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Since it’s late August and I’m just getting started here at Cooking Ripe! I thought I should catch you up on how the garden grew this year. We’re in full harvest now, so you’ll see the fruit of the labor in the kitchen in future posts.
We have a large lot, and tons of mostly flat space out back, but I have only had one tiny garden back there previously. It was so tiny that the Hubs and I cleared it and turned it by hand (and backs) last year. This year, I called in my friend with mini-tractor to ‘disk’ it, as the farmers here in SW Colorado say. I had another friend bring a load of sheep manure from his farm to mix into the clay soil. Due to a timing error on my part, I hand spread the manure myself.
Then in late April, I planted the right-hand side with early season crops: potatoes, lettuce, spinach, onions, peppers, carrots and garlic. I tell you more specifics about the varieties I planted later.
Here’s how it looked after the first round of planting:
About a month later, I finally had time to get the second half planted. I added cilantro, basil, peppers, more garlic and onions, squash and my first ever tomato plants.
Meanwhile, the other side was starting to pop up:
Over the next few weeks I watered and watered and fretted over what wasn’t happening: the cilantro and basil weren’t appearing on schedule. Fearing I would be watering expanses of empty dirt if I didn’t fill in along all of the soaker hoses, I added few plants from a local greenhouse: replacement cilantro, Thai basil, broccoli, and cabbage. I filled some other gaps with leftover green onion seeds and carrots. (Meet our kitty, Kow. She supervised the gardening, especially the carrot plants, until she passed away in late July. RIP sweet kitty).
As the watering continued (and the weeding began), I noticed many sprouts that I did not plant. I knew the lazy composting (throwing my kitchen scraps out in the garden area all winter) was the culprit. I figured it was some sort of squash or melon, but nobody seemed to be able to positively identify the various volunteer sprouts. I decided to leave some, move some and (gasp!) pull some up.
By early June the first payday: fresh cut LETTUCE! Isn’t it pretty and crispy? We had salad almost every day through most of August! There’s nothing simpler than going outside with some scissors, cutting a bowl of greens, washing them up and eating them with some homemade dressing (yes, I’ll show you how easy it is to make later!).
While we sometimes get freaky snowstorms in June, this year was not cold: it was blistering hot for a few weeks. Coupled with crazy windstorms and no rain, I was afraid my delicate plants would wither or blow away. But, the heat broke on the 4th of July when we got some much needed cool air and a little rain. We also got our first carrot.
Turns out that the cilantro and basil that had threatened to stay below ground, were just teasing. Both came up beautifully after the heatwave ended. Can you blame them? I love me some cilantro and lime – on anything! (Don’t worry, I have lots of cilantro recipes!) I was giddy when I got to cut bunches like this:
By mid-July the garden was starting to produce regularly. We were eating lettuce daily and had fresh carrots and peppers as often as we wanted. The cilantro was ultra-productive and the basil was looking and smelling heavenly.
By the end of July we were finally able to positively identify the mystery squash. We have a mini-pumpkin patch and a mini-cantaloupe patch. We are excited to see how the melons turn out, given our altitude (6,800 ft).
My very first ripe tomatoes – ever! I had never tried to grow tomatoes before, so it was oh, soooo exciting to see some red beauties hanging out on the vines.
By the first week in August, we were really in full swing! We had green onions, zucchini, tomatoes, pepper, carrots and I started freaking out about keeping up with the harvest. It’s hard for two people to eat all of those veggies, but I did my best to find recipes to use up what we had so we didn’t waste. Also, since all of friends have gardens, it’s hard to give away the extras. Just eat your veggies – or freeze them!
One of those extras I added from the local greenhouse was eggplant and has been the surprise hit of the year! The plants are really pretty and the eggplant is super yummy and not bitter like the ones in the store. Even the Hubs says we should grow more next year. I will share my favorite eggplant recipes soon! By mid-August, we started cutting basil (pesto recipe also coming soon) and pulling a few onions. Aren’t they pretty?
When the garden gives you tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic and cilantro you HAVE to make fresh salsa! I’ve made salsa in the past, but this was my first time canning it – and it was pretty simple. I’ll show you the next time I make some.
By late August, the lettuce and cilantro were going to seed (did you know coriander is the seed from the cilantro plant? I didn’t but do now!), but the tomatoes, squash, carrots, peppers, eggplant, broccoli and onions are still rocking. Soon we’ll dig and cure the onions and garlic for winter storage. We are still waiting for the pumpkins and cantaloupe to ripen, but I think we’re getting close. Potatoes are not looking great, but we’ll have a few itty bitties. Oh, and we have one monster cabbage still cooking out there. Can’t wait to cut that head and cook it up. The Hubs loves cabbage!
So, this brings us to date with the garden. While it’s starting to wind down, we have lots to eat and preserve still. I hope we can get it all done!