Tending Tuesdays: What’s happened to my garden

10 08 2010

I am home now, and the anticipation of seeing my garden is passed.  I now know all the ins and outs of what has happened since I left.

The sad news is, unsurprisingly, my cucumber plants did not overcome downy mildew and are now in the final stages of the disease and will, most likely, be completely dead by the end of the week.  The happy part is, the cucumbers hadn’t all been affected yet, and so I got to harvest a giant bowl of them!  Most of them are too big for pickling, but I feel like I will probably ferment some relish instead and maybe make a nice, cool, cucumber soup.

(my dying cucumber plants, next to a healthy nasturtium and a healthy, but completely unproductive broccoli. I think it was planted too late)

The most exciting news is, after gorging on nitrogen and growing into bushes, with no fruits, one of my pepper plants has a glorious, baby pepper growing on it!  Hopefully it will be able to mature before the end of the growing season.

Another piece of exciting news is that my squash are reproducing now and I have at least two squash growing.  The sad news is it looks like they may have powdery mildew.  All this humidity is a real excitement for the fungi family this year.

(a baby squash with its glorious flower still attached)

My carrots, beets and peas have all sprouted, as have my basil seeds.  Calendula is still blooming, though I was able to pull up some plants that had obviously completed their life cycle.  If they have their way, my whole garden will be calendula next year too! Zucchini is easing up a little on the crazy production of fruits, which is fine by me as I’ve eaten more zucchini this year than ever before. 

(peas on the left and beets and carrots on the right)

The potatoes are seeming pretty happy and my fig tree is putting on foliage like crazy, which is awesome considering it got sunburned badly earlier this spring and lost ALL of its foliage.  So, maybe next year we’ll be able to get a good harvest of figs from it….

Another sad loss was my coriander seeds which seemed to have been removed/”maintained” by someone in my absence.  Instead of a beautiful bounty of many seeds, I came home to a small handful that was left on a seriously trimmed stalk.  So, I planted them in the space they were before and maybe I’ll get some cilantro out of it.

It was so nice to come home to the bounty of my garden.  I love it.  I love the picking, the weeding, the growth and the death.  All of it reminds me of how precious our food is, and how much effort goes into growing good, organic produce.  Today, I spent the morning with little A out there and came home with a big bowl of goodies.

(so, this would look better, but little A insisted that most of the cucumbers be photographed inside an unused dog poo bag.  so, imagine the bag brimming with luscious cucumbers.  Also, imagine a REALLY happy toddler, brimming with joy from the bag full of cucumbers)

Also, this year, I am learning SOOO much about gardening.  Books are great, but until you actually throw seeds into the dirt, there’s not much learning going on.  I am already planning my gardens for next year in my head, based on what I learned this year, and how much of what I actually like to have and eat.


Tending Tuesday: What is going on in my garden?

3 08 2010

I miss it like crazy.  It is like another little baby, only this one is much more forgiving, sleeps through the night, every night (until frost that is) and well… I can eat it. 🙂

I sit here wondering: has the downy mildew that showed up on my cucumbers taken over, or was the reiki successful at helping it overcome the fungus?  Have the squash finally sprouted both male and female flowers at the same time so I can have squash this year? Are the potatoes dried up and shriveled in their bright blue containers?  Is anyone picking the calendula?

Honestly, I love my garden SO much.  It has given me so much abundance this year and will continue to do so into the fall.  It has taught me a lot about what to do, and what not to do and when to do nothing.  These are important lessons.

Currently, I have three 4′ x 10′ raised beds, an herb spiral, two containers of potatoes and a fig tree with calendula friends in it.

In the first bed that I planted I decided to try a permaculture technique of polyculture and dense plantings.  The idea is that planting densely allows for a living mulch and you get to have continuous harvest of deliciousness, as you harvest young plants.

Here is a picture of what my polyculture could, theoretically, look like, so you’re not so bored.  I would post one of mine, but I’m not there. And, this one has way more vegetables than mine.  😉

I planted assorted greens, beets, herbs and, as a strange inspiration, edible flowers (sunflower, borage, caledula and coriander).  The polyculture has been working really well, except for the fact that I didn’t recall that calendula was actually such a huge plant and it has totally taken over the garden.  I don’t have the heart to pull the plants, so I am allowing them to flower and some of them to go to seed.

In that bed, on the edge, I also did a planting of peas, which I thought were shelling peas, but ended up being snap peas.  I just pulled them out and replaced them with a row of carrots and one of beets.

On the far end there is a pickling cucumber patch, which, until the day we left (sunday) was doing wonderfully.  Sunday morning, we awake to downy mildew, which I had just learned about the day before at the farmer’s market, spreading its brown, spotty sickness through the sap of my delicious pickling cucumbers.

I am not a pickle kinda girl in the traditional sense.  Vinegar pickles are, in my books, a travesty of culinary expression.  The truth about preserving cucumbers lies in the fermentation process. These pickles are, in fact, the best thing I’ve ever tasted in the pickle vein of existence.  Even staunch anti-pickle advocates will eat my fermented pickles.  And, luckily for you, you will learn all about them this week, in foodie fridays. Wait for it.

So, it was with great sadness that little A and I discovered the downy mildew.  We harvested what we thought might be our last cucumber harvest, prayed, offered reiki and love over them and then left them to their own devices as we left for the great North.

There is a part of me that wants to call my neighbours.  “How are my cucumbers?” I would ask. And, I’m sure, the response would be greatly unsatisfying.  Something like “Pretty good.” or “I haven’t really checked them lately.”  Which would both be perfectly understandable answers, but not nearly the in depth communication with my cucumber plants that I am looking for.

The other bed, closest to the road, is full of butternut squash and a zucchini plant.  I would add that there is also a few fennel plants and some pepper plants and even a dash of chard and nasturtiums in there, but they are really overshadowed, in every sense, by the girth of our squash plants.  Cucurbit family is a very prolific family, something like a settler’s Catholic family, shooting out runners like babies like that was the only thing it had a purpose in doing. Wait, that is it’s only purpose…

However, the one squash that we had, we accidentally harvested when cutting back some of runners so they didn’t take over the road. And so far, no other male and female flowers have existed together on the plant, and so, no babies.  I WANT BABIES! (not ones that I grow in my belly though.  Not right now.  OK?  OK.)

I want to see my darling squash as they birth their little babies.  I want to see the beautiful male flowers right along side of the female plants.  I want to know the difference in  what they look like.

So, I sit here.  In my mother’s livingroom.  I wonder about all these things, and more.  I wonder about whether the carrot seeds have enough moisture to germinate.  What about the bush peas? But it will all have to wait, as will pictures, until next week, when I am back in my little haven of urban abundance.

Until then, if you happen to be passing by, give my plants a little hello, some love and a maybe even harvest a zucchini or two. If you let me know about it, I can live vicariously through you.