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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Summertime Bounty

Summer's bounty ~ is there anything better?

Earlier this summer, Fawn took this photo of me holding a cylindra beet. This was my first time growing this variety, and they are remarkably delicious! The only thing I would do differently next time is grow more of them. By now they are massive, but just as delectable.

This year, the garden became a jungle again. Last year the pumpkins took over, obscuring the paths completely, so I said, "That's it -- this year I am NOT growing pumpkins!" However, they volunteered near places where I had planted other, more manageable squash varieties, so I didn't realize what they were until it was too late. In the end, I still wound up with pumpkins everywhere! I guess I was just meant to have a jungle.

Fawn and her doll Sheila, playing with the bean trellis

I planted this curly leaf "dwarf" kale early in the spring. I mistakenly thought it might fit within my growing boxes, but of course I needed to remove the hardware cloth lids as these beautiful monsters pushed upward. "Dwarf" must be a relative term. Or maybe things just get big when their roots are digging into underground hugelkultur... this daikon radish, which is too heavy to hold with one hand. I had to use a folding saw to remove the greens from the top.

...or like the massive chard leaves that compete with the rhubarb for size.

When I see veggies served up from the garden to the table, it feels like a miracle. 

And when I see rainbow Swiss chard bringing color to a brown world, I realize that there are many reasons to grow a garden.

This is Red Globe onion, my first year successfully growing onions from seed. These beauties taste as good as they look. The trick was planting the seeds directly into early March's soil, which I had pre-thawed with black plastic, in wooden frames with plastic on the lids. It worked like a charm, skipping both my labor as well as the plant's shock, which both go along with transplanting. They were grown among carrots, as companions. I just realized that you can see the sky and a tree reflected in this onion!

This is "Bill's bed," pictured in the Frames for Food post. It seems like just last week that Bill was helping me try to remove a piece of rebar from the soil here, and working with me to amend the soil with aged manure. But now this bed is filled with the bounty of the growing season that has burst forth in the months since Bill's passing. He helped me with this bed just hours before he unexpectedly died. I know he would appreciate how prolific it is now.

This is a close-up from "Bill's bed." I put a hinge on the angled lid, and then propped it open as the tomatoes grew taller. The lid is made with hardware cloth, with garden fabric stapled overtop. These are Moskovich tomatoes grown from seed saved by my neighbor. I really like how they grew within this space, as the tomatoes ended up hanging down just beneath the lid. I will definitely plant tomatoes this way again in the future. They were direct-seed planted in the ground, earlier than would normally be possible because of the cold frame.

The Wood for Food garden feels like an oasis in the midst of an ashy, smoky summer, with plenty of brown grass and black ash in our neighborhood landscape. We have been able to grow a lot of green using a minimal amount of water, as the hugelkultur kicks in underground. I am so grateful that the garden didn't burn in this summer's firestorms. 


  1. Great / amazing pictures and harvest! :D I was just up in Oregon this summer and know how smoky / dry it was - scary crazy! I'm in Southern California and am wondering exactly how much water you used? I know I'd have to irrigate more down here, but could you specify just how much less water you used compared to a normal bed or just specify exactly how often you watered? It would help my brain work out some details a lot! Thank you in advance!

    1. Thanks for your interest, Ryan. We receive an average of about 13.5" of rain per year, so depending on the summer, you may not need to irrigate more than here. Sometimes we get some rain during the summer, but this year was exceptionally dry. I have drip and micro irrigation set up in my garden, which ran each night for 15 minutes per station. The emitters are generally .5 or 1 GPH. Our well can only run a regular sprinkler for about 45 minutes to an hour before the well runs dry, so you can imagine that I am not giving the garden a lot of water. However, looking at the soil at the end of the season, there were sections that I felt received more water than needed. Next summer I am going to reduce the duration on each station, and I will also do an experiment where I stop all irrigation and observe the response, to see if the plants wilt or if/how long the hugelkultur alone sustains them. Stay tuned and good luck!


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