The month of June has been very busy with gardens and new plants. My rhubarb harvest is almost over with 52 quarts sliced, cooked, packed and now in the freezer. Will that last a whole year? Also, there is a small harvest of purple goosefoot leaves in the freezer and more waiting.
Everything is planted in the vegetable gardens now. Some plants are growing faster than others. My winter squash, now in generation 15 of saved seeds, is way ahead of the butternut squash. The winter squash has been selected for the last 15 years for tolerance to cold and for rapid maturity. The butternut is new here and maybe with some coaxing I can get a few mature fruit from it. Then, using the seeds from those fruits start the selection process with this variety. All my other squashes are doing well. The only exception is the cucuzzi, an edible bottle gourd, which is a little slower. It prefers a very warm season and so I don’t expect it to be a great producer in this sub-tropical Minnesota weather. Even so, compared to last year’s cucuzzi it is much farther along and there are more plants.
The winter squash trellis is almost done but what a chore it has become. I hadn’t considered fully how much work it would be to build this by myself. The soil/hay/manure mound with the upright posts was built last year. This year when I’ve had time I’ve been cutting tall spindly balsam fir poles for the framework on which the vines will grow. Each pole is 12 feet long and about 2 inches in diameter. These are from trees that grew close together for many years which affected their development. Most are 30 or so years old and will never grow into trees even if thinned. The grove of poles is about 1/4 mile from where the squash grow. I cut poles with a hand saw, trim off the branches and then haul them three or four at a time through the woods on my shoulders. I suppose this might seem a bit outdated to some but I don’t want a bunch of machinery tearing up my woods.
Only eight more to poles cut and move and I’m finished. The good thing about this is that after the trellis is done it will stay up for at least three more seasons. During that time I can cut and store the necessary timbers for the next one or ones.
I have 31 Piramide paste tomato plants, 20 under a trellis and 11 more along a fence. This past week several of the plants started producing tomato fruits. I think this is a good omen for a large harvest. According to the description, Piramide paste tomato takes 95 days to get ripe fruit. These plants are about 70 days old and going strong.
My root crops are spotty for some types and overly abundant for others. It looks like there will be plenty of carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, rutabagas, and root chicory. Parsnips, beets, and root parsley had poor germination and they are growing slowly but the yields should be good. I planted gobo and salsify this year. There weren’t many seeds in the packets and the germination was bad so the yield will be low but at least I will get to try these in a recipe. None of the celariac or fennel bulb seeds sprouted. Better luck next year on those.
Cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and chard were direct sown rather than started indoors. The results so far seem mixed as germination was not always good. The plants are normal sized except for two rows of kale mowed down by deer. I may need to thin some broccoli and re-plant those where beet seeds did not sprout. I’m also going to plant more broccoli seeds this week for a late fall harvest.
I planted some grains (apart from corn) and pseudo-grains this year. The grain is a wheat variety called “Kamut”, an open-pollinated old variety from Egypt. I planted the seeds in rows for easier maintenance. At this stage the plants are about 2 feet tall and I can just see the beginnings of flowering stalks in some. There is a lot of weedy mustard at one end of the rows so that’s got to be pulled soon. The pseudo-grains are quinoa and amaranth. I don’t think the quinoa sprouted at all. The amaranth had poor germination and only 25% of the rows have plants. The Zebulon sunflower seed had poor germination but there are enough plants to get a decent harvest of seeds for planting next year. Zebulon is a short-statured sunflower growing to about 3 feet tall. The seeds are large but not quite as large as the Mammoth variety.
My corn is growing fast and all varieties have 5 to 7 leaves per plant. The Dakota Ivory corn is growing faster than I expected but so are the weeds in between the rows. I’ll be laying down mulch this week to suppress the weeds. Bush beans and pole beans are also doing well, even the half-runner red beans which were planted from a bag of three year old seeds. Mixed in with the corn, beans, and squash are tomatillo plants and cilantro. These two salsa ingredients self-sow every year and have been for more than a decade. Some tomatillos are already blooming and only six weeks after sprouting.
June has been a warm and rainy month. This has really helped garden grow but frequent rains make it hard to keep up with weeding, mulching, and getting wood for building trellises. Still, you work when you can. Our temperatures have averaged around 75° and total rainfall was 4.25 inches.
The rain has been good for grass, too, and after suffering from drought last summer and fall the pastures recovered enough so that I could let the sheep into them again. I have split the pasture into four large paddocks separated by portable electric fencing. They get to stay in a paddock for five days before being moved to another one. This gives the grasses and other plants a chance to recover. Besides pasture there is plenty of forage to be cut every day with a sickle or scythe. In about half and hour I can cut enough forage for an entire day. It is a mix of grasses, clovers, daisies, hawkweed, and dandelions. The sheep really love it.