Sunday, July 14, 2013
Summer in the Garden
As summer advances, we're spending more and more time out weeding (or grassing, in our case!), watering, and sowing a few things for a fall garden. We're just starting to see a few ripe tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and beans, and the fava beans and peas have bowed out in the hot weather.
We've had lots of tiny toads around the yard, so we've been rescuing the ones we can catch, hoping to raise them up until they are less vulnerable and release them then. They don't stand a chance against our chickens at this size!
We've also been raising black swallowtail caterpillars, whose eggs were laid on our fennel and dill. We sadly lost 12 of them when we bought a nursery-grown fennel plant to feed them, and realized it too late that it had been sprayed with pesticide. Thankfully more and more eggs are being laid, and we have eight new caterpillars that will hopefully grow to be beautiful butterflies. Butterflies are on the decline with over-use of poison and habitat loss, so we feel that anything we can do to help them is a small sacrifice to make (plus they're quite entertaining!). We have a feeling that eventually we'll have to have a whole room devoted to raising little critters to release in the wild. . .
In addition to harvesting goodies from the garden, we've been taking advantage of as many wild edibles as we can, especially those who would gladly take over our garden if we let them. Lambsquarters and Asiatic day flowers find their way into egg dishes, and we've been adding fresh and dried clover leaves to baked goods (grind them in the blender after drying and before adding) for a boost of extra nutrition. We've even been snacking on the two day lily plants that have been blooming so nicely this year; the petals are very sweet.
We have a nice little hedge of Jerusalem artichokes growing along the fence, from tubers that my mother kindly sent us from our old home in Idaho. These are fantastic, low-maintenance perennial vegetables that are low in sugars and so are wonderful for a diabetic diet. You can grow them from tubers bought at the grocery store, if you can find them in your area, or they can be ordered from seed catalogs.
Here you can see nature's pest control at work~ Assassin bugs are eating a group of aphids on one of the Jerusalem artichoke's leaves. Go get 'em!
I am so excited that my Brandywine tomato growing in a bucket is producing fruit, since I tried growing them in Idaho and they were a mildewy mess. They must like the heat in Missouri!
Here is our messy butterfly garden that is being taken over by Asiatic dayflower and smartweed~ It's a good thing they're both tasty! Our sunflowers , zinnias, and bachelor's buttons should be blooming soon, and the cleome has proven attractive to clearwing moths, if not butterflies.
Our scarlet runner bean plants are huge, but the flowers seem to fall before they form beans. We think it may be because they require insect pollination, and there are few pollinators to be found. All is not lost, however, as the tender leaves make tasty fritters (as do squash leaves, whose prickles soften after cooking)! Someday we'll have to take pictures to share, before they all disappear off the plate. . .
These beautiful purple-flowered beans are Trionfo Violetto pole beans, and they are finally covering our bean house that looked so bare. There are lots of baby beans hanging down, which should make for a good harvest.
We're growing sweet potatoes in a tub by the bean house, too, so its vines will eventually climb up and provide cover. Did you know that the leaves are edible, and make a good salad or stir-fry addition?