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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Kitchen Witch's Garden

Howdy, friends!

I sure have had a busy month, catching up on work, experimenting with gelato flavors, and moving to my new house. I have a dear friend who's taking over my old house for me, so I get to visit my garden, still, while I work with this new one. I'm lucky to be moving at the end of summer/beginning of autumn, so it's not so scorching hot. I'm also lucky that I have until late October to be out, as I am really bad with moving. I'm setting myself a goal, though, to be completely 100% out by the 1st of September, which isn't unreasonable, especially considering we'll be staying at my place for a few days while the wood floors get treated. I'm completely in love with my new house, and the new plot of land that comes with it. I've got BIG plans for my new backyard, and am really going to take my time with my new gardening knowledge and make this the best garden ever.

"Night falls, and my Watch has begun..."
Having a fully fenced yard is fantastic, especially when there's no treacherous woods full of disease-ridden ticks all the way in the far back. Howl has taken to his new surroundings quite nicely, and has no problem digging up the dirt with me while I turn over the soil in my new garden plot.

It's a bit late in the year to plant new things, but your late summer/early fall crops are also your late winter/early spring crops. This means planting beets, carrots, leafy greens, cabbage, kale, broccoli, radishes, turnips, et cetera! I've planted radishes, carrots, and beets. They're cheap, they're easy to grow, and they're delicious. Updates on those ones soon!

It had been a few weeks since I'd been actually in my old backyard, but I couldn't think of a better time to check on it than today, considering it was not only really nice out, but it was my day off. I took several boxes and packed up my (almost) whole kitchen, some laundry, a few things I needed from my bathroom, and (unintentionally) more dog hair than anyone will ever need.

My garden, despite this crazy heat and wild weather patterns that are so associated with the Midwest, I also live by a river, so bugs are a big issue. Fortunately, I have spades of grasshoppers that gobble them up, and live their lovely little lives in my giant pumpkin patch that's taken over the entire yard. In an attempt to thin them when they were still smaller plants, I even planted a few in my front windowbox, just for kicks. It's grown all the way around my house and down towards the yard, to join its friends...

Don't believe me? Just watch.

The front plant even has two pumpkins budding! See that? That's a tiny pumpkin, which will grow and grow. Here's a picture of another on the same plant.

See how it's all swollen, now, but the bloom is still attached? Soon, the bloom will fall off and the pumpkin will really start to grow! See, pumpkin plants need a lot of energy to create those wonderful gourds that we so love, and that's why they need to spread out. All of those leaves collect energy from the sun, all to grow those delicious pumpkins, in hopes that some animal will come along, gobble it up, and dispense the seeds elsewhere. Cool, right?? I hope this one will be ready by October...

I found several others hiding in the BIG pumpkin patch in the back. I would have taken a picture, but I couldn't stand far back enough without getting into the nasty weeds that give me hives. Just take my word for it that they're huge.

Isn't this one a cutie, too? I found him underneath the watermelon vines.

Here's one that you can see the blossom starting to dry up and fall off. You know the little "button" on the bottom of your pumpkin? Your watermelon? Your butternut squash? That's where the blossom used to be! This is also the place on melons that you can sniff and see if it's ripe or not.

Now, then, being of the Blood O type, I attract mosquitos like you wouldn't believe. If you're a gardener, a Type O, or just get eaten up by mosquitos moreso than your friends, I highly recommend this little gem:

This is a citronella bracelet. I picked mine up at Planters Seed Co. in the River Market area. They cost about $1.50 and they last for 200 days after they're taken out of the package. Put this beauty on, and the mosquitos will avoid you. You will no longer be stung by mosquitos. Seriously. I even saw a mosquito land on my knee while I was wearing this, and just "Nope" out of there. I love this thing, and will highly recommend it to anyone suffering like I do.

Anyway, back to pictures!

I was really excited about these guys, considering this is my first time EVER growing corn! I'm a scant 5'8" in height, so that means my tallest ones were a little over 4 feet. I planted them VERY late June/early July, which is probably too late to grow corn, but I figured that I've only wasted a dollar if they didn't turn out. And they have, so far! They've got until the end of October to grow corn, which is when the first frost usually happens. I'm confident that they can do it.

Speaking of confidence, I'm confident that my tomato haul will be my best ever. I mean, not only are my brandywine plants finally producing...

This is a brandywine tomato plant, usually a late bloomer.

But my Indigo Roses have been a constant producer(while a bit slow, I'll admit).
The Indigo rose tomato is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world.

And my Gardner's Delight, which I didn't even plant this year, just showed up...and started wowing! I've got about ten Gardner's Delight plants that just popped up out of nowhere, all over my garden, and they're producing like you wouldn't believe! To tell you the truth, I'm half-tempted to dig a few of the smaller ones up and take them with me to my new house, but it seems wrong somehow to do so.

Besides, they're already fairly well established, so why should I want to harm them when they're perfectly content where they are?

Now, the one plant I'm honestly concerned about is my Moon and Stars watermelon plant. It's just recently begun to vine out, but hasn't fruited yet...at least not that I've seen. The leaves are gorgeous, with pretty yellow spots, just like stars in the night sky, but I fear that this nutty weather has proven too much for it. I hope that I get a fruit and that it ripens before the first frost!

This picture is my pride and joy. It's my first pumpkin of the season, and I just cannot believe how big and yellow it is already!

When I planted the seeds, I realized that several of them got mixed up with others, so I wasn't sure which was which. This is a Long Island Cheese pumpkin, which has a pleasant, mild, almost creamy flavor that resembles a wonderful pumpkin-flavored cheese. Doesn't that sound fantastic???

The vines area already withering and drying on this one, which means harvest time is nigh! Notice the brick underneath?

When you grow melons, pumpkins, etc., a good trick is to prop them off of the ground with some kind of something(I use bricks, but you can use wood chips, cedar planks, etc) to aid in the prevention of rot and insect damage. That being said, you can store these squash products in a cool, dry place for up to six months once harvested. What else can you say that about? Potatoes.

These are purple potatoes. I harvested them quite recently, but some of them were still quite small. I'll use these ones to be planted in the spring. Make sure that, if you do plant potatoes, you dig them ALL up, otherwise they'll just keep on growing and growing and growing, year after year after year...which isn't necessarily a bad thing, unless you move. One thing for sure, I can't wait to plant these and grow them again. They were delicious, and it's so fun to cut into a potato and see a beautiful, bright blue.

The great thing about gardening interesting ingredients like this is that when you get varieties in color, you get fabulous nutrients. The colors blue and purple are absolute necessities for a healthy diet when it comes to produce. Eat a rainbow; nature gives you everything you need you be happy and healthy, so why not work symbiotically with it? Nature is a beautiful thing, and working in a garden is one of the things that fills me with such a magical joy.

I hope this has inspired you to, at least, look into gardening for yourself! There's still time in the year to grow lettuce, broccoli, kale, and spinach, all things that easily can be grown on your counter top, if you live in an apartment or have limited space. Go outside, though, for roots like radishes, turnips, beets, etc. You'll be glad you did, as your body will thank you for the exercise and vitamin D.

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