June 28, 2014

Garden Update

We have strawberries! Early last Sunday morning when Willem and I picked and ate the first handful, we were two very happy people. They are shiny, sweet, and perfect. (Unfortunately, this means that our pug is a greater pest about trying to get through the garden fence than he was last summer when green beans were his main prize.) I love strawberries as much as any food in the whole world, but I feel especially gratified that our own plants are producing because we planted them two summers ago and nothing had happened until now. I knew the first season we wouldn't get anything, but then as last year's early summer turned into midsummer, I had to fess up to my own worries when Willem asked, for the hundredth time, when the strawberries would grow, that maybe... they wouldn't? And they never did last summer, even though the leaves grew big and looked like they meant business. I definitely have some things to learn about growing berries, but it is such a delight for now to see this red garden candy calling to us from among the greenery every time we find ourselves nearby. We've gotten a bigger bowl full each time we've picked throughout the week. We're also feeling rich in wild ones growing in the grass. 

We've eaten our strawberries chopped up in fruity yogurt popsicles, and on Willem's birthday sundaes.
I'm feeling satisfied with some other aspects of the garden even if they aren't as show-stopping as berries. The garden has come a long way since its meager, late beginnings this spring. It was such a long cold winter, that both the weather and my mindset contributed to everything starting quite a bit later than usual. But I eventually caught the bug again and I'm optimistic. 

Gordie doesn't usually get too involved in the garden, but back in May he did the lion's share of the work in hacking up all the sod between and around the six raised beds and then pinning down landscaping fabric to keep down the weeds. We then dumped a bunch of bark mulch on that. So now it looks neat and tidy around the edges, which has so far been keeping me motivated to keep the gardens themselves weeded to match. Last year the mower didn't fit between the garden beds and the weed whacker didn't mix well with the wimpy garden fence, so we had incredibly discouraging strips of lush grass going to seed between all the beds. No more.
Willem is often interested in helping with some of the garden jobs, and he was especially involved when we were just getting it started. His help is sometimes truly a help, as when he carted armload after armload of sod and weeds and brush we were producing to the woods while we worked, and sometimes not, as when he wanted to use his own shovel to help remove the sod and needed to work exactly wherever Daddy was currently working (meaning Daddy could no longer work). But, his participation is always adorable. Here he is carefully planting peas:                                        
Here was one of our first asparagus shoots this spring (another moment of gratification, having planted the crowns two years ago):
I let the potatoes dry out for a day after cutting them, before planting them-- two varieties this year: red and fingerling.
 Things finally got going mid-May. Peas back then:
 and lettuces making their appearance:
And here are some pictures from last week. These are the asparagus fronds. We enjoyed breaking off the spears at ground level and eating them for three weeks straight, then we let them go. We get to harvest all the spears that come up for an increasing number of weeks each year to let the plants establish themselves to come back year after year for a long time.                                
The tomato garden is on the left. They look pretty packed, but they each have at least a square foot. I learned recently that it's a good idea to prune them to focus on the central growing stem. This is supposed to help with higher yields and better disease resistance, by directing energy to producing tomatoes rather than to unnecessary foliage. It involves pruning any leaves touching the soil because those leaves are more prone to pest problems, pruning all "suckers" (little shoots at a 45 degree angle between the junction of the stem branch and a leaf), and pruning some leaves in the interior of the plant to let in more light and air flow. 

On the right is: squash at the back (I've since put a trellis there for it to grow on to keep it cleaner and neater), cucumber, beans, beets, a broccoli I'm trying for the first time this year, and carrots.
Thinnings we ate:
This is the strawberry bed:
 Snap and shell peas (and a couple more broccoli at the back):
One thing I have not enveloped into my gardening practices is succession planting. With some things like lettuce that we can't preserve at all, it would be ideal to plant some every couple of weeks through much of the summer so a small amount is always ready. I tend to plant all of it, or all I can fit, all at once and I feel pretty pleased just to get it in the ground. 

Right now the lettuce garden looks really pretty and healthy, but we are not going to be able to keep up with this much lettuce. It's so perfect and fresh, with no wilted pieces like you always get from the store, not even bug-chewed leaves. We've been eating all our favorite big salads lately. When I pick it I cut it all off in a given area an inch or two from the ground and it keeps coming back amazing quickly, for a good part of the summer. Lettuces are in the front, red potatoes at the back:
Fingerling potatoes and garlic:
I didn't get a picture of the herb garden, which we also massively de-weeded and overhauled to be a predominantly basil garden for the pesto days ahead...

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