Monday, June 15, 2009

Tom Kinsella and His Garden

My own gardening skills may be almost non-existent, but luckily, I have a younger brother to turn to. When asked how his garden grows, Tom writes:

I have a small garden plot in my back yard. It's about 12 feet by 8 feet. The soil in south Jersey is sandy (I'm less than a mile from the ocean), and I've worked in plenty of mulch and compost. From a soil standpoint, I think I'm in reasonable shape. My sun quota, however, is a problem.

When I first planted about seven years ago, I had nearly full sun and my first tomatoes did quite well. The second year, though, they didn't ripen, and I was told I needed more sun. What about the first year I thought? Then I looked up. A beautiful cedar tree stands about 20 feet from the garden and, not surprisingly, it grows larger every year. So each year as it grows I have less sun, and I don't have the heart to trim it. Because of this, one of my gardening puzzles has become what grows well in partial sun?

Lettuce does well. I usually plant several varieties -- about twelve feet of lettuce. I'm partial to arugula, black seeded simpson, and mustard greens. I've had lots of types, though. Lettuce likes cooler weather, so now, in early June I have more lettuce than I can eat. I also love snap peas and plant them heavily. I have about 12 feet of them also. Right now they are about 4 to 5 feet tall and just starting to produce peas. I'll be inundated in a week and that will continue for about 2 to 3 weeks.

At the height of pea season, Christine and I just stand in the garden at dinner and eat the peas from the vine. If we want some variety, we can stoop over and grab a chive or a bit of basil. When it gets hot, the peas die back. I have a small herb section, oregano, thyme, several basil plants, and two very healthy bunches of chives. When the chives first send up buds in the spring -- before the flower opens -- the buds can be harvested and have a bit more zing than the chives themselves. They are great in salads -- yummy.

I so enjoy my garden that I'm sad at the end of the season. Because of that, a few years back I began to plant a row of garlic in November. It over winters well in south Jersey and in the spring, shoots come up. Now, in early June, the stalks are about 3 feet high. In about a month the stalks will die back and I'll dig the bulbs. The bulbs are then tied together and hung to dry in the garage or basement. That's fun.

But the most fun of all remains my potatoes. I planted five varieties this year. All blue (which are really purple), yellow finn, and some red, white, and blue potatoes (whose names I don't know) that were given to me by a friend. I've got about 30 plants stuffed into my little garden.

That's way too many to carry to a fall harvest, but I know that in a couple of weeks I'll dig my first plant and find four to seven potatoes down below. If I choose which to harvest carefully (and I do), I'm thinning the garden as I dig potatoes. By the time September rolls around, I usually hope for a dozen well spaced potato plants growing toward maturity. That's what I hope for.

Since I love potatoes so much, I usually devour my entire crop before September arrives. O well. Someday I'll have a bigger garden. As a final note, I grabbed two raspberry runners from Christine's very healthy patch last year and stuck them in a corner of my garden. They have done wonderfully. I will have berries in couple of weeks, too. Lettuce, herbs, peas, garlic, potatoes and raspberries? What else do you need (except for tomatoes)?

Picture One: Tom and Christi
Picture Two: Black seeded Simpson Lettuce ( never heard of it, so I HAD to find a picture)
Picture Three: Red and Blue potatoes


Pat said...

Thanks, Tom!!

I would love to make it down to South Jersey and visit, as we chaw on whatever is edible and available in your garden--sounds like we would have lots of choices!

Tim said...

Boy, those potatoes look great!

CB said...

Tom has shared his potatos with us in the past and they are tasty!!! Tom with his love for gardening reminds me of when he was 5 years old and we visited Grandma and Grandoa Taylor . Got out of the car and he took his hand and said, "How is your garden Grandpa?" and off they went to inspect it. He is just now coming into his own!!! MOM

Tom said...

An Update: Tonight (June 19th), Christine and I harvested our first potato plant -- four lovely new potatoes, yellow finn. The snap peas are coming on strong. Should have raspberries very soon.