We’ll always have arugula

Welp, the rabbits have had their day and then some.  They have summarily and sneakily done away with our ground-level lettuces, kale, romanesco, and endive. They also managed to get back into the peas, despite the brand-new netting on the cage. (Which they chewed right through – one hole on each side of the cage.) We’ll do a pictures round-up next week to show off the devastation.

SIGH.

Now, we knew that this might be a problem regardless of our efforts with planting bunny-keep-away flowers and redoing some of the netting on the cages,  but we didn’t quite expect that the rabbits would purposefully and, to be frank, knowingly try to get at our crops. Them chewing right through the netting surrounding the peas is testament to that. With the peas, at least, we repaired the holes in the net cage with double layers of new netting, and they’ve not chewed any new holes since, so maybe that’s good. Maybe it’s what drove them to decimate everything else in sight. We’re not sure. Without giving the rabbits too much credit, is it too crazy to think that they know what we’re going to plant and where? Hmm. It seems like we might have to rethink our planting strategies next year.

Anyway, of all the leafy green things in the ground that rabbits enjoy, they have always avoided the arugula. Oh, they’ll step all over it to get to the more succulent lettuces, but they’ve never taken but a bite of any of it. We’ve also noticed that they haven’t touched our little bunches of mesclun mix, which contain a formidable green that almost tastes like mustard or horseradish. (But it’s not a mustard green, as far as we can tell.) And they can’t get to the greens that we have growing in a small hanging bed, so that’s a plus. But now we’re thinking: are peppery, potent, spicy greens the way to go for ground-level planting?

If so, that’s fine by us! We l-o-v-e arugula, and this year we planted two different types. In the picture above, which contains a mix of argulas and other greens, we have standard arugula, the kind with the big, fluted leaves that one might see in the grocery store. It’s generally peppery with a delicious licorice-like flavor. But then we have Wild Rocket Arugula, which is like a mini version of standard arugula. It’s got an even stronger flavor that almost like lemon-pepper. Since we started planting arugula a few years ago, it’s always done well. And it’s the kind of green that we can re-seed (though it also seeds itself, we’ve found) throughout the season.

So despite whatever problems the rabbits have caused, we’ll always have arugula. 🙂

 

Gray Skies Are Gonna Clear Up?

So after having a truly successful time in the garden last weekend, this past weekend was…well…a little less so. It wasn’t a complete letdown — we did enjoy some Memorial Day festivities, and we got out in the garden to finish transplanting our tomato and pepper seedlings, but it was cool and gray overall. And rainy. Pretty darn rainy, in fact, late Sunday into Monday (Memorial Day), which we didn’t expect. And unfortunately all this took its toll on the new seedlings, especially the peppers. Despite the fact that we did everything we could to harden them off properly, the pepper remained especially fragile. Not all of them succumbed to the rain, but many of them did. The same went for a handful of the tomato seedlings, but most of them seemed to survive okay. If anything, they remain susceptible to being dug up by birds and squirrels, but that’s our fault. We haven’t been as diligent with using netting as we have been in the past. It’s actually proven to be more of a headache than anything.

Anyway, we still have a few seedlings left in their trays, so we’ll likely be putting them out this coming weekend to take the places of anything that died. Additionally, we still have to seed out flower beds in the front yard and generally plant flowers wherever there are free spots. (Flowers are this year’s critter-keep-away experiment!) On watch right now are the strawberries, which are now starting to ripen…and they’re getting noticed by the squirrels. And slugs. Yuck. Yeah, the wet weather really hasn’t helped with the slugs. It looks like things are going to clear up and warm up over the week, so fingers crossed that we’re able to start strawberry picking soon!

Besides waiting to see if all our new plantings take, we’ve been enjoying what’s becoming a very decent crop of green and lettuces!

Two of our raised beds hold a luscious variety of leafy things, including what we most recently harvested: a mix of mesclun greens, baby arugula, a few leaves of a red spinach (can recall the variety at the moment…), and baby leaves from two of our new leaf lettuces: Green Ice and Red Vulcan. The mesclun mixes are really potent. Not sure of the exact varieties they contain, but mustard green are certainly one of them. Together with the peppery arugula, they’ll set your soaring into spiciness! Thankfully, the leaf lettuces are buttery and mild, and the spinach is nice and earthy. All together, the spinach and mild lettuces and spicy greens, tossed with just a hint of a sweet balsamic vinaigrette, form a beautiful and very tasty salad. This most recent harvest only formed enough for a couple side salads, but soon we should have enough to start making main-dish salads. Really looking forward to that!

The Year’s First Harvests!

Despite everything that’s happened, or not happened in the garden this year, we’ve managed to get a few successful harvests over the past weekend. And now that the weather has evened out some, things are looking better and better, even just since our last post. Only a week out, and we already have beans, squash, and cucumbers coming in. We’ve also finally put out some tomato seedlings, though we have a bunch of “reserves” just in case. And, as we said, we’ve been harvesting!

So first up, June means strawberries, right? Well, in our neck of the woods it does, and boy, do we have strawberries!

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It may not look like much, and we’ve picked many more since taking this picture, but it’s taken us a good three years to get a decent strawberry harvest! Now, we even have a small surplus!  (That’s dwindling, y’know, because strawberries are darn tasty!) On the downside, we’ve noticed an uptick in slugs this year, which stinks for the strawberries. Between them and the critters, we’ve already lost a good handful, and a few more tend to go each day. But we’re doing what we can to remain vigilant, even if it means having to pick the strawberries a little early and then have them ripen indoors.

Moving on, not long ago we mentioned that it looked like our radishes were doing pretty good. Indeed, in order to make room for the ground cherries and huckleberries that we planted in the same planters, we had to harvest all the radishes. While many were just stalks (we really have to better abut thinning out our plants! Or, maybe, not planting a many seeds.), many were not!

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We came away with a good several dozen mixed Saxa II (red-pink), Hailstone (white), and Malaga (purple). We didn’t get a single Round Black Spanish radish, and we’ll keep that in mind next year. Our radishes never get very large or long, so we’ll probably stick with round, small varieties in the future. Anyway, we’re we’re looking into pickling this bunch in order to help them keep awhile longer. We like radishes well enough, but it’s not like we go through them like candy! Though generally mild going in, all these radishes leave a hefty aftertaste. You definitely  know you’ve had a radish after eating one!

And finally, we picked a lovely mix of greens and lettuces.

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We mentioned awhile back that rabbits had somehow gotten into our peas. We’ll, we soon discovered that they had also made their ways into the lettuce and greens raised beds. Ugh. (This year the rabbits got smart and chewed through our net cages. Stupid smart rabbits.) After investing in some Liquid Fence, we’ve had a better time keeping the greens and such going. So in this harvest was arugula, New Fire Red Lettuce, Garnet Rose lettuce, Buttercrunch lettuce, and Rocky Top mixed lettuce. It made for an utterly delicious salad! From the looks of things outside, we’ll certainly have more greens to come — as long as the rabbits stay far, far away, that is!


So we’ll round things out here with a quick update on our grass “trenches.”

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If you recall from our last post, our intention with this experiment was to try to keep the areas around our squash and melon (and pole bean) hills relatively moist and free from weeds. Well, we can happily report that, after surviving through a particularly strong storm this past weekend, the trenches are holding! They are keeping the soil right around the hills from getting too dry, and they’ve really helped kept down the weeds in the bed generally. And as the seedlings have come up, they’re also free from pests and mold. Whether or not this is a result of the grass circles remains to be seen, but we’re very pleased with the results so far.

 

The Year’s First Update in Pictures

As much as we’ve been hemming and hawing about the lack of “spring” in this year’s Spring, not everything has gone sour. In fact, if anything, this year is turning out to be late and slow, which isn’t all bad. Though it seems like the un-sunny and un-warm weather has put a kink in things, maybe we’ll luck out and have a sunny and warm Fall, which would help extend the growing season past our usual ending in October. Or maybe we’ll have a great summer that’ll kick things into overdrive! All we can do is wait and see. In the meantime, indoors, we’re still caring for tomato seedlings, putting them outside when the sun comes out. Maybe they’ll get in the ground before the end of the month. We also, finally, have some pepper seedlings! They are still so tiny at this point, but a good dozen or so of the full tray that we planted have been steadily growing. It better than nothing.

How are things outdoors? So glad you asked! Because we’re about to get on with our first of out monthly updates in pictures. Let the gallery commence!

So first, we've got the bed of greens - arugula, kale, broccoli, endive, and cabbage. Things are still a little small at this point, but everything looks healthy.
So first, we’ve got the bed of greens – arugula, kale, spinach, endive, and cabbage. Things are still a little small at this point, but everything looks healthy. What’s really taking off at the moment is the arugula, endive, and cabbage. Maybe the cooler weather will prevent everything from bolting to seed!
Next is...well...this is actually the cucumber bed. But seeing as how it's been much too cool for in-ground planting, we decided to stick some random lettuce seedlings in the middle of the bed. If they take, great! And we'll eventually get the cucumbers planted around the perimeter. If not, then we'll still have plenty of space for cucumbers.
Next is…well…this is actually the cucumber bed. But seeing as how it’s been much too cool for in-ground planting, we decided to stick some random lettuce seedlings in the middle of the bed. (You can barely see them, but they’re there!) If they take, great! And we’ll eventually get the cucumbers planted around the perimeter. If not, then we’ll still have plenty of space for cucumbers.
In this planter we decided to place a few of our huckleberry seedlings. Hopefully they'll take. So far, so good.
In this planter we decided to place a few of our huckleberry seedlings. Hopefully they’ll take. So far, so good.
Next is the lettuce bed, which remains very quite for now. A few sprigs have popped up. Hopefully more will show as it gets warmer.
Next is the lettuce bed, which remains very quiet for now. A few sprigs have popped up. Hopefully more will show as it gets warmer.
This is a close-up shot of some lettuce sprigs that came up in another planter. Very glad to see them!
This is a close-up shot of some lettuce sprigs that came up in another planter. Very glad to see them!
So many peas! We're happy that our good luck with peas continues -- they seem to do well each year no matter what.
So many peas! We’re happy that our good luck with peas continues — they seem to do well each year no matter what.
And here we have a barrel of radishes. Too many radishes probably. Have got to get to thinning out the herd!
And here we have a barrel of radishes. Too many radishes probably. Have got to get to thinning out the herd!
More radishes in the second barrel planter.
More radishes in the second barrel planter.
Out back we stashed our herb planters. Since it's been too cold for basil, etc., we decided to stick a few more lettuce seedlings in to see if any would take. They look a little wilty at the moment.
Out back we stashed our herb planters. Since it’s been too cold for basil, etc., we decided to stick a few more lettuce seedlings in to see if any would take. They look a little wilty at the moment.
The strawberries are looking good! They've spread a little since last year, and now have so many flowers. The fruit is just starting to show, and now we really need to sun to help with the goring and ripening!
The strawberries are looking good! They’ve spread a little since last year, and now have so many flowers. The fruit is just starting to show, and now we really need to sun to help with the growing and ripening!
So last year we had a ton of volunteer tomatoes. This year, for whatever reason, we have some volunteer carrots!
So last year we had a ton of volunteer tomatoes. This year, for whatever reason, we have some volunteer carrots! We’ve had some success with carrots in the past, but our soil isn’t great for them. (Someday we’ll plan a nice sandy soil bed just for them.)
And speaking of volunteer plants, squash, anyone? This is the first if two little plots where squash of some variety (probably zucchini here) has popped up unexpectedly.
And speaking of volunteer plants, squash anyone? This is the first of two little plots where squash of some variety (probably zucchini here) has popped up unexpectedly.
And this is the second spot of squash seedlings. This could be zucchini as well. We'll just have to wait and see!
And this is the second spot of squash seedlings. This could be zucchini as well. We’ll just have to wait and see!
And finally, though the sky may not say Spring, our lilacs do! It has been ajoy watching this little plant grow. and we love it when it blooms each year. The smell is amazing!
And finally, though the sky may not say Spring, our lilacs do! It has been a joy watching this little (now big) plant grow. and we love it when it blooms each year. The smell is amazing!

Thanks for joining us for this first trip around our 2016 garden. Hopefully things will just get better from here on out!

 

Enjoying our first harvest of random greens

We’ve mentioned in a couple past posts that we’ve had a fortuitous return of greens in one of our raised beds, and that we’ve been grabbing a few handfuls here and there over the past couple weeks.

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The bed as it looked two weeks ago.

Well, this past weekend, after two very happy and necessary bouts of rain (our first major rainfall’s this month!), the greens really took off! So we had to get in and make a large harvest.

Simply brimming!
Simply brimming!

The question, of course, is “what did we harvest?” Most recognizable is the light-green leaf lettuce that we’ve had a ton of success with since we started the garden. The variety is called Black Seeded Simpson, and it produces tasty, ruffly leaves in droves and droves. The more leave you cut, the more the plant grows. And as we’ve discovered, once the plant goes to seeds, those seeds go e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e! We’ve got a couple random lettuce plants popping up elsewhere in the garden.

v-lettuce-black-seeded-simpson
Black Seeded Simpson lettuce (source)

We also have several instances of Green Oakleaf lettuce, which is leftover from the mixed mesclun seeds we planted last year. This lettuce is great for salads, slightly bitter and chewy. And as it’s name states, it’s leave are kind of shaped like oak leaves. Like Black Seeded Simpson, as long as you keep cutting it, it’ll keep growing.

Green Oakleaf lettuce
Green Oakleaf lettuce (source)

We also have at least two varieties of what we think is spinach. Since we didn’t get much spinach last year, it’s hard to say for sure, but both look like spinach and taste distinctly bitter and spinach-y, so that’s what we’re going with for now. One variety is all green, while the other is green with red spines and veins. Very pretty. A tough call for us to put in salads raw, but both are quite good cooked (and added to vegetable quesidillas!)

Beyond that, there’s a couple lettuces that are mysteries that we think might have also come from last years mesclun mix. Looking at the mix, the possibilities are Mache and Green Ice, or Buttercrunch, which we also planted separately. We lean toward it being mostly Buttercrunch, though the plants aren’t forming into lettuce “heads,” at least not yet.

Baby Buttercrunch lettuce
Baby Buttercrunch lettuce (source)

We’ve talked about garden orphans before, and it’s always fascinating to see what seeds survive the winter to make a springtime showing. It’s all part of the process of gardening. Thankfully, the food that has came back is more than welcome to stay where it is!

 

Another update, but first…

Can anyone tell us what the heck is this plant???

Unknown plant, help!
Unknown plant, help!

Several instances of this strange, vine-y plant started growing in our new stone bed and in one of the half barrels several weeks ago. We were a little baffled but figured that maybe it was something we had forgotten we planted. Now the things are crawling up the tomato cages and are spreading like there’s no tomorrow! We thought that they might flower at some point, but they just keep growling long vine with those distinctive leaves you see above. Are they something other than a weed? Is it some kind of ivy? Should we pull them now or let them grow? Internet searchers have been fruitless, so we’re hoping someone out there can help us identify it.  Here are the plant’s details:

>The vines emanate from a single stem.
>Some of the vines are green, while the big, climbing vines are green with red stripes.
>The 7-pointed leaves grow in pairs (on of each side of vine) about 6 inches apart from each other.
>The vines are “sticky” — they are somewhat bristly to the touch.
>They don’t throw shoots (like strawberries), so they aren’t replanting themselves. The vines just keeping growing longer and longer!
>As of yet, there aren’t any signs of flowers.

If you know what this plant is, please let us know in the comments. (And many thanks in advance!)

******

Now, onto the update. We just said hello to the first day of summer (June 21), and the garden looks the part. Everything is very green and things are starting to flower, from the marigolds to the cucumbers! If it wasn’t for some sort of pest that’s been feasting on some of plants, everything would be close to peachy. Check out the gallery below to see how things are coming along.

The zucchini are still pretty small, but a couple are already flowering!
The zucchini are still pretty small, but a couple are already flowering!
The wax beans have taken over this barrel. Believe it or not, there are ground cherries trying to make their way through in the center.
The wax beans have taken over this barrel. Believe it or not, there are ground cherries trying to make their way through in the center.
This tomato plant in the stone bed is very happy. Look at all those flowers!
This tomato plant in the stone bed is very happy. Look at all those flowers!
The bed alongside the house has turned into a veritable tomato farm. There are so many plants here, we've lost count! The marigolds along the front are also starting to bloom, and they are very pretty.
The bed alongside the house has turned into a veritable tomato farm. There are so many plants here, we’ve lost count! The marigolds along the front are also starting to bloom, and they are very pretty.
Did we mention that we're going to have a lot of tomatoes? A LOT! (Peppers, as well. Maybe. Hopefully!)
Did we mention that we’re going to have a lot of tomatoes? A LOT! (Peppers, as well. Maybe. Hopefully!)
Okay, so maybe we have a little weeding to do... In the center there is a tomato plant. And where is this little guy? In the flower bed out front (as evidenced by the violas top left)!
Okay, so maybe we have a little weeding to do… In the center there is a tomato plant. And where is this little guy? In the flower bed out front (as evidenced by the violas top left)!
Although we didn't get many strawberries, the strawberry plant is throwing out new shoots everyday. It's also guarding a few tomato plants are seem to be doing well.
Although we didn’t get many strawberries, the strawberry plant is throwing out new shoots everyday. It’s also guarding a few tomato plants are seem to be doing well.
A view of some of what's going on in the stone bed. One of the mystery, vine-y plants (see start of this post) is in the center there. On the outskirts we have tomatoes, greens (the arugula is flowering white), peppers, and marigolds (red and gold and beautiful).
A view of some of what’s going on in the stone bed. One of the mystery, vine-y plants (see start of this post) is in the center there. On the outskirts we have tomatoes, greens (the arugula is flowering white), peppers, and marigolds (red and gold and beautiful).
The snow peas are on their last legs and we;ve started saving seeds. Meanwhile, the soybeans are growing tall as are these couple romanesco.
The snow peas are on their last legs and we’ve started saving seeds. Meanwhile, the soybeans are growing tall as are these couple romanesco.
A view of the long bed. Corn, sunflowers, zucchini, all doing well.
A view of the long bed. Corn, sunflowers, zucchini, all doing well.
One of our little heirloom marigolds growing in the tomato bed alongside the house. Delicate, sunny flowers, they are!
One of our little Jaguar marigolds growing in the tomato bed alongside the house. Delicate, sunny flowers, they are!
We harvest new greens at least a couple times a week. This kale is soon to be harvested a well.
We harvest new greens at least a couple times a week. This kale is soon to be harvested as well.
One of our two front flower beds. This one is rather sparse, though the marigolds are trying, causing us to re-think what to do with these beds next year.
One of our two front flower beds. This one is rather sparse, though the marigolds are trying, causing us to re-think what to do with these beds next year.
This is other front flower bed. A bit jumbly but the marigolds are doing much better in this one. If you look close you can see the violas as well.
This is other front flower bed. A bit jumbly but the marigolds are doing much better in this one. If you look close you can see the violas as well.
Not the best image of our cucumbers, but they are starting to flower and produce tiny vines. They'll be taking over this bed soon enough!
Not the best image of our cucumbers, but they are starting to flower and produce tiny vines. They’ll be taking over this bed soon enough!
This is the other half barrel with the cowpeas. You still can't see the ground cherries in this one either, but they are there!
This is the other half barrel with the cowpeas. You still can’t see the ground cherries in this one either, but they are there!
A lot of the dill came out of this bed today (for the BEST BREAD EVER!). Here, though, is where we're dealing with some sort of pest problem. In the front, something is tearing up our romanesco and kale leaves.  We found a few small caterpillars, which might be the culprit, and are doing more investigating.
A lot of the dill came out of this bed today (for the BEST BREAD EVER!). Here, though, is where we’re dealing with some sort of pest problem. In the front, something is tearing up our romanesco and kale leaves. We found a few small caterpillars, which might be the culprit, and are doing more investigating.

Whew! If this garden gets any bigger, we’re going to need to take aerial shots to get everything in! (And since we only plan to expand, guess we’re going to have invest in an airplane now. 🙂 )

 

Celebrating early harvests

We all know that the BEST thing about gardening (besides getting exercise and being outside) is eating that which grows! This past weekend, we got to enjoy just that. Well, just a little of that. We still have along way to go with a good 80% of the garden. It is only June, after all; we’ve got a good three to four months of gardening goodness ahead.

So, in terms of what’s been going from yard to table recently, we’ve got greens, greens, and more greens!

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Arugula, lettuce, and spinach, oh my!

We’re in about the third week of enjoying our greens in earnest.  While the tender lettuces and bitter spinach have been utterly delicious, the star of the greens so far has been the arugula. Let just say that it’s going to be really difficult going back to grocery store arugula once the garden is done for the year! The stuff that’s growing is beautifully so pungent, peppery, and chewy that it’s hard to even call what’s on the store shelves “arugula.” It makes for the most fantastic addition to the rest of the greens that we have. As an added bonus, the plants go to seed pretty quickly, which makes for easy re-planting. We’ve been snipping of the tall ends to encourage further growth, and then we just replant them! If the seeds take we could be enjoying arugula all summer. Such a treat, truly.

Beyond greens, the snow peas have exploded!

The first snow pea harvest. Crunchy and delicious!
The first snow pea harvest. Crunchy and delicious!

Unlike with the greens, we have to get to the snow peas when they appear, and boy, have they ever appeared! Though we expected them to show up in June, they seem to have blossomed a little earlier that last year. But it also seems that the plants went from blooms to peas almost overnight. We first noticed a few little peas forming early last week. By today, there we more than enough to eat! Most of the ones in the picture above ended up it tonight stir-fry. Not a one was withery or wilty — they were all perfectly fresh and crunchy. So tasty!

And then finally, so much dill!

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The dill in the arugula and romanesco bed has been among the happiest of our plants. We scattered the seeds initially, but they seems to have come up in little patches, which makes for easy harvesting. We tested out a little bit of the dill last week in some homemade rye bread. The difference was quite noticeable in a good way! The bread didn’t taste like dill, but it nicely enhanced and complimented the flavor of the rye. Just cutting the dill itself was a remarkable treat — it smells sweet, lemony, and, well…dill-y when cut. we’re going to be parsing out this bunch into bread and other dinners over the week. We’ll also be drying some to use in pickling later on once the cucumbers come in.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the garden, things are coming along quite well. We’ll be back next week with another, fuller update in pictures. 🙂