Farm report 2011

Yesterday Mr. Nake-id and I put the garden to bed for the winter. For the past few weeks, Mr. Nake-id has been diligently pulling spent tomatoe plants and harvesting fruit before the coming snows. We had a bumper crop of green tomatoes, huge misshappen chartruese heirlooms and bright-green, bullet-shaped Romas: Their likely future, the compost bin. Steadily, though they've been ripening, enough so we enjoyed a hearty spaghetti dinner Saturday night and Purple Cherokees dressed in balsamic vinaigrette, Sunday.

The greens have been clear winners, especially the kale, which continues to unfurl curly leaves in the aftermath of two snowstorms. Our second planting of arugula and spinach remains pert and cheerful, too, in spite of the fact that it's only delivered one or two salads to the table.

There were some mistakes: The tomatillo I planted, thinking it was a zebra-striped tomato. It threw off dozens of charming paper lanterns with tiny, walnut-sized tomatillos contained therein; this made for a bitter, acidic salsa.

The crook-necked yellow squash turned out to be this thick-skinned, warty thing, more ornamental than edible. We foisted these aggressively on friends and family.

And, we planted, too many tomatoes, easy to do in Colorado, where our growing season is so short and the chance of slurping down vine-ripened fruit is slim. So we hedge our bets with quantity, thinking it will boost yield and instead create too much shade. Fresh tomatoes will do that to a person; they make you greedy.

Exasperated with the tomato crop at some point during the summer, I decided the fault was our dirt. Friends and professional gardeners have lauded this lasagna method for amending soil. Unfortunately adding layers of mulch and compost and manure to our garden would necessitate the removal of existing earth from our rock-rimmed bed; the very thought exhausted me. Then we heard this piece on NPR.

Being loathe to rake anyway in the hope the leaves will blow away over the winter (they never do), this technique of breaking down leaves to augment a lawn, struck us as a great way to nurture the farm. While Nake-id IT took on the easy job--breaking up the ground with a pick ax--I raked up piles of leaves, then shredded them with the push mower, or more accurately, moved them around a bit with the push mower, a tool not particularly well-suited for shredding. Mr. Nake-id then worked a couple of big leaf piles into the farm. And we bid the farm goodnight until spring.

The nest pictured in this post was invented and woven by Stephanie, a pratitioner of the lasagna gardening method and a happy Colorado gardener who grew baskets of ripe tomatoes. She weaves these lovelies from the leavings of sewing projects on a knitting loom. I love how mine looks in the crab apple tree; it's a hopeful beckoning image that reminds me of the hope and commitment to the future I felt in caring for our future garden, a reminder that spring and fall are the gaudy transitions between intropsection and expectation, and that life goes on.

How did your garden grow?

Urban American Gothic

It was a weekend of classic spring extremes: 84 degrees on Saturday, snowing on Sunday. Both days held their appeal.

The fine weather inspired a flurry of botanically related activity. Our vegetal ambitions had outgrown our space. Last year the garden spilled over with leggy tomatoes, sweet dumpling squash and heirloom Audrey II's to the point that some of our green darlings didn't get the sun or care they deserved. So Saturday Mitch doubled the size of our farm. With a pick ax. On a vegan diet.

Steering clear of any low-blood sugar fallout, I put up a batch of soap. Orange-ginger, in case you're wondering. Should be fabulous.

Antone was an enormous help.

We've gotten to be such presumptious gardeners that we've decided to try some seeds this year.

I'm mad for the illustrations on the seed packs. Such fun wallpaper they would make! And such great salads. Here's hoping!