An Update on Our Backyard Garden
Though we try to be fearless in the kitchen, willing to tackle just about any task or new dish, something about gardening strikes pure fear into our hearts.
In the two years that we've been trying to plant and grow vegetables, we've read a good amount of gardening books and have friends to offer solid green-thumb advice.
But there's something about the uncertainty of the garden -- "Is this plant dying?," "Are we getting enough sun? Enough water?," "Is this what I planted or a weed?" -- that is simultaneously thrilling and completely depressing.
That's not to say that things aren't going well in our garden. There's a lot to celebrate. Most excitedly, we have a bunch of tomatoes that are ripening on the vine. All of our tomatoes are small varieties, and we easily already have 30 tomatoes that have formed, with more on the way. The largest of the tomatoes are starting to get a little color, and we can't wait to start harvesting them.
Our snow peas stopped producing -- we assume it was because of the heat (it's recommended to plant them in spring and fall). We ripped out the plants, replacing them with other bean varieties that have already come out of the soil and are growing rapidly.
Beans, though, are our biggest problem. Our purple pole beans produced exactly one bean before the plants died. We've done a lot of reading and assessment about our bean problems. We think our issue is spider mites. We first tried an organic spray that deters insects, but it seemed to have little effect. All the beans died or were just looking generally sad, so we gave up on them, and ripped all the plants out, too.
We've replanted the beans and the new little plants are thriving. This time, we're getting more aggressive, and have started using a more potent, non-organic (don't judge...) spray that's specifically designed to deter spider mites. Fingers crossed!
Our friend Trevor had previously helped us do a pH test on our soil because he had an extra kit. Because a few of our plants, like beets, looked healthy but didn't seem to be growing much, he suggested we perform another pH test. So we picked up a little kit from a hardware store.
The results were in, and we determined that for the items we're growing, our soil needs to be more acidic. So we went to Starbucks.
One way to alter the pH balance of the soil is to add coffee grounds. We marched up to our neighborhood Starbucks and asked them to save some grounds for us, which they gladly did. Over several days, we carted big bags of grounds home and applied them to the top of our soil.
So now our garden is very fancy. And it may be suffering from a caffeine addiction.
Another thing we did to alter the soil was apply compost. We have a tumbler in our backyard, and for the first time this year, we removed the compost from the bin and added it to our soil. We would show you a photo, but it is far too ugly to share on a food blog.
It's not all roses for our tomatoes. Their bottom leaves yellowed and fell off. This happened on all of our plants. The top of the plants are perfectly healthy looking. We're assuming it's not a sign of a larger problem.
One very exciting and recent development is that our first red okra have started to appear. They're very tiny, but the plants are thriving.
So here's the scorecard at the end of June:
Rest in Peace:
- Red Lettuce -- It turned bitter in the summer heat and we ripped it out, replacing it with beans.
- Blue Lake Bush Beans and Purple Podded Pole Beans -- Ripped out the plants that died from spider mite damage and have started over.
- Golden Sweet Snow Peas and Oregon Sugar Pod Snow Peas -- See you in the Fall.
Could thrive, but could also pass at any moment:
- Russian Tarragon -- The plants aren't growing very much.
- Giant Parsley -- The one parsley plant that has survived is doing okay but not growing much. Other attempts to grow more parsley from seed are not going well so far.
- Sungold Tomatoes and Borghese Tomatoes -- We have lots of little green tomatoes.
- Basil -- We have multiple varities in spades.
- Bull's Blood Beets -- The beet greens haven't grown large, but they look healthy.
- Bowling Red Okra -- Growing, growing, growing!
- Purple Jalapenos -- One of our pepper plants is thriving and flowering. We expect to see peppers soon.
Have garden advice for us? By all means share it!
Other Posts Tracking This Year's Garden: