Garden Journal #13: Harvest
August 7, 2016: Thoughts, Things
I've done a terrible job making this a purposeful garden journal. I am realizing this, as I am on Google and Pinterest, searching for "Year Round Planting in Zone 7," and "Fall Gardens in North Carolina."
Committed gardeners keep track of when they put things in the ground, to the day, and when they pull edibles out.
It makes sense.
Things to strive for.
I love that the garden is getting bigger and better each year. I love that we are growing and harvesting more, killing less, and even being surprised by fun and unexpected things. This is a celebration post, to show some of the fruit of my minimal labor, so far.
But then I have some goals.
Updates and Changes
- What I originally thought was volunteer squash turned out to simply be more pumpkins. They started taking over my outdoor A/C units. I promptly ripped them all out and my big bed is much tidier now. I also harvested all the potatoes inside, so it is just huge giant okra plants left.
- My 3 large, single, planter pots (turned into SIPs) were yielding nothing (more pumpkins not doing well in the shade). So I ripped all those out as well and planted some very late zucchini in two. One is still empty. Plans for some fall planting in there. Maybe Brussels sprouts?
- The compost pile creature grows. Oh, how it grows. I cut back on some of the pumpkin vine runners, but I'm fairly certain all of these pumpkins are just small ornamental pumpkins anyway, so I'm not trying to feed just one per vine to get it huge. Guess I'll go for quantity over quality this time.
- When it comes to my tomatoes, generally speaking, things are a bit of a mess. I just keep picking up loose arms and legs and tucking them in, tying them back, and hoping for the best. The grape tomato plant has far outgrown its cage - used primarily for bird netting rather than support. The birds seem to be leaving the garden alone now that we've provided real bird food in another part of the yard.
- Herbs in the front (unpictured) are thriving in the protection from the heat. I've regularly harvested mint, rosemary, and sage for dinners and drinks. Oregano has had two hair cuts and is drying on the garage fridge in a paper bag. If NC proves consistent, we should have summer weather until October (maybe even November), so I would like to do some late lemon balm on my front porch.
Large Raised Bed
Small Raised Bed
Some days are better than others, but here is a glimpse into some of what we've enjoyed so far this summer.
July 6: Red Potatoes
July 14: Blueberries
July 17: Tomatoes & Basil
A Note On Basil
While my tomatoes have been ridiculously slow this year, the basil is out of control. So out of control, in fact, on a humid day (most days this summer) you can smell it from the back porch. I've been trimming and picking off the flowers and trying to keep up, but I give up.
I'm the only one who really likes basil in my house. I made pesto and it was fantastic. I ate it on everything for a week. I've also cut a bunch and am currently drying it on top of my garage fridge in a paper sack, along with some oregano. I keep having dreams of yummy homemade bread and some of these herbs somehow melding sometime this winter.
July 27: A Bit of Everything
August 1: Some Surprises
The pumpkins were a delightful surprise, afterall. I say this because I'm not currently attempting to mow around them in the back quarter of my back yard, where my compost-pile-pumpkin-patch has grown ever larger. These beauties came from the first vine to pop up and it immediately climbed my little fence. Then it died. I thought my husband must have knicked it with the weed whacker, but then a neighbor informed me that when the vine dies, that means the pumpkins are ready to be harvested.
Or she thinks she maybe read that somewhere.
Whatever. These pumpkins were ready so far in advance of Halloween that I think I'll end up baking them. When I Googled to see if white pumpkins are good for eating I discovered they are actually considered a "rare treat" and I am now counted among the "lucky few" to be able to grow these cuties.
I have no idea where the first one came from, but I'm guessing it was a school trip to a pumpkin patch or a random preschool gift brought home that was eventually tossed in the compost pile.
There's another vine of them still growing out there, as well as a bunch more vines of what look like small yellow pumpkins. I'm guessing the big pumpkins we carved into Jack-o-Lanterns, bought at a grocery store, are genetically modified beasts that cannot reproduce. All these little pumpkins volunteering like wildfire are probably smaller varieties from someone local.
Potatoes were my other surprise this year. I did attempt to plant them last season (from a few old sprouted red potatoes that were left in the fridge too long). But like the rest of my garden last year, I didn't really water enough. Shoots sprouted up early and promptly died. I dug up a few tiny "new potatoes" last season, so I was surprised to have at least one bucketful this year. I wish I could have documented planting to harvest time.
Thoughts on Okra
We are finally hitting what I assume is peak okra season. Up until this week, honestly, off of 4 plants, I was probably picking 1-2 pieces a day that were ready to eat. It was taking more than a week to have enough to roast for dinner, and at that, no one was really allowed a full serving.
It rained almost every day this week, off and on. I kind of ignored the garden for a few days there.
I went out early this evening (before another threatening thunderstorm) to find at least 10 pieces of okra that were already too big to eat. The rest of what I picked you see here. Already it is more than I've been picking most weeks, and that was just today. We love okra. I toss it in some olive oil and sprinkle random herbs, salt, pepper, sometimes onion and garlic, whatever is around, and roast it at 400 for about 15 minutes. Even my kids love it.
But the trick is picking it before it gets too big. At that, some in this photo are probably going to be hard to chew. Thumb length is just about perfect.
Final Thoughts and Plans
I'm starting to think about Fall planting. I wanted to do it last year, but school started and life happened and much like this garden, I just didn't do it.
Ideas: beets, garlic, carrots, Brussels sprouts, parsnips.
There's a guy in Advance selling raised garden beds (with hinges in the corners for easy transport!) for $10 a piece. They are slightly bigger than the same thing you can get at Home Depot for closer to $40. I think we are going to pick up between 4 and 10 this weekend and stack them for a few more beds. Just need to figure out where to put them.