Saturday, December 21, 2013

the garden at mid-winter

The winter solstice is a good time to take stock of the garden at tin box. It's been a weird winter with unusually high amounts of rain (we're still using rain water from the cistern for all our indoor use, about a month later than we could last year) and very hot temperatures (over 80 degrees most days). This has made it difficult to grow cool season vegetables. Nonetheless, we're starting to harvest green beans (left) and tomatoes from volunteers, those self-seeded plants that grow from last year's crops.

The herbs are doing very well. Plants that we installed last month are growing quickly. These include arugula, sorrel, cilantro and parsley. We interspersed them with a variety of eggplant and tomato plants. The only problem we've had is peafowl trampling them (they killed our tomatillo, which was already in flower) and eating the leaves of the eggplants, kale and collards. We need to install some kind of netting to keep the birds out.
We're also experimenting with food forest planting techniques, where we use an upper story of taller plants (such as pigeon pea, lemongrass and cranberry hibiscus) to shade the understory plants, like the collard greens, fennel and tomatoes at left. Normally we wouldn't worry about shade for these plants, which all like full sun, but the sun has been so intense - and the temperatures so high - that it makes sense to moderate them with the taller plants.
The pomegranate is in bloom. There are small fruit on the tree, but so far these have always fallen off before maturing. We're crossing our fingers that we'll be able to harvest our first pomegranate this winter, about one year after planting the tree.
The peach tree is also in bloom. Some day, when this tree gets big, these blossoms are going to be stunning.
Not everything in the garden is edible to humans. This monarch butterfly caterpillar is munching on milkweed, whose toxins will end up in the butterfly's wings, providing protection against predators. We've got zebra longwing butterfly caterpillars on the passionflower vine next to the side porch, too.

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