June 30, 2023

Summer Garden Tour 2023

Rather than giving you a list of excuses for why it’s been four months since I posted anything, I thought I’d give you a little taste of what I’ve been up to when I’m not typing away frantically at my computer.

For the last several months, what once was blocked off as “writing time” has been shamelessly converted to “gardening time.” For the most part, I’ve been happy with the results. I hope you will enjoy seeing a little of what’s going on in our gardens right now…I just wish you could taste some of it too!

A new addition this year is a pumpkin patch. I had planted this out as a three sisters garden, a Native American planting system in which corn, pole beans, and vining squash work together to grow stronger and healthier. There were a couple of hiccups–the sweet corn I planted first didn’t sprout, and the pole beans (which are doing great about ten feet away–scroll down to see!) didn’t do well either. A second attempt included Strawberry popcorn in place of the sweet corn, and it did quite well. Bonus: the popcorn seeds were saved by and gifted to us by a friend.

At this point, I’ve harvested the popcorn because the birdhouse gourds have pulled down all the corn stalks, except for the one I put a tomato cage around, and they were about to smother it as well. Turns out birdhouse gourds grow really well here. (Also, I feel like I’ve fallen into an episode of Veggie Tales…)

Along with the gourds, this patch has zucchini (which I planted at the edge of the garden for easy access, but have still been overwhelmed) and pumpkins.

The smaller, smooth green leaves in the pic above are the gourds. The larger, mottled leaves are either some seeds I saved from one of those cool green pumpkins that have been at all the grocery stores and farmer’s markets, or Seminole pumpkins. I’m not sure which it is, but there are a few of these little beauties hiding in under the leaves now.

Also, the bees LOVE their big yellow flowers. I couldn’t find one willing to pose for me this morning, unfortunately.

This is the bean tepee, one of my very favorite plantings. It has Rattlesnake beans on the south side (left in the photo) and Yard Long beans on the north side (right).

I learned something from this planting, which I would have known if I had paid attention to the Yard Longs last year: they don’t make all that much foliage, which means that side of the tepee wasn’t very shady in the morning. The Rattlesnakes, on the other hand, are lush as well as very productive. I did correct a mistake I made on my last tepee, and made the interior wider and left a door. It still didn’t get as much play time as I might have hoped, but there were a few instances of our kids and their friends sitting in the tepee munching beans straight off the plant. Success!

The kumquat tree bloomed a couple of months ago, and now is hard at work!

It has been a ridiculously generous producer for us every year, and it looks like this year will be no exception. Come visit us around Thanksgiving and we’ll send you home with a bag full! We had a great harvest off our our satsuma tree last year as well, but no flowers this year so no fruit. This seems to be its cycle–bounty, rest, a few fruit, then bounty again. I’ll be waiting impatiently.

A few years ago we were given an elderberry plant by a friend. We planted it, it seemed to have died, and we forgot about it. We built a chicken coop where we had planted it. And then it grew. We cut it back as far as we can two or three times a year, and it comes back and shades the chickens like it had never been touched. It’s in flower now, and well on its way to making berries.

I’m not going to attempt syrup again this year (too much work), but Sam and I are planning to attempt a tincture instead. (Recipe advice welcome!)

The tomato jungle is also back for another year.

And one of the many orb weavers which have taken up residence in our yard is helping keep them healthy.

The variety is Matt’s Wild Cherry, and I have never seen anything grow like these. They get enormous, make a ton of fruit, and reseed all over the place. I think I will plant ONE of these next year–we can barely give away all the fruit from three, and I’d like to try some other varieties. They have been a boon for our community fridge, though!

Speaking of other varieties, I do have one Carbon tomato plant (the fruit ripen to a purple-brown) struggling along. It’s getting a lot of shade from the Matt’s Wild Cherry, but it’s doing its best!

The butterflies love these zinnias. We don’t plant them anymore, they self-seed and we rejoice. I did see a beautiful orange ombre variety at the farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago, though, so maybe we will add a new color or two next year for interest.

In front of the zinnias is the basil pot.

This has been a great way to grow basil for me for years now, though it does require daily watering in this heat. The crop is small this year, though, so I’m going to need to plant a fall crop if we want to have enough to freeze for winter pesto. (Hat tip to Fr. R.B. for teaching me that trick!)

Lest you think everything is unicorns and rainbows around here, this is the blueberry patch.

Only that light colored plant in the front should really be there. This spot is overgrown (again) and there were a few sad, small blueberries on them this year. I hope the birds who ate them enjoyed them. I need to do some soil sampling and serious research and see what is keeping these guys from thriving, because repeated layers of cardboard and pine needles aren’t doing the trick.

This isn’t much to look at yet either, but I’m hopeful:

I threw some moldy ginger root in the compost bin, and it sprouted, I did some damage trying to move it, so I’m not sure how many of these will take (I think most of the were broken off of the two main roots that were in there) but I think at least the main roots stand a chance. Moldy ginger is going in pots from now on, however!

There are a few things happening in the front yard as well. The dill I planted by the mailbox has been very happy there, but it’s been so hot the last two weeks that it’s just given up.

I managed to get some fresh cuttings into pickles, but now I will have to use the dried heads because that’s what’s left. We grew turmeric in this spot last year (below), and it really thrived, so we’re trying it again this year. It was a slow starter, but it’s up now, so I’m hopeful!

On our last visit to the farmer’s market in Baton Rouge (which just doesn’t happen as often as I’d like) Clare bought a milkweed plant. We put it on the corner of the house in this big raised bed, and it’s beautiful. No caterpillars yet (our neighbors have some!) but we’re planning to plant more now that we know this is a good spot for it.

The milkweed is picking up the slack for the mammoth sunflowers, which I sadly did not take a picture of, and which I had to pull out about a week ago. Someday I’ll get those seeds ready for eating or feeding the birds…

Speaking of birds, one result of bird feeders is…volunteer plants! We had a small forest of four foot tall sunflowers here a month ago, and now a bunch of what I think might be millet–the orange and yellow grain things in the front. (Someone correct me if you know what it is!)

On the side of the house, you can see what I’ve been spending my mornings doing:

moving a sprinkler around to all the gardens, but especially the mushroom plots. I put Wine Cap mushrooms, which grown in hardwood chips, in three places, so hopefully at least one of them will take and we’ll have our own mushrooms this fall!

Just next to the sprinkler is our asparagus patch, which has done so much better than I ever dreamed it would! Next spring we can start harvesting, and if these ferns are any indication, they should have good strong roots and be giving us tasty shoots for a long time.

And next to the asparagus, dwarf hawthorn bushes, which are making berries which (in theory) some birds will come eat. I think the bushes may be too short to be tempting, given our local cat population, but we’re trying.

And finally, on the front porch, this might be what I’m most proud of:

I grew this big, beautiful plant from the top of a grocery store pineapple. It’s right by the front door, welcoming guests to our house. The interwebs suggest that it should be nearly old enough to start fruiting. And at this point I feel inclined to wax eloquent on the amazing fruitfulness and resiliency of God’s green earth, and how generous it is if we’re willing to give it a little help…but I fear this post is more than long enough already. Here’s one more zinnia picture, with my wish that you enjoy the rest of your summer!

Posted by Christina
At 05:36 PM
By Padre
on 05/07/2024 at 01:34 PM

I am green with envy!

By Taylor
on 08/31/2023 at 07:11 PM

Stina, it was with a lot of pleasure that I read this update today. I love the growing things you’ve cultivated around your family <3

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Christina is a writer and mother of five who usually has a book in her hands and dirt under her nails. Grab a cup of tea, and come join the fun!


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