There’s a moment in the gardening season when it seems like everything just kicks in over night. All of a sudden plants are huge, flowers are blooming, and the bees have discovered the patch of mustards that have gone to seed. The zucchini are pumping out their massive blooms daily and starting to grow little zukes, the broccoli is heading out, and it’s time to harvest the spring stuff and make room for new plantings. The borage flowers are heavy with bees, and the calendula are brightening up all the corners of the garden.
I love that moment. But it’s also time to get out my snippers and cut back some of this jungle, harvest some turnips, and do another planting of carrots, cilantro, green onions, winter leeks, mustard, chard, and possibly some other things tucked in here and there.
We are eating salad (mmmm arugula) and stir fry fresh from the garden regularly, as well as the occasional green smoothie. Yum. (We did a video of that which I’ll post soon, once I get my youtube channel up and running.) We have our sun tea brewing, and there is regular grazing going on in the garden. Had a nibble of fresh dill the other day. So tasty. It’s fun showing my friend Rich what’s growing and what to pick. He likes to go into the garden and pick mint and lemon balm for his tea. And graze in the mustard patch. : )
My sun tea has mint, lemon balm, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, stevia, and borage flowers, all fresh from the garden. Oh, and some organic green tea. Should be a nice refreshing healthy drink. I have a sweet tooth, so I’ll probably add some powdered Monk fruit, or some honey to it. Powdered Monk fruit is my sweetener of choice these days, as I’m trying kick the sugar habit. It smells funny, but it sure tastes good in baking, and on my oatmeal. (I did try the powdered Monk fruit in my tea. Very tasty.)
It’s been cloudy and rainy the past few days, and the garden has been drinking it in. It’s been pretty dry up till now, but we seem to be getting our April showers in July. I don’t mind though - we really needed the rain.
There are lots of other flowers planted throughout the garden: marigold, calendula, sweet alyssum and sweetpeas (mmm so sweet), borage (really BIG borage plants) a wild flower mix, and of course the cilantro, mustard, pac choi, radish, and rapini that has gone to seed. Lots of things to bring in the beneficial insects and pollinators. And it just looks purdy. Can’t imagine a garden without flowers.
The turnips are mighty impressive, and the carrots are at a good size for eating now. Lots of the mustard, rapini and pac choi that I planted in the spring are going to seed; but we like to eat the flowers, so I don’t mind. I’ll leave a small patch to go to seed, and cut back the rest for a little chop and drop.
The tomatoes are flowering now. That’s something I’m really looking forward to. That and the zucchini. I do love zucchini. I do a lot of baking with it. And this year I hope to dry a bunch so I can have zucchini in my winter stews. I grow the Romanesco variety - I find it so much tastier, and you can let it get quite large without losing flavor. More bang for your buck! And it’s great for drying too.
And the broccoli is almost ready! I don’t know why, but growing your own broccoli is very satisfying. I’ll let you know how it tastes. : )
We’ve also been having fun with the rocket stove. Great fun to cook different things on it. We’re even using it for baking by putting a cast iron Dutch oven on top. We’ve done bread (Rich puts some coals on the lid to brown up the top), pizza, cookies, and biscuits on it so far; along with rice, stir fry, and stew. We’re going to do a bunch of videos about how to cook different things on a rocket stove. Fun!
After we got the design sorted out on the lawn with the fire bricks, Rich did a really cool thing - he built it into the stone wall we built. This area is going to have a shelter built over it, so it will end up being the outdoor kitchen area. It’s going to be lovely.
He also set up an outdoor water heating system: black ABS hose running along the top of the garden fence where the sun shines most, and then down over the side. It heats the water enough for washing dishes, or having a quick shower - right beside the hydrangea. Nice.
Rich cut back the trees some more by the rock garden area, so it’s getting much more sun, and will be the new herb garden. There are sage, thyme and oregano in there right now, along with lovage, bee balm, and some flowers from a flower mix. And nasturtiums. Still pretty sparse right now, but next year it will kick in.
There’s a small bed nearby with cucumbers planted in it. They are starting to kick in, and although it isn’t exactly full sun, it is very warm; and the plants are starting to bloom, so I’m hopeful that I’ll get some cukes from them.
There has been surprisingly little predation in the garden. The turnips were the hardest hit when they were small, but they’ve done fine despite their holey leaves. The scarlet runner beans that I planted to grow over the garden gate got hit hard too, but they are bouncing back, and climbing up the bamboo pole I set up. The black turtle beans also had some visitors who like to chew holes in the leaves, but they are doing fine as well. I had kind of expected to have more loses there, so my bean patch is pretty thick. But they all look healthy, so I’m not too worried. They are blooming now, with little purple blossoms.
I’ve only come across one big ol’ fat slug in the garden so far. He was relocated. : )
Of course, there are weeds growing in the garden - all the more for chop and drop! I let them get big, if they’re not shading anything out, and then cut them back. That way I am adding more organic matter to the garden. I don’t mind weeds in the garden. If I decide I don’t want them there, I just hack them back. No problemo. They’re just part of the diversity of the garden.
I have used some of our homemade compost to build up one of the beds. I need more growing space! Carrots, mustards, and some other stuff (don’t know what yet) will be going in shortly. The compost was a mix of some finished compost, and some almost finished compost, over top of some chop and drop.
Here's the list of everything that is growing in the gardens at the moment:
scarlet runner beans
All in all, I’m very satisfied with the first year of this garden so far. The low light situation hasn’t really affected it too much. Even though it doesn’t get sun until about 11:00, it’s still growing beautifully. The areas that get early afternoon shade are planted with things that like it cooler, such as mustard. We do like our mustard. : )
I have been working fast and furious on Paul and Shawn’s new book Building a Better World in Your Backyard, and have missed spending more time in the garden. So I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty again.
My next adventure will be fermenting! I’ve never done it, but I’ve read up on it a lot, and found some recipes for the stuff that’s growing in my garden - turnips, leafy greens (Yay, a way to preserve the arugula, beet, and turnip tops!), carrots, and zucchini. I’ll hopefully have cucumbers as well, for fermented pickles, and most of what I’ll need for fermented salsa. Yum.
I hope everyone’s gardening season is as joyful as mine has been!
P.S. More random garden pics. I just can't stop taking photos of this beautiful garden!