Although my brain is reminding me that we’ve not even hit the summer solstice yet, this week’s baking-hot temperatures have me wondering how time has whooshed by so fast without me noticing. June! The dragonboat festival is in two weeks!! I still have seedlings I haven’t planted out yet (whoops) and I think at this point I’m going to have to admit that it’s too late for potatoes this year, but in general, I’m pretty happy with how my veggies are growing.
This is my first year where every single plant has been grown from seed by me. Does it mean that my yields will be a little bit sad and paltry? Probably. But that’s okay: while I do love eating what I grow, I never think of my garden as a significant food source. It’s part of why I’m a CSA member! Maybe one day I’ll rely on the veggie bed more heavily, but for now, it’s definitely all “bonus”.
So what’s growing?
Garlic & Onions
My beloved garlic are starting to put up their scapes. I’m watching them slowly curl so that as soon as they’re ready I can harvest and fry ’em up. I finished the last of my frozen ones recently, and have decided that I while I wouldn’t freeze them whole again, I think I will still keep some (chopped) raw scapes in the freezer for the winter. I like the mildly garlicky hit in stir-fries. The other change I’m making is that this year when I make my scape pesto (and yes, despite the fact that I’m still eating last year’s, I will be making more), I’ll freeze it in an ice cube tray: much easier to use in little bursts than in half-pints!
Also, I don’t think I’ll plant garlic as a “divider” again. The protective benefit of the alliums against rodentia seem to be much less reliable this year, and the garlic, while gloriously tall and mighty-looking, does block the sun from my shorter seedlings when I plant them out. The border that I made out of shallots is overflowing, like onion-y green dreadlocks into the squares it bisects. (Although I do love having “green onion” in my garden. So convenient! And it, too, is now starting to “scape”.) Next year I might dedicate one square every three or four to garlic instead, so I’ll have pockets of them amid my veggie squares. Could do that with onions too, I suppose. Hmm…
Peas & Beans
This year — for the first time in my garden! — I have purple pea flowers. Purple! I told The Boy all excitedly and he was like “…is that normal?” Apparently for Thomas Laxton snap peas (Vesey’s), it is! Oh, how I love pea blossoms; they’re my favourite thing to see in the garden. My snow peas (OSC’s Dwarf Grey) are keeping true to their name with white blossoms, and they’re shooting up, already almost 6 feet tall. Can’t wait till the pods start appearing, fresh and snackety!
The beans had a hard start this spring, under continuous attack by chipmunks or rabbits, or whatever it is that’s eating them. It’s gotten to the point where I’m considering building chickenwire “cages” for my raised beds for next year — just for the first month of spring to protect them… although the jury’s out on whether or not that would actually protect them. Although they’re not flowering yet, the beans are looking sturdy and healthy at this point. I’m sad that most of the green and “mystery” beans I planted got razed, and replaced with my yellow filet beans (the only seeds I had left by round three of re-planting), but I’m not actually 100% sure anymore which beans are what kind. I’ll have to wait until they fruit to find out!
Tomatoes & Peppers
I had been concerned when I’d planted them out that my tomatoes had looks unnervingly small and unprepared. Most of them (about two thirds) have grown a heartening amount, and I’m hopeful that by July, they’ll actually be of a reasonable size to fruit more than one or two tomatoes. I’m relieved that (despite the heat) they’re not flowering yet: I’m definitely still hoping for more growth spurts in the coming weeks.
My peppers are still tiny seedlings, but I’m alright with that, as my plan for the peppers is multi-year. I know my potted pepper (Bella) last year died, but I’m willing to blame the cats for that one. This year, my plan is to start the peppers off in pots (umm, once I rescue them from their seedling pots in the greenhouse) and move them into the house in the fall, properly cat-proofed this time. (I really must invest in those wheely plant pot holder thingies.) At present I have three cayenne and one sweet pepper. Still trying to decide how many I want to cram in a pot (the choices being one vs two).
Well, I wasn’t crazy: my cukes were blossoming. They’re still tiny (about a foot tall, if I stretch them up their support) and totally not making use of my spiral-ey metal support, but I’m trying not to get too hung up on the whole thing. Frankly, they look healthy (if tiny) and seem to be growing well. If they produce, awesome! If not, well, I can try to learn something for next year.
These were started in the 2″ soil blockers and while I’m very happy with the health of the plant, I’m wondering if playing with the dirt composition of the block might help the cucumber’s size, next year. Definitely I plan on making up a giant tupperware of the soil block mix in the fall so that come March (new rule: no plant starts before my birthday!) I’ll be ready to go with seedlings. Yay!
Carrots and Beets
My first year for beets, and some of the greens are actually getting real-plant-sized! (Since I know I’ll be getting enough “normal” beets from our CSA, I only planted golden and chioggia beets, both of which have noticeable “rings”. I am ridiculously excited about the possibility of such “pretty” vegetables being harvested from our backyard. Don’t tell The Boy though; he’s still all about the carrots. Hmm, maybe if I ordered myself some heirloom rainbow carrot seed, I’d be more excited about them too? Something for next year…)
I definitely learned that trying to start the beets and carrots in the micro soil blockers does not work for me, although I think I’d like to try those for herbs (in earnest) next year. My carrots do not seem to be holding up against the rodents as well as the beets, but I do still see a few out there.
Sometime this week I should plant another seeding. I should have enough room in the squares for a third one a few weeks from now too, which would be another first in my garden. Although every gardening manual tells you to seed root crops every two weeks “for continuous eating”, I somehow never manage to actually do it. We’ll see!
Lettuce and Rhubarb
All of the lettuce I’d sown has been eaten, but I found a nice shallow terracotta bowl-planter, so I figure that would make a nice place to plant greens. And if I tuck it up on top of the barbecue, not only will it be out of the full sun, but it might even be (just a little) safer from the chipmunks and their ilk. I’ll have to get on that.
My two rhubarb champions are each in their own pot, and they’re growing very well. As tempted as I was to eat some this year, I figured that it being only their first true year in our garden, I should probably just let them grow big and establish themselves. (Also, I was a little freaked out that there was no red at all in the stalks.) Now, a couple weeks later, I’m rewarded with a blush of glorious red! Still holding off on the eating until next year, though, by which time they’ll hopefully have a permanent spot in the garden to call their own.
While we’re not technically growing robins, the little nest of three hatchlings was definitely an object of focus these past few weeks. I’d mentioned the poor frazzled parent robins keeping a sharp eye on The Boy and I every time we’d headed out into the backyard. This lasted from when the baby robins were in their egg-phase up until they started flying. When they were getting bigger — just fuzzy little grey balls, with big, big yellow ‘v’ beaks, always open and waiting for food from their parents, or cheeping quietly as they napped — their parents definitely became more vocal towards us if they thought we were getting a little too close to their home. After that point, the parents went from Highly Suspicious Alert to full-on Dive-Bomb mode. There was a period of 3 or 4 days when neither of us could walk out the back door for fear of having a defensive robin swoop down at our heads. Though frustrating, we tried to sympathize.
The Boy, who has more animal empathy than anyone I know, one day called me out round the side of the house to peek at the parent robins perched on the kennel in our yard, watching their fledglings hop and flutter within it. The Boy, watching the baby birds, suddenly worried that due to the confines of the kennel, the fledglings might not be able to fly high enough to get out of it. How would they get water?! Thus ensued about ten minutes of us trying to distract the parent robins (without losing an eye) so that The Boy could get close enough to unlatch the kennel door, providing the fledglings a pedestrian exit, if needed.
And once he got close enough to get the door open? The fledglings hopped into the air… and flew through the kennel fencing into our hedge. We had a good laugh about that one — silly humans, the robins don’t need us! Since then, we haven’t seen much of the robin family; the little nest above our door now sits empty. One thing I will miss is that as part of their protection of the young robins, the parents had sent any grackles in the yard packing. What a gloriously grackle-free spring it had been!