Cultivate Simple Podcast in iTunes Chiot's Run on Facebook Chiot's Run on Twitter Chiot's Run on Pinterest Chiot's Run on Flickr RSS Feed StumbleUpon

The Edible Garden

August 24th, 2020

This is my 8th summer gardening here in Maine, the edible garden is the best it’s ever been. That’s to be expected, all the additions of compost are really improving the soil structure, and the garden is almost expanded to the full size that we have been planning.

I still need to add fruit trees, berry bushes, grape vines, and a few other items, but overall it’s really starting to settle into place and look fantastic. It no longer looks like a new garden. It’s filled with tons of self seeded flower: anise hyssop, verbena bonariensis, echinacea, dill, coriander, and rose campion.

This year I added a tithonia hedge on both sides. Not only do these help with wind, they provide lots of food for pollinators, especially monarchs. Now that I have 120 feet of them, I notice the hummingbirds are loving them as well. It’s a constant buzz of activity and it is proving to be a great add for reducing the wind in the garden.

The vegetables are all producing well, some things I have cut down on this year, some I have increased. At this moment, the tomatoes are the stars of the show. Here in Maine, we have a short window to enjoy tomatoes fresh off the vine and we savor each and every one. The ‘Sungold’ tomatoes are especially stunning right now, I enjoy watching them ripen downward.

Overall, it’s been a great year for the edible garden. No doubt all of our years of improving the soil are finally paying off. We look forward to layering in more and more seasonal foods as we finalize the plans for this lovely space.

What are you harvesting and loving at the peak of ripeness right now?

Reaping Rewards

September 26th, 2017

This year I feel like I’m finally starting to reap the rewards of all my hard work over the past five years. The main vegetable garden is stunning, simply stunning. Every time I head up there to work I’m amazed at how lovely it looks this summer. It makes me stop and enjoy the garden on a daily basis.

This garden features a mix of flowers (both perennial and annual) and vegetables (both perennial and annual as well). As I start to think about the final design for this space, I take notice of plant shape, color, and structure every time I look at the garden.

I follow a no-dig gardening method, which has been an amazing discovery. This bucket of weeds is all I got from weeding the entire garden (which is roughly 70×80). It was the first time I had weeded in a month. If you want to know about the no-dig gardening method, I highly recommend books by Charles Dowding, No Dig Organic Home & Garden is a fantastic one.

The brussels sprouts are sizing up beautifully, I’m thinking of pruning half and leaving half as is. I’ve read that a little pruning can make them produce bigger, better sprouts. We shall see.

The Scarlet Runner beans that my dad gave me have bloomed beautifully for most of the summer. The hummingbirds enjoyed them until they migrated south. These were always a staple in my mom’s garden, she planted them just for the hummingbirds.






All three varieties of broccoli are still producing like mad. The ‘Happy Rich’ mini broccoli is producing loads of side shoots, as are the heirloom variety ‘DeCiccio’ and the hybrid ‘Marathon’ are producing side shoots as well. ‘Marathon’ produces side heads, that are actually quite large. We’re eating broccoli every evening from the side shoots.



Overall this year has been a grand success in the main vegetable garden. The potager has been neglected a bit, but the plan is to give it a complete overhaul with pathways, rock walls, and more. So it has become more of a nursery area than an edible garden space. Hopefully next year I will have extra time to get it headed in the right direction.

How is your garden growing this year? Do you feel like you’re starting to reap the rewards of all your hard work?

Friday Favorite: The Back Garden

August 18th, 2017

I have two different edible garden spaces here at Chiot’s Run. One is the potager behind the house, which is filled with lots of herbs and a few edibles each year and the main vegetable garden up behind the garage or barn. This is the large garden space where the lion’s share of our vegetables are grow. It’s also filled with flowers for cutting and a nursery bed area.


It’s slowly growing, this year it’s close to the final size. We are preparing areas to surround it with hedges and fences and probably put in a shed as well. That’s beside the point, it’s one of my favorite garden spaces even though it’s not complete. It’s really starting to come into its own. I can see a HUGE difference in it over the past 5 years, the last two years have been quite remarkable.




This garden is now about twice as big as it was when we moved here. I’m guessing it’s 60×80 ft or so at the moment, it may get a bit bigger. There are areas on three sides that may be incorporated into the garden to add 30% more space, but we haven’t decided for sure.


Pictured above is not a weed, although it certainly looks like it, it is lemongrass. I’m really hoping to make my own curry paste this fall and lemongrass was an important ingredient. So far it’s growing well, now if I could only keep the cats from munching it down.



The pumpkins pictured above are growing in the //chiotsrun.com/2016/08/23/compost-pile-gardening/”>big compost piles I made on this lower end of the garden last fall. If you’ve been reading here long, you’ll know that I started using this method of composting and growing squash on them a few years ago with much success. I’m trying to build up this low spot in the garden, so naturally making my compost piles here made sense. I’m planning on using the next few years of composting to build this side up leveling out the garden a bit more. Overall, this garden is really chugging along and I’m super happy with the results. I love the slightly less than perfectness of it since I let dill, cilantro, sunflowers, and other things seed down and grow up wherever they want.

What’s your favorite part in your garden right now?

The Main Garden

May 30th, 2017

The main garden behind the garage is starting to take shape (at least in my mind). The past three summers I have been expanding the boundaries and dealing with invasive weeds. I’m finally reaching the full size and it’s time to develop main walkways, establish hedges, and redefine planting areas as well. All that will take place this fall as I need the space to grow food this summer. This garden area is roughly 60 feet wide by 80 feet deep. It is currently divided into four foot wide rows with walkways in between. There’s a nursery area and a large compost pile that extends the length of the garden that will eventually become growing space making it closer to 70 feet wide.

Here’s my garden row by row:

The first row contains garlic in the front and asparagus, strawberries, and flowers in the back. Behind the garlic there’s a nice little grove of sage, three plants that provide more than enough sage for us and all of our friends.

The second row is filled with a few perennials in the front, shallots and lettuce, followed by all the brassicas interplanted with lettuce that are being protected from cabbage butterflies by a long tunnel of agribon. Inside the tunnel I have cauliflower, three types of broccoli, and two of brussels sprouts.

The third row contains onions, both red and white, filling most of the row. In the back there’s a trellis with 6 feet of ‘Golden Pod’ peas and 9 bulb fennel plants. You’ll notice a row of garlic halfway back, these were tiny bulblets that I planted very thickly in a row last fall. They will be harvested as green garlic (like green onions) starting now. This row is still in need of a layer of compost as mulch. I’ve been waiting for the worms to quit unearthing the onions to add it.

This row contains all sorts of cutting flowers in the front, a 20 foot trellis of peas with beets and bulb fennel on either side, then a small patch of carrots, a small patch of tiny bulbing purple onions, then a few strawberries, and it’s capped off with a stand of Jerusalem artichokes in the very back. As you can see, I mulch the garden with a layer of compost when things are planted. This keeps weeding to a minimum and it helps me see quickly which space is available for planting and what space is already taken.

This side of the garden has been allowed to be fallow for the past three years. The strawberries have been encouraged to grow over this direction slowly. Every year I dig out a couple feet on one side and let them grow towards the far edge of the garden. They take up this row and half of the next as well. It’s a large patch, but that’s needed for us and for our neighbors.  In front of the strawberries there are a few flowers for summer bouquets and perennials that are waiting for a space to be cleared in the flowerbeds.

This row contains a few small trees and shrubs that are being grown out for the flowerbeds. It’s a nursery area where I like to keep things growing out. I have boxwood cuttings, tiny cherry trees, osage orange seedlings, lavender, and a host of other things I started from seed last year.

In the next row you can see lots of perennials and shrubs up front: peonies, hydrangeas, plums, grasses, willow, and other things that will be moved this fall. In the back I have two rows of tomatoes with 15 tomatoes planted 2.5 feet apart in each row. In between each tomato there are basil plants, flowers, and other smaller vegetables.

The next to the last row of the garden features rhubarb and more perennials up front and a row of peppers in the back. There will be one more row past this, but it’s not planted yet. This year it will be a row of sunflowers to block the wind that comes from that direction and other flowers for the butterflies (mostly tithonia and verbena).  At the back of the garden I’m building a trellis that will be used to grow sweet peas. It will both help keep the wild turkeys out and provide flowers for my table. Stay tuned for photo updates of the garden throughout the summer and in the coming years as the rows are reoriented the other direction. In front of these rows there’s also a 10 foot wide section that now contains the new asparagus bed. In front of that there will be a boxwood hedge or a fence, which will then have a 5-8 foot wide perennial border in front of that. That area is currently piled with compost that’s waiting to be spread on these sections of the garden. Part is also still growing in sod, which will be smothered with cardboard in preparation for the perennial border.

Harvesting Belgian Endive Roots

November 22nd, 2016

I’ve been waiting for the weather to turn cold so I could harvest my Belgian endive roots. These are ‘Totem’ variety, the seeds were sourced from Johnny’s Seeds. I’ve tried growing endive roots for forcing for many years and something has always eaten the tops, or the seed was washed away in a spring rainstorm, or something else happened to them. That never stopped my from sowing seed every year, hoping I’d end up with large roots to force chicons for winter eating. The cold weather finally hit and the leaves wilted a bit in the cold.
harvesting-belgian-endive-roots-1
I became interested in doing this after reading Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest. He has a nice section on how to grow them and what to do with them in order to force them. Johnny’s also has a nice resource page on their website (which is not available right now because of their redesign, I’ll try to remember to post a link to it later). It’s pretty simple to force chicons. The first step is to cut the leaves off the plants leaving about an inch or two of stem, you want to be careful not to cut too close to the root so you don’t damage the crown. The chickens were super happy to gobble up all those leaves.
harvesting-belgian-endive-roots-2
Then carefully dig the roots, they’re like parsnips or large carrots. You only need 6-8 inches of root, they’re much longer than that but can be quite difficult to dig up in their entirety. Some of my snapped neatly right at the perfect length when I was digging them.
harvesting-belgian-endive-roots-4
harvesting-belgian-endive-roots-3
harvesting-belgian-endive-roots-5
There are several methods for treating the roots, I decided to follow the methods recommended by Johnny’s. I layered the roots into baskets, covered them with damp burlap, and put them in a cold room of my garage. They’ll stay there for 3 weeks or so, then I’ll start planting them in buckets of soilless potting mix.
harvesting-belgian-endive-roots-6
When I want to start growing chicons, I’ll put the buckets on my seedling heating mat the basement. The top of the bucket will be covered with a black plastic pot in order to ensure darkness. They like warm soil and cool air temperatures for producing chicons. I figured the heating mat would warm the soil in the buckets but the ambient air in the basement is the perfect temperature for them. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of my efforts. Here’s hoping I’m eating chicons in January!

Have you grown any new and interesting veg this year?

Reading & Watching
Resources

Shop through these links and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!

About

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

Admin