Tuesday, June 11, 2013

the garden at midsummer

Modern Farmer magazine just posted a letter to the editor under the provocative headline, "Can I Legally Grow Food in My Front Yard?"The response: it depends on zoning, deeds and neighborhood associations. In South Miami, we're fortunate that the city allows us to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs instead of lawns. As we head into mid-summer, it's a good moment to take stock of what's been growing out in the front yard...



Our tomato plants produced an amazing crop from November until this week, when we pulled out the vines (which were looking kind of tired) and started preparing the ground to transplant the new tomato plants that have been growing from some of the fruit we didn't pick in time. We don't have much confidence that tomatoes will be productive over the summer - when it's too hot in Miami - but we're going to give it a try. In the meantime, we need to pull up most of the sweet potato vines, harvest the bigger tubers, and then let the vines start growing back. They are supposed to be a good cover crop for the tropical summer.
Our hot pepper plants are producing a lot of fruit (this is a habanero, we think, and we have a jalapeƱo, too), but the problem is that they are way, way too hot for us to cook with. We need to come up with a use for them.

Our bell peppers seem to like the heat, and are growing quickly. This is an orange pepper with two big (and heavy fruit), sharing a cage with a tomato plant we transplanted from the compost barrel. We've also broadcast pepper seeds at various places in the garden, and they've sprouted and are growing slowly.

The herbs, like the mint in the foreground, have been thriving over the spring and early summer. The mint in particular spreads vigorously, even invasively, and makes a nice carpet of green around the edges of the planting beds. We have four varieties of mint, as well as lemon balm. Here, the mint is lapping up at the feet of the shiso (which is fragrant enough to be an herb, and toothy enough to be a leafy green) and another tomato plant that sprouted from leftover fruit in the garden. In the background, pole beans are climbing up a pyramid made of bamboo.
The pole beans are pretty amazing. Some are already two feet long, and we're not sure when they're supposed to be picked. We've eaten one already (not bad when sauteed in olive oil), but the beans seem to be getting fatter. The flowers that produce the beans are gorgeous blue and purple blossoms that open in the morning and are gone by afternoon.
The bush beans are also producing prodigiously. Like all the other food plants, they don't require any irrigation once they're established. We've amended the soil with homemade compost, but have not otherwise added any fertilizer.
Most of the herbs have grown and spread pretty happily. Basil and dill have seeded themselves throughout the garden, and other herbs - like tarragon and culantro - have spread with runners or by growing roots out of stalks that have dropped to the ground. Here, our oregano is spilling out over the coral rock and is spreading back toward the eggplants, as if begging us to come up with some Greek recipe. Unfortunately, the eggplants have not set any fruit (despite producing many flowers) which is likely due to the heat. We'll have to try eggplant in slightly cooler weather.
This might be our first pomegranate!

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