Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pre-Hurricane Pickings

I've got sunshine on a cloudy day.
It is a sad thing to get a good distance into a season and have it wracked by rain and wind but that is the nature of gardening. Times like this make me think of how close to the edge people lived before all the conveniences I enjoy. And then, there are the Haitians. People still living in our hemisphere with no cushion to protect them from one bad day.
A few days ahead of Hurricane Matthew I went out and picked lettuce, green tomatoes and all the peppers. Our in-ground beds are puddles. Today I am thankful I have raised beds though I do not have much belief that the lettuces can stand the hammering they are getting. As of this typing we have had 7" of rain and have many hours more to go. I have a few seedlings on the porch protected from the storm. And, on the sunny side and there will be a sunny side, there will still be enough warmth and sunshine to replant some things like kale, lettuce, Swiss Chard and turnips. Making plans even as we taking a lashing. Gardener, a synonym for optimist.

I Need Some Space, Man.

Fall planning and planting is in full swing here. Every day I plant, transplant or repot something. It really is the best time to garden here in Southeastern NC. Two days ago I planted a second round of mustard. This morning they are up! Here's where the space is important. Some plants require lots of space. Broccoli, kale and cabbage need space. Summer plants like tomatoes and okra do too. They get big. They require lots of water and food and produce for months. Mustard, carrots, turnips, beets and lettuce, not so much. They can be thinned, eaten as micro-greens in salads and the remaining plants left to get bigger. I broadcast turnips and mustard because when prepping for cooking, small is good. Big leaves require that the stems be removed. Whose got time for that? Mustard, too can be cut and will regrow. How cool is that?
The photos:
Broadcast mustard seeds will be thinned for salads.
Okra planted about 8" apart.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hiding in Plain Sight

Disney has a color they call, Go Away Green. No kidding. Disney uses it to conceal unattractive buildings. Mother Nature invented go away green to conceal the fruit of plants and to help animals hide. Used especially with beans, peas and okra, they melt away into the mother plant. Suddenly, you are faced with six inches long (or longer) okra pods that are tough enough to use in furniture making. This fine example of   hide and seek in the garden okra is six inches long and is inedible, even in gumbo. Okra is best at three to four inches. Green beans do the same thing. But at least they can be shelled and the beans within eaten. Peas. Ew. Yuck. They become starchy. At least my neighbor’s chickens like them. Beware those go away greenies! Look at your plants from different angles and really study them when harvesting. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Gift The Keeps On

Field peas. I grew up eating them mostly at my grandmother's house. She always seemed to have a pot on the stove, day and night. Say you were hungry, her response, "Fix yourself a bowl of peas." It worked, staving off hunger for hours. I plant Celie's Peas. A gift from a neighbor who learned of my gardening adventures. Heirloom, I have saved the seeds, like her family for years now. They are amazingly generous plants. They are vining peas growing over 9 feet tall in a circle around on old wooden ladder for support they yield pods with up to fourteen peas per pod.  Reminiscing
with my Aunt Nina who died at 89 a few years back, she declared that there were winters when they might surely have starved if it had not been for field peas. Aunt Nina did not joke about hunger. She also informed me that when the hens stopped laying in the darkest days of winter, it was very hard, in the saddest voice.
When I first began gardening and it wasn't so easy, I remember thinking about my grandmother and how she and my grandfather together grew and raised almost everything they ate. If they could do it, so could I, because...well, so could I.
Today I picked a mess o' peas, have a full pot cooked in the fridge and will have some for lunch. With cornbread, there is no finer meatless meal.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Subtract six inches and they are still tall! 

It's been dry. We water but it is not the same as a good soaking rain. Then, when I think of soaking rain my mind takes me to the Louisiana rain event and I think maybe watering is OK.
Okra and field peas are steadily and abundantly producing with an occasional tomato. Lots of okra!  Peppers are coming on great. The jalapeƱo plant is amazing this year. Just one plant but soon I'll be freezing for winter use. We also have potatoes from our Spring crop. Last week we had stewed tomatoes and okra. I freeze when we get a glut of anything so there is always something in the freezer to keep us from taking the repeat too often on okra. Field peas? I could eat three meals a day.
Upon our return from Colorado I immediately started planting fall and winter seeds. Evergreen onions are up. Summer crisp and Black Seeded Simpson lettuce plants are putting out true leaves. Cabbage and broccoli seedlings are healthy and have been transplanted to larger pots. I have already give some away and promised some to others.
Our sunflowers were/are amazing, sort of a big surprise. I planted Russian sunflowers this year and they grew to their optimum height. Uh. Ten to 12 feet tall they tower above us. Soon, very soon, we will have lima beans if we water. The tops are covered with tiny pale, creamy yellow flowers. Green beans have also been replanted.
In the fruit category, we had some apples from our  Grimes Golden, the figs were plentiful, there were a few grapes, and we were gifted pears. All in July and early August.
So much to do now that we are transitioning to Fall. Off I go to water...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mother Nature

She giveth and she taketh away, Mother Nature. We've had traditional Southern thunderstorms this year. Every day or so as the heat and humidity rise, so too do the cumulous clouds. Rising and rising getting darker and darker until the rumbling starts soon followed by rain. I am so grateful when it rains! Our garden grows beautiful when we get these intermittent rains, But, night before last we had a doozie! Lightening filled the sky, the rains came down in sheets and the winds were ferocious. The limbs of great oaks lifted and swirled in the wind. The next morning street and yards were littered with large limbs and branches. Power was still out in whole neighborhoods in our small town and the garden had taken a beating. Our field pea tower, made of bamboo, snapped under the pressure. Okra plants, chest high the day before, lay in a whirl on the ground. A block away, following a straight line out from our garden, a giant oak fell on apartment building crushing the roof. Downburst? I think so.  

We heeled up the okra and propped up the field peas and picked up twigs and branches off and on all day. City crews and private owners cleaned up larger limbs and except for the crushed apartment we're back on track waiting for okra to bloom because the fruit forms almost overnight. Waiting. Waiting. Soon.