Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Garden Update: Late Summer

Right, it smells like Fall outside now, so it's time for a garden update. It's apparent that my beds need more compost and maybe some moss or something, the 2:1 ratio of Veg soil and Cedar Grove compost tends to drain really quickly and doesn't hold moisture as well as I'd like. A project for the Spring.

After a wet and cold June some of the plants did better than others. The clear winner is the Red Russian Kale. It grows like crazy, needs almost no maintenance, fertilizer, watering, or care. Nothing really seems to eat it. Interestingly, it came in a seed packet of Mesclun Greens that I'd planted for salads. Everything else did fairly poorly, but the Kale plants are several feet tall. They actually serve a cool purpose though, the wide fronds shaded my more fragile lettuces from the worst of the Summer sun. But they also shaded the chiles I'd planted, stunting them. Oh well. Looks like I'm going to be buying chiles in the future. The zucchinis did pretty well this year. Produced a few good sized ones, but not so many that we were totally sick of them. Just flowered again too, may get another one or two zukes out them still. The Yard Long Beans were a complete disaster. Should have planted them much, much earlier. But the ones I'd planted in June got sad and diseased in the wet and cold, while the ones I started inside to replace them didn't take off until the heat of August, by which time it's just too late. I need a grow light inside to do starts, we just don't get enough light in the early Spring. The Yard Longs need more heat, and full sun. Maybe I'll plant them in the middle of the front lawn next year. Because they are delicious.

We'd planted Ruby Spinach in-between some Sugar Snap Peas with the idea that they'd be companion plants; the extra nitrogen from the peas would help the spinach out. Boy did it ever. By the time they bolted, the spinach was taller than Meredith. We finally pulled the stalks, stripped the leaves, quickly blanched, packaged, and froze the remaining spinach; netting us several pounds of frozen spinach. Unfortunately, shaded somewhat by the huge spinach, the peas developed a powdery mildew. Spray took care of it, but the peas went through the wringer. Only got a few more pods off the plants before they were done for the season. They'd done well though, I snacked on them every time I went out to check on the garden. The leeks have reached full size and are starting to send up flowers. They didn't get as big as I wanted, but my green onions struggled too. I think the soil mix, either pH or nutrients, is not quite right for alliums. Have to look into that one.

The tomatoes have grown like crazy! This is my first time trying the English hot-house trellis method and I have to say: hell yeah. They're up over the garage roof. It's actually a cool setup here: the garage shades them a bit in the morning, yes, but makes up for it with reflected heat and light from the afternoon sun. Once they hit the eaves I just let them hang freely back down.

You can also track the season on the vines. At the very bottom are the first tomatoes that set back in May. Most of them have ripened and met their tasty fates. Then there's a spot with a lot of dropped buds: June, where everything refused to set. Then further up you start seeing tomatoes again until you hit August's growth, with many many set tomatoes hanging from the very top.

As usual, Seattle grew the hell out of the Cherry Tomatoes. We planted Sungold this year and they are rocking. Easily 100 tomatoes. The Prudence heirloom did very poorly in June, but has more than made up for it during August's heat. The Black Prince set some very early tomatoes, many of which were, ahem, kind of lewd.

The San Marzano Romas started off slow, but have now set a good thirty or so tomatoes. Unfortunately they don't all want to ripen at once, meaning no giant harvest and sauce canning day.

Otherwise the herbs have done well. Parsley is rocking right now, and the mint held up. The dill though. What the heck.

It shot up these long stalks, with almost no leafy fronds. So much for cooking and pickling with it. So I've let it go to seed, at least I can harvest dill seed. I planted it in the same pot as some pickling cucumbers, and they did fairly well this year. I probably harvested a good 10 pounds of pickling cukes from them, ending up with around 8 quarts or so of pickles. Made a 4 quart batch of my grandmother's Bread and Butter pickle recipe, which should be enough to grace our sandwiches until next year.

The hops have been a disaster this year. They got a start in May, but then the cold June stunted their new growth. The bines that were already up never really grew like crazy. Interestingly, the only one not to have sprouted by June, the Chinooks, grew like crazy afterwards, had the best growth, the most and biggest cones.

But the basic story is that they are rootbound. The pots are too small, the nutrients just aren't there, and they need to be watered constantly. Consequently they had stunted growth, insect problems, and bine die-offs. I've got to come up with something better for next year. Maybe half-wine barrels or 30 gallon pots. Of course, planting them in the ground would be nice too. I may get enough hops for a fresh hop beer this year, but it will probably be an English Bitter and not an American IPA, if you catch my drift.

Moving Forward

So we head into Fall and Winter. The daylight is shrinking, rain is moving in, and our Miami cat is constantly seeking out warm laps and scowling at us like it's our fault the world is so cold. In the garden we're eating the leeks, green onions, and last of the zukes. The potatoes have been harvested and are curing, though I'm already using the tiny ones as new potatoes. The Kale will outlive us all. The tomatoes are still producing, we'll have loads through September and probably well into October. I've planted more weird lettuces, and about two dozen more overwintering leek starts, so we'll have leeks all Spring (by the time the storage onions are gone). Planted some Brussells Sprouts as a sort of challenge to Meredith: make them edible! We've signed up for a Winter Plant Start CSA with Cascadian Edible Landscapes. Pickup is Friday, I'll let you know what we get. With the tomatoes still in and one bed full of leeks I'm not sure where I'll put things...


The Galatian said...

Was their a preferred method of growing potatoes or where they all the same by the end?

Russell Hews Everett said...

Ask and ye shall receive! http://russelleverett.blogspot.com/2010/09/you-say-potato-i-say-ye-chickn-of-dirte.html

Post a Comment