Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Vegetable Garden" Update, September 2008

I had to put it in quotation--I don't have a vegetable garden--just some pots on the deck, a few fruit trees, and a lot of herbs. But Tina and Skeeter at In the Garden have suggested that we post on our edibles on the 20th of each month, and I do have a few. So here's my update--and maybe I'll spend my down-time this winter figuring out how to have vegetable garden (for human consumption, I mean) in deer country.

So, what's ready for harvesting? The cow horn peppers (I've also heard them called bull horn, not sure how to tell the gender!)--these weathered the drought and our absences this summer pretty well--

cowhorn pepper plant

The jalapenos are still putting forth peppers, but aren't really photo-worthy right now (still, straggly or not, they are SO hot--don't know if it's the breeding, the weather, or what, but they're hotter than is typical and I love 'em).

The herbs are blooming--I usually let them flower (but heed Tina's advice if you have only a few plants), which means mine are kind of spindly this time of year. Right now, I'm more interested in their forming seedheads and coming back next year--I've dried oregano, sage, and thyme, and I'll buy a few more young basil plants to nurture (and pluck) over the winter (I don't like dried basil or mint--though pesto is fabulous and freezes well).

The rosemary is generally evergreen, unless the winter is brutal (Virginia-wise, I mean--we get
spoiled here in 7b). I'd like to think that Ranunculus is smelling the herbs, but I'm pretty sure he's chasing a lizard (no worries--he never catches anything).

Rosemary and Ranunculus

My lemon verbena is thriving--it's almost a shrub--it dies back completely in the winter, and I sometimes foget about it under the marjoram until it pops up with a vengance in May.

Lemon verbena

And the thyme--well, it's everywhere. This used to be an herb border in the front--it's now a thyme lawn. There are two kinds in this picture--culinary (Thymus vulgaris) in the bottom left-hand corner, and ornamental Mother-of-thyme spreading across the yard. We'll leave the thyme lawn (and hope it spreads even farther), but I'm mining the thyme to start elsewhere.

Thyme yard

There are other herbs I love that I've never grown successfully: tarragon, borage, cilantro--and some that haven't thrived: dill, fennel, parsley. I'm wondering if it's a climate issue or operator error--subject for future post.

Here's an annual visitor to the old vegetable gardens in the front--no, not Ranunculus. I just brought him in to provide background for a plant you couldn't see otherwise.

Ranunculus highlights asparagus

(But note how he embraces his work--he knows he looks best in 3/4-profile. He only wishes he'd included the no-nudity clause in his contract--can I say that without putting that little "Rated PG" on my posting?). Anyway, look down by his left forepaw--

Ranunculus highlights asparagus crop

That little fernlike plant against his leg is asparagus. It's been here since we moved in--it comes back in these slender stalks every year, never getting quite big enough to harvest. If we ever do get a vegetable bed going, I'll have a pretty resilient starter (well, in a year or two . . .)

Our figs are still producing. We have two trees--a Celeste and a brown turkey. In early August, the Celeste was incredible--we were having fig appetizers, fig desserts, fig chutneys, and tossing the overripe ones under the bird feeder. We're harvesting from both trees at a much more reasonable pace, now--and a lot of the green ones probably won't ripen completely. This is ripe fruit on the brown turkey fig:

Brown turkey fig

This tree has grown much faster--and wider--than we expected. It's only a couple of years old, but it's already over the (first story) roof--Jackaranda and the Curmudgeon are going to help me prune it next spring.

Big fig

The Celeste fig is smaller and the fruit ripens earlier. I can't actually tell the difference in the taste of the fruit, but the tree is much more polite--it's about 8 feet high and much more contained. There are still scores of figs on the tree, but most are green and I don't think many will ripen--we're taking off two or three a day, as opposed to 20-30 earlier. (That little orange spot, by the way, is a daddy-long-legs on guard duty).

Celeste fig close up

We have other fruit trees as well. Salix started an orchard last year, so the trees are very young--but he did get a small harvest, most of which has already disappeared into Salix. But here's the last pear. I'd like to say we saved it for today, but in fact I think it just looks too weird to eat.

Salix's last pear
And finally, another surprise right off the back deck. Obviously, something thought this was tasty--I spent an anxious afternoon hoping it wasn't Ranunculus.

Chomped toadstool

So I wonder if what's toxic to humans is less so to rabbits or deer? We haven't seen any sick (or worse) animals around here--but I threw the mushroom away just to be sure.

And speaking of toxins (oh, my segues are getting lame)--one more shot of my new friend, on guard duty off the deck:

Black and yellow garden spider 2

She's a friend to vegetables (bet she's never eaten one!) and so I made her my Update mascot.
Tina, Skeeter, and Dawn--thanks.


Rose said...

All of your herbs look great! I've tried various ones, but other than chives I haven't had much luck. And those fig trees--they're making my mouth water. Asparagus is something I'd like to plant next year--maybe some successful asparagus growers out there could give us tips?
I had every intention of posting on my veggies today, but the computer is still in the shop and all my photos are on it. My vegetable garden has pretty much died out, though there may be a few stray tomatoes left.

tina said...

Wow! All is so awesome!!!! I like the thyme lawn and the fig trees especially. They are gorgeous and the Celeste one makes me think I might need to find some room for it. My lemon verbena is so sad compared to yours. Do you use it for flavoring a lot? I don't with mine like I should. The parsley is a biennial. Just a small rosette the first year then the seeds and flower the next. This is when the caterpillars come. Mine likes a bit of shade-could that be the problem? We'll have to figure it out. Can't help you with the rest as I don't grow asparagus or fennel. What is up with the feed problems? I thought it was to be fixed soon? I still show Norway on my blog and it bugs me. But from now on, I will come and check each day instead of relying on it. I think you might try Feedburner again and maybe burn a new feed. Also, I found on Blotanical that for some reason my feedburner address was changed to go thru a proxy, once I changed it things somewhat came back to normal. If you do update your feed address, make sure all links are done too. Or am the only one with the problem with it? If so, I will reload. Let me know. Thanks for sharing your veggies-no veggie garden needed! Same time next month?

P.S. I purchased some pine nuts yesterday so thanks to everyone I think I'll try to make some pesto soon. ttyl

Hi Rose!

tina said...

Forgot to say, I just love your Ranunculus and I like to think he is smelling the herbs.

Anonymous said...

Your herbs are doing well Cosmo. I like the Thyme lawn. Is it drought resistant? I was surprised to see the figs, but glad you posted these today. My hubby's coworker asked me if we could grow fig trees here and I wasn't sure. Great post!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Okay, I wish I was beyond jealousy, but I'm not... you can grow figs AND lemon verbena overwinters for you?!!! *Turns green*

Lol at Ranunculus. He does make a cute background, and I see that he is trying to look serious with his ears all back, standing up straight. :)

Gail said...

I am totally loving the thyme lawn! That's the lawn to have , no mow indeed! I did enjoy this post very much...herbs and fruit and all things delightful. Fresh figs are wonderful. I planted a celeste fig and a brown turkey but I couldn't save them from the drought! I will try again. I think the leaf shape is beautiful, don't you? Have you tried growing Lemon Grass? It is beautiful and looks like a miscanthus grass, but is edible. It smells delicious! I added you to my Incomplete blogs I visit list instead of my Bookmark and it works fine!


Bek said...

The thyme lawn looks great! Maybe I should start one as well:) This year was the first time I tried growing some tomatoes, and I definitely want to grow more veggies and herbs next year. Right now we don't have any fruit trees, but I am thinking of changing that as well.

Cosmo said...

Hi, all--I'm just back from a weekend in Maryland--how nice to come back and see all of your comments.

Rose, I'm so sorry to hear about your computer--I hope you'll post about your tomatoes anyway. I'm definitely trying tomatoes next year, even if only in pots.

Tina, I'll try burning a new feed, or check the address on FeedBurner and Blotanical. I do want to stay on Blotanical if I can because I've fund a lot of new blogs on it--I'll keep you posted. (and maybe check every three days or so--twice a week is about the best I'll be able to do during the semester, I think).

Raquel, the thyme lawn is very drought resistant--the only water it got this year was from the rain. In fact, thyme gets leggy if it gets to much water.

Kim and Gail--Both the fig trees and the lemon verbena are in relatively sheltered parts of the garden--the fig trees are against the (white) house with a southern exposure, and the verbena is by the deck--also facing South. Many of my friends here lose figs if the winter is too cold, but mine have done fine. They DO need water to produce fruit--I hand watered them during the bad days this summer. Gail, I have to try lemon grass--I love to cook Thai food. And Kim, Ranunculus thanks you for the compliment--he's quite the camera hound these days.

Bek, let me know what works for you as you plant more vegetables. thyme lawns are easy--mother of thyme is best, but I put in other kinds to use when I cook. And you can mow thyme if you want to--it smells great!

Ok, off to figure out the feedburner thing again . . .

Cosmo said...

Tina and Rose--The feed problem is fixed, I hope--Les wrote to say that my last two posts suddenly showed up this evening. Thanks for letting me know about the problem, Rose, and for helping me fix it, Tina.

Oh, and Tina, I forgot to say that yes, I'll try parsley again--a little shade may be the answer. I do use the lemon verbena occasionally, mostly added to teas--but basically I just love the scent when I walk by it.

tina said...

Yeah!! It is fixed! Now if Blotanical could get fixed.

Roses and Lilacs said...

I wish I could grow a thyme lawn. I hate to mow worse than anything. Your herbs look great. And your figs. I have never eaten a ripe fig.

Skeeter said...

Rated PG, now that is funny....
We have the cowhorn pepper and it has given us lots of peppers but your peppers seem to be much larger then our spicy peps...

The fig tree is really neat. I have never had fresh figs but maybe one day I will pick one off a tree and give it a try...

Herbs are wonderful in cooking. I use parsley in just about everything I cook! I recently picked up basil and plan to make pesto sauce with it. Yum....

Great looking items even if in pots! We started our garden out in pots but had to put them into the ground as the pots were drying out too quickly in this hot drought climate we had this summer...

Eve said...

I would classify you as a full fledged Gardener. You are growing quite a bit in containers.
I envy your lemon balm. I have had trouble all year getting it to grow. It looks like it is making a comeback though. It is one of my favorites along with pineapple sage. I just love to walk by and pinch and smell all my herbs. I have no problem with dill or parsley, which I keep cut back all the time. I love to grab a handful for sandwiches or to top off a dinner plate.
I wish I could grow Asparagus here. I love it.

Kylee said...

What a great post! You've still got a lot of things going there in Virginia. I'd love to be in zone 7b! (I'm in Ohio, in 5b).

You mentioned somewhere that I read on another blog that your husband was from Ft. Wayne. I work in Ft. Wayne, and have for many years. We don't live very far from there. I wonder if we know some of the same people? Probably! :-)

Cosmo said...

Marnie and Skeeter--Oh, you have to try a ripe fig, especially if you like preserved ones (like in Fig Newtons). They're sweet and heavy, in the way a banana is, but they taste nothing like a banana and the texture, while seedy, is fresh like maybe a pear--it's hard to describe. They're absolutley fabulous with goat cheese and, if you're a meat eater, prosciutto.

Eve, I don't know why I have trouble with parsley--is it possible your coastal climate is milder than ours. Tina suggests trying part shade, which I intend to do. I love fresh herbs, too.

Kylee, yes, Salix is from Fort Wayne--I can't remember the name of his high school right now (starts with an "E")--he has a high school reunion in early October. I don't know anyone there but his dad, but a lot of his high school friends are still there--maybe you do know people in common! (Though his lot is reaching retirement age . . .) It's funny, this time of year I'm happy to be in 7b--but in mid summer when my hosta wilts, I'm so jealous of you all in 5!

Kylee said...

Cosmo, I'm 51, so I'm not all that young (not old, either!). I work in a dental office, so I've been in contact with people from Ft. Wayne, New Haven and the surrounding communities for over 30 years now.

Elmhurst? Is that the high school? It's the only one I can think of offhand that starts with an E. I think it's the only one that does.

Entangled said...

Chiming in here with the chorus of admiration for your figs! For some reason I never considered them, but I just learned that a friend in the Montgomery Co., MD grows them, so they're on the list for next year.

My Lemon Verbena bit the dust during the summer drought. It was never perennial for me in northern Virginia, but I thought maybe it would have a better chance in central Virginia. Now I won't know until spring 2010.

Sarah Laurence said...

Your garden is making my mouth water. Amazing that you can grow figs. Cool spider picture too.

Cosmo said...

Kylee--That's it! Elmhurst--I bet you all do know some of the same people. Salix's dad is named Bill Hausman--he used to be a jazz DJ-- and his mom was named Ev.

Entangled--I bet the verbena will come back in central VA, especially if you put it in a relatively sheltered spot. But watch out--it gets big and floppy.

Hi, Sarah--I'm constantly amazed by what I can and can't grow--who knew that fig tree would reach 15 feet +? Yet one of life's ironies--I can't get cosmos to grow in my garden, even though they grow with abandon on the interstate median 5 miles away (so the latter MUST be operator error . . .)

Kylee said...

The name sounds familiar, but I don't know them. Still, I'm sure if we chatted awhile, we'd find some mutual acquaintances!