In the heat of the season, our garden is thriving. It’s like a midsummer night’s dream garden. Here’s a little update on what’s been growing, how we’re eating it all, and what’s ahead for the future of our little backyard farm.
Over the last few weeks, our garden has been bursting with flavor. It’s a dream. Despite the eggplants never growing and most of the peppers not popping, nearly everything else has been thriving in our very green garden.
The squash sprouted with gusto. I’ve been pulling squash from our garden for weeks. I froze some of it to make zucchini bread or other snacks in the future. I’ve been living off of sauteed squash with seasonings and feta for lunch. I set an entire week’s meal plan around squash. And I passed a few along to friends.
We only planted four cucumber seedlings, of which three have grown strong. Last year, I let the cucumbers grow on the ground. This year, I invested in a trellis so they could grow up and away from the soil. They are thriving, thanks in large part to the trellis, which prevents them from sitting in the dirt where they rot faster and attract pests.
We have had so many gigantic cucumbers, some up to 16 long, that I can’t keep up with them. A couple shriveled away in the fridge, which gnawed at my zero waste intentions. I used one of the shriveled cucs to make cinnamon cucumber bread, but the second was lost to time.
I ate an entire cucumber with hummus as my meal for dinner a time or two. I have another meal plan in the works all around cucumbers. And I bought a dehydrator to make cucumber chips (and more) as we continue to enjoy the harvest from our garden. We’ve passed along a few of the cucumbers to friends.
Green Beans Galore
I planted about a dozen green bean plants this year, and they turned out great. We froze several bags of them and also have had them for dinner several nights. Last week, T even got excited seeing them on the table. For a kid who doesn’t eat a lot of veggies, I was pumped to see the garden get him excited about healthy food.
So Many Sunflowers
Last year, we planted a handful of sunflowers and only one or two took root. This year, however, I sprinkled sunflower seeds among many other plants. So many sunflowers are standing tall, some up to 10 or 12 feet, all around our garden. Only a couple have bloomed thus far, and I can’t wait to see all of them with their yellow petals spreading wide and sharing the delight of a beautiful sunflower.
Very Berry Juice
We had a bounty of raspberries in the first couple weeks of July, many of which never even made it into the house. J gobbled them up before I could get them out of the garden. The raspberries have been quiet lately, but we will have another round of them a bit later in the season. Currently, the bees are at work pollinating another bunch of berry blossoms.
The raspberries have been a learning experience for me this year. Not realizing last fall and this spring how much trimming they needed, the raspberry patch is a little crowded and hasn’t produced to its full capacity like it did last year. I know for next year to be more thorough when I prune to give space for fresh canes to sprout and grow next summer.
Last year, we planted one blackberry bush. We ate a few blackberries from the bush but not more than a dozen. The blackberry bush is very happy in its home this summer and has been growing and sprouting new branches like wildfire since last fall.
J chose the blackberry plant and we consider it his, so he’s been excited to see the plant produce. We have so many blackberries this year, and J couldn’t be happier. Not a single blackberry has seen our kitchen because every single one of them lands in his mouth before I can bring them inside.
A New Kitchen Toy
I nearly doubled the planting space in our garden this year by planting more intensively (putting plants closer together) and adding four new raised beds. Consequently, our garden has produced more than we can eat while the fruits and veggies are fresh.
I froze some things, and I also bought a dehydrator. We have already made cucumber chips and apple chips, something the boys absolutely love. I also have plans to make dried fruit leathers and beef jerky. Wish me luck.
Chickens In The Future?
I’m not ready yet to make the investment of time or money, but I am really intrigued to have our own chickens someday. We eat a lot of eggs, and I would love to have fresh eggs direct from our own chickens.
The chicken manure is also a great addition to our compost. Thus, the eggs feed our family while the chicken waste feeds the soil and closes the loop on the circle of life in our little backyard farm.
Our garden attracts lots of birds. Despite eating all my peaches, they also eat bugs that might otherwise destroy our plants. We lost a few squash blossoms to animals, but as long as the animals help maintain a healthy ecosystem in our garden, I’ll take the trade-off any day.
The garden is surrounded by a fence to keep out larger pests like deer and groundhogs, who can do major damage to a garden in a matter of hours. Last year, we had a groundhog take residence in our garden and promptly sent him packing. This past week, I found a deer in our garden for the first time in two years. We forgot to close the gate to our yard and I believe that’s the reason deer ended up wandering in, but you better believe I shooed it away as fast as I could.
When Bigger is Better
Next year, I hope to make the garden even more productive by taking advantage of the spaces I haven’t yet used and continuing to improve the quality of the soil with compost and regenerative agriculture practices. I’ll share more about this in the next couple of weeks.
I manage most of the gardening myself, primarily because I really enjoy it. I love watching my sweat labor mature into something productive and healthy for our family. I also love observing the natural ecosystem cycle through its phases.
As the summer harvest begins to wane, I’ve started to think about planting a handful of cooler weather crops for the fall. I never thought I’d be interested or brave enough to try a second round of crops in one year, but I’m going to give it a shot. I’m a little nervous but have nothing to lose beyond a few packs of seeds and a few hours of my time planting them.
If you have a garden, what has been your biggest success this year? Any lessons learned you’d love to share? Let us know in the comments, and I hope your garden is bursting with a basket full of bounty for your bellies.