Sunday, August 24, 2014

Best Summer Photos

It has been a cool and fruitful summer. We have enjoyed great harvests,
and so have the woodchucks. Luckily the woodchucks liked the raddichio
best, which I had planted too much of, and they left us some of
everything else, (although we will see who wins the battle over the
Tuscan Kale!)

Garlic, red and green cabbage, Tennis Ball lettuce, Bright Lights Swiss chard, Cherokee lettuce, summer savory, grey thyme and my favorite Chioggia beets. The strings defining each row are more a dog deterrent than for straight lines. If I put a string on each side of the row, our dog Lily is less apt to run all over the rows!

Every year I say I will paint these antique architectural brackets before the rose comes in, but then spring hits and I promise to do it in the fall. It has been over 4 years now...

Reseeded from the fields, I don't mind this native version of rudebeckia, it is welcome color in the late summer.

 In this herb garden, in the spring it is all purple/blue. Catmint, baptisia, chives,
egyptian onions, lovage, lemon balm, lanium and boxwoods.

 In early summer the peonies bloom under our sunroom window, the hostas are still in control. Here is the Euyonomous that got hit by the Bradford pear next to it one winter ago. Luckily you can cut these back hard and they will fill in within a season.

Fairy rose did well, and the new Bloodgood maple near the birdfeeder is a hit! The birds love waiting their turn on the branches, and the color is a eye stopper!

Pre-woodchuck, the kitchen garden at its best.

Always expanding, this part of the kitchen garden is stakes and large things. Tuscan kale, tomatoes, onions, shallots, purple brussel sprouts and snap peas. This was taken before the woodchuck dug the whole to the center of the earth in the middle!

Mid-summer there is always the next planting. Here I added more compost to power up the soil for the next flush. It all looks so dark and moist when you first put it down.  This year I tried the no dig method, and though it saved my back, the compost straight from the pile gets dried out fast. I may turn it in a bit next year...I guess I just have to dig!

 Daisies, always welcome. At dusk they glow.

Brights Lights swiss chard and Mammouth Red Rock cabbage...gorgeous!

 Perhaps my favorite picture, taken when color, texture and variety are at their best in the kitchen garden late July. Fun to remember how it all on to fall!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Garlic Harvest!

Everyone who has gardened for awhile will give you their theory on when to harvest your garlic. All I can say is that for the past couple years the harvest has been great, and here is what I have been doing....
  • I put them in the same spot every year, probably not the best advice since this crop takes a lot from the soil, but I do it purely because it looks best against the wall where I put them, first in the spring when nothing is up, then when the scapes come up and add a curly sculptural element behind all the other color and texture.
  • Last year, I took most of my kitchen scrap compost ( we have in a bin outside) that wasn't nearly composted, and put it directly in the soil before I planted the bulbs. I mean whole eggshells, slimy banana skins, everything! I buried the uncomposted compost a bit in the soil to let the microbes have at it. After all, they would have all winter!

  • Then I bought the largest of the German Hard Neck bulbs I could find in the Farmers Market and planted each clove 2 inches deep in the soil and kitchen compost. They were about 4 inches apart. I planted them in early November. They say that only large cloves produce large cloves...
  • I added about 2 more inches of regular compost in early June after they were about 2 feet high.
  • Then when the scapes came up, I left some on, and others I used in arrangements or to cook with. I didn't seem to matter, the bulbs were of equal size whether the scape was left on or not.

I once heard from a farmer that you should harvest when the scape uncurls and the tip is parallel with the horizon. This sounds scientific, but I think you should leave it in the ground until the scapes go straight, and they are about to bloom. Many people take the scapes off to encourage bulb production as opposed to flower production. This makes sense to me, they just look so great in the garden, I tend to keep many intact. I also heard from friends that harvest should happen when you are down to 5 green leaves on the stalk. I like this theory, and really that is about the same time as when the scapes uncurl. In Maine, I would say the first weeks of August are a safe bet!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Star Island Pel Garden: Sustainably Reusing What You Have

Star Island, off the coast of New Hampshire, has always had a huge interest in consuming less, recycling more and a holistic approach to every resource used. It is after all, a rock 8 miles out to sea, with no fresh water, not much growing space, and 300 people a week during the summer months. Oh...and the 100 people who run the island, most of which are between the ages of 18-25 called Pelicans ( Don't ask me why. All I know is Pelicans are Pelicans!)

Sustainability starts with reuse of the things we have used. Star Island, in the Isles of Shoals, has chosen to become a leader in sustainable living through a total overhaul of all the consumption and utility usage delivery systems on the island. In the Pel garden though, reuse starts with what they have a lot of...empty bottles! A clever way to make raised beds for vegetables, it is not a bad look
with the early morning sun glinting off green glass!

The other thing they have plenty of is seaweed! Seaweed makes excellent nutrient rich mulch as we see here in the potato mounds. The garden layout is a mix of European rows of lettuce and greens with the Native American tradition of mounding certain vegetables in hills. Cardboard and hay are also used as mulch. This garden produces 1000 lbs of vegetables a season and thanks to a new WOOF program, expertise and volunteers are plentiful.

Much of the garden has a ordered chaos feel that is its charm. Spinach, beans, chard, potatoes, lettuce,
and squash populate this garden by the sea. Watering is by cistern water, collected from the rain off buildings and stored in holding tanks.  

Volunteer Pels and visitors keep the weeds at bay, but even time and energy are at a premium out here. Weeds that don't affect production are allowed to grow, and compost from the island goes on the beds. Star Island's incredible efforts to make almost everything on Island be compostable ( I mean composted in 1-2 years, not 20 years) and reusable is phenomenal. Every trash station has three bins for recycling, compostable waste, and trash with clear signs describing what can go in which bin.

The Garden log is a nice touch for those who visit the garden. This tradition can be seen on many remote islands, where a log for visitors to sign in and comment is held in a rain proof box. I love reading all the comments from people from far away who come to visit this garden and who are impressed by its charm.

But it is the flair of past Pelicans and volunteers who have created this garden that I love. Of course it is not without its sculptural focal point, a toilet surrounded by a platform of brick cascading with annuals! What could be more appropriate for this island where used things can become new again. Click here to read more about the incredible advances Star has made toward sustainability and here to read the sustainable pelican blog.