One thing I’m enjoying harvesting from the garden right now is arugula. I like arugula in salad, but it rapidly grows a bit tough and spicy for salads. This fall my husband and I are working on losing weight using the South Beach Diet, so pasta and bread are both mostly off our menu. (I have lost 10 pounds since Sept 1 and he has lost about 15.) So I have to find something else to do with all of our garden fresh arugula.
As you can tell I like goat cheese. I’m intolerant of most dairy products, but eat a bit of goat or sheep cheese without too much trouble.
The one thing that I haven’t been able to figure out about arugula is why it is so expensive in the store. Arugula has to be the easiest, fastest thing to grow in the garden. I first grew it over ten years ago when I was manager for the organic garden at my college. I know it was sort of a fad with chef’s for a while in the 90s (?), but how did it end up as this elitist vegetable?
One of the strange things about gardening is that everyone plants in a brief period in the spring and harvests in the summer and fall, no matter what kind of climate we live in. I live in a the Northwest and yet it’s still difficult for me to remember to plant fall garden. This is my first year gardening in Oregon, so I’m still getting use to the climate here. I couldn’t believe how long my peas lasted. I was still eating peas from my yardshare garden in July.
This week my mom visited from California and we spent some time weeding the garden. Sadly, the garden is overrun by bind weed. It’s nasty stuff. We pulled up the peas and potatoes, making room for some fall crops. Then we planted carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, arugula and bulbing fennel. I’m trying to use up all my older seeds so I’m not sure whether or not everything will sprout. So far the radishes and arugula have come up.
Another challenging element of planting a fall garden is getting seeds to germinate during the heat of July and August. I laid down some row cover, flat against the ground to help keep the soil moist. Carrots are the especially slow to start, so I’m hoping that I manage to get some to come up. photo credit: net_efekt
I have been so busy with my graduate studies, I have barely had time to garden, let alone blog about gardening. I’m not sure how you all do it!
I have been enjoying patio garden. I planted a bunch of strawberries. They haven’t produced a lot of large berries, but the plants are attractive and they seem to be doing well in the high shade under the doug firs. I also planted some herbs and greens. In general the herbs are doing well. The sage seems to not be getting enough light. I have lots of oregano, chives, parsley, cilantro, thyme, lemon balm, mint, and rosemary. My attempts to grow vegetables though has been largely thwarted. I have managed a little lettuce, but it hasn’t looked healthy. The chard has been looking good, but I can’t produce much, even with us two of us.
There are lots of blogs and articles online the discuss growing vegetables in small spaces, but frankly I doubt whether it’s really possible to grow much on an apartment balcony or patio. I think a patio is a great place to grow some herbs to enrich your boring menu, but I don’t think you can harvest much in such as smal space. Also, even larger containers require a lot more work than the same amount of actual garden soil. You have to water and fertilize a lot more and the soil costs a lot more. Has anyone else had luck growing one thing or another on a patio?
Since securing my new garden I have been busily pulling weeds and loosening the soil to get ready for planting. I have had several beautiful days out in the garden, marred only by the constant swearing coming from the alley behind the yard. The Whitaker is an interesting neighborhood, with a strange mix of early 20th century cottages with beautiful gardens, warehouses, artist studios, and hipster food places. The neighborhood also has a surprising number of people who seem to on drugs and/or drunk, including the folks who live behind my garden.
Since this spot has been an organic vegetable garden for many years, the soil is good. I’m limiting the amount of digging and turning of the soil I’m doing, since the soils seems to have nice structure already. I bought a fork and I’m simply loosening the soil with the fork and then pulling up all the weeds. Organic vegetable gardening can be a hassle some days, whoever was gardening before me didn’t spend much time weeding. The grass was already 6-8 inches high when I first saw the garden. I managed to clear two beds, about 3.5ft wide and 20 ft long. Discovering in the process that they are both filled with bind weed. ACK! But I wanted to plant several things that are better direct seeded, rather than transplanted, so I cleared the bed rather than sheet mulching.
Here’s what I have planted so far:
soft neck garlic
russet burbank potatoes
red pontiac potatoes
yellow granex-sweet vidalia type onion (short day)
red candy apple onion (intermediate day)
super star onion (intermediate day)
red wethersfield onion (long day)
texas supersweet onion (short day)
cascadia peas (bush snap peas)
sugar pod II (bush snow peas)
sugar daddy (bush snap peas)
yellow rock onion
white ebenezer onion
This spring, since I’m gardening in a new place (and I’m a little behind schedule because I had to find a space) I stuck with varieties I could find at local nurseries, hoping that the nurseries were doing a good job of choosing varieties. Frankly, I don’t trust nurseries to do a good job of only selling what will grow well in their locale. Already I’m a little worried because it seems that some of the onions sets I bought are short and intermediate day when Eugene is a long day area. This doesn’t bode well for my onions. I also managed to save some garlic chives that I discovered there. I love all sorts of onion family plants and peas, I love peas. I may have overdone it planting peas and onions, but there is no way to have too many peas, and I’m planning to thin the onions for greens as they grow. Yum, I can’t wait!
A few weeks ago I lost the community garden lottery here in Eugene. The city was nice enough to send me a letter to let me know that I was number fifty seven on the waiting list. Apparently I’m not the only one with an urge to grow my own food. According to Oregon’s agricultural extension:
The number of names on a waiting list to rent plots in the Portland area’s 30 community gardens has grown to 1,000, according to Extension’s Clackamas County horticulturist Weston Miller, and landowners are offering to donate land for more community gardens.
I don’t know how long the list in Eugene is, but there are at least 57 people waiting. Further research would most likely reveal long lists in other cities around the country. Faced with the depressing reality that I would have to make do with my little patio, I headed over to Down To Earth to buy a few containers. As I wandered from the nursery into the garden center, I noticed a bulletin board with various notices. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a post offering a backyard space for gardening. I called right away and now I have a lovely backyard space equal to a 600 sq ft community garden plot. It’s small, but as a grad student I have a limited amount of time for gardening.
Yardsharing is a new trend around the country, but the woman who is lending me her space has been doing it for years. The soil in my new garden is lovely, even if somewhat weedy.
Many people think of fall as the time to put your garden to bed or take a break from gardening, but fall is a great time to get a head start on your spring garden. Part of sustainable landscaping is planning your garden work so that it is personally sustainable for you. Getting a jump on your landscaping in the fall will save you a bunch of time in the spring when you will have more gardening tasks than time to do them.
One task you should be thinking about in your fall garden is preparing your sustainable landscape now for spring planting. There are lots of different ways to prepare your garden dirt for spring planting from double digging to lasagna gardening. If you prepare your garden beds now then you can plant earlier in the spring, when the dirt is still too cold and wet to dig.
Great video from Kitchen Gardeners International! They are starting a campaign to encourage the president, or more realistically, the next president to “eat the view” i.e. tear out some white house lawn and plant a vegetable garden.
As the local food craze has gotten rolling, more companies are popping up to help people grow food in their own backyards. For many busy folks the idea of getting a vegetable garden started might seem overwhelming. Now you can pay someone else to farm your backyard for you. Your Backyard Farmer serves Portland, Milwaukie and Lake Oswego. Check out this cute video describing their services.
A similar company is now getting started in the San Francisco Bay Area. MyFarm provides vegetable gardens to residents in San Francisco and the East Bay. They were recently featured in the SF Chronicle.
While I think these companies are providing a great service for those who really aren’t interested in learning to garden for themselves, I think it’s too bad that more people can’t make the time to learn some gardening basics. I realize that there are lots of folks out there with more money than time, but growing your own food can be a great pleasure and isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be. It wasn’t that long ago that most families in this country were farm families and grew the majority of their food themselves. All it takes is slowing down and taking the time each day to observe your garden, noticing changes and taking action. I love to watch my garden grow. Taking the time to notice changes in your plants slows down your persective and tunes you in to the wider world, the weather, the cycles of the moon, and what insects are flying or crawling around your little plot of land. Having a garden is so much more than simply getting fresh organic produce, although some fresh, sweet strawberries might be the catalyst that gets your butt into gear.
Kelly at Planet Green writes about her adventure buying Amaranth greens at her local farmers market in Try a New Vegetable: Amaranth. It’s true that calling it “pig weed” doesn’t make it sound very appetizing, but those pigs are onto something. Amaranth is tasty and easy to grow. Some varieties are grown for their nutritious greens while others have been bred to produce high yields seeds, which are tasty eaten as porridge or like rice. Still other species of Amaranth are grown for their exotic looking flower heads, particularly the old fashioned variety also known as “love-lies-bleeding.”
Amaranth is an easy to grow summer annual. In fact, in many parts of the country members of the genus grow as weeds as the name “pig weed” indicates. I wouldn’t recommend trying to grow it to harvest the seeds unless you have an exceptionally large garden, but the greens and flowers could both be pleasant additions to the home garden.
(Photo by Andedam used under creative commons license.)