Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peas Porridge Hot

It's been a while since I've grown peas, and I wasn't sure exactly what to do with them. One of the good things about raising peas is that, if planted well and evenly spaced, no thinning is necessary.

I thought I'd do two rows of them with a fencelike apparatus between them. The problem was that I had no fencing. I figured that I could rig up something that would serve the same purpose. I started with two tall stakes at either end of the rows. I then used some garden twine to build a web between them that any spider would be proud of. I was delighted when my tall pea plants reached their tiny tendrils out to grab hold of my web, er, fencing.

I found that another perk of raising peas was that there was not an overwhelming number of them when the crop was ripe. I didn't have to go with bushels of peas as offerings to my neighbors. Quite to the contrary. There were relatively few pea pods per plant. It got to be a game between my husband and myself. Each day we'd be on the lookout for plump (but not overripe and bitter) peapods. Rather than pick them for later, I found myself just plucking them, opening them, and popping those sweet young peas, much like candy, into my mouth.

Did I have any peas left over with which to cook? Of course not! I ate them all (unless my husband got a few). To let him know that this quick eating of our pea crop was okay, I left telltale evidence (the empty pods) on the ground. At least he knows a rabbit didn't open the pods quite so neatly.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Tomato Saga

As a kid, I remember looking at my dad's vegetable garden and not thinking much about it other than the fact that gardening was his favorite hobby. Now I truly value all the effort he put into having such a successful garden and wish he were still alive to give me gardening advice that only a father knows how to do.

After many years of not attempting a vegetable garden due to lack of sunlight in my yard, my neighbor, in one fell swoop, decided to chop down three trees shading our house. After bemoaning the summer heat that would overwhelm our house, I began to remember my dad's tomatoes. Sunshine! Tomato plants! They go together, I thought.

Last year's tomatoes, my first tomato plantings after many years, ended up at the end of the season looking not much different than what I would imagine Brer Rabbit's briar patch looked like. Tomato plants hanging out of wire cages in all direction, some even clinging to the ground for dear life.

This year will be different, I thought. No cages this year. They didn't work well last year. My CSA Farmer Pam suggested using long sticks, even broomsticks for staking the plants. My husband (and partner in this endeavor, since this vegetable garden is in honor of our 30th wedding anniversary) volunteered to ride off to Home Depot to get stakes for the tomatoes.

Arriving home, my husband proceeded to show me the stakes. Of course, there was one less stake than we had tomato plants. No problem, I thought. I 'll just tie two plants together. It will be like two tomato plants doing a three-legged race.

My husband (a very strong man!) sledge-hammered the stakes into the ground. Suddenly, the stakes weren't that tall after all. Those plants were tiny. They'll do just fine, I thought.

It had been raining day after day. I don't think I remember an early summer with so much rain. MY CSA Farmer Pam wrote to me about having to change clothes three times in one day to harvest her crops due to the amount of rain and the mud. My tomato plants were not growing. We were at a battle of wills, it seemed.

Off my husband trots to his friend Frank, a landscaper no less, and returns home with fertilizer. "This should do the trick", my husband tell me. He had his friend's word. I believed both of them so I applied the fertilizer to the ground around the tomato plants.

Do you know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk? Well, then you know the end of my tale. The tomatoes grew, and grew, and grew. From somewhere I heard that I had to pinch out the suckers (those branches that grow between the central stem and side branches). I did that, not knowing I was causing my plants to gow even taller. You're wondering where the stakes were at this point, I'll bet. Well, if I were a tomato plant, the stakes would have reached up to my knees.

I decided that I would not allow the plants to get the better of me. One tomato plant that was taller than I was particularly annoyed me. I pinched off its top. There! That made me feel better. Armed with scissors and soft string, I decided to tie all of those gangly giants in place. Now there is string all over my tomato plants. They are gagged, bound, and going nowhere.

They continue to annoy me however. I see myriads of little tomatoes on my plants. They are all quite small and very green. The plants continue to produce small, green tomatoes. There are tons of them. Where are the plump red, delicious tomatoes I was expecting?

The fight goes on.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gardening - Part 1

Oh, my! Summer's half over and I've only made one entry in my written gardening journal. Perhaps I'll do better with this online journal.

This is the State of the Garden as of today.

I pulled up all of my radish plants because they never turned into radishes. However, they did make large bunches of leaves with pretty white flowers. Bah! I grew these plants for food.

I have to figure out why the plants never produced radishes. Here are my theories. I planted them too late in the season. I did not thin them well enough. I had too much nitrogen in my soil. Too late now, I guess, because I just planted lima beans in the former radish spot.

Fool that I am, I took 1/3 of the leaves and made them into radish green soup. Too bad that no one in my family would eat it beside me.

Not to be outdone, I harvested the rest of the radish greens today. I stripped the leaves from the stems, and throughly washed the leaves. Then I blanched them for a few minutes in boiling water. I tossed them into iced water to cool them quickly, drained them and chopped them into small pieces.

Here's the trick. I'm freezing these cooked leaves to put into more soup. In the end, my family will be eating them after all. Victory!

Sssshhhh! It's our secret.