We have been very fortunate so far with our garden. The rain has been consistent but intermittent so there hasn’t been much guesswork about watering. It hasn’t been too hot or too cold. We have invested a good amount of time and we’re seeing big dividends with the promise of more throughout the summer. This is what we’ve learned so far:
1. Vegetables we thought we’d harvest in the fall, kohlrabi, kale, chard and spinach, were the first things we had to pick. We had big plans for soup in the fall, but it’s too hot for soup now. Next year, we will plant them in late summer so they’re ready when we are. Just because Home Depot sells it, doesn’t mean it’s time to plant it. And if one of the plants falls off the pushcart, take it back. It’s not going to grow. Rest in peace little corn plant.
2. We will place the plants closer together. It cuts down on the time spent weeding and gives you more time to relax and enjoy watching the garden grow.
3. Cellphones are great diagnostic tools. Snap a picture, run up to your local garden center and come home with the remedy. We thought the threat would come from the little predator pictured above, but it was caterpillars that chomped holes in our kale and bok choi.
4. Next year we will get a bigger, stronger tiller. For some reason the grass that won’t grow in the yard, loves to invade the garden. Those rhizomes are tenacious.
5. We’ve learned a lot about what we can grow successfully and what will not grow at all. We can’t grow spinach, too much sun and too much heat. We didn’t separate the leeks so they are growing like chives. And the garlic has us mystified. This winter, we will try to take a class and if not, at least read, not skim, one of the books in our possession. Next year we’re hoping fall plants will grow in the fall and spring plants in the spring. Since our tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers are right on schedule, we seem to have summer down pat.
6. We will make sure to invest in those little sticks and write in permanent marker what we just planted so we aren’t standing in the garden saying to each other “do you know what that is?”.
7. Next year we will buy all of our plants from our local independent garden center or travel to buy heirloom plants from a farm we found in our search for eggs, Brian and Julia’s Farm in Mathews, Virginia (brianandjuliasfarm.webs.com). In addition to heirloom tomato plants of all sorts, she sold us an artichoke plant. While Julia warned us that we have little hope of seeing a real artichoke, the plant is thriving and she promised that the flower is spectacular. She also sold us four cauliflower plants and as you can see from the picture, we may have a cauliflower soon. You can find farms like hers by searching Local Harvest. It’s worth the trip.
8. We are thrilled that at this stage the garden determines our menus. It’s exciting to go out and see what’s ready to be picked and look for recipes that will make the most of whatever is in our basket. When the kohlrabi was ready three months before we planned on using it, we diced it, put in on skewers with cippoline onions, brushed it with olive and lemon salt, and roasted it on the grill. It was amazing.
9. And finally: Don’t panic. It’s nature. Stuff grows.
We’ll post again in August. We’ll have recipes to share and progress reports on the plantings for the fall harvest.
Our dinner: Salad from our garden, with a little avocado and a few mushrooms added, dressed with a simple vinaigrette made with Sparrow Lane Gravenstein Apple Cider vinegar.