A Mid-Summer’s Garden, What’s Growing, 2011

Most definately, the question I get asked most about my garden is:  “What are you growing?”   The answer that I often give is, “Let me tell you what I’m not growing, it’ll go much faster!”

But, for those who really want to know and have some time to sit and listen, I’m more than happy to share about all of the wonderful things that are growing in my garden —  I love telling people about all of the different varieties of heirloom fruits and vegetables that are in production out at our homestead.

The other day I got to thinking, “Why not create a photo journal and document what’s growing in the garden right now?”  So, I took my camera out to our main, “Mom’s  Garden”,  and started snapping pictures.  Although I didn’t capture every single variety and plant,  I tried to document most of what’s  in production, right now, as we near the end of July, 2011.  I don’t think the garden is ever going to look exactly like this again.  It will change from season to season and year to year as I rotate crops, get rid of and bring in different varieties, learn new techniques, and get better at what I’m trying to do.  I look forward to keeping a photo journal of this garden for many years to come, capturing seasonal changes and visually sharing the answer to what I’m asked most about…”What’s growing in your garden?”

  • Here’s the main entrance to  “Mom’s Garden”  (as designated by the sign).  We found this gate, complete with sign, and some picket fencing  for free on Craigslist and decided it would look cute as a stand alone entrance to the garden.  We’re making a natural arbor around it with tree limbs that we’ve cut down from our property.  I planted a trumpet vine that I received as a cutting from a friend at the base of the arbor.  In a few years, this gate will probably be covered with beautiful peachy-orange flowers!

  • We’re welcomed by these cheery sunflowers as soon as we enter through the gate.  Most of the sunflowers are native volunteers whose ancestors have probably been living here longer than I can even imagine!

  • We’ve got a few plots designated just for melons, like these Green Machines.  I quickly discovered that they make great groundcover, so I planted a few extras in the flower beds by our house to fill in the bare spots and cut down on the weeds until I can afford to purchase some more permanent perennials.  I enjoy growing edibles in unexpected places.  They’re quite the conversation starter!

  •     With more space, this year, we’ve planted a variety of different squashes and pumpkins, like this Orange Pipkin Acorn Squash and Rouge De Temp Pumpkin.  Both varieties were chosen for their supposedly wonderful eating qualities.   A good acorn squash, to me, is like eating candy, and I can’t wait to make my first truly homemade, organic pumpkin pie!

  • I’ve never been very successful at growing corn.  The main reason, I think, is that I’ve never been able to plant enough of it, and so I’ve always gotten sporadic pollination.  This year, the plots are much bigger, though.   So, I’m really hoping that we’ll be able to enjoy one of our most favorite of all the summertime vegetables this year!  Besides the typical sweet corn, which has been inter-planted with a variety of other pumpkins, squashes, and watermelons, we’ve also got a small plot of popcorn growing at the south end of the garden.

  • To the direct north of the corn sections we’ve got lots of different beans and potatoes growing — beans on the hills, potatoes in the valleys.    Some of the varieties of beans are:  provider, contender, empress, yellow kenearly, tiger eye, yellow wax, purple podded, calypso,  hutterite.  Some of the beans are grown for eating fresh or cooking,  like a typical green bean, while others are left on the vine ’till they’re completely dried out and are put away for storage to cook later and eat in chilies, soups, or as refried beans.  Oh!  And the pototoes come in shades of  pink, red, yellow, and purple — so far I’ve only uncovered the red ones…

  • In a miscellaneous plot next to the beans and potatoes  I decided to grow something new this year — huckleberries!  I don’t particularly like their taste straight off the vine, but they make great pies, especially when they’re topped with homemade vanilla ice cream!  I’ve got a Chadwick’s cherry tomato growing right along with them.  They are in the same “nightshade” family and, so, make good companions…

  • And, speaking of good companions…I’ve planted a variety of different flowers  in and around the garden.  Not only do they add color and beauty, but they attract beneficial insects, repel and confuse bad ones, and help out with pollination.  This year I learned that our native sunflowers really draw in the bees.  Next year I will make sure to inter-plant more of them with the corn!

  • Here’s something really fun that I tried out this year, after reading about the technique in a book — a cucumber tunnel!  I’ve got two of them, with lots of different cucumbers growing, like  Snow’s Fancy Pickling, Lemon, Poona Kheera, Beit Alpha, Armenian Serpent, and Mexican Sour Gherkin.  They really seem to grow well this way, and it makes a great play place and cool lying spot for our dog, Einstein (wish I could’ve gotten a picture of him in there)!

  • Underneath this tunnel is growing a great, big Moon and Stars watermelon…an unusual variety that’s spreckled with yellow dots that look like moons and stars, hence the name.  Even the leaves are mottled with the yellow splotches.  I’ve also got a few other varieties of watermelon growing in the garden, like sugar babies, the small, sweet type that are grocery store favorites, and Black Diamonds, which have a uniquely colored yellow flesh.  I can’t wait to crack them open and see what they taste like!

  • None of my plots are really designated to growing only one, specific fruit or vegetable, and I don’t always grow things in rows.  An example is these spaghetti and sweet dumpling squashes, which have been planted at the base of a row of pole beans and in the middle of a late corn planting…

  • This one’s growing next to some carrots and corn, too…

  • Even though it’s the hottest part of the summer, I just got a start on my fall garden by sewing a second crop of snow peas and a few different varieties of summertime lettuce.  I’m learning that a key to a good garden is succession planting!

  • Some things I grow for their ornamental beauty, too, like these eggplants, which are just starting to set fruit, so I put them outside of the garden, along the fence with other, pretty, annual flowers.  I’ve got two different varieties:  Rosa Bianca and Pe Tsai…

  • As summer turns up the heat, some things start giving up the ghost, like this dill and cilantro (coriander).  They look pretty ugly, but instead of pulling them out,   I’m letting them go to seed.  I’ll collect it and store it in a dark, cool place, then bring it out again next spring when the life-cycle will start all over once again.

  • And finally, what would a summer garden be without tomatoes?  This is my “tomato alley”, where chocolate cherries, pineapples, black Krims, and costoluso genoveses, mortgage lifters, and pink ponderosas all mingle together with a few tomatillos, peppers, basil, and borage.  Of course, this isn’t the only place in the garden where these summer beauties reside.  I’ve got them sprinkled here and there, in a few different places, growing with different companions, which helps add to bug confusion, allowing me to bypass the use of insecticidal sprays, and enjoy a greater harvest of pest-free fruit!

Well, there you have it!  A quick tour of our backyard garden — a short glimpse into the mini-farm, “Mom’s Garden”, that encompasses  a part of our larger homestead, that is known as  “Whit’s Acres”.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it and know, a little better now, what’s growing in my garden!

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