Blogging will resume by the Spring Equinox (Autumn Equinox for our friends in the southern hemisphere) in March 2010. Until then, keep thinking green thoughts!
Happy autumn everyone!
If you’re wondering where I’ve been all summer, the answer is simple: out in the garden. Autumn is my favorite season, but learning to grow food has vastly broadened my appreciation of the warm, sunny growing months.
Despite my goals to be more a more diligent blogger for 2009, I have instead focused the majority of my time on writing fiction and poetry, and growing food and flowers.
Kind thanks to reader Diana Hunt for encouraging me to get back to business at AppleJade. To start us off, here’s a quick peek at what I was doing out in the garden during June, July, and August…
In June we were smitten with strawberries. These plants have been growing here without any help from me for nearly 10 years. They have happily consumed a sizable chunk of the vegetable patch, and this autumn many of them will be relocating to new beds which are being established in the rockier and less-hospitable parts of the yard. My reasoning is that the strawberries are so hardy and so happy to propagate that they should make excellent (and tasty) pioneers.
The corn plants grew steadily through June and July, and I really should dedicate an entire separate post to what they accomplished this year by creating so much food out of so little soil. We ate sweet, healthy corn all through the month of August.
Pumpkins had a slow start, and I think we now have three pie-worthy squash out there which are just beginning to turn orange. My plan for next spring is to start the squash in the cold frame as I did with the corn, and then transplant when it’s warm enough in May. This was a successful approach for the corn harvest, so hopefully pumpkins and other squash won’t mind the transplant method. Pumpkins will definitely have a post of their own so you can see their progress and learn about their flowers.
Sunflowers dominated the scene all around the yard this year. We collected almost all the seeds from our Pennsylvania sunflowers, and those seeds waited patiently from 2007 to be planted here in western Washington this year and subsequently bloom upwards of eight feet. They’re just finishing now. I managed to get three of the largest seed-heads indoors to finish drying, but the rest have been claimed by the busy blue Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri). As with corn and pumpkins, the sunflowers deserve a post of their own to show just how much they accomplished this season. (And yes, that’s me, standing in front of some of the corn and sunflowers just before the first flowers opened. The purple-pink blush behind the corn is from the foxglove (genus Digitalis) and fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) two of my favorite local wildflowers, coming in to full summer bloom.)
Marigolds, lettuce, cilantro, beans, and many others have boomed throughout the garden and pop up just about everywhere. I moved all the arugula and other greens out of the cold frames when they went to seed, and let the plants finish in the cooler corners of the fenced-in vegetable garden. They should be dropping those seeds very soon now thanks to the wind and rain, which will hopefully result in a fresh crop.
Tomatoes grew strong, vibrant, and healthy all season, but left me with a plethora of green fruits. They have only just begun to ripen, and as a result many of them are coming indoors as soon as they begin to to show yellow or pink where they can finish among the warmth of the kitchen. I’ll continue to keep them ripening outdoors until the tomato plants finally turn brown – which I’m guessing isn’t too far in the future.
For now, I’ll leave you with a nasturtium, another friendly flower which can be found just about everywhere around the garden. While all parts of nasturtiums are edible, I’ve resisted collecting too many flowers or seeds for dinners in the hopes that the plants will successfully re-seed themselves for next summer. I’ll let you know my success when they reemerge next June.
Filed under: Cooking, Garden, Goals, Health | Tagged: autumn, connection, corn, flowers, fruits, Garden, gardeners, Gardening, harvests, lettuce, marigolds, meditative, nasturtiums, organic, plants, pumpkins, strawberries, summer, sunflowers, tomatoes, vegetables | 2 Comments »
Summer is nearly here, and the cold frames are at maximum production:
We’ve built three cold frames so far this year. The first was built and sown in February with radishes, lettuce, onions, and carrots. The second two were constructed in April, and were sown at the new moon with a) corn and sunflowers; b) spinach, arugula, cilantro, snap peas, and marjoram.
I’ve learned to incorporate radishes into more dishes than I ever imagined possible – nothing like a healthy radish surplus to help you get creative. The spinach and arugula are now vigorous enough that I can pick leaves each day and they are replenished by the following evening. The lettuce seems a little slow-moving, but that doesn’t worry me: there’s plenty more on the way! Now that the cold frames are built, we will have a leg-up for winter and spring. I’ll begin planting them around August to secure fresh vegetables long past the typical growing months.
Another added benefit of cold frames: they are bunny and deer proof (unless, of course, you have some REALLY determined bunnies). I’ve been keeping the corn-and-sunflowers cold frame closed most days and all nights to keep things really warm for vigorous growth; the other two cold frames have been spending all days open, and temperate nights too. This is important because keeping them too warm would cause the spinach, radishes, arugula, cilantro, and others to “bolt” to flowers.
As you can see in these images, our sunflowers are just about ready for transplanting, and the corn will definitely be “knee-high by the fourth of July”. In fact, these pictures were taken a week ago, and today everything has doubled from what’s shown here. While it’s true that corn is one of many vegetables which does best when direct-sown, I chose this approach to help the plants along until the ground warms enough for planting. The plan for the corn is two-fold: some of them will relocate to a new west-facing garden area currently being prepped, and others will be tested with the three sisters method when I plant the pumpkins and melons.
Filed under: Garden, Goals, Health | Tagged: arugula, cilantro, cold frames, corn, Garden, Gardening, peas, planning, planting, radishes, seedlings, spinach, spring, starts, sunflowers, vegetables | Leave a comment »
A quick peek ahead at what’s to come at AppleJade: here you can see my plant starts enjoying a little sunshine outdoors thanks to this nice, warm weekend. Not pictured here are the cold frames under construction. I am preparing some step-by-step instructions to help you build your own. More soon!
Gardening can benefit from a healthy combination of vision, creativity, and random surprise. For me, gardening serves the dual purpose of helping me to discover things about myself while I slowly learn about the green world. This summer I have been extracting my garden from weeds and tree sprouts. In these pictures you can see what I’ve uncovered so far. It may not look like much, but all I see is endless potential!
The strawberry harvest was excellent. This small patch yielded about 2-3 cups of fruit for 3-4 weeks (making for some delicious, vitamin-packed margaritas!). In a few more weeks the blackberries will begin to ripen, and I’m confident that I’ll have enough for pies and freezing. I will relocate a few plants to increase my yields next year.
The herbs bring back a strong sense of nostalgia as they work their way back into my meals. Certain herbs and spices remind me of places I have lived (and grown) or visited. Lemon rosemary reminds me of Kitsap, Washington. Greek oregano will probably always remind me of Chester County, PA. I have already taken cuttings of the herbs so that they too can be relocated around the property. I also found time to plant a couple tomatoes and an Anaheim chili pepper – I’ll show you what they’re doing next week.
While the wild plants had to be removed to make room for planted vegetables, I’ve made sure to leave many in place. These wildflowers are an important attractant for bees and butterflies (and besides that, I like them). The rest of the garden is slowly being cultivated into soft, open beds like the one you see here. This is where I will be sowing seeds for cold-hearty plants which will likely survive the temperate Washington winter even outside of the coldframe.
And speaking of cold frames, now that we have completed new gates for the garden, cold frames are the new weekend projects. Stay tuned for diagrams, pictures, and step-by-step instructions for you to build you own cold frame in time for autumn and winter planting!
Filed under: Attitude, Garden, Health | Tagged: berries, butterfly, chives, creativity, discovery, flowers, Garden, Gardening, green living, Health, herbs, inspiration, Nutrition, organic, planning, planting, rosemary, strawberries, Sustainability, sweet william, vegetables | Leave a comment »
It may be too cold to sow seeds in the garden, but it’s the perfect time to be sowing the cold frame. As spring approaches, the sun’s path rises; this gives more warming light which the cold frame is built to capture.
While these pictures may not look pretty, they are actually very exciting (ok, at least for me). [Remember you can click on pictures to enlarge.] What you can see here are the lettuce, mustard, onion, chive, and cilantro plants which have grown slowly throughout the winter. Scattered around them are open patches of earth which I used to sow radishes, carrots, spinach, lettuce, onions, and cilantro. As soon as we have another warm day, I’ll open up and take some pictures so you can see how big the radish and spinach sprouts have become! The carrots seem shy – it may be too cold for them to germinate just now.
In coming weeks I will remove the small, mature plants and place them out into the main garden where they can grow full-size. Every time I pull out plants, I create open space in the cold frame. Those new open spaces are where I sow the next succession of seeds. This “succession planting” can continue every two weeks well into the summer, allowing me to have small, regularly maturing crops to feed us.
It’s taken me a while to get the hang of “succession planting.” When I was first learning how to garden, I had no concept of succession planting, and happily unloaded entire seed packets into pots and garden spaces. The result was a lot of wasted seed, and a whole bunch of plants that all matured at the same time. Succession planting allows me to grow usable amounts of food that sustain us over the months.
We’ll be using a similar succession approach with the onions to keep a regular crop in stock. Currently I’m germinating onions in the cold frame. The seeds were sown close together in a small patch, and I expect to have slender onion sprouts in April or May. At that point, the onions that overwintered in the garden will start to mature. As I take out an onion or two for dinner each night, I’ll replace its empty seat with one of the young sprouts from the cold frame.
As you can see, life is busy in my garden, and it’s busy on my desk too. I am the new Pennwriters Area 6 Representative for membership in southeastern Pennsylvania. I will also be attending the Annual Pennwriters Conference this May in Lancaster, PA. You will be able to find me blogging at AppleJade about once per week through March and April, and our focus will be in the garden.
Filed under: Attitude, Garden, Goals | Tagged: chives, cilantro, cold frame, Garden, Gardening, greens, Health, lettuce, mustard, nature, Nutrition, onions, planning, radishes, seeds, spinach, spring planting, sprouts, succession planting, vegetables, winter | 2 Comments »