Monday, June 30, 2014

More thoughts on garden envy

In my last post, I lamented how I feel like my garden is behind everyone else even in my zone. I got a few comments telling me not to compare, as there are a lot of variables. This is true. "Zone" refers to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map, and really only categorizes average annual minimum winter temperatures. Another important variable is length of growing season, which I think has more effect on vegetable gardening, since few vegetables are true perennials that you have to worry about over-wintering. Of course minimum temperature and growing season are related, but not exactly causally.

We just returned from a short trip to Boulder, Colorado, for my niece's wedding. The parents of the groom hosted two lovely events at their beautiful home in the country outside of Boulder. Of course I was immediately drawn to their vegetable garden. It is so much more advanced than mine! But that is not surprising, since they started planting in March, and I barely had anything in the ground in late April. Imagine my surprise when I plugged their zip code into the USDA map, and found they are in exactly the same zone as me, 5B!

They are swimming in beautiful summer squash, while mine barely have 4 leaves.

Their beets are the size of baseballs, while mine just have taproots.

Carrots are huge, mine tiny.

Their tomatoes look like mine in August.

Onions dwarf mine.
Their kale does not seem to mind the 90 degree weather. I wonder if I can grow California poppies?

So I'm going to think more about the variables other than zone. It makes sense that no matter how cold it gets in the winter, it is important how quickly winter goes, and how soon it arrives.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Harvest Monday - 23 June 2014

I'm not griping, mind you, but I feel like I'm weeks behind other gardeners, even in my zone or close to it. I mean, I'm in Zone 5B. That's supposed to be more 6-like than 4-like, right? And I'm only maybe 45 miles from the garden of the hostess of Harvest Monday, Daphne.

But she, and Our Happy Acres, and Diary Of A Tomato, and Seeding The Good Life, and Grow A Good Life, and Simple Garden Made Easy, and Mike's Bean Patch...the list goes on...all apparently have a similar climate, and all seem to be light years ahead of us, harvesting much more good stuff. I wish I knew why.

But we are finally harvesting some things anyway. We get nearly daily pickings from the lettuce and spinach in this bed:

Enough for salads every day, and spinach for the freezer. The spinach is starting to bolt, though. In a few days we should be picking the snow peas behind them. As with all the beds directly sown this spring, germination was spotty.

One bright spot has been broccoli. The early variety Blue Wind gave us 3 heads this week, with this one the largest:

We've got 6 Arcadia and 6 Fiesta teed up--the plants are very healthy but the heads are still very small. I think not practicing pure square foot technique here made a difference--one every other square instead of the recommended one per square.

Another bright spot is the bed of onions and potatoes. This is the first time I've tried to grow potatoes, and the results so far seem to be great. They are putting out flower buds.

And I have yet to see a Potato Beetle. But we do have a few similarly marked Striped Cucumber Beetles punching holes here and there. Nothing to worry about, so far.

It's kind of strange, but last summer I planted a few squares of kale (Dwarf Blue Curled). They never amounted to anything by fall; just a few inches tall. I covered them with a cold frame anyway, and when I uncovered them in the spring they looked almost dead, and of course no bigger. That bed was one of two I am resting this year, so I planted a cover crop of field peas. The peas grew quickly, and for some reason, the kale decided to grow too. So we were surprised to find usable kale when we went to chop down the peas this week. We took it all.

Enough for a meal, anyway. Here's what the beds look like. Their frames have rotted, so now they just look spooky. That's another project...

We continue to have a bumper crop of tarragon and The Kitchen Goddess is putting it to creative use beyond just drying. Here is Tarragon - Chive Flower Vinegar before...

and after.

And here's tarragon compound butter, in the freezer now just waiting to be applied to sauces or our first baked potatoes!

In the spirit of sharing how we use our harvests, our Saturday night dinner was green salad and grilled venison tacos, with all components (except the cheese, which we haven't gotten involved in yet, and the tortillas, which we could but were too busy to make ourselves) coming from our own hands. And paired with a half-bottle of our own Black Rot Wine--so called because that fungus decimated our vineyard last year and we were only able to salvage a few grapes. It's been bottle-aging since fall, and when we opened it up (first time), surprise! Bubbles!! How did that happen?

Now for an update on the progress of "The Survival Garden," introduced here. The Red Flint corn is up and thinned, and the two varieties of dry beans are up as well, though only about 75% survived whatever ate the seedlings. The pumpkins are doing all right, too.

It's not a true three-sisters garden, or if it is, it's the three sisters that don't get along.

So that's it for this week. I would like to thank The Kitchen Goddess for pitching in and shouldering all the burden of garden chores this week while I was out of commission with an injured back.

Happy harvests to all!