This Week in the Garden: Early August

Our garden is, as JR likes to put it, in its late stages. This is a kind way to say that it’s a mess, as you can see above here, a plethora of weeds, oregano going – very undesirably – to seed (I’m fairly certain that if all else fails, I could open an Oreganoeria – if that’s how a word indicating “the making of” such as “gelateria” would translate to oregano – with absolutely no initial investment costs. This morning, while cutting oregano for drying, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is enough worldwide demand for oregano to even make a dent in the crop volunteering in our garden), and the winter squashes planted enthusiastically, yet in a slightly crowded fashion during May have not even bothered to ask whether it’s okay with us that they grow over and out of the garden fence into the lawn.

My obsession with squash has rendered the late-stage garden a jumble of vines, which I rather enjoy, as I like a mess, it turns out. The riot of squash flowers is serving well the bees in our neighborhood – both those from our hives and visiting bumblebees.

Even with a late-stage garden, it seems a bit early to be thinking of winter squash, but our first Potimarron squash, a French heirloom variety said to taste like chestnuts (I will be highly disappointed if this isn’t the case. I want me some chestnut-flavored squash soup this fall. Without doing the obvious adding of chestnuts.), was ready for harvest this weekend, its bumpy autumnal-hued skin concealed while on the vine, as only the smooth, bright orange skin could be seen while nestled between its bed of hay and overhanging squash leaves.

(All of our winter squash have beds of hay – seeing the plants take over the garden, only to have our first squash rot in the dirt was all the motivation necessary to provide each its own hay crib).

I’m figuring that I’ll have countless bales of dried oregano by the time the first frost is upon us. These flowers are from the very first bunch – or, I suppose we could call it a bouquet – of oregano harvested here this year. The bees weren’t terribly happy to be robbed of their oregano flowers, but with just a little flying around, they’ll be able to find another 18 or so oregano patches, which ought to be enough to get them through to the frost as well.

But then, oregano isn’t the only herb going to seed. We haven’t bought a cilantro plant in over five years. That’s a whopping five-year savings of about $13.75. Ahhhhh, yeah. Not really worth bragging about, now then, is it?

Well, anyway, I’m still happy to get my cilantro and coriander seed for free (cilantro when talking leaves, coriander when talking seeds). Before it produces free coriander seeds, it produces these lovely little white flowers.

Likewise, dill volunteers for us as well. And still, any time I inadvertently weed a plant out of a bed, I feel badly, despite the fact that we can’t possibly use all that’s growing in our garden.

This gal showed up two weeks ago amongst the lavender flowers, and has more than doubled in size. It’s an orb weaver, so harmless to humans (plus, it’s not as though it moves from that spot so far as we can tell, so unless we stick our fingers in its mouth, we’re probably pretty safe), though it is a bug-eating machine. We like bug-eating machines.

Our tomatillos just started ripening this week. Despite how this looks, I haven’t enjoyed any with my coffee just yet. Tomatoes with coffee – well, that happens, but tomatillos, not so much. As of today, that is.

Cabbage is a never-with-coffee veggie in my book, but we’ll have to get slaw-making and quick, as both the red and green cabbage crops are ready for harvest.

We’re planning fall planting now, and the investigation into a hoop house for one of our raised beds has begun, as I’m planning to grow greens all winter long, so this late stage phase of the summer garden will, with any luck, have a companion late stage. In February. I can only hope.

Dinner tonight: Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Breasts with Corn, Tomato, and Zucchini Risotto and Sauteed Squash Blossoms. Estimated cost for two: $8.76. The chicken breasts were bone-in, on sale for $1.99 per pound, which was still a better deal than the normal boneless, skinless breast price. We paid $3.88 for the two. The cornmeal and flour will cost around a dime, the oil for frying, around 96-cents. The risotto consists of butter for 63-cents, one medium shallot for around a quarter, veggie broth made from scraps, so basically free, $1.30 for the Arborio rice, 1/2 cup white wine for $1.66 (I’m using leftover wine from a bottle that cost $9.99), one tomato from the garden, one small zucchini from the garden, and one ear of corn from the farm stand which cost 55-cents. I’ll add pecorino romano cheese as well, and that’s going to cost around 25-cents, so the risotto costs $4.64 for 4 servings, we’re having 2 tonight, so that’s $2.32, and risotto for lunch tomorrow. The squash blossoms are free in the overrun garden, I’ll stuff each with a tablespoon or so of fresh ricotta and – ahem – oregano, and will saute them quickly in 36-cents worth of olive oil. The ricotta will cost around 19-cents per tablespoon, so $1.14.

9 Comments to This Week in the Garden: Early August

  1. lovely photos and a wicked cool spider!

    your garden sounds like it is in the same shape as mine. the tangled web of squash, melon, and pumpkin vines has officially run amok, but i kinda like it too. i did start yanking out a bunch of plants yesterday in a vain attempt to try to bring a semblance of order, but that was a very tiny step towards what is really needed.

    happy gardening!

  2. lauranav says:

    I was just out in my garden picking scary worms from my corn! Great photos– I love the action shot. :)


  3. Edana says:

    I’m jealous. During the spring, I had such high hopes about having a garden this year. I planned the layout and tried to figure out how much of everything I wanted to plant, and how much each plant would produce, so I could decide how many actual plants to make…and then I went outside and dug my garden in a nice sunny area. And then my mom told me that the ‘nice sunny area’ is only sunny for a few hours in the afternoon, and pointed me to a new spot that is nice and sunny. Of course, I then realize that that area is only nice and sunny for a few hours in the morning and there is not a single spot in our yard to put a garden, so I got a few potted tomato plants to put on the patio (which is sunny) because at least that was SOMETHING, right? Then my mom and I were both not home very much and it was hot and dry all summer, so a lot of days they didn’t get watered, and I just learned today that when I do water them I’m drowning them. All summer, I’ve gotten two normal-sized tomatoes and four cherry tomatoes. And the bugs ate my basil.

    In short, I’m jealous of your overgrown garden predicament.

  4. kittiesx3 says:

    Please for the love of God tell me how you got cilantro to grow. We’ve failed in two distinct growing regions in the US and I hang my head in shame.

  5. bknowles67 says:

    What a great read that was! Wish we had space for a real garden. I am with kittiesx3 when it comes to cilantro-never been able to grow it here in MA. My tomatillo plants are a bit behind yours…my first blossom popped open today with 3 others not far behind.
    I got frustrated with my herb garden, basically the oregano and mint were fighting for control (no idea where the mint came from)and just pulled up big hunks of both the other day. Maybe a blog post about drying herbs. No idea how to do it.

  6. Amy says:

    Hi Allison,
    I had a feeling we’d be in similar gardening situations, only I envision your garden as far more lovely than mine (as evidenced by your photography!). JR did yank out the spent summer squash and zucchini plants, and I’ve just seeded – with optimism that borders on the insane – Costata Romanesco zucchini (seeds from High Mowing Seeds). They’re the type you see in Italian markets with flowers still attached, and they allegedly mature in 54 days. Perhaps with the help of that hoop house, we’ll have zucchini during October!

    Oh, I can’t stand corn worms! Or any worms for that matter, but that’s what happens in the organic garden, right? After this post went up, a quick tour of the garden found a squash borer (gack – these really make me want to vomit) in a vine well away from the roots of the plant, trying to eat its way into a winter squash. The chickens seemed quite happy for the snack, and we were more than happy to rid the squash of the nasty worm!

    I love your description of your gardening adventures, particularly the punctuation of “And the bugs ate my basil.” Grrrr to the lack of sunshine, too much heat and sunshine, too little water, too much water, and bugs! But I hope you keep at it, because there will be success mixed in with the frustration (there is always some amount of frustration in gardening, it seems!).

    You are definitely not alone – as evidenced by Brian’s comment. Cilantro goes to seed once the soil hits 75 degrees, so it’s important to either shade its roots (our herb bed is a mess, but this helps the cilantro because there’s sage and basil just about on top of the cilantro providing shade). We had transplanted some volunteer cilantro in our garden to small pots with the idea that we’d give them away, but with the blasting heat we’ve had here, they bolted before we could pawn them off on anyone, and it seems to happen overnight! Now would be a good time to try again, because we’re (hopefully) moving into the cooler weather, so it’ll be slower to bolt.

    Brian! I laughed out loud about the mint and oregano. Mint is such an interloper! It took about 7 years to rid our garden of mint, and the oregano – well, as previously mentioned, we might open an oreganoeria.
    Drying herbs is really easy. The oregano is hanging upside down in bunches of about 10 stems each, all tied together with kitchen twine. Remove any junky looking leaves and bugs, tie the bunch together at the base, then suspend it from a cabinet knob until the leaves are completely dry (this should only take a few days), then either use the leaves directly from the bunch, or remove them and stash them in a Ball jar or the like. I think an herb drying post is a good idea – you know how I like a pictorial essay!

  7. Jessica says:

    Lovely garden pictures! I’m sure that, despite the weeds, you are making good use of what nature has so lovingly provided!

  8. Abbey says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful!

  9. Your dinner tonight sounds amazing. I love your garden photos as well. It’s so fun to watch things progress throughout the season!

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