Monday, July 25, 2011

around the garden: successes

it's so easy for something to go wrong in the garden. there's the weather, first and foremost. some days it seems like if we need rain we get unrelenting sunshine and even if it does rain, we get hail instead of a nice summer shower. the early spring had me doubting whether anything would grow, but i'm back to share with you some of our garden successes. i hope you'll share a few of yours with me, too.

hot portugal

so let's talk peppers for a moment. we haven't really had any luck growing green peppers here in vermont. i think the growing season is too short. this year, we decided to focus most of our energy on hot peppers. our hot portugal peppers (pictured above) and our hungarian hot wax are both doing beautifully.

garden lesson: to save on disappointment and seed costs, plant what does well in your area. take notes. if green peppers don't want to grow after several seasons, adapt your garden plan.

tall tomato plants

and now, i'm going to contradict myself because while i'm completely happy to let my local farmers grow green peppers, i will never give up on growing tomatoes. to me, it wouldn't be summer without tomatoes in my backyard. we've had mixed luck with them in vermont (including one brutal season of late blight), but i'm happy to report that this year, we have strong, healthy tomato plants.

garden lesson: grow what you love. try blight resistant varieties (read those seed catalogs!) and be vigilant. a daily walk through your garden may help to avert a disaster.

our broccoli harvest

okay, now this is my favorite success story. sure, we've grown broccoli in the past but usually it's been nothing but a battle with cabbage worms. this year, not the case. i'm not even sure what we did differently. i am in LOVE with this variety, and of course, i want to share it with you. this, my friends, is an organic hybrid called fiesta. it can tolerate cold and heat, produces gorgeous heads, and i've heard it produces plentiful side shoots. the only downside to this variety is that you can't save seed because it's a hybrid. however, it's the best broccoli we've ever grown so i'm making notes to buy more seeds next year.

garden lesson: try new varieties. take notes to remember what performed well. celebrate the harvest by making a special supper with your homegrown produce.

mexican sour

i think i'm the most excited right now by this new variety of cucumber we're growing. this is the mexican sour gherkin that i first read about over at you grow girl. they are tiny cucumbers with a beautiful pattern on their skin much like a watermelon. the vines are thin and fragile but they seem to be producing a ton of cucumbers. we're excited to try these.

Friday, July 22, 2011

evening in the garden

these past few days have been hot.
really hot!

i haven’t been spending too much time in the garden for fear I just might melt.
in this kind of heat i like to save time in the evening for the garden.

as the sun goes down it’s hard not to admire the light, and the shadows.

in the evening everything seems to have a magical hue. petals and leaves seem to glow.

i pick a bouquet for the table to enjoy at breakfast.

and grab a bedtime snack.

good night!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

scenes from my community garden

potato towers

bull nose bell pepper

tiger's eye dry beans

ace bush

african crackerjack marigold

cherokee purple

lettuce gone to seed

i'll admit that i haven't been the best at keeping up with both of my gardens.  i've been extremely busy these past few weeks, and it's been particularly hot and rainy (meaning that i don't have to get over there to water and that it's been extremely unpleasant to be outdoors these past few days).  so this afternoon, with a slight break in the heat, i decided i'd better go check on how things were progressing over there.  i clearly need to weed badly, but otherwise, i am really excited about all the growth that's taken place over the past week and a half since i was over there last.  beans are growing, cucumbers and squash and melons are flowering, potato towers are towering, tomatoes are exploding with blossoms and big green tomatoes, peppers are emerging, and lettuce is going to seed.  i am beyond excited that it truly does look like this is going to be my best tomato year yet (heck, i'm pretty sure it's going to be my best garden year yet!).

despite how well things are growing, i definitely will need to make some time over the next few days for a little bit of maintenance.

do you have more than one garden? how do you balance your time between them?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

soaker hose for the garden

we just recently added soaker hoses to our garden. after spending every day watering our garden for an hour, making sure not to water any of the foliage as to prevent certain plant diseases, it was a huge relief to add this time-saving system to our day.

do you have a soaker hose or drip tape in your garden? we opted for the soaker hose because it allows for the hose to wrap around plants, unlike drip tape which is better for large-scale agriculture & production farms. both are wonderful ways of irrigating, though. they both are fairly affordable, prevent most of foliage from getting wet & save water.

we purchased two hoses for $10 each. we used our gardening hose & a 2-way hose connector to connect the soakers.

then, we wrapped the soaker hose around each base of the plant. we made sure it was secure by adding soil around some sides of the hose.

the areas that were hanging between the two beds were covered in duct tape & electrical tape to keep them from leaking. although not as aesthetically pleasing as i would like, it works well by not watering the grass.

this system is working so well for our small garden. the time that we spent watering is now spent weeding, pruning & enjoying our hard work.

Monday, July 18, 2011

three sisters and a few thoughts on weeding

three sisters

about 1/4 of our field garden is set aside for a three sisters planting. my husband is a bit obsessed with this idea. the three sisters garden is an old native american concept where corn, squash, and beans are grown together. the beans twine themselves up and around the corn and the squash provides a lovely but prickly ground covering underneath to help the soil retain moisture and also to deter raccoons from going after your ears of corn. beans add nitrogen to the soil and help nourish the other plantings. the three sisters are planted in mounds with corn in the center and beans planted in a circle around the corn. squash, zukes, or pumpkins are planted on the sides of the corn mounds.

this is our second year planting a three sisters garden. last year we had poor soil and because of this we had trouble growing anything other than a few zucchini. it's working beautifully this year due to our soil amendments. this photo is about two weeks old, and the corn is really towering over the beans now and the squash/zukes/pumpkins are filling in nicely. i can't wait to see what this area of our garden looks like in just a few weeks.

i wanted to briefly talk about weeding. as you may notice in some of my photographs, our weed problem is a bit out of control. this field garden is constantly trying to return itself to its former state, and we don't have the time to keep the weeds under control. recently, i had a bit of an epiphany. i'm trying a little experiment by weeding only the tops of the raised beds and letting the pathways and sides of the beds go wild. i decided to do this because i noticed that the plants in the field garden look really strong and don't have much insect damage. i have a suspicion that the weeds are creating a little ecosystem with beneficial insects that are taking care of the garden pests. plus, i love that we have daisies, st. john's wort (!) and other wild meadow plants growing in and around our garden beds. i'll be sure to let you know what i think of this approach to weeding at the end of the season.

are you familiar with the three sisters?

Friday, July 15, 2011

summer snack

the basil is really bushing out in the garden these days. to help encourage the basil to form new branches and leaves and to continue growing throughout the summer, i cut back to the top two leaves and try to remove flower buds immediately.

the basil prunings have been being put to good use around here to make a favorite summer snack.

basil popcorn

1/2 cup popcorn
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves
parmesean cheese
sea salt
cracked black pepper

in a food processor mix the oil and basil leaves and set aside.
pop the corn.

pour basil-oil over popcorn and mix thoroughly.
sprinkle with parmesean, salt and pepper to your liking.
we like ours on the cheesy side.

pour yourself a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade and enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gardening as parallel practice

Recently a fellow artist friend gave me the May '11 issue of Art in America to share an article on parallel practices called, "Artists in a Parallel Universe." In it, a panel of artists were asked (in February at the College Art Association conference) to discuss their non-art related activities when they aren't making art, those that feed their art practices. One of the artists, Vija Celmins, turns to gardening and calls herself an "avid weed-puller." While reading this I thought, hey I do that too, I pull weeds as a respite from studio work. However, this summer rather than being in a dry spell as the article addressed, I am thankfully making art. Perhaps I find pulling weeds to be even more informative during this busy time. It is a practice in which I don't have to make decisions. I know what stays in the ground and what goes into the compost, there's no second-guessing. With weeding there is a set task to do, and once it is done something has been accomplished. This is a great encouragement when minute and large artistic decisions leave my mind feeling like soup.
From this parallel practice I also bring back to the studio the recognition that having a drawing going at all times is vital for me. The above drawing is one I am working on this summer. On the table it waits, so I add a group of lines first thing of a morning or paint on at the end of the day. A little bit at a time. Not all at once. Like weeding, one plot at a time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

medicinal honey


making medicinal honey

chopped monarda

in my quest to try more and more herbal remedies, last summer i discovered medicinal honey.  i tried a batch with some of my bee balm plants (which i was so happy to discover in my yard last year- as it was our first year living here) and we've been using it to soothe our sore throats all year long.  last year, i only tried making this with bee balm (mondarda), but other good herbs for medicinal honey that you may have in your garden are lavender (for good sleep), lemon balm (for upset stomachs), and chamomile (for headaches).  we add a little to some tea, or just eat it by the spoonful.

start by picking a bunch of stalks and chopping up aerial parts--this includes stems, leaves, and flowers. for one pint of honey, you'll want about 1/4 cup of chopped fresh herbs (for dried herbs, use about half that amount).  warm up one pint of honey in a saucepan over low heat.  when it is fully warmed through, add the herbs and continue over low heat for another 15-20 minutes.  store in a food safe jar.  (this recipe is adapted from growing 101 herbs that heal by tammi hartung.  one of my favorite herbal remedy books).

i'd love to hear if you try this, or if you have any of your own medicinal herbal recipes!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

a trip to the farmers' market

i love a good farmers' market. there is just something about a saturday morning, local foods & farmers that really gets me. i'm sure you have similar feelings.

this weekend, we made a trip to the fayetteville farmers' market. this market is an hour north of us & the best in the area. although the trip to the farmers' market is very different from the bike ride to the market in our old town, it is exciting to know that an abundance of fresh food is so close, especially in this area of the country.

i was charmed by the pale white onions covered under the shade of a tent.

& the fennel stacked neatly for the taking. i purchased one & look forward to roasting it alongside a whole chicken tonight.

the textured leaves of this gourmet-variety cabbage are beautiful.

while we are still waiting for our bounty from the garden in our own backyard, we can thankfully rely on our farmers & their hard work.


in other news, i wanted to share something interesting happening around here. deep into the month of july, arkansas is usually brimming with fresh tomatoes of all varieties. at the farmers' market in fayetteville, though, we noticed only a handful of farmers selling green tomatoes & only a couple with small, ripe tomatoes. this is also happening at the research & education farm, the kerr center for sustainable agriculture, where luke works. due to the high heats of 105 degrees lasting most of the day, our tomato plants are suffering & unable to produce. the knowledge that cold temperatures can damage tomato plants is also applied to very hot temperatures, too. flowers may bloom on the plants, but fruit never sets. in extreme conditions, blossom drop can occur.

thankfully, in our own garden, we have spotted two tomatoes. our nine plants are still holding onto their blossoms & growing by the day. it will be interesting to see what happens as this drought continues in the south.

Monday, July 11, 2011

little garden scenes

first tomato
first tomato on the vine. it's a glacier, which is a determinate variety that fruits early and can tolerate cooler temperatures.

garden twine
i have a thing for garden twine. so rustic and pretty.

tools and daisies
tools and daisies.

the curl of a corn leaf
the mesmerizing curl of a corn leaf.

oregano tips for pickles
harvested oregano tips to put into jars of pickled garlic scapes.

wild blackberries spotted around the farm.

garlic scape bracelets
harvesting garlic scapes=garlic scape bracelets just for the afternoon.

prize-winning cabbage
our gigantic ruby perfection cabbage. i wish i could enter it into the fair. it's crazy big as you can see. more on our weed problem later.

walking back home
walking back home after visiting the field garden.

just wanted to share a few things that have been happening in our garden lately. what's new in yours?