Wednesday, March 13, 2013

garden, leafy green edition

Our goal has been to fill the planting beds with an understory of leafy greens and low-growing vegetables, while creating a canopy of fruit-producing trees above. So far, we've run into two problems with the leafy greens and veggies: bitterness and pests. The lettuces and chards, left, have grown well through the winter, but the lettuce has been very bitter. This is also true of the basil that has grown prolifically around the garden, and which we've used to mitigate the second problem: peafowl. The peacocks and peahens are particularly fond of the tender leaves of seedlings, and they've ravaged our collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, mizuna, bok choi and other plants. The basil and lemongrass seem to keep them away, so we've been using these herbs as a kind of bodyguard around other plants.

We've picked up some cool greens from Dylan Terry (of Ready-to-Grow Gardens), including Lagos spinach (left) and Okinawa spinach (below, behind the mints), neither of which is really a spinach. The Lagos has delicate, colorful leaves that can be eaten in a salad or cooked, while the Okinawa has a tougher leaf that requires cooking and holds up to heat pretty well. We've let both go to seed, partly out of curiosity and partly to get them to colonize the planting beds. Both plants' flowers attract butterflies, like the one visible on the beautiful purple spikes of the Lagos spinach.

One of the delicious additions to our salad greens has been the cranberry hibiscus. We'd never even heard of this plant before we moved to Miami. It has a tangy, citrusy flavor and slightly toothy texture. The large pink flowers are pretty, and don't seem to interrupt the leaf production that much.

The mints include a peppermint (left), a spearmint (center) and a lemon balm (right). In the other planter, we've got regular mint and chocolate mint growing. We'll talk about these with the other herbs, later.

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