It’s definitely summer here in Asheville. The days are long (and hot) and my garden is growing like crazy, albeit helped by James’ faithful rounds of watering at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.
Our flower gardens are onto their fourth year and have moved from newly-planted to established.You have probably seen pictures of the flowers which cycle through from snow-drops to daffodils, peonies to daisies, lilies to pansies, mums to winter roses and more. My tiny vegetable garden gets less publicity. We have so many wonderful farmer’s markets here in Western North Carolina that we don’t need to grow much. What we do grow is more for the pleasure (and challenge) of produce from our own garden.
I have to be honest that before moving here my experience with vegetable gardens was limited to watching my mother as I was growing up, and appreciating the labors of our gardener in England. He was named Mr. Green (for real) and came with the house. The owners rightly wanted to make sure that the well-established garden was properly taken care of. The garden there was bountiful with fresh fruits and vegetables ranging from artichokes to melons and more. It was not until we bought our Asheville Bed and Breakfast that I had the space, time, and climate to try a garden of my own. The learning curve has been slower than I would have liked, delayed by construction and changes in landscaping. Every time I thought I had a good site we had to move it and it took forever to find a place where there was enough sun. But this year it seems to all be coming together. Here is what I have learned:
Plant radishes early and often. An early hot spell put an end to my radishes. Did you know that radishes produce roots when the temperature is under 80 degrees but anything above that and they work on sprouting leaves and flowers? Neither did I! So good-bye to radishes for this year. (note to self, plant earlier and more often next year).
On the other hand, my tomatoes are already heavy with fruit. The ones that survived the battle with Early Blight, that is. I love heirlooms tomatoes but there is something to be said for the disease resistant Big Beef tomato! Every year I make the same mistake with my tomatoes. I buy too many plants and plant them too close together. I thought I would protect my heirlooms by
surrounding them with hybrids but they were still too close to one another and the disease spread. I always think that I will be able to pinch off the growing tips to keep the branches from spreading too far but I swear they grow two feet every night and before I know it the garden is a massive tangle of branches. So plant the tomatoes farther apart and buy fewer plants. Trust that I will get more from a few healthy plants than dozens of struggling ones.
And, at long last, I seemed to be succeeding with zucchinis. For years I have listened to jokes about the endlessly abundant zucchini plant only to watch mine wither and die after a few meager flowers. But this year I am on top of my game (at least so far) and I caught the powdery mildew at its outset. Sarah, my daughter, has made stuffed zucchini flowers for me and I harvested my first reasonably sized fruit yesterday. This year, I visit the garden every day and look at the leaves, top and bottom. And I am suppressing my dislike of pesticides and spraying and attacking disease the minute it shows up (using organic products of course!).
And the jalapenos? Knock on wood, jalapenos have never failed me. This year is proving the same. I already have almost enough to candy my first batch. Curiously I also seem to have a white jalepeno plant. It must have gotten mixed in with the other plants. They are supposed to be slightly less spicy than the green variety which would work well here as I have to be aware that not all of our guests love fiery hot food the way my family does. No lessons to be learned here (yet). Jalapenos and I understand each other just fine!
And finally, the addition of Otis, our family cat, means that the groundhogs and squirrels are looking for another garden to pillage!
So when you visit us here at our inn, take a minute to appreciate my small plot. It probably doesn’t look like much but it’s getting there.