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What I planted in my garden this summer

Started: 2013-11-23 18:12:34

Submitted: 2013-11-23 19:04:45

Visibility: World-readable

I wanted to title this "I know what you planted in your garden last summer" but managed to resist

Last year, our first year after moving into our house in Gunbarrel, we were preoccupied with moving into the house and keeping the rest of the yard from growing out of control. Kiesa planted some herbs in containers, which worked well enough, but this summer we wanted to do better.

We have a large concrete patio that was built for a hot tub that we didn't want, given the complexities of maintaining a hot tub (not to mention the risks involved combining a hot tub with a preschooler). Without the hot tub the patio sprawled aimlessly out from the deck without a real purpose in life. Kiesa found a company in Oregon that would make custom-sized wooden planter boxes and ordered two of them to sit along the straight sides, then filled in the remaining space with some of the large pots along the curved corner of the patio.

Completed container garden on patio
Completed container garden on patio

Kiesa built the boxes on the patio and I filled them, first with a layer of pea gravel at the bottom in an attempt to improve drainage, then with a mixture of garden soil from Home Depot and our own compost (mostly food scraps from the kitchen).

Empty garden box
Empty garden box
Garden box with gravel
Garden box with gravel

Kiesa planted several different varieties of basil in one box and two tomato plants in the other box. The basil did well, providing an assortment of herbs for various meals, but the tomatoes did not fare as well.

Basil growing in planter beds
Basil growing in planter beds
Tomatoes growing in planter beds
Tomatoes growing in planter beds

The tomatoes managed to produce just enough to feed Calvin, but not enough to actually supply the kitchen with any produce. In early September I spotted two tomato hornworms -- three inches long and three-quarters of an inch thick, camouflaged to blend into the plant -- munching their way through the plants. I removed them from the plants (albeit without quite as much prejudice as the state agricultural extension office suggested -- I did not actually cut them in half with garden shears) but it was clear they'd eaten many of the ripening tomatoes and their adjoining leaves. When I looked these pests up on the Internet I discovered that the adult stage of the worm is a large moth that flies around like a stunted alien hummingbird and drinks nectar from flowers. I saw those moths flying around our front yard around the end of summer, along with real hummingbirds, but never managed to get a good picture of them.

Tomato hornworm in the garden
Tomato hornworm in the garden

I planted two chili peppers from my seedlings from local garden center, "super chili" and "kung pao", in two pots between the larger planter boxes. I started harvesting them at the end of August. I searched for inspiration on the Internet and decided to stem and freeze the shorter but stouter "super chili" whole, and dry the longer and skinnier "kung pao".

Peppers harvested from the garden
Peppers harvested from the garden

I ended up drying the "kung pao" in the oven, on low heat for a couple of hours, once it became obvious that simply sitting them outside or on the kitchen counter wasn't going to dry them out. (It didn't help that I was trying to dry them at the same time as our rain and flooding in September.)

Chili peppers drying in oven
Chili peppers drying in oven

Both chilies ended up quite hot, and make a great addition to Kiesa's curries. Given the variety of palates in the house (specifically Calvin's less-than-adult-rated tolerance for capsaicin in his food) Kiesa has taken to cutting and frying the chilies separately, then letting me sprinkle them on top of the curries on my own plate to add extra spice as I see fit. We now have a stockpile of chilies in the freezer that ought to take us through the winter.

Chili peppers growing in containers
Chili peppers growing in containers

Kiesa also planted lemon cucumbers, which did not manage to thrive but did manage to produce a couple of cucumbers (on the wire frame to the left of the picture above), and chives (between the cucumber and the chili), which did thrive.

Now that November -- and Thanksgiving -- are upon us the garden has disappeared under the snow on the back porch. I'm not sure precisely what we'll do next year but I'm sure we'll find something to plant.

Show me your code and conceal your data structures, and I shall
continue to be mystified. Show me your data structures, and I won't
usually need your code; it'll be obvious.
- Fred Brooks, _The Mythical Man-Month_ (paraphrased)