Thursday, July 12, 2012

Garden Gone Wild

I've been talking for years about having a vegetable garden, and since we finally have PLENTY of space and sun, I put one in this year. Brent scraped the space that I marked out (which looked a little small, but was 9X13 when I measured it and a little smaller, but not much once we finished the frame.)Brent built the frame for me, so that we could level the ground since we live on a slope, and I asked him to build it even higher so that I had plenty of room to amend the thick clay soil that composes our yard. My parents helped me loosen the soil and get the roots out.

April 3
My wonderful friend, Josie, picked up 3 yards of compost in her heavy duty truck and she helped me unload all of it into the garden. Then I spent the next week or so turning all that lovely compost into the soil to prepare for planting.
April 14
And the planting...7 tomatoes, one tomatillo, 5 eggplants, okra, zucchini, yellow squash, yellow and white pattypan squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, red, yellow, green and purple bell peppers, sugar baby watermelon, cantaloupe, leeks, shallots, sweet potato, red potato and yellow potato, black beans, wax beans and rattlesnake green beans, Malabar spinach, basil, fennel, bronze fennel, purple sage, dill, marigolds and nasturtiums. I also planted an herb bed with chocolate mint, orange mint, grapefruit mint, mojito mint, greek oregano, common oregano, rosemary, lemon basil, lime basil, lemon thyme, silver thyme, yellow sage, silver sage, lemon balm, garlic chives and mexican mint marigold and several flowers mixed in. Everything started growing...and growing and growing!

May 15
Those squash vines are all over the yard and the tomatoes have grown bigger than I have ever seen a tomato plant grow! They were at least 8 feet tall before they fell over.  Somehow I didn't get a picture before the plants knocked over the tomato cages.  I used tent stakes and twine to tie them back up, but they still can't  hold the crazy plants up!  I'm going to have to figure something else out for supporting them next year. 
July 9

The shallots died off...I'm not sure if they got to shaded when the squash plants grew over them or what. The potatoes started out growing beautifully, but then died back and did not make any new potatoes where I mounded the soil, so I'm not holding my breath as to whether or not I will find any under the ground. And I'm not looking right now because the tomatoes and tomatillos have now grown over that spot. The sweet potato vine is still growing, so we might actually wind up with some sweet potatoes.

The butternut squash is perfect and we still have several growing on the vine. I think we may continue to get more, too, since the vine is still growing. We have had a couple of spaghetti squash, but one rotted, and the other is waiting to be cooked. There are also 3 more on the vine right now. The bell peppers produced peppers, but the purple and green ones were very bitter so they went straight onto the compost pile. The red ones were perfect, and I am still waiting for the yellow one to turn yellow so we can try it.
July 12  - herb bed with a zucchini growing in it
The black beans and the wax beans did great...until the grasshoppers started attacking the garden with a vengeance a few weeks ago. Those bugs are my nemesis right now...when you walk up to the garden, there are so many of them that you would think that we are growing grasshoppers rather than food! In one day, they ate all the green bean and black bean vines down to nothing. Grrrr!

These crazy bugs are EVERYWHERE!  They are my nemesis!
In one night we went from lush vines with plenty of leaves and flowers to this sad sight.

They even eat up the eggplant leaves, just not as badly as the beans.

  I planted 2 eggplant varieties, Fairytale (I think it is an heirloom variety) and Black Beauty. Fairytale started producing way before Black Beauty even started blooming. It makes small, cylindrical fruits that are purple and white mottled/striped. They are very pretty, but the skin is rather tough...especially if you grill it. Then Black Beauty started blooming and we have had about 3 or 4 eggplants per plant...with a few of those number still growing.

"Fairytale" with blossoms
"Fairytale" fruit

"Black Beauty" eggplant

The okra, "Clemson spineless" just in case you were wondering, is tall and producing like spite of the grasshoppers devouring the leaves. The white scallop squash took off with a bang and hasn't stopped at all. I usually harvest more than enough for us to eat for a week in 2 or 3 days and we've been giving a lot away. It is by far the highest yielding of the squash we planted.

  The tomatillo grew and grew and grew. And flowered and flowered and flowered. But it wasn't setting any fruit. Brent thought maybe we didn't have the right pollinator so I looked it up and everything I read said that you need 2 tomatillo plants for pollination. So I was thinking about ripping the plant up to give the space over to something else, but the next day, I noticed that there were a few swollen up husks, and since then there have been quite a few more show up. Nowhere close to all the flowers, but definitely enough that I am not ripping the plant up.

And the tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes I planted are heirlooms. Chocolate Cherry was the first to set fruit. They are so sweet and yummy! It has been producing faithfully, just not huge quantities. I would say that it is just right for keeping a family in small tomatoes.
green "Chocolate Cherry" tomatoes

green "Yellow Pear" tomatoes
Yellow Pear started growing all over the place, it stretches to all four sides of the tomato tangle (the tomatoes grew so much that they knocked over the tomato cages, and even staking and tying hasn't done much for it!) and it is the most prolific of all the tomato plants. In fact it is the only tomato plant that is still flowering and setting fruit as we speak. Having all those yummy yellow tomatoes inspired me to find recipes for what to do with them, because I harvest more than we can eat every day. I found and made a recipe for Yellow Pear Jam that I will share with you another day, and I have several more that I will try. After all, I still have tomatoes left from the batch of jam and the plant is still making more every day.
green Roma
The 2 Roma plants are next, producing faithfully and in fairly large quantities. I made salsa with them, canned a couple of jars and we have eaten them fresh, sliced with olive oil, basil and pepper. I also have another pile waiting to be turned into another creation, and there are more ripening on the vine. Brandywine has produced only a few tomatoes, but they have been large and yummy. Pineapple had quite a few flowers but never set any fruit. And finally I had one plant that was labeled "Heirloom Rainbow Mix" It could be one of 6 or so different varieties. It is similar in shape to the Brandywine tomato, but is a little smaller, and has made a higher number of tomatoes than the Brandywine. It is great for slicing and eating on a sandwich.

The watermelons are small, just right for 4 people to eat in one sitting, and delicious.  We did get one teeny tiny watermelon.  I knew that it was fertilized, because it took so long to have any female flowers that I hand pollinated the first two on the same day.  One grew to a normal size, the other was smaller than a tomato.  It was literally about 4 very small bites...but it was still sweet and yummy! :) 

teeny tiny watermelon
full size "Sugar Baby" watermelon

I've been harvesting everyday, and get a decent harvest every time, sometimes even a large harvest 3 or 4 days in a row!  The plants must really like all the compost we worked so hard to add in. :)

May 15 harvest

June 27 harvest, part 1

June 27 harvest, part 2
July 2 harvest
July 7 harvest

July 8 harvest

The cantaloupe is growing and has had a couple of flowers, but no fruit has set yet. The Malabar spinach took a long time to sprout, only two seedlings ever emerged and they have not grown very big yet...only about 4 to 6 true leaves on each plant so far. We'll see what happens with them. The nasturtiums didn't do well at all. Out of the whole package, there were about 6 or 7 seedlings and they never grew more than just a few leaves...although a couple of those seedlings are still hanging in there. I still have several more things to plant for a fall crop. I already have seeds for carrots, spinach, bush beans and lettuce. Samantha really wants to grow broccoli, so as long as we can find it, we will try that and we'll see what else we can find to plant when it gets closer to that time.
I definitely deem this year's garden a whopping success!