A Big Gardening Week

24 Jul

Wow…  What an awesome week for my garden!

First, the food…

Saturday we had dinner with my parents, sister, and grandmother.  I brought over a ton of produce – artichokes, squash, squash flowers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet peppers, as well as rosemary we used in cooking chicken – and we had a feast.  We boiled the artichokes with garlic, onion, and herbs, grilled the squash alongside chicken and polenta squares (my sister’s express request for her pre-birthday dinner), had a big salad, and made the year’s first batch of fried squash flowers.  A few years ago, the last time I actually had a garden, we made a batch or two of them, but since we haven’t had readily-available blossoms since ’07, these were a really exciting and fun treat.  Obviously not something you’d make daily (because, um, they’re fried) but totally worth the messy stove.

Thursday night we had ratatouille, with our first creamy eggplant (everything but the onion and garlic were garden-harvested).

Yesterday I made tomato sauce with five big Black Krum tomatoes, and dinner last night was carnitas burritos with veggies, with a filling made from our first tomatillo harvest and some of our peppers.  I also made another set of pickles, since I’ve taken a dozen cucumbers out of the garden in the last week! 

Now on to the garden itself…

The Black Krum and Isis tomatoes have produced their first ripe fruits.  There are ripening fruits on the Kellogg’s Breakfast and Camp Joy plants too, and Sungold has produced about 7 pounds of beautifully ripe cherry-sized tomatoes over the last month and a half!

The bean vines are going nuts – I’ve harvested about three pounds of big beautiful green beans!  Likewise, most of the pepper plants are full of fruit.  And the cucumber plants together have produced something like 15 pounds of cucumbers.  Likewise, the artichoke plant is producing consistently – we’ve gotten a dozen chokes from the two plants that have flowered, and, with tons of little ones sprouting on the sides now, plan to eat these for a while.  Interestingly we seem to have a far smaller problem with pincher bugs this year in our chokes – I wonder whether it has anything to do with the physical barrier (the weed cloth) we put down.

The first butternut squash didn’t actually set – but over the last two weeks we’ve seen more female flowers on that plant than I’ve ever seen before.  Luckily, since it wasn’t producing any male flowers to pollenate them, I was able to use the summer squash plants in the backyard to pollenate.  I wasn’t sure it would work, but it did – and we’ve got nine baby butternuts on the plant right now!  You can see that both pumpkin plants in the bed next to the butternut squash seem to be doing well – there’s actually a baby fruit on the smallest (middle) plant.  The tall plant across from the squash appears to be a bush variety (it’s called Magic Lantern but I don’t recall seeing anything about it being a bush rather than a vine) of pumpkin.

Baby butternut!

You can see my "bush" pumpkin here... This photo is actually a couple of days old, though, because the butternut squash has encroached on the pumpkins' space already!

Last week I got curious about the watermelons in the front yard and brought out my antique kitchen scale.  I tried to be as careful as possible, and gravity was working against me (the watermelon kept trying to roll downhill!) but I weighed the largest melon at about 13 pounds.  I haven’t seen any signs of it being ripe yet – I’m hoping I don’t miss them!

My biggest watermelon! ~13 pounds!

The Jack Be Little pumpkin is already getting really big.  I caged it this week (right after I took this photo) in hopes that when it sends out tendrils it’ll climb up the cage rather than out all over my patio.  Considering that it only ever sprouted over 4th of July weekend, I’m impressed with the size of this little guy.  Can’t wait for my mini pumpkins!

Jack Be Little pumpkins! Took me three tries to get this to grow from seed but now they're happy as clams!

The potted Sugar Baby watermelon (grown from a seed, just like my Jack Be Little) has set its first fruit.  I made a little “sling” out of a piece of panty hose to keep it supported (hush now, it’s not meant to look pretty!).  Hopefully this will help it to stay on the plant long enough to ripen!

My homemade watermelon sling!

My sunflowers are getting tall – currently they’re about waist-high on me.  They’re supposed to be an heirloom variety with several different blooms of various sizes and shades.  Can’t wait to see what colors the blossoms are!  I’m hoping I can figure out how to properly harvest the seeds from these guys without bugs laying their eggs inside.  Last time I grew sunflowers (big giant yellow ones, taller than the house), I let the heads dry on the stem, and when we tried to harvest the seeds they were overrun by larvae.  Ick!

Sunflowers are waist-high!

Two weeks ago the heat was so crazy that my lettuce all bolted.  This week I pulled it up and planted some new things – asparagus peas (which I’ve never tried, but the teeny red flowers were so pretty I had to get them), more beets (I harvested my last two earlier this week) and two mystery plants that were on a table of mixed vegetables at the nursery with no tags and no like plants.  I think one is celeriac and the other is kale.  Of course since they just went in the ground it’ll be a little bit before I can truly see.  (sorry, no photos yet of my mystery plants or asparagus peas!)

My harvest for yesterday was so colorful and gorgeous!

Harvest! Several Black Krum tomatoes, plus some Isis tomatoes and more Sungolds, an artichoke, two small creamy eggplants, some cucumbers and peppers, our first tomatillos, and an okra!

I’ve also harvested squash and beans this week, along with another eggplant and several more tomatoes.  We’re really getting into the summer season here and my garden is thriving!

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