A Potpourri of Garden Notes
August 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
For the past few seasons I’ve planted garlic of the Red Russian variety – in part because I like the mild taste, and because of its pretty, purple skin. Normally, I cut the scapes to eat before they flower, but this summer I let some stick around to open into full bloom. But they never did. Instead, the tiny clusters of what I thought were flowers stayed wrapped up in an ever-increasing bulbous, purple-y mass. What?! I finally peeled away the thin, paper-like protective layer to reveal the mystery…..baby garlic bulbs! I’m confused as to what transpired as I would have expected seeds to form instead, but once again I’m fascinated by nature’s surprises. I plan to plant these little bulbs in the fall and see what happens come next July/August.
Along with the unexpected baby garlic, I’ve been collecting various other seeds. I never lose my amazement when I hold seeds in my hand and think that from it sprouts something so vitally important. As an aside, gardening continually cultivates a child-like wonderment and joy in me, and every season I discover new things that amaze me. Have you ever really noticed how delicate and beautiful the first growth of a bean or pea pod is? If not, take a moment to do so the next time you wander about your garden.
But back to seed collecting…I don’t let everything go to seed, but I’m starting to become more keen on having my own seeds rather than buying them all. This year I collected sage seeds for the first time, along with lavender. And of course, chive seeds are always in abundance to collect or self-seed.
I’ve also been drying herbs like sage, oregano, parsley and thyme for use in soups, stews and whatever else is made, as well as making forays into tea. German chamomile, spearmint, and mint grows well in my garden, so a blend of those three was an easy first attempt. I dried the flowers of the chamomile separately from the mint leaves, crushed them, then blended them together once fully dried. The result is a soothing and mild taste that I can proudly say I made from garden to teacup 🙂
On the potato front, I recently harvested the last tubers of Red Chieftain (I harvested Sieglinde potatoes earlier on. Both varieties were planted unchitted…of course :)), which were growing by the oregano. At one point I pulled my dirt-covered hands from the ground to enjoy the presence of the honey bees buzzing all over the tiny oregano flowers. They paid no attention to me even though we were side-by-side. It struck me that the bees and I were fine with each others presence because we each had what we needed without disturbing each other. When I later went back with camera in one hand to capture them, and scissors in the other to harvest, I made sure to leave a good amount of flowering stems for the bees to continue to enjoy. I couldn’t help but put in two photos of the bees in action because it really is neat to see how they gather pollen from such delicate, tiny flowers.
While the garden is mostly veggies, I have some flowers that I grow for the purpose of attracting pollinators or other beneficial insects, and some for the additional bonus of eating. This year I planted a Shungiku chrysanthemum on a whim for that very thing. I’ve added the greens to soups and stir-fries, and I’m contemplating using the flowers for tea. Or making a pretty bouquet with the flowers is also an option.
A less inspiring facet of gardening that has grabbed my reluctant attention is powdery mildew. Every season it spreads over the leaves of my squash, cucumber and zucchini leaves. I’ve read here and there that a 2 part water to 1 part milk solution sprayed on the leaves can help, so this year I decided to give it a try. Earlier this week I took off the worst affected leaves and then sprayed the remaining with the solution. Apparently spraying once a week is the program to follow, so I’ll try that. After a couple of days it does appear that the mildew hasn’t spread or infected new leaves, but I think it might be too early to tell yet if this is a successful method. Has anyone else tried this? And to what success?
One final note and photo….when it comes down to it, one of the best aspects (if not the best!) of gardening is stepping out the door and harvesting whatever is at hand. Yesterday was a bit cooler than previous days, so I made a veggie soup that included some fresh picks from the garden. The strawberries and ground cherries were a sweet bonus 🙂