Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Winter Garden

I get that this photo doesn't seem too impressive, but it is. These tomatoes were grown in the Outer Sunset in SF. Something everyone said couldn't be done. And, they are not the specially formulated "fog" tomatoes, either - which I hear don't taste like much. Ours, being smaller than usual, are like the dry land Early Girls that are now available at the Alemany Farmer's Market, full of intense tomato flavor. Yum.

This is the handful I picked yesterday. I ate them sliced on toast - one of my favorite breakfasts! We've had probably four or five other handfuls of tomatoes. . . not much fruit considering how big the plants are. Next year we will definitely trim them back. I've never trimmed a tomato plant in my life, but, considering our small garden space, it makes sense. The plants got absolutely giant this year, shading the peppers we planted in front of them. Not good. The peppers aren't going to produce squat.

We have already started our winter garden. I had visions of the summer garden being over, reworking the whole space and then planting the winter garden. Actually, there is overlap. The tomatoes aren't done yet and the sunny months are just coming on. I don't want to tear them out. We have beautiful carrots on their way (the 2nd batch) and lettuce, too.

We did tear out the zucchini and summer squash plants. We had beautiful zucchini. We ate it as-is and in a variety of recipes including zucchini bread. Made a loaf with almonds for Mr. Green. It was interesting. I'm not a big fan of nuts in bread - or nuts in anything, really. He liked it, I think. He didn't rave about it, or complain. It got eaten. The Zucchini Orzo recipe from Animal Vegetable Miracle is definitely a fav. We made it twice!

Summer squash didn't do so well. For some reason the squash would come on and then rot starting on the end before they were big enough to bother picking. Too bad. We threw away alot hoping that the next round would be OK. Not sure what to do about that. Skip it or fix it. Maybe if we spray the plants with worm tea earlier. . .

I'm so excited about being able to grow food in the winter! I've been in San Francisco for a year now. Looking out the window at this moment, the sun is shining in the Sunset today! A rarity, but I wouldn't trade this for anything! It's great fun being in a large city and our tiny garden is part of my new Urban Experience.

In Idaho this is the time of year when we glean the garden for anything even remotely ready to eat and hope the killing frost holds off for a few more days. It is such a joy for me to be able to bike to work and walk out of my office at lunch to stand in the warm sun. And I love the thought of looking out at a green garden all winter. Of course, the rain will come, but not for a few weeks longer. . .

Speaking of rain, it is my hope that we will use very little water on the winter garden. Mr. Green has already prepped the dirt for the next round of planting. He's worked in another round of compost and worm tea where the squashes, carrots and radishes were. Over the next couple of weekends we will put in shell peas (these are delicious and hard to get at the Farmers' Market - very short season), broccolini (I like it better than the regular), turnips (Mr. Green likes these), cauliflower, and garlic. We've already planted spinach (the second round), cabbages, carrots, lettuce and artichokes.

We planted three artichoke plants. There were all exactly the same to start with. Now two are thriving and more than a foot tall. I swear the other one hasn't grown since the day I planted it. It's still green but has only one set of leaves past it's seed leaves. At first I figured it would come along. Some plants do better than others. Now I've decided it's just a dud and I'm going to replace it with another one. The only thing I can figure is I was too rough on it getting it out of it's container. I'll be very careful with the next one.

Interesting phenomenon in our garden - we noticed that the plants in the front of the rows are taller than the plants further back. This is not the norm, which would be the opposite, and we puzzled over it briefly while we weeded a few weeks back. Were we being so careful to water the front that the plants were doing better? Did we work in more mulch or compost in the front?

Actually, it is the cement wall that is the front of our garden. It gets hot when the sun shines and then keeps the soil warm over night. The plants do better that are closest to the wall. Mr. Green says he's going to cover our fence with reflective material that will turn the garden into a tropical paradise when the sun shines - or at least heat things up a lot more. I'm envisioning something along the lines of those tanning sheets we all used to lay in the sun on back in the early 80's - before we knew better.

A novel idea, don't you think? I'll keep you posted.