Back in the Saddle Again

OK, my self-imposed exile from the outdoors is over.  I'm back to gettting my Vitamin D from the sunshine.  As the weather has changed for the better recently (read that:  lower temps, lower humidity), I'm starting back up on my walking routine.  Walked in my neighborhood to break in a pair of New Balance 494 trainers (as they say across the pond).  NB is my favorite walking shoe, and this new pair does not disappoint.  Comfortable and sturdy, without being stiff or too heavy.  Great fit (I take a wide to accommodate my high arch, fat feet, and thick athletic socks) and good support.  Great price from J.C. Penney's, along with free shipping.  Ordered online, delivered to my door.  I like 'em.

Spotted this kudzu sculpture (left) a couple streets over and took a pic with my phone.  Am always reminded of my AZ cuz AMcG when I see kudzu:  on a trip to visit us when we were living in GA, she wanted to know what that "beautiful, green vine" was growing everywhere.  Oh, you mean The Vine That Ate The South, we asked?  Just proves that one's perspective is all important.  Where we saw a nuisance plant that takes over in the Summer, she saw beauty in the lush green growth...something she isn't treated to in the desert.

Thanks to that last post, I wrote myself into going back out into the garden this past weekend...at least for a bit.  ["Wrote myself into" is like "talking myself into," only using a keyboard.]  Am happy to report no more snake sightings as of today, thank goodness.  Now, I haven't grabbed the scuffle hoe or kicked the garden soil bag yet...one thing at a time, right?  Still, I got quite close to the area Monday morning when I took the veggie clippings (from my last harvest), eggshells, and coffee grounds out to the composter...which is located just on the outside perimeter of the Left Garden, about 5 feet away from the future carrot bed.  However, I didn't take my eyes off that bed, even while I was emptying the clippings...didn't want my "friend" to slither up behind me while I wasn't looking.  Ever vigilant.

Then, I spent some time trimming and tying up the "new" tomato plants, which are responding to being in the ground by putting on a lot of new growth and a goodly number of flowers and fruit.  Since I was AWOL from the garden for the past week, the new growth was looking a bit gangly, shall we say?

These tomato plants are freebies, since they started out as "suckers" on the momma-vines...that's those new shoots that start growing in the V of the main stem of the parent vine and a side stem.  Everything you read says it's best to remove suckers to keep all the energy directed into making tomatoes, not more vine...and I try to keep up with that chore.  Only, I just can't throw good, green growth away.  Not in my DNA.  I take the largest shoots, dip them in compost tea, and then pop 'em into a container of potting soil/sand/compost mixture for rooting.  Voila!  New plants, rooted in a few weeks.  Then, a few weeks after that, I get them in the ground to provide for a late-Summer crop of juicy tomatoes.  So far, so good.

I moved into the Right Garden and picked another mess of purple-hull peas.   The last picking yielded nearly 5 cups of shelled (hulled?) peas, enough to enhance our pork chops for supper on Saturday...and still blanch and freeze a quart bag about 3/4 full.  And, although the squash and the melons have almost stopped flowering and producing (as you can tell from the paltry pickin's in my gathering basket, below), and the corn met an untimely demise in those two windstorms we had...we still have a good bit of produce flowing from the garden.

While picking the purple-hull peas, I was thrilled to see that the English peas I planted in the space vacated by the Early Sweet corn crop (in the back portion, same quadrant as the purple hulls) were green and growing.  Now, I wasn't expecting to harvest any actual peas from these vines...remember, the ones I planted in the early Spring were all enjoyed by Mr. Bunny, long before they flowered.  No, I planted these just to have a nitrogen crop where the corn had been.

You see, corn is a heavy feeder crop.  It sucks nutrients, especially nitrogen, out of the ground, and reduces the fertility of the soil considerably.  Beans and peas, on the other hand are nitrogen "fixers:"  adding nitrogen back into the soil and increasing the fertility.  Well, that works for peas IF you treat them as a "green manure," and plough them under before they flower and set seedpods.  And, that was way more information than you wanted to know, wasn't it?

Anyway, those lovely, little green stems and leaves were just too pretty to be ignored.  So, I thought, why not cover them with that netting I have on the sweet potato vines...the netting that has worked so well at keeping Mr. Bunny from chowing down after I had to replant the sweet potato slips?  Forget all that mumbo-jumbo about cover crops and green manures.  I want peas to eat! 

OK, but in order to do that, I would have to take the netting off the sweet potatoes...not exactly easy, now that the vines have grown through, over, and under the netting in a huge mass.

Out came the clippers...snip, snip, snip.  A good 30 minutes later, I'd not only removed the netting intact from the sweet potato bed and covered half of the row of the tender, new English peas...I'd also harvested a few beautiful sweet potatoes!  OMG, I was so excited to see that they had actually grown fat and full and thick under the cover of dirt and all those vines.  Aren't they gorgeous in that pic to the right?

As this is the first time in my life I've grown sweet potatoes, I really didn't know what to expect.  After reading up on them in my garden books and online, I learned that I should cure them for a few days so that the starch can turn to sugar...and the sweet potatoes will taste sweeter.  So, I spread them out on the deck table for a couple of hours.  Then, I transferred them to a newspaper-lined box that is now sitting atop the freezer in the garage to "cure" for a few days.  I intend to bake a few this weekend and serve 'em up simply...in their jackets with a pat of butter melting in the middle.

Yum!  I can hardly wait for my "yams*!!"


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*I know, I know.  What we eat here in the USA are sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), which are native to the Americas, and not yams...which are botanically different and native to Africa.  Blame Louisiana for the confusion, as "they" got permission to call "their" sweet potatoes "yams."  Go figure.  Anyway, yam was closer alliteratively to yum, and you know me...it's all about the words...:)

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