Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thoughts on a rainy day

I was not prepared for the rain to come back today. Usually, we have a few more weeks of sunshine and warm temperatures before the fall rains set in. But today, the last day of August, is rainy and chilly. It makes me want to curl up with a warm sweater in front of the fire and read a good book.

After finishing Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," I started writing down what I've harvested so far this summer. My tomato yields so far have been pretty low, although there are a ton of little green tomatoes on the vines just waiting to ripen up. I figured out why the brandywines have been blossoming, but not fruiting, and seem to have fixed the problem. Turns out that I was watering too frequently and too shallowly. I switched to a program of watering deeply twice a week, and have been rewarded by the sight of more little brandywines peeking out of their blossoms. I am certainly hoping for a good yield.

I made a bit of a mistake harvesting my broccoli. I didn't know that, if you cut off the heads, the broccoli will just keep creating new ones. So I pulled it up completely. My roommate TJ informed me about the wonderful regenerating powers of broccoli, so I quickly put the plants back in the ground. They seem to be recovering okay.

I'm trying to decide what to grow in my fall garden, and whether or not to overwinter some crops. I'll be missing the Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair this year because I'll be summitting Mt. St. Helens that day (so excited!), so I can't pick up any vegetable starts there. I might go check PCC or the nursery for some starts -- we'll see. I've already started swiss chard, lettuce, green onions, and radishes. I wasn't so great at planning out my little raised bed this year, so I won't have a lot of space until the tomatoes come out -- probably not until October.

If I overwinter anything, it will be garlic. I love garlic, and didn't grow any this year, as you have to sow garlic in the fall. I might also overwinter some carrots, snow peas, spinach, and lettuce. I haven't decided yet. Or, I could just sow some fava beans to fix nitrogen to my soil. I'll have to think on this some more.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Waiting for Brandywines

Seattle's weather has been downright schizophrenic lately. We had a pretty big heat wave over the weekend with temps up in the 90s. That's hot for us. Especially when it's humid. Then it's pretty unbearable. Before all of you East Coasters complain that "we have no idea what real weather is like" out here, remember that we have to deal with clouds and gloom for much of the year. And that in Seattle, when it's humid, it's usually raining. This Northwest gal's body just isn't built for humidity!

Every day, I go out and check the tomatoes. Following a tip from Barbara Kingsolver, I've been keeping track in my journal about which varieties are producing quite a few tomatoes, and which aren't. The tiny yellow taxi plant I damaged with a Wall-O-Water (future tip -- these things aren't really all that self-supporting) has produced three tomatoes for me so far, and there's a nice big one on the vine that will get ripe. The Peacevine cherry tomatoes are finally starting to ripen up. The plant literally has hundreds of tomatoes on it. And they're super tasty! The stupice and rainbow heirloom varieties are all producing tomatoes quite nicely, although nothing is ripe yet. But the big prize are the brandywines.

The brandywine tomato is my favorite tomato. It is big, juicy, and just about the tastiest thing ever. I know growing brandywines can be a challenge given our cool Northwest climate, but I wanted to try. Every day, I go out and check my red and yellow brandywine plants. And most days, nada. The yellow brandywine has two tomatoes on it and appears to be pretty healthy. The red brandywine has only one, and its blossoms are falling off.

Now, being a semi tech-savvy gardener, I googled why tomato blossoms can dry up and fall off. Turns out that extreme variations in temperature could be a culprit. And we've gone from 60 to 90 back to 70 again. A couple sites recommended that I change my watering practices, watering once or twice a week deeply instead of every other day. I will also try this and see what happens.

Hopefully I will have some brandywines soon. If not, I found out at the Wallingford Farmers Market today that I'll soon be able to buy 20 pounds of canning tomatoes for $25. Who wants to help me with Can-a-pa-looza?

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Accident-Prone Gardener

Turns out that I will be able to celebrate "Sneak A Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day" on August 8th after all. I pulled my Achilles playing soccer yesterday, and will not be going on a planned backpacking trip this weekend. I'm kinda bummed. I was really looking forward to getting out in the mountains. If it feels better (and I'm hoping it will if I stay off it today and tomorrow), I may go hike up Mt. Townsend or something. But the way your body moves day hiking is different than the way your body moves backpacking -- not to mention the amount of weight on your back -- so no backpacking. I console myself with the fact that there will be other trips, and that I will have things to harvest this weekend.

I'm a little bit accident-prone. Well, more than a little. I sprained my ankle so many times at Camp Parsons that the guys used to call spraining your ankle "pulling an Anna." If there's a hidden hole, I will probably find it. If there's something to hit one's head on, I'll find it too. It's hard to be aware of all the things that can hurt you when your head is in the clouds, or daydreaming about all the tomatoes in the garden.

Anyway, I'll be around this weekend. I believe that injuries are my body's way of telling me "Anna Elizabeth, you need some rest." So I will listen to my body. I'm trying to be better about doing that. If I listen to my body, I will take care of it. And I'm not going to get another one, you know. So I'd better be happy with and take care of what I've got!

On a completely unrelated note in this rather rambling post that has little to do about my garden, I've been thinking a lot about Whitman lately. Ten years ago this month I was a college freshman. Ten years. Wow. It is so hard to believe it's been that long. It feels like yesterday we were all arriving fresh out of high school, ready to enjoy the time of our lives. I remember meeting Ella in C-section, the long rides I used to take in the wheatfields, and long passionate debates with friends about nothing and everything all over again.

I found the journal I kept during my first couple years of college, and it's really taking me back to that time 10 years ago, when I was 18, fresh-faced, and eager for the rest of my life to begin. It's wonderful, reading these old posts to see what has changed and what has not. There are definitely some times when I want to go back to 18-year-old me and tell her not to be so sensitive -- that it's not the end of the world. There are some things that I am really glad I wrote about -- the candlelight vigil we held on September 11th, the death of one of my favorite professors, the time one of my friends engineered a serenade for me because I felt so lonely on Valentine's Day freshman year. I'm so glad I wrote everything down that I started keeping a journal again. I hadn't written anything in an actual journal for about two years.

And that's what this accident-prone gardener has been thinking about on this Friday. Hope all my readers are doing well.