Monday, September 1, 2014

Top five annual flowers in my kitchen garden- #1, Bachelor Button

As I sit in my study writing I can hear the welcome sound of rain falling in the night, as well as a chorus of crickets and the Labor Day fireworks at the racetrack nearby.
Summer is coming to an all too fast end, but for many of the annual flowers I grow in my kitchen garden it is peak bloom time. Over the next five nights I'm going to post about my top five kitchen garden annuals.
Here's my criteria to make the list: they must grow easily from seed sown directly into the garden, they must require little maintenance, they must bloom freely over a long time, and they must add both color and texture to the garden.  Other criteria can vary—some of my favorites are edible, some feed birds and butterflies, and some make good cut flowers,  while others are tricky to keep happy in a vase.
Why grow flowers in a vegetable garden at all? Well, the tradition of kitchen gardens is that they are places of beauty and comfort as well as food. Growing flowers among the vegetables also provides food for insects and birds that eat insect pests. And mixing the flowers and food crops makes it hard for those insect pests to find and eat the crops.
I'm going to write about the top five in roughly the order they bloom in my garden. Bachelor Buttons often winter over in sheltered spots, and they grow quickly to flower when sown before the last frost. By late June I have masses of flowers in colors from blue to red, sometimes edged in contrasting tones.  The foliage is a pleasant soft gray-green, and the upright form contrasts nicely with my early greens and peas on their trellis. They are also edible, bloom a long time in big clusters, and can re bloom if the flower heads are cut off  with hedge trimmers. 
Here's a shot of a clump from a small packet of seeds I bought for 20 cents: 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Free tomato day at work

I harvested all the near ripe tomatoes yesterday, and spread them out on the sideboard in the dining room. They are, going clockwise from the top of the picture:
 Burpees Early Pick (medium sized), Rutgers (large with green shoulders and nice round shape), Patio Princess (perfect little globes about 2-3 inches across),
 Mortgage Lifter (big, funny looking, pink with green edges), two kinds of plums, and Sugar Lump cherry tomatoes:

I am picking all of the tomatoes in the beds next to the fence when just starting to color and ripening them on the sideboard because the woodchucks have already shown an inclination to nip through the fence at ripe fruit-- and only ripe fruit. 

Besides the sideboard tomatoes, I started today with another 30 tomatoes  ripening on a plastic bin lid in the garage. I bagged a dozen of these up and took them to work and gave them away to customers and co-workers.  
I really enjoyed the conversations that went along with sharing my tomatoes. I learned a lot as I handed out the fruits- about the gardens the recipients are currently cultivating,  about family gardens from childhood, and even favorite recipes.  My love of grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches is more common than I dreamed!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Picture of the garden in late July

Yeah, no woodchuck nibbling in a week!
Here's a pic of the main garden with Sol on guard:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

2014, year of the woodchuck

I mentioned in last week's post that I am at war with some very clever woodchucks. Let me elaborate!
There have always been woodchuck holes in two locations outside my cedar fenced yard, and just about every year the young chucks make forays into the yard by digging under the fence, and were either dispatched or driven off by Sol, and before him, Caddie and Kenji, my previous basenji's.  Often they would stand and fight instead of running, with the inevitable result a dead woodchuck.
This year the two young chucks decided on a cleverer plan--- long tunnels coming up in the midst of shrubs, sunchokes and even the raspberry patch! From these they make quick runs into nearby plantings, with a hole close by to escape to if discovered by the dog.
I found each hole by searching near each area of destruction. For example-- the pea patch by the sunchokes suddenly looked like this one morning:

The woodchucks had torn down the vines and eaten all of the tender tips. I found the hole neatly hidden in a six foot tall stand of sunchokes, filled it in, and put a cinder block on top:

I have found three holes, including the one by the potatoes that I mentioned in my video. Sol has made this spot his new vantage point for guarding the yard:

I appreciate his effort, but at 12 years old his  best days of woodchuck hunting may be behind him. 
My latest strategy is to put floating row cover over the chuck's recent favorites, including my burgundy beans-- they nipped back the tops a couple of days age.  And to think I spent all winter planning how to deal with bean and cucumber beetles, not woodchucks!  
But I try to keep a sense of humor about this epic battle with the woodchucks, and to enjoy the July bounty of the gardens, especially everything in the tomato family -- including potatoes and peppers. More on those next week.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Video Tour for July

Here's my latest video tour, recorded yesterday:

Right now it's 89 degrees and we need rain-- I hope we get some on the 4th as Tropical Storm Arthur goes by.  I'll give up playing outside on the holiday for a good soaking!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Red Harvest-- radishes, strawberries and potatoes

Here are some pics from my red harvest -- no, not the book, but the best radishes I have grown in years (the secret is good spacing, I finally realize), lots of strawberries, and the first red potatoes of the season:

And yes, more strawberries!