This is turning into one of those days. When the best-laid plans turn to mush, or in my case, a silky Basil-Raki syrup. The plan was to combine some of my favorite flavors of summer into an icy treat, but, my bad luck with transforming spirits into desserts is continuing its dismal run. I’m going to have to experiment a lot more before you’ll see that recipe on this blog anytime soon.
It’s days like this that I’m immensely grateful for our garden. It forces me to step out of the office, take a deep breath and see that life is, indeed, moving along just fine, with or without a new sorbet recipe in the blogosphere.
After last year’s slow summer harvest, we finally took the plants out in mid to late October, installing cool weather crops like Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli and Cauliflower which overwintered. The winter garden was dismal, to say the least. The broccoli was overrun with aphids from the start and never quite found its momentum. The brussels sprouts didn’t get enough sun after we transplanted them, then bolted into flowers when the weather warmed up, leaving us with the tiniest of sprouts no bigger than the nail on my little finger. Our cauliflowers did a little better, but even that meant two to three heads out of the five we planted. Not the most stellar of winter gardens I have to say, but the silver lining was that these cover crops helped protect and nourish the soil over the winter months, loosening the thick clay we have and making it a lot easier for us to turn the soil in the spring.
2010’s modest garden success was apparently enough for us to significantly expand the number of crops for 2011. After restraining ourselves to just four heirloom tomatoes at Love Apple Farm’s incredible plant sale, we bought: a six-pack of romanesco broccoli, serrano peppers, chiles d’arbol, an eggplant, a six-pack of Dragon Langerie beans, summer squash, zucchini, romaine lettuce and spanish onions. In addition, there are our lavender bushes and Chandler strawberries and rosemary that are really digging in and getting into the swing of things in their second year.
We planted the summer garden in late April and they’ve taken well to the soil. In part, I think, due to the mix of fish meal, compost and worm castings that went in with each transplant. Although we’re still fighting an ongoing battle with aphids, especially with the broccoli (using this homemade blend of garlic fire spray), and flea beetles have claimed our eggplant, most of the plants have really taken root, and it shows in their healthy green foliage.
While the vegetables on this small patch are certainly not enough for us to survive on, this exercise is proving fulfilling in so many ways, not least the relationships that are starting to form with other residents in the shared garden who’ve been doing it a lot longer than we have. I guess having a healthy patch ‘proves your worth’ in a sense, that you’re not in it just for the excitement of going to the nursery and plopping a transplant in the soil, only to forget about it. It’s just not our way. Even with the work needed to turn the soil, the occasional weeding and constant pest-fighting, the value of having a garden to go to and chill out in, especially on days when nothing seems to be going right, is priceless. And definitely a lot less expensive than a shrink’s couch. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this good run continues for the next few weeks – I can’t wait to bite into that first heirloom tomato, straight from the garden.