Hey. Hello. Hi. Here I am!
I know… it’s been a while.
This has been such a wild, whirlwind of a summer. Owning a business on the island has been both an exhilarating and draining experience, not to mention a learning experience. Now that we’re a solid 2 months in, I’m thrilled to report that, thanks to a big team of ahhhmazing employees, Soulberri is now being run without us having to be there 24/7. It’s a little scary, no doubt, but necessary in order for us to get back to doing the things we really love. For Chaser, it’s architecture, and for me, it’s blogging.
It feels great to be back in the garden again. There was absolutely no way I was going to let the summer go by without planting one. Even with all the craziness of opening a cafe earlier this spring, I still managed to carve out enough time to get all my favorite plants in the ground. We’re just about at that point in the season when things are really starting to take off, and I’m absolutely reveling in it.
I’ve been watching my garden videos from last season and they’ve been serving as an incredibly valuable tool. I can see exactly what was happening at this moment one year ago and make decisions based on previous outcomes. I want to continue making these videos and writing about the garden, if for no other reason than to be a reference point for the future. I hope you find this entertaining and informative, and if not, I promise to have some awesome garden-inspired recipes for you very, very soon.
I did a lot of things differently this year, and so far it’s been paying off. One of the main things is that I haven’t been over-doing it like I’ve always done in the past. This is perhaps my biggest lesson learned. Less is more. Relax and let nature take it’s course. I’m usually so overzealous with planting in the beginning that I neglect to do other, more important things… like planting in an organized way, without overcrowding. I have limited space and a bad habit of just throwing things anywhere they’ll fit… only to later realize they don’t fit once they actually start growing.
Note to self for future gardening: Mulch, mulch, mulch.
Why did I always sleep on this in the past? Answer: laziness, mostly. But boy has it made such a difference. There are a few reasons:
- Moisture control, less need for watering. Mulch holds moisture in and keeps the soil from drying out too fast, which has resulted in less stress on my plants (namely tomatoes) and is keeping them healthier overall. This is my first year on record without any blossom end rot and I’m fairly certain it can be attributed to even moisture levels thanks to my new friend, mulch.
- Disease barrier. Mulch keeps soil from splashing up onto leaves, thus protecting them from many soil-borne illnesses (blight, etc.).
- Weed control. This one is kind of obvious. There are so many fewer weeds where I mulched and they’re easier to pull. Duh!
I didn’t have a chance to plant a spring garden this year (aside from a handful of radishes), but luckily there were many “volunteers”, perennials, and overwintered greens from the previous season to keep me happy. I had some kale, chard, a few different lettuces, a whole bunch of arugula, rhubarb, strawberries, chamomile, mint, chives, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram. Oh! And garlic. I had lots of garlic emerge this spring, which I wasn’t so sure about considering I didn’t get around to planting it until mid-January (much later than usual).
I just finished harvesting almost all of said garlic, except for two heads I’m letting go to seed. Although this crop wasn’t as big as in previous years, it’s big enough, and there are several large heads I’ll be saving strictly for replanting in the fall. It’s currently hanging to cure/dry (see top photo!) and should be ready just in time to be eaten with all of the tomatoes.
The past two years I really struggled with my tomatoes. Part of the reason can be attributed to environmental factors, while the other part can only be chalked up to user error (and maybe a little bad juju after boasting about how great they were the year before). This year, knock on wood, the plants are all looking pretty strong. Some, more than others of course, but I think at this point in the game it’s safe to say I’ll be getting a pretty decent harvest.
Here’s what I’m growing this year:
I have a sun gold hybrid, a sun sugar hybrid (very similar super sweet orange cherry tomatoes) on the far side of my garden along with a pineapple tomato (small, round blushing pale yellow) and a beefmaster (huge red beefsteaks). All four of these plants are doing exceptionally well with very few signs of disease or major problems. Even if only these 4 plants produce, I’ll still have a pretty decent crop.
In my main tomato bed, I planted 8 different heirloom varieties. These are all favorites of mine that I’ve been planting the past few years. Nothing new this time. I have a cherokee purple (medium sized, purplish maroon color with unique flavor), kellog’s breakfast (large, orange, very sweet), brandywine OTV (okay, I lied- I’ve never grown these before! OTV stands for “off the vine”), black zebra (small, round, deep maroon with dark green stripes), green zebra (small, round, yellowish green with dark green stripes), big zebra (large, bright green with orange/yellow/red stripes), aunt ruby’s german green (medium to large, pale green with a blush when ripe, unique and amazing flavor), and yellow brandywine (large, yellow, very sweet).
I’ve researched and tested the best tasting varieties and these are all at the top of the list. I also try to plant a nice mix of colors and sizes.
Although my tomatoes are doing better than usual, there are still problems to be managed. Pictured above is an early sign of blight or, heck, who knows exactly what it is, but it’s something. It actually looks like it could be a bit of leaf miner damage, which would make sense considering how much I’ve noticed the signs of these pests on other plants. But I have seen bits of yellowing due to what I’m sure is a fungal disease of some sort – it happens every year and I’ve come to just accept it. This year I started spraying every 1-2 weeks with a copper fungicide as a preventative measure and I think it’s been working pretty well. Although constant rain storms and crazy humid weather lately has not been helping.
I did have to rip out my beloved big zebra plant about a week ago. Three years back I had an absolute bumper crop of big zebra tomatoes, but this year, just like the past two years, I’ve lost this pant entirely. I believe it to be either fusarium or verticillium wilt, leaning to the latter since the leaves did not yellow first. They just shriveled up and died. I performed the water test to see if it was bacterial wilt, and thankfully, it showed no signs. The plant grew like crazy at first and then suddenly stopped growing, and then began rapidly wilting and dying. I decided to rip it out sooner than later in order to protect the other plants around it. There seemed to be no nematode damage on the roots, thankfully.
Now I’m starting to see symptoms of the wilt on my prized aunt ruby. She’s one of my favorite tasting and looking tomatoes – I’ve always been a sucker for the green ones. I’m also seeing signs on the cherokee purple – a total bummer. That one is filled with fruit, so I plan on letting it before I rip them out. I think they’ve come far enough where we should at least be able to harvest something. And as long as I’m harvesting something, I’ll be happy.
Zucchini! Theres been tons of it. But in a good way! Not too much… Yet. And, hey, guess what… I have a recipe in the works. Get pumped.
Cucumbers! None yet, but coming very soon.
Eggplant! Yowza. This is my first year having a bumper crop of eggplant. I haven’t harvested any yet, and of course it could all wind up going downhill, but I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a crazy amount come August. I’ll keep you posted, but so far, so good.
Chile peppers! The past few years have seen awesome harvests of peppers. This year is shaping up to be the same with some of my favorite varieties absolutely bursting with fruit. A few more weeks and these babies should start coming in like mad.
Tomatillos! It’s looking like a great year for these guys as well. Soon enough we should have plenty to harvest.
Herb garden! I’m stoked to have this new garden bed specifically for herbs just a few steps from my kitchen. I’m hoping to keep it going even after the season – perhaps I can put some sort of protective cover over top to keep it from getting too cold in the winter. Any suggestions?
I have 4 different types of sage growing this year, along with parsley, tarragon, lemon verbena, dill, and 5 different kinds of basil. The lettuce leaf basil is my favorite right now – the leaves are bigger than my hands and would make amazing, aromatic lettuce wraps. Last night we ate them mixed right into a salad. Nothing tastes more like summer than freshly picked basil.
I missed out on the sping garden this year but I’m really looking forward to planting a fall garden for once. I always mess up on the fall garden and don’t start thinking about it until it’s way too late. This year I’m getting an early start. Just recently I planted brussels sprouts, beets, and carrots. I’m eager to get some lettuces and other cooler weather crops in the ground as well, so hopefully I’ll have plenty to work with come September, October, November, and maybe even later on.
Thanks for coming along on my fantastic garden voyage. I’m so happy to be cooking, gardening, and blogging again, and even happier that you’re here with me. New recipes coming very, very soon.