I successfully avoided killing the two apple trees I planted last year, both are leafing out nicely, and this one is covered with buds. Whoop whoop!
I’m trying valiantly to get back in the game. My garden is overgrown, the weeds are laughing at me, and I *gasp* finally broke down and hired someone to help me in my yard. Yes, my mother, frugal German/Scot that she was, is rolling over in her grave. Sorry, mom, but if I wanted to walk through my yard without tripping on ivy vines or dog presents, it had to be done.
Amazingly, I was getting tomatoes until about a week ago. My lemongrass is still alive outside, and hopefully will transition well to being an inside plant this winter. We just found some carrots and onions hiding in a raised bed. The cucumbers and green beans produced for ages, I’ve got kale and mesclun and lettuce in my backyard, and cilantro (that I successfully killed in the spring) is happy as a clam growing direct from seed in the fall. Who knew?
Today’s surprise finds.
So, not as much a bust as I thought this year was, especially when I was ridiculously overachieving in the spring. I’m kinda scared to update my garden math totals, because I know I probably didn’t break even. Not because my garden wasn’t capable of producing, but because I was traveling five out of eight weeks in July and August, which just happens to be prime produce season in these here parts.
Plus, this gardening stuff is hard work. Americans who are so far removed from their food sources have conveniently forgotten how labor-intensive food production is – and how artificially low-priced food is. Don’t believe me? In 2004, Oxfam America wrote a report on farm workers in Florida and North Carolina, where in order to make $50 a day, workers have to pick TWO TONS of tomatoes. That’s $6.25 and 250 lbs an hour. Could you do that? Things have improved a little since then, but not much. Just so you can get cheap tomatoes at the grocery store.
But I digress. As a busy working mom, the garden sat on the back burner for a while this summer. I’m planning on learning from my successes and failures, plotting out new strategies for the spring, and scaling back the volume of stuff I grow. Maybe….
I have a new favorite farmer’s market. Sorry, East Liberty Citiparks Market, there’s someone else. Don’t worry – I’ll be back to visit you regularly, since this new relationship is long distance. Besides, you took the day off for the holiday anyway.
Snow peas in August? Yes, please!
This year was my first year actually planning a garden – let’s see how it worked.
In April, this was my happy little plan. I was so organized! I had planted! The plants were co-operating!
Then one of the hottest summers on record said “HA!” about my plan. So did my summer work schedule and my husband’s herniated discs. So today, this is the best I’ve got:
Kind of chaotic (but typical given my life in general), but not too bad, given the circumstances. The sidewalk’s even been swept recently – a major achievement. Now let’s see what reading between the lines gets us:
That’s what I get for container gardening on concrete in 99 degree weather. Lots of water usage and scraggly tomatoes. Though the cucumbers are more than making up for the lack of tomatoes in sheer size.
So much for planning – as much as we’d like, it doesn’t seem to ever turn out the way we wanted it to. But the harvest is still possible in some ways, and the break in the weather this weekend has allowed me some valuable puttering time and reflection, and I don’t think I’ve done too badly so far.
Not bad for completely neglecting my garden for the last month.
Around here, summer is more stressful than the school year. Between work travel, the kids zombie-fying themselves at home while my husband does his best not to throttle them, and the standard demands of housekeeping coupled with the increased yard maintenance, I can’t wait until the smell of sharpened pencils fills the air. Keeping up is always a challenge – one that I’m not exactly rising to this year. But, I soldier on!
In the meantime, my tomato plants have verily hit the dust (with a few exceptions), but my beans, garlic, and onions have more than made up for the loss.
Oh, do I know my onions. I’ve been sneaking these babies out of their raised beds as I’ve needed them for cooking, which has been great fun in and of itself. This past weekend, I realized I needed to get these buggers out of the ground once and for all (at least the yellow onions, which I planted mid-fall last year). I estimate I’ve probably used about 15 yellow onions so far – and here’s the rest:
Thankfully, we have patient neighbors, who don’t mind (as far as we know, at least) when we make an onion drying rack out of clothesline and a couple of random 1x2s. There’s 47 happy little onions hanging out here – so from a beginning of 80, 62 isn’t too shabby. These range in size from 2-6 ounces, so not grocery store huge, but perfectly acceptable onions nonetheless.
I let a few go to seed just for the heck of it (when was the last time *you* saw an onion flower?):
The seeds are pretty amazing – they look like miniature onions to me, actually. If you follow the stem all the way down you can see how much smaller and less bulbous this guy is compared to his neighbors. But I’m hoping to save some seeds and I figured onions were worth a go, so a smaller bulb isn’t the end of the world.
In other news, the elephant garlic delivered:
This head was about 6 ounces, the largest of the five heads I grew. The smallest, about 3 ounces. Enough to keep us in garlic for a few weeks, at least. The green bean teepee also went nuts – with ten plants, I’ve netted two pounds of beans so far. (You can see the Parisian pickling cucumber plants threatening to intrude on the bean’s territory.)
So not a complete loss by any means, even with disappointing tomato ranks. Basil, dill, chives, and thyme are all doing fine, lemongrass and ginger are happy as clams, pumpkin vines are starting to stretch out. But I’m disappointed in my overall progress, especially considering the massive volume of seeds I purchased in the spring. Here’s hoping I can rally the fall greens in the onion beds and break even.
Now for the numbers:
A few notes about the newcomers: I had lots of big and little onions, so I’m estimating based on an average of 3.5 ounces per onion. That’s a pretty impressive $25 worth of onions for $2.10 in initial investment. Green beans are also pretty impressive, but that may be because the only green beans in the grocery store were locally grown organic beans. But heck, so are mine.
So far, I’ve ‘earned’ back about one third of my initial investment. Not too shabby, considering I dropped the ball on much of what I wanted to plant!
I’ve grown vegetable plants many, many times before. This is the first time I’ve done so many things from seed. As challenging as nurturing seedlings into full-grown plants can be, babying things from seed adds a whole new level of difficulty. I can’t tell you how many seedlings I’ve seen die from too much water, not enough water, too much sun, not enough sun, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time this season. I’m not sure I’m cut out for this level of commitment every year.
That’s why I’m thankful for the veritable terra cotta army of volunteer tomato plants that I discovered when taking out my (overwhelmingly prolific) pea plants. I’d interspersed spinach seeds in the pea bed, but the peas went nuts and the spinach was crowded out, so I wasn’t expecting much. Imagine my surprise when I saw these lovely offspring from last year’s bumper crop of tomatoes.
(There’s still some straggly peas in there, sorry). I must have pulled out as least as many little plants to sacrifice to the gods of space as what you see freshly mulched above. I decided to keep these guys because, other than Sun Golds, none of my tomato seedlings are turning out well. And by that I mean I transplanted them into large containers over a month ago and they’re still not any bigger than two inches tall.
So this little life lesson is teaching me to be thankful for what I get. Even if I have no idea what types of tomatoes these guys will end up to be. They will still be juicy and delicious and full of seeds for next year’s crop of mistakes.
What’s a garden post without a victory garden update? Drumroll please…
Now we’re cooking with gas. Told you I had a bumper crop of peas. With one pack of snow peas and half a pack of snap peas, I racked in pounds and pounds of the darn things. This also doesn’t count what I randomly munched on before I got inside to the scale, or the ones I missed picking and found while ripping the fading pea plants out.
You can see that the ridiculously hot weather we had this spring did not really help my greens out much. Same thing with the shiitakes (we have a mushroom log, which is fan-freaking-tastic) – we had four giant ones pop out at once, and then nothing, because it’s been so hot.
Things that still look reasonably good in my yard include – the bean teepee (I wanted to do more than one but I ran out of steam), the Parisian pickling cucumbers, dill, creeping thyme, mint, chives, zucchini, onions, garlic, tomatoes, lemongrass. I planted pumpkin seeds but haven’t seen any vines pop up yet, and I didn’t get to a bunch of seeds that I wanted to. But hey, there’s always next year.
I’ve gotten over three pounds of snap and snow peas out of my garden in the past three weeks. My trellises are groaning. I’m in heaven. Peas and beans were by far my favorite veggies to snitch from the garden when I was a kid. My kids, not so much. More for me! I’ve been snitching for days, and feeling quite self-righteous when I do, thankyouverymuch.
(Once I make it to the grocery store to price peas I’ll do the math.)
Yes, I know that’s only three ounces. I’ve picked a lot more since then.
Good stuff from the garden, on its way to a pasta salad for a foodie party. Spinach, red onion, peas, garlic scapes, thyme, oregano, and shiitake mushrooms.
Thanks, domestic goddess turned convicted felon, for giving me the idea to blanch the peas in with the noodles right before they finished cooking.
The finished product. Added some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and stinky cheese, and I was good to go.
Note: the only thing I bought specifically for this spring salad was the pasta. I had everything else (yes, even the stinky cheese) in my kitchen, or I had plucked it from the garden. This, my friends, is one of the reasons why I grow things.