Friday, May 15, 2009

The Vegetable Garden In May

In this corner... Crimson Favas, carrots, and garlic that I've been harvesting immature (green garlic). And shown below, the other end of the bed is now home to newly planted peppers and the patch of Superaguadulce Morocco strain favas.

In the next photo you can see the snap and snow peas on the left. Moving to the right, the cilantro is sprouting at the foot of the pea vines, then there's a row of beets (Golden and Dewing's Early Blood Turnip), then Landreth Stringless and Royal Burgundy bush beans. Serpent cucumbers are planted at the base of the black tower and to the left of them Italian parlsey is getting going. The yellow flowers futher back are the bolting Senposai.

The Royal Burgundy plants are sporting lovely purple flower buds.

At the corner of the bed is a large pot containing the Aleppo pepper that survived the winter and is now blooming and setting a new crop of chiles.

Look at this rather nasty looking shoot on one of the Crimson fava plants. Not long ago it was even nastier looking, nearly alive with black aphids. The lady beetles and other beneficial insects have been hard at work cleaning up the mess. I'm really amazed at how efficient the beneficials have been at controlling the aphids. The aphid population on the Superaguadulce favas is almost nothing now and their numbers are rapidly declining on the Crimson favas.

In the first bed on the other side of the main path I've got a couple of Cocozelle zucchini plants, Gigante kohlrabi on the right, Golden Chard in front, and Cavolo Nero kale beyond the zucchini.

The rest of that bed is reserved and ready for the brassicas that I should be harvesting through the fall and winter. Some of them are started already and others will be seeded in June. And I am currently clearing out and preparing the far bed on the right to be planted with tomatoes that are growing in pots at the moment.

This is the Aji Pineapple that survived the winter and with a bit more attention from me (it needs food and a trim) should be coming back nicely.

The Bolting Bunch shown below... Chioggia beets, Golden Corn Salad and Tuscan Arugula.

The Pinetree lettuce mix is happy in its pot. We've been enjoying green salads every few nights. I can hardly pick the lettuce fast enough.

Here's part of my potato patch. I've got seven different varieties of potatoes growing in 15-gallon black plastic pots. The pots tend to get too hot since they are facing full south and getting a bit too much sun. I've leaned roof tiles or draped white row cover on the south sides of the pots to shade them which seems to be helping a lot. The black nursery flats are placed on top to partially shade the interior until the pots are filled with soil.

Three of the pots are nearly full of soil. The fourth pot and two others were planted later so they still have a way to go. I tried growing potatoes in pots last fall and learned too late that I needed to be quick about covering up the stems of the growing plants. The stems will supposedly not root and set potatoes if they are exposed to too much light. I was very slow to add soil to the pots in my previous attempt to grow potatoes in pots and indeed, when I harvested them there were potatoes only in the bottom of the pot. This time around I've been adding soil nearly every day so that there is only a little tuft of leaves showing.

The pots shown above and below are in need of a bit more soil. I've been using a mix of three parts basic bagged potting soil to 1 part sifted home made compost.

The area outside the garden fence to the right of the stone lined path is my next project. I want to put edibles here but I can't put anything there that the deer would enjoy eating. This pretty much restricts the plant list to certain herbs and a few other plants.

So far I've planted three different varieties of Rosemary - 'Tuscan Blue', 'Santa Barbara Blue', and 'Arp'. I would like to plant more of it on the slope outside the fence. There's a couple of pots of garden sage and a lemon verbena sitting out to see if the deer will nibble on them - no sense going to the trouble of planting something until I know if they are deer food or not. The deer came through that area the other night and ate all the flowers on the California poppies (dang them) but didn't touch the salvia or lemon verbena so I think those are safe to plant. I'm going to set a few pots of thyme out to see how they fare. The thyme should be nice as an edging for the path. A few other plants that I might try are true bay (in a pot since I don't want it to get too big), myrtle, oregano, winter savory, and lemon grass. The deer don't touch Society garlic so perhaps they would leave chives alone.

The main crop that I envision for that area is capers. I've been growing Capparis spinosa var. inermis from seed for a number of years and have quite a stockpile of plants. I've already got a number of plants happily growing in large pots that are my "mother" plants. Now I want to get a bunch of plants established in the ground so that I can start harvesting more buds. So, as soon as I finish my annual fling with the string trimmer and the soon to be tinder dry grasses drying on the surrounding hillside. And after the tomato plants are finally in the ground. Then, project Caper!


  1. Capers! How exotic! Good luck with them. I'll be interested to hear more about their progress as you go. - Jackie

  2. Such a space!!... you really make full use of the available space for gardening. That make me feel envious. I see plants are growing fine..


    ~ bangchik

  3. Michelle, I'm with Bangchik, your place is huge! It must be a full time job keeping up.

    Sounds like your deer choices are good ones. I design a lot of deer resistant gardens, and while there are no guarantees, my best results with perennials have been those with the most medicinal scent, so some salvias work better than others. Oregano, lavender, thyme and catmint never seem to get chomped, and I've even had good luck with Kent Beauty oregano, even though it doesn't have that strong oregano smell.

  4. It all looks wonderful - apart from the aphids! I'm interested in your caper plants as I'd like to grow them and have been told by someone in the village that they can only be grown on a high wall. So it's good to hear that you grow them in pots and in the ground.

  5. You're so great,Michelle! I always admire veggie gardeners for their patience. I freaked out when I saw aphids on my chillies and blight on my radish leaves.
    You have a great space and great plants! Most of the veggies I haven't eve heard of like the favas! Is that used in salads? Or its fruits cooked, may be?

  6. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. An amazing garden.

    Is there a special reason to grow the potatoes in a pot instead of the ground?

  7. Jackie, I am a bit obsessed with capers. I've been experimenting with them for a few years and have yet to get them to grow well in the ground so I need some luck!

    Banchik, the garden is doing well so far... I'm still learning how to time things to get year round vegetables. I'm lucky to be gardening where that's possible.

    Susan M, it is a big job, but it's also a big passion so I love spending time in the garden. But housework, that's a much lower priority. Indoors tends to get rather messy during prime gardening season :) I find it rather interesting what the deer do or don't eat. In general you are right about medicinal or very strong scents. There are also a lot of plants whose leaves they won't eat but they will carefully browse the flowers.

    Chaiselongue, the only other place where my caper plants are at all happy (sort of) other than in pots is on one of the walls retaining the hillside!

    Chandramouli, you always have such nice comments! I'm really more lazy than patient. Too often I wait too long to take care of a problem in the garden. I just got lucky with the aphids this year, the beneficial insects took care of the mess for me. Perhaps you really do know favas? They are also called broad beans. The shelled beans, fresh or dried, are used in many savory dishes. The tender young leaves can be used in salads or cooked as a green vegetable.

    Susan (Dr. T), thank you! I'm growing the potatoes in pots for a few reasons. 1) I didn't want to commit very much garden space to potatoes. 2) They are very disease prone so I didn't want to risk infecting my garden beds with one of those diseases. 3) It's really easy to harvest pot grown potatoes - just dump the pot out and sort through the soil. I will then spread the soil in an area where I'm not growing vegetables.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I value your insights and feedback.