 4th of July?

It's a long weekend ahead of us and of course that means BBQ and maybe trip to the lake but it also means whole new set of veggies ready to be picked. I'm looking forward to trying our first cucumbers. They're coming along just fine! Something new to try this 4th of July weekend - buttercrunch lettuce to put on top of the burgers and in salads. We've had plenty of Romaine before but this one is new to me. At least I'll know if I should plant them next year. Also we got first Ichiban eggplant finally fruited and will be ready to pick by the weekend. Plant also has bunch of blooms on it so I'm hoping that this is just first of many to come in the next two months.
There are actually two of plants and both have baby eggplants hanging on them, which is great because my sister will be here for a week so she can eat them. I know she's looking forward to picking some of the greens like peas and blueberries, carrots and tomatoes. Today I picked some sweet peas. garlic scapes and first yellow wax beans but I won't be picking anything else for next few days so she can do that herself over the weekend.
And of course there's second wave of strawberries coming along and more various lettuces that I planted. Here you can see red lettuce growing next to the strawberry bush. My DF will have his berries and I have my salads so everyone wins :o)

Pretty Flowers

Well summer is officially here and it means flowers, flowers and more flowers! As if my garden wasn't in bloom before, summer flowers started to open up. In my enclosed garden I planted bunch of gladiolus along the main wall - mixed between all those peas. Well they've been growing and many have flower shoots and this morning I found out that one has opened up.
Isn't it pretty? Now I can't wait to see them all open. I counted at least 7 shoots all along the wall and they'll be all different types. There's mix of purple, white and reds so it should be very pretty. Maybe next year I'll look for larger types but for now this works just as well.

Next harvest wave...

There is always something that is getting ripe and ready to pick in the garden. In spring it's lettuces, arugula, spinach, sorrel and radishes. Then come strawberries. Now it's time for scallions..
Next week we'll have cucumbers - they're in bloom and have baby cucs forming already. Tomatoes will be ready in about a week as well. I just have to figure out what to do with this overload. These will go into salad.
Bell pepper has been ripening slowly but surely and will be picked soon. It's been a bit too rainy so they didn't want to form but now that it's hot and humid they're forming like crazy. I think we'll have several of them closer to august.
First baby yellow squash formed so it also should be ready for picking within a week. Once they form and bloom it only takes few days to get to pick-and-eat stage. And then there is my daily snack - sugar peas. They are continuously in bloom and I pick few of them each day. And it's going to be like this for most of the summer. Did I mention that this is only a beginning for tomatoes??
Ack! Anyone has any suggestions how to make great tomato sauce? On the other hand they make my garden look so nice and lush!

Don't blink...

People often wonder how long does it take to grow your own produce. Well that depends on what you're trying to grow. There are some items that take longer - like potatoes and onions. They will be ready closer to the end of summer. And then there are "quickies" - things that grow like weeds and ready for picking in no time. Remember when I spilled lettuce seeds?
And this is how it is today - ready to pick fully grown romaine lettuce. And daily picking for me for our dinner salad. Oddly enough these are doing far better than the ones I planted in a row. Maybe next time I should do the same :o)
Radishes are even faster! You can go from seeding to harvesting within 4 weeks if you start early in spring. But don't bother planting seeds in summer because radishes don't like heat. Instead of developing nice radish-root they'll just go into bloom and you won't have any harvest.

Groundhog damage

There you go day after day taking care of your little garden. One morning you admire how green and lush it's getting and go do your other business during the day. Just to come home and in horror realize that your garden has been ransacked. Well not my enclosed garden because the fence protects it for most part. But my container garden has been under attack from a groundhog. This used to be my parsley. It was so nice and I was thinking that this weekend I'd clip it and get it dried for later. Nope. Not going to happen. Groundhog had it himself for lunch. He also ate some of my peppers, all green beans leaves and all peas that were under my bushes.
And this were my golden beets. I planted them late but still hoped to get them going. What he didn't eat he trampled them down to get to parsley. Can't say how upset this makes me.
Ok, so I still have new parsley growing in the garden but that won't be ready for picking for quite a while. I hope the container one will bounce back and that beans will recover their lost leaves and will produce something later on. Now I have to figure out how to keep him off my patio.

Share the bounty

Sometimes you learn what to plant and how much of it you'll need as you go along. For example I know next year not to plant whole row of arugula because we just can't keep up with it when it's in prime. The same goes for my sorrel and snap peas. Next year I will plant only few bushes of snap peas for stir frying and the rest will be sugar peas for eating.
Because you really don't need that many for stir-fry and they're not very tasty to eat raw. But lesson learned and while it's still growing I use what I can and remaining is given away. The same is with today's quick pick.
This is sorrel and dill that will be going to my DF's secretary along with some peas. The dill has been so prolific that I've been cutting it down and drying for later use and just storing in old spice containers. Once dry it's good to keep for long time and is good flavoring when cooking meals. I also picked first carrot to try it out - very sweet though a bit small so will have to wait couple more weeks to pick the rest.

No Sunflowers for me

This week has been disappointing to say the least. I lost all my sunflowers that I planted in the outside bed together with cucumbers. They were growing so nicely and were over 2 feet high. And now that's all that was left of them.
That's right, deer ate them all. Just left the stems half way through so now they're useless. And I was really hoping to try them this year. Ironically they're listed as 'safe' to be planted in deer-heavy area because they have fuzzy leaves and deers don't like them. Well they obviously haven't met our deers who also like to eat our potato greens - something that's also listed as safe.Here is one caught red-handed on the spot helping herself to my potato greens. I guess it's a lesson for me for next year - cover everything with netting regardless of what's planted.

I think we'll have tomatoes...

Before I planted my garden I used to keep my greens only in container environment. You don't get as much of a harvest as you would in garden, so this year I planted many types of veggies and of course tomatoes completely forgetting that I might get bigger harvest than just 2-3 tomatoes per plant. Everyone eats tomatoes, right? If not plain on a sandwich or raw in salad then maybe a tomato sauce for some italian dish. I mean you can't have too many of them, right? Well maybe you can have just a tad more than you need. When I planted mine I wanted different varieties so in addition to my own seedlings that I grew I also picked up few from a friend's farm. I shared some with my DF's dad (he has his own garden as well) but planted half mixed with mine. Today out of curiosity I counted my tomato plants - 18 in garden beds and a dozen in containers. OY! And they're blooming. Every single plant is in bloom. I think I went overboard on them. Oh well at least they're pretty. I've never seen blooms to be this big! can't wait to see actual fruit when it's ripe. And I found few first "baby" tomatoes hanging on the vines already. This is Roma Tomato - I think we'll have plenty for a sauce. I counted 7 just on one plant. Either sauce or I might try canning them for winter. And we'll have some for a salad as well! This one is small patio variety but it's definitely good enough for salads. Can't wait to see how my other heirlooms are going to produce. July should be really good month for harvest!

Companion Planting

In one of the previous posts I mentioned using all available space that you can find, but what I forgot to mention that some plants benefit from being planted next to each other. Like for example tomatoes and parsley. Tomatoes grow tall and parsley can grow underneath and both will benefit from mutual coexistence. In my garden I planted several things together. Here are some carrots that are growing next to my strawberries. You already seen my broccoli (which btw I already removed yesterday after taking second round of crops). And I planted some fresh salads between rows of Dill - by the time salad grows enough to take space Dill will be picked.

I also spilled some salad seeds where my basket was when I was planting and it happened to be in the asparagus area. Asparagus will take at least two year to spread before giving any results so even though I wasn't planing on putting anything there it turned out to be for the good. This way I will harvest salad and asparagus will keep growing. It's a good combination.

And of course there are beans and peas which are good companions for most plants because they are natural fertilizers. They produce their own nitrogen - something that all plants need to grow properly. But do be careful with how much nitrogen you get in soil or some of your plants will be big and tall and leafy but not with much of fruits. For tomatoes it's better to be on a moderate side or you won't see whole lot of tomatoes later on.

And there are some combinations that really bad for each other - peas for example won't tolerate any of the onion family. There are many websites that have comprehensive lists of what's compatible with what plant so you can always google them. I know you can plant beans and corn and pumpkin - trinity of the farming world and they will grow wonderfully together. So keep experimenting. You never know what you might get :o)

Letting your garden bloom

Look at all those pretty flowers in the garden... but wait, shouldn't I be clipping them off to prolong the harvest time?? Not necessary. To the left white flower is coming out from my parsley. So why would I let my parsley go into bloom? Because I want it to bloom and give me seeds later on. That way I can plant more through the summer and next year as well and I won't have to buy them in the store.

One plant will give me enough seeds for all my needs. I have other plants that I use for cooking so it's not a big loss. The same goes for my arugula and salad plants. For now I can still pick them but probably come weekend I will take them all out and plant seeds for fresh set of crops. But for now they'll be blooming and I'll leave at least few of them to go ripe so I can gather seeds. It's not a good idea to use the same crops in one place so where I used to have salads I'll probably put something else. I already spread some salad seeds where I had spinach and radishes. That way I can rotate them better.
And I'm going to do the same with peas, beans, onions and squashes if they'll grow too many at one time.
That's one of the reason I wanted to use organic and heirloom varieties so I can gather up seeds and dry them for later use.
It's really easy to do too.
All you need is to let veggie mature, let's say tomato, and when it's really overripe, take out the seeds, place them on a piece of paper and let them dry out. You can wash them before to clean out the gunk but it's not necessary. Place them in a dry cool location in a paper bag or wrap in wax paper and let them be there until you're ready to use again. As long as they're really dry they won't sprout and they can be saved like that for several years.