If you’re fortunate enough to have a bit of yard, or even a small patio, one of the most enriching uses for it is edible gardening. The ability to grow your own fruits and vegetables, in your own backyard, is an unmatched experience. It connects you to ages past. It gives you a feeling of satisfaction and self-reliance. And it can provide you with some really excellent produce. It does require a bit of patience though. This week I had my first summer harvest worth any mention; a pair of radishes, a bunch of carrots, some cherry tomatoes, a bundle of swiss chard, the first of the summer squash and eggplant, and of course, a dozen eggs.
Some of these do take lots of patience. Eggs are a constant in my garden, but a hen takes 6-7 months to grow to laying age. Those are 6-7 agonizingly long months if you’re new to keeping chickens. Even for experienced chicken keepers, this can sometimes be an eternity. The ebb and flow of chicken lifespans being what it is, you can sometimes find yourself with too few hens (or none) to supply your egg needs. When I was in this position I bought some 5 month old chickens, and those 2 months of waiting were interminable. Of course now I’m flush with eggs, so all is well.
The carrots are another exercise in patience. I typically sprinkle carrot seeds around the empty spaces of my winter garden, then thin them out as they sprout. For those not doing the math themselves, that means I planted these seeds back in November/December and I’m just now pulling some carrots in July. They are worth the wait though. Fresh veggies always taste better to me, and despite their tolerance of long storage times, carrots are no exception. You will never eat a sweeter crisper carrot than one which you’ve just pulled from the ground.
The swiss chard is another remnant of the winter garden, but only because I planted it in winter. Swiss chard grows year round at my house and can survive months without water. When I bought my house several years ago in June I found a fairly healthy swiss chard plant pushing its way above all the weeds. Swiss chard does take some time to become productive but once its going it just won’t quit. Recall my post about the chickens eating it down to a nub? I put a bit of fencing around it afterward. Ms. Food Lunatic asked if I thought it’d be able to recover. I simply answered, “It’s swiss chard.”
Tomatoes, eggplant, and squash are great summer plants. They sprout readily, take root quickly once planted, and begin sending out shoots and flowering within a few weeks. I planted all 3 in April/May when the weather turned warm. Three months in they are all covered with flowers, and young fruit. Each produced their first mature fruits this week.
For the impatient gardener, radishes might be the way to go. Radishes can be grown from seed to maturity in about 6 weeks. Apparently they can be grown any time of year. So if you stagger your plantings you can be in radishes year round. I bought some watermelon radish seeds off Amazon and planted them at the end of May. Watermelon radish is the most thrilling type due to its color, sweetness, and potent spiciness. But I was unable to source any seeds locally. Fresh out of the ground they are almost too spicy for me. After several days in the fridge the spiciness gives way a bit to a backgrounds sweetness. It’s the color that keeps me coming back though, they are a spectacular addition to any salad.