Hooray for Summer! I’ve posted a four-and-a-half minute video of our garden on June 21, 2019. Enjoy!
Maybe you’ve been panicking because you didn’t start enough seeds to see you through the fall produce season? Maybe you’re in the mood to plant a succulent display? Or maybe you want to get some California natives in the ground before the fall rains start (the best time to do so)?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you’re in luck! Our Horticulture department sale is this weekend! Our classes have been busy doing all the seeding and planting for you, and we have tons of glorious-looking starts for your edible gardens.
We have just begun to move everything out to the sale area, and by Saturday these tables will be positively groaning with a huge variety of edibles, for sale at very reasonable prices. You could have a salad every day at dinner until spring. You could have enough greens to scramble with your eggs every morning. You could start that herb garden you’ve been meaning to plant, and have it well-established by spring. I personally seeded at least ten of these flats, and many more were seeded by my classmates. Our nursery manager Nia watched over them and made sure they were watered and fed with organic fertilizer. They’ve been moved several times to get the very best kind of conditions for growing. And they’ve hardened off in our lath house, so you can put them directly in to the ground and then reap the delicious harvests!
Bring cash or your checkbook (sometimes we have a card reader, sometimes not). Be prepared to spend some time at the other booths, such as the one manned by Hida Tools (the best pruners ever). I think there might be live music. There might even be food. It will be festive!
While you’re there, make sure to check out our cool permaculture hill, full of perennial edibles. Get inspired by the planting beds, all of them changed out each semester by a new class. This is a teaching and learning garden, so it’s different than going to a botanical garden or a nursery that sells thousands of plants - it’s interesting to check it out and see what’s happening here, and often more realistic than what you’ll see at a fancy garden. Head down to the meadow area and get a load of the beautiful bay view (this is where I often have my lunch). And all your purchases go to a great cause - our landscape horticulture program. Thanks for supporting us!
Here it is Autumn again, and the greenhouse is full to bursting with all kinds of winter veg. Today, I spent the entire day potting up my seedlings: Broccoli, Romanesco, Chiogga beets, Savoy Cabbage, Kale (both frilly and dinosaur), Carrots, Leeks, Parsnips, and Romaine. I also potted up Sorrel, Oregano, and Thyme for the herb garden. I re-seeded everything for a second batch, and also seeded braising greens. I’ll direct sow spinach and also more greens, at the beginning of October. Probably also more carrots and beets.
It’s been in the mid-90’s here, not unusual for September, but the nights are in the 50’s and it feels chilly in the mornings. I don’t know about you, but I definitely feel the change coming. The tomatoes and peppers are still producing but showing signs of late blight. The cucumbers I harvested yesterday tasted slightly bitter. The beans are drying and almost ready to pick for winter storage. The winter squashes are coloring up. The ripe melons fall off the vine and scent the air with their musky smell. Shelling peas and fava beans are starting to sprout and grow taller. It’s time to pick the last of the basil and make a bunch of pesto for the freezer.
How is your summer-to-fall garden transition coming? What have you planted already, and what is yet to go in? What have you decided to forgo this year? I thought we’d take a year off of Swiss Chard. I’m slightly regretting that decision. Oh well, there’s still time.
Our beloved cat Tasha died yesterday. She was older, and had a lot of health problems that were getting worse, and she was losing weight rapidly. Then, she started sneezing blood, and the vet and I decided it was time.
Tasha was a great pet, though not overly affectionate. Love had to be on her terms, which sounds very feline, I suppose. When she was younger, she used to climb up on the fence rail and howl. The neighbors called her “the Foreigner,” as she seemed to be keening for the old country. But as she grew older, she spent less and less time outdoors, preferring to snore away the day on our bed. Every so often, she’d make her way out to the fountain and lick the water from its sides, along with the birds and the honeybees.
She had a good, long life. We are very glad she was a part of ours for a while.
I use the garden as my sounding board, it seems, whether I’m sad or happy, so here’s some pictures I took this morning. We’re enjoying the last of the summer produce; soon it will be time to transfer over to the winter garden.
Even though we still have more than a month yet to go with full summer production, I'm rounding up the winners of this year's garden and making lists of things I want to plant again next year.
Let's start with tomatoes. I had some real troubles in one particular section of the garden. Several plants underneath and near our peach tree did very badly, and I'm not sure if it's due to all the years of copper spray we put on the peach tree (which does kill soil life even though it's an 'organic' treatment), or the fact that those tomatoes got more shade. However several varieties did not produce even one fruit. These were Kolb, Black Beauty, Carbon, Cour di Bue, Pineapple, Vorlon, Black from Tula, and Sheboygan. Black Beauty did produce fruits but all were immature and never grew to size nor ripened. The Sungold cherry was near this section and also did not do well, only producing a couple of fruiting clusters, not the usual riot of fruit that we get from this variety. Other varieties produced just one or two tomatoes (Kellogg's Breakfast, which we've had great luck with before, Ukrainian Purple, another that has done well for us before). Since I only planted 32 plants in total, not getting any fruit from eight varieties, plus slight fruit from another three was a real problem. I have only canned 12 jars of tomatoes, three cans of salsa, and frozen six jars of garlic/basil/tomato sauce. I did manage to dehydrate another quart. But this is nothing compared to what I put up last year, so quite a disappointment.
Winners/Will be planting next year along with some new varieties:
Paste: Gezahnte, Italian Heirloom, Hungarian Heart, Opalka, and Amish Paste.
Slicers: Dester, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Dr. Wyche's yellow, Kellogg's Breakfast, and Martha Washington.
Cherry: Beam's Yellow Pear, Austin's Red Pear, Black Vernissage (extremely prolific and large fruits), Black Cherry (we missed having this one this year), and Sungold.
I'm hoping to plant 40 tomato plants next year and will add some new varieties to trial.
Next up is peppers, our second most important summer crop. For sweet peppers, we've had a good year. I use sweet peppers for fresh eating, for roasting and freezing for winter, and in things like romesco sauce that go in the freezer. Bell peppers are just now starting to ripen and will be ready to go in September, while the corno di toro style are good in July and August. Next year, I hope to plant twice as many sweet peppers.
Hot peppers are also important, both the mild ones and the super spicy ones. We use fresh jalapenos in salsa which is canned for the winter. It's also nice to have some for fresh eating or roasting; Adam likes them on grilled cheese sandwiches, in chowder, in guacamole, and alongside Mexican dishes. Many peppers get dehydrated for spices or spice mixtures: paprika, smoked paprika, red chili flakes, cayenne powder, chili powder, chipotle powder (just smoked jalapenos). Many get made into fermented hot sauce or sriracha. Hot peppers were great for us this year and next year I want to plant double the amount.
I will plant some of the same varieties and trial some new ones. The ones I won't plant again: Tolli's Italian, Gilboa Yardenne, CA Wonder, Jupiter, Etuida, Escamillo.
Winners/Will plant again next year:
Sweet: Lipstick, Carmen, Corno di Toro, Glow, Bull Nose Bell, Chocolate Bell, maybe Italian Sunset.
Hot: Calabrese Piccante, True Thai, Jalapeno, Magyer Paprika, Alma Paprika, Leutschauer Paprika, Maule's Red Hot.
I've tried lots of different beans, and the winner (over several seasons now) is clear: Pole beans, not bush; the variety is Rattlesnake, an heirloom. Picked when young and tender, they taste wonderful. And they're pretty, too! We eat them fresh and also blanch and freeze them for winter.
We've tried lots of different cucumbers, and the one that always performs best for us is Boston Pickling. Next year I might try another long thin cucumber, but none have ever performed like this pickling cucumber. Tom has made countless jars of pickles and relish, and we've eaten them in every fresh form we can think of. A real winner. The bees love it too. The only downside is that they are prickly and we have found that wearing gloves to harvest is less painful.
Butternut squash always does well here. I usually plant Waltham, but this year I tried a different variety and did not write it down. (I know, I know.) Whatever it is, it's beautiful and prolific, and we'll have plenty to eat fresh and some to eat over the winter if I can manage to store it properly. This photo is of an unripe squash, but we are eating our first fully ripe one tonight.
I have basil growing in six different places in the garden right now, all at different stages - it's that important to our summer cooking. I use it nearly every day. I also dehydrate a substantial amount to use over the winter in pasta. It's an essential ingredient in our chunky frozen tomato sauce. Most of it goes to make pesto, which I then freeze, at least 12 jars of the stuff. This coming week is the one I've set aside to start this process. I use CA organic walnuts instead of pine nuts, plenty of garlic, and raw-milk parmesan.
I tend to grow Genovese basil almost exclusively, though I do grow Thai basil for the bees.
I've tried all different kinds of pumpkins, and this year I've had the best luck of all. And that's funny, because I did not buy the seeds. Instead I just saved seeds from the pumpkins we bought to carve. I felt they were the perfect size and shape (round and on the smaller side, about a foot in diameter), so I thought I'd give them a try. We have about 8 beautiful pumpkins ready to go, and another 8 or so that are huge and green. The plant has been extraordinarily prolific and I've had to cut it back in several places because it was taking over the pollinator garden and was growing into the next-door neighbor's driveway. I wish I knew what variety it was, it's done such a great job.
I planted both sugar snap and shelling peas in late July, in a shadier spot, to see what would happen. Well, we're harvesting sugar snap peas now (Magnolia Blossom variety, they are beautiful and tasty) and the shelling peas (Sabre) are also starting to fruit. So that was a good experiment! Tomorrow I will seed some more so that we continue to have them through the fall.
The last of the collards was just given to the chickens; I just re-seeded cilantro; we didn't have good luck with dill this year; our watermelons and cantaloupes are about five inches big right now and will likely not reach maturity by the time I do my October planting. Oh, and our rhubarb is going crazy, we didn't know we'd be able to harvest that all through the summer! And apples - oh my, our tree is loaded with crisp tart-sweet fruit. Delicious. The squirrels like it, too.
I'm getting ready to start the winter garden and will sow seeds in the greenhouse next weekend, more on those varieties then.
I'd love to know which summer vegetables/fruit did well for you this year, and what you would recommend. Please share your successes!