1524 NW 21, in the Gatewood Neighborhood of Oklahoma City
R. Waldrop, Urban Hobbit and Forest Edge Gardener
For information about our plans for adapting our”urban homestead” to meet the looming challenges of peak oil, climate instability, and economic irrationality, see Gatewood Urban Homestead, the permaculture design for our home.
This page chronicles the ongoing development of our gardening project, now in its third year. For more information, including a detailed list of plants, see 2002 plant list and garden report .
April 13, 2002
It’s been pretty wet this week, but I managed to sneak in during a dry spot and plant a “polyculture” of salad crops. This is a fancy word for broadcasting 8 different kinds of lettuce, plus some buckwheat, radish and herb seeds, on two of our new beds. It should come up real thick, and as soon as it does, I’ll start thinning and putting the thinnings into the salad bowl.
And as the plants get bigger, I’ll just keep thinning and having more salad, eventually some plants will mature and then the summer will heat up and everything will bolt but it will be nice while it lasts. I don’t have as many shady spots as I did last year so I’m dubious about nursing anything through August, but if the heat breaks early in
September I’m doing the same thing again then. As soon as the soil dries a bit, the next planting will be to keep adding to a polyculture of perennial salad. Right now I have a good bunch of salad burnet going, which made it through both summer heat and winter cold this past year. I’m going to try to add mitsuba, bloody dock to that bed, and maybe also some lambs quarters, which is an annual, but as it is basically a weed (to most people), it should self seed just fine. I’ll probably also sprinkle on some good king henry too, although I sprinkled plenty last year and had no sprouts.
I also planted one bed to grain amaranth, last year I planted”love lies bleeding” and didn’t get any grain, hopefully this year I’ll get some actual grain. The agrotriticum is doing great, some of it is getting 3 feet tall, I’m expecting heeds to start forming. And I planted the Cherokee rose I brought back from Tahlequah.
I have luffas, cherokee tomatoes, and scarlet runner beans started in pots, I think I already mentioned those.
And speaking of luffas, if you’re still using foam rubber sponges and vinyl scrubbies to do your dishes, dump them for some nice luffa sponges. We buy them at the farmers market; I paid $3 for a big one two weeks ago, and it’s going to last a long time. Plus it doesn’t get stinky the way wet sponges do.
All of the plants we planted in March and the first week of April (that would be the elderberries, blackberries, dewberries,
strawberries, clove currants, peach, apricot, trees) are doing fine. The garlic is so tall it looks like corn plants. The day lilies are
up and running, and have tasted very delicious choped and scrambled with free range chicken eggs and garlic chives snipped from a patch beside the front walk. We’ve decided to bail from the CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) system as much as possible, even if that means eating less meat until we are able to find local organic sources. For anyone who thinks that free range eggs and agribizness eggs are the same product, all I can say is, “buy a dozen free range eggs and discover a new delicious food you have never et before.”
My grapes are all budding, and one of the apple trees, which I thought had lost its flowers to the frost, is sporting a huge crop of flowers to go with its nice green leaves. The trees I’ve planted this year have started to issue little buds, except for the pecan tree, here’s hoping I didn’t get a “dud”. So let those beautiful rains keep on coming.
April 16, 2002
It’s a nice cool cloudy day in Oklahoma City, we had a bit of rain before noon. I planted some more asparagus this morning (I’ve decided it’s hard to have too much asparagus), and then went to the neighborhood nursery (independently owned), and picked up 2 horehound, 3 bee balm (monarda), 2 oregon grape bushes, 2 lemon mint (tasted very lemony), 2 chocolate mint (the leaf tasted like one of those chocolate mints you get at a restaurant checkout), 3 Roman chamomile (couldn’t get it to sprout last year), 3 French sorrel (perennial salad green), 4 habenero peppers (another problem with sprouting), and some cabbage and broccoli plants to insert here and there in the midst of everything else.
I’m about to get a “stunning” color display (if I do say so myself). I planted crimson clover last year, and even though we chopped a lot of it down, we also sprinkled the seed over the rest of the lawn and the paths, and a lot of that is very pretty right now. It’s sprouting buds all over which are about to open into a beautiful crimson blossom.
That makes 10 more edibles, 6 of which are perennial, plus the heirloom Cherokee tomatoes I have started nin pots that I forgot to
include in yesterday’s “snapshot”, for a total of 92 varieties of edible or useful plants planted or up and growing, of which 28 are
annuals, 3 are self seeding. 64 are perennials or trees. I’ve also decided to add some Mennonite sorghum I’ve got, and bloody dock and lambs quarters for the perennial salad bed, and parsnips to the annuals.
While getting the plants this morning, I also picked up three sections (10′ each section) of 2′ and 3′ decorative wire flower bed “fences”. I’m going to fool around with them a bit, and maybe decide to enclose one large section of our yard in them (90′ X 30′). With all these luffas and scarlet runner beans and passion flowers in pots, I’m thinking this kind of low (and cheap) fence would be great for them to grow on, and the various colors of flowers would be quite attractive. Maybe add a blue morning glory or two.
Maybe that will help stop the problem of people cutting across that yard and stepping on the planting beds.
Pulled a bit of Johnson grass this morning. It’s actually one of the parent crops of cultivated sorghum, and the seeds are edible. It does tend to take over, however, and I’m betting it takes a lot of territory to make a useful amount of the Johnson grass seed/grain.
More than I’ve got, so it gets pulled and composted, preferably before the seed heads form.
An Oklahoma farmer once told me back when I was growing up, “It’s a good thing most Johnson grass seed isn’t fertile. Otherwise, the world would be covered with it.”
The other good news is that there’s something sprouting where I’ve been planting Good King Henry seed for the past year. Four packets of seed. One year later, there’s shoots of something coming up that wasn’t there last year. Maybe a weed, maybe it’s the potherb I’ve been looking for.
At the nursery this morning, the lady (who has waited on me before) asked, “Have you got everything filled up yet?” I replied, “No, I
still have some lawn left.”
I’m putting the chocolate and lemon mints in different parts of the property. I’m thinking the Oregon grape will go over by the peach and apricot trees, as a center of the fan of beds we laid out where our last shady elm tree was. That’s where I’ve planted grain amaranth, and two beds of salad polyculture.
So picture a fan opened up and laying on the ground. In the center of the long straight line at the base (which in this case is next to the sidewalk) there will be two Oregon grape bushes, on either side of the straight line there is grain amaranth (which has burgandy foliage and grows 4′ to 6′), then in front of that on either side are the two salad polycultures, and in a line down the middle is one final bed which hasn’t been planted yet, I will probably put one of the bee balm plants at the top of that (next to the street), and then flowers on the rest of the bed.
The beds and paths that make up the fan are laid out with logs from the tree that was felled by our January ice storm.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and say howdy.
April 19, 2002
Today I figured the best way to observe the memorial of the 1995 bombing of the federal building was to plant. So I got the plants I
bought on the 16th into the ground. In additionto the plants specified in the April 16th diary, I had also purchased some horseradish plants, and they are now planted to. My favorite local nursery got a new shipment of herbs in yesterday, and I am going by there in a bit to see if they have anything new that I don’t have; also I need to pick up some basic culinary herbs to start an herb garden at my church.
I dug into a couple of the perennial beds I established in the year 2000 to add the horseradish and horehound. The soil was very dark,
loose, friable, even though it hadn’t been tilled, and it was loaded with earthworms, also I noticed several lady bugs here and there. I
had made those beds by putting mulch on the ground, covering with newspapers and cardboard, then more mulch, then an inch or so of topsoil on top. Much less work than digging off the sod and then tilling or double digging.
The bed which had collards in it also was very friable and loose, even though it had never been tilled, so I just planted the habanero
peppers into it by simply pulling aside a bit of the mulch, making a whole big enough for the plant, and mulching back over, with a little space for the leaves. I added the chocolate mint to the boysenberry bed, and the lemon mint to the perennial salad bed and to another bed with currants in it.
Those last mentioned beds were made in the fall, and the texture of the soil was not as nice nor was its color as dark as the previous
year’s beds. Not as many earthworms. But the previous year’s experience suggests I have something to look forward to with last
fall’s beds, as the soil continues to build.
My conclusion is that heavily mulched beds, that are not walked on, can be gardened from year to year without tilling.
April 22, 2002
Planted sorghum and 4 pots of scarlet runner beans today. Lots of Cherokee tomatoes sprouting in the flat. Started mulching the grape vines. Currently blooming: Turnips, kale, crimson clover, purple clover, white clover, dandelions, sage, blackberries, dewberries, strawberries. Pulled a lot of johnson grass. am thinking about broadcasting buckwheat onto the rest of the lawn.
I think this place must generally be more fertile this year. Unless I”m imagining things, last year the dandelions had only one flower. This year, they”re coming in clusters of multiple flowers on single stalks. Dandelions are also nutrient accumulators, and that”s good. If you come for a visit and want to help, don’t start by pulling the dandelions. Work on the johnson grass.
The area of bermuda grass monoculture on the lawn is getting smaller, the rest of the lawn that isn’t in beds is now much more diverse in its plant mix. I’m seeing several small plants I haven’t seen in the previous 3 years.
After these three years of puttering around and sticking things in the ground, one thing I have a lot more of is “edge”. Every bed creates new edges, and there are now 32 beds of various sizes and shapes arranged about the former lawn. Edges seem to be pretty common in nature, and they always seem to increase the amount of life that is present. I think there’s even a bit of a spiritual metaphor in that.
The sorghum was our 95th useful or edible plant variety, 30 are annuals, 65 are perennials.
Hmmm, #96 will be black eyed peas, #97 parsnips, #98 mitsuba, #99 bloody dock, #100 ????
And I’m doing research on how to train currants into shapes, since I have 6 of them on the front lawn, might as well get them to grow decoratively..
April 23, 2002
Made a new bed on the NW 21st street front lawn, a half oval. I put a 3′ high wire “decorative garden fence” down the middle of that bed. I”ll plant it with scarlet runner beans (which will trellis on the wire in the middle of the bed) and I”m not sure what else. Put down mulch, then a layer of brown cardboard, more mulch, top soil on top.
The salad polyculture is popping right on up out of the ground. Only a couple of sprouts thus far in the amaranth. Tomorrow some of the salad burnet will be in bloom.
April 29, 2002
Planted blackeyed peas (96) as a succession crop to potato onions, shallots, and garlic, also added a few blackeyed pea seeds to the berry beds; planted bloody dock (98), mitsuba (99), red leaved perilla (100), and german winter thyme (101) in the perennial salad bed, and set out several scarlet runner bean plants along the trellis with the grapes.. This week we were given 50 pounds of seed potatoes, plus a crate of onion plants and a large bag of onion sets. I’ve been planting the onions (97) here and there. It’s late for potatoes, but tomorrow I’m putting some in anyway, which will make 102 different varieties under cultivation, . I failed 2 years in a row trying to grow potatoes in buckets or barrels, so these are going into the ground. Pulled a lot of grass and stuff that was trying to invade some of the beds. That’s a constant problem, one of the goals for this year is to get the path’s mulched heavily with cardboard and bricks interspersed with dirt and then get something like thyme growing between the bricks.
April 30, 2002
Outlined 5 beds with onion plants (we’ve been given a whole crate of them, and while I’ve been giving them away, there’s a lot left). Started laying cardboard between some of the beds, and pulled some of the grass that was starting to invade last year’s beds, and planted one bed of potatoes.
Went to my favorite local nursery to see if they had anything new that I couldn’t live without. Picked up a few more habanero pepper plants, and something called “Mexican Marigold Mint” (102), and also comfrey (103), which I had planted previously but which didn’t take. The Mexican marigold mint leaves have a very intriguing amaretto smell to them.
Transferred 103 of the heirloom Cherokee tomatoes sprouts from the flat to pots. Used every pot, small or large, I could find in the nooks and crannies of this place (I never through away a plant pot), plus I bought 24 peat pots. I need to get some more peat pots as there are another 30 or so sprouts in the flat that are ready for more room.
Pulled the clover and vetch from one bed and laid it on top of the bed to mulch and compost.
The sage plants are covered with purple blooms, the crimson clover is still blooming, although the blooms are starting to darken a bit, the amaranth is sprouting nicely, and the salad beds are springing up with new plants. The salad burnet is covered with little green blossoms, and there are 20 little apples on one of the apple trees I planted last year. The mulberry bushes are already loaded with tiny berries.
May 1, 2002
Planted two more beds of potatoes, pulled the clover and rye from one bed and planted 6 more habanero pepper plants. Spread compost and mulch over several beds. The transplanted tomato plants look very nice this morning. .
Puttered around with the grapevines today, snipped a few extraneous branches, tied some branches to the trellis, etc. Still learning about pruning. Happy feast of St. Joseph the Worker to everybody.
May 3, 2002
Found some more pots, and potted up some more of the Cherokee tomatoes. Plus, I made an improvised 6 pack pot from an empty cardboard 6 pack of beer. Trying to decide where to put 4 more scarlet runner beans. All the 10 previously set out are doing fine, except for one, which is being nibbled on by something.
May 9, 2002
Planted summer savory (104), winter savory (105), lemon thyme (106), peperoncini peppers (107).
Staked up some of the clove currants, one sand plum, and several scarlet runner beans. The blackeyed peas are starting to sprout.
Put double layers of cardboard covered with a couple of inches of cypress mulch around some of the beds to see how that config works for pathways. Am getting some volunteer loves lies bleeding amaranth here and there, leaving it in place for now.
Had a bunch of beautiful red and pink flowers spring up in one of last year’s beds, wish I could remember which seeds I sprinkled there, hehehe, hope to do better on the record keeping this year.
Pulled the rest of the clover and vetch and left it as mulch on top of the beds (which have blackberries, boysenberries, clove currant, and a couple of kinds of mint.
The agrotriticum is heading, nice big one 3 and 4 inches; the rye also has nice heads on it. And I’ve had the first fresh strawberries, very sweet with just a bit of tartness.
May 14, 2002
Today I planted some more onion plants, sprinkled some water on the tomatoes, gave everything a close look and pulled some grass. The “close look” and “pulling some grass” I’ve been doing pretty much every day since the last entry. I’ve also had fresh strawberries every day.
The blackeyed peas are coming up nicely. The sorghum has sprouted. The rye and agrotriticum have nice big heads on them. The tomatoes are about ready to go into the ground, as are the luffa plants and 3 more scarlet runner beans. Everything planted last week has survived thus far. The camas lilies have completely disappeared, scratch them from the list for this year. The apples are getting bigger, potatoes are doing fine. I nibbled on some little lettuces this evening, and also a leaf of buckwheat, which was really delicious. Very sweet and mild tasting. Plus the buckwheat plants have pretty little white flowers on them. Stuff is still sprouting in that polyculture salad bed. The buckwheat is presently the tallest plant, and I’m going to pick some on Thursday for dinner, but the lettuces are starting to catch up. I’m way behind one of my friends, however, who brought us a big bag of lettuce for our grocery distributions to the poor last Saturday, enough to make up 37 servings. The grain amaranth is growing nicely, and I’ve had a few loves lies bleeding amaranth that apparently self seeded or was in some mulch pop up elsewhere in the garden.
I gave several tomato plants, scarlet runner bean plants, and onion plants to people who showed up at our house for a party after the Sustainable Oklahoma conference last Friday. I spoke on “where to find locally grown food.” We issued our first printed Local Oklahoma Food guide in conjunction with the conference. Having several expert gardeners tour our little effort produced some good suggestions and some surprises. One plant, which I had listed as Prince William, which is probably what it is called in Canada, which is where Richters is located, was ID’d as poke sallet. Another group of plants, which I had not pulled although they were volunteers, was ID’d as lambs quarters (108), so I added them to the list and I’ll try to nurture them on into self seeding.
On Thursday, we pick up an eighth of a beef from a rancher in the Oklahoma panhandle who delivers down here to Oklahoma City once a month, Skelton’s Natural Beef . Price is $140 dollars, no sales tax (since its direct from the farmer, this is legal, not tax evasion). Last night I spoke with a farmer who is starting a subscription farm, and wants to start making weekly deliveries to Oklahoma City.
The new rose plant has some beautiful pink roses on it. The day lilies have sprouted flower buds, and should start opening any day now.
I have just about used the last of the compost, but I have another big pile composting. Still have lots of mulch.
Something is shriveling my sage plants. They’re in beautiful bloom, but one of the three has dried up, and the other two are wilting fast. I’ve been looking for bugs, but haven’t seen any, nothing looks chewed up. If anyone reading this has ideas, feel free to let me know .
Tomorrow, May 15th, is the feast of Sts. Isidore and Maria, patrons of farmers and gardeners. It’s a good day to go out and ask God to bless your garden. If you’re Catholic, sprinkle some holy water.
Oh, and an asparagus shoot grew up from under one of the sorrel plants, which is a reminder of how important it is to remember where you have stuff planted when you are planting something new.
May 15, 2002,
the Feast of Sts. Isidore and Maria, patrons of farmers and gardeners
Prayed for my garden and sprinkled it with holy water. Transplanted the luffas into beds, also the last of the scarlet runner beans. Gave everything a good drink. Pulled a lot of grass.
May 30, 2002
Garlic Harvest Day
Have pulled a lot of grass since the last entry, mostly invading beds from the pathways. I have been accumulating brown cardboard and am about to put it down over all the paths, roll out the logs framing the beds and tuck it under them.
Today we are perfectly protected against vampires. I harvested garlic and they are tied in bunches hanging about the house. Nice smell, nice rustic look. Most of them I am not going to eat, but rather save to replant in the fall. I’ve heard that garlic adapts itself to the place it grows, so I’m only eating a few. Next year we’ll eat more. There are blackeyed peas interplanted with the maturing garlic, and now that the garlic is gone they have plenty of room.
Strawberries appear to be finished, dewberries and blackberries are ripening, mulberries are still coming on in abundance. Harvesting radishes, lettuces, buckwheat leaves and flowers, daylily flowers, fresh herbs. Rye is ripening, agrotriticum is still green, but has 3 to 5 inch heads on it packed with kernals.
What’s blooming? Scarlet runners are getting there, daylilies have started (and are very tasty added to salads), thyme, buckwheat (pretty white flowers), and some of the vetch is still hanging in there and is presently covered with pretty purple blooms. I’m hoping for some self seeding. And the bee balm is bursting with pink and red flowers. Besides the bee balm plants I planted, the mystery flowers turned out to be bee balm, a bit different stem structure, but same leaves and blossoms. The poke salad/sallet is about to bloom, and they are all really tall (going on 4 to 5 feet). I originally called it poke sallet, someone suggested it must be salad, but in Oklahoma it’s promised like sallet, so there’s your dialect lesson for the day. Garlic chives is about to bloom, so I haven’t been clipping them lately.
The climbing plants along the trellis are really booming. I think I’ve mentioned that I was disappointed by their growth (or rather, lack of it) last year. At this rate, I think our trellis will be pretty much canopied this year. In places, mulberries, grapes, and scarlet runner beans are growing up and around each other and the trellis, and I’m just letting that happen. If it doesn’t work out, I can always do some pruning next year, in the meantime, it looks really pretty, a carpet of lush greenery, soon to be studded with bright red blossoms.
The habanero peppers are just kind of hanging in there, something’s been nibbling on them, although I haven’t been able to see it happen in action, but they keep putting on new growth and getting a little bigger. My speculation is that as the weather heats up they will do better.
Some volunteer squash has come up here and there, so far it has escaped a scourge of bugs and is starting to bloom. We’ll see if the bugs are still around. Still finding lady bugs wandering around.
I’m seeing a lot more birds. Blue Jays seem to be eating mulberries which is fine, we’ll share, we’ve got lots, been having them for breakfast for more than 2 weeks, I should find a recipe for mulberry jam), and some little brown birds with light/dark patterns in their feathers with short beaks that seem to like to browse the ground. They were having a veritable feast when I and the dogs wandered out early this AM. The dogs thought it was great fun but they were no match for the speed of the birds so they ate dog food for their breakfast.
The sage plants totally shriveled, I bought some more today. I clipped a few stems to get some starts, they don’t seem to be doing very much. The tarragon, oregano, and creeping thyme, on the other hand, are filling the earth. The amaranth is coming along slowly but deliberately, a good stand which I should probably thin. There’s some black eyed peas, tomatoes, and onions interplanted with it. The cabbage and broccoli are coming along, some of the plants have been chewed quite a bit, some haven’t. All of the ones that haven’t been chewed are interplanted with herbs (specifically, rosemary, thyme, oregano, tarragon). This suggests expanding the interplanting of those crops next year.
Of the perennials planted this year, the boysenberries are doing the worst, but I haven’t lost any. I lost 2 of 6 clove currants (one was accidently pulled up when clearing the clover and vetch). The maximilien sunflowers are very healthy, they’re up to about 2′ tall in two bunches. The oregon grape are holding on, haven’t grown much, but they remain very healthy looking. All four trees planted this year were duds. They have been replaced with several native peach trees brought to me by a Cherokee friend. In the fall I can exchange the dead trees for new ones, so we’ll try again. I really like apricots, but every apricot tree I’ve planted has been a dud. The erfult rose has had pretty pink blossoms. Strawberries produced prolifically even though it was their first year, dewberries and blackberries are all putting on fruit. 90% of the elderberries have foliage and growth, although no berries.
The apples on our one bearing tree are filling out and coloring nicely, thus far nothing seems to be nibbling on them.
There has been a holocaust among the Cherokee tomato plants I have set out. Most of them have had to be replanted at least once, generally, the next morning the entire plant is gone, only a couple were found shriveled. In several cases, I had planted them in empty spots among the lettuces/buckwheat, closer inspection suggested these were favored spots for the cats to lay around shaded under the growing buckwheat. So those remained bare. However, being persistent, I have managed to get a good stand going of Cherokee tomatoes interplanted here and there. Last year I used fish to fertilize my tomatoes (planted one underneath each tomato plant) but everybody was too busy to go fishing this year so they were planted sans fish. They all got a good dose of compost and cottonseed meal, hope that will be enough.
The best results this year are in the beds that are at least one year old (that is, this is their second season), the 3rd year beds are doing the best..
June 14, 2002
The salad “polyculture” that I planted continues to yield daily salads. The buckwheat is tall and its pretty white blossoms are now turning into grain. But besides continuing to yield tasty leaves, it also is shading smaller lettuces growing in clumps, which is helping to extend the lettuce season I think. It’s also producing radishes, and the luffas and scarlet runner beans I planted along its edges, with the vines growing over the logs, are doing fine. The silver beet is doing nicely, I’m thinking its about time to have some for supper tonight. I’ve put tomato plants in some of the openings where I’ve pulled lettuce and radishes and buckwheat. The buckwheat is pretty dominant in the beds, and it’s headed towards the end of its cycle, so time to figure out something else to put in, besides the tomatoes. I’m thinking the scarlet runner beans and luffas will do a lot of filling in, plus there’s a few blackeyed peas and lots of onions growing.
Picked the first dewberry a couple of days ago, it was a Very Excellent Tasting Berry. There’s not much production since this is their first year, I am looking forward to increased amounts of these and plan to plant more next spring.
I have made it about half way through all of the many paths among my growing beds, putting down cardboard and some shredded cypress mulch. One thing I would do differently if I was doing this all over again is to completely sheet mulch the area, and thus the paths would be covered up as the same time the beds were built on the former lawn.
The mulberry’s are about finished. Looks like in the future the fruit harvest will be in this chronological order: strawberries, mulberries, dewberries, blackberries, apples, grapes.
Planted some native peach trees that were given to me by a Cherokee friend; they have been very hardy.
The blackeyed peas are flourishing, most of the beds have at least one plant. The clove currants are limping along, staying green, not much growth. The sand plums are doing great, as is the perennial kale. I thought early on that I was going to lose most of the perennial kale, it flowered quickly, put up seed pods, and then started to shrivel, also something was nibbling on it. Well, now they are all, even the most scrawny ones, nice and multicolored, bushy, putting on lots of growth. As are the broccolis and cabbages. The poke sallet is getting towards five feet tall (!!!) and about to flower. The thyme is in full flower.
I harvested the potato onions, was a bit disappointed in the size of the bulbs, but they are very good tasting. I’m thinking I probably crowded them too much, plus they were planted in a new first year bed. Most of them I am saving to plant in the fall. The shallots are still shalloting, their tops are still green.
The salad burnet is setting seed, so I’m getting ready to pick that, and then i think I’m going to give them a trim, it’s getting a bit “stemy” (more stem, less leaves). I picked all the ripe heads off the rye, which was about half; the rest should be ready in a day or so. The agrotriticum is starting to turn a beautiful dark golden color.
The tomato plants that survived are doing well, getting some height and foliage to them. I had a volunteer tomato plant that I removed, because I didn’t want to have a problem with cross pollination with the Cherokee heirlooms, since I want to save that seed for next year, and also have extra to give away.
The perennial sunflowers haven’t sprouted flowers yet, but they continue to get taller.
I’ve had some volunteer squash and pumpkins come up, so far so good, no sign of the bugs that have devastated all my previous squash and pumpkin attempts.
Someone asked me if I was losing a lot of fruit to birds, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m thinking the reason for this is that we have four cats who like to lay around under the grape vines and berry bushes and that seems to discourage the birds a bit. The birds get a bit, especially those that browse the ground, but I’m not losing as much as some people have expected.
The potatoes are doing nicely; this year they’re planted in the ground, rather than in buckets. I have hilled them up a bit, and looking forward to some new potatoes soon.
Our gardens were featured in a local weekly newspaper last week, together with our work on a local food system. I served the reporter a salad with ten different ingredients, all picked from my yard, plus a mulberry cobbler baked in a small cast iron skillet, the mulberries were picked that morning.
I think it’s true that garlic suppresses grass; the bed that I pulled garlic from had been free of grass, now that the garlic is gone, it is being invaded from all sides; those paths will be mulched this weekend to end that.
Made a new bed in the center of the existing beds, and harmed the aronia bush somehow in the process, the top part of its seems dead, but some green branches coming out from itsbase are vigorous.
And speaking of vigorous, the trellis is being lushly covered in green this year; scarlet runner beans (which are currently in bright crimson flower), several kinds of grapes, and mulberry bushes are weaving themselves together and it looks very beautiful. At the base of the climbing vines are daylilies and mint.
I have a couple of mystery plants; one semi big one popped up among the strawberries, and it has sprouted several nice small sunflower blooms. Another big leafed plant has grown up in the salad polyculture, I’m leaving it to see what it ends up doing. The grain amaranth is putting on beautiful purple flowers; it gets about half as tall as the ornamental amaranth I planted last year, which I also have several volunteer samples elsewhere in the garden. I leave some, pull some, let a couple get big and then pulled them (mulch, mulch, mulch).
And speaking of mulch, it really is true that mulch helps reduce weeds and grass, but you need several inches. Some beds have been better mulched than others, and the ones that haven’t been mulched as much are much more trouble and work, so everything is getting extra mulch this week.
The habanero peppers, which were so scrawny for a while I thought I was going to have to scratch them off the list, seem to have found their second wind and are now bushy and getting bigger. One of the volunteer pumpkin plants is growing around them, I’ve had to clip a couple of its leaves so the habanero’s aren’t shaded. I also nipped the growing ends, might as well put that growth into pumpkins rather than leaves.
Picked up some marigolds and cucumber plants earlier in June, not from one of my regular suppliers; one marigold seems to have survived, hehehe. Oops.
Have lots of new mushrooms I’ve never seen in our yard in previous years, including one which looks like one of the typical mushrooms sold in supermarkets (same shape and color), only much bigger, about 6″ across the top. I think I have a mushroom identification guide around here somewhere, I need to dig that out and see what these are and see if any of them are gifts of food.
Picked up some new sage plants to replace the ones that previously shrivelled; the clippings I tried to root shrivelled too.
The elderberries are putting on growth, mostly in the form of additional stalks and lots of leaves. I obviously have several different varieties, which for pollination purposes is good.
So here it is June 14th, and we are eating something from our yard every day.
July 6, 2002
On the first of July, we had a nice rain most of the day; good for the garden and the gardener, and it was cool and rainy off and on for the next couple of days. We are still getting salads from the 2 polyculture beds, although I’ve quit picking the buckwheat as the leaves are getting tough and the plants are putting on seed. I’m letting some of the radishes go to seed to see if they will become self seeding in that space. Tomato plants are doing nicely, there’s a pumpkin on one of the volunteer vines. The lovage is rapidly bolting in the heat of the past 2 days. I’ve been planting sweet potatoes and lentils in the spaces in the garden. The native peach trees my Cherokee friend gave me are doing very well, as is the peach tree I got from a nursery which took three months or so to sprout out some leaves (I guess it’s catching up for lost time). Potatoes are looking really good, we’ve been getting new potatoes from a farmer, but I’m ready to try some of our own.
Scored some shredded leaves and tree limbs from my neighbor who had some trimming done. If you’re in the OKC area, Luker and Son who do tree work have a yard at 328 SE 64th where you can pick up all the shredded mulch you want for free, or they will deliver it to you for $40/load (and it’s a large load too). It’s nicely shredded too, not in “chips”but rather actual shreds (the latter decomposes much faster than the chips). I got six wheel barrels worth.
I pulled some volunteer ornamental amaranth (before it could go to seed) and used it as mulch (ornamental amaranth is a great compost crop), and some other miscellaneous stuff which was volunteer and seemed to be best used for compost. I only watered 3 times June 14th and July 1st, and there was no rain during that period. Mulch definitely helps conserve moisture. So far my new compost pile is about 5′ x 3′ x 2′, and needs to start growing much faster. Next year I will need probably twice the compost I made this year, and so I’ll probably need the equivalent of 30′ x 4′ x 3 to 4 feet.
Two of the three sage plants survived, all of the sweet potato plants have survived and begun to flourish. There are peppers on the pepperoncini and habanero vines, the scarlet runner beans are still blooming and spreading, and the first of the grape vines has reached the edge of the roof. I harvested quite a bit of garlic chive buds (or seed, whatever they’re called) and got all of the rye picked. I chopped the rye straw with a weed whacker and left it on top of the bed. Now that bed has a sage plant, a tomato plant, and a sweet potato vine. I am about to pick the agrotriticum. I’ve got a couple of volunteer watermelons coming up, the luffas are looking very nice. And it’s blackeyed peas Any Day Now, and It Can’t Come Too Quickly for Me. In case you don’t know, the dried, canned, and frozen blackeyed peas the agribizness corpses sell in supermarkets are pretty sad stuff compared to the fresh just picked off the vine taste of the real thing.
I’m still working my way around the garden, mulching the paths. This definitely helps with the problem of grass invading the beds. The beds whose paths are fully mulched rarely sprout weeds, or grass now. The only maintenance is harvest, which is the way I like it. It’s not that I don’t like working in the garden, obviously I do, but some garden jobs are more fun than others. And harvesting is definitely more fun than weeding. Anyway, part of the point of this exercise is to develop this food producing “forest edge gardening” as a low maintenance project. It hasn’t gotten there yet, but it’s heading that way.
The beds whose paths are still grass are a pain to maintain, by the time I get the grass pulled it grows back, or at least so it seems. So I’m ramping up the path treatments. First I put down two or three layers of brown cardboard, so it goes underneath the logs framing the beds. Then I cover that with 3 or 4 inches of cypress mulch and that pretty much takes care of it thus far. For a couple of weeks, I have to pull an ever decreasing amount of grass, and then the problem becomes so minimal it is hardly even worth mentioned.
Eventually I plan to put down brick paths, but first I’ll make sure that the beds are where I want them to be and I am thus satisfied with the layout and arrangement. Then and only then do the bricks go down (I’ve been scrounging bricks since the project began, plus I have an interior chimney to disassemble, it is 3 layers of bricks so I expect I’ll reap a bunch of bricks from that project. No, the chimney isn’t load bearing.)
On the fourth of July, we had a nice dinner: roast, sauteed yellow and zucchini squash, salad, whole wheat bread, new potatoes. The only ingredients that came from a supermarket were the salad dressing, olive oil, and spices, all the rest was from our garden or from farmers that we are doing business with directly. Earlier that day we had had chicken fried steaks and gravy with our breakfast, the gravy was made with goats milk, and while I am a pretty good gravy maker, this was certainly the best gravy I have ever made. For people who don’t go to the supermarket much anymore, we are sure eating good.
I have another, more “earthy” observation about our abandonment of the agribizness corpses food contamination & distribution system and our switch to both raising our own food and buying from directly from farmers. Over the last 3 months, we have had a lot less gas and fewer “intestinal upsets”. Sorry if that’s more information than you needed, hehehe, but just recently several hundred thousand pounds of hamburger were recalled by Con Agra because it was contaminated. I’m thinking that by getting meat directly from a farmer, we’re bypassing that agribizness food contamination system and our bodies seem to like that a lot. Plus, this meat has no growth hormones, antibiotics, and etc.
I also realized something else about raising my own food and buying what I don’t raise myself from farmers in the area. When you buy, for example, eggs from the supermarket, or chicken, or sausage, besides the actual product, you are also paying for a bunch of stuff you don’t really need, e.g. international corporate bureaucracies, store overhead, animal cruelty and destruction of rural communities. Most of the supermarket dollar goes nowhere near a farmer. So it’s not really a surprise to discover that my household accounts tell me I am spending less money on food now than ever before. And not having to deal with supermarkets once or twice a week is saving me time, which by itself is worth a lot. Read about our local Oklahoma food system at http://www.oklahomafood.org .
I’m still gettin’ along fine without air conditioning. We found these mylar ‘bed mats’ at a dollar store, for a dollar each, and covered our sunny western and southern windows with them, and then hung a white rollup shade over that (the white rollup shade doesn’t add anything, but it makes it look better from the street). We ventilate at night (fans in windows to pull air in and out of the house) and keep things closed up during the day. Ceiling fans and other fans inside keep the air moving around. We’ve also ventilated the attic since last summer, and I am certain that is helping moderate interior temps a bit. Opening my electric bill causes me no anxiety at all nor is it any sweat to pay it.
It’s important in this heat to drink lots of water, I keep a quart jar of water around and make sure I empty it several times during the day. I am most uncomfortable when I just get home from my perfectly air conditioned office. I noticed the discomfort continued a little longer than usual yesterday, and I realized that I hadn’t drunk much water while at work, so the old interior tank was a bit low on water, thus the heat was more uncomfortable than it would have been otherwise. Downing a couple of large glasses of water helped alleviate that and the heat discomfort. An occasional dunking of the head and feet under a cold shower or out in the yard with the water hose takes care of any other discomfort (I noticed this happens about once an hour when the outside temps are above 95 degrees.)
I think dehydration is a bigger problem in the summer than many people realize. They think that if they drink an “ice cold sody pop” or some iced tea, that they are quenching their thirst. Well, they certainly are refreshing their mouth and tongue, which psychologically helps, but caffeine and sugar are diuretics, so they’re also losing water faster than they are getting it from the pop or tea. The idea that a soft drink is a good solution on a hot day is a lie told by corporations to get people to buy their low quality junk drinks.
Gatewood neighborhood is a nice place to live. One of my little projects is to stop using the vehicle for any errands in the neighborhood, so I get to walk through the neighborhood nearly every day. I try to take different routes, to see what my neighbors are doing with their landscaping. My neighbor to the south lives in an upstairs garage apartment, and this summer the stairs and his sidewalk have been covered with lovely plants in pots. I noticed last week that he had also built a small bed by the stairway and planted some veggies.
There’s a nice wood frame house across the street from us, built in the 1920s, nicely shaded by mature trees, has a front porch, a good sized sunny area in front that is presently monocultured in grass but could become a beautiful garden, and a large mostly shady backyard. The price is $29,500 if anyone is interested, for sale by owner, his phone is 405.848.4166, don’t know his name (it’s been a rent house). It’s nice and clean inside, though, no smells or obvious damage.
July 20, 2002
Well, the blackeyed peas turned out to be purple hulled peas, or most of them anyway. I was busy for a couple of days and didn’t pay any attention to them, and then I went for one of my periodic “look sees” about the garden and lo and behold the pods had turned a shiny purple. So I picked a bunch and cooked ’em for dinner (which in Oklahoma is lunch) and there wasn’t even one left over for supper (which elsewhere is called dinner). Well, who knows where those seeds came from, so I decided to make a supreme sacrifice and I am not eating any of the rest, instead I am letting them dry on the vine so they can be planted next year.
I also harvested seeds for oregano, rue, bee balm, and some lettuce which is still growing (I labelled it, “very tasty tall growing heat hard lettuce”. It was one of the 8 miscellaneous packets of lettuce seed I scattered and I’m not sure which one it is. The seed pods have little fuzz on them which I assume is supposed to catch in the wind and carry the seeds. I didn’t take all of them, as I would like to have that lettuce become self seeding. The french breakfast radishes are also going to seed, and I’m saving that too. I need to pick the buckwheat too. There’s also some red lettuce still growing in this heat, so I’m hoping it goes to seed too. (Heat tolerant lettuces seem to me to be a plus for an Oklahoma garden.)
I found out how to cook poke sallet, which I have plenty of, but there is some disagreement as to whether it should only be picked and eaten in the spring, so I am doing further research on that. The silver beet is ready for greens, as is the volunteer mustard that seems to be spring up. I harvested the shallots, but again exercised restraint and am saving them all to plant this fall, as I have with the garlic and the potato onions (we’ve eaten a little garlic and a couple of onions, but I’m saving the rest for planting this fall).
The sweet potatoes and volunteer watermelons are doing fine. I pulled something I thought was a weed and discovered after that it was purslane. Oops. Another oops, something ate right through the underside of a nice pumpkin, hollowed it out perfectly, but when viewed from the top, it looked undamaged. Sneaky little critters.
The pepperoncini are loaded with peppers, the first of them are starting to turn red. Most of the pickled peperoncini you buy in the grocery store are white, but since we like our peppers hot, we decided to let them go ahead and turn bright red before pickling them. I’ve been collecting recipes on the internet, if anybody has a favorite, please send it to me at [email protected] . Each of the habanero plants has a few peppers on it, emphasis unfortunately on the “Few”. But I suspect that with habanero, a little goes a long way.
One of the clove currants died, just shrivelled up. The others are doing fine and the boysenberries are finally looking like they are going to live. They have been scraggly since I put them in the ground, but I guess they decided this wasn’t such a bad place after all (I imagine them pining away for wherever it was they got their start) and are putting on growth and looking firm.
The Cherokee tomato plants are very vigorous and putting on lots of flowers. I got them started so late I have been worried about the heat drying them up, but generally where I have planted them they get partial shade during the late afternoon. This was part “opportunity” (that is, those places were where I had spaces) and part design, in that I wanted to see if some partial shade would help them produce during the severe heat of the Oklahoma summer. Several are interplanted with the grain amaranth, some of the others are shaded by some ornamental amaranth. I’m hoping to have some nice tomatoes to enter in the county free fair. They also have a salsa contest with a nice premium that I’ve been thinking about.
And about that amaranth, I have both ornamental and grain amaranth growing, and the prettiest of the two by far is the grain amaranth. It has been putting on beautiful displays of tall purple spikes of flowers that look just as good today as they did several weeks ago when they started blooming. The ornamental, in my garden plan, is being reclassified as a shade and mulch/compost plant. They grow much taller and are more more leafy than the grain amaranth (twice as tall anyway), but even though they started about the same time, the ornamental has yet to sprout any flowers.
Anyway, in another experiment, I left several of the tomato plants unstaked. They seem to be standing up pretty good even so. And they’re all very nice strong looking plants. Heredity counts when it comes to plants, which is another reason I suppose to save seeds from any plants that you really like. There’s all kinds of variations in plants, and you never know when the genetic lottery is going to hand you a real prize.
I dug up one potato plant, but the potatoes hadn’t reached even the size of small new potatoes yet, so I went to the farmers market today and bought some. We had gotten some from a farmer earlier this year, and they were all gone. So sad, they were Very Tasty Spuds. I boiled a big batch at a time, and then warmed ’em up as necessary, and shredded they made great hash browns (they were little red russets), much better hash browns than I had ever made from the Idaho type potatoes I usually got from the grocery store. We’ve also been eating green beans we got from a farmer, and basically I don’t like green beans, but I sure like these. I don’t think they are the same vegetable as what is sold in stores in cans, or even in the fresh produce section of the supermarket.
The salad burnet, having produced its seed, is now returning to a more compact, less spiky growth, lots of new leaves. And the sorghum I planted here and there on a lark one afternoon earlier in the spring (what was I thinking?) is about 3′ high. Lord knows what I will do with it, I doubt I’ll have enough to make sorghum molasses, but there’s always the compost heap which needs more green stuff all the time. I’ve been getting grass clippings from neighbors, and this year’s pile is now about 12′ long, 2′ wide, and about 1′ high.
The luffas have taken off, but i haven’t seen any fruit yet. The vines are very strong looking though. The blue morning glories I planted have also grown lots and are putting on their blue flowers. And the surviving rosa rugosa which I planted 3 years ago (the other one succumbed to a weed whacker wielded by someone who wanted to “help”, sigh) are finally blooming, beautiful little lavender flowers. The sweet potatoes are also very vigorous, as is the dock. The sorrel is putting on seeds, which I will harvest as soon as they look like they’re finished.
Our gardening efforts will be expanded quite a bit next year. I took possession of two vacant lots in our neighborhood last week. Each is about 200′ X 60′, curb to fence; one is a corner lot. The corner lot has some mature mulberries on it. One will be dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, the other to St. Joseph the Worker. So I’ve been spending lots of time doodling around with designs for the beds, and thinking about how much to put into permanent crops and how much to annuals. Both lots are rectangles, most of the designs start with a circle in the center, which will be a nice raised bed with a statue in the middle, this is surrounded by a small square of pavement, which will have some benches, and then there are different ideas for how to arrange beds out from there.
One design that I like a lot would arrange the beds in a spiral with the center being the statues, which maybe will be in a little grotto of some sort. But I haven’t quite figured out how to make the beds themselves curved, since we’re probably going to use 8′ long 4″ X 4″ posts for the sides. One way would be to chop them in 2′ lengths and plant them vertically, I haven’t done the calculations yet, but it seems to me that would use up a lot of wood. If I could find big enough logs, we could do what we’re doing here and use logs for the sides, cut in 2′ lengths, we could shape the beds however we choose.
The scarlet runner beans remain very vigorous and continue to put on flowers but I have yet to see even one bean pod form. Not sure what that means. They were planted fairly early and it seems odd to me that they haven’t formed any pods, but we’ll see how they do the rest of the summer. Tomorrow I’m picking cabbage, and the broccoli is about ready too.
It’s about time to plant for the fall garden, I gotta quit thinking about it though and start planting. More cabbage for sure, and I think also some turnips, carrots, parsnips, and then a little later, try for some more lettuce. I don’t know if I can get any seed potatoes but I’m tempted to try for a fall crop of potatoes too.
As the days get hotter, I get up earlier and do my garden work at 7 AM. Tonight everything gets a good drink of water. I always water in the evening, so they have all night to soak up the water before the heat of the next day. But I haven’t had to do much watering, we’ve had good rains this summer and of course the mulch really helps.
I’ve also got to think about putting some stuff up for this winter. We’ve been utterly spoiled eating all this fresh home or farmer grown produce this summer, I’m going to miss that in the winter. We ate the last of the spaghetti sauce I made last March so it’s time to make some more of that. That was a great homemade convenience food. Frozen in quart containers, dinner was as simple as frying some hamburger, thawing and then heating the sauce and cooking the pasta or rice for it to go over.
Hmmm… let’s see, 500 pounds of tomatoes makes 100 quarts/25 gallons of tomato sauce (the rule of thumb is 5 pounds of tomatoes per quart of sauce), which is 2 quarts/week for 50 weeks. I’d also need 20 pounds each of zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, shredded, and chopped onions. That’s a job for the church kitchen, I think. The most I’ve made before is 15 gallons for a church supper, but that only required two burners using the big pots. Now, is there room in the freezer? Maybe if I can find a square freezer container. Half the freezer is loaded with frozen bottles of water, so they can come out, and the fridge freezer is practically empty. I think I need to look for a square freezer container though, it would be a more efficient use of space. One day’s work, half a day of prep and half a day of cooking, and 100+ meals are in the freezer. I probably should borrow a food processor, that would speed things along a bit. But why not? If I can make 15 gallons, I can make 25 gallons, and how much time is making 100 meals in one day going to save me over the next year?
So it goes at the corner of NW 21st street and North Mckinley in Oklahoma City.
August 20, 2002
It has been a busy month. About 2 weeks ago I fell and hurt my leg, I’m still having problems kneeling, although it is getting better. But the weeding has suffered as a result. I have “lost” two beds to grass, will have to start them over, fortunately, they just had one blackberry plant each in them, so it won’t be hard to save the plants and redo the beds.
But on the positive side, we have had some mighty tasty potatoes. They’re coming out in a range of sizes, but still pretty good for potatoes this late in the summer in Oklahoma. (Lots of people said, “it’s too late to plant potatoes in OKC’ when I planted these.). And the luffas have finally started blooming, very pretty yellow blooms. One of them is growing around and around a large lambs quarters plant, sort of like green tinsel around a Christmas tree, it will look pretty when it gets its yellow flowers. I hope the squash bugs don’t like luffas.
And there is hope in the grass front. The beds in the center of the side yard, which have had their paths mulched since spring, and which I have consistently been pulling grass from as soon as it sprouts, are pretty much grass free. They still get an occasional johnson grass sprout, but they’re easy to pull before they get really rooted. (Once well rooted, they are a pain to get out of the ground.) As part of the mulching campaign, I finished mulching one side of the side yard and outlined two new beds with some logs. I used large sheets of cardboard I got from the food bank, and they worked really well, I put shredded cypress mulch in the paths, grass and leaves on the new beds. This is what the permaculturists call ‘sheet mulching” (doing a large area all at once rather than in bits and pieces as I did last year to my great regret).
The habanero peppers are sporting 2 bright orange peppers, but the bushes themselves have taken off in some kind of a late summer growth spurt and are presently covered with flowers. We harvested a bunch of pepperoncini peppers, and also got a bunch of cayenne peppers (red and green) and jalapenos in our community supported agriculture delivery a couple of weeks ago. I strung a ristra from the red cayennes, and pickled 6 quarts of jalapenos, cayennes, and pepperconcini. I used the Ball Blue Canning book and followed its instructions to the letter. It was less trouble than I supposed it might be. I bought a boiling water canner for $!5 at Ace Hardware, made in the USA, and had enough other big pots so that I had one big pot to warm the bottles and one big pot for the vinegar/spice mix. One of the bottles didn’t develop the little depression in the middle of its lid that indicates a good seal, so it went into the refrigerator.
I also put four gallon bags of okra (also from the CSA) in the freezer, and have 2 gallon bags of tomatoes in the freezer, awaiting my massive sauce making day in September. I need a lot more tomatoes, and fortunately, it seems like my Cherokee heirlooms are going to produce big piles. They are late (as readers of this forum already know) but a couple have started to turn red. The plants are very lush, and lots of fruit.
I found one peach growing right straight out of the trunk of the peach tree we planted last year. Very beautiful peach, nice color, not quite ripe (I’m checking it every day). I’ve eaten our first apples, probably a bit soon, the skin was a bit tough, but they were very juicy and sweet inside.
Most of the volunteer watermelons got sucked dry by the squash bugs. Two vines remain, with watermelons, seemingly untroubled by the bugs. If they survive and mature, I’m saving those seeds for sure.
More blackeyed/purple hulled peas are on the agenda for next year. We’re eating them every week, but they are so good they should probably be eaten every day. I saved a bunch of them to plant next year, but even so, they are still producing.
Central Oklahoma has been blessed with a very nice summer. I’ve only watered maybe 6 times, it’s been more than 2 weeks since my last watering. We had two days since the last report of almost absurd weather for OKC; cool, slow rains, more like Seattle than anything else. It hasn’t been to 100 yet. Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of the effects of global climate changes was that Oklahoma City got a decent climate in the summer.
I got accepted into the Master Gardener program at the Oklahoma County extension department, the classes start the first Tuesday of September. I’m excited about this, not only what I’ll be learning, but also getting to know and interact with other gardeners in the area.
The trellis on the west side of the house, set a couple of feet out from the wall, seems to be doing a good job of cooling incoming air through the windows that front onto it. Even in the depths of the hot afternoons (it has been in the 90s a lot), the air coming in those windows is several degrees cooler than the air in the yard.
I think the scarlet runner beans are a dead loss except for their contribution to the compost. They were pretty, had nice flowers, but not one single bean. So sad, too bad. Will try again next year after doing some more research.
What do you do when your oregano patch also gets infested with bermuda grass? Well, by trial and error, here’s what I found. Get down to the base of the patch (starting at the edge) and hold up the plants so you can see the ground. Voila, it’s obvious what is grass and what is oregano and you can pull the grass out without pulling oregano plants.
One volunteer roma tomato plant has produced several fruits, but all of them look like the bottom has been snipped off, and the ends are a bit “corroded” looking. Not sure what that is.
The grain amaranth flowers are starting to turn into golden grain but as it matures the plants are falling over presumably because they are suddenly top heavy. So I’m thinking of putting several of those little 2′ tall garden fences running around in that plot so the plants can lean up against them.
The tomato plants are so nice looking, btw, that I am thinking about taking some cuttings and see if I can keep them going during the winter inside the house.
Haven’t planted a thing for fall, will have to remedy that soon.
October 6, 2002
Since last we spoke. . . my leg kept me gimping around well into September. Kneeling in particular was painful, so things got out of hand in some of the garden. Fortunately, a couple of volunteers came by and helped keep things under a bit of control, and over the past 2 weeks my ability to kneel and etc has come back so the garden looks much better than it did in late August early September.
Reports of the demise of the scarlet runner beans were greatly exaggerated. Several of the vines did wither, but one didn’t, and it now has beans on it. That one got partial shade in the afternoons, the others were all in full sun. I’m thinking I was having a pollination problem, as now there are lots of pollinating insects flitting around, thanks probably to the huge yellow blooms of luffas (which are everywhere), plus the maximillian sunflowers have put on a display of yellow flowers that is too incredible to be believed. These days I’m picking luffas, digging sweet potatoes, picking tomatoes, and we’re still getting blacked eyed peas and purple hulled peas, although I am saving all of them for seed next year (the ones still producing are very prolific, some of them I have picked four times already this year). We also have a bumper crop of habaneros, so tomorrow I’m making a habanero salsa and a habanero pepper sauce (yes, we’ve already tried them, I chopped a small one and added it to a big pot of hamburger, macaroni and cheese, and it was Very Fiery. Made everybody sweat, but it all got et.
This past week I’ve been planting garlic, shallots, and potato (multiplying) onions. I’ve basically outlined all of the beds with these grass suppressing plants. I still have quite a bit of garlic to plant (I saved almost all the garlic I grew this year to plant this fall, ditto for the shallots and multiplying onions). I’ve been dividing the daylilies, and scattering them about the garden (they’re one of our favorite edible plants and also provide nice blooms which will help attract pollinators). We didn’t get much in the way of day lily blooms this year, possibly because they haven’t been divided for many years and have grown very thick. I’ve also been planting echinacea seeds. A friend has given me a fig tree, which I found a nice corner spot for, and I’m going to buy four more fruit trees this week. One of the beds sprouted a nice volunteer mulberry bush, it must be a runner or something because it has grown from a tiny sprout to six feet tall in just one summer.
We got our pig in September. We are very pleased. The pig was raised by the McGehees, and butchered at Glenns Processing south of Wewoka. Although an older building, Glenn’s was very clean and smelled better than most supermarket meat departments. As with Skelton’s natural beef, the McGehee’s natural pork is much more flavorful and tender than the supermarket pork. We figure it’s costing us $2.12/pound. I’m going to cook a ham this week.
I am nursing one of the plum trees along, earlier in the summer a helper whacked it pretty bad with a weed trimmer (even though I had said “whatever you do, don’t get close to the trees”). It’s still green and has its leaves, but its drooping. Hopefully it will make it, but maybe not.
The compost is growing nicely, I’ve been snagging bags of grass trimmings, flowers from church, extra food scraps, etc.
The walking onions turn out to be a nice shade plant. The bed they were planted in also sprouted a lambs quarter plant that has grown huge, almost as tall as me, and at least 6′ across. We picked it all summer long for greens, now I’m letting it go to seed. Anyway, there was also a tomato plant in that bed, and a luffa, and together they combined to make a tremendous canopy over the whole bed. I pulled some of the foliage aside today and found the egyptian onions growing away just as fine as could be.
I’ve sprinkled most of the remaining lawn with crimson clover, and will do the same with the beds tomorrow, also some vetch. I’m going to bring one tomato plant and a couple of the habanero plants inside before it freezes and see if I can keep them going this winter.
I’ve been learning some nifty things in the master gardener class at the Oklahoma County extension office. Among them, sigh, that the cypress mulch I’ve been using is an ecological nightmare, they’re grinding up mature cypress trees to make these bags of mulch. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Been thinking a lot about the design of the two new gardens will be doing over the next couple of years. Nothing definitive yet, but I’ve been reading the Permaculture Design Manual by Bill Mollison (the “bible” of the permaculture movement), plus of course I have all the experience I’ve been developing here. A lot of that thus far is negative, “don’t do this, don’t do that,” but that’s not so bad. Avoiding mistakes is half the design challenge, it seems to me.