Saturday, June 2, 2012

Starting the Summer Garden

The gardens I grew up with were mostly summer gardens. Yes, my parents planted lettuces and tried broccoli, but the garden memories that stand out to me (in fact, my first childhood memory is a gardening one--I'm with my mama in the garden, munching on Fruit Loops while she picks cucumbers...I was around 3 at the time)--are the gardens full of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and squash. These are the gardens that say "summer is (almost) here!"

So now that we've completed a full year of gardens (summer, fall, winter, and spring), and we're back to seeing cucumbers, squash and zucchini again, I'm reminded again of all those summers I helped my parents weed and pick. This year Ashley and I are building on lessons learned from last year's summer garden, including not planting a ton of squash, planting more okra (glad we did that, more in a minute), and fencing our cucumbers. Have a look around....

This is the patch of garden that grew the spring's lettuces, spinach, carrots, and peas. Now we have purple-hulled pink-eyed peas (a new try for us), corn, and okra. Notice the mini drip lines around the peas. Ashley is planning to convert our garden to drip irrigation instead of the overhead sprayers we currently use. 

On the side where we used to have potatoes and broccoli, we have tomatoes (in wire cages we made this year), cucumbers, squash and zucchini, green beans, and corn, plus a few eggplants and peppers. 

I'm most excited about the cucumbers because they are hands-down my favorite vegetable to eat raw. LOVE them! 

And I'm really excited about this wire fence Ashley built for the cucumbers to run UP instead of taking over the garden. 

We plant pickling cucumbers because I think they taste the best and I can a lot of pickles!

Our squash is producing, too; however, a few of our plants were attacked by beetles and we lost those. 

The corn is growing well, as is this volunteer watermelon plant. We have a few of these volunteers in our corn, as well as in the woods in front of our house. It's crazy how determined watermelons are! Lucky for us because we all love their juicy red fruit!

The current garden layout, early June. 

A sample of our harvests this week--squash, zucchini, cucumbers and eggs (thanks, girls). 

And while I sliced up cucumbers to put in vinegar and oil, our always curious second son tried out the zucchini and cukes.  

He's a funny one, liked eating the cucumber whole (skin and all) --but when I offered it to him peeled, he said no thank you. So for him, it's either straight from the garden or a pickle (his preference). 

Speaking of our pickle eater, he "helped" earlier this week and pulled up half of our okra row--that was growing along so well and almost ready to start producing. Ashley planted another row and we reminded Mr. Gardener-in-Training to not pull anything unless we ask him to (remember, he was the reason we pulled the carrots early). 

All this said, we're looking forward to the summer growing season. I just finished reading Barbara Kingslover's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and loved learning about her family's experiment of eating only local food for a year (which mostly included what they grew themselves). We're not aiming to become complete locavores, but the book had tons of great tips. Learn more at

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