Saturday, July 2, 2011

The garden as of this morning.
Basil & Marigolds
I know it's been a while since my last post. I hope you haven't lost interest. The days in the garden have been long and hot and tiring and exhilarating and often by the time I'm done working in the garden, I'm done just about with everything. And Rich & I went on a vacation for nearly a week. Went to North Carolina to visit his folks and his friends. And I got to see Asheville and Nashville for the first time! I was nervous leaving the garden, as the week before we left, I'd spent a lot of time (much of it with friends helping) weeding the garden and mulching tomatoes and feeling like things were good. The weather while we were gone was perfect for plant growth: warm but not hot, with over 2" of rain. Both the weeds and my plants benefitted!

Some pole beans.
Ever since returning from vacation, I've been puzzled by seemingly random damage to some of my tomato plants. I surmised it must be deer, since the plants appeared to be eaten from the top down. But I saw no hoof prints, no deer scat, no other damage. Alvin came over this afternoon, and while reassuring me that this garden has always looked just about like this just about this time (which means it looks like the weeds are just about to take over), I asked him what he thought might be eating my tomatoes. He looked at the damage and quickly said, "well, Joe, those are those damn tomato worms." And sure enough, once he said it, I saw a big, four inch-long worm the exact same color as the tomato plant. I plucked it off, squeezed its green guts out and smashed it into the ground for good measure. No remorse; I want those tomatoes. Earlier today I saw the first Japanese beetles. And while they are beautiful and metallic and remind me a little of the scarabs in Greece, I smashed some of those too, since they were defoliating my turnips. Growing a garden means you've got to do a lot of killing: pulling up weeds and unwanted plants, thinning plants to let others grow, and killing bugs trying to eat your plants.

Blackberries ripening.
When I returned from vacation, the garden was nearly unrecognizable as it was nearly covered with weeds. A weed-eater and two lawn mowers did a lot to make it look much more like a proper garden. And now, after nearly a week of working at it, I am able to walk around, ignoring the weeds, and concentrate on how much things are growing. Since returning, I've been harvesting zucchini (over 25 now) and ronde de nice squash every day. The radishes and lettuces are winding down. The peas are somehow still producing despite the tropical heat. And herbs: basil, cilantro, parsley, sage, lemon balm, and mint need to be picked every day to manage their growth. While I was still planting, I kind of went crazy planting basil. I figured it will sell well. And I know it will, as long as I can keep it thinned and weeded and keep it from flowering... And with it spread all over the garden, that's quite a task! There are marigolds and nasturtiums and zinnias blooming all over the garden, as well as all the tiger lilies, mums and daisies around the yard. And I discovered that one of our apple trees produces some sort of early Macintosh variety that, while a little mealy raw, will cook down just fine... And those are already ready. So I am planning on making my first offering at the Farmers' Market this coming Wednesday... only five weeks after it began. Better late than never, right?

The corn is knee-high by the 4th of July!
Tomato Hornworm Damage.
A Tomato Hornworm about to die.
Every day I am out in the garden I learn something new. Today it was tomato hornworm. I've learned about how effective newspaper is as mulch, about early apple varieties, about the difference between raspberries and blackberries, what a snake looks like from a distance, and so many other things. While in North Carolina, on vacation visiting Rich's parents, Rich's dad took me on a tour of his garden and yard. They've got this great cellar they use for storing all their homemade canned goods, and a few small gardens spread throughout the yard. He built a table he uses for cleaning fish, and I am co-opting his idea to build an outdoor veggie washing station. From what I've read, washing produce I intend to sell at the market might be considered processed if it's washed in our kitchen, since the kitchen isn't licensed. But if I wash the vegetables that need washing outside, it would be just fine. And I'd feel better washing them on a nice, clean surface than over the grass and letting them dry there, possibly picking up new insects. That is a project for this week. As is building some new bean and tomato trellises with some of the materials Rich's dad had left over and gave to me. And blueberry picking. Unfortunately I don't have any blueberries, but I'm going with some friends to a nearby farm to pick a ton of blueberries. Perhaps there will be some blueberry preserves and blueberry and apple jelly by the end of next week.

A few Ronde de Nice Squash.

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