The Garden Journal - July 4

July always seems like a slow time for the garden - not much is ready to eat, and I always see a few things die in the heat. The battery went out in our timer last week, and the fava beans just shriveled up. I always worry about my water consumption, but I feel the need to water every day because it's so hot. This year I mulched everything with straw, now that the wind has finally died down, and I think I'll try switching to 1 hour every other day with the drip system. A few new things have started blooming in the last couple weeks - at the right is bee balm, which I planted last year, and now it's finally getting established.

The Rose of Sharon in our tiny back courtyard is in full bloom - one of my favorite plants that puts on a great show with very little water.

And the daylilies Dave's mom gave me - the blooms only last a day, but they are so beautiful. Every part of the daylily plant is edible (but make sure you don't confuse them with other, non-edible, types of lilies). I think I'll try using them like squash blossoms!  I also have a few great varieties I bought last year from the daylily society, but they don't seem to be doing much yet. I may need to move some of them to a spot where they can get more water, but I'm afraid to transplant them now - I think it's the wrong time of year. I've heard you're supposed to divide spring-blooming plants like irises in the fall, and summer-blooming plants like daylilies in the spring.

The Stupice (left) and Sungold (right) tomatoes have set their first clusters of fruit!!  I had heard that Stupice was one of the earliest-fruiting tomatoes, and I didn't have good luck with it last year, but this year I am duly impressed.

We made these fabulous tomato cages out of re-mesh, which you can buy at the hardware store in 5x7-foot sheets (it's made for reinforcing concrete slabs). It's my new favorite garden material - great for bean and pea trellises, too. Those tiny tomato cages you get at nurseries just don't cut it here.

Oh gosh - I have a confession to make. You may have noticed, the varieties I started from seed in March are not the same varieties I ended up planting out.  I'm really not so good at starting seedlings!  I had such high hopes for the fluorescent light plan, but I guess I didn't put the light close enough to the plants, because they just never grew more than about 3 inches tall.

I ended up buying starts from the Master Gardener plant sale, and got a few of the same varieties, but I also got a few varieties that I'm much more excited about, that I didn't have seeds for - Black Sea Man, Mortgage Lifter, Japanese Black Trifele, and Costoluto Genovese. Oh, and the Stupice came from the Santa Fe farmers' market.

Anyway, the one that I had started in March that I couldn't live without was the Speckled Roman, which I got from Amyo Farms last year and it was so delicious that I had to save the seeds. So I just planted it outside from seed, and it is coming along nicely... it's about 6 inches tall, and our growing season is long enough that I bet we'll still get a decent crop. It's an incredibly sweet and flavorful paste tomato, perfect for making sauce.

The okra and beans have sprouted and are coming along fine.

And the squash I planted a few weeks ago has sprouted!  I'm not sure whether this is the Tarahumara or Hopi squash, because I forgot to mark which one I planted in each spot.

The volunteer squash in Dave's chile patch is getting huge. We don't have a clue what it is, but it has delicious blossoms!

The Espanola Improved chiles are flowering... this is a variety of New Mexico chile that was bred for the shorter growing season up north. They can be eaten green - they are supposed to be pretty meaty - but they can also be dried for red chile.

Also, there are a couple of volunteer tomato plants in there - probably Yellow Pear. It's such an incredibly vigorous variety, we just keep getting volunteers all over the place. Which is great, because we never have to buy it or save seeds, just wait, and one will surely pop up somewhere.

Oh yeah, and how could I forget? We harvested our first garlic! It's a hardneck variety, I don't remember what, that we got from Eli at Chispas Farm last fall. This spring, he gave me great advice on when to harvest it - wait until all but about 5 leaves turn brown, because each leaf corresponds to a layer of the husk that encases the whole head, and you want those to protect the garlic for storage. I even braided it to hang on the wall until we're ready to use it. 

Now that the garlic is out, I think I'll plant some bush beans in its place. I'd like to try lima beans again - baby lima beans fresh from the garden are sublime. And I picked up some seeds for those wonderful Dragon's Tongue beans at the Urban Store up on Silver, in Nob Hill. They also sell locally produced chicken feed!  It's much cheaper than the organic feed (which you can get from Los Poblanos Organics if you call and ask for it), and this place is closer to us than the feed stores in the valley.


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