Growing in the Raised Vegetable Beds Right Now: Kitchen Garden Journal

Eggplant, peppers, basil, volunteer lettuce, and our new cat, Jasper, who loves to march through (and roll around in) all the garden beds. 

Realization of the Day:
Every few weeks this spring I've been taking pictures of each of my raised garden beds, but I never get around to posting them. Sometimes I forget, sometimes I'm busy in the garden, and sometimes parts of the garden are kind of a mess and things just don't look good enough. (You may have noticed the overgrown walkways, unsightly cardboard mulch to kill/prevent weeds, and tangle of tomato cages with last year's dried tomato plants still clinging to them in the photo above).

That "good enough" nonsense needs to stop.

Real gardens aren't perfect—at least mine never will be—and it's the imperfect details that often teach us the most. And any garden journal photos are better than no photos. It's amazing how much stuff I completely forget I even grew until I see old photos.

Realization #2:
I am apparently incapable of writing a short garden blog post, even when it's mainly supposed to be pictures.

It's hot and humid, 90 degrees in the shade and headed higher. There's a saving grace breeze, but by late morning it feels like a giant noiseless hairdryer. Joe is out on the tractor raking up our second cutting of hay. All the animals are napping in the shade.

We've reached an annual turning point in the kitchen garden, and it's time to face the truth. Most of the seeds you ordered are still sitting in the freezer. It's too late to start any more spring or summer crops, and the rest of the poor little tomato plants you bought back in April and still haven't put in the ground (or transplanted into bigger pots, or even fertilized) have turned a disturbing shade of purplish black.

So many plans for the garden this year, so few of them actually accomplished. Again.

But then you realize that all of this no longer matters, because after spending half an hour watering out in the blazing sun yesterday morning (I love these garden hoses), you've managed to permanently sweat away your appetite.

What's planted is planted, and suddenly it seems like more than enough. Who wants to eat 56 feet worth of potatoes in July and August anyway? All you can think about are crisp, cool salads and really tall, ice-filled drinks.

And then the realization hits. You were so busy enjoying all that lovely over-wintered Swiss chard and kale, and then the spring-planted gourmet baby lettuce mix, not to mention all those big beautiful heads of volunteer lettuce from last fall's salad patch, that you conveniently forgot to start any heat tolerant greens for summer salads.

Now all those potatoes are starting to sound pretty good.

Picture perfect or not, here's what's growing in my garden right now. There are a also few herbs and flowers tucked here and there, and the homemade greenhouse is full of lemon balm and bolting Swiss chard, but this is the bulk of things. All photos were taken June 9th, except the cucumber and pepper bed which was taken yesterday because I forgot it on the 9th.

11 more photos below, descriptions of each at the end. . . 

  1. Classic and Black Beauty eggplant (purchased), Golden California Wonder peppers (purchased), basil (purchased), volunteer lettuce (all picked yesterday before this heat wave), and our new cat Jasper, who loves to march through (and roll around in) the garden beds. I've been clipping an old bed sheet to the metal hoops to make shade for the lettuce.
  2. The biggest heads of garlic from the 2012 harvest were planted on March 11th (ideally they should gave gone in the ground way back in October). I picked the first green garlic yesterday. You can read more about green garlic here and learn how to grow your own garlic here (it's easy!).
  3. Rocky Top lettuce mix from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds direct seeded (a little too thickly, but it keeps down the weeds) on April 13th. Harvested the bulk of it a few days ago before it got really hot and then planted 8 Roma tomato plants (bought ages ago) in there.
  4. Yukon Gold potatoes planted in early May, growing like crazy and finally mulched this week with a thick layer of hay/sheep manure from the barn.
  5. Lemon cucumbers, miniature white cucumbers, and Boston pickling cucumbers direct seeded (2012 seeds) some time in May and Big Bertha peppers (purchased).
  6. Masai, Maxibel, and Dragon Langerie (aka Dragon Tongue) bush beans, three longtime favorite varieties. The Maxibel are looking a little too tall; I'm thinking they may actually be pole beans. There was also a 4-foot row of beautiful French Breakfast radishes in here; picked the last of them this week. Totally forgot to succession plant any more.
  7. Candy, Red Candy Apple, White Bermuda, and Texas 1015 Super Sweet onions, purchased as plants from Dixondale Farms back in March, left in the house way past their supposed three week out-of-ground lifespan, and still doing just fine. I double planted so half could be harvested for green onions, which we've been eating on everything.
  8. Red Pontiac (and a few Yukon Gold) potatoes, planted April 4th, survived a freeze, and now currently being attacked by Colorado potato beetle larvae. I sprayed once with a mixture of garlic juice, food grade diatomaceous earth (we buy this wonderful stuff in 50-pound bags and use it all over the farm), dish soap, and vegetable oil which didn't seem to help all that much, and between the rain (yay!) and my laziness I haven't gotten around to spraying again. Instead, every time I walk by I hold a bucket of water under the plants and knock the larvae into it. It's actually working pretty well.
  9. Bull's Blood beet (the leaves are beautiful and tasty in salads) and some other kind of beet plant, plus Russian Red kale gone to seed, all from last fall.
  10. More kale from last fall gone to seed (I'm crazy about kale and eat all mine raw in salads), plus a few new volunteer plants that recently sprouted up. This bed will soon be planted with peppers and/or tomatoes (the ones that aren't nearly dead); cardboard at the edge covers weeds and keeps more from growing.
  11. Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes (purchased), basil (purchased), few Texas 1015 Super Sweet onions that didn't fit in the onion bed, and two Swiss chard plants from a year ago.
  12. Permanent chive border, two kale plants from last year gone to seed, King Arthur peppers, Rutgers tomatoes, and basil (all purchased plants).

For various reasons the garden hasn't been getting enough attention for the last several years, and only about half of my 4'x8' (mostly falling apart) raised beds are currrently planted. But it looks better and is bigger than it's been in a long time; some of the newly reclaimed beds are ones that had been neglected for years. There was a tree growing in one of them.

Hungry or not, this progress in the garden makes me very happy, especially since all the planted beds are already also nicely mulched. Woohoo! Yes, I get that excited over grass clippings.

Slowly but surely I'm catching back up, while at the same time my list of garden plans keeps steadily growing. Someday I may even get back to starting all my own seeds. The varieties of non-hybrid tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants available for sale locally are very limited—and really boring.

In the meantime, who's up for a big bowl of ice cream? And then maybe a nap in the shade while dreaming about a glorious harvest of cool season autumn crops.

So how's it going in your June garden? Are you harvesting anything yet? Did you get everything planted that you wanted to?

Source: In My Kitchen Garden - Growing in the Raised Vegetable Beds Right Now: Kitchen Garden Journal

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