Hey, You Wanna See My Garden, … Please?

A Full Row of Tomatoes – All Duded Up and Ready to Grow

I consider most garden blog posts to be the equivalent of an evening at the neighbors watching vacation clips – or sitting through a session with the boss, as he shows off his collection of wallet pics of his kids – wow!  But, WTH, I’m a blogger and the garden takes up a lot of my summer time – and the garden also fills a gap in my food life, since I’m one of those gardeners who tend to grow the things I most want to eat, and just coincidentally, are not even available at my local markets.  And so the garden deserves at least a few seasonal mentions – right?

I’m what’s known to the insiders as a ‘kitchen gardener’.  And I look at this relationship in a very practical way – I would like the garden to provide me, most cost and labor effectively, a goodly amount of tasty ingredients for the meals I cook.  I don’t profess to be an organic gardener – this is Oregon – that means it is garden pest heaven.  In my defense, I do not pull out the chemicals until I see serious damage being done to my crops – and the only exception to that rule is my annual preemptive chemical attack on slugs and snails – and I will not apologize for that.

I don’t grow things which I can buy down at the Farmer’s Market for much less than I can grow it (the list of things I want to grow exceeds my garden space as it is), so no potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage and such.  My post today will center on those special garden items which I’ve selected to grow this year – I’ll tell you why I want to grow it, and I’ll tell you about the problems of growing it.  In that way, maybe we can make this post more interesting and more helpful than the usual mundane garden post.

First, an admission – mine is not the ideal yard in which to do gardening.  There is too much shade, and few vegetables grow well without lots of sun.  But one of the prime reasons why we bought this property was that it had beautiful trees on it.  So, … I lick my garden wounds and do the best I can.

The truth is that for most vegetables, it simply means they grow more slowly – the only things which I grow regularly that come up short in some years are tomatoes, and winter squash – I don’t even try to grow peppers, corn or eggplants.  But I have good soil, and I treat it well, and this gives me an advantage.

Another admission – this year has been a difficult one for getting the garden off to a good start.  Simply too much rain, and not enough warmth.  A few vegetables seem not to care – lettuce, beets and many kinds of greens do OK, but I’m sure if conditions were better, they’d do even better.

And one final admission – all gardens look great when they are young!  Garden pests have not yet had a chance to do their damage – and the many garden viruses and diseases have not yet taken hold – and we gardeners have not yet over or under watered.  The skill of a gardener may best be seen by how his/her garden looks at harvest time – if there even is a harvest!

OK, here are this year’s garden hopes and dreams.

Lettuce:

Some Unique Italian Lettuce – Seed is 5 Years Old!

A Nice Buttercrunch Head – and a Few Next Generation Babies

In the Oregon climate, only a dummy would ignore growing lettuce – and lettuce is one of those veggies that doesn’t necessarily need lots of sun.  Add to that the fact that the kinds of lettuce we like are also the more expensive ones in the market, and you see why lettuce makes up a significant part of our garden.  If I didn’t have a garden, I’d still grow lettuce in old buckets on our deck.

Treviso Radicchio:

My Unweeded Row of Treviso Radicchio

See, It’s Just Starting to Form a Head – Yes, It Is

A plant of multiple identities -alternatively known as radicchio, endive, chicory, and lettuce, this is a new garden addition for me – I’ve grown the little round red heads of radicchio before, and enjoyed their slightly bitter taste in salads, but last year I read an article about the growing popularity of Treviso Radicchio and how the Italian growers of California were increasing their acreage of it annually – the article described in delicious detail how the heads were split in half down the middle, drenched in olive oil, and grilled over charcoal.  Since I’ve never seen this one in a store or market, I knew I’d have to grow it myself to enjoy it – I eagerly look forward to my first bite.

Mustard Greens:

Wild Garden Mustard – Seeded Thickly – Thinned Over Time

An Asian Mustard, Choho – Super For Stir-Fries

I frankly don’t understand the negativity that surrounds the public perception of mustard greens – maybe it’s something that grows with you as you age – and maybe gardeners have a greater appreciation of them than eaters in general, as they are one of the easier garden veggies, and they literally grow here all year round.  It’s no wonder then that the Japanese have utilized the family of mustard greens for many of their hybrid vegetable creations of the last 100 years – they may well be my most useful family of vegetables in my entire garden.

Gai Lan:

Gai Lan Likes This Climate!

Another member of the brassica family, although in this case, a Chinese member – quite popular in the Asian community, Gai Lan shows a visual relationship to broccoli, but is actually a closer relative of kale – each plant has several long stalks, each ending with a small budding head – its taste is more aggressive than that of broccoli, and I think a bit sweeter too – my personal favorite of the Asian broccoli/kale family.

Lacinato or Tuscan Kale:

My ‘Endangered’ Lacinato Kale Seedling – One of Only 7 Existing

Here’s What It Will Look Like (I Hope!)
(courtesy of amishlandseeds.com)

A plant of a hundred names (dinosaur kale, palm tree kale, nero de Toscana, cavolo nero), Lacinato Kale is my garden favorite for this year!  I’ve been hearing about it for several years, but only this past winter did I have an opportunity to taste some.  An epiphany, as they say – it does not share the usual kale taste, which I think is a but aggressive, but rather has a much more mild, sweet and interesting flavor than its rather rugged looks would suggest.  I found it a bit of a challenge to find the seed, and so armed myself with two packs.  As one would expect -and as my luck would have it- I had problems getting my seed to maturity seedlings – every possible challenge popped at every juncture, and still no seedlings to show – until finally I was down to my last few seeds.  With crossed fingers, I sowed them directly into the ground just a few weeks ago – what I can show you here is the result of that last planting, and I am determined to give these few survivors the star status they deserve, and to enjoy this exceptional garden sensation to the fullest.

There, now you know my innermost garden secrets – OK, maybe not secrets, but at least my hopes and desires – but as I suggested above, not all garden desires come to fruition.  But you can bet that I’ll be doing my best to make these dreams come true, and whatever, I’ll be back here in October to let you know how it worked out – just don’t hold your breath.

I leave you today with one of my garden beauties – this is an oregano plant in my herb section – oregano is a perennial, and this one is rather unique in that it looks like a variegated type – but maybe not, because I think variegated means each leaf has several colors – but hey!  What’a I know?  Whatever, it’s still pretty.

A Pretty Garden Oregano

So what’s growing in your garden?

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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15 Responses to Hey, You Wanna See My Garden, … Please?

  1. Darn it, why didn’t you tell me you found garden posts boring? ;-)

    I don’t though, and I loved seeing what was in your garden, Doc. I like how we all end up growing to our eating preferences – it takes a few years, but surely that’s the real aim of a home garden! We now grow cos lettuce almost exclusively, but we’ve grown all the varieties in your lettuce photo in the past. My big thing now is that I won’t grow non-heading lettuce – too hard on the back to harvest and too hard on the eyes to separate them from the weeds! I will make an exception for rocket though.

    Adore Cavolo Nero and we try to grow it rather than spinach in the garden. I love bringing it into the kitchen and unzipping it from the hard centre rib. I want to grow curly Russian purple kale as well, as it’s so robust and seems to last forever in the fridge, but I can’t find seed anywhere!

    We only grow Asian greens as a distraction for the snails and slugs – they seem to prefer them and leave the other stuff alone. Our winter garden is full of sprouting garlic at the moment – we’re madly shoving in old cloves all over the place. It’s not really cold enough to form decent heads, but it seems to do wonders as a companion plant for keeping the white moths away!

    Thanks for sharing your garden with us! :)

    • drfugawe says:

      Qualifier, my dear, qualifier (most!) – Oh, you know I do this to get people talking – that and my cynical and mischievous nature. I love spinach but for whatever reason, it gives me trouble to grow, and I look for subs – the Choho greens in this post is a good sub, if you grow it thick and pick it young – and we like a Japanese green called Komatsuna as another.

      I didn’t grow a ton of garlic this year – I’m trying to learn the secrets of the allium world when treated as perennials instead of replanting seed every year – and I remember you talking about that too.

  2. Wow! Black soil and too much rain. It’s over 100 degrees here in the midwest and has been for days. We’re at least 8 inches behind for the year and every plant in my yard thinks it’s August. The grasses are already pushing up their seed heads, an act which I’ve never seen occur until September. Our soil is a pale brown clay and hard as a rock right now. Admire your skills and knowledge with food and can see the practicality of your garden. Makes sense.

    • drfugawe says:

      Might look black in the pics, but mine is also a clay base, and in mid summer -when rain completely stops- it too turns to rock – if only we could convince nature to parcel out these goodies over the year. Oh well, that’d take all the fun out of it, wouldn’t it?

  3. Sandee says:

    Since I have a black thumb and hate getting dirty I am lucky to have you. I love getting lettuce right from the garden and into the salad bowl. The rest of your garden confuses me but since you’re my chef as well as gardener, I’m a lucky lady!! (You didn’t mention how many hours you spend tending your plants! Patience is another one of your virtues.)

  4. Glenda says:

    Hey Doc, I don’t find garden blogs boring. I find them inspiring. We have just spent the week building the frames for my vegie patch so hopefully in the nex year or so I will be able to bore you with my hopes and dreams.

    We have Glenda’s problem, though. Too much sun and not enough water. Oh, for the perfect environment.

    Your garden looks absolutely wonderful and you should be very proud of it.

    • drfugawe says:

      You just read too many good blogs, Glenda! Ha.

      As a kid, I lived in New Jersey (The Garden State), then moved to Florida (another agricultural heaven), and then to Oregon (the promise land of the pioneers) – all three of those are famous as farmlands, but all very different climate wise – yes, if only they could combine their assets, they’d have something.

  5. Misky says:

    You are growing some very interesting food there, Doc! The lettuces, I assume, you can buy at the supermarket, and like you I don’t usually plant what I can buy cheaply at the shops. I’d like to grow some elephant garlic, but alas I’m not allowed to bring it into the country from the US so I do without. We’re also having a wet and cool summer, and nothing is liking it much. Well, the roses love it … but not much else. I like the mustard you’re growing. I think that would be good in salads.

    • drfugawe says:

      Well Misky, my dear, it is indeed a pleasure to see you – thanks for visiting. So you can’t bring elephant garlic into the UK, huh – interesting. Well, have you ever tasted it? I think it’s more like a potato than a garlic – and that’s raw – when you cook it, it gets even more mellow. It’s just a completely different veg than is garlic – so, depending on what you intend to do with it, you may not have missed much.

      Hope your garden is doing well, and that your weather begins to do its part.

      • Misky says:

        I’m here often; just don’t pipe up much. I’m still using your pizza dough recipe with great success. As for the elephant garlic, I like to use it raw in salad dressings or raw in garlic butter that I freeze in cling-film wrapped logs. One day I’ll risk customs and try bringing some in.

  6. There is something about the smell of a backyard tomato plant that I absolutely love. The tomato is the added bonus but the leaf smell… It’s got bare feet, endless summer and carefree all wrapped up in that smell.
    Love kale, and love gai lan. One day I’ll get to grow them…one day.

    • Sandee says:

      I thought I was the only one who LOVED the smell of tomato plants!! I’m not crazy about tomatoes but love the smell of the leaves! It must be long ago memories it envokes of summer and the beach; we could smell it from our house… Don’t tell John but I go out to the garden a pick off a leaf just to smell it!

  7. drfugawe says:

    And as a kid, I lived on a farm with a big garden (in New Jersey, The Garden State!) – I remember well those dry sunny still summer days when the temp would hit 100F (38C) and the predominant smell in the air was that of those tomato leaves! Yup, pure summer. I’m sure a gal with tomato juice in her veins will find a way to get her hands in the dirt again.

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