Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Kitchen Garden 2013: Late Summer Status Report

Summer in the northeast has settled into a gardener's dream! We had a bout of crazy heat waves early on, that really took their toll on many plants. But finally, the weather has turned to picture-perfect summer days, cooler nights and a couple rainy days thrown in between. And our Kitchen Garden is definitely reaping the benefits as we are watching just about everything flourish. 

With this year's garden, we set out to explore new territory -- we are trying some new plants and some new approaches. Experimentation was the mantra this year. . .and experiment, we did! We grew carrots in containers, with much success. We set up a whole new super tall trellis system for pole beans and snap peas. And we tried growing many things for the first time, including Rutabaga, Amaranth, Watercress and New Zealand Spinach. As for the new approaches, we have been rotating continually since the spring; as something completes its growing season, we pull the spent plants, re-fertilize the soil, and sow new seeds. 

Another main goal this year, is to maintain a true four-season garden. Yes, in February, I fully expect to be walking through snow to harvest fresh lettuce from my garden. I realize this is aggressive, but with the use of cold frames and some hearty mulch, I am confident we can do it. Plus, I am an optimist.

For now, I'd like to document a status report of the Kitchen Garden as it stands in this last week of August. It's been an exciting season, and we have seen some great successes. I also offer a cataloge of the plant varieties we're using, along with some notations regarding how each has fared in our magical little garden. 

Current view of The Kitchen Garden
from the Perennial Garden
(in the foreground)

In just a couple months, the garden has
filled out so nicely. 

Current garden (right) hosts plants in all stages of growth.
(The empty looking patch in the middle is actually
brand new arugula  and radishes)

The new bean trellis fashioned out of
bamboo poles and twine; a great success. 

We are harvesting tons of beans every day.. .

 .  .. ..some larger than others!!

Otto loves them all. 

Cool how the string bean plant has wrapped
around the trellis many times. 
Yankee Bells looking good. 

Cubanelles have done exceptionally well;
measuring over half the height of the
plant itself!

Younger planting of Swiss Chard
at forefront, trellis of cukes at back.

Cukes are growing like crazy!

Fully matured.

Edamame - grown from our neighbor's
own seeds.

Highly experimental amaranth!
If the growing season is long enough,
this plant will get to be 4' tall with long tentacles of seeds
(which we eat as "grain"). The leaves themselves
are actually the most nutritious. 

Our bounty of Kale with New Zealand Spinach
in the foreground along the stone wall.

New Zealand Spinach is not actually a spinach.
It is resistant to heat which makes it a desirable alternative
in the hot months when true spinach tends to bolt.

Caro Rich heirlooms coming in nicely;
An orange tomato with 7x more
beta carotene than other tomatoes

Tomatillo husks starting to fill out

Amazing patch of Swiss Chard. 

Beautiful Beets and Beet Greens. 

Baby Aerostar Lettuce

A giant Collard plant! The leaves
measure almost 2 feet. 

A gorgeous head of cabbage.
Our first spring plantings succumbed to
cabbage magots. This was a product of
the second planting that fared much better.

First time doing carrots. These were grown
in a container and did very well. . ..

. . ..except that 80% of them have been what
Otto calls "leg carrots". An odd

We have had a few special visitors to the garden this season:

A Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmiga Lignaria)
which was quite the treat, since I love bees!

Can you spot her? A praying mantis!!
And to the left, her recently shed skin.

A bountiful harvest last week.
A couple "leg carrots" and the near end
of the beets. 

As we are getting later in the growing season,
we are foraging for space wherever we can.
At times, it looks like a jigsaw puzzle
out there!

2012-2013 Kitchen Garden Varieties
(Note: all seeds organic; * indicates an heirloom variety.) 

Arugula (var. Astro) - has done great; kind of quick to bolt
Pole Bean (var. Kentucky Wonder*) - very successful! huge beans close to 12" long!
Beets (var. Detroit Dark Red*) - the perfect beet! easy to grow.
Bok Choy (var. Shanghai Green) - tricky business. ok as baby bok choy, but don't mature well
Broccoli (var. Diplomat) - no luck.
Cabbage (var. Summer) - cabbage magots got the 1st round, 2nd round did well
Carrots (var. Napoli) - excellent in the containers; 2nd round in the garden bed -- we'll see!!
Collards (var. Champion) - beautiful collards. slow starting, then took off like crazy producing giant greens.
Cress (var. Belle Isle) - zero luck! planted in two different spots. may try different variety next year.
Cucumber (var. Green Finger) - doing excellent! hearty plant with tons of fruit! easy to train to trellis.
Edamame - gift of my neighbor's saved seeds. plants smaller than i've seen previously, but lots of pods! still maturing. 
Kale (var. Winterbor) - excellent. hearty plants from early-on, resistant to pests. 
Kohlrabi (var. Korridor) - spring crop did great. planted 2nd round late summer for fall harvest.
Lettuce, Crisphead (var. Aerostar) - lovely lettuce. resistant to bolt, harvested all through the heatwaves!
Bell Peppers (var. Yankee Bell) - very successful. each plant producing many thick-walled peppers!
Cubanelle Peppers - also very successful.
Snap Peas (var. Cascadia) - miracle peas. original spring plants produced new flowers/peas through height of summer!
Radish (var. Cherry Belle*) - these did great. 
Rutabaga (var. Joan*) - planted for fall harvest. . we'll see!
Spinach (var. Bloomsdale Long Standing*) - 20% success rate. not easy to grow, but plants that established were very heat resistant. 
New Zealand Spinach - awesome! a perennial gift from my neighbor. looking forward to see what it does next year.
Swiss Chard (var. Fordhook Giant*) -  very successful. nice thick leaves. -- large. grew like weeds. 
Tomatillo - plant established very well; fruit still growing in the husk. 
Tomato, Cherry (var. Black Cherry) - doing very well. 
Tomato (var. Caro Rich*) - doing very well, a bit of heat wave evidence
Tomato (var. Large Red*) - doing well 
Tomato (var. Big Boy) - doing well 
Turnip (var. Purple Top Globe*) - planted for fall harvest. . we'll see!

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