And so it begins.
After spending the first half of the month nearly holding my breath to see if we’d get a harvest before….
Before the squash bugs & cucumber beetles wreaked their havoc…
Before huitlacoche began to bubble up out of the corn…
Before late blight took out the tomatoes…
And so on.
But we made it and all this work we’ve poured into it and everything is beginning to come to fruition and the harvest in coming in! Praise the Lord!
The pantry counter is spending most days loaded despite my best efforts to stay caught up. So far, I’m doing alright with most of it, save the yellow summer squash. Just this morning I contemplated chunking it up and feeding some to the pigs. Then I could feel warm & fuzzy inside about how well I’m keeping up.
•It was the third week of August that brought the first big load of tomatoes. This photo shows one evenings harvest! The bushel basket had 6 pounds of beans in it… the rest were tomatoes!
I’ve been freezing a goodly bit to deal with later, but otherwise I canned 3 different types of salsa to try, a few half pints of bruschetta, some sweet tomato sauce (in the most awesome, frugal, easy, and flavorful way to make tomato sauce EVER!! Recipe forthcoming….) , and I’ve also roasted and froze a few gallon sized bags of cherry tomatoes à la The Elliott Homestead.
•Heirloom Black Early Tomato. The first tomatoes ripening from the garden. Beautifully ugly and full of all the deep wonderful flavor you could ask for in a first tomato of the season. They are bearing well and have earned a place in my Tomato All-Star Line Up alongside the red & yellow varieties of Brandywine and heirloom cherry tomatoes. I have one reject- White Tomesol. They came on all at once and then were the first to fall to a fungal issue- black mold. I’m looking for heirlooms that slowly give out their goodness over the whole season.
•Not pictured, but I feel compelled to mention that I had IT happen.
It. You know, the whole hay mulch making more weeds that it prevented issue. Which is fine. I’ve walked through that fire and came to the other side and I STILL think it’s worth it!
Here’s why. I learned a couple lessons.
#1- Do NOT use last year’s hay for mulch. If you, like us come across a fellow wanting his barn cleaned out, great. Bring it home, pile it up and let it sit for another year so all those seeds have a chance to sprout and die outside of the garden. The older the mulch the better (unless we’re talking super wet & moldy- which is fine to use so long as you wear a mask.)
#2- Always get more than you need. IF I had had more hay mulch waiting in the wings, I could have easily and simply covered up those tiny grass seedlings and been done with it. But I didn’t and we couldn’t find any more. (Still looking.) What happens is that hay will settle and also start to break down. So while it looks like there was a lot laid down, it won’t be as much as you thought in a few weeks and if the light gets through… BAM. Germination.
Well the little weeds popped up at a very inopportune time… homeschool testing week and by the time I got around to dealing with them they were past the stage where they could be managed with a simple knock-down. The roots were established enough, they’d just come back (and did).
What we ended up doing is cutting out more lengths of the black fabric mulch and laying it down for a few weeks and that took care of the problem. That and bringing EVERYONE out to the garden for a morning to knock out the rest.
It’s been a couple weeks now, and really I need to be weeding again, but my wee one is mobile and a handful to manage and we have some weird feverish illness trickling it’s way through my gang one at at time so between that and the harvest keeping me busy, it hasn’t happened. That said, I went along for a drive yesterday and all the gardens I spent the spring envying while I was slipping in the mud in mine are all completely overgrown and awful looking. Mine was the purtiest and most weed-free on the whole trip!
Moving over to the (not so pretty) pantry garden….
Not only does the pantry garden not look like much, it doesn’t look like it has seen much improvement over the last month. Somehow, somewhere we are actually getting a bit from it… 17 pounds of tomatoes just this morning. A stray head of cabbage. A lot of what you see here is set to be ready for harvest over the next month or so.
The plan was that the Kitchen Garden would primarily feed us over the summer and the Pantry Garden would be the foodstuff to take us through the winter (presuming fall gardening proves to be a flop, which is looking increasingly promising since the cultivator is broken and they needed to be planted days and days ago.
Let’s take a quick stroll through it, shall we?
•Starting with the sweet potatoes, they should be ready quite soon. I *feel* like they should go longer, but apparently I planted them on 6/4 so today is about 90 days which means they need to be checked at some point this week.
•What parsnips that did germinate I’ll leave in the ground until after the first freeze to sweeten them up. A digging fork pops them right up just so long as it’s not in the dead of the frozen winter. My favorite storage plan.
•I won’t need to worry about storing onions this year. I swear I planted hundreds upon hundreds of onion seeds. 500? More? Knowing they wouldn’t all make it. This is what has been spared to me. Pretty pathetic. Rabbits. Oh there will be a fence and a plan next year- you mark my word!!
•There are potatoes in there somewhere. But don’t focus on the weeds please, there are potatoes!! I know because a chicken scratched at the base of a plant and I saw them! What a fight to even get to this point! I feel downright hopeful we’ll get a few meals of homegrown potatoes yet!
•Acorn squash. What’s up with the leaves? They’re not looking so hot are they? Trying to remind myself that even getting this far is a victory because though the squash are still small, I’ve never made it this far before.
•Overgrown pumpkin patch. Next to overgrown corn. This is NOT an example of how to do the 3 sisters. Unless you don’t intend to harvest or care for the beans & squash. Larger space or fewer seeds next time.
•The Corn-Leaf-Soil-Nutrient-Deficiency-Indicator is showing reddish-pink streaky leaves meaning we have a phosphate deficiency. Spot on since we had the soil tested in the greenhouse last month (which is right above the Pantry Garden) and the largest deficiency was phosphate. That one 3000 square foot area is going to need nearly 150 pounds of soft rock phosphate to be amended! It was a very interesting report. It seemed everything was very deficient or had excesses. We’ll be amending it according to the recommendations of The Intelligent Gardener and then sowing a cover crop of peas and oats.
Next year we’ll be planting the Pantry Garden in the greenhouse and allowing the Pantry Garden to be tested, amended, and cover cropped. The third year, it will be the Kitchen Garden’s turn, testing and amending the other two as well. The fourth year, we should be good to go and can hopefully maintain balanced soil by making yearly inputs instead in addition to withdrawals (harvest) every year.
•I believe that we could have had a better tomato harvest this year. Oddly enough, without a fence or proper staking, something is getting into the garden and eating all of the tomatoes. Hmmmm….. I wonder what it could be…..
•Let’s move on to a positive note. I.Grew.Cabbage.
Oh this is such a big deal!! It has been a goodly long while since I haven’t lost the heads to cabbageworms. Maybe it was growing purple, I could see them better on the leaves? Maybe it was the diatomaceous earth trick? I can’t be sure, but you can bet I’ll be trying them both again next year! Isn’t that the most beautiful head of cabbage you’ve ever seen?!?! Perhaps I’m biased.
• A tour of the Pantry Garden wouldn’t be complete without checking out the little raspberry patch. I mean, who knows, it just might be that the children have been too busy the last few days to scavenge every remotely pink berry from their spiny stems?
Not taking any chances or leaving any hope for an official harvest, I scarfed those bad boys like I was one of the ten and under crowd. And was glad you weren’t really there so I didn’t have to share! Ha!
LESSON OF THE MONTH
Learn to eat & grow food more seasonally.
I’ll be honest, as much as I love seeing a pantry stocked full of home canned goods, I love gardening and being outdoor and listening to the music of the bugs & the birds and sinking my fingers deep within the soil more. When preservation season hits, I feel a sense of urgency to really soak up all the sun and fresh air and warmth I can get before the cold weather makes venturing outdoors unpleasant. And I can’t because most of my time is spent indoors canning & preserving along with my regular necessary indoor duties of laundry and meal making. Of course, gardening into the nooks and crannies of the seasons would force the issue and give me no choice but to go outside when it’s irritating to find all the necessary clothing to keep my toes and nose and fingers from becoming frost bitten.
How did your garden fare last month?