Today I want to give a tour of our vegetable garden. I never got around to doing any garden updates in May, so this one is long overdue! I have been busy clearing, planting, weeding and mulching though. I planted sweet potatoes yesterday, and that is the last of the summer veggies to go in. The main vegetable garden area is about 45 feet by 45 feet and fenced in to keep deer and other critters out. There’s about 1700 feet of usable space in there after allowing for walkways and paths. This year I decided to cut back my planting somewhat, and came up with a plan that idled 30% of the area. Gone are things like garlic and onions, and I cut back on everything else.
Just inside the door, I have a zucchini planted in a grow bag. I continue to experiment with container plantings, and this was a spare plant I had left after I set out all the squash plants. This is my first time growing Green Machine, and we will see how it does in the ground as well as in the grow bag. If I get even a few fruits from this plant it will have been worth my minimal effort, since I reused the existing soil and added a bit of fertilizer and compost to it before planting.
Next to the grow bag is where I set out four rhubarb plants this spring. I have two each of Crimson Red and Green Victoria. They are doing well so far, and I look forward to harvests in a couple of years. Our climate is a bit hot for rhubarb, but it is grown successfully here in our area and I am hopeful it will give us something for my efforts.
The first bed is devoted to vining squashes. For support I am using remesh panels attached to metal t-posts with zip ties, an idea I got from Michelle at From Seed To Table. It is a good way to make use of vertical space, and the squash vines climb right up the remesh material. I have eight different varieties of squash growing there, and two more planted in the corners of the garden and vining along the fencing. Not surprisingly the tromboncino types are growing vigorously and were the first to start showing blooms.
At one end of this first bed, I have set out Natchez blackberries in between the squash trellises. Our blackberry planting is getting old, and we have to cover it with netting to keep the deer from eating the plants and the berries. This way the plants will be inside the garden fencing, and the six plants should be more than enough to keep us supplied. My plan is to have the blackberries and the vining squashes occupy the same area, though I will likely have to orient the trellises 90° in the other direction than they are now. I set out the blackberries last year, and by next year we should begin to get our first harvests from them.
I have one long row of pole beans planted that generally keeps us well supplied with beans for fresh eating all summer long plus plenty for the freezer. But I also plant a short row of bush beans to give us an early taste of them before the vining types start setting on. This spring I am trying a variety called Orient, which is supposed to make straight pods that should be good for roasting whole. For fall I plan to grow a filet type bean called Tavera, and another called Cosmos. The rest of that row has eggplants and the sweet potatoes planted there. The beans are just now beginning to show blossoms, so we should be getting our first taste of fresh beans in a couple of weeks. So far the bean beetles have left the leaves alone.
One of the things I cut back on planting was tomatoes, though I still have plenty of them set out this year. I am using folding cages for the short vine types, and my homemade remesh cages for the indeterminate ones. The first fruits are beginning to set on some of the small fruited varieties, and in general the vines are green and growing vigorously. You can see by the photos, I still have lots of them planted, perhaps too many, but it’s hard for me to say no to tomatoes! The mulch I am using is mostly sheets of newspaper covered with straw, though in some spots I have used cardboard covered with straw.
The peppers and eggplants are still quite small, but the spring brassicas are quite big and we are enjoying broccolini and kohlrabi harvests now with cabbage hopefully soon to follow. It’s hard to believe but it won’t be long before I start the fall brassicas, and indeed I have already started seeds for collards so I can hopefully get them out sometime next month. My usual rotation has kale or collards following the broccoli and cabbage, with those two following something else like the summer squashes.
And speaking of them, the bush squashes are yielding now and starting to give us plenty of squash to eat plus some to freeze. The bees have yet to find the blooms, so I am still hand pollinating every morning. We have plenty of honeybees and bumblebees here, they just haven’t found the squash blooms yet! We have a lot of white clover in our yard, and they are working that daily for nectar, so it’s only a matter of time before they find the squash blooms as a source for pollen to take back to the hive.
The pole beans are just now sprouting, and it will be a while before we harvest anything from them. I will mulch them with paper and straw soon, and guide any strays to the trellis I have setup for them. I’m using Trellinet material, which is a polypropylene netting that lasts for several seasons, and have it tied to metal t-posts and tall bamboo poles which also last for several years.
For the 30% of the garden that is idled this year, my plan was to plant cover crops and use mulch to keep the weeds down. When I started researching cover crop seeds, I noticed field peas were listed along with things like daikon radishes, forage turnips, buckwheat and other traditional green manures. So I figured, why not plant an edible field pea (aka blackeyed pea) and harvest it! Cowpeas are an easy to grow crop here in summer, and the edible peas will be an added bonus. As a legume they will fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, and the vines will add organic material to the compost bins after they are pulled up in fall. I have a row of them coming up already, and with any luck we will have a few fresh peas to eat this summer. They are in between rows of peppers and bush squashes, and I have them mulched with straw over paper.
I still have plenty of garden chores to do, including finding a storage spot for all the unused tomato and pepper cages. I have given a few away, and plan to hang on to the rest to use as replacements in the future. I still have more mulching and weeding to do, and before long it will be time to get ready for fall plantings. I hope you have enjoyed this tour of the garden here in June, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!