I’ve made it to that mid-point in my gardening season. Cool weather crops are done and warm weather crops aren’t really ready yet. I do still have lettuces and of course, herbs. But that’s about it for the next few weeks.
It’s been a busy June/early July and I haven’t been able to keep up with work in the garden. Now I have a few weeks where I can put in the time and really get things fixed up. I thought it might be interesting to show you the before and after of a real life garden. Not so pretty before. But definitely worth the work for the after.
One week later, things are looking much better! Here are the after photos:
Four years ago I wrote a post titled Why I dropped my CSA membership. Having gleaned all the info and inspiration I needed from that CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership, I was ready to make a go of it on my own. Things have gone pretty well in the last four years. We have eaten lots of great garden food. We’ve tried many new varieties of vegetables and herbs. We’ve preserved pound after pound of garden goods and enjoyed them throughout the year.
It hasn’t been all glamour though. Blight, bugs, cold weather, an insane amount of weeds and a myriad of other issues continue to plague my garden year after year. Nothing out of the ordinary. but enough to leave some holes here and there in my harvest.
Also, in that time, I’ve added two children to the family. And my other two kids have grown bigger. When I cook meals now, I need to make a lot of food.
Online and in other media, I’ve seen so many beauty shots of produce from local farms, farmers markets and CSA boxes. I sometimes get veggie envy.
One year I spent the better part of our food budget at the farmer’s market. Now, there’s nothing really wrong with that. But it did make me think about my CSA days of yore and consider the value of purchasing produce that way. Perhaps the CSA did make better economic sense after all.
And then there’s the creative factor. The CSA boxes included items that made me stretch my cooking chops a bit and learn new techniques. I was missing that. Left to my own devices, I tended to buy basic vegetables that I knew my family would eat without complaining. Again–nothing wrong with that. But it wasn’t as interesting or as much fun. I like a food challenge and researching techniques and recipes is my idea of a good time.
So this winter, when I started to notice all the CSA sign up reminders popping up in my facebook feed, I began to reconsider my stance on CSA membership. Maybe I was ready to dive back in? Indeed, I believe I am.
The first box is here and I’m presented with a whole new vegetable (puntarelle, anyone?) to try and lots of possibilities ahead. I can’t wait to see what every new week brings. I’m confident that the produce we receive each week will be helpful in feeding those two new mouths we have, as well as the other four of us. Thankful for the bounty we grow, but also for that which is grown by others.
What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade. ~Gertrude Jekyll
It has been a beautiful spring so far in Southeastern Wisconsin. Yes, we have had some chilly air here and there. But overall things are right about where they should be. I find some comfort in that. After enduring winter’s bone-chilling cold and colorless landscape, it’s feels so good to know that once again Spring has arrived and the promise of another season of growth and life is now here.
The spiritual message of all this Spring wonder is not lost on me. I’m reminded of life eternal each year, and that only through death can we truly gain life. I don’t want to forget that, even in the giddy excitement of planning and planting the garden and observing the world as it comes back to life.
Here is some photographic evidence that the month of June is here at my house in all her glory. I’m sure the story is similar in countless backyards everywhere. By the way, you don’t have to have a garden to enjoy the sight of wild asparagus on the side of the highway or gorgeous green leaves upon the trees. Go find your own evidence, pretty much anywhere you look right now. And enjoy! It only comes once a year.
I probably never ate a radish (willingly) until I was well into adulthood. They just weren’t very good. In the last several years though, I’ve discovered there are lots of radishes that actually taste very good. I just have to grow them myself. They are nowhere to be found in the stores.
Radishes are my go-to early season garden filler. They are the first thing I plant in the spring, as soon as the ground is warm enough to dig. They are the perfect bridge between winter and summer. They grow fast and easily even in cold early spring temperatures, only taking about 25 days from germination to tasty salad addition. By the time they are all harvested and eaten, it’s time to put in more summery crops.
Now, the whole radish is edible. The leaves can be added to salads, soups, stir fry, or wherever a bright green slightly bitter and peppery punch is needed. Truth is, I don’t love to eat the leaves. Sometimes they are fuzzy, even “spikey” as my kids say. I prefer to toss the leaves in the compost and let them nourish us that way.
For me, the radish root itself is where it’s at. Fresh from the garden they are crisp and full of zip. Even better after being chilled in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
Radishes have varying degrees of “heat”. Seed catalogs usually inform on the level of bite that can be expected. Terms such as “mild”, “pungent” and “hot” give an idea of what to expect.
Here are some radish varieties I’ve grown and enjoyed:
Radishes are great by themselves, but they also make delicious dippers. Any veggie dip would work. However, a real treat is to make an herb butter compound and serve that room temperature alongside chilled radishes. Oh my. Butter and radishes are a match made in heaven. If it’s too early in the season for fresh herbs, dried are a good substitute. My kids love plain butter with just some garlic salt mixed in. And if all it takes is a little butter and garlic salt to get my kids to eat radishes, then I’m in. Because I remember being a kid who would not eat a radish. So I consider it a success to have raised radish eaters.
While the butter dip is my favorite way to eat radishes, there is no denying that they are perfect for salads. A peppery spring salad of arugula and sliced radishes with a simple drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper is something I look forward to every year.
If my radishes are getting a little “long in the tooth” it’s a good time to consider roasting them. Like all root vegetables (think carrots, parsnips, etc) radishes can be tossed with some olive oil and salt and roasted in a hot oven.
There are plenty of other ways to enjoy radishes. A quick online search or scan of Pinterest will yield tons of ideas.
I’ve never grown a fall crop of radishes, but maybe it’s time to start. They are pretty much the perfect start to the gardening season, I imagine it’d make a fitting end to enjoy them then too.
Hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere. And that I suppose is the theme this month in my garden. There are no showstoppers. No amazing spring miracles to report. No beauty shots of a well kept spring garden. It’s just this ol’ work in progress, folks.
Here are some photos of where things are at today, April 17th 2015. It’s been a very long time since my last post in 2013. My 2014 garden had it’s ups and downs, on which I did not report. Instead I took some time to reflect, focus on the work of the garden and mostly–tend to my May 2014 baby boy. That boy is turning 1 in a few weeks. I intend to give him–and his siblings–the gift of a beautiful garden in 2015.
So, here goes. We start here.
It’s a warm, sunny, October day here in Wisconsin. Cooler temperatures are on the horizon, but for today we will enjoy the warmth and sunshine for yet another day.
As I reflect on my summer (which I realize remains a mystery to readers as it’s been months since I’ve posted) I feel thankful and satisfied with what was accomplished. I set out with a vague goal of preserving more food this year than I ever have before. I knew that I would grow some of that food. And that I would buy some of that food from farmers.
You might be wondering what has been grown, purchased and preserved this year. As a matter of fact, I was wondering that same thing this morning as I pulled out a jar of peaches and thought how nice it would be to have an inventory of some sort. Here is a list–with and without amounts–of what I worked on this summer. I hope it inspires other urban gardeners to try some preserving. Nothing here is exotic or difficult to do, just good ol’ jars of food and stuff in my freezer.
60-ish jars of jam: rhubarb-vanilla, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, peach, peach-vanilla, blueberry
6 cups chopped frozen rhubarb
12 quarts of peaches in medium syrup (my son’s favorite!)
2 gallon bags of frozen blueberries
8 quarts frozen strawberries
strawberry fruit leathers and dried strawberries (these were gobbled up a while ago, I don’t remember exactly how much we made)
5 quarts cherries in almond syrup
4 pints cherries in wine
2 pints dried cherries
1/2 gallon cherry wine
several bags chopped, blanched kale (for winter soups)
4 pint jars dehydrated chocolate mint (for tea)
6 pints mint syrup (for mixed drinks, sweetener)
3 pints cherry wine syrup (to pour over a pound cake)
pesto (we keep eating this, I’m not sure how many we made)
1/2 pint jar dried chamomile (for tea)
several containers cream of broccoli soup
several containers creamy carrot soup
several containers eggplant supper soup
6 quarts garlic and honey dill pickles
7 pints bread and butter pickles
6 pints spicy classic dill pickles
4 pints tomato sauce
4 pints marinara sauce
4 pints tomato salsa
6 pints peach salsa
dehydrated apple rings
8 pints applesauce
3 pints cinnamon applesauce
8 loaves zucchini bread
12 heads of garlic
gallon bag of frozen kale cubes (to throw in smoothies)
gallon bag of frozen beet green cubes (to throw in smoothies)
Meanwhile, we’ve eaten countless salads and tomato dishes out of garden. We’ve eaten mountains of kale chips. My kids have a habit of eating raw beans, peas and carrots straight out of the garden… in fact these things never make it in the house. Every day we look forward to our raspberry snack, straight off the canes outside. We put fresh herbs on all of our meat and fish, make salad dressing with our herbs and use them in mixed drinks.
This year we enjoyed fresh garden onions for the first time. We made fresh juices with our celery, cucumbers, kale, parsley and other fresh garden goods.
It’s the second week of October and we still have much to look forward to. There are tomatoes on the vine. If a frost threatens, I can pull off the green ones and let them ripen indoors. Until then, bruschetta and salsa awaits! And probably a few more BLT dinners (our favorite). Celeriac is ready to harvest and be transformed into a delicious soup. Leeks are large this year and ready to be used in a leek and potato soup, as well as other applications, such as our Christmas ravioli filling as we’ve done in the past. There is plenty of swiss chard and kale, the latter of which will continue to grow until it gets very cold. Raspberries continue to ripen each day and the eggplant has hit a stride that I find hard to keep up with at this point. I have such good luck with eggplant.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in this year’s garden is the lemon tree. So many big, beautiful lemons! They are turning yellow now and will be perfect stuffed into a chicken for roasting or in salad dressing, on fish, in tea, or on my favorite lemon garlic pasta recipe. What a blessing to finally get some lemons off that little tree.
I garden in a small city sized lot. I squeeze a lot in to my small space. Not everything grows, not everything is a success. That’s okay. I’ve learned much from my garden failures.
At the beginning of the season I prayed over my garden as I planted it. “Dear Lord, if it is your will let this garden nourish us this year. Make it grow!” God delivered. I’m not a perfect steward of these blessings (oops, I’ve had to toss a few things I let go past their prime in the compost), but thankfully God doesn’t withhold His blessing just because I make some human mistakes. I’m so glad He gives me the opportunity to keep trying and keep learning.
So, for now, my larder is full! Praise God.
The process of getting the garden in went into high gear this week as we prepared to head out of town. It was really a family effort, with my husband doing much of the structural work and hauling of supplies and the kids helping me with seedlings, seeds, weeds and watering.
I knew several months ago that the garden was going to be more productive this year, but I had no idea just how many things we would be able to squeeze in. I’ve used every inch of dirt and nearly every pot we have. The result is a backyard full of dozens of varieties of vegetables and beautiful flowers. I can’t wait to see how it all grows and what we are able to do with it. I’m especially hoping to be able to preserve more to eat throughout the off-season.
Why do it this way instead of planting fewer varieties but more of them? Done that way, I could have enough tomatoes to make all the sauce we’d need for the year. But I wouldn’t have anything else. And it wouldn’t be much fun.
Planting several varieties ensures that there will be successes, even amid failures. If tomatoes get blight, there are still many other edibles to enjoy. Variety is also a great way to draw beneficial insects to the garden. Each one may attract something different.
And of course, variety is beautiful!