This is the food forest just outside its gate. Somehow we have never shown a full tour of it for many reasons, despite the fact that it was Stewart’s biggest project the spring that Ruth was a babe. He dug swales, planted autumn olives, mayhaws, blackberries, pears, figs, and more. The concept is to create a space that holds many and diverse perennials planted on swales. The understory is then filled with annuals or low-lying perennials.


These are the back two swales on which we have planted annuals this year. Amongst jujubes and figs and a few others in their early years, we planted black-eyed peas, winter squash, sunflowers, tomatoes, and lettuce. There are wild oregano and chive plants scattered here and there as well as a pollinator-friendly insectary mix scattered throughout.


There is also comfrey propagated here and there which we have been using as a side-dressing to the heavier feeders such as tomatoes.


Predominantly, though, these rows are made up of black-eyed peas. These ever-reliable legumes have served us well in drier years past and now with abundant rain we are really seeing what they can do. We mostly eat loads of them fresh – the Red Ripper variety is an especially tasty green bean or shell bean and has quickly become our favorite. We are just starting to tire of the daily meal based around the green bean so I’ll probably start leaving more of thee beans to dry in their pods before picking. I just love how plants like beans and squash are self-preserving that way.

I suppose that concludes the gardens, for now. It seems much has changed already since I started sharing updates just last week and I’m not sure I could keep up a real-time pace. Abram and I harvested an armful of summer squash during an evening garden walk. The tomatoes are getting larger and are in need of another staking tactic. The sweet potato leaves are large enough to begin harvesting from. The wax beans and kidney beans are again in need of picking. The okra is still young but I suspect triple digit temperatures will make it – and probably only it – thrive.

The rest of us will be in the shade for much of the afternoon, waiting for evening – and picking time – to come again.

I was composing a full update of all three garden spaces when the near twenty photos began to overtake things. Instead, I’ll be bringing you three separate updates on the state of the gardens in July.


When I head to the pallet garden these days it is often to simply stare at the tomatillos. I am most excited by this new undertaking since they are actually doing well thus far and my previous attempt at growing tomatillos failed. Little did I know that these guys are not self-pollinating and so the year we had flowers and no fruit was most likely do to the fact that all but one of them was eaten by grasshoppers.


We have a row of about eight tomatillo plants and while many of the flowers have turned to fruit wrapped in their protective skin, there are still so many flowers being pollinated. The buzz of the bees and the sight of them hopping from plant to plant is enough to make you giddy… or at least it makes me giddy.

These guys are supposed to like sun and plenty of heat and we’ve certainly got that.


Next to the tomatillos, and next to just about everything else, are sweet potatoes. Everywhere you turn, actually, you see sweet potatoes. I think Stewart planted somewhere just shy of 100 of the slips this year and nearly all of them are in the pallet garden. They have always done well for us, despite the usual years of extreme heat and mostly drought, so we have planted them every year since.


Tucked in between all of these tubers are just a few plants here and there that needed a home. The above is Swiss chard in a sea of sweet potato leaves, which I’ll begin harvesting for salads and cooking greens soon – the sweet potato and chard leaves, that is.


There are also about a half dozen tomato plants scattered throughout. I pruned off most of the suckers a few weeks ago and what do you know, I do believe there are more flowers and fruit than previously. I’m always a bit scared of pruning, but the plants usually respond well.


There is also this huge Sweet Meat winter squash tucked away in our richest soil bed… IMG_8048 … and a couple of peppers and collards in between the tomatoes. I might be imagining things but it does appear that interspersing plants instead of neat and tidy rows does seem to help with both bug control and pollination.

It will be at least a few weeks, I’d guess, before any of the tomatillos are ripe, if they make it that far. Peppers and tomatoes are coming along with more flowers and fruit, and the sweet potato roots are usually harvested in the fall. We also have boysenberries and garlic that were harvested a little earlier in the season and an entire corner of the garden that is overgrown with various forms of mint that I need to cut and dry.

Next time I’ll show you the annuals we have planted along swales in the food forest. I’d love to hear what you are growing!