Friday, September 24, 2010

Big changes in a short time

In the last two weeks of hot days and cool night the fall garden has flourished. Here you see rapini seedlings only a couple of weeks old, already past the size when I should have thinned them, but I will do that today. The Chinese Cabbage and Bok Choy that were small transplants in my last post are today these huge, beautiful plants, challenging one another for space. I think I will be harvesting some outer stalks of the Bok Choy this weekend.

One plant that has grown in leaps and bounds has taken it one step too far. The Romaine lettuces are tall and beautiful, but just in the last 3 days have started to elongate in the stem, a sign that the hot days were too much for them and they are going to bolt. They are plenty big for a number of good salads this week, then I will pull them out and replace them with new seedlings, or will seed a new row of lettuce. Plenty of time still for lettuces this fall!

Finally, two weeks ago my basil had gotten tall, and pale, and was mostly seed heads. It also was full of spittle bugs (yuck). Instead of pulling it up, however, I just cut it way back, and here you see the new, beautiful fresh basil leaves that replaced the spent stems.

And one last thing: these are Padron peppers, fried whole like they do in Spainish tapas bars. I received seeds as a gift from a lovely friend. The only problem? These were HOT. I mean burn your mouth and throat and gullet hot. They are producing now, but I don't know if I will be brave enough to try them again. I don't know if it was the drought (probably), or the soil, or what, but these usually mild mannered little guys ate me alive. I'll let a few mature and save the seed to pass on to brave souls.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The best time of year

This really is the best time of year in the garden, isn't it? The satisfaction of removing old, dry, dying plants, freshening the soil with new amendments, whether it be compost, rotted manure, or just plain fertilizer, and starting fresh with new seeds and tender green plants.

The struggle this year, until this weekend's rain, was that the soil was bone dry. Dry on the surface and inches down into the bed. I was watering all my seedlings and transplants twice a day, every day. I had emptied my rain barrels and strained my lower back carrying the water to the plants. But, it was worth it. With plenty of water, my transplants doubled and tripled in size in only a week. Rapini seeds germinated and popped up in only 3 days, as did Blue Curled Vates kale seeds.

Here you have a photo of the arugula seedlings, just a few days after transplanting. They had been hardened off (were ready for the full sun and breezes) before purchase, so did fine from the minute I popped them in the soil. The other photo is the full bed of new fall plants. Those in the middle have branch tips from weedy bushes in the marsh, broken off and placed on the south and southwest sides of each plant to give them some shade. By the time the photo was taken they were a few days old, and wilted. Those protective branch tips now have been removed, as the plants have adapted to the sun and wind.

What is in the ground? Arugula, kale, collards (2 types), endive, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, rapini (2 types), and broccoli. The latest addition, some buttercrunch lettuce plants and some romaine lettuce plants. The days are still hot, but I am hoping the cool nights are just right. I still have 3 Spanish pepper plants, one basil, a "fish" pepper, and half a bed of sweet potatoes from the summer season. New plants and seeds soon with take their place as well.

Finally a shot of the beautiful annual flowers that volunteered in a front bed this year, from seed dropped by last year's flowers. Despite no attention, and not even being picked or deadheaded, the patch just keeps getting larger. Right now the butterflies cover the flowers every day, and it is a beautiful site.

Ahhh, the fall garden is a wonderful thing.