back to our roots . . .

i know i haven’t talked much about the garden lately . . . not because i don’t love it every bit as much as i did in june, but because it’s got me stumped at the moment.

you see, it’s a bit stalled.
the mid-summer heat is always hard on the garden and this year, it seems to have taken a particularly large toll; it’s just not rallying with the advent of cooler weather, as i expected. it would be overly romantic to say that it missed me while i was gone, but it’s hard not to wonder if losing mother for a whole month was just too much stress on it.

not that anything is dying or even sick; just not growing well or producing as heavily as usual. the tomatoes for instance, normally put out more than i can even keep up with during august. not only have we not gotten that tide that makes for good preserving, but the plants don’t seem to have many flowers or little green tomatoes coming along to indicate some hope for the future.

this batch of plum tomatoes will be enough to make some sauce for dinner and maybe one future freezer meal, but nothing to write home about.

and my greens, which were wonderfully lush and full of promise in early july, are nothing short of abysmal looking right now, having been under attack from both too much heat and too many flea-like creatures

bugs are something we haven’t seen before in our tender greens, so i find this discouraging, although it might be that they need to be near another type of plant next time. i’m thinking of asking david to weed whack them down so they can start over. the cooler nights we’re having now just might agree with them enough that we can salvage the lot.

i’m particularly disappointed about the greens because they are my absolute favorite thing we grow and i was SO looking forward to eating loads of them when i got home. so far, we’ve been able to squeeze out one meal, but none since then. fortunately, david put up a few bags in the freezer while i was gone.

and who knows, i may even start new; i have some space where the green bean plants can be torn out . . . i could reseed some chard in there and hope for a fall harvest. they’re capable of producing until a hard frost hits; whether they WILL is another story.

my shallots, which started out well enough (better than that, even), died back earlier than expected while i was away, so david dug them up and discovered them to be somewhat underdeveloped. they’ll be ok to use, but i was hoping for bigger . . . and more. i planted at least two dozen bulbs but we harvested only about six heads.

i might try planting them in the fall this year, when i put in the garlic.

it’s a similar story with the onions; i must have planted five dozen sets in several varieties. and we got some lovely onions, though very few of them and rather small (that’s the total take in that photo). i’m going to have to do some research to see if i can improve their life next year. i did plant them pretty late; maybe that’s it . . .

although the leeks went in exactly at the same time as last year and they are also lagging (though still growing, so i have some hope for them).

speaking of garlic, we did a little better with this crop, which also matured while i was away. david dug up all the onions, garlic, and shallots and laid them out to dry on the porch. just the other day, he clipped the dried tops off and peeled away the dirty outer shells so they could be used and stored.

they look great and they taste good, too. again, a little smaller than i’d hoped for but at least we got out all that we put into them.

and on the other hand, i shouldn’t complain at all—some things are doing really well. it’s been an outstanding year all over our area for green beans—beckie, kris, and i are all still picking beans from plants that continue to flower long past their usual demise.

and our root vegetables are growing to beat the band. i pulled a couple of rutabaga the other day to try those out, mashed for a side dish with celery, onion, garlic and parsley, and WOW, were they good (sorry, i forgot to take pictures). i also have really large turnips that i still don’t know how i’ll use.

the second sowing of carrots which i was not able to monitor due to travel, ended up growing in great and i see there are some very large carrots as a result. celeriac is doing well, too, though the celery and parsley is not up to its usual standard. is it possible that only the above-ground plants are affected by the malaise?

but then there are the peppers, which continue to be the star of the garden for probably the eighth year running—we cannot NOT grow them, haha. this year i have beautiful, big bell peppers and nice, thick-fleshed yummy peppers (a sort of dwarf sweet frying pepper, very good), along with hot pepper plants that are simply loaded with fruit. way more than i know what to do with.

for now, i’m throwing my hands up and not probing too much—whatever it is, it is; i actually don’t have the time resources right now to fix this year’s garden, especially if it’s for naught. i am curious now about companion planting and how to put plants together so that they have greater resistance to damage from insects and disease. so i’ll start doing some research in the hope that there might be something there we can use in the future.

one thing that’s making me do a happy dance this week—you know how i thought my potato plants had died from disease?

NOT!!

encouraged by several readers who wrote to tell me it was normal for them to die back when they are done, david and i went out on friday to investigate and whaddaya know

beautiful, big round potatoes awaited us under the earth. we just had to scratch around a bit for them and they turned up. we planted red cloud, yukon gold, king harry, and russian banana.

we pulled several large ones and a few small ones—just enough for dinner. we’ll go back for more as needed, until the frost comes, when we’ll dig up what’s left to store down in the root cellar.

i couldn’t be more thrilled and excited that A) they are indeed, fine and B) that we can now eat fresh dug potatoes. thank you for encouraging me to look underneath; it was totally worth it. that night i made mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and fresh parsley for dinner and it was deLISH.

while david ran in and washed the potatoes, i picked a last handful of green beans (i do think the plants are done now), a few tomatoes, and pulled a turnip that day; plenty to round out a nice supper. mmm.

i haven’t been out thee since friday, but i think this afternoon i may go pull the bean plants and reseed that spot with chard. then clip back the existing chard plants to see if they’ll revive themselves.

in knitting news, not that much is new. i meant to work evenly on my two sweater backs this weekend but then got addicted to working on the blümchen one and rationalized it by telling myself i was simply getting it caught up with the rené piece.

they are now just about even and since i really owe it to the rené sweater to move forward at least as much, i’m going to make a big effort to leave blümchen in its project bag “just for today”.

i figure that even if i fail grandly at keeping my hands off of blümchen, i’m still finishing one or the other of these back pieces tonight and really—how bad can that be?

beckie and i went shopping yesterday and if you didn’t notice the smoke coming off of our credit cards from where you are, you must have been doing something REALLY fun.

we started out looking for a top for me to wear to james’s wedding next weekend (i KNOW; nice time to start looking right? but trust me, i had a good excuse for not shopping earlier). it’s to go with a beautiful long missoni-esque skirt i’m excited to finally be wearing after owning it for too many years now; i bought it when i lived in NYC and haven’t had a chance get this dressed up since, but it will be perfect for this event.

anyway, we got out there and everything was not just on sale, but there were really BIG sales on all the sale prices. so everything was at least 75% off. we found a top right away that was perfect, along with several things for beckie—it was almost too easy.

and the trouble started when we kept going; in fact, we stayed out all day. honestly, i didn’t buy that many things, but i did buy a couple of larger items, including a raincoat.

and if giant sales weren’t a harbinger of fall, then this next sighting certainly is

the first turning leaves on our sugar maple. sigh.

27 Responses to “back to our roots . . .”

  1. Yay, your garlic looks great! Mine is smaller than usual too, not sure why, but it will still be good.

    Try remay fabric over your greens to discourage the flea beetles (they like my arugula).

    Can’t wait for both sweaters to be finished. They will be grand.

    We need some pics of your shopping!

  2. Mo says:

    I love digging potatoes! It’s like buried treasure!

  3. josiekitten says:

    Oh what a bummer about your greens. It’s so disappointing when plants don’t grow as you expcet. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it either. Last year we had fabulous parsnips and this year they are poor, whereas carrots last year weren’t good, but have been much better this year. So we can’t even put it down to a particular group of veggies. We have tried some companion planting, and I think Mr JK has quite a helpful book somewhere. I’ll see if I can find it to give you more information. I’m glad your spuds came to fruition and your garlic looks great too!
    We definitely need a photo of you all glammed up for the wedding!

  4. Wow…what a bounty of deliciousness!

  5. amanda says:

    i seem to recall reading somewhere recently that it wasn’t a good year for tomatoes. but the green beans, definitely! my mom also planted a second round of sugar snap peas which are coming in now–one of my favorites, yay!

    as much as i can’t believe we’re already starting towards fall (where did the summer go?), i’m starting to feel that urge to return to sweaters. i even have one in my knitting basket just waiting for my return…

  6. JoAnnaSpring says:

    Yay potatoes! I am so glad to hear they are well.

  7. Naomi says:

    In the DC area it has been a terribly year for tomatoes. A friend, an avid tomato gardener, says it is because there was so little rain for about five weeks in July and August. Maybe this applies to other crops as well.

  8. Pamela says:

    Wow. Fall. I’m dreaming for fall. We are forecasted to be 100 degrees Tuesday. *sigh* The deep south won’t get fall for at least another month. *deepersigh*

  9. So sorry to see the state of your greens; hope you’ll be able to get a fall harvest of chard. But, that’s good news about the potatoes – yeah!

    If it is any consolation, a lot of people have been a bit disappointed in their gardens this year. You are not alone!

    And I’m with MicheleinMaine – would love to see pics of your shopping bargains so that I can live vicariously. I just don’t seem to have the knack for bargain shopping; I usually end up paying full price. Sigh!

  10. Nancy says:

    It is Not a good year for tomatoes…they are producing less and later this year. On the greens, for next time,….when little holes are first noticed, spray with a little Dawn and lots of water in a spray bottle. If that doesn’t work you can add a little tobacco (not menthol) tea. Surely you know somewhere you can get a teaspoon of tobacco or so? The greens loved the cool wet June and hated the hot dry July. On the tomatoes, you can encourage blossoms to produce even with lots of wind if you spray the blossoms with cheap hairspray — it keeps the pollon from getting blown away!!!

  11. Marie Taylor says:

    I have been itching to dig up my potatoes but hubby won’t let me, they haven’t died back enough. He did let me go through one of the patches yesterday and grab some of the bigger ones. I got enough for a meal or 2. My green beans are still going crazy.

    Those little black beatle thingys usually eat my eggplant to the point where I don’t get any fruit. I was able to keep them away this year and am getting eggplant like crazy. I think I will make babba ghanoush with some today.

  12. tartandsweet says:

    Bad year for tomatoes here too, glad to hear I’m not alone (although sorry to hear others are suffering too). Too hot and dry I think, we may try shade cloth next year. Hoping to get more greens in as well and save the end of the season.

  13. Kim says:

    My garden has been a challenge this year as well. My romas are doing ok, but blight hit the big girls….and the bugs…the bugs. :(. Cuke beetles and squash bugs gallore. I will have a great winter squash harvest, but the bugs are bad.

    I am giving my garden a rest next year by planting totally different crops and cut flowers.

  14. Phyllis says:

    I don’t have a garden but I do enjoy watching yours. I dream of fresh tomatoes from the vine, green beans and sweet peas but I guess, for now at least, it is not to be. The sweater looks wonderful and I look forward, as always, to your new patterns.

  15. Crabtree Studio says:

    Bad year for tomatoes here too – and we’re in Minnesota and had tons of rain. It seemed to be too cold one month, then too hot the next… Hard to say exactly what went wrong, though. All I know is I should be drowning in tomatoes, canning them left and right – and I have just a few…

  16. Weavinfool says:

    As Crabtree Studio says – tomatoes only set fruit between certain temperatures. We have a bumper crop of tomatoes coming in, but they are late this year. We usually have weeks above 100. This summer has been lovely and in the low 90′s and our tomatoes are setting nicely.

  17. LauraSue says:

    I’ve had this happen with onions, too. I put in sets and I dig up…..sets. Very discouraging. But your garlic is lovely.

  18. nancy schwartz sternoff says:

    love all the hints from your fans, anne. and if you have potatoes, what else….just sayin. potatoes are THE PERFECT food.
    please show us pix of your shopping results and your outfit for the wedding!

  19. cherie says:

    Bad tomato year in SE Michigan as well. Matter of fact, this year’s crop of just about EVERYTHING is less, and smaller, than previous years. We have not been able to harvest anything more than we can eat. Hoping for better, next year!

  20. Nan says:

    I am sorry to hear about your garden. I wish I can offer some tips, but I have black thumb. So, I don’t think you want any advice from me. But, it sounded like you had a great time shopping. At least you still have a week before the wedding. I try to hold out thinking I can find the perfect outfit until it is too late and I don’t even have time to shorten or make any adjustments. Have fun at the wedding and hope that your garden will be better next year.

  21. Elisabeth says:

    You might want to check out the book “Four Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman. I think your second wave of chard has hope, and if you protect it, longevity for fresh picking in the winter. This book has revolutionized my thinking about gardening and if you have time to make one small protective structure therein… might be worth a try. Anyway, my garden was not nearly as productive as I expected either. So sad. I dream of growing all of my own food… “Carrots Love Tomatoes” is a great companion planting book.

  22. Nancy B says:

    I haven’t planted potatoes in years, but when I did, I always planted them in hay, putting on more hay as the plants grew and then covered up with dirt (to protect the growing potatoes from sun exposure). I had to because the soil was such heavy clay, but it surely did make harvesting easy. And I could also lift up a bit early on to harvest early potatoes – loved those tiny ones!

  23. Bobbie in AK says:

    Anne,

    RE: your turnips. Our favorite way is to peel, cube in bite sized pieces, and roast with rutabega and mushrooms. You can prepare the rutabega the same way and quarter the mushrooms (plain old white button mushrooms or cremini work best). You can dry roast with just a drizzle of olive oil or add a little bit of water to the veggies and cover. Bake until tender. I also like to add garlic. Yum!

  24. Missymarie says:

    Oh, the adventures of gardening. In Northern MN, my tomatoes are a bumper crop. I think all of the rain we had this summer really helped. But on the other hand, only 1 green bean plant grew and no luck with my sweet peas or cucumbers. I planted 5 pepper plants (1 orange, 1 yellow, 2 red and 1 green) and each plant has only 1 pepper on it. What’s the story with that? Something is eating the blossoms. I will go out and see blossoms on the plant and the next day, they are gone. The plants look healthy with no holes on the leaves. I am hoping to harvest my second crop of lettuces and swiss chard before we get frost.

    With the cooler nights, our maple trees are really turning to their fall colors.

    David and you will be the best looking couple at James’s wedding and can’t wait to see some pictures.

  25. Jocelyn says:

    Blumchen is looking great! I like the way that’s turning out a lot. And fall already? how did that happen?

  26. Carol Lynn says:

    I saw some trees by the side of the road the other day whose leaves are turning… While I adore Fall, I can’t believe that it’s nearly here, especially because those of us in Seattle are just now getting summer weather! :(

  27. Ann says:

    I always enjoy reading about your garden & the lovely produce. I just planted garlic in my garden for the 1st time & I hope to enjoy the fruits later.