Summer's heat has finally reached us all, even our northernmost Ethicurean colleagues, and if you wonder why you haven't heard much from many of us — well, you can imagine us with dirt on our hands and knees, working away in our Victory Gardens as our crops take off. And since the work never ends, I'll keep this update brief:
Janet reports that her flowers, potted herbs and mint continue to thrive ("as if it's hard to make mint grow," she notes), but her ventures into other herbs have had only one real success: the sage, which is prospering. The oregano is doing OK, and the parsley and thyme are alive, but barely. She's had more success in conning getting produce out of successful gardeners, a practice she hopes to build on.
Despite dodging wildfires and preparing for a wedding, Amanda has spent time in her own garden, appreciating her raised beds as the summer progresses and she finds the work more tiring. She also offers her tips on keeping birds from eating orchard fruit, and we wish her a good harvest!
Kathryn is excited about the ongoing harvest in her garden, noting that "my Sun Gold tomatoes are beginning to ripen. I planted two plants this year instead of one due to popular demand (my sweetie loves 'em). I just ate my first Tigerella (it has stripes) which has a full-sized tomato taste in asize. The other (six more in all) have small green fruit so far." Some plants aren't doing quite as well: a couple lettuce heads are close to bolting, and the chard hasn't grown much. The cucumber vines have produced one cucumber so far, and other vegetables are flowering but not yet developed. She adds,
The sky has been so overcast this summer that I wonder if this is hindering my plants from thriving as well as they did two years ago. For two summers in a row my pattipan squash's production has been lackluster. The flowers are not getting properly pollinated... and I know I should do this by hand but so far haven't followed through on learning how. Next year I will consider planting at least another squash of each type to see if having more pollen/flowers will help the situation — and/or I'll just have to do the pollination myself. I'm also more motivated to build raised beds next year as my plants in my wine barrels are doing the best.
Even with a short growing season in Montreal and a late start due to his wedding (congratulations!), Peter sends word that his garden (shown left and also at top) is doing well, though everything is smaller than the produce growing elsewhere in the community garden. "Right now I am only harvesting raspberries and lettuce, but it is lettuce from heaven. We've got arugula, sorrel, spinach, and some regular lettuce — which we now appreciate fully after being served a salad at my brother's house made of nothing more than romaine," he notes. Several crops are beginning to produce fruit and ripen, including tomatoes, beans, broccoli, black currants, and garlic. Peter adds:
I found that even a 4-minute ride on my bike was too far to satisfy most of my immediate needs, so I also planted some things at home (the 2nd floor of a triplex). I got some buckets from a nearby restaurant, drilled some drainage holes in the bottoms, and wired them to the outer-edge of my little balcony. The buckets and window boxes are growing yellow pear-shaped cherry tomatoes, which are just starting to take shape, and some royal burgundy beans, which are purple but turn green upon cooking. I also have herbs, which we are using on a daily basis: dill, cilantro, oregano, parsley, thyme, and chives. Not too bad for a balcony that barely fits two chairs! Now of I can only figure out how to get a chicken coop on that balcony...
Charlotte, another late starter up north (in Montana), reports that her cool weather crops (mostly greens) are spent, and her fava beans and tomatoes are making good headway. She has also delighted in the growth of her first-ever broccoli — something worth celebrating!
For the most part, Marc's garden in Berkeley is doing well. Tomato transplant success was low — of the six seedlings purchased, two died and two are runts (barely a foot tall) — but the pole beans and collard greens are doing well and starting to produce. He's particularly pleased with the deep green hue of the leaves, which is probably the result of many applications of worm castings onto the soil. ("Worm castings", a.k.a. worm feces, are created in worm boxes as worms eat fruit and vegetable trimmings from the kitchen. The castings can be added directly or as a "tea" by dissolving them in water.) In his "battle of the mints," the challenger has established itself, but the champion — and the invasive grasses — is getting stronger because of the water given to the challenger, he says. Some work with a hoe next weekend should give the challenger a boost. Thus far, the mint challenger is not large enough allow a harvest for mojitos or a tomato-herb-cucumber-feta salad.
This past weekend, Marc's garden focus turned upward to two plum trees. The trees had mediocre years, but he managed to harvest about 12 pounds of plums. On Sunday he converted the plums into jam (the biggest batch has cane sugar as the sweetener, a smaller batch has local honey). And though I don't think he'll be able to share that jam with us, he does share news of a current campaign to promote public policies that support community gardening — something for us all to pursue!
Bonnie says with great shame that she is neglecting her garden, "dry farming" her tomatoes again this year not quite by design, and actually "doesn't want to talk about it. Any of it."
While I still need to weed every time I visit my garden plot, I find it doesn't take much time to get the unwanted plants out. The problem I've found lately is that sometimes I can't even find the weeds! The tomatoes at the north end of the garden have started sprawling south, where the melons — now growing at an astonishing pace — reach out prickly vines to meet them, and my poor cannellini beans are trapped in the middle. Still, everything is producing what could well be a bumper crop, with several round little watermelons growing under their leafy canopy. My sole frustration is the nameless critter that has the audacity to nibble down not only my carrot tops but now my garbanzo plants as well. Having harvested a big bag of Tiger Eye beans, though, I still have hopes of putting up a reasonable amount of dried beans for winter in my attempt to broaden my locavore pantry!
Our other Victory Gardeners weren't able to report in this month, but we know they're hard at work and enjoying the fruits of their labors. Are you?