Still waiting……

We have now entered the difficult time of year where everything’s growing merrily (particularly the weeds) and yet nothing is ready to harvest (except the lettuce, that’s still coming.)  Maddening.

The back 40 garden looks good:

Back 40
Back 40
Beans, corn , pumpkins & watermelons
Beans, corn , pumpkins & watermelons

While we were away at Barbecue University, all the peas and beans came up, much to our delight, because it apparently rained really hard for that week.  We need to focus on putting up trellises this weekend, and we’ll see if we’re still so pleased when we’re out there picking bushels of legumes in either the broiling sun, or the mosquito-infested twilight of August.  Either way, likely to be uncomfortable while harvesting:

Beans and peas
Beans and peas

In other news, almost all of the seeds I sowed for herbs have come up.  The dill has been a little difficult, but that happened last year so I’m not worried, plus I don’t use a ton of fresh dill in my cooking so what’s coming up will probably be enough.  And another challenge is that I absolutely cannot tell the difference between the tarragon seedlings and the weeds.  This should sort itself out in a few weeks, because the weeds will grow much bigger much faster.  I think.  I didn’t photograph it, because who wants visual evidence of their weeding incompetency?

I am currently reading The Roots of My Obsession: Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden, edited by Thomas C. Cooper.  It’s a series of essays by famous gardeners (not that I’ve heard of any of them, though) trying to articulate why they garden.  Most of them can’t – they can trace the roots of their interest to a family member, or family tradition, or just an interest – but all of them are universal in their love for working with dirt and plants.  It’s a mix of both vegetable and ornamental gardeners (and sometimes folks who are both) and an interesting read.  Something to occupy my time while I avoid weeding the tarragon right out of existence.

Something to go with all those vegetables

This is a drive-by post because we are not currently doing anything gardening related. We are currently here:

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

Doing this:

Barbecue University
Barbecue University

With this guy:

Steve Raichlen, author, television show host, nice guy
Steve Raichlen, author, television show host, nice guy

And Tuesday we made this:

Tandoori lamb ribs with three herb chutney
Tandoori lamb ribs with three herb chutney

So we’ll have lots of ideas about what to serve with all those vegetables. I am going to be blogging about this over on My Family Table, but I can tell you that won’t be as good as the piece by the guy in my class, or the writer for Cooking Light.

Now, we can’t take full credit for those ribs today; we worked with two other classmates to create that masterpiece. (It was tasty, too.) I don’t know about Charlie, but Rob blogs over at Countryside Food Rides . Go give him a read. He writes great stuff, and he’s recently signed up for a CSA and has been posting photos of what he cooks on there. I am fascinated by CSAs. People actually pay for extra vegetables, instead of pulling the shades and shushing the children when I turn up with the third ton of zucchini in a week? Amazing.

First harvest

Well, the first harvest has already happened:


The first planting of lettuce was a success, obviously. I can’t remember when exactly it was planted (mid- to- late April, maybe?) but it’s been cool and damp so it’s produced nicely. It also got much larger during the 90 degree heat snap we had last week, because this is what it looked like at the end of the week of May 17th:


We picked enough for a salad for both of us, and while I was out there I noticed that the second planting has already started to sprout. It will be a while yet before anything else is ready. That’s ok, though, because when it comes, we usually get buried.  We’ll see if I am still so Zen about waiting in a few weeks, when it’s all weeding and no vegetables for our (my) efforts.

Done…..with planting

We finished planting this weekend, in some of the hottest weather we have seen this early in June. It felt unspeakably hot to be out there yesterday, but we persevered. The tally:

125 Mr. Big Peas
120 Sweet Peas
100 Royal Purple Bush Beans
48 Pole Beans
2nd planting of Sweet corn
7 Sugar Baby watermelon plants
4 Moon & Stars watermelon plants
8 Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkins
9 Amish pumpkins (those mysterious pumpkins from the purchase 2 years ago in upstate NY at an Amish farm stand)
8 Jack-Be-Little pumpkins
7 Orange Smoothies

And it look like this:


…..which doesn’t look like much at this point. It joins the sweet potatoes, first corn planting (of a brand called Quickie; we’ll see if it lives up to it’s name) and sunflowers. No edible value to sunflowers, really (well, except the seeds) but we’ve always wanted to grow them so this year we finally got around to planting some.

This year we’ve fenced the entire garden. Last year we only fenced the peas, beans and corn, which worked out fine, but once the pumpkins, watermelons and winter squash had matured, something came through and sampled a little bit out of quite a few of the fruits. Plus, this year we have a turkey. We think it’s a female, but who can tell? (It could be a juvenile male. Only time will tell.) This turkey enjoys walking across the corn, and snoozing in the dirt mounds we created to plant the watermelons, squash and pumpkins. So up went the fence. Which works, because as I was finishing up the watering yesterday she walked out of the brush and right into the fence. Someone unhelpfully pointed out turkeys can fly. We’re hoping the dirt isn’t that appealing to her that she’ll fly over and end up stuck. Or knock the fence over.

Gardening season begins

We put the first round of seedlings into the ground May 19. This was the rack before:


In fairness, the bottom two racks were flowers, and went in pots and boxes at the front of the house. This year J decided to try a new planting scheme, given that we got hit so hard last year and lost our squash and cucumbers. The plants are in groups of four types of each plant, scattered around the garden:


It’s hard to tell now, but should look better in a few weeks as things start to grow. Speaking of growing, the lettuce and cabbages are coming along nicely:



As are the parsnips and carrots, although they are still too small to see. There are some holes in one line of the parsnips, where a lot of them didn’t come up, so I am going to sow some more this weekend to fill in the gaps.

New this year – onions:


I am growing red cippolini and while I suspect I might have spaced them too close together, I am going to risk it because we did them from seed and if it doesn’t work we’re out less than $2 for a package of seeds and the time it took me to plant them (about 30 minutes.)

I also put in basil, cilantro and tarragon seeds in the herb bed; I’m planning on a subsequent planting in pots near the deck for cilantro, basil & dill. I found the tarragon seeds to be fascinating:


You can’t really tell from my photo but they are a long black seed with just a touch of beige or white at one end. I picked out a Mexican tarragon from the catalog, just to try growing it. I don’t really use it that much in cooking, but I guess I’ll learn some new recipes in order to make use of it.

Also seeded this weekend were French Breakfast radishes and turnips. They went in the bed with the carrots, parsnips and beets, which are looking fabulous.

Up next on the planting schedule: Beans (pole & bush), watermelons (Sugar Baby & Moon & Stars), winter squash, pumpkins (Dill’s Atlantic Giant, Jack Be Little, Amish, Orange Smoothie,) peas (Mr. Big Pea and Sugar Snap) and parsley.

What on earth…..?

Saturday night we arrived home from a day out to discover these plants in our mailbox:


They were packaged up with moss around the roots, waxed paper around that, bound up with an elastic. I was mystified – what on earth had we ordered that would result in us being sent live plants?

Any guesses?

Sweet potatoes! We were astonished – all the other potatoes have arrived as tubers. We were even more astonished to have them arrive at the house, because both of us mistakenly believed we’d taken sweet potatoes off the order list because of their price. Apparently not, but this is a mistake I’m more than happy to live with.

This particular variety will produce potatoes that are between 2 -3 pounds if grown properly, and evidently do well in all types of soil, including very poor soil. Which is good, because we have a habit of benign neglect when it comes to our potatoes.

Almost planting time

Last night the first round of corn was planted.  We have finally gotten some rain and the ground is no longer bone dry, so J could move forward with planting.

Our beets have started to come up, as have our cabbages, lettuce and potatoes.  Still no sign of the parsnips and carrots, but those are usually slower and we have been less-than-attentive to watering.  I am going to double-check them tomorrow and see if anything’s starting to pop up; if not I’m going to plant another round.

Our seedlings are looking good and are ready for planting next weekend:

The bottom two shelves are flowers,the top 3 are all vegetables.  This is not including what we will sow directly into the ground – namely, the peas and beans – and there are still more growing under the lights on the bigger rack down in the basement.

And the front yard yesterday:

The only downside is that to encourage healthy bulb growth I have to let all the foliage die off and turn brown before mulching the bed.  Still, worth it – it reminds me so much of our trip to Amsterdam last spring and the Keukenhof garden.  It’s nice to see such color without the jet lag.

Halfway there

About half the tulips are now blooming:

Sunlover on left; Professor Rontgen on right

Apricot Impression


Professor Rontgen

The Sunlover tulips are all from a single bag of bulbs but there is quite a color variation in the yellows and oranges.  I can only hope they will continue to bloom year after year.  I am going to have to put some serious efforts into fertilizing and maintenance in the coming years, which will be nothing after digging that pit as Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on us.  We are still waiting for the Hamilton (fringed yellow), Golden Artist (orange/red trumpet), Burgundy Lace (fringed magenta), Blue Parrot (fringed blue), Sensual Touch (like Sunlover but all orange), Blue Amiable (trumpet blue) and Candy Club (multi-headed soft pink) have not yet bloomed. I’m hoping this means the bed will look attractive for a couple of weeks.

End of April report

Last weekend we began putting in the root vegetable seeds – carrots, parsnips, and for the first time, beets.  We decided to grow an heirloom mixture of seeds based on my experimentation with fresh beets in cooking this winter – our local grocer sells beets already peeled, but not canned.  Before starting the seeds in the ground (about 4 weeks before the last date of frost) they need  to be soaked for 8-24 hours:

They were sown, along with the carrot and parsnip seeds, in last year’s tomato bed.  Because we built a new bed this year, we rotated all the potatoes and garlic, previously grown in bed #3, into that bed.  Nothing’s changed from last year’s planting system – dig hole, drop potato, cover, water sparsely.  See:

What is new this year is my selection of Adirondack blue potatoes.  Unlike the royal purple beans we grew last year, which turned green when cooked, Adirondack blues are supposed to retain their color when cooked.  If this is true, I might turn the entire batch into potato chips.

Meanwhile, the seedlings are doing nicely:

Geraniums in back, coleus in front

Eggplants – Bride and Dusky Purple

Peppers – Green, Jalepeno & Banana



Of course, the entire operation takes up a bit of room downstairs:

This year, J started putting foam core underneath the seed trays & heating mats, and covering the entire rack with plastic to create a mini greenhouse.  It seems to be working because we’re getting really great returns on the number of seeds that are being planted. 
This week we are starting squash – winter, summer, zucchini, watermelons & pumpkins.  Those grow really fast so they don’t get started until just a few weeks before planting – and that day will be here before I know it.

Spring has sprung

So last year everyone who reads this blog/ knows me in real life/ is friendly with me on Facebook/ had the misfortune to get in line behind me at the grocery store -heard all about the 240 bulbs I needed to plant.  The box they came in looked like this:

By October 29, they looked like this:

And this week?  Well, this week they look like this:

In a few more weeks, we’ll see whether they’ll actually flower.  They all made it through the winter, though, which was the first hurdle.

Elsewhere in the yard:

Despite the very cold nights and chilly days, I can tell – summer is coming.

Adventures in aggressive suburban gardening