Mid-August the garden is always abundant. I no longer have to remind myself the encouraging words Neal tells me each spring when I worry nothing will grow, “those little plants have the will to live; that’s all they want to do.” His words have become the gardener’s mantra that I whisper to all the little plants each year as they fight for sunlight and nutrients and to stay above water when we get heavy spring rains.
It’s a different season now, though. This is the time of year when I realize I should’ve made my trellises for the cucumbers and beans taller. I remember that pumpkins and zucchinis really do need that much space. That the strawberries really do deserve the “everbearing” attribute. And yes, the flowers will bloom, and the bees will come.
We planted with seeds from Snake River Coop and Seed Savers Exchange almost exclusively this year, and while I’m happy with all my produce, I am most excited about the onions. In this third year I’ve tried to grow them, they are finally producing a good size and with uniformity. My earlier struggles didn’t have anything to do with the seeds though. It’s been all about the dirt.
This is the second year of growth in the current beds. Two years ago, we leveled five short, sloped, uneven, oddly angled terraces into two large, flat ones. My knees and back are grateful, but in the process, the existing topsoil was damaged, and the soil was compacted. With a focus on adding compost and amendments (three cheers for our friend’s who provided a load of amazing horse manure compost this year!), cover cropping, aerating, and minimal tilling only where necessary, we are working to heal the soil. The past years’ efforts to regenerate the dirt into rich, loamy, microbe and beneficial insect-healthy soil are starting to pay off.
With the ability to stretch deeper, our carrots are bigger this year. The onions, as I mentioned, are also much bigger. The cherry tomatoes are producing like mad and perennial herb and flower beds are abundant. There’s still work to be done. All beds need additional TLC. But the improvements are encouraging.
What’s fresh right now? In our garden, the carrots, Dakota Tears onions, green beans, beets, cucumbers, strawberries, and ground cherries are bursting. The garlic has been harvested and hung and is now ready for storage and cooking, to which I always say, “more, please!”
Recently, we cooked up some pulled pork and I wanted a fresh, spicy coleslaw to add a bit of zing. The cabbage isn’t ready to harvest yet so I tossed together a crisp carrot cucumber slaw. Like most of my fresh cooking, I don’t really measure ingredients, but throw them together and adjust by taste. Here’s the general recipe – swap spices or add/decrease as you please:
Carrot Cucumber Slaw
1 medium cucumber
1 small to medium onion
1-4 cloves, garlic
½ to 1 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)
1(-ish) tbsp, olive oil
½-1 tsp cumin
½-1 tsp chili powder
Sugar, just a pinch
Salt and pepper, to taste
Squeeze of lime juice
Julienne the carrots, cucumber, and onion. Chop or slice the garlic. Put it all in a mixing/serving bowl. (I mix and serve in the same container = fewer dishes to do)
Add all the other ingredients. Mix it all together. (If like me, you have a bowl with a tight-fitting lid, just cover it and give it a good shake. No need to dirty a spoon or fork = fewer dishes)
Cover and put in the fridge ‘til mealtime. You can eat it right away, but I think it tastes best after at least an hour of sitting.