Sunday, September 26, 2010

catchin' up

OK, end-of-summer travels and beginning-of-semester craziness (along with mountains of basil and sungold tomatoes!) temporarily derailed Tilthisippi blog. Today, we're going to catch up a bit.

First, a short synopsis of how the summer gardening turned out:

1. Mountains of basil were produced. We're talking pounds and pounds of the stuff. Most went into the freezer (and our mouths) as pesto, and some went onto pasta, pizza, and into spring rolls. Yum. The basil seemed to get less bitter over the course of the summer, to the point where we didn't need to put any balsamic vinegar in the pesto. We finally took out all but one of our basil plants a few weeks ago, due to basil fatigue (a person can only handle so much basil) but it is still going gangbusters.  (T notes:  it was indeed the summer of beautiful Beautiful Basil.  wow.)

2. Even bigger mountains of sungold cherry tomatoes were produced. We almost had more of these sweet little jewels than we could handle, which was a beautiful thing. Our bella rosa tomatoes made some nice fruit too, but nothing like the sungolds. Our other tomatoes (a couple different heirlooms) were busts (side note by T:  probably b/c we didn't prune them early enough... Dad, do hear me eating crow??).  All the tomatoes got hit pretty hard with Septoria leaf spot disease in late summer, and have since recovered with the help of dry weather and some copper fungicide. The sungolds and Bella Rosas are hanging heavy with a big new crop (pretty amazing how well they've continued to produce -- they were lookin' tough along about the end of August). Will they have time to ripen, or will we eat--or pickle--them green???

3. Okra, okra, and more okra. Our four okra plants have turned into trees, nearly 8 feet tall and about 4 inches in diameter at the base. As I write this, okra pods are growing seemingly an inch an hour, and we're harvesting about 2 pounds a week. Sliced into rounds and breaded and fried, roasted in the oven, or grilled, we love it to death, yes we do. We'll be sad when the first frost comes and kills it, probably next month.

Lessons learned. All in all, we were really happy with the summer gardening, and learned a lot. We ended up convinced of the virtues of our mulching system (newspaper laid down between plants and covered with leaf mulch), which really kept the weeds down and held moisture really well. Next year, we expect things to be even better: Our soil should be better (due to the continuing decomposition of all the organic matter we layered in this year, and the new compost we plan to add to the surface this winter). We plan to start earlier with our tomatoes and other summer plants. It probably won't be quite so dang hot next summer. Green beans might be tough to grow around here, if the bean leaf beetles are always as voracious as they were this summer, although edamame beans did better and we plan to try more of those. We'll be careful to not over-water our squash plants next summer, to help avoid bacterial wilt, and we'll watch early and often for squash vine borers.

But, in the meantime, we're busy launching our Fall/Winter gardening. On September 7, D-Hug and J-Ho spent a bunch of time pulling out plants, prepping the soil, and planting new seeds. In T and J's side of the plot, we left only the okra, the sungold and bella rosa tomatoes, one basil plant, one bell pepper plant (which is finally producing its first fruit since being planted in May!!!), one parsley plant, and two thyme plants. D-Hug left in some of her hot peppers and tomatoes. In the new space, here are the seeds we planted on September 7:
1. Kale (dwarf blue curled, Vate's strain)
2. Swiss chard (large ribbed dark green)
3. Beets (early wonder tall top)
4. Radishes (cherrybelle and French breakfast)
5. Arugula (some conventional and some organic heirloom from Seeds of Change)
6. Kohlrabi (early white Vienna)
I also planted a few Collard greens (Georgia hybrid) transplants bought at Home Depot.

Beet seed germination was a bit spotty and many of the plants don't seem to be very happy. Maybe it's too hot still, or maybe our soil is too acidic (beets like neutral or slightly basic soil)? The kale, arugula, and radishes came in thin in a few spots too. So, today (September 26) I planted:
1. Beets (more early wonder tall top, plus touchstone gold and flat of Egypt)
2. more kale
3. more arugula
4. more radishes

The cherrybelle radishes and some of the arugula from Sept. 7 seeding have come in really fast, and are nearly ready to harvest. We're planning on continually harvesting and re-seeding radishes every 3 weeks or so, all Fall and Winter, until it stops working or T. gets tired of chopping and eating them (not likely). Ditto for beets, on a longer cycle (pickled baby beets, anyone?).

Once the first frost hits, which should kill our okra, tomatoes, and remaining basil plant, we're planning to plant (from seeds currently on their way from Territorial Seed Co.):
1. broccolini (aka Apollo broccoli)
2. more Swiss chard (perpetual and golden)
3. more kale (Nero Di Toscana)
4. purple peacock broccoli

Once we get into frost season, we also plan to protect some of our less frost-tolerant cool-weather veggies with frost blanket material, which should help them survive lower temperatures.

One more thing: In case anyone is curious, one of the mushrooms that seems to be fruiting in many of our garden plots during the last two months belongs to a decomposer called Lepiota cepaestipes, the onion-stalk parasol. It's a common fungus on rich, decomposing organic matter. It prefers warm, moist weather and should be harmless to our plants. It's probably helping turn unfinished compost and manure into more stable organic matter, which is a good thing. Some authorities say it's edible, but others report that it gives a lot of people GI distress, so don't eat it.

OK, I think that about does it. Thanks for reading!

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