An Update From The 2011 Garden-stravaganza

July 26th, 2011 - filed under: The Farm » Flora

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve written about my garden! We’re already well into summer with nary an update. Of course, I’ve been a little busy. And Portland, well, Portland hasn’t really been cooperating. I ran across this graphic on the net today (thanks Monika!) that seemed pretty apt . . . sadly:

Yes, while the rest of the country roasts and toasts with record heat, we’re experiencing highs a good 10 degrees below our average. And it rained last night. And my tomatoes do NOT appreciate it.

But I’m a shiny-side sort of gal, so I’m choosing to see the positive and notice that the season for greens has been extended this year. And you all know how I love me some greens!

Anyway, on to the garden:

Two months ago the northwest bed looked like this, which I described at the time as “blowing up”. Ha! Clearly, it has truly been blown. The borage has reached mammoth heights and provides great shade for the three varieties of kale, which are nestled in the center. I enjoyed that kale all through early summer, and just used up the last of it in a super exciting project, to be posted soon. Borage is a common companion plant and works especially well with brassicas. The little purple flowers are so lovely! If I had been able to find some extra time, I would have been picking them to use in my kitchen. Borage flowers act as both a culinary and a medicinal herb.

Also in the northwest box are calendula flowers, dill, and some mighty snow peas. The snow peas were wonderful just like they are every year, and we made many a stir fry (and many raw meals as well). They’ve pretty much died back by now; I need to get in there and harvest the seeds and clear out the dead brush.

The northeast box is a solid wall of aster tops – cosmos to be exact. You may remember that two months ago, it looked a little barren. Well no more! Still, there’s no sign of blooms which is pretty funny. At least I’m fond of green.

But there’s actually a lot going on under there:

Pumpkin! You may remember how much fun I had with my homegrown pumpkin last year, so I’m super excited for this.

Pumpkin on the run, haha. Okay, moving right along!

The southeast bed is thriving. Two months back this bed was all about the perimeter of spinach. Now that spinach has bolted and I let it go completely to seed. I’d just laid it down to compost right back into the soil, before this picture was taken. I’m wondering if I mightn’t get a fall round of spinach with those seeds!

The zinnias are amazingly, amazingly beautiful. In early spring I simply tossed out a bunch of zinnia seeds and a bunch of basil seeds, but none of the basil took. That’s okay. The zinnias are lovely and they make good companions for my tomatoes. Alas, my poor tomatoes . . .

It’s another rough year for my little red treasures. These late-start summers just suck the momentum right out of them. Poor babies!

But it’s not over yet and I’m not giving up. Tomorrow, we fertilize!

And finally, the southeast bed continues to provide its bounty. It was already doing great in this picture from two months ago, and it’s continued to thrive with an abundance of swiss chard, beet greens, bok choy, and snow peas. I need to harvest the dill, and the walla wallas and beets will be ready in the next few months. Aren’t the calendulas purty? They’re edible, too!

And that about wraps it up for the Bonzai Garden. What about you my friends? How are you growing this year? Is this heat hindering your grand plans, or are you keeping things under control? Do tell!

But be on the lookout for guard chickens. Squawk!

  • Kate

    I finally gardened this year. I had tomatoes, pumkins, beans, and cucumbers (haha, seasons call for totally different times of the year in AZ!). My sweet 100 cherry tomatoes went CRAZY. I had so many! But halfway through the season, they all started dying…I was like wtf?! Then, recently, I learned we Phoenicians have a fungus in our soil, vermiculite, that tends to murder things. :( I haven’t read up on it yet, but it explained my flavorless and sad tomatoes.

    I did get 6 pumpkins that I am proud of! Mine went ‘on the run’ as well!

    Alas, I totally gave up on my cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers love the heat in AZ, but when my afternoon-shaded cukes were wilting by 10 am, it was too discouraging to put that much effort (and WATER) to only get 3 cukes.

    A learned summer, for sure! Hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot out of a winter garden….to be planted soon!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    I’m so jealous of your greens!!!! You’ll definitely get an autumn crop of spinach, I bet. And I’m kicking myself for not planting more flowers – I started on the butterfly gardens too late, though, and I don’t know if they would have survived in this heat.

    The heat wave descended about two days after we left for vacation, and I was pretty worried about my fauna and flora. All of our animals have acclimated very well! It helps that the neighbors who watched our place have a farm of their own and knew what to tend to.

    The heat has scorched almost everything in our back field, but I’m also a shiny-side kind of gal. The seeds are self-sowing from our cover crops, and anything that didn’t survive is just turning back into natural compost. And with the heat, probably at an accelerated rate. We dug all of our potatoes a few weeks ago and are enjoying the last of them. My kitchen garden is doing really well despite the heat, and our neighbor spotted a really big (think seven-footer) rat snake in there — I hope I get a peek so I can photograph it!

    My watermelon, tomato, and pepper plants are all enjoying the heat wave. And we actually got quite a bit of rain last night and this morning, so hopefully our orchard (and my baby fig tree!) will survive the drought.

  • Rebecca

    I look at your dill and have dreams of pickles dancing through my head!

  • TeniseRae

    Ugh! My basil didn’t take either this year. Actually, correction, ONE made it (out of a whole packet of seeds) but it’s just so tiny and pitiful. It looks like it’s surviving but it’s growing REAL slow.

    My tomatoes aren’t happy for sure. All my broccoli bolted real early. Lettuces have bolted. I haven’t been tending them as well though.

    My acorn squash (personally harvested seeds – which make them extra special to me) are doing great. FINALLY! Only one plant survived but it finally took root real good and is huge right now. In fact, it’s taking over my strawberry plants which I didn’t think would happen….but there’s always next year to change that.

    My corn stalks are gettin’ real big. That was another seed packet where I planted the entire thing and only three stalks came up. So bizarre!!

    Onions are doing amazing!! They look huge and I can’t wait to harvest them. LOVE me some raw onions. :D

    Snap peas are gone. They just shriveled and dried up. I wasn’t quite ready for that. My three year old, Wren, and I loved going out there to pick and munch. There’s always the sweet peas but they’re just simply not the same as snap peas. Again…there’s always next year. Hehehe.

    All my pepper plants have failed. I just couldn’t get them hardened up right. They would either fry or get water logged. Still trying to figure out my water system in the greenhouse too.

    I have hosta plants coming up everywhere. We have lots of shade in the front of the house and a bit on the side. I’m attempting to prevent the cats of the neighborhood from thinking my yard is a litter box. Soooo, I put some root stalks in the ground back in spring and they just never came up. So I went and got some more (super cheap) thinking maybe I got some bunk ones or something. Only one came up from that batch. NOW though… they’re coming up everywhere. Every time I find another I’m like, “Oh yeah, I forgot I planted one there.” LOL. Kinda excited they’re all coming up now though. Hooray for harmless cat deterrents. HAHA!!! I just think it’s funny that they’re all just now coming up at the end of July. What a crazy gardening year!!

  • erosan

    One question only: How much jealousy is considered as respectful?

  • whitney

    Dang, come plant a garden for me! I apparently suck at it. :)


  • Meghan

    Oh man. As you know, I’m way excited to finally have a real garden this year. And my update-comment is way too long. BUT I’M EXCITED. It has been a learning experience! We have 3 beds this year, 4 if you count my pathetic attempt at herbs. Bed 1, the “main” bed had brassicas planted in it… kale, cabbage, and that sexy fibinachi vegetable, along with peas and beans, and summer squash/cucumbers. Unfortunately, the neighborhood rabbits that we didn’t know we had ate most of the brassicas, peas and beans, and left the squash a little sad. After erecting a chicken wire fence though, the squash have rebounded! We now have an absurd amount of bennings green tint patty pan squash (which I don’t even like!! Anyone want my seeds?!) and zucchini. And a less absurd amount of slicing cukes and pickling cukes. I replanted some of the brassicas and they are doing ok. After our latest heat wave (Hello, 116 heat indicies!) a few of the zucchini plants seem to be dying. (WHY COULDN’T YOU TAKE THE PATTYPANS?!) Oh yeah, my mammoth basil is also in this bed.

    Bed 2, on the south side of the house, is our main tomato bed. It has 21 plants. We didn’t ammend the soil much because we just started our compost pile and we were too cheap to buy good veganic stuff, so the plants are a little smaller and uh… I dunno, weak looking than they could be. But they are definitely producing tomatoes. But… I don’t know if you know this, livin’ in Oregon. We sure didn’t. Tomatoes can get TOO MUCH SUN. Here we were, picking the best sunniest spot for our tomatoes, and now most of our crops have sun scald. Bah! Sun scald!! Nonsense!

    Our third bed is the tomato annex, with most of our cherries, romas, and a few leftover randoms, along with our peppers: pimentos de padron, jalepenos, and one lonely bell pepper plant. While the neighborbood rodents left the tomatoes more or less alone they were not so kind to the peppers. Sprinkling cayenne around the plants kept them from totally decimating them though!

    I don’t want to talk about my lettuce beds. ;-)

    Next year I want to do better planning with all of the rotating sorts of things you seem to do as the seasons change. I also need to get some more chicken wire… although I feel like it makes the garden LOOK much less gardeny. We also need to work on our blueberry plan, while we got grape plants and fruit trees in this year we ran out of time for blueberries.

  • Lauren – Naturally Seasoned

    Looks good! Love seeing pictures of other people’s gardens. Just did an update on my blog about my garden if you want to check it out. I’m loving the quality time I’m getting with my boys (who are 3 and 4) in the garden, couldn’t ask for a better way to start my days!

  • Sayward

    I love hearing about all your gardens!
    1) I’m super happy to hear that the heat isn’t completely slaughtering you guys.
    2) I love that the growing seasons are SO different throughout the country! Like, obviously – but I totally forget that. So it’s interesting to hear about who’s getting what, when, and where they are. =)

    Not to mention those of you outside the states! So very cool.

    @ Kate – So is your season already over in Arizona?? If you’ve already gotten your pumpkins . . . so what do you do for the rest of summer? And what do you carve in October?! =D

    @ Monika – Oh, I hope I do get that fall spinach! And flowers – I’m never not companion planting again! Vegetables are wonderful and practical, but flowers have had a whole other level of *delightful* to the garden. I could use a little extra whimsy in my life, and I love it. Also, none of my watermelon made it, so consider me JEALOUS!

    @ Rebecca – Yup! I stole a little for a green smoothie yesterday, but mostly I’m just going to let them go to flower and use the flower heads in my fall pickles. =)

    @ TeniseRae – Yay! I was hoping to hear from you! You know, I’ve had horrible luck with basil here in Oregon. And peppers – eek! I’ve never really gotten peppers to thrive in the ground here. It sounds like our gardens have had a lot of the same incidents and issues, which makes sense I guess. I didn’t do corn this year! I want to, definitely next year. Good luck with the cats!

    @ erosan – Aw, thank you. Especially since my good camera is broken and I’m totally dissatisfied with these pictures and almost didn’t post them.

    @ whitney – Girl, it’s such a learning process. I yielded nothing – NOTHING – the first *two* years I gardened. Every year I get less than I wanted, but learn so much, and the next year gets better. It’s fun that way!

    @ Meghan – Ahaha, you crack me up. Seriously, I was laughing out loud all by myself, haha. I don’t really like pattypans either! Like, at all! My neighbor gave me one last year and it sat on our counter for seriously like, 2 months. But I love hearing all about your adventures. Sounds like you’ve been doing a ton and sounds like you learned a lot for next year. I am MAJORLY jealous of your tomatoes. Are you going to can them?

    @ Lauren – WOW! Wow wow wow, gorgeous! You have so much land, that’s amazing. Where do you live? Livin’ the dream man. I hope to join in some day. =)

    Also, your little bubs is adorable with his kale chips!

  • TeniseRae

    Wait…we have more than a couple Oregonians here???

  • Sayward

    @ TeniseRae – In this post I think it’s just you and me (I think??), but on Bonzai in general there’s a bunch of us!

  • TeniseRae

    NICE!! Well, if there’s any southern Oregonians specifically…send em my way! lol. I love talkin’ to fellow gardeners. :D

  • Sayward

    Some day I will organize a big Bonzai meet-up. Some day!

  • TeniseRae

    That would, and will be, most awesome!!!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    A Bonzai meet up is a MUST! (Not that I can just hop on a plane on a moment’s notice, but with adequate planning . . . )

  • Lauren – Naturally Seasoned

    I live on the seacoast of New Hampshire, about 3,000 miles east of you. ;)
    Like to think I’m living the dream, but it’s more like a work in progress!
    Enjoy the rest of your day, we’re headed out to our favorite farmers’ market in a bit. Oh how I love my market. I think it’s become a bit of an obsession, atleast it’s a healthy one!

  • Meghan

    My husband and I are Oregonians (he is for real, I only lived there from ages like… 11-20) but we are stuck on the east coast now. Booooo. My in-laws have been having tomato troubles this year as well, they have big bushy plants, but no tomatoes! Same thing happened last year. They don’t over-fertilize, so I don’t know what the deal is. I miss Oregon, but I guess I can take solace in my tomatoes, peppers, and basil. ;-)

    I’m not sure if we are going to can tomatoes this year or not. We had originally planned on it, but I don’t know how much “extra” we are really going to have, and my priority is more on freezing tomato-based soups to eat when I’m too busy being fat and pregnant/a new mom in the winter this year. Next year will (hopefully!) be a canning year though.

  • Mandie

    I hope this link works! I planted a garden at my parents house that I see once a week, and I’ve been documenting each week! I live in NY, and planted my garden SUPER late, so I’m satisfied with anything I get! Already planning next year’s garden :)

  • Mandie
  • Sayward

    @ Mandie – Awesome, love the tires! And jealous of the tomatoes. =)