Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cucumbers! And other things

Last year, our most depressing crop failure (there were several, but such is the price of learning) in the garden was cucumbers. They were insufficiently thinned and parched, despite a fair bit of watering, by the drought. The plants yielded a few bitter, pithy efforts and then died. About the only good thing about that is that they were done early enough that we could pull them out and replace them with a fair crop of turnips.

This year, we were careful to thin rigorously, give the cukes more space, and water obsessively (unfortunately, still from the well, as the rain barrels are still sitting in the driveway mocking us). The other day, we spotted the first fruits of our efforts hiding plumply under the leaves, and picked them and brought them in, with greatest trepidation. Later in the day, my neighbor sent me home from a chat with a cupful of dip made from a spice-mix she was trying out, and my reticence was broken. I cut a good portion of the end off in case on the ends were bitter. I cut off a slice. I admired the fine texture...promising...and finally, I put it in my mouth.

Squeeeeeeeeee! Bestest cucumber EVAR!! No, seriously. It was sweet and flavorful and crisp and cool and delicious, and I do not remember ever in my life eating one that compared, including the one last week from my neighbor's garden. We have had several since, and they've all been up to the mark the first one set. And mind, this is supposed to be a pickling variety! The "eating" variety is less vigorous and hasn't got anything up to size yet.

Currently holding the record for this year's most dismal crop failure are the beets...which is depressing, because the greens looked absolutely lovely, I was very good about thinning them, and it was all very exciting until they completely failed to ever plump out and were thoroughly woody. We have no idea why, which is the main reason it's upsetting. The obvious answer is that we need to get a proper soil test one of these days, instead of just arbitrarily throwing amendments in.

The garden, after several weeks of lull in harvest (and, shamefully, consequent neglect), is recapturing my attention. The tomatoes needed to have been staked a couple of weeks ago at least, and now several are already all gnarly and laid over. The weeds were rank, but I am beating them back most satisfyingly with my newest garden toy--a stirrup hoe. I've wanted one for a while, so we got a cheap-o one to try while we were out on Saturday, and I am delighted. It feels like "scrubbing" the garden like a kitchen floor (not that that's an experience I have nearly as often as I should). You scuffle the hoe (with great effort, if your garden, like ours, is rapidly becoming a meadow) back and forth, then sort of sweep the weeds towards you for collection, and, ta da!, a clean spot! It's terribly satisfying, and much more efficient than any other means we would previously have used. I've gotten about half the garden cleared again, but I badly want to finish clearing the tomatoes before we leave town Thursday night.

Other recent harvests have included some of the onions and all of the garlic. The garlic is lovely, with good-sized heads and all of the spicy, aromatic delight of its farmer's market progenitor. We planted onions in two as seedlings grown by an organic farmer friend of ours, and the other bought as sets from a big box store by Jacob's sister (the onion seeds we actually bought ourselves never got big enough to bother with). The sets are drooping right and left, and don't seem to be getting very big, but they're crisp and mild, and it's still pretty cool. The seedlings are a bit behind, of course (not least because they were, naturally, planted late), so we haven't pulled any of them. We shall see.

Anyway, yay, the garden proceeds apace. The latest is that I've got the tomatoes half weeded, stakes driven though not yet tied up, and the ground cherries are weeded. Looks like I'll have a good fistful of cukes to take down to my mom's this evening!

No comments: