Early and often!!!
Yesterday, Lindsey and I harvested Kale, Collard Greens, Chard and Lettuce. Late last week, we harvested peas and carrots (They were purple but that will be an entirely different blog post.)
We got good produce from each of the plants, but we are learning a lot about how and when to harvest. I think we waited a little bit too long on the Peas and Chard.
Having to make up for missed (sick and vacation) time in the garden, Lindsey and I have been trying to prioritize properly. The garden is looking so much better and we finally feel like we are on top of growing, weeding, and harvesting. But I think some things did get pushed back a little too late.
When I went to harvest peas last Friday, the peas on the bottom of the pea plants had turned more white than bright green. I didn’t know the limit on how old a pea pod could be, so I picked a lighter colored pod and tasted it. Instead of having a sweet sugary taste, the pods were tougher and more bitter. When I read up on when peas should be picked, I found out that 1) Peas actually hate the heat and 2) We probably should have picked the peas on the bottom of the plant about a week before. Pea plants mature from the bottom up. We still had a good harvest, but we pulled the pea plants after getting all of the good sugary peas from the top of the vines!
Yesterday, it was relatively the same story with the Chard harvest. Some of the Chard near the bottom of the plants had become droopy. The top of the plants were still good (and delicious in salad!) but we could have gotten more if we had harvested in smaller increments over time. After I harvested the good stuff, I spent some time pruning from the bottom of the Chard. I had to use scissors to take off the wilting leaves because Chard plants are a lot more fragile than Kale and Collards. I left the middle of the plant intact and I saw some baby leaves sprouting so hopefully we will have another Chard harvest in a week or so!
Collard Greens were also unexplored harvesting territory for me until a week and a half ago. Collards are ready to be harvested once their leaves are 8-10 cm and dark green. We had a bunch that looked good to go a few weeks ago, so we took 6 lbs over to Princeton University Campus Dining Services. One technique I found to harvest then was really helpful to keep our Collards growing, so yesterday we had a whole new crop (about 4 lbs). I read that in order to keep Collards growing, you should take leaves from the bottom until they look like little trees–it worked!
Of course, our Kale has kept growing and we got another 7 lbs from our relatively small bed of plants yesterday. However, we think the Kale may be nearing the end of its time in the garden. Lindsey tasted a piece and it was good, but not as sweet as it once was. We are going to keep an eye/tongue on it and see what happens.
Although Lettuce is typically a cool season crop, our lettuce has been very productive well into the summer months. We have regularly chopped the plants down to 3 or 4 inches–often thinking it will be the last yield–and it has kept growing! Yesterday, we hauled 10 lbs over to dining services!
After a month of organic gardening, we have learned quite a bit about harvesting. Simple techniques can be found all over the internet and in books to teach anyone how to clip veggies and increase yields. But I think the most important lesson we have learned, and need to apply in the future, is to harvest less, more often. If we are vigilant and committed, we won’t lose another veggie!
Now that our plants are thinning out and we have less to harvest, we have to find seeds that will succeed when planted in the middle of July (kind of an awkward/late time to be planting). However, we think that there are some veggies that will sprout and be ready for fall if cared for properly.
Last Sunday, the 5th of July, we had two friends come to the garden to help us turn beds and plant new seeds. With their help, we got a lot done! We put in heat-loving hot peppers where the spinach used to be, summer squash where the radishes were, and bush beans where the extra carrots and peas were. We made sure to put extra fertilizer where the bush beans are, since the soil wasn’t that great for the carrots and peas before. After planting, Bradley Gorsline helped us turn the compost and we even got some weeding done! Can’t thank our friends enough for the help!
Coming up in the Forbes garden:
- Tomatoes and Cucumbers! We got our first few cucumbers the other day and the tomatoes are still green but growing to be big!
- More planting! We purchased watermelon and corn seeds. We think we can grow these sprawling/tall plants in the back of the garden once we push the overgrown weeds back and clear some more space.
We also began work on the other two gardens last/this week!
Frist Garden: Many people don’t know that the Princeton Garden Project manages a garden by Frist Campus Center. It has been hard to plant veggies there in the past, so it has become quite overgrown. But Lindsey has been over at the Frist garden a few days this past week doing some serious weeding. She has come up with a plan to make the garden more manageable (I think she will be blogging about this more later). We want to put in herbs and flowers that attract butterflies! We are hosting a work day this coming Sunday, July 12th to get that project in motion!
Forbes/Greenhouse Garden: The Princeton Garden Project at Forbes College actually began in a tiny plot on the side of the main building of Forbes. Since moving to our 1.5 acre plot (still really near Forbes), the small plot hasn’t really been used. But we are going to try to grow pumpkins there for the fall! Yesterday, Lindsey went over and cleared out the majority of the overgrown garden. We still have to get some really big thistle out of there and bring over a lot of fertilizer, but we want to get the pumpkin seeds in ASAP. Pumpkins in hot climates can be started in July in order to have jack-o-lanterns in the fall. But in cooler climates, they are usually started a bit earlier. We are going to plant them by Friday and hope for hot weather for a while!
That is all I have for now, but keep checking back for updates! I have a few cool (and a bit different) ideas for upcoming blog posts and our Instagram page (@princetongardenproject) is as beautiful/active as ever!
All the garden love,