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Growing My Way to Freedom #42: Vegetables in the Garden on the Summer Solstice

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Blog entry by Radicalfarmergal posted 431 days ago 1522 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 41: Fruit from the Gardens on the Summer Solstice Part 42 of Growing My Way to Freedom series Part 43: Potatoes »

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.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout



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Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1869 days
hardiness zone 5b

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11 comments so far

View jroot's profile

jroot

5056 posts in 2237 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 431 days ago

A fantastic tour of your garden. I am envious of all your land, but applaud all your efforts. Well done.

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

View justjoel's profile

justjoel

1062 posts in 1987 days
hardiness zone 7a

posted 431 days ago

And what a tour! Wish mine was half as productive as yours already.

-- "We are stardust. We are golden. And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." Joni Mitchell

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14682 posts in 2607 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 431 days ago

lightbulb moment re: spinach. How easy it is for us to get caught up in the limited varieties of edibles ... what can we instead, that takes less effort and is more comfortable in our own environments.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View quicksilver's profile

quicksilver

29 posts in 495 days
hardiness zone 7

posted 431 days ago

You have chickens.
Best insect control you can buy.
My spinach is going to seed now and lettuce before that.
I’m jealous that your zucchini is growing better than mine.
Good work.

-- Quicksilver

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1869 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 430 days ago

Thank you all for coming on the tour and for your comments. I am very fortunate to have the space and opportunity to garden. When I drive around and see how much land is devoted to lawns, I try to think of ways to motivate change in my community.

Quicksilver, some of my lettuce has gone to seed but a collection of my lettuce (shown in the tour photo) is shaded by an apricot and goumi bush in the afternoon so it is still sweet and tender despite our recent heat wave. The zucchini only started producing after the heat wave. We really enjoy our chickens, for the eggs, insect control, manure and even as entertainment. My youngest son has these chicks so tame they follow us around and let us reach down and pick them up. They will perch on your arm and fall asleep if you are still. Nature doesn’t garden without animals and neither should we.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14682 posts in 2607 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 430 days ago

Nature doesn’t garden without animals and neither should we. .... and I think of all the rabbits, chickens, cats, dogs, and birds that visit my yard :D

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1869 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 430 days ago

I think you might be overly blessed with animals, Debbie. : D

In nature, when there are too many of one type of animal in an ecosystem, a predator comes in to restore the balance. When humans remove the top predators, we unbalance the ecosystem. We either need to bring the top predators back or act responsibly and limit the number of cats, dogs and chickens we bring into the ecosystem and artificially support. (I am speaking of humans as a group; I know that none of the dogs, cat or chickens are yours.) I was listening to a program on NPR about Lyme disease and how and why it is spreading. Michael Spector discussed how humans have broken up the woods into little, isolated sections to create relatively predator-free habitats for the white footed mouse and how we have allowed deer to proliferate in the absence of wolves, both of which are hosts of the deer tick that carries the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi responsible for causing Lyme disease. Here is his informative article published in the New Yorker magazine.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14682 posts in 2607 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 429 days ago

Yes, we need travel-ways between fields etc, so creatures have a way to migrate through the area… a somewhat “natural” environment in our man-dominated land.

We have coyotes in the area; we often listen to them at night. People are afraid when they hear them but we are excited to hear them, knowing that they help keep things in balance.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View jroot's profile

jroot

5056 posts in 2237 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 429 days ago

send some of those coyotes our way. We have a couple of rabbits in our area that are waging a war of destruction. I hear coyotes or coy-dogs the other day, but the rabbits are growing strong on the fruits of our labour.

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14682 posts in 2607 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 427 days ago

oh dear :(
I know your frustration!

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1869 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 427 days ago

Go coyotes!

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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