Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Garden That We "Put Out"

I've talked before about how around here if someone asks if you've "put out" a garden, it means vegetables. Apparently, flowers are a given or they just don't matter. But anyway, yes, we put out a garden this year, as we do every year.

The vegetable part of our garden isn't large and constitutes a very small part of our gardens as a whole, but at this time of the year, it takes center stage. We've been harvesting various edibles from it and enjoying their tasty goodness. Like green beans, for example. We've got 'Fortex' pole beans, which we're growing for the first time, and we like them as much as the Japanese Beetles do.

There are the purple beans, too, which the Japanese Beetles apparently don't care for. Growing these has been fun, which was the reason I planted them in the first place, and they taste good as well. But nothing compares to 'Jade Green', which we grew last year, when it comes to flavor. We'll be planting those again next year.

Another fun one that we grew this year is okra. I don't even like okra and Romie doesn't know if he likes it or not because he's never eaten it before, but we'll soon find out. They're just about fully grown now and we'll be picking them before long. I'd seen the seed packet in the store, thought it looked like a pretty and unusual plant, and it is

Of course, to make things even more interesting, I didn't plant the usual green okra - ours are burgundy. They have large, beautiful flowers prior to the okra formation, too.

This past week, we had our first sweet corn from the garden and while we didn't have the best-looking stalks (short, puny, or non-existent), what we picked and ate was absolutely delicious. 'Sugar Pearl' is aptly named and goes on the list for growing again next summer.

We thought 'Ruby Queen' looked interesting as an ornamental corn you can eat. It's got reddish-purple kernels and while I didn't expect it to taste all that good, we were pleasantly surprised! It's crispy and very sweet! Like the purple beans, it loses its pretty anthocyanin blush when cooked. However, once you bite into it and remove the kernels, you can see its purple "roots."

We've pulled several of the round carrots, but none of the 'Bolero' Nantes are ready yet. I forgot to thin them early on, so I have my doubts as to how good of a crop we'll have. I just hate to thin things. It goes against my grain to pull out live plants and throw them away, even though I know it's better for the remaining ones in the long run.

I learned last year that if you don't thin beets, you won't get anything but bite-sized ones and while that's fine for eating, it makes for a very small harvest. So this year, I was very careful when I planted them and spaced the seeds so each one would have plenty of growing room and I wouldn't have to 'waste' plants. My strategy worked and we had some nice-sized beets, which I pickled. That's how we like them best.

The spinach crop was a dud, unfortunately, and it was no one's fault but my own. Knowing it likes cool growing conditions, I planted them in the eastern shadow of the sweet pea trellis. But I forgot that the maple tree nearby is large enough now that it shades that part of the garden a good deal of the day and the spinach just didn't get enough direct sunlight to grow well. I'm going to plant a fall crop this week and I'll put it where the beets were. It should do much better there.

I planted garlic (Hardneck 'Music') for the first time last fall and loved the tall, curly stems that announced their presence this spring. Those have been pulled and are in the basement, drying. I'll share with Mom then plant some for next year around the middle of October. I'm not sure what I'll do with the rest of them, but I sure love seeing them in the garden.

The strawberries ('Honeyoye') were the best ever this year and we enjoyed fresh ones for a few weeks, as well as the jam I made from them. I expected the jam to be as good as the wild grape jelly I made last summer, but it was fairly unremarkable as jam goes. Next year, I won't go to all the bother of making strawberry jam, but we are looking forward to harvesting the wild grapes later this month so I can make grape jelly again.

Now let's talk about the tomatoes. THE TOMATOES! Never in my life have we had such wonderful tomato plants as this year. We are growing 'Brandywine' as well as yellow pear tomatoes. There's a couple of cherry tomato plants and a small-to-medium-sized red one. I was bad about keeping those labeled and I don't know for sure what they are, but the small ones are ripening now.

The 'Brandywine' are some of the largest tomatoes we've ever grown and the plants themselves are monsters compared to what we've had in the past. It's either a very good year for tomatoes or we somehow finally got it right. We've got some caged and some staked and we overwhelmingly prefer the cages. Ours are very sturdy cages which I painted a shiny red and I like seeing that color in the garden. I also used the red plastic troughs around the base of some of the plants and while I don't know if that's made the difference or not, those plants are the most vigorous growers.

The Mesclun mix leaf lettuce has been producing and in spite of the hot and dry weather we've been having, hasn't bolted yet. Now it's time to plant the fall spinach, so if it keeps going, we can have a lettuce/spinach mix for our salads.

We grew Brussels sprouts from seed for the first time this year, but so far, no sprouts or even a sign of any to come. This is another vegetable that neither of us knows if we like it or not, but it sure looked interesting on the seed packet! Hopefully we'll get those mini cabbage wannabes forming soon so we can taste it. Something sure has been tasting the leaves all summer.

The onions are growing down under the crust that has formed on top of the garden. We've got white ones and red ones. I prefer both of these to the yellow ones for quality and intensity of flavor, but especially the red ones as they are much sweeter.

We have a mystery vine growing amongst the corn that we can't yet figure out. The choices are: cucumbers, canteloupe, or watermelon. We've pretty much ruled out watermelon and from the size of the yellow flowers, my best guess would be canteloupe. Zucchini isn't out of the realm of possibilities, but we haven't grown that for about three years now. Time will tell!

Have you grown any 'new' veggies in the garden that you "put out"?


Anonymous said...

Your veggie gardens looks fantastic and everything seems to be doing pretty well. I grew yellow summer squash for the first time this year and it was great!

gintoino said...

I love the okra flower! Okra would do great in my climate...have to find me some seeds. Oh...the mysterious vine...I'm pretty sure its canteloupe, it looks exactly like mine.

Natalie said...

That wouldn't be a zucchini vine - the flowers are too small. Definitely some kind of melon.

growingagardenindavis said...

What a wonderful garden you put out! Your Brandywines look great...I'm growing them for the second year and I think they just aren't really happy here...every other variety has tomatoes ripening and I haven't seen any yet on Brandywine. I keep hearing how great they are but maybe just not here!

O.I.M said...

your vegetable garden looks amazing. so much growing in just a small space! Like you, I'm trying brussel sprouts. i don't know if I will like them or if they will even produce sprouts, but I do like the way the plants look in the garden. very sturdy.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I don't put out a veggie garden. I love seeing and hearing about your veggie garden though. It almost inspires me to put out a veggie garden. I always seem to think "next year". It is also interesting to see that you have a sketch as a map to your veggie garden.

Gardenista said...

I've got one of those mystery vines too. It grew out of my compost bins so I put it in a pot. As of yet, no comments on my blog have come up with a definite answer. Hopefully you get yours soon - or the fruits will tell!

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