June 20, 2012

Gardening In The Mud

Volunteer calendula
Remember "rain, rain, go away"? I've felt like chanting that some days, even though I know I'll be wishing for it when our summer dry spell hits. Seems like every time I make a date with myself to work in the garden, it rains! We've had about 7 inches of rain over the past 4 weeks, which is good to ward off drought status, but nothing seems to have had a chance to dry out. So I've had to plant in the mud (sweet potato slips), and harvest in the mud (potatoes and garlic). Though gardening in the mud isn't recommended, I'm finding that with permanent beds, at least I don't have to worry so much about compacting the soil.

My garden efforts have been sporadic because we're making the kitchen a priority. I need to get it done before canning season starts. In spite of all the weeds, and with the exception of the potatoes, everything is doing well, even if it was planted late. And all my volunteers are amazing!

Volunteers: a sunflower & 4 O'clocks.

Last year, I planted 4 o'clocks as companions to my potatoes. Also known as Marvel of Peru, they are truly marvelous. And colorful. The seeds were sold as annuals, which in most parts of the country they are. Here in our milder climate though, they can grow as the perennials they really are. My plants grew back bigger than ever.

Amish Paste tomatoes & borage

My tomatoes are blooming. I planted Amish Paste directly because I didn't have time to start plants early. As you can see, not all came up. I planted two beds and have 29 tomato plants. If all goes well I'll have plenty. In the past I've planted Romas, so this is a new variety for me. The borage (at least I hope its borage; this is another new one for me), is a companion for the tomatoes. I also planted marigolds in the bed.

Amish Paste tomatoes, marigolds, and volunteer broom corn

They're coming up along with some volunteer broom corn. At first I was going to pull these, but then I decided to try them as living tomato stakes. Plus, the goats love broom corn seed as grain and the leaves.

My sweet potatoes are doing well,

Row of Vardaman sweet potatoes on the right
Parsnips flowering in the back left

I'm still trying to root the last of the slips, but hopefully it won't be too late for them. Yesterday I raked the mulch back from the aisle. This has worked pretty well to keep some of the weeds down. Actually now would be the time to mulch everything to keep the moisture in the soil. Mulching will have to wait because we've got to get the kitchen done.

The Egyptian walking onions are walking,

Egyptian Walking Onion topsets falling to the ground

All parts are edible: the little bulblets, called topsets, the greens, and the onion bulbs that grow in the ground. By either picking or letting the topsets fall to the ground, you can direct where the onions walk.

Taylor Dwarf Horticultural Beans
and Marketmore cucumbers. I think. 

Ever in search of yet another dried bean, I'm trying Taylor Dwarf Horticultural beans this year. They are a bush bean. We love Black Turtles, but I'd like some variety too. Neither of the white beans I tried did very well. I'm pretty sure that with them, are Marketmore 76 cucumbers I planted from saved seed. Yesterday though, I found tiny cucumbers growing where I thought I planted butternut squash seeds. And I can't find my garden chart in all the kitchen clutter! Well, maybe it's butternuts that are growing in that other bed.

For those of you interested in companion planting...

Companion comparison: same bean in both photos, different companions

The above comparison shot is of the Taylor Dwarfs, all growing in the same bed. On the left, the beans were planted with the remnants of my fall planted carrots. On the right, they're were planted with the cukes, and are growing where collards used to be. Pretty interesting, huh?

One last shot of more volunteers...

Volunteer amaranth & dill

I have volunteer amaranth and dill, which reseeds itself every year. The volunteers always seem to be bigger and hardier than what grows from seed I plant myself. I need to plant lots more amaranth, because I use the seed heads as feed. I've not tried harvesting any for us because it seems a lot of work to process the seed as grain.

Actually I have a lot more to plant. In some ways I feel behind, but then remind myself that something is better than nothing. Plus, our first summer here we planted a late garden, (June) and it did pretty well.

So how are all you other mud gardeners out there doing? I've been reading your blogs, so I know I'm not the only one having to wrestle with the weather! We have more rain forecast for the weekend, so I'd better get off the computer and get gardening.


Nina said...

Your garden looks wonderful. We've had enough dry weather between the downpours and deluges that the ground varies between too wet and hard and dry. I try to plant when I have to plant. My pole beans went in when we were having a lot of hot, dry weather but they've still germinated and are looking pretty good.
I love volunteers. I have a cucumber coming up this year which is rather nice, since I managed to forget to start any this year. Last year I ate a fresh cucumber for my lunch, every day for almost a month. It was wonderful.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

Looking good, sometimes my volunteer tomato plants look better than the ones I plant so there is something to be said for planting seed in the garden I guess.

Woolly Bits said...

yep, I am a mud gardener, too:( though with tomatoes, aubergines etc. I'd have no chance outside, I have to use the polytunnel or glasshouse. but still, I finally planted my pre-grown runner beans yesterday and had mud clumps on my shoes, worse than in winter! on the bright side though - I practically never have to water anything outside:)

good luck with all your plants - and yes, volunteers do better for me as well.... dill often doesn't come up at all when I try to tell it where to grow!

Theresa said...

What bounty! It looks great Leigh and you gotta love some of those volunteers. I'd say working on the kitchen might be termed as "happy neglect" and the garden is no worse for it.

Benita said...

I love the look of the amaranth plant. It's very pretty. I love it when you get volunteer plants - it's like Christmas in the summer.

I wish you could send us some of your rain. We are under a drought - no rain for weeks, now, and it shows. Brown grass, twisted corn and even the soybeans are beginning to turn brown. My crabapple leaves are turning brown, too.

Stephen said...

Beautiful...I envy you.

Renee Nefe said...

Believe it or not after all that hail it has been pretty much dry as a bone here. I believe that the reason that it is overcast outside today is due to the fire (I heard last night it was 50% contained finally, Praise God!)

Despite our lack of moister and the major pounding, my garden all seems to be coming back with the exception of one Roma Tomato...which oddly is still a very healthy looking stick. hummm I'll let it continue trying.

Leigh said...

Nina, our soil is like that too. It goes from too wet to too dry in a heartbeat. Love that you had a volunteer cucumber!

Sunnybrook Farm, I can't help but wonder why that is. Seems my volunteers always do better than what I deliberately plant for the year.

Bettina, interesting how we all have to deal with something! Now that you mention that about the dill, I recall the same thing. It grew where I didn't plant, not where I did. :)

Theresa, I'm so relieved about it too. Love the term "happy neglect." I'll have to remember that one. :)

Benita, I hate dry spells as much as I do too much rain. Watering never seems to do as much good as rain either. Hopefully yours is on the way!

Stephen, thank you!

Renee, that's a relief. Both your garden and the fire being under control. Hopefully you're Roma will rally!

sista said...

It's been raining here and on top of that we had graduation and out of town guest that were here on the only sunny day we have had in over a week. I planted a few beans and noticed they are poking their heads up but if I don't get the row covers on the birds will get them first. Today is sunny and I am going to garden even though my daughter wants me to take her shopping for her birthday that I promised to do. She will have to wait a day or two. Peas and potatoes are doing great though even though I didn't get all the potatoes planted that I want to.

Unknown said...

I've been fighting cold/windy weather here. Every tme I got ready to plant the temp would drop and I had to put things on hold. It snowed in the foolthills last week! It semi-normalized and I just planted. It was 68 2 days ago, but supposed to be 93 tomorrow, go figure. Boise has has really wierd weather this spring/summer...

Anonymous said...

I am so encouraged! We just got moved into our farm and we have barely anything planted!! Of course it is almost July so I am itching to get in everything I can! Glad to see someone has been there before me and survived!! Ha ha ha Thank You, I needed this post.

badgerpendous said...

Wow, that companion planting bit is interesting!

Forgive me because I'm sure you've mentioned this before. Do you have plans for rain water storage?

Sweet potatoes! We forgot to plant sweet potatoes! I knew we forgot something. Drat! :)

Jen said...

We need rain so badly right now. Every time the Weather Network calls for rain, we get nothing. My garden is starting to look awful. Send your rain my way!

Anonymous said...

Could you PLEASE send some rain to Ohio! Really got a chuckle with this (And all my volunteers are amazing!)!
Love Sweet pots, glad all is coming along well, despite all the rain! :)

Unknown said...

Your garden looks wonderful, holy flipping cow your cucumber plants looks so beautiful and healthy (jealous)! The weather here is dry and hot, not much rain until Fall with the occassional summer monsoon that do roll in from time to time. Thank you for the info on what you supplemented your soil with i loved and appreciated the info.

Lisa B. said...

I wish I was a mud gardener! It is so dry here, we are in a drought. I have to water my garden from the hose. :(

famousthecat said...

Awesome update! Your plants look so healthy. I'm with some of the other commentors - I don't remember the last time we got a proper rain here in central Indiana! And it's not looking like we'll get anything anytime soon. Sigh...

Leigh said...

Sista, I always feel like something is better than nothing! Seems like even a little garden work every day would help a lot.

Nancy, good grief, talk about temperature swings. We're headed to hot, which I definitely don't look forward too.

AHH, oh yes! Something is better than nothing and better late than never. Even if you don't get a full season's worth, you'll get something!

Badgerpendous, yes, we have rain water collection on the long term goal list. Also greywater irrigation. We actually have 4, 250 gallon tanks for the rainwater system, we just need the time and a few dollars to get it into action.

Limette, seems like it's either too much or too little. It's heartbreaking to see the garden dry up, isn't it. Hopefully you're rain will come and we won't get a dry spell.

Pam, I would if I could!

A View From A Brown Dog, thank you and you're welcome! We will get hot and dry soon too. My least favorite time of year.

Lisa, we all seem to want the opposite of what we have! I dread hose watering and fear it will be here soon enough.

Famousthecat, thanks! It's so tough to not get rain. Worse than too much really. I hope your dry spell breaks soon.

Anonymous said...

I love to see companion planting in action :) Your garden looks great Leigh!

Frank Clarivu said...

great post. how are you coping with the huge amounts of rain and then loads of sun. The conditions are tropical almost!

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Thanks Leigh for all the photos. Believe it or not when I am not ranting about raw milk or organic labels I am in my garden which is not near as lush as yours. So little rain here. I'll take some of yours...please?

Ngo Family Farm said...

We'll trade you a couple hundred degree days for some of your rain please!! ;)

Leigh said...

Stephanie, pretty interesting, huh?

Frank, very tropical. The rains came straight down with no breeze to blow them around.

Donna, no rain does pitiful things to a garden, doesn't it. Would send some rain your way if I could!

Jamime, thanks, but no thanks, LOL. I dread those days in the 100s. We usually get at least a few each summer.

Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias said...

I can relate to gardening in the mud, we have had 8 inches in the last 4 days. Beautiful garden beds!

Unknown said...

I'd say that your garden looks marvelous - despite you spending so much time on the kitchen. I'd really love to sweet potatoes outdoors and still can't get over the fact that you direct sowed your tomatoes. Lucky girl!