Garden Update, Part 8

September rolled in and on the second day of the month it was as if someone flipped a switch and made it autumn. Hopefully we’ll get an encore of the nice weather, but given the course of this year so far it is not something I’d put money on.

On the weekend I dug up the carrots. The mouse I thwarted did not seem to have any pals, so the damage to the crop was limited to what was done a month ago. Still, tossing half the carrots because they had been chewed, gnawed, or otherwise contaminated was heartbreaking. The five to ten pounds that I did harvest were delicious, however, and the night of our harvest we cooked a delicious carrot soup — a soup that’s only really good with fresh garden carrots, and a soup that used up about half the crop. Well spent.

I also dug a couple hills of potatoes, and the results were sliced thinly and fried into crispy chips. I always plant potatoes, but they’re not my favourite. But I will say both myself and the family adored the chips that were made and the Kid cut more taters half way through cooking because her sampling of the final results made her insist that we should not skimp.

The cucumbers have been a regular addition to our meals as well, though the smaller pickle-sized cukes have a sweeter taste and a thinner more palatable skin. I’ll eat them no matter what, but the consensus around the dinner table has been to sneak them off their vines earlier than later. I suspect we have a couple more weeks of trickling harvest on that crop.

The biggest success by far however has been weed management. The extra time granted by working from home all summer has been to keep the weeds in check and while usually by this time of year we’re hacking through weeds to find the actual crops, this year it’s a small effort to keep the occasional invasive plant from taking over. Next year will benefit from this effort, without a doubt.

Garden Update, Part 6

Gardens are funny in the way that on one day they are potential things, they are spaces about to produce food.

The next day, they are abundant and overflowing and it becomes almost impossible to keep up with their bounty.

We’re at the “next day” phase.

In the last week I’ve eaten more snap peas than I usually do in a whole year. Yet I sit here on the deck and I can see enough still hanging on the pea vines that it seems like I hardly made a dent.

I filled a bowl with fresh raspberries and we had to freeze most of them to keep them from spoiling. There are another round or two ready to be picked in the coming days.

I’ve only been snacking on the carrots, but what I thought was a sparse crop is looking to be overflowing even now.

The cucumbers are covered in little proto-cumcumbers just starting to grow, and in a week or two we are going to need to start eating a helluvalot of more cucumbers … or open a pickle factory.

It’s obvious that one of the rare benefits of this pandemic has been the opportunity to spend so much time an attention in our own yard this summer that growing a garden has paid — is right now paying — dividends on that investment.

I haven’t even checked the potatoes, but I’m considering buying a fryer because I don’t think I can make the switch from rice to an all potato diet without incorporating some variety.

Look at me, complaining about bounty of food. How privledged.

Actually, it is highlighting the urgent need to consider how I might preserve some of it. In the past five or so years, our busy lifestyle has meant that despite planting the garden in the spring, the daily diligence of weeding, pruning, and minding the patch has just not been there. It’s helped that this has been a summer leaning far to the wet side of the preciptation scale and I’ve only needed to water a few times, but in drier years finding that ten minutes in the day to pull out the hose and throw some water down was just not a priority. The short version of that tale of laziness is that we’ve never really faced this abundance, at least not for the better part of a decade. There was always just enough to eat, graze, add to a meal here and there.

Now?

Now I have abundance.

It’s awesome — and daunting because the clock is ticking on what to do with it, and not squander it all.

(For example, sitting here writing and NOT picking out some plenty for a salad for dinner tonight!)

The weeds are generally under control.

The pests seem to be held at bay.

As mentioned, the rains have been keeping everything lush and wet and green.

It would suck if I was the excuse this year. So if you’ll excuse an abrupt ending to this update, I’m going to go pick some veggies…

Garden Update, Part 5

It is raining as I write this, but yet I ran outside to snap a few pictures. As the first half of the year begins its final day, July sweeping into view ahead, the vegetable garden has in ten days evolved into a proper patch.

Two weeks more of on-again off-again rain and sunshine has definitely helped. And as things settle into this splendid spread of virtually weed-free gardening bliss I start to look at the nuance of possible risks approaching.

Fearing to jinx myself, I’ve been watching the forecast for some kind of terrible storm. In July we are often cursed with at least one helluva-hail-storm where one unlucky quadrant of the city is pummelled by frozen pellets from the sky. That happened once about five years ago and it literally pulped what had been a fantastic vegetable garden into a mess of compost. Broke my heart, to be honest.

So, that has become a lingering fear that, pragmatically if it happens it happens, but would crush my soul a little bit more if it did.

On the other side of that fear is a blossoming collection of amazing future salads.

The carrots are bushy and strong.

The lettuce is at that phase where we actually think we might better start eating it now else it risks running away and getting ahead of our capacity to harvest it.

The peas are proper tall and I expect in the next couple weeks will start blossoming and producing some fruit.

The cukes have established themselves and by next time I write I expect I’ll have needed to start tending where their vines are growing as I loop them back in on themselves and try to contain them to the small space I’ve allocated.

And I can’t even talk about how unexpected my garlic crop is pleasing me. I don’t even know how we’re going to use it all.

Don’t call it cheating, but I made a rare trip to the store shortly after my last post with a shopping list exactly two items long: some ant powder to deal with the infestation in our front yard and a couple of hostas to replace two dead shrubs in the back. I had visited a couple of greenhouses in May to seek out some starter tomatoes and such, but due to the pandemic seedlings were in short supply. Yet as I entered the checkout lane, there as one of the lane barriers was an entire rack full of tomatoes and other little starters.

Needless to say my list got a little longer than two items as I picked up a trio of tomatoes, some spicy peppers, and a couple small flats of leafy greens, specifically some kale and bok choy — things I never would grow from seed — to fill in the spaces where nothing ever really germinated. Those have eagerly joined the garden patch and are faring well… ish. More on that in a later post I hope.

Garden Update, Part 4

This is the point in the garden when optimism is flourishing as much as the plants seem to be.

It’s been about a month since we planted, and much has come up strong and healthy.

It doesn’t hurt that we’ve had almost perfect rain during that span. Day-long drenching soaks followed by a few days of hot sun followed by another day-long soak. Repeat for a month.

It also doesn’t hurt that because of the work-from-home situation that is now looking to be all summer long, I have been able to get outside multiple times per day, often rain or shine, and pick away at the weeds.

A couple years ago we didn’t even grow a garden the weeds were so bad. I fallowed for 2018 in hopes of spending the summer tackling the weed situation. My approach was a mix of manual and chemical attack. I pulled aggressive weeds (which rarely works as well as you think) and applied multiple drenchings of Round Up (specifically to take on the quackgrass that had infiltrated from every approach.)

The success was limited.

I did make a huge improvement in the quackgrass situation, the deep-rooted aggressive grass had reached a point of garden takeover that made the mid-summer soil look like a meadow rather than a carrot patch. By the end of 2018, that invasion had been reduced to a single digit percentage of its pre-battle state.

The other weeds, likely as not because of some germination adaptation that staggers and makes dormant with some randomness the seeds of weeds, coupled with the abundance of birds, paired with the never-ending flow of wind and air through the yard carrying unseen seeds and spores… well… that was a different situation. As it turns out, for every weed one pulls, two more seemed to spring up in its place.

It was a long summer, and (not working from home) the weeds had the advantage over my schedule. In the summer of 2019 while the grasses had been tamed, there was no let-up in the thistle, knapweed, dandilion, stinkweed, and more. I would miss a few days of weeding, they would go to seed, and inevitably (no matter how careful I was) a there would be contamination and a whole new generation caught in the wind.

Also, I learned that composting may not actually destroy these seeds… so I’ve started putting them in the trash. Oops.

But in the summer of 2020 things have vastly improved. Daily weeding means the plants I’m cultivating are significantly out-surviving those I am not. My carrots are strong (if patchy), the lettuce may be salad-worthy in a few weeks, the peas are tall and strong, and the cucumber plants look to be starting a runaway attack of the patch I’ve generously allocated for them.

Fifteen years in the house and (barring a hailstorm or other disaster) this may be the best garden ever.