At almost the end of June, I’m already harvesting summer crops, which is a first for me in our short growing season. Using my greenhouse to start my plants gave me the huge advantage I’ve been looking for, in that the plants I put in the garden were much larger than usual. In fact, I was harvesting green beans off my plants while they were still in the greenhouse. I had little tomatoes and zucchini growing while they were still in their pots. Unfortunately, the bush beans suffered a major setback when I put them into the garden as we had a late cold snap, but most of them have rallied and are busy making beans again.
I’ve already eaten a few zucchini and I’m almost ready to pluck a few pattypan squash. I’ve been eating kale and asparagus for more than a month, and I just started harvesting peas and broccoli. The peas are a little late, and the broccoli is early. And, miracle of miracles, I’ve got a cherry tomato that’s almost ripe, which is usually a late August/early September phenomenon here.
And of course, there are the strawberries. This year I dug up a lot of strawberry plants and gave them away to make a little more room in my patch and it seems to be working out well except for one small spot where the plants just don’t want to grow. It’s my own personal Mystery Spot. Since we are still eating berries from last summer, I’m freezing some of these already, but I can’t resist eating them fresh with whipped cream, putting them in salads and using them for smoothies. There’s nothing quite like a fresh, ripe strawberry that you just picked out of your own patch.
I have also already harvested basil twice, also a first for me. I picked enough today to make three batches of pesto, which I will freeze in ice cube trays since we still haven’t finished the first batch I made last week. My bell peppers and hot peppers are also doing very well in the greenhouse with the basil. The challenge there is keeping everything cool enough on our hottest days, one of which is today. We’re close to 100 degrees, which happens here but not that often. I’ve got all the side panels off of the greenhouse and the hot south and west sides covered with a shade. I water two or three times a day and they seem to be doing fine. When it’s this hot I don’t bother closing up the greenhouse at night since it usually stays around 55-60 degrees all night.
To hold all the harvest to come, I recently made a basket-buying trip to the downtown Missoula Import Market, a predecessor to the trendy Cost Plus Import Market that we now have out by the mall. I love Cost Plus, but they charge a lot for baskets and they don’t have nearly the selection of this funky, multi-story store. You have to go all the way to the top floor, which is fun because there are so many things to look at along the way, ranging from incense to art posters to futons. I found some great, cheap, sturdy baskets that I can fill up with kale or zucchini and not drop it all hauling it back to the house. I got shallow round baskets for holding strawberries and peas and, come July, raspberries. They are loosely woven enough that you can use them like a sieve and rinse your produce.
I have a cute little shallow rectangle basket with lovely handles that is really meant more for holding cut flowers than the kind of harvest I get in July and August. I don’t care if these cheap baskets get wet, stained and dirty. They’re garden baskets and they will get the job done.
On a side note, I’ve started taking my monkey-dogs out in the garden with me in the morning when I water because it’s getting to hot to take them out later in the day. Now they stand at the door waiting for me in the morning. Molly likes to drink from the hose while I’m watering, even if I’ve just filled the water dish out there. Sammy is already trolling the raspberry rows for goodies even though I’ve explained that they aren’t ripe yet.
So what am I doing with all this bounty? As I mentioned, the basil goes into pesto. I’ve got a lettuce bed out back so we’ve been having big salads and I use the cilantro back there for fresh salsa (made a batch today, yum!). There are also collard greens which I put through the juicer with the kale. The empty pea shells, ends of broccoli and ends of asparagus also go through the juicer. The pulp from the juicer goes into the worm composter. Since I had a dish of strawberries that didn’t get eaten soon enough they went into the juicer too. I’ve almost got a batch of worm compost ready and I think the greenhouse plants will get that compost.
I was recently reading about permaculture and the guy said the basic idea is to use everything for something else on your land, which seems like a good idea to me. My weeds go into a pile to compost into dirt, which I then spread on the forest floor. My kitchen scraps feed the worms. Although it’s not from my own cows, we use cow manure compost on a large scale. It’s fun to be a proper steward of the dirt. I think it’s good for my soul.