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Garden Update

August 2, 2011

(This is not my photo. Sorry, photo-owner, I can’t find a credit)

This year’s gardening has been a grand experiment. At this point, August 2nd, we’re about mid-way through our gardening season here in the East Bay of the Northern California Bay Area climate. I expect to be able to garden all the way through October, to maybe the first week or two of November, when the frosts come.

Summer came late, so things I expected to be harvesting by now are still growing. And we definitely have experienced a learning curve. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any gardening, and while I’m really pleased with our first year’s garden, we’re taking careful note of what worked and what didn’t, and what we want to do next time around.

Here is a report on the harvest so far, what’s expected in the next few months, and projects to do before the frosts come.

  • Beets: Although carefully and lovingly tended, we only had enough beets for one (very delicious) meal. Our little beet plot was so cute! But I guess 10 baby beets aren’t really that many.
  • Carrots: same story. A very small carrot plot, and I didn’t thin them very well, so we had enough little pinky-finger size carrots for a stir-fry and that’s about it.
  • Radishes: very successful until it got too warm for them. We liked the longer French Breakfast kind the best.
  • Green beans: Have had one crop of bush beans, and another very small (a large handful) is ready to be picked now. I’m still waiting for the climbing beans to show any sign of actually producing beans.
  • Peppers: we have three pepper plants and they are doing very well, although the tomatoes are totally shading them right now so I don’t know if they will continue to ripen or not. I think we have maybe a total of 6-7 peppers currently. I wanted red peppers, but they are green… do all peppers turn red eventually? I’m leaving them on for now but will pick them soon, I guess.
  • Lettuce: a grand success! The crop started to get bitter and bolt a week or two ago, but we had a nice long period of having a lot of lovely lettuce. We had TONS of lettuce.
  • Snap peas: we liked these, but they didn’t grow as vigorously as I’d hoped, and we only had two small harvests of them. Now they are drying up and I think they are pretty much done.
  • Corn: we have about 12 stalks of short corn, mostly grown to be a trellis for the green beans. They are working perfectly for that purpose, but we have a few ears as well! Not sure when to harvest them. It would be fun to have a couple ears of home-grown corn. And then we’ll have cornstalks for autumn decor on the front porch.
  • Potatoes: my container potatoes were partially successful — my straw-mulch method didn’t work very well, but the potatoes that were in the dirt portion did very well. There are still some potatoes in the actual ground which I need to dig up, probably next weekend. They are very yummy. Plenty of potatoes for the amount we eat (not many).
  • Herbs: All the herbs are doing great, including those I grew from seed and the spearmint a friend gave me from her garden. (yes the mints are in containers). I’d like to keep some going through the winter if I can — not sure if I can do that here or not.
  • Tomatoes: Holy tomato, Batman, the tomatoes are (finally) doing great. They are giant monsters and have tons of green tomatoes on them. Have harvested two so far, and they’ve been delicious. So I think the tomatoes are going to be successful. The cherry tomato is doing well too. I have three giant plants in the garden plots and two in containers, which are smaller due to their poor start in life in the alley, which did not get enough sun for them. But they are all doing great.
  • Cucumbers: These are also doing great. I was afraid I planted too many but so far, we’ve been keeping up with them. I had enough to make a cucumber salad yesterday — serious yum.
  • Zucchini: surprisingly, this is having a hard time. I actually had to transplant it from the alley, so maybe it’s just catching up to itself now. I expect it to start growing well any day now…
  • Onions: a no-go. No sign of any onions.
  • Blueberry plant: Um, yeah. That didn’t go well either.
  • Eggplant: Oh! There is one nice eggplant on the plant. I need to pick it. And then what?
  • Melons: no sign of the melons yet. Too cold for too long, and then they got shaded by nasturtium, I think.
Is that it? I think so, so far. Pretty good for a first year. That’s a long list. Keep in mind that with the exception of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and basil, our “harvest” has been handfuls, not bushels.
So we’ll definitely repeat many of these next year. I am going to make another garden bed in a part of the yard that gets a little less sun, and that will be the lettuce/herb plot. And then I think one plot just for tomatoes, and the other for the other things. Cucumbers will do very well in the containers, I think. And I’ll probably get some more containers for a few other crops. I don’t know if I’ll do potatoes again. They were fun to grow, but we don’t eat a lot of potatoes and I could use the garden space for other things (probably more containers — the ground is VERY rocky where the potatoes are). So we’ll see. Now I have a better idea of how to lay things out and what sort of space everything needs.
Terri really wants blueberries so we will figure out the best place to put them. The bush we had dried up and died. Maybe in the front yard? We want raspberries too, but the ground where they will go needs a lot of work.
The front yard is begging to be turned into a garden. It gets full sun all day and is just unused lawn right now. I *may* put in one garden box next spring to try it out, something more attractive than the jerry-rigged boxes in the back. Have to think about it. But I think it would be great to turn the front yard into garden space. We’d like to have veggies and herbs all mixed together. Maybe we’ll spend some time this winter drawing up a plan and will start on it as money and time allows. Mostly I don’t really know how to take out the lawn, but I’m sure there’s an internet tutorial for that. There’s an internet tutorial for everything.

So that’s the garden report at this time. Like I said, we’re pretty happy with it. It’s been really fun and we’ve learned a lot. Maybe I’ll build just two more raised beds fall — one in the back for the lettuce and herbs, and one in the front to start the process of transforming the front yard into a garden. That’s a really big project but I think I could handle just one box to start with. Time to get out the sketchbook and garden books. Actually I think a small fence around the front would be a good place to start. Somehow a fence allows you to do whatever you want with your front lawn. Without a fence it feels more like public property, you know?

So for autumn:

  • Two more raised beds. Or, at least one more in the back.
  • Compost bin (I’m going to use wooden pallets for this one — for leaf mulch). The current composter works just fine (I guess — haven’t had any compost yet of course) but we need a second one for leaves, and for while the other one “cooks”
  • Fall crops: more lettuce, radishes, maybe some cabbages, a cauliflower?
And of course tons of yard work. I am very behind on weeding. The borders of the yard are shaded and are not touched by the sprinklers, so we need to figure out what can fill out the space. right now it’s dirt and weeds, with a random plant or two here and there. Not so attractive. We have a few part-shade beds that are totally empty except for straggling weeds. Hmm. Well, plenty of time to figure all that out. Gardening is fun, no?
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9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2011 12:54 pm

    It sounds like you have a very successful garden. Congratulations.

  2. August 2, 2011 6:26 pm

    You are an ambitious gardener. It’s really admirable how you embraced the whole thing — on top of everything having to do with the move. I tried beets last year and it was a big failure. I’ve done quite well this year, so I may broaden my horizons next year. You’re an inspiration.

    • August 3, 2011 8:55 am

      We were ambitious, but I say, no harm in just trying everything. I was DYING to have a garden and go big or go home, right? Sorry your beets didn’t work out, but you got onions and we got none, so it all balances out!

  3. August 3, 2011 4:38 am

    Eggplant parm? I have only recently fallen in love with eggplant and never could cook it myself but I bet if you are in a fun mood, google some recipes and go for it.

    LOVE your gardening ambitions. We had Fennel come up again from attempt last year which we didn’t harvest. This year we pulled the bulbs HOPING – but they weren’t at all what we expected. So that was a dud. But I’ve tried the fronds for herb seasoning options.

    This year, all I got going is herbs. Thyme, tarragon, chives, oregano, sage. My parsley all shot to heck tho – bolted and now totally a monstrous mess. I need to chop it down and assume it will come back again next year.

    • August 3, 2011 8:56 am

      I’ll give it a try. It’s just a smallish one but it’s pretty and I want to pick it and use it before it goes bad on the vine. This weekend. Maybe ratatouille?

      I love herb gardening, I’ve discovered. I think herbs will play a much bigger part in the garden next year than they did this year. And definitely a lot in the front.

  4. August 3, 2011 9:34 am

    I thought that photo was from your garden at first and I was really impressed. Not that I am not still impressed after reading that it isn’t your garden. I am kind of relieved actually because then I would have had to be really jealous and ask you what your secret was 🙂 We’ve n ot had luck growing onions in our yard either. Or blueberries. We tried them year before last and both bushes shriveled up in less than a month. I watered too, I swear!

    • August 3, 2011 10:31 am

      I know! I swear we were watering ours too. Maybe in a container next year. I don’t know. We’ll try raspberries if I can get around to doing the soil prep and all that.

      Yeah,I wish that was our beautiful harvest! I was going to take photos of all the harvests but I keep forgetting. I will, once the tomatoes start ripening. I’m excited, it looks like we have quite a haul out there.

  5. August 12, 2011 7:12 pm

    I so enjoy the garden talk…even if we are still paying HEB to supply us with produce.

    It’s really a good thing that our plans didn’t pan out. We would be spending a fortune watering the damn thing. We have had maybe 5 days with some rain. It’s pitiful.

    Your plans sound awesome. Wish I were closer to mooch some of that veggie goodness.

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