Soundings

These fruits make labor seem not so laborious

Greetings this holiday weekend from Horsefeathers Farm in East Olympia, where the vegetable garden has played a successful game of catch-up in recent weeks.

The unusually warm, dry spell that extended through the month of June into early July translated into corn stalks in my garden that were taller than knee-high by the Fourth of July, something I rarely see.

Vegetables that have made it to the dinner table of late include sugar snap peas that sat in limbo as 2-inch plants through late April and early May, then shot up and started producing like crazy by mid-June. They show no signs of letting up.

We harvested our first head of broccoli for use in a chicken stir-fry dish this week. All of the broccoli plants are healthy this year, as are the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts plants. For some reason, the root maggots that I typically lose some of the cold crop plants to each year are nowhere to be seen.

The first crop of spinach has come and gone, succeeded by a second planting that should start paying dividends soon. The beet plants have matured beyond the beet greens-for-salad stage and are nearing harvest size.

The mixed salad greens are bushy and bright, providing an ample supply for a leafy side dish that becomes a dependable addition to the dinner menu in early summer.

Garlic planted last November is ready for harvest, and the sweet onions that survived an early spring onslaught of slug attacks are bulking up in the summer sun.

The carrots are large enough to garnish a salad when thinned. Same goes for the first, late-arriving crop of cilantro.

The Yukon gold potato plants are starting to flower, and the four varieties of tomato plants have an equal share of smaller fruit and flowers.

The fruit trees and berry bushes at Horsefeathers Farm benefitted from both a robust supply of pollinating bees and the lack of a late spring frost. I’ve already had to prop up blueberry bush branches laden with ripening berries, and the marionberry plants are loaded with fruit this year.

All three varieties of Asian pear trees set a strong crop of fruit, which is a rarity. About half of the eight varieties of apples show promise of a bountiful harvest this fall. And the grape vines are sprouting tiny clusters of berries that are guaranteed to ripen in the late summer sun.

The strawberries were doing well until last week when the 25 or so plants were raided by starlings and nearly picked clean. This despite the fact they were covered with bird netting. The bold, non-native invaders – starlings are not welcome at Horsefeathers Farm – simply cast the net aside with their beaks and proceeded to feast.

The two rows of dahlias at the north end of the garden are well behind schedule, but should start putting on a showy display by late July or early August.

On the back deck, the basil is starting to flower and needs to be used or dried. Pepper plants are beginning to flower and form fruit, except for the two that the cats would rather nibble on than the catnip plant at their disposal.

Ornamental flowers purchased in May at plant sales at South Puget Sound Community College and Black Hills High School are doing well, other than the hanging basket filled with African daisies. A junco decided to build her nest there in early June. She preceded to lay four eggs, two of which hatched into baby chicks that haven’t fledged yet.

I reluctantly stopped watering the basket when I discovered the nest. I don’t think the baby birds will take flight in time to save the flowers.

July is truly a time when the work pace around the farm slows down and there’s more time to enjoy the fruits of late-winter to late-spring labor.

The lawn, which I don’t water, has begun to dry out, so mowing isn’t such a frequent assignment. Wood to heat the house next winter is bucked, split and stacked to cure. The noxious weeds in the pasture, including tansy ragwort, is mostly pulled, and the last rhododendron bush has been dead-headed.

I’d better watch out or I’ll run out of simple chores and have turn to more time-consuming tasks such as washing windows, painting the house and replacing several hundred feet of rundown fence on the south side of the property.

Wait, I think I’d better mulch and weed the garden and some flower beds first.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

jdodge@theolympian.com

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