Sunday, September 25, 2011

Now and Later

The greens are planted in an area that gets less sun than they were planted in last year, so they are not quite as far along as I would hope, but the little plants are definitely recognizable.

This is one of the Capitan lettuce:

These are two of the bok choy:

And this is one of the Red Russian kale:

If the weather continues to be beautifully sunny with some interspersed days of good, soaking rains, the little plants will be nicely grown by the first frost.

I see that there are a few little weeds in the pictures, too, but I'll remove those in a couple of days, when I get another chance to work in the yard.

For the last several days, my yard work has focused on moving wood chips, left by a tree-removal company, from the middle of my front yard. The good news for me is that Joe takes care of most of the hardest work, but I still managed to make a whole bunch of my own muscles sore.

We had asked for one load of chips a couple of weeks ago, because they are great to use on the paths that run through the wooded back yard. When the tree-guys stopped by a week later with another load, asking whether we could use more mulch, I (crazily) said, "yes!"

The tree-guys were very happy that they weren't going to have to drive that truck-full of chips 40-or-so miles to where-ever they usually dump loads of chipped wood, so I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing until they actually dumped the chips. The pile was twice as big as the first pile, and it took some serious work to get it all moved.

Some of those chips are spread as mulch in places where the first load had to be laid a little thin, but a lot of it is now in three big piles that are not in the middle of the yard.

By the time next spring's garden is far enough along to need some mulch, those chips should have aged enough to be just about right for the purpose. If I am very lucky, some might be decomposed enough to dig in as soil amendment.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Only Constant is Change

At the Plant-a-Row-for-the-Hungry garden, where I am both volunteer and co-chair, we are in for some big change. The place where we have been growing veggies is going to be remade into a children's interactive garden. For the past few weeks, we have been looking at other properties that would work for our project.

It won't be the first move for this garden project; before moving to the Smith Gilbert Garden in Kennesaw, the project was on County Farm Road, on Cobb County property, in Marietta.

The space where we've been for the past six years is about 4,500 square feet. In our best years, we've donated about 2,500 pounds of food to the Center for Family Resources in Marietta. This year, our final total is going to be higher. We're already above 2,300 pounds, and the sweet potatoes are still in the ground!

These days, it seems especially important to keep the project going. More and more people are food-insecure (don't know for sure whether they will have food for every meal, every day), and most of those people are kids or older individuals who can't, really, provide for themselves. The Center for Family Resources does great work in helping to feed those people, and in helping the working-age and working-able people around them to get and keep jobs and housing.

With luck, we'll have identified a new space and started working on preparing the soil within the next couple of months.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall Garden's All In

Shifting from the summer garden to the fall garden involves a lot more work than I usually remember when I set out to make the change. Pulling out the old crops, amending the soil, tending the trays of transplants, getting everything into the ground in a timely manner - that all takes some pretty serious effort. The good news is that the work is usually spread out over several weeks, so no single week is too painful.

It's kept me busy, but the fall crops (except for another round or two of quick-growing radishes) are in the garden now. I started planting them in a particular sequence: slow-growing root crops like carrots, winter radishes, and beets that are all planted as seed went in first, then broccoli and cauliflower transplants, then the leafy crops as both transplants and seeds.

The beets and winter radishes are growing very well; the carrots are still tiny, but that is no surprise; and the broccoli and cauliflower are looking good.

It doesn't hurt that we finally had both some rain and some wonderfully cool weather. We still have plenty of summer veggies coming in, though. I pulled out some of the older tomato plants to make room for transplants of leafy greens, and I was left with a lot of tomatoes. The smaller green ones are going to be made into some green-tomato salsa, for use on winter enchiladas.

Two of the older tomato plants were left in the ground - the Wuhib paste tomatoes - because they are still producing incredibly well. There was just no way I could pull out plants with so many tomatoes on them when there is still so much time before the first frost.

The last summer veggie, the sweet potato crop, is at the "volcano" stage. That's when the magma-colored tuberous roots erupt from the soil.

Digging sweet potatoes too soon, or eating them before they have a chance to cure after digging, causes them to be a lot less sweet than they could be, so I haven't been in a big hurry to get those out of the ground. These should be just about ready, though.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Latest "Goings On"

Between finishing up some of the summer garden tasks and getting started on the fall ones, things here have been pretty busy.

Over the past few weeks, The Great Melon Experiment has progressed quite a bit. My melons, grown from seeds collected from hybrid plants, have been ripening, and I've been making decisions about what seeds to save for next year for my de-hybridizing project.

There has been some argument with the local chipmunks over whose melons these are, but we've worked out an arrangement. They get most of them; I ended up with enough to work with (the five pictured here, plus a couple more), but even a couple of those were pretty hotly contested -- note the scarring and other damage from little chipmunk teeth.

At first, I (naively) thought I'd probably save seeds from the earliest and biggest, but tasting the melons changed my mind about that pretty quickly. The earliest and biggest melon was plenty sweet, but other than the high sugar content it didn't have much in the way of flavor, and the texture was a little gritty -- not like sand, but not smooth, either.

After tasting the first few, I was wondering why I thought this multi-year breeding project was such a great idea, but then I tasted the little three-pounder. Oh my. It was sweet but also flavorful, almost buttery, and the texture was creamy-smooth. Deciding which seeds to plant next year suddenly became a "no brainer," and my original enthusiasm for the project returned in full force. The packets of seeds saved from each melon are marked with date of harvest, size at harvest, and flavor notes, and they are dried and tucked away for next year's garden.

Also completed is this year's popcorn harvest. Corn is probably not the smartest choice for a gardener working with a small space, but this really is a beautiful harvest:

Not only have I already cleared the old stalks away (chopped up and layered into the compost pile), but I've also been able to get the kernels off the cobs. These are pint-and-a-half jars, which means my little harvest has provided a quart and a half of popcorn.

The tomatoes and okra are still coming in at a fairly steady pace, along with an occasional eggplant, and the peppers are still rollicking along as though they were in their prime. I suppose they could actually be!

For fall crops, I have quite a lot of greens in flats, and root crops have been seeded directly into the ground -- if you don't count that the carrot seeds were first "sown" onto some paper towels to make wide-row seed tapes. Beets and winter radishes seem to be doing pretty well, in spite of the heat.

I've also planted broccoli and cauliflower transplants that I bought at a local store. It's been hot for their first week in the ground, but rain and cooler weather will be here, beginning at about 2 o'clock this afternoon, when the first rain-bearing bands of tropical storm Lee are expected to arrive. Already it is cloudy, and we are looking forward to the break in the drought and the heat. We are hoping, though, to avoid flooding!
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