Notes from Windward: #71


Coming up for breath:
a July Garden Update

July 7, 2011


parsnip going to seed takes advantage of June light
     Well, as the notes articles indicate, June came and went this year. While not alot of what has happened over the past few weeks has been logged in real time, I imagine people will be playing catch-up in the weeks to come.

     If you think of Windward as a system, which of course it is, made up of many different interwoven components including us humans, the frequency with which notes get posted might be seen as an indicator of the system's overall health. Articles for the notes get written when people are both doing things they find interesting and/or meaningful and have time to reflect and write about them.

     Hopefully the former is always true‒and quite frankly I think it is. Its the latter that at time doesn't seem to happen as consistently as the system's health requires. In order for the writing to happen it means that the author is engaged in what they are doing which translates often into both an understanding of the larger picture and an attention to the details.

potatoes flowering
     It also is an indicator that the author has been able to step back from the task or project or idea enough to tell a story of how these efforts fit into their life, into their world. Without this step of storytelling, of capturing the events and reactions, we don't necessarily incorporate (in its literal meaning of taking into our bodies) the lessons learned.

     And if we are not learning, not evolving and adapting to our circumstances, this system we are a part of, is bound to fail.

     But if there is any month in which we struggle to maintain whole-system balance, it is June. And there is an argument to be made that in June, Nature too is out of balance and so then we are only mimicking the world around us in our own chaos.

a garlic scape ready
to be harvested
     June is when all bets are off and all energy is invested in growth‒as much growth as possible while the light is long and the moisture still abundant. And so while the plant world grows, we try to keep pace‒capturing as much as we can in the form of food and forage. But as the summer sun heats up and the ground moisture dries up, the pace that Nature sets slows down and we can find our way back into equilibrium and the storytelling can begin once again.

     As mentioned earlier this spring, the garden had a slow start due to late spring frosts. But by mid-June we had consistently warm temperatures and everything started to grow, fast. The cooking greens continue to demonstrate they are the stars of the spring and early summer harvest. The pea harvest has started and the summer squash have developing fruits.

sugar beets under netting
to protect them from squirrels
     The potatoes are flowering, which means they have reached what is termed the "tuber bulking" phase or "growth stage 4". The only remaining stage is the maturation phase, when the tubers finish their development and the plant dies back.

     I have let many volunteer potato plants grow up throughout the garden, and now that they are beginning to flower, we can begin to harvest summer potatoes, which are quite tender and a great precursor to the fall crop, letting the other plants grow up that the volunteer potatoes have been crowding out.

     The hard neck varieties of garlic are producing scapes and so we are eating them, and since we have more than we can eat fresh, I am dehydrating some to add to soups or stews come next spring when we are low on garlic cloves.

     We have a few new crops we are experimenting with this year. I planted broom corn for the first time last year, and while it did well, the seed did not mature in time to save seed. So we are growing it again‒in an larger patch‒for more craft material, but also with the aim to save seed if the weather permits. We have a section of sugar beets with the intent to see what it takes to make sugar.

Painted Mountain corn about 8 inches tall
     On a trip this past winter to visit MaryLou and Carina, Carina gifted me a variety of dry corn called "Painted Mountain corn" which was developed in Montana and is touted to be the most biologically diverse variety of corn that exists. I planted a patch of Painted Mountain corn a few weeks behind the Oaxacan corn as a way to prevent cross pollination. So far it germinated very well. You can read more about Painted Mountain corn here.

     One more new addition is loofah. Loofah belongs to a most wonderful family‒the cucurbit family. Similar to its relatives squash and melons, loofah grows on a vine, however its fruit is far more fibrous and is commonly used as shower scrub. Loofah likes warm weather and was not too happy about the cool weather earlier this spring, but it now seems to be recovering and so we will wait, water and see.

     I would like to expand my seed saving endeavors to include cucurbits, primarily winter squash. Last summer we had a wonderful harvest of winter squash and this year I have expanded the row even more in hopes to store away many calories in the form of winter squash. As winter squash will cross pollinate and create new varieties of unknown qualities, saving seed requires hand pollination and closing the flower to prevent insects from performing their ancient ritual. The winter squash will probably start flowering shortly and so too then will the hand pollination.

part of the winter squash patch
     For the most part, the new herb and beneficial flower bed is doing well. Chamomile, California Poppy, borage, calendula, comfrey, echinaceae, lavender, sage, sedum and wild sunflower are now growing along the northern edge of the garden as a source of herbs for teas, nectar for bees, attraction for pollinators, and with time mulch for plants or nutrient rich forage for animals.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71