Adventures in Ethics and Science

There are two main reasons I like harvesting crops from the Free-Ride garden. First, it means we’ll have yummy, super-fresh fruits and vegetables to eat. And second, it often means we’re freeing up space to plant another crop.

Even in Northern California, where it is said we have “climate” rather than “weather,” there are crops that are seasonal. We are definitely past the “spring” planting season, and some of the spring crops are really looking happy.

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For example, our peas.

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As I mentioned yesterday, I planted two varieties, sugar-snap peas (whose pods are meant to be eaten) and shelling peas. The problem is, I forgot which variety I planted in which space. In the course of trying to work it out from the pea pods each plant was producing, I discovered that the pods of our shelling peas are also sweet enough to eat.

Peas are nice to plant because they tend to enrich the soil (so they’re good in a crop rotation after a light- or heavy-feeder). Also, they make good use of vertical space, leaving more garden bed surface area for other plantings.

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My better half suggested that a cucumber plant could be coaxed to grow vertically, too. So far, so good.

And while I was thinking vertically:

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Although I usually grow bush beans, I decided to try growing pole beans this season. Like peas, beans tend to enrich the soil. I’ve put the pole beans in areas that used to be growing carrots and lettuces.

There are actually some spring-sown leaf lettuces growing in the shade of the pea vines. Even though they’re still small, I think we’ll need to harvest them soon. When it gets hot, our lettuces “bolt” — that is, they start acting like plants rather than leaves, and they fill up with a bitter-tasting white liquid reminiscent of the alien blood from the Alien movies.

We planted a seedling that is likely to be a sure thing:

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I think you need to actively salt the earth not to end up with an excess of zucchini. That’s fine with me. Between grilling them, roasting them with garlic and olive oil, putting them into zucchini bread, or risotto, or frittata, I’ve got a lot I can do with a tasty summer squash.

Speaking of squash, I built up some squash hills where our garlic patch used to be and planted seeds for butternut squash, delicata squash, and sugar-pie pumpkins. I’ve never grown a winter squash to completion, so I’m not sure if these will work, but each of the squash hills now has sprouts.

I also have some tomato seedlings chugging along. Some have even set fruit, though none of it shows signs of ripening yet. Indoors, I have more tomato seedlings I started from seed. I’m a bit worried that I may have started them too late — maybe they won’t be big enough to transplant outside before the end of the tomato growing season. I’m in a similar situation with the pepper seedlings I started indoors. The okra seedlings, however, look like they’ll be big enough to handle the outdoors in a week or two.

Finally, we have an eggplant seedling. I’ve been told to expect that the eggplant seedling will get munched by the garden pests that would otherwise be munching on my tomato plants. I guess improving the odds for the tomatoes is a good thing … but I’d really like to grow some eggplant, too!

Tomorrow: a status report on the fruit trees.

Comments

  1. #1 Gastropods at Ch√Ęteau Free Ride
    June 13, 2009

    Thank you for replenishing our salad. We do miss the bath in the morning, but are looking forward to the beer-bash tonight. The new residents are slimeing in nicely, so we should soon have those pesky vegetables under control. And the strawberrys are lovely, apologies for not being able to eat all of them.

  2. #2 D. C. Sessions
    June 13, 2009

    Another way to get vertical: plant the top of a full compost pile:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38617480@N07

    We’re growing butterstick instead of zucchini, plus pattypan for the summer contingent. Butternut is great, grows very well here (hotter than your neighborhood) and you don’t have to wait for fall. Not shown is the loofah, up against a fence with remesh for a lattice.

    We do show the tomatillos behind remesh up against a wall, though. Not having any fruit set, but we suspect it’s too dry yet. Once they get going, they’ll feed the neighborhood. (Fortunately I work with a lot of Indian vegetarians, so giving away produce is easy.)

    Also you’ll note the thoroughly-chewed eggplant leaves. Doesn’t seem to slow them down even a little. Barely a foot high (out of the three or so they’ll eventually reach) and already producing a couple of pounds a day of fruit.

  3. #3 Jude
    June 13, 2009

    I hate gardening.

  4. #4 Art
    June 14, 2009

    An outstanding garden. I’m jealous. Your garden grows, grows rich, and yields a bounty of healthy and nutritious food.

    I run a hospice for plants.

    They grow just enough early grows and vitality for me to see the full flower of youthful health and promise of coming glory. This gets my hopes up and show that, at least theoretically, a bountiful harvest is possible. Then, invariably, due to a variety of causes, some of which entirely elude me, they weaken and decline.

    Any crop is pitiful and useless. By all accounts plants are incapable of sarcasm but I’m not so sure about this because the bounty resembles nothing so much as an inspired parody. A mocking jest of fully formed and perfectly ripe tomato the size of a pea. A twisted parody of a pepper. A fully formed bean pod that is empty of beans.

    Then they die back and just when I am about to rip them up, a bright new shoot emerges. It is a long season down here. There is still just enough time. The shoot is green and vibrant. It grows remarkably fast. Maybe this time …

    Then, just as the plant has grown to the size capable of yielding fruit, it weakens, yellows, withers, drops its branches. In the end it is a zombie. A last twisted shoot that has a few withered leaves refuses to give up and die gracefully. In the end, shamed by repeated failure and the presence of my pitiful plants, I’m forced to finish it off just to remove its mocking presence. It is a hospice where I have to play Kavorkian to buy the peace.

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