I had big plans, HUGE PLANS, to use this post to write about exciting topics that were guaranteed to delight and amuse, but then we popped over to the community garden this evening to check on the first zucchini — which you can guess by now began as a simple task but quickly turned into a marathon work session. I have been waiting on eggshells for the first little miniature penis-like thing to be pollinated (incidentally this phallic-like thing is the female flower) by the pollen from a male flower and evolve into a full-grown zucchini. Before someone says it, yes I could have pollinated the female flower myself but I was not at the garden when the flower was open.
I don’t know what it is about that first zucchini that inspires such excitement although I suppose the first of just about anything worth harvesting from the garden is exciting. The first tomato, the first pinch of basil, the first onion, I can’t think of a single first in the garden that doesn’t inspire even the tiniest mental high five. Read aloud that makes me sound an awful lot like the dudes from “Gummo” as they glow with pride over a haul of dead cats. “I’m pretty smart if I do say so myself.”
Come to think of it I’d say that the other thing about that first zucchini is that waiting for it to grow becomes like a sort of death watch, a race between myself, an unknown mammalian critter who just loves to take a solitary bite from my zucchinis, and the developing fruit. Will I get to the zucchini BEFORE it is discovered by a mammalian critter (i.e. ground hog, opposum, cat) but AFTER the zucchini has reached a large enough size for picking? Who will win? Do I take a chance and leave it just one more day only to arrive the following afternoon to discover a ready-to-harvest fruit still on the vine but with a few scattered chunks and teeth marks cut into it? It’s all the thrill of gambling without any of the reward. First you get the zucchini, then you get the power. This has happened many times, and god knows I don’t enjoy it, but the disappointment of defeat is a lot more acceptable once a few good-sized zucchini’s have made it to the dinner table.
As you can see from the picture I did not take a chance and removed the zucchini even though it could have gone another day or two. But you know, it’s the first one of the season, it’s a reasonable size, and it’s edible.
I’m pretty smart if I do say so myself.
Special thanks to Davin Risk, the Official You Grow GirlÃ¢â€žÂ¢ Hand Model Alternate. The t-shirt should clear up any question as to our country of origin. Hint: It rhymes with Free Health Care.
I just returned from my community garden plot where I harvested a ton of onions, garlic, and borage. They were all overflowing in the plot and some needed to be sacrificed for the good of the garden and future harvests. The garlic had already formed a few cloves each. I left plenty more that will stay put until the fall when they are fully formed. I’m figuring on some sort of soup for the borage. Something that would benefit from a cucumbery flavor. The flowers are good in fizzy beverages. The onions will become tonight’s meal, French Onion Soup.
I also harvested my first cucumber (‘Parisian Pickling’), radish flowers, swiss chard and lots of herbs including basil (2 kinds), ‘Golden’ oregano, variegated marjoram, and garlic chives.
The valerian plants were COVERED in lady bug larvae! So exciting! Sorry no photos. I took my film camera with me.
Not a day has gone by over the last month where our meals haven’t been prepared with some percentage of harvest from the gardens. As the summer heats up that percentage is growing. Filling the fridge (and our bellies) with my own harvest is very satisfying. It just never grows old. And neither does bragging and gloating about it.
Quite simply, the Next Big Thing is going to be veggies. Lots and lots of veggies. Heirloom tomatoes, offbeat salad greens and stuff like that. All organically grown, of course. By us. – from Toronto Star “Urban Gardeners Are Growing Local” (July 7, 2007.)
Many of us have known it all along by I am excited and encouraged by how much the media is catching onto the fact that gardeners are growing food. Yes, with the seemingly limitless plant choices available to us in this day and age gardeners are choosing to grow vegetable crops. And as crazy as it sounds some of us actually value edible plants for their beauty, tucking them into perennial beds and artistically designing entire gardens around and with them. The days of sticking our noses up at veggie gardening is a snooty, short-sighted, old-school concept that most of us are more than happy to be rid of once and for all.
I’ve never been interested in announcing trends because my fear is that once you announce something as a fad its shelf-life decreases — I am much more interested in real, long-term change. However veggie gardening and urban agriculture aren’t just passing flavors-of-the-week but lifestyle choices many gardeners have been quietly going about their business with for a long time and I think I speak for many of us when I say that we are more than happy to see its popularity rise exponentially.
“Sales of vegetable seeds soared last year, outstripping those of flowers for the first time since the 1950s.” – from Toronto Star Article
Awesome! And incidentally the post WW2 era just happens to mark a cultural shift towards looking at food gardening as a low class activity. Could it be that we are FINALLY kicking that 50′s era conservatism to the curb?
Thanks to Sonia Day for this fantastic article.
A little red and sort-of white for Canada Day courtesy of my rooftop garden. We were hoping the ‘Whippersnapper’ would be ripe and ready for eating by today’s national holiday — some celebrate with a two-four of beer, over-sized sparklers, and things that explode, we get excited about ripening tomatoes — but it looks like the first almost-there tomato could use a day or two more. Based on when I started the seeds and planted out this still qualifies it as the fastest growing heirloom determinate I have ever grown.
I am growing three ‘Whippersnapper’ plants this year: one in an upside-down container (seen in photo), one in an upright container, and one in-ground at my community garden plot. Based only on growing experience and without a taste or texture test, this variety is poised to knock ‘Sunrise III’ out as the reigning cherry-sized, medium-small (the plants are bushing but seem to need a container that is about 1 ft-1.5 ft deep) determinate champion. And it’s not a hybrid which means I can save the seeds!
I’ll let you know how it makes out in the categories of flavor and texture when the time comes.
This is one of those ideas that is insanely simple yet effective. Grow a couple of lettuce varieties with pretty leaf shapes and bright colours. Put them together in a container that sets off their leaf colours or grow them in individual pots of a contrasting colour. In this case I have two leaf lettuce varieties with very curly leaves and contrasting colours (‘Ruby’ and ‘Henderson’s Black-Seeded Simpson’) set off by a black metal container. Hint: Chartreuse and yellowish greens always looks good when paired with deep reds or purple.
The key to keeping lettuce happy on a hot deck is to move the container to a less intense spot when the heat of summer kicks in and make sure to keep the soil moist — they’ll get bitter faster if they experience too much drought. You can cut each leaf off individually (remove from the outside if you want to keep a nice rosette) or just chop the whole thing off about an inch or so from the soil line and set the plant aside (somewhere less visible unless you’re comfortable with the stubby bits on display) until it grows back a second harvest.
By the end of the second round the leaves are usually too bitter to eat. Don’t toss it out into the composter just yet! You can still get some use out of your lettuce by setting the plant into hotter sun (don’t forget to water!) and allowing the plant to bolt. Bolting is when a plant produces flowers and then seeds prematurely in a mad rush to reproduce itself when the growing conditions become too extreme. This is usually caused by the increasing heat of summer and intense sun. The colour will often deepen in hotter sun and some lettuce varieties will grow into crazy, alien towers with pretty flowers perched on top. Don’t bother trying to eat it at this point since it will taste horrible and ooze a gluey substance when cut, but it makes a very cheap and easy bright spot when set amongst boring edibles like tomatoes and potatoes.