Saturday, October 12, 2013

Things I Love

I love my garden.  I love talking about my garden.  I love talking to other people about their gardens.   

I love that I am able to take just a few steps out the front door, with a dinner menu in mind, dig a carrot or two, gather some lettuce, pick a nice shiny banana pepper or cherry pepper and a succulent, perfectly ripe, juicy tomato, a crispy cucumber and some tender young beans from the trellis up against the south side of the house (shall it be purple, golden, or green beans tonight?). I add a handful of fresh herbs (tarragon and basil are nice, maybe some parsley, too) and have the freshest possible salad on the table in short order.  (Disclaimer : Marc is the chef, I’m only the kitchen help – sometimes.  More on this at a future blog post).  

I love that this food that we eat grew out of this soil that is so rich and full of life itself, (there will be a lot about soil to follow in future posts). I love that it comes directly from the garden into our bodies and it then literally becomes part of us. I love this connection with the earth and the way it makes me feel about this cycle of life. 

I love compost. I am never happier than when I have a bag of kitchen scraps in hand and am heading out to add it to one of my many compost piles. Well, okay, maybe there are things that make me happier, BUT it certainly ranks up there as one of the activities in which I find great pleasure.   

This is my first post, and I think I am going to really enjoy writing this blog. There are so many things to talk about, that its hard to know where to start.  

So, for starters, here are a few of the vegetables that are still going str
ong in the front yard garden. 

'Chocolate Stripes' grafted tomato

It’s kind of hard to see, but there are 2 tomato plants on this trellis, ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Chocolate Stripes’. These are grafted tomatoes, and I will be writing more about the grafted tomatoes in later blogs, but I am really sold on them. Briefly, the idea behind grafting is that a cutting (the scion) from a tomato variety that is desired for eating is grafted onto another tomato (the understock) that doesn't necessarily have the best tomatoes for eating, but is a naturally vigorous and disease resistant type with the potential to develop a very large root system. Based on my experience and comparison planting done by others, because the root systems can be 5–10 times larger than a regular tomato and reach deeper for more water and nutrients, the grafted tomato plants are bigger, huskier, more disease resistant, with more and larger tomatoes. They also hold up longer in the fall. The one in the picture with the green tomatoes hanging is an heirloom variety called ‘Chocolate Stripes’ and has already yielded 44 pounds! of tomatoes, many of those being over a pound each. There are at least 10-15 pounds of tomatoes still to be picked on this one plant. There are some warm, sunny days coming up, near 70 degrees, so I have hopes that these green tomatoes will either ripen, or at least become mature enough so that if we have to pick them green, they will have a good chance of ripening off the vine.  If not, we will learn to make fried green tomatoes!  

Some tomatoes do weird things 

Capitano romano beans 

Capitano beans, a golden Romano bush bean type, planted on August 9, as a fall crop. I expect that we will be eating fresh beans again within a week! If the weather holds, we’ll have them for another month. 


Kohlrabi 'Superschmeltz'
I do have fun growing kohlrabi. This is a vegetable that many people are still unfamiliar with, but it should be better known. It’s easy to grow, and delicious. I love the space alien look of it, the crunchy texture and the very mild cabbage taste. We like to eat it raw, with hummus or in salad, but there are lots of ways to cook it.  Marc added some strips to pickled beets. The kohlrabi took on the reddish color of the beets and It was a perfect combination. This is a giant variety with the fabulously fun name of ‘Supershmeltz’, (just try saying it out loud) with the potential to grow up to 10” across. Ours never got quite that large. These are only about 6” across, but as you can see in the picture, they are too crowded. Next year I will be more diligent about thinning, difficult as it is to throw out perfectly good plants! But, like most vegetables, they need space to reach their full potential, but really, don’t we all?  


Cherry Peppers
We still have a few peppers hanging on, trying to turn red.  These are cherry peppers, of the mild variety. There is also a hot variety. These are the peppers that pimentos are made of, the kind you find stuffed in your green olives. I think these are just the cutest peppers, less than 2” across, with a thick, meaty flesh. I like to eat them raw, as is, but they would also make great little individual appetizers - just cut off the top, scoop out the seeds, and you have a perfect little shiny red cup to fill up with whatever filling sounds good to you.  And prolific !  There were over 80 peppers from one plant , and probably closer to 100, but I lost count ! I will definitely be growing this again next year.   


Scarlet Runner Beans
Scarlet Runner beans have clusters of flashy orange/red flowers that hummingbirds LOVE, and tons of big, somewhat flat, meaty beans. I would grow them for the flowers alone, in fact that was my intention, and to cover a trellis to hide the compost pile, but the beans are surprisingly good. I don’t know why it should have been a surprise, probably because most references that I have seen stress the ornamental and hummingbird attracting qualities, not their culinary qualities. Also the pods have kind of a rough texture that put me off at first.  But they are really good! They are kind of meaty, with a lot of substance, and very tasty both raw and cooked. In fact, they are the most popularly eaten bean in England. They are also reportedly very good as a dried bean, and I have seen reference to them as ‘Oregon Lima bean’. The dried beans are quite beautiful - big and flat, purple mottled with black. So at this point, I am letting whatever pods are left on the vines, and there are quite a few pods left, get large and mature enough to be used as dry beans.  

Scarlet runner beans are native to Central America, and are actually a perennial vine, but for most of us, they are treated as an annual, though they have been known to overwinter in protected areas in western Oregon, emerging multi-stemmed from the tuberous roots in spring. And a tidbit of botanical nomenclature – the genus names for beans in general is Phaseolus. Scarlet Runner beans are Phaesolus coccinea.  Coccinea means red.   


Ready for Garlic
So, now I've got the garlic bed all ready to plant; it’s time. And we lost the garlic!!! After harvesting last year’s garlic crop, I had set aside the biggest heads of the 2 varieties we grew, for replanting. Now it’s time, and they are nowhere to be found! They were in paper bags, somewhere in the basement, and I know they were not used. I feel like I’ve looked everywhere, but obviously not, unless they got thrown out somehow. So it’s time to get back down into the basement and look in all the corners and under stuff I would probably rather not look under. I really don’t’ want to have to buy garlic starts. And these were big and beautiful. I’m not giving up yet. 


                                             So that's it for now - be back soon !  

                                                 Let me know what you think !  


  1. Growing your own veg gives such a connection to the earth and knowing where & how your food was grown is a wonderful thing!

  2. Welcome to the world of Blogging: It's been great fun for me for the last five years--a gratifying way of sharing yourself and keeping a journal all in one. I'll put Down in the Dirt on my Blogroll for sure.

    1. Thanks !! I do feel welcomed already. One of things I have always loved about the mail order business is the way it connected me to the community of gardeners world wide, without boundaries. This is another path to the same.

  3. Hi Diana, I absolutely LOVE your blog and your pictures are outstanding as usual. I will follow our blog and I hope to learn from you how to be
    a patient and better gardner......Peace/love.....Mommazita jade....<3

    1. Thanks ! I also hope to be learning all along the way.

  4. Love your blog! Success on the first try! Reading it is almost as good as a visit to your wonderful garden! Good luck finding the garlic! Keep posting, it's a joy to read!

    1. Thanks Pam, now I just have to keep it up ! I'm kind of excited about it.

  5. I LOVE your garden too.......<3

  6. Wow, I learn more reading your blog than I do living with you, hah! Great work and much success!
    <3 m