My morning walk out the back door to our enclosed garden (and where the ducks & chooks live) looked like this on Thursday morning…total happy sigh 🙂
Out here on the North Oregon Coast, we’re always behind other areas of the country. For example, I literally just took the greenhouse plastic off of our hoops on the raised beds covering the tomatoes, because it’s finally warm enough, and on the opposite side of the spectrum, we are just on the tail end of the butter lettuce that thrive in the 60-something temps that are the norm for our neck of the woods.
While I’ve been “serious” veggie gardening for about 15 years, as every gardener knows, we’re all amateurs. There are always things to learn, and being our second full growing season here on the Coast after a lifetime of city living inland, the lessons definitely abound.
Here are a few snapshots of some of the things especially going bananas right now…
1) This may be the most perfect climate for artichokes. We brought these over 2 years ago from our old house and they have exploded! Why have we not picked them, you ask? Well, once you see your honeybees go nuts in them, you really want to leave them to bloom, for one. Second? Husband and I both have admitted we suck at cutting up an artichoke. Seems like we both injure ourselves AND end up with not nearly enough food at the end of it. Yeah, so crazy as it may sound, we splurge on the marinated hearts for the most part. Oh and a bonus? The ducks and chickens ignore the leaves, and instead like to nap under them as they provide great shade (and security from hawks and the ever-present bald eagles out there). 2) Nasturtiums are just kicking off, which are one of my very favorite things to plant as surrounds, since they attract the bad bugs away from our veggies, AND are one of the easiest to sow by seed. I rarely use them in salads because I tend to utilize them for their aphid-attracting properties. 3) Onions – definitely something I’ve always struggled with as for the most part I’ve planted by seed in the past, so this year I ordered sets, 180 – yes, one hundred eighty! – to be exact, of four different sweet, red and white varieties. It seemed kind of nuts as it’s more expensive than seeds, but when I’ve never successfully gotten beyond small-to-midsize onions and ultimately pickled them because they didn’t store well? It made no sense to continue the definition of insanity, you know? And as you can see, they are going gangbusters! We had a small issue with potatoes growing out of one end (last year we brought home garbage bags full of compostable fruits/veg from the co-op where my husband works, making our soil super duper happy, and didn’t realize potatoes got into this and another non-potato bed. D’oh!), but they quickly got pulled!). 4) As I mentioned, tomatoes just had the plastic taken off (about half I started by saved seed, and the other half are new varieties of shorter-season starts I wanted to try, since the growing season here is a few weeks shorter) and they took full advantage of the week or two of sun we recently had. Last year we’d built an elaborate trellis system, only to have the tomatoes in their five-foot-glory pull the metal straps down to near-collapse, so I’m back to doing single staking, which works fine (I use scrap rags and such to tie them as they get taller). And yep, those are nasturtiums on the end providing extra security. 5) Finally, our bed of zucchini and butternut squash are doing pretty well, both planted from seed, but I must say, my decision to use borage as a companion plant this year is causing me concern because, unlike last year, this time around it’s gone craaaaazy, and not only caught up but seriously overwhelmed the squashes. The zukes are holding their own, but the butternut are a bit timid, so I’ve been snapping off leaves of some of the more bullying borage plants (the ducks *love* borage) to ensure they get enough sun!
Now this photo is an example of what NOT to do. When we first planted our dwarf fruit trees, we gave them plenty of space between each to grow. Unfortunately, I had decided ‘wouldn’t it be cute to transplant our cardoons next to my beloved two year old Red Anjou pear tree. Last year? No worries, they looked like shrubs. This year? Literally over 7 feet tall cardoons. Yeah, the bees will love them when they bloom, like our artichokes I told you about, but it basically is blocking out all the late afternoon sun from the tree. Ugh! However, we have decided that at the end of the season, we’ll relocate the cardoon plants to the fenceline where a couple of our beautyberry plants kicked the bucket this year, and they can act as a bit of a windbreak as these suckers are tough! PS – I’ve never actually prepared cardoons but it’s on my list 🙂
Harvesting has slowly begun from the garden as well. Our shell peas are just starting to fatten up which is great timing as we have another guanciale almost done curing (for carbonara, of course, which we think always tastes better with fresh peas), and the strawberries are ripening gorgeously. Fortunately the ducks and chooks have no interest in them, but then there’s the issue of our pup, who LOVES them 🙂 So I pick them when she’s not around! Finally, we decided to finally try garlic scapes, as a couple of the varieties I’m growing this year have them, and….notsomuch. I made a garlic scape pesto and it was not good. The texture and the taste were too funky for me and not in a good way. But hey, worth a try!
Eco-Friendly side notes:
We don’t use ANY pesticides in our veggie garden. Companion planting and healthy soil, straw from the duck coop to help retain water at the base of the plants, and watering the garden from the duck’s kiddie pool (because yeah, in minutes after filling it they are swimming, eating and occasionally pooping in it…they’re classy…but the water is perfectly diluted for the garden. Chicken manure goes into our compost tumbler to mellow out for a couple months, and at the end of the season, we’ll let the chooks tear up the beds to finish the job for winter 🙂
For our fruit trees, the only sprays we use are Neem Oil in the spring and (very very rarely) Copper Fungicide, designated for organic farming on one pear tree that reacted poorly last year after planting. Otherwise, we just leave them be and they are getting stronger each year with little need for interventions. My husband put chicken-wire protectors around the base to keep the birds from getting near the roots, which was super helpful as well.
Our garden (and ducks & chickens) are exclusively watered from our 1,000 gallon rain tank that we connected to our barn (which I had a gutter installed just for this purpose!). A few good storms and it’s full, and even with that many gallons, has a trusty overflow we installed that has been worth the effort. We don’t have a pump on it as the hose is connected at the very bottom and with that much water, the pressure is pretty great for our needs (watering beds, filling duck and chicken waterers not to mention the duck’s kiddie pool they adore).
How’s your garden so far this June?