It’s been years since I’ve tried to grow cantaloup, but this year, my motto was: “Try everything!” I bought some plants at Early May and wound up with a few melons that looked like this (and a few that looked oddly shaped and never made it past the golf ball size). I can’t even begin to describe the thrill of seeing YOUR OWN MELONS growing right there before your eyes! I had to really discipline myself to wait until I thought the first one might be ripe (Who knew it would be so hard to know when the thing was ripe?). Turns out I could have waited a few more days on that first one, but it was still sheer bliss when I cut it open and saw the orange firm flesh and tons of little seeds……a “real” melon, grown from my own fingertips (and Earl May!).
This particular variety was not very sweet (don’t remember the name and I didn’t write it down…ooops), even when it was quite ripe. Do any of you have a favorite variety of melon you’ve grown? What’s the sweetest musk melon you’ve ever tasted?
I dug potatoes the other day and right now, as I write (11:09pm,) I am boiling up some of the ones that got nicked by the spade. I’m planning a bedtime snack of mashed potatoes to calm my heartburn from the homemade pizza sauce I had for supper!
Although most of the summer we’ve had a shortage of rain bordering on drought, a recent welcomed shower plus the fact that we did double digging in the spring made digging the potatoes pretty easy. You’ll also see straw at the back of this photo which we used to cover seed potatoes that we planted very shallowly. The straw was wonderful for keeping the weeds down and the moisture in, but I’m not sure it did a lot for the size of the harvest.
Double digging is part of the method for John Jeavons’Grow More Vegetables that inspired our garden. In the lower right of the photo you see one of the digging boards that Steven made for us. As you double dig, you stand on the board to spread your weight and keep from compacting the soil. It was a lot of work, and when everyone else is planting and you are “still digging”, you can be tempted to give up, but the pay off later in the gardening season is worth it.
For several days in April as we loosened the soil to a depth of about 12 inches, a robin kept us company, enjoying the worms and grubs we exposed. So I guess double digging is not just for the garden, it’s for the birds too!
Ok, now I am off to soothe my stomach with some mashed potatoes. 🙂
At the Ames community gardening plots, there are lots of….well…challenges. The plots are nestled in a pretty setting between two patches of woods behind the Iowa Department of Transportation. I loved the way the woods provided shelter on some of the windy days this summer, but woods also provide nice habitat for deer and woodchucks! I’ve heard people complain about deer in Ames, but being an apartment dweller, I’ve never had to deal with their eating habits until now. So, garden cover to the rescue! People often ask me, “What is all that white fabric laying around your garden?”
My first garden in Ames was at the ISU Student Organic Farm when it was located on Mortenson Road. One of the reasons I came to Iowa State was because it had a Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture and I eagerly went to Borders and bought several books on organic gardening. Row cover was suggested for solving critter problems in the garden, including mammals, birds and insects. It’s not something you can usually find at big box stores. This year I found mine at Earl May over on 16th street.
The photo above shows what is also called “floating row cove”r over my little patch of sweet potatoes. I was pretty sure deer were making a salad out of this after I saw the vines snipped off and hoof prints all around!
I also covered peas and beans (I pulled the row cover aside for these photos so you could see what is underneath.) I wanted both of these to climb, however, and after inserting some bamboo stakes, it was hard to keep the cover in place. I finally decided the tender plants were out of danger and removed the cover all together….and…..you guessed it…….SOMEONE snipped everything off! It doesn’t pay to get careless as a gardener….shoulda kept my best friend right there in place!
I can hardly remember the garden looking like this at the end of April. I was recruited to share Nitin’s garden at the Ames community gardening plots located near Squaw Creek. I did a lot of garden dreaming, we did a lot of double digging and gradually the garden filled in.
Yesterday I mentioned that I wanted to see how they trellis things at Seed Savers Exchange. I didn’t see any trellising in the production plots, but the demonstration gardens fit my bill, even though the plants weren’t yet mature enough to really need the trellises.
I know I’ve posted before about this rain garden that grows next to the Ames Public Library (update 2018:this area is gone now, part of the new library addition), but this year it seemed even more beautiful to me.
It’s been HOT here, in the 90’s, heat indexes around 110-115, but this garden still looks so cool, deep, rich, diverse. As I stepped out of my car to get some close ups, I heard something rustling in the foliage. Could have been a rabbit, maybe a bird or a mouse, but the environment was so deep and lush, it remained well hidden from me, and probably quite cool. I wish there were more spaces around town that were planted like this!
Here is another community garden I visited with the American Public Garden Association a few years back. All of these neighborhood community gardens were being supported by the Chicago Botanic Center at the time. I wonder how many of these gardens are still going strong?
Chicago neighbors named this the Greenhouse Garden
I love picturing a family in the garden after a long hot Chicago day, perhaps after fighting traffic and the general stress of life, working in the garden, working out their stress and bringing home some tasty produce from the land. Neighbors talk to each other about the garden, about their day, and children explore broccoli and bugs while engaging in some creative make believe. Stress relieved, social ties strengthened, growing hands-on knowledge about the environment …all benefits of community gardening!
Another thing I loved about this community garden was the adult and child sized picnic tables. Behind the picnic tables we learned that they had a “chopping table”. All of the waste from the garden, inedible leaves, stems, etc….got chopped up and put in the compost bin.
There were a lot of berries growing in this garden and it made me think a lot about edible landscapes. Here is one summary of the idea behind this movement. Personally, I think a lot of the stock landscaping plants used by developers are boring, boring, boring. I am sure there could be some problems if our towns, cities and suburbs were covered with berries, fruit trees and vegetables, but I’d kind of like to have to deal with that, wouldn’t you?!
A few years ago I got to tour some community gardens around Chicago as part of the AABGA conference (now known as the American Public Gardens Association). I think this garden tucked away beside an alley was my favorite. I wish I remembered more of the stories behind this garden, but mostly I remember the flowers, and how kind and proud the gardeners were who showed us around. I didn’t get names and I didn’t ask permission to post these photos, but I would be delighted if some day, some of the Bernard Place Block Club community gardeners would run into my blog and let me thank them for the beauty they added to the world!
I was so taken with the beautiful structure of these masses of dill.
These gardeners also made dramatic use of Russian Sage. Did I already use the word “dramatic”? Well, the whole garden was just dramatic! Thank you again Bernard Place Community Block Club. I hope your community garden is still going strong!