Garden

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Hello, middle-of-August, where did you come from? I know you’re upon us because it’s pretty hot. But I’m confused because nobody seems to be dying of the summer flu (yet), and we’re actually planning ahead for the fall garden (for the first time). So maybe, middle-of-August, we’ll bid you adieu without too many tears this year and scurry right into September. Deal?

But first, how about we reflect on the summer garden – what worked, what didn’t, and how it applies to next year’s garden planning.

Beets. Out of this whole list, beets are the fewest we have produced, and yet they top my (completely haphazard and unorganized) list. Why? Because they are just so, so good – my favorite garden vegetable maybe. And while I thought they would just wither and die in the heat, I picked the last one on the 14th of August and it was still delicious. More. Beets.

Beans. We planted more of these than anything this year, mostly two varieties of black-eyed peas. The common California variety produced very well, as did the Big Red Ripper – my very favorite name for a vegetable variety. We planted what equates to about 7-8 long rows of these and it seems we have more than we can eat, despite our very best efforts and daily bean meals. I’m stringing them up, shelling them for seed, and letting the rest dry in the pod. So next year, plant at least this much again.

Swiss Chard. Again, I thought for sure this would wilt in the heat, but it went in with the above beet for today’s stir-fry. We could probably plant one long row of this for us and the chickens.

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Kazakh Melons. At least once a day we have been declaring it melon o’clock. At the appointed hour, we crack open one or two of these sweet fruits and everyone stops what they are doing to partake in chin-dripping juiciness. We planted the equivalent of 1.5 long rows of these and I think we could easily use 2-3 rows to have enough to eat and give/barter abundantly.

Tomatoes. An afterthought this year, we somehow have managed to have a (very small) stream of tomatoes for the past couple of months. Three plants shaded by pallets provided this to us and these were the only plants, besides a few herbs, that were purchased seedlings. If we can ever plant enough of the things that grow well here to justify putting more time into tomatoes, we could easily eat our way through 10-20 times as many tomatoes. Which seems like an impossible amount of plants to get going.

Tatume Squash. I let Abram plant these wherever he felt like it as I was hastily seeding the pallet garden in beans before a rain. I think they were over-crowded and not very well-fed. That said, three plants have produced a little bit each. Next year four to six plants well. spaced.

Okra. I quickly planted a short row in okra without even considering how much they love the sun. So, our small okra harvest resulted in some where-have-you-been-all-my-life gumbo and next year I’d like to plant more… in full sun.

Sweet Potatoes. No such thing as too many since they keep so well and we could eat them every day.

Looking at this list I’m so encouraged. Every year we are bringing in more food and eating much of it right at its prime. We’re still way off from our goal, but trajectory is the most important thing, right?

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A few things made a big difference

  • A cooler, wetter summer.
  • Strategically placing pallets and tall plants for shade.
  • The improvement in Stewart’s health.
  • A solar-powered water pump for irrigation from the house hole and ponds. (Good grief, this is huge. We only carried water in buckets at the earliest stages of germination, before the pump was up and running. Having the rain and the ability to store it and then pump it is a game-changer.)

So, now I just received some seeds from some favorite seed companies and we’re mapping out the fall garden. So much excitement and gratitude.

What’s happening in your garden?

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Last week, when thinking of the fall garden, I wondered where we would fit things like lima beans, onions, garlic, kale, beets, carrots and more. This week we’re in the triple digits and I am reminded not to worry. For three years now, our killing “frost” has come at the beginning of August when everything gets crispy and dry and wilts in the sun.

Despite the heat and the lack of rain, the beans keep producing, the squash are slowly trickling in, and even the tomatoes continue to provide garden snacks. Oh black eyed peas, you never disappoint. And that tatume squash, grown by natives because it can take the heat and the drought, it just keeps coming. But what really upped the ante this week and drew gasps and shreaks and little faces I wished I’d caught on camera, were the melons. The first ripe Kazakh melon has been picked and eaten in all of its sugary sweet and refreshing wonder.

Upon closer inspection, the boys have discovered at least two more that need picking tomorrow. What a joy to have been there when they planted the seeds, mulched the rows, to see their faces light up when they discover a ripe one, and then share with them in the eating of every morsel of yellow melon slice, the fruit of that work dripping down their chin.

It looks as though tomorrow will be an early morning in the garden in order to beat the heat. There are beans and okra and squash to pick and water, and I know we’ll have a few helpers looking for ripe melons.

Oh, and if I shell black-eyed peas with a quart of (unsweet) tea at my side, does that mean I’m finally becoming a southerner?