Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Dog Days

After at least 2 weeks of neglect it was time to get some chores done in the garden. It hasn't rained for 2 weeks and has been in the upper 90's and low 100's the entire time. I've also had visitors, but lets be real I just don't get into gardening in the middle of summer as much. I've got everything set up so it can kind of do its own thing in the time being, but in order to have a fall garden I can't slack for too long. I got up and out early to beat the heat and until my stomach said it was time for breakfast. There is a lot to do. Not entirely necessary, but I wanted or needed to be outside. I'm done with this air conditioning bit. Sweating got me thinking about "the dog days" and wondering where that came from. Seems it has to do with the brightest star, Sirius, in Canis Major and the idea that it brought about heat. I pulled this from wikipedia: Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, Quinto raged in anger, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies" according to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium. 

I have noticed an air of hysteria around here lately. Anyway, the etiology of words and phrases interests me and apparently our "dog days" can last through September so we have a ways to go. Try to be kind everyone. much to do. This is a time of harvest, regrouping, prepping and replanting. My old camera also broke so I have lots to make note of here as it's been awhile since my last post (confession?).

Last spring and again in early summer I planted Danver's Half--Long and Cosmic Purple Carrots. I'd planted other carrots in the spring, but really decided they weren't worth much so I let them go to flower since the are a great food source for so many insects. Today I pulled out all of the carrots that had flowered and gone to seed and then noticed the Danver's were still harvestable- wow, another reason to love them. Typically, when a root crop is allowed to go to flower it is no longer good as a root crop. All the energy (sugars) are redirected from the root into making flowers and thus seed- progeny. The Cosmic Purple carrot bed quickly became identified as a great dusting bed by my 7 chickens and all but the few I got protected were harvested today. They are gorgeous. 

I grew a new-to-me lettuce variety this year called Winter Density. I love winter gardening so I had to try it out. It is also a keeper. It is a romaine-type and was thick and juicy and took a long time to bitter and bolt so I decided to collect some seed. I've never intentionally harvested lettuce seed before, but I have let my plants go to seed 1) because the colorful plants are pretty and 2) perhaps it is beneficial to some bug and 3) laziness. I'm not particularly fond of cutting old lettuce- it has sticky sap. The seeds also have parachutes and are tiny, so I'm not really expecting to get a ton of seed out of them, but I cut the head and tossed them in a paper bag to dry and collect. The seeds I purchased were more than likely not grown in a climate similar to mine so IF I have success collecting and regrowing this variety over time what SHOULD happen is that I end up with a genome better suited to my soil and weather, but nature is a moving target. There is no perfection. There are only transitional beings or death and extinction. It sounds so melodramatic, but it is true. Here is what lettuce seed looks like while on the plant and being harvested. 
Harvesting into paper bag.

Onions harvested this week and curing on the picnic table. I need to cut off the dry tops and store in the basement.
A friend asked how long these would last. Since nearly everything I cook starts with "saute 1 onion" I can't imagine I will have them long. I remember when I bought the small paper bag of baby bulbs this spring and it seemed like a ridiculous amount then. Maybe I will count them and remember to post when I'm done with them. Maybe.

Strung these bachelor buttons up to dry about 2 weeks ago and they are also ready to be snipped and stored for planting late winter. BB or Cornflowers will germinate in fall many times and overwinter. These plants are usually very hardy. 
Sorry they were spinning so it was hard to get a good shot.
I also need to start collecting Zinnias and Orange Cosmos seeds.

This is what it looks like where I tore out the old carrots. As you can see the soil level has dropped in the raised beds and each year I have to bring it back up. Today I just used whatever I had around- I sprinkled a little bone meal, I added a 5 gallon bucket of composted chicken manure and 2 wheelbarrows of crap from the back of the truck- old straw and some decomposing mulch. It didn't quite bring it all the way up, but some fall leaves will cover that. In rotating the crops this will be a site for a fall/winter garden (which it was last year). The 1 x 2's that are still there are what holds up the plastic sheeting that I use in the winter, so the 2nd tier of concrete blocks is really to hold up the plastic, the wood and create a little bit of a wind break since it is on the northern side of the bed.
After harvest. Before soil amendment.

After soil amendments- bone meal, chicken poo, straw, rotting mulch.
And now that it is prepared I can plant. I started 4 Okra plants a few weeks ago. I don't LOVE okra, but I do like it in the fall in a stew of mixed veggies with some slurry of warm and cozy sauce. 

And to end today's post...a friend bought me this handy little guide. It's is called Clyde's Garden Planner. You simply line up the red line with your expected frost date (there are 2 sides, one for spring and one for fall) and it tells you when to plant or expect harvests. I didn't think I would use it so much, but having it on the fridge is a constant reminder of what I could be planting. I like it mostly because it reminds me that I can plant for several harvests when I use to just plant seeds one time. This is what it looks like:


Zinniagirl said...

Yeah, that friend was me :)

Zinniagirl said...

ohhh,look out! I just learned how to post :)

Laura said...

ha ha. It's about time! I put up the onions. 97 of them. I know there are a few more in the garden hiding under other plants. Hope they keep.