Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lawn Of Plenty

It was about mid-May when I decided to carve five small rows into the front lawn for this year's vegetable patch. It is the sunniest, flat space on the land here. In the distance, the driveway and a hedgerow of Hydrangea arborescens -a solution to coarsely articulated snow-plowing and a mass of foundation plants in the way of a future house project. Seven weeks from the day the tiller expressed itself, the vegetables are taking advantage of our long, northern days.

My first round of green beans didn't arrive, quite possibly because I didn't water the seeds enough or maybe due to three year old seeds. They were all French beans, ones that trialled well, hmm -three years ago. So I bought new seed from the big box (so many home projects!) and planted those. Meanwhile it had been raining heavily for a few days -that's when some of the old seeds showed up, 'Velour,' I think. So far no problems with bunnies -or deer, raccoons, hedgehogs, and whatever other vegetable munching varmint one can have. So lucky -that's all it is.

One four inch pot of flat leaf parsley has become eighteen by twelve inches of parsley -use it daily.

One four inch pot of cilantro has become two feet by twelve inches of cilantro -makes a nice pesto!

The garlic is still green, but I know well enough to start harvesting them. As these go, their rows fill with herbs, green beans, and eventually those brassicas I fully intend to start one of these days...

Four pepper plants from a cell pack of four heirloom varieties. This one set fruit super early.

A cell pack of Japanese eggplant have provided us with an orb -not the usual thin and elongated fruit. What gives? I do prefer the way less seedy elongated varieties. Oh, Japanese eggplant doesn't always imply elongated fruit? These are 'Kyoto,' a round eggplant, and I ashamedly renounce my ignorance!

One four-cell pack of, hmm, I forget the name, but cucumber. I do recall it saying compact, and this one is definitely compact. We grew them in pots, elevated off the ground in metal pot stands that happened to be here. A couple of things to point out: these four plants in two pots have been productive for their size and have not succumbed to mildew. They have yet to reach the ground and have many flowers per vine. I recall googling the variety at the nursery, Shady Acres! Ahh, they have a plant list- It is Spacemaster. Pick them pickle size for best flavor.

A word about Shady Acres. Heirloom. That's the word. Seriously, Minnesota has some catching up to do when it comes to organic garden supplies and heirloom vegetable starts. It is very difficult to find what I came to expect -even at Larry's on the corner in Brooklyn (Best Deal on Bloodmeal!). I edify every nursery I come into contact with, including Shady in regards to fertilizer choice. I heard about Shady Acres from my neighbor who is busy trying to grow Minnesota's largest pumpkin, and was grateful for the recommendation -they carry heirloom vegetable starts. For me this means they have a variety of tomato beyond Rutgers, Beefsteak or Early Girl for the person who simply didn't get to starting his own.

Potatoes. They grew incredibly tall, so high that they could no longer be soil-mounded. Then a week of heavy thunderstorm rains, about seven inches in all, ensured that they would lay flat until they turned back up toward the sun, which they have, albeit more prostrate than before. They have been flowering for a few weeks now, with new potatoes sure to be available soon. I've decided to wait on those, aiming for the bigger potato of the future.

The tomato plants are some of the healthiest I've grown. Again, an heirloom variety pack from Shady Acres provided the starts. Ours have been in the ground for about five weeks, have grown over thirty inches tall, and some are producing tomatoes. We also have a grape variety, four plants in total. We won't get a ton of tomatoes out of four heirloom plants, but this year required low input, experimentation, and observation.

What is remarkable is the health of each plant. No visible disease, no wilt or cankers, no blossom end rot (can we thank high Cal-Mg soils?), simply robust plants. Look at that impressive stem. It helps to be gardening in a spot that has yet to see any vegetable growing. We haven't had any Colorado potato beetles either, so here's to hoping that our little clearing is protected by the woods and wetlands that surround it.

Lastly, the bug-eating army of amphibians can't hurt. And what of the pansies? It hasn't been a very warm summer so far, but plenty of days in the lower eighties. Here it may be that pansies just won't quit.

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