The shoemaker’s children

After working hard at Veggielution yesterday, I decided to do some long-overdue work in my own garden. It’s always more fun to work with other people instead of alone, so I’ve been really lax at weeding, especially. It’s also always more fun to plant than it is to weed.

I’ve been gardening for 20 years, and I’ve gone back and forth about many things, including what to plant, whether to start seeds, how to water, what to feed. This year, I’m growing things that have usually been successful for me, and not trying anything really new. (That said, the cauliflower was new this winter, but I’m about to pull it up, so this is about the summer garden.)

Tomatoes are almost always successful, and I think that everyone who has even a bit of sunny outdoor space should plant a tomato, even in a pot. They’re so much better when homegrown, and it’s possible to get a lot of fruit from just one plant, depending on the variety, of course.

I have six large beds in my backyard, and the center pair get the most sun, so I’ve always planted tomatoes there. But last year, the tomatoes in those beds ended up looking like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, so I finally accepted the fact that I have to rotate them around. Tomato diseases and parasites overwinter in the soil, and even varieties that are advertised as VFN (for verticulum, fusarium and nematode resistant) need a new locale. I’m giving my traditional beds three years to rest (starting this year,) so it was time to find somewhere else to put them.

The bed along the fence gets the least sun, so I’d never planted tomatoes there before. I put three in there.

They’re Early Girl, Persimmon and Juliet.

I also planted one of my front beds with vegetables instead of flowers this year, and found a volunteer tomato this morning.

This bed is still mostly flowers, which I’ll rip out last, but I cleared space in the front for another tomato and a Greek basil plant I bought at the farmers market.

That one is Stupice, which is my favorite variety. And finally, I found another volunteer in a pot this afternoon. This one had got pretty big by the time I spied it.

I have no idea what the two volunteers are. My sweet gardener rototilled three beds for me a month or so ago, and I planted them today. One bed has two pumpkins.

One has two lemon cucumbers (my favorite variety)

and one has two more lemon cukes and a bunch of beans: Romano bush, purple bush and scarlet runners on poles at the back of the bed. There is also sweet basil in front. My pet peeve about sweet basil is that, whenever you see it in 4-inch pots, there are always about 10 plants that either have to be teased apart or thinned. I like it in sixpacks better.

I realize that this is very much like looking at an acquaintance’s baby pictures, but I’m hoping to contrast them with more verdant photos later this summer.

This bed held the peas and fava beans I harvested earlier. There are still sweet peas blooming, so I left them.

And this is the bed I have yet to weed today. It’s not a hot day, fortunately, but I came in to take a rest and blog before tackling it. Those are the headless cauliflowers. There are also onions there, if you’ll take my word for it.

I used to start all of my own seeds. But this year I donated all of my seeds and heat mat and grow light to Veggielution, and I’m just buying seedlings at Summerwinds. I did plant runner bean seeds, but the bush bean sixpacks are a first for me. I also bought some zinnia and cosmos seeds to scatter around. I won’t even try sunflowers anymore; the squirrels eat the flower buds long before they open.

I also used to plant lots of eggplants and peppers, because I love them. But I have never had any luck with either, and it takes so much water to grow them that I’ve finally decided to resist temptation at the nursery.

Arugula, yellow cosmos and potatoes have naturalized in my garden. The arugula is a real weed, although I do like being able to pick it whenever I want. The yellow cosmos I pull up when it starts to get in the way. The potatoes, I dig up a few, then put the little ones back in the ground.

They’re Pink Polka Dot that I got from Seed Savers years ago. That’s something else I don’t do anymore.

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Working to build a local, sustainable food system in San José