Urban Homesteading – the Harvest Begins

Reader Contribution by Heidi Hunt
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Isn’t it just amazing how garden plants can grow in just one month? In June, I reported that my urban backyard garden had shoulder-height tomato plants – now they’re eight feet tall and threatening to cascade down the side of their five-foot wire cages. Never have I had tomato plants this tall in July. I’m finally beginning to believe the topsoil I thought was just nasty clay is actually a super-soil! I did add some homemade fertilizer to the soil when I planted and a month later doused each plant with a fish-fertilizer mixture. Twice I added a thin layer of fresh grass clippings. So, I really don’t know which was most effective! But the bottom line is the garden is growing well and the veggies are rolling into the kitchen.

That over-sized red roasting pepper I told about in How Does the Garden Grow finally stopped growing at 10 inches and turned a lovely shade of red. Last weekend, I cut it into four long slices and roasted them over the grill. I was quite pleased with the results – a bit charred for that great roasted flavor but not over done. I shared a slice with my pepper-loving neighbor – he wants to grow them in his garden next year.

We experienced some 100 degree Fahrenheit weather in June that kept the tomatoes from setting fruit. So there is a space of about two feet on each plant where there are no tomatoes. But the early set fruit is ripening and we have enjoyed a lovely Cherokee purple tomato, my very favorite, sweet-not-acidic heirloom tomato. Now, the top of the tall hybrid tomato plants and the shorter heirloom ones are filling out nicely with fruit that should be ripe in a few weeks. It’s so hard to wait to eat warm tomatoes, straight from the patch.

Our local farmers’ market has had some wonderful new potatoes. Oh – their taste can’t be compared to grocery store russets. My potato plants have grown well, but I don’t know yet what’s hiding under the straw mulch. Usually I dig into the soil to clip off a few new potatoes that are close to the surface. But I’ve decided to wait to dig this year until the plants die down, allowing the potatoes to grow as big as they can. The new house has a basement and I’m hoping the spuds will keep well down there.

On the south side of the house, next to the driveway, I planted lavender, thyme, sage, tarragon and oregano. The oregano gave up the ghost in just a few weeks, but the rest of the herbs have done exceptionally well. I planted three varieties of lavender and the Goodwin Creek variety (Lavendula heterophylla) is just gorgeous! It has deep cut, silvery leaves. I plan to buy more, if this plant makes it through the winter and comes out OK next spring.

There are just so many veggies, fruits, herbs and flowers to tempt a gardener. It’s hard to know when to stop planting and just enjoy the spectacle.

Photo by Heidi Hunt