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Previously in Patti's Garden

July 5, 2004

Today is overcast, and we had some rain last night so everything in the gardens is looking spectacular.

Lara and Azure both were able to give me a hand hoeing and weeding one day last week so all the beds are free from weeds and the flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables look great.

In the tomato garden, the Enchantments have set many fruits already. Nothing yet from the San Marzanos, but the Polish Linguisas have funny looking sausage-shaped fruits. After I'd planted the tomatoes, I had about four left over...plants that weren't quite as good looking as those I'd put in, but I saved them for emergencies such as bunny buffets. One of the rejects was a potato-leafed tomato so I know it was a stray seed from one of the packets because all of the tomatoes we're growing this year are traditional leafed ones. The potato leafed tomato, though, really, really wanted to live. Watered only occasionally, knocked over at least once and very flopsy, it continued to grow in its 4" pot and stayed green. I felt sorry for it and one day Lara and I put it in at the end of the Italian pepper bed where there was a bit of room. We plucked off the lower branches and buried it so that only a bit of the top showed above the soil. A month later it's huge - it takes up at least a square meter already and has sent up secondary shoots. I'm quite curious to see what it turns into, this monster tomato with such a will to live.

It's far more common than one would hope that the wrong seeds show up in a packet. For years the Giant Marconi seeds that I got from Parks would include yellow peppers along with the red that I had ordered. It's annoying, but not too problematic with seeds. It's exceptionally annoying when it comes to trees. My Damson plums take seven years to set fruit. The first four trees came from a commercial nursery that identified them as "Shropshire Damsons." By the time I harvested fruit and knew I loved them and needed more plums, that nursery stopped selling to small growers like us, selling only to large fruit growers. I tracked down other vendors of Damson plums through the seed savers' exchange, finding only Henry Fields selling to small farmers. I've planted several every year in the last seven.

Some years the trees were branched, other years I planted sticks. In general, the Damson is a lovely tree, well-branched and willowy with small leaves. As the trees grew, I noticed that some were stouter than usual, with larger leaves. Last year one of these stout trees at last produced fruit.....but it wasn't a Damson plum. It was a "pear-plum" - redder than the deep blue Damson, and shaped like a pear. I saw some at the market and bought some to taste. They actually taste better than a Damson (since Damsons are grown simply for preserves) but I'm still disappointed. It's hard to get your money back after seven years, and if I replant, it will be another seven years before I get more fruit!

I've learned something else about buying trees via mail-order. Each year I'd put in about five trees and there would be a difference in quality. Some trees would have stronger root systems than others, some would be better branched. This year I ordered just one tree to replace one that never leafed out last year. It is the most beautiful Damson plum I've ever planted. Exquisitely branched, vigorous, it is already bigger and better shaped than some that are older. I've named it "Annabel" after the granddaughter of my friend and mentor, Ron Prokopy who died this spring. The only other tree that went in this year is a Seckel Pear, in honor of Ron himself.

In the Italian pepper bed, the Giant Marconis are growing so tall we've needed to cage them already. The Italias are producing little fruits already. As I expected, the heirloom Corno di Toros are the weakest of the three varieties we are trialling, although there are individuals that are on par with the Italias.

The chilies, cayennes and jalapenos are also setting fruit already. The habaneros provided some meals for the bunnies and were set back, but Ralph covered them with netting and I gave them a boost of fertilizer and they're coming back well.

The strawberries are all harvested, and the raspberries are on deck (as they say in baseball). This gives me a chance to get started on this season's vinegars and so far I've begun with French Tarragon, Rosemary, Lavender and the Green Garlic. The latter is made from the flowering shoots of the garlic and is a super way to get intense garlic flavor into a dish. Cutting the shoots in June also allows all the plant's energy to go the great bulb, increasing its size. We'll harvest all the garlic by August 1.

We've added another event to our fall line-up. I'm not sure how we'll manage it, but we'll be at the beautiful Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston, MA for their Autumn Weekend events October 9 and 10.

The animals are all fine, enjoying the beautiful summer that's neither too hot nor too cold. Teddy, especially, is happy to have his Newfoundland/Chow coat trimmed for the summer and is often merrily rolling about on the grass. Rosie and I are talking our daily walks through the woods where loggers have recently made more roads. A young fawn ran ten feet in front of me yesterday and was completely safe because at that moment Rosie was happily splashing away in the brook.

The gardens are lovely, the animals happy, markets are beginning and life is good!




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