Sunday, July 5, 2015

Knee High by the Fourth of July

    I'm very pleased with the progress of my vegetable garden, and in particular with my little corn crop.  Most of my corn passed the proverbial "knee high" benchmark in late June. I had to replant a portion of my corn patch due to some unknown critter (possibly a crow or Stellar's Jay) pulling some of the little plants out by the roots. The replanted parts are just now approaching knee high. I'm not sure it was worthwhile to replant the corn, but the gaps in the rows bugged me.  Enough of the corn escaped predation such that I'm looking forward to a good harvest of indian corn.  I have gone to great lengths to find corn varieties that will work in our Western Washington maritime climate.  This year I am growing Mandan Red Clay Parching Corn. It is a short season lavender colored flour corn, suitable for both parching and cornbread.  The problem with corn is not so much the length of the growing season as the amount of heat.  Our growing season is long enough but our maritime summers usually don't provide enough heat for many varieties of corn. This summer has been so much warmer than past summers that I think I could have planted any variety of corn this year and it would have worked.  The past few weeks have been mostly in the low nineties and high eighties.
More than knee high and tasseling
   My pole beans have started to produce blossoms and they are all climbing up their respective poles.  My winter squash and three varieties of summer squash are off to the races.   We started picking zucchini this past week. I managed to get all of my cucumbers and cabbages transplanted, but I've had to water them almost daily to help them get their roots established during this hot weather. Cucumbers don't really start to grow well until the weather gets warm. They are really starting to take off  now.

    I harvested my first potatoes several weeks ago.  I tried mulching the potatoes with straw, having read that they will form potatoes in the straw.   I didn't experience that, possibly I didn't add enough straw. However, none of the potatoes were sun scalded.  They may have grown close to the surface of the soil, but the straw mulch protected them from the sun. I harvested the one row of potatoes that was right next to my cabbages as they had grown so tall that they were shading the cabbages.  We also harvested our first onion so Linda was able to make creamed peas and potatoes. Unfortunately we had to use frozen peas. I planted my peas about a month late so they weren't ready.  We have also harvested our first tomatoes.  I really look forward to the time of year when we are able eat from our garden every day.

    I have experimented growing Jerusalem Artichokes for the past few years. I still haven't eaten any of them, but they are very spectacular plants to grow. They are a type of sunflower, native to North America. Indian tribes who lived in the midwest and the plains used to harvest the wild tubers. So how did it get the name Jerusalem Artichoke?  At some point it was introduced into Europe. Because the flavor of the tubers is similar to artichokes they were called Girasole Artichokes after the Italian word for Sunflower. Somehow that name migrated back to America, being corrupted to Jerusalem Artichoke.  I have had several problems with Jerusalem Artichokes, also called Sunchokes.  First of all, little voles have eaten a good part of the tubers.  Voles are like a cross between a mouse and a gopher. They have also caused some problems with my potatoes, but its worse with the sunchokes because they are harvested so late in the year. I usually harvest my potatoes before the voles do too much damage.  The second problem with sunchokes is that in spite of the voles, there are numerous little tubers that I always fail to find. In spite of the fact that most of my harvest has gone to the voles, the plants come back year after year, regardless of my present plans for that portion of the garden.

   This year I'm trying a new strategy with the Jerusalem Artichokes. I transplanted some of my volunteers into old ratty unusable honeybee shipping cages.  I planted the whole box into the ground so the tubers will develop inside the shipping cage.  The tubers are protected from the voles and when I pull up the shipping cage, I should be able to remove every last tuber. At least that is my plan We'll see if it turns out according to plan. I've also transplanted some of the volunteers into pots.

A patch of volunteer Jerusalem Artichokes
An unusable shipping cage repurposed to a subterranean planter box

Jeerusalem Artichokes safely contained

1 comment:

  1. Your garden sounds spectacular! One of my cucumbers started flowering. Lucy picked one, so I had to set her straight. And those beans you gave us are just going to town! The squash seems happy in our front yard next to my basil and we have little watermelon starts, but I'm not sure our growing season will be long enough for them. But we have been clearing out more space for plants for next summer! Hopefully we will be prepared by then.