A 2014 Embarrassment of Local, Organic Riches
It’s been a unique “summer” weather-wise. The abundant rain and bursts of heat followed by polar vortexy coolness have confused my plants to produce the most prolific garden I have ever planted. Although the lettuce plants have bolted, I am still giving away large plastic bags filled with lettuce on a weekly basis to whoever is willing to take them. Normally by the beginning of July, the Chicago sun and heat would have caused any lettuce in full sun to turn tall and bitter as it produces flowers and seeds. This year has been an exception. In fact, on the first day of August, we were getting fresh asparagus coming out of the soil!
On top of that, the peapods, which are normally a spring crop, are still coming back as fast as I can pick them. A neighbor at work is happy to share a half-pound bag a day with me. Sweet and crunchy as the peapods are, I’m happy to have someone else help me get rid of them.
In the space of a week, we’ve enjoyed several dozen plump cucumbers. Due to laziness and poor planning, many more cucumber vines survived than I have room for. The resulting jungle canopy has shaded the eggplant and peppers that, at first, seemed like they might be able to hold their own. Instead, the peppers are scrawny little things and the eggplant is nowhere to be found.
The pole beans that share the raised bed with the cucumbers, however, have grown out of control. We have harvested hundreds and given away most of them. In my house, only my wife and I are interested in eating them. And the dog. Tesla loves them and will perform all sorts of tricks to get a piece. Lately we’ve been working on frisbee catching.
Some of the beans have grown to be a foot long. They are so well hidden by the canopy, that some manage to evade several harvests in a row and continue growing.
The wildflower garden, which I planted to attract bees, has been largely devoid of bees most of the summer. Only in the past week or two have the bees started showing up, and I am happy to say that a variety of the social insects are browsing the petals of my garden. Mostly bumblebees and sweat bees, though. I don’t see a whole lot of the traditional honeybee in these parts.
Also, the wasps that last year saved my Brussels sprouts from devastation by moths and caterpillars have not been around lately. Combined with excessive water, these brassicas are not growing as tall and strong as they have in previous years. And the edible buds that grow just above where the leaves emanate from the stem have largely rotted and turned black. I don’t know whether these plants can be saved.
In sum, we’re producing enough volume of vegetables that we could easily eat every meal from the garden this summer and keep us going through the early fall. Thing is, we don’t want to. On several occasions, we’ve had friends over and sent them into the garden to fill plastic bags with whatever they like.
In fact, the wheat grass growing on top of Ringo’s aquaponic fish tank has been growing back steadily like Rapunzel’s hair. A co-worker has a masticating juicer and has been accepting small plastic bags of grass and enjoying them at home. Ringo, for his part, happily spends all day (except feeding time) hiding in his ceramic yellow submarine and artificial plants. I don’t know whether he’s happier than he was with a bare tank, but I hardly see him, so it doesn’t bother me.