Summer Planting, Round One

The weather here in Cascadia has turned cold and soggy, quite a change from the unseasonably summery 80+ degree temperatures and blue sunny skies we had in the earlier part of May.  I guess as lovely as those days were, we did not escape the wetter parts of late spring and are paying now for the warmth we were given earlier on.

During the latter of those warm days, while cooler but still sunny, my husband and I got the summer garden started.

Employing our rotation in our three front yard raised bed garden boxes of nightshades, curcurbits, and roots & aromatics, we planted and seeded up a couple of those categories into their respective beds.  The nightshade garden consists of six tomato starts from our greenhouse, and seed potatoes from a local farm.  The tomatoes are my husband’s babies and he made sure to give them a good start by planting them about a foot deep and snipping off foliage low on the stem to that point.  The idea is that the hairs on the stems will turn into roots when in contact with the soil, thereby giving the tomato plants a strong support system as they grow, both for structural needs as well as optimal nourishment.  He included extra lime he had already limed the gardens when he tilled them) and some organic fertilizer in each planting hole, made a dish around each stem to hold in water, and ringed each dished area with oyster shell in hopes of foiling slugs (they don’t like crawling along the sharp edges).  He decided to include one Yellow Pear tomato, for snacking on, one Silvery Fir Tree for extra early fruit, one Cherokee Purple for late fruit of fun color, and three Legend tomatoes, his favorite for midseason, meaty dense fruits.  As an experiment, he also potted up an Everlast in its own container to test out their touted ability to keep well over winter.  We needed a way to separate the plant from those we would usually harvest from, as we tend to throw the large fruits we don’t eat outright into a pot to sauce and can them.  I’ll report back late in the year as to how well those Everlast have kept.  I’ll keep a few other fruits alongside, as a comparison.

Also in the nightshade box are my favorite potatoes, Yukon Golds.  These buttery tubers with silky texture have fine delicate skins which don’t need removing during cooking and eating.  I love them boiled, roasted, fried, grilled, and mashed.  I especially love them as wee babies before they get too starchy.  I cut up the seed potatoes into their individual eyes and then used a standing bulb auger to make holes to drop them into.  After filling the holes I dusted the tops with a but of organic fertilizer.  We like the Whitney Farms products for that.

In the roots & aromatics box I seeded parsnips, leeks, and carrots.  Due to our tendency to clay soil, even in the raised beds, I like Nelson carrots from Territorial Seeds because they penetrate clay well and grow to good form.  The parsnips and leeks will be my experiment in winter ground storage, as I hear this is the best way to keep these crops.  I want to see how well they stay fresh and dig up as I want to use them (and how much I like digging them up in the dark, cold, and rain).  Last year’s storage in the refrigerator was unsatisfactory as many of them molded and rotted after a month or two.  I also put in my (purchased) celery starts, to be part of the same experiment (after I find out how well they will grow for me- the summer experiment!).  I’ll report on those experiments, too.  Lastly, I planted the four basil starts from our greenhouse, and a purchased lemon-basil start, because it sounded like fun.

On the advice given in my favorite gardening book, In the French Kitchen Garden by Georgeanne Brennan, I plant my seeds in wide rows.  She says she learned this from old-time gardeners gardening in the traditional country style of northern France.  The advantages of wide rows are that more plants fit into the space, their dense growth holds down weeds, and thinnings throughout the growing season can be plucked and eaten and cooked with.  I have enjoyed this technique and have had great yields from it.  I rake in a dusting of organic fertilizer first and then plant my seeds.  I give this same dusting treatment to wide rows in which I put in starts.

In addition to the vegetables, I added a few new herbs to the side herb patch: new thyme and lemon thyme plants (they get woody and unproductive after a time and are good to replace every few years), a winter savory, which I’ve not used or grown before, and a sweet marjoram, which I especially like with our eggs.  I also added some sweet alyssum to our mini-orchard, in between the bordering chive plants, to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects, and Corsican Mint, a ground cover, beneath the fruit trees, to both keep down weeds and stave off destructive insects.  I hope they spread fast!  We’re tired of weeding.

Well, one thing I don’t have to do in this weather is water, so I peek outside each day and see how everything is getting along.  The new plants all  look healthy enough, but also like they could use some sun and heat.  I know how they feel.


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