Dear Friend and Gardener
Monthly Archives: July 2010
Years ago, when first dating Donny, I struck on this odd game: "in my mall there would be…" Malls were more popular then and my work experiences had been mostly retail so I had strong opinions about what stores would be there. Always, there were a few restaurants too… I suppose this was part of my way of telling him what I liked and who I was… Haven’t played it in years since our lives have been less about dreaming about the future and more about molding it.
Still, in the current realm of transition, I decided at least "in my restaurant" may need some resustitation and I even mentioned it to the kids – based on what they like that I cook.
Recently, a new Food Network show got me thinking. Have you seen "24 Hour Restaurant Challenge’? Concept: teams of 2-3 (so far) compete to open a restaurant within 24 hours (assuming not consecutive…but I could be wrong), and operate for one evening – attracting customers and feeding judges. They have to come up with and shop for the concept, name, decor, menu, and ingredients before bringing in and managing a provided staff. Then they prep food for the onslaught – terrifying! (In case I never mentioned it, Donny and I met in the sports bar I spent a year cocktailing, bartending and waiting at… enough food service background to earn my next job and more than enough for a life time… maybe)
Still, it does make me want to write the plan… based on what I know and love about food – often that is also based on what I know and love about vegetable gardening. Stay tuned…?
Donny should be writing this one… at the very least, he gets credit for keeping BG alive: every evening, when the boys and I check in, from vacation, we ask what he has been doing. After we roll our eyes over the answer of "working" (no guilt here!!!), he tells us about the amount of watering needed. No kidding – why does he think WE are on vacation?!
"Bless him!" – all I really have to offer while I seek out recipes from the stack of mags I saved for the beach – promising to cook him something yummy upon return…
And, I WILL: upon return, I will soon find cukes, peppers of four varieties, four tomatoes, two okras, mesclun, yard-long beans, beets. sugar snap peas, basil, cilantro, dill, sage, the last rhubard, corn, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, acorn squash and spaghetti squash – August will be a smorgasbord.
Drop back in to see what I do with this abundance…
In two days, I leave town – and Big Garden – for nearly 10 days. At this time of year, that is HUGE in terms of the change that will occur while I am away.
Whilte there are tomatoes on the vine, I doubt they will yet be red when I return. But, the cucmbers will need to be watched, the snap peas and green beans will ovetake their teepee and the corn will likely be nearly full grown – bouding up 2-3 feet, I am guessing. While it is often dry at this time of year, it will be hot and we can also easily have several storms that drop little to nothing or produce a lot of rain. If it rains, the paths in my garden could easily be overgrown.
I always say I will not over plant, and this year, I do think I held to that.
What I did that I will change in the future – I will not till again. My soil is no where near as hard and clay-like as it once was. Years of planting and composting have left it almost light and airy. If I do a better job of fall clean up, perhaps I will be able to get in here earlier next spring and start a spring crop that can then be mulched sooner – I still have a few beds that did not get this treatment, and may not.
Also, I anticipate starting more plants indoors first – the little seedlings took too long since planted so late and this gave time for the weeds to fill in. Some plants don’t like to be moved, so those may have to be direct seeded, but with fewer of these, I may be able to keep up.
All in all, when I return – although I have tried to be caught before leaving – I will have a big job on my hands to restore order and sanity. But,t here will still be nearly two months on garden time to be enjoyed.
Bind root, wild radishes, spurge…Oh, my!
I FOUND my cutting garden today. In it are a row of petite sunflowers, a row of zinnias – stretching above the weeds that once surrounded them, a row of sunflowers that should be taller than the others, two rows of three varieties of cosmos that, if they repeat last year’s performance, will far exceed the 4′ they are said to be. I put them in the back for this reason.
Missing: Four O’Clocks , I have never gotten these to grow from seed, Bells of Ireland – will miss those, they add great structure to arrangements although one needs to be aware of the hidden thorns (how Irish…plants with a temper), red poppies – the seeds were likely too old, and baby’s breath – its perennial so probably better to not have to figure that out later…
So, any arrangments I pick will be more limited and that is okay. I am not great with indoor plants – I never get around to changing the water, worry about vases with my two boys, and hate the clean up part. I will just enjoy them outside.
But, I do have a little flat celadon green ikibani vase on my desk. It is stamped with my favorite dragonfly motif and holds 2-3 minature flowers in its little frog. The first daffodils go there each spring.
The other day, it contained a rather tattered Purple Cone Flower – my Logan had picked and placed it for me. It was the prettiest dead flower I have ever seen…
The last few weeks have been mostly hot and Cincinnati is expecting more of the same for the rest of July.
This makes growing mesclun a challenge, even with varieties of lettuce listed as being "heat tolerant". Nonetheless, I have to try and we do get a few weeks of fresh greens before I let the arugula go to seed. It tends to get very hot and peppery before flowering so dressing it can also be a challenge. It is best mixed in with other, mellower lettuces at that point – black seeded simpson, red oak leaf, baby romaine.
Last night, I tossed it with a homemade vinaigrette – made with a macerated clove of garlic, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil. The garlic was a little too strong so the combination was very spicy. I will have to try something a little less intense next – perhaps skip the garlic in favor of a shallot.
Next on the list is planning to save those arugula seeds – maybe I can even get in a second crop before frost in mid October.
Throughout the winter, I wish only for the the gentle, mindless tasks of gardening – watering, weeding, watching.
So, it is with sad reluctance that some of my busiest months are also those when gardening is possible. For the last week or so, I have been actively working on a volunteer project that I also find rewarding, but takes much time and keeps me away from the garden.
In my absence, I noted from my passing car, the sunflowers are now taller than my children and some weeds, large enough to give nicknames.
While there is work to be done, there is also the thrill of seeing new peppers, or baby cukes, that I am also missing – as well as taking stock on the deers’ appetites.
On Monday, I will get to visit again but it will take real inspiration to get through all the missed maintenance. Playing catch up is never as easy as the daily task – mostly in the evenings – relaxing, destressing as I pull out the interopers with abandon.