Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Going into Fall: Garden Update

Here near the White Mountains of Arizona, the tomatoes in our outside garden began ripening in August after the cherry tomatoes in our greenhouse began turning golden and red in late July. Again this year, we have way more cherry tomatoes than we can eat right away so Tom began dehydrating them. They are very tasty dried, crunchy and tart-sweet, and I can't wait to try them in a pasta dish or soup this winter. 

The basil, which I planted in July, took a little longer to grow in the cooler monsoon weather. The plants certainly don't grow as tall here as they did in the warmer, wetter climate of southeastern Louisiana. Next year I'm going to try growing a few basil plants in our greenhouse, where this summer and last, tomato plants have pushed against the ceiling and walls, making the greenhouse a maze to negotiate. Later I plan to make some pesto with basil that I picked yesterday and today; the plants are beginning to bloom, but I've been pinching the blooms, hoping to encourage more growth in the last warm days of late summer.

I am very happy with my kitchen garden, which took a little while to take off in the cooler weather of spring and early summer. We will see if any of the perennials--rosemary, oregano, thyme, mint--will survive the winter.
kitchen garden in back yard
basil, orange mint, rosemary in kitchen garden
peppers, oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, tarragon in kitchen garden
In mid-summer, I planted sunflower seeds from a packet I had bought off a local hardware shelf, and those plants are now blooming. A couple of sunflower plants sprouted early in the garden, free sown probably by some passing bird, and those began blooming in the early summer. I love a garden that's a little messy with such surprises, unexpected blooms and wildly overgrown plants exhibiting their uncontained nature. 

sunflower surprise--Winds blew down one plant, but it continued to bloom

This past weekend I dug the potatoes that Tom planted in the early summer. The harvest was not quite as large as we had hoped from the one row that Tom planted of white potatoes he bought at a nursery in a nearby town and the few red potatoes he planted from a grocery purchase that had sprouted in our pantry. However, those white potatoes are very tasty cooked with the purple snap beans we planted. I add sauteed onions and garlic to peeled and diced potatoes and snap beans and just barely cover with homemade vegetable stock, cooking until the potatoes are soft and the beans still slightly chewy. Tonight I think I'll cook the potatoes with dill from my kitchen garden. 
The potato digging begins.
the first pail of white potatoes
The squash was very prolific and is still blooming though the blooms are fewer than earlier in the summer. Tom saved the seed from plants we grew last year, and at least one of the plants that sprouted seems to have crossed with gourds that I grew last year, a little too green-tasting for consumption so I am letting the fruits grow to see if they will harden like gourds. If the cross-pollinated fruits prove disappointing as gourds, maybe the chickens will like the seeds. The peppers we grew also produced well. I love cooking vegetable casseroles with various combinations of bell peppers, poblano peppers, squash, onions, tomatoes, and grated cheeses. 

Gardening ..... good for...

the body...
...and soul...

Enough at summer's end
(from my journal)

Cassie the cat chews on leaves of blue grama
in the shade of a pear tree planted
by a previous owner undaunted by 12-inch annual precipitation
in this Round Valley of volcanic mountains and ancient ridges of lava flows.
The leaves of cowpen daisy shrivel in the dry approaching fall,
summer's monsoon now a memory of moisture.
Cassie curls up in soft mounds of last year's hay I scattered
to mulch the wilder area of our backyard,
flags of blue grama waving above her in the breeze.
Her ears twitch at every sound--a neighbor's truck slipping into a covered drive,
a bird calling from a nearby, summer-long unmowed yard,
a small dog barking, and the dry whir of grasshopper wings.
As I sit here the pain in my jaw recedes, 
a lifetime of teeth problems willed away by quiet beauty.
For a little while, this moment, this blue sky, these fading flowers, 
and the companionship of a shade camouflaged cat....
are enough.


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