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A Temperate-climate Garden in Summe

by paul spencer Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 10:59:48 PM EST

I'm a little late with this installment, but we just recently finished our Primary Election here in Washington, plus we had a very active Democratic Party booth at the County Fair (Centennial edition).  The pictures are from a few weeks ago, so they qualify as Summer images.

As most of you are aware, the Summer season (moderate climates) is less about the garden and more about the produce, but there are still a few action items, besides harvest.  First, there is moisture maintenance - i.e., watering. If you remember my Spring edition, I have a fairly comprehensive 'soaker'-hose system, so hand-watering is fairly minimal and is reserved primarily for cooling-off lettuce on hot days and hitting the odd spot that is isolated from the 'soakers'.

Some crops, such as tomato plants, can develop fungus problems when watered from overhead, so best to assure that they are either supplied by the 'soakers' or water at their base with a narrow, low-flow stream.  In any case water in the evening or early-morning; the middle of the day on a hot day just means that the water will evaporate more and penetrate the ground less.

In general we do not use much fertilizer, but we do scatter a modest amount of 16-16-16 water-soluble around the gardens, during the late Spring and into early Summer. Other than that, we pull weeds (not too many around, once you get the 'upper hand'.

Some crops can be planted successionally.  In the late Spring, early Summer, we plant carrot, lettuce, beet, and bean seed at least twice with about a 3-week interval.  Peas go in early Spring and then, again, in late Summer (Autumn harvest).  Lettuce and swiss chard seed is also replanted in late Summer.

Some specifics for our garden:  We plant 4 or more varieties of tomato.  Part of the reason is to extend the harvest, and part is for the small differences in flavor.  The majority are Roma, because we freeze them to make sauce in the Winter and Spring.  The preparation is simple: rinse, bag, and freeze.  (Best in my opinion to push some of the air out of the bag; they stack better, if nothing else.)  - same with green beans and peas.  Some folks advise to heat in water at about 80 degrees C to destroy enzymes that - they say - reduce the flavor and nutrition of frozen fruit and vegetables over time.  We find that the unheated veggies are better for taste and texture.

This picture shows one branch of a Peach tree that was a 3-meter 'whip' three years ago.  We took 40 to 50 peaches from it this year, and they averaged about 6 - 7 cm in diameter.  And they were good - no substitute for fresh peaches.  We don't spray this tree at all; and we give it about one pound of 16-16-16 soluble fertilizer spread around the trunk out to the 'dripline' per year.  It is a 'leaf curl'-resistant variety, but, in the Pacific NW, that is the key to having peaches - not to mention live Peach trees.

This picture is from July and shows a large amount of dill plant near the middle of the photo. This was harvested and used, and the area was replanted with lettuce and beets.

Looking toward the corn - big mistake on my part this year.  I sometimes plant peas among the corn for the Autumn harvest.  The corn stalks support the pea vines.  This year I planted the corn seed among the Spring peas, which then proceeded to stunt the growth of the corn.  Don't know what I was thinking - of course, that was the problem - I wasn't thinking.

Same view - the grape arbor is to the right, and the apple tree is in the middle-upper.  This picture was taken just before I started trimming back the grape leaves to allow more air circulation and sunlight penetration.  Soon I will put netting over the top to keep the birds away.  I didn't do that last year, and the birds got 95%.  (The birds do OK around here without my grapes.  The elderberries are almost ripe, which should mean that about 10 to 20 Cedar Waxwings will visit us soon.)

You might notice that the corn, cabbage, and lettuce appear to be relatively small patches. The same is true for the swiss chard, cucumbers, green peppers, and zucchini, even though you probably cannot see them in the pictures. The reason is that two people do not need many of these plants to have plenty of each for eating - unless you: 1) give away substantial quantities, or 2) you are wildly enthusiastic about eating one or more of these items for days or weeks.  Corn also takes a lot of nutrients out of the ground for little return. (On the other hand a few fresh ears is a significant treat.)

Lettuce, cabbage, and swiss chard can be 'picked at', rather than 'picked'. Thinning the lettuce makes early salads; picking the outside leaves of maturing plants of all of these three types of vegetables prolongs the harvest. Particularly with cabbage - if you wait for the mature head, you will have cole slaw past the expiration date.

We grow some things - such as winter squash (butternut for us), potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, peas, and beans - in large quantities for storage. As mentioned above, we freeze the last three items, plus basil and parsley for pesto. If we're feeling ambitious, we cut up the squash and freeze the chunks, too. Thirty-plus years ago, we canned and jammed in the middle of Summer - a lot of hot work. When we realized how much better the frozen produce was, we switched strategies in a hurry. Now we make tomato sauce or jam as-needed during the Winter and Spring.

You probably can spot the marigolds, cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers. Around the bird bath, we have red tulips in the Spring, then nasturtiums in the later Summer. Some say that marigolds help to reduce nematodes via some chemical that they release into the soil. I don't know, because I'm not sure exactly what a nematode is. The cosmos and sunflowers just reseed themselves, after the birds get what they want.

This picture shows the two fig trees out front. My wife dries the figs, then freezes them. This year she made fig jam - first time for us, and it's very good. I wish that we'd tried it earlier, because fig trees produce enormous quantities. Around here, though, there are very few Fig trees, so it's easy to give them away.

And that's about it for this time of year - harvest, eat, rinse and freeze, or rinse and refrigerate - or give it away. This year I am resurrecting our old garden on the east side of the house. I have four narrow raised beds there, and I also installed wires to support the plants.  I just finished the deer fence around it today. This year we have potatoes planted there, because the deer usually leave them alone. This Winter I will plant my surviving raspberry plants, plus blueberry plants.

Is much maligned (and overcooked). I usually shred roughly, then blanch in very hot water, drain and then stir fry, but keeping it fairly crisp.

I've experimented with many different herb combinations with cabbage. Cumin, coriander, turmeric always work, but cabbage is very forgiving of outlandish combinations. Chili is always good too. Throw a few berries into the stir fry for an added sweet kick.

It has not been a good year for forest berries in Finland - too wet, not enough sun. But there are still plenty in the open air markets. Loganberries, blackberries and cloudberries are my favourites.

Now I am waiting for the Morel mushrooms - what a delicacy!

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 05:54:17 AM EST
yum, i had a delicious mushroom-cabbage-tomato-soysausage fry up yesterday, so good i had it for dinner too, with sunseed roggenbrot and tartex.

fantastic garden, paul!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 08:21:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry - I didn't mean to malign cabbage, but we do use it sparingly. By "picking at" it, we get to add it to salads and to stir-frys on a regular basis. Thanks for the herb suggestions.

It's been - as usual here - a mixed bag for fruit. The snow didn't get out of the huckleberry fields (higher elevation) until mid-June or later. On the other hand we had apple turnovers this morning, just from the fruit drop. The apples are so plentiful that the trees are shedding.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (paulgspencer@gmail.com) on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 06:53:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have watered my garden in Cambridge, MA less than a half dozen times this year and it has produced more greens, vegetables, and berries for me than any other year.  I'm a minimalist gardener with soil conditioning consisting of dumping as many bags of Fall leaves on the soil before the recycling truck takes them off the sidewalks.  I promote volunteers and my volunteer strawberry patch made me tired this year while I am learning how to use hyssop from the volunteers left by last year's offering to the bees.  Cukes, green beans, cherry toms are all coming out of my ears.  I have been giving food away to people on the street.

What a gift to have a garden!

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 12:49:48 PM EST
Either my Autumn or Winter diaries discuss leaves - the best conditioner in my opinion. Best to avoid Oak or Walnut, though - or so I was told many years ago.

I get very few strawberries, because the Jays and Robins have them spotted before I can get them.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (paulgspencer@gmail.com) on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 06:56:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice looking garden Paul. My grandmothers had huge ones that I used to help with, and thus I have managed to grow a few things on my own some years (tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons and peppers).  Like you I use a little fertilizer to get things going, but no insecticides.  My grandmother always had problems with tomato worms that we had to remove by hand. I take it you don't have that problem in Washington. My grandmothers also "canned" or deep froze everything
for later consumption. I can recommend pear preserves as an equal to your figs in flavor. One grandmother had a large fig tree and made delicious preserves from it, and bought or was given pears (usually picked from a friend's tree) to put up. In my memory there is nothing to compare with a hot biscuit and pear preserves for breakfast, unless it is buttered sweet potato biscuits, made with a combination of flour and cooked sweet potato. I think I'm getting hungry!

Are you able to produce enough for your entire vegetable supply?

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 02:47:57 PM EST
with an old Gravely walk-behind - in Texas. Of course, there was no Summer garden there.

Haven't seen a Tomato Worm in many a year. Out here we have Blossom End-rot, but the Romas seem to resist that very well.

Pear preserves sound good to me.

Tomatoes, beans, and fruit for the whole year (frozen), but we buy bananas, of course. (I'm planting Kiwi vines this Winter.) Lettuce generally grows for about 8 months. We get potatoes for about 4 months, and we store them - plus winter squash - for about 3 months additional. Everything else, we can generally count on 3 - 6 months, depending on species and dependent on our strategy of using small amounts in combinations, rather than one, big quantity of a particular item.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (paulgspencer@gmail.com) on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 07:06:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems like walnut avoidance is more that hearsay...

Walnut - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As garden trees they have some drawbacks, in particular the falling nuts, and the releasing of the allelopathic compound juglone, though a number of gardeners do grow them.[3] [4] However, different walnut species vary in the amount of juglone they release from the roots and fallen leaves - the black walnut in particular is known for its toxicity. [5] Juglone is toxic to plants such as tomato, apple, and birch and may cause stunting and death of nearby vegetation. Juglone appears to be one of the walnut's primary defence mechanisms against potential competitors for resources (water, nutrients and sunlight), and its effects are felt most strongly inside the tree's "drip line" (the circle around the tree marked by the horizontal distance of its outermost branches). However, even plants at a seemingly great distance outside the drip line can be affected, and juglone can linger in the soil for several years even after a walnut is removed as its roots slowly decompose and release juglone into the soil.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 07:40:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I think walnuts do better in dedicated orchards or alone. But are they delicious, especially black walnuts in ice cream. A family favorite for generations.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 11:27:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I come from Grenoble, where the "Noix de Grenoble" production was granted AOC protection in 1938...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 at 04:06:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our tomato crop has been a disaster due to marauding racoons. Just when the fruit gets to the point of being ripe, they come in at night, pull it from the plant, and then leave it half-eaten on the stone wall, or on the top of the grape arbor, or on the step next to the mailbox.

Also our peppers went in too late this spring and we are not going to get a crop of them, either. But we have enough lettuce to feed an army!

by asdf on Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 at 09:25:09 PM EST
but my 2 year old daughter has been a plague upon the cherry tomatoes. poor thing gets stripped daily.
by wu ming on Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 at 05:11:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Send her over here: maybe an hour with my uniformly unripe ones will persuade here to keep away! I'm expecting enough sun to ripen them while I'm away, which should make them inedibly overripe by the time I get home.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 at 05:44:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
she's learned the difference between ripe and green, and knows that green ones are yucky, so she 'helpfully' picks the green ones off and tosses them onto the ground.


luckily, they produce so many in california this time of year, that there's still enough to go around. and at least she's excited about the veggies.

by wu ming on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 04:27:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is really inspiring, Paul and makes this apartment dweller really homesick for a little piece of un-cemented earth.

My latest success was finding ginger with green shoots in the supermarket, which I soaked a couple of days and decided to break up and put in pots:  It has grown over a foot and I have no idea what´s next.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 05:00:55 AM EST
I did the same with the Ingwer and also with Curcuma roots, both came well, but unfortunately do not seem to bloom in an appartment. Both have beautiful flowers. But maybe in Madrid you have more luck.

I have a few pots of dirt and earth on my balcony, that will have to do for the moment, though, me too I would like to have a garden again.

by Fran on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 05:12:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, how do you harvest it, Fran?  I just planted it less than two months ago and there are no signs of flowers.  I have outdoor stairs with a small front porch and I don´t know if I should bring it inside before the frost either.

Thank you for any help.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Sep 7th, 2008 at 09:42:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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