Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps;
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.
—from “The Garden,” by A. Bronson Alcott (1868)
While this poor blog may have fallen into neglect this summer, I am pleased to report that the family garden is thriving. This is our third summer cultivating raised bed vegetable gardens, and we’ve put in the usuals—tomatoes, zucchini (both green and yellow), cucumbers, bush beans, an eggplant for Zane (white this year), and an assortment of greens. We also added two beds in the backyard this year, in which we put three Brussels sprouts (now only two, thanks to a hungry critter—chipmunk, perhaps?), three kales (now only one, see previous note), radishes, beets, and carrots. I had read that some vegetable plants can grow in partial shade, which might be too generous a description for the growing conditions out back. I’m pleasantly surprised by how well they are doing (this despite the shade and occasionally having their leaves munched off).
The raspberries we planted three years ago are finally coming into their own, and I’m concerned that they may eventually outgrow their current location. This spring I ordered three Triple Crown thornless blackberry plants from Stark Bros., which are planted alongside the garage, and they are really shooting up now in the hot weather. Also from Stark Bros., we ordered Chinook and Cascade hop rhizomes to be trained over the trellis we used during our wedding ceremony—it’s nice to get the trellis out of storage and use it for something “fruitful”! (My apologies—I can never say no to a pun when it presents itself.) For first year hops, I think our plants are doing really well. Their vertical growth appears to be stalled out now, which I’ve read is normal for first years, but the Cascade actually has quite a few cones on it! In answer to your question: Yes, we would like to brew our own beer, eventually. But, we’re looking to do one gallon batches so we don’t need so much “infrastructure.”
The star of the show (for me) is the one, singular, pear we have growing on the Comice pear tree that Damian bought me for Mother’s Day—and, we have that little pear well protected with a nylon fruit sock (you can see it in the picture below). We also purchased a Red Anjou pear tree for cross-pollination, but it won’t be producing any pears this year. If all goes according to plan, someday we’ll have two big, gorgeous pear trees for fruit and shade. I have more plans for building out our edible landscaping, but if I’ve learned anything from gardening (and I have learned a lot), it’s that nothing can be done at any speed other than what nature allows. There’s no guarantee I’ll live to see everything grow to its full height but, as the Greek proverb says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
A few other garden notes: I’ve been watering everything with a two-gallon watering can instead of the hose, with really good results. It can take up to an hour to water everything (including the pear trees), but I really like knowing exactly how much water I’m giving to the various plants. Tomatoes need a lot of water, especially when they’re setting fruit. It’s also been a really positive experience for me, personally. I wouldn’t say watering with a can is “meditative,” but it does give me time to think—parents with young children know this is a rare commodity—and, I like doing things the “old-fashioned” way.