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Checking up on the backyard kitchen garden

June 25, 2013

 

I've been traveling so much over the past few months that my backyard kitchen garden has been pretty much left to its own devices. When I've been home I'm rushed out to throw a few new plants in the ground, feed, stake, water, then off I go again. It's been interesting to see what flourishes without being poked and prodded, and I've basically left the gardening work to nature. Exhibit A: The lettuces in the picture above are the same seeds I tossed in the ground last November, still going in mid-June.

As I often mention, I am an experimental gardener who learns as she goes. I dug out my own garden three years ago from the grass around our backyard deck and each year I plant new things to see how they grow and how they taste in my cooking experiments.

I have been haphazardly tossing snow pea seeds into pots and empty areas of dirt this spring and hoping for the best. As luck as had it, the amount of rain we've gotten lately has them all flourishing in abundance now.

 

I tied these snow peas in a pot to a twigs and branches from a nearby bush and the plants are happily climbing towards the sun now.

I've also got snow peas and english peas growing in the garden itself, as they love climbing the chicken wire we attached to the deck for them. They'll be hopefully be joined by the climbing english cucumbers that are planted below and are just getting going now. Edge of the strawberry gutter garden can been seen above in this shot too.

The beautiful hardneck Denman Garlic that I mentioned in my Abundance of Home-Grown Garlic post (given to me by a local grower last winter) is doing really well. There are garlic scapes everywhere, and I've been snipping them off and baking them on pizzas and sauteing in stir frys. This is garlic scape season and a great time to try it in your own kitchen (what the heck is a garlic scape, you ask?). If you spot these twisted green stems at a farmer's market, buy a bag! They've got a beautiful garlic-y flavour with a texture somewhat like a young asparagus stem. They are amazing in chili too.

 

I was joking to a friend the other day that my kitchen garden is an orphanage for unwanted and unloved plants. These brussel sprouts are a perfect example, J brought home the seedlings looking sad and wilted. I nursed them back to health and did some quick research on how the hell to grow a brussel sprout plant (yet another first). I've got 8 plants going strong now. Looks like I'm going to have to learn to cook brussel sprouts more than just at Christmas.

Can you see it? The tomatoes are starting! I've got a wide variety of plant types going this year, and the race to see what kinds will actually grow in my partial sun garden has begun. So far so good, lots of flowers and a few tiny fruit starting to pop out here and there.

This potato box has shocked the hell out of me, the first time I've tried growing potatoes like this. I dug it deep down into the bottom of the garden, lined it with cedar planks and planted a bunch of random sprouting potatoes from my cupboard and left-over seed potatoes I found when I dug out last year's potato hill. They exploded instantly and I've been adding more soil and planks as they grow. Apparently you can get up to 100 pounds of potatoes from a potato box this size. Seems like I'm on track so far.

 

The strawberry 'gutter garden' is growing great too. One long piece of rain gutter, bolted to the edge of my deck now holds 30 strawberry plants that are just starting to ripen. This was the easiest bit of garden prep I've ever done, and I now think everyone should have a gutter garden bolted somewhere - it would be a great way to grow lettuces all year with one attached to the side of the house.

Hoping for some nice sunny days to get all the plants into 'summer growing' mode. Experimental gardening is a constant source of education,elbow-deep in dirt work and I'm really enjoying the challenge.

Want to start your own kitchen garden? Here are some tips to get you going.

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