In my previous post, I concentrated on the bright, showy fruits of summer that capture our attention with their sweetness and bright colors. Maybe even more important are the vegetables which should make up the majority of our food. So this post is dedicated to our hard working vegetables, with a few grains and starches to round out the abundance.
Our Strawberry Spinach vigorously self-seeded itself in a corner of the garden and we have been enjoying it regularly in our summer salads. The leaves and “berries” have a pleasant taste and the berries add a pleasant, bright color to the other shades of green. I am letting a few flowering stalks go to seed and I will scatter the tiny seeds where I want them to grow next year.
I was less happy with our Bloomingsdale Longstanding Spinach plants this year. Early in the spring, they fared poorly and then, after a blast of hot weather, they all bolted. I am glad I have perennial alternatives such as the Good King Henry and Bloody Dock.
Our disappointing spinach, earlier in the spring:
Versus our Bloody Dock:
Another favorite summer vegetable to put in our salads is freshly harvested lettuce. Tucked around the different types of lettuce are beets, onions, snap peas, amaranth and chard. I try to create mixtures, or polycultures, of plants to confuse pests and attract beneficial insects. By including plants with different root structures, root crops and leaf crops, I try to reduce competition between them. By planting densely, I try to keep the soil completely covered to cool and hold the moisture in the soil. It also helps discourage the germination of unwanted plants.
And here is a close up of some of our snap peas. Both the pods and young, tender sprouts go well in salads.
In the past I have had trouble with squash vine borers and squash beetles so I have tried two strategies to avoid them. First, I have “hidden” our zucchini plants among other plants and second, I have planted them several weeks apart in different parts of the yard as further insurance. Our summer squash season is very late this year but we did enjoy our first zucchini just this week. A zucchini plant emerging above the strawberry plants:
My later plantings are just getting started. Here are some young zucchini plants that will grow up in a community of Provider beans and edible Miriam Sunflowers.
Our potatoes are growing in a raised bed that I made from sections of an enormous Weeping Willow tree branch that came down in one of last year’s storms. Originally planted in trenches, we have gradually built hills around the plants to encourage more potatoes and facilitate an easier harvest. I have planted green beans and sunflowers between the potatoes but they haven’t been able to keep up with the vigorous growth of the potato plants. Behind the potatoes and along the fence, I have perennial vegetables, such as Jerusalem Artichokes, Groundnuts, Hog Peanuts and Skirret growing. The potatoes are all in bloom and we will soon be digging around the edges for some small summer potatoes.
Farmers say that corn should be “knee high by the fourth of July” but our Hopi Blue Dent corn is already reaching the top of our wood pile. I have planted beans, acorn squash and cucumbers around the corn with a row of Opalka tomato plants in front. The beans will help provide nitrogen to the corn and the squash and cucumbers will help shade the ground between the corn plants to retain moisture and discourage weeds. I planted a few sunflowers between the corn and woodpiles. They are lagging behind the corn so I don’t know if they will get enough sun to do well. There are blooming Borage growing around the edges to attract pollinators and a few volunteer potatoes have emerged from last year’s potato crop.
Here is a tiny cucumber plant just getting started among the corn plants:
A Borage plant, with edible leaves and flowers, acts as a pollinator and my chicks eat visiting insects. There is also some mint that planted itself along the edges. I keep it there because its strong scent can help keep unwanted insects from coming into the garden.
I am gradually learning to grow the vegetables that thrive in my gardens and eliminating the vegetables that require more work than the produce they provide. I like spinach; for example, but I am finding that alternative sources of green leaves are more reliable and productive without as much effort. Thank you for coming on a tour of some of my vegetable plants.
-- "To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." M. Gandhi